Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Vincent McHugh

Vincent McHugh (b. Providence, Rhode Island, 23 December 1904; d. Sacramento, California, 23 January 1983)

Vincent Joseph McHugh was the eldest child  of Michael Joseph McHugh (1868-1946), a printer and an amateur painter, and his wife, Mary Esther, née Young (1874-1916), who were married on 5 August 1903. The family was of Irish- and Scotch-American stock. Vincent had two brothers and one sister.

Vincent was raised Roman Catholic and educated at La Salle Academy and Providence College, where he spent one year. He later noted that he was "forced out of the latter institution for reasons not unlike Shelley's in similar circumstances.  I had been very reluctant to bring up my non-religious views." He worked at odd jobs but felt that the four years he spent as a public library messenger had probably decided his taste.  From the age of seventeen, he wrote book reviews for the Double Dealer of New Orleans.  He began a first novel at age twenty.

He moved to New York City in 1928, and worked there writing for newspapers and magazines. Around 1929 he married a woman named Lillian (1910-2009); they had no children.  His first book was a novel, Touch Me Not (1930), followed by four other novels, including Sing Before Breakfast (1933), and The Victory (1947). A short story "Parish of Cockroaches" (Story, March 1934) appeared in The Best Short Stories 1935, edited by Edward J. O'Brien. The Blue Hen's Chickens (1947) is a collection of poetry. Alpha: The Mutabilities (1958) is a small press poetry booklet.

Two of McHugh's novels are fantastical in nature.  Caleb Catlum's America (New York:  Stackpole Sons, 1936) is a mix of tall tales and satire.  The eponymous folk hero Caleb Catlum, who was born in 1798, tells the story of his first one hundred years and his friendships with some well-known historical figures, like Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson, Huck Finn, Sam Clemens, Dan'l Boone, Buffalo Bill, and Uncle Remus. It was mostly well-received and quickly went into multiple printings.

I Am Thinking of My Darling (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1943) was a bestseller. In this novel a strange affliction has settled upon the inhabitants of New York City, a kind of epidemic that starts with a low-grade fever and brings with it the loss of all inhibitions, conventions, and hatred. The authorities try to suppress the outbreak, while the "victims" seek to share their new happiness.  The novel was filmed in 1968 as What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, starring George Peppard, Mary Tyler Moore, Susan St. John and Dom Deluise. 

Through the 1930s and 1950s McHugh had a large number of varied jobs. He was editor-in-chief of the Federal Writers' Project in New York City, and oversaw the New York Panorama and New York City Guide, both published in 1939. For some years he was a staff writer at the New Yorker. He taught a course on the "Technique of the Novel" at New York University, and worked as a writer-director of some propaganda films for the Office of War Information.  In 1944 he moved to California and became a contract writer for Paramount Pictures, leaving after the minimum ten weeks even though he was offered a renewal. He spent several months in the South Pacific as a merchant marine correspondent (this experience provided the basis for his novel The Victory, and the related 1953 paperback collection of short stories, Edge of the World), before returning to New York. From 1948 to 1952 he lectured and taught at various writer's conferences and colleges in New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, and New Hampshire. His nonfiction book Primer of the Novel was published in 1950, and at this time he contributed a number of sea stories to Argosy. He moved to San Francisco in December 1952.

He had divorced his first wife in 1945, and thereafter married at least two more times. One marriage (c. 1948) was to Adeliza Sorenson (1912-2003), of St. George, Utah, an artist known familiarly as Addie. The marriage also ended in divorce, and McHugh was married again, on 5 February 1965, to Patricia A. Tool (b. 1927) in San Francisco. They settled in Sacramento.

McHugh's last three books were small press translations, with C.H. Kwock, from the Chinese: Why I Live on the Mountain: 30 Chinese Poems from the Great Dynasties (1958), The Lady and the Hermit: 30 Chinese Poems (1962), and Old Friend from Far Away: 150 Chinese Poems from the Great Dynasties (1980).

McHugh died of respiratory complications at a hospital in Sacramento.  His body was cremated.




Monday, January 28, 2019

J. Aubrey Tyson

J. Aubrey Tyson in 1903
J. Aubrey Tyson (b. Philadelphia, 6 March 1870; d. New York City, 16 October 1930)

John Aubrey Tyson was the son of Clifton Walter Tyson (1847-1931), a stenographer, and his first wife, Joanna Fannie Doyle (1847-c.1890).  John Aubrey Tyson had two younger brothers.

He became a journalist, and worked for various newspapers in the northeast over his career. He married Catherine Josephine Brophy, who had come from England, in Manhattan on 25 November 1896.  They had one daughter, and were later divorced around 1905. Tyson remarried. His second wife, fifteen years his junior, was named Violet; they also had one daughter.

Tyson's first known story appeared in a newspaper in October 1895.  It was quickly followed by "The Dexter Bells," which appeared in the December 1895 issue of the British magazine The Ludgate.  From then on through the late teens he contributed a large number of stories and serials to the popular fiction and pulp magazines, including Pearson's Magazine, Argosy, Munsey's Magazine, The All-Story Magazine, The Railroad Man's Magazine, The Scrap Book, Snappy Stories, and Top-Notch Magazine.

The 1922 Macmillan dust-wrapper
Tyson's first of four books was The Stirrup Cup (1903), a fictional story of the the courtship and marriage of Aaron Burr. His second book was The Scarlet Tanager (1922), a story of espionage and diplomatic intrigue set around the year 1930. It seems to have been moderately successful, so that the same publisher soon issued his third book The Barge of Haunted Lives (New York:  Macmillan, 1923; London: Mills and Boon, 1924). This was not in fact a new story, for it had been serialized in The All-Story Magazine from November 1908 through April 1909. It begins intriguingly, and the setting is a barge anchored off Long Island, where nine men and one woman, most of whom do not know each other, have been brought together by their host to tell their respective stories so that the haunted aspects of their lives become clear to all.  The guests are known to each other only by descriptive names such as the One-eyed Duck Hunter, the Veiled Aeronaut, the Sentimental Gargoyle, the Decapitated Man, the Fugitive Bridegroom, and others.

The book (likely inspired in form by the nested stories in Robert Louis Stevenson's New Arabian Nights) begins promisingly, but as successive tales are told the implausibilities and sheer artificialities of the novel's construction become increasingly distracting to the reader. The whole scenario is complicated and convoluted well before it reaches the end. Many of the intertwined stories are tales of adventure, and though the book has a reputation for supernatural content, this is very much overstated.  For instance, to one teller, a certain woman appeared to be a vampire, but we quickly learn that was not the case.  Overall this is standard pulp-magazine fare, but it goes on far too long.

Tyson's final book was a detective novel, Rhododendron Man (1930).  The central mystery is that an unknown person stood in the rhododendron bushes outside a library window and shot and killed Lloyd Gasperson.  Dashiell Hammett reviewed the book in the New York Evening Post, citing faults and irrelevancies similar to those that mar the tales told in The Barge of Haunted Lives:
An unskillfully wrought affair that should not baffle you. The author overlooks one howling clue pointing straight at the guilty person. The story starts with a kidnapping that has not much to do with the rest of the plot and then passes on to the murder of Lloyd Gasperson, which has not anything to do with the kidnapping." (21 June 1930)
On 16 October 1930, Tyson's dead body was found at the foot of a tree in Central Park in New York City.  Beside him was a bottle which the police said had previously contained poison.  In his pockets were rejection slips from various magazine publishers. 



Friday, January 25, 2019

Robert Baker Elder

Robert Baker Elder (b. Auburn, California, 7 July 1915; d. Auburn, California, 18 June 2008)

Robert Baker Elder was the younger of two sons of Joseph Lillard Elder (1869-1958), an Auburn Mayor, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth "Bessie" Baker (1874-1960).  He was a lifelong resident of Auburn, California, save for the time he spent in the military, from February 1942 through October 1945, during World War II.  His service was in the Pacific.

After graduating from high school in the early 1930s, he went to work for the local newspaper, The Auburn Journal.  He resumed this job after his war service.  He also contributed to the National Parks Magazine, and published four novels through vanity publishers.  These include The Sheriff of Sycamore Flat (published in July 1952), Whom the Gods Destroy (April 1953), Rattlesnake Dick (August 1954), and Banner House (August 2002). Rattlesnake Dick was reissued by a trade publisher, Dembner Books, in 1982.

The Sheriff of Sycamore Flat is a comedy set in a small western town, where a young woman, educated in Boston, returns with notions of new women's rights that cause turmoil.  Whom the Gods Destroy is a short novel about a misanthropic veteran named John Fielden Spencer, returned from the recent war, who wants only to live alone in the mountains away from people. The book has little plot, but is filled mainly with dialogue about concepts such as freedom and individuality, as Spencer argues with his well-meaning friends before removing himself from human society.  Rattlesnake Dick is about an Auburn historical figure who masterminded a 1856 robbery of a Wells Fargo mule train. Banner House is a novel of the Gold Rush era. 

Elder had long known of Auburn's other writer, poet and Weird Tales writer Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961), but he didn't become friends with Smith until after he covered Smith's November 1954 marriage to Carol Jones Dorman for the local newspaper.  Smith, he discovered, identified with the protagonist of Elder's novel Whom the Gods Destroy, and called the book his "soul biography." Significantly, in the late 1950s, Elder recorded Smith readings some of his own poems—these tapes are the only known surviving recordings of Smith's voice. The poems were chosen at random from Smith's recent collections, The Dark Chateau (1951) and Spells and Philtres (1958). In 1995 Necronomicon Press issued a selection of the recordings as a cassette titled Live from Auburn: The Elder Tapes, with a recorded introduction by Elder himself about his friendship with Smith. In his later years, Elder was known for welcoming Smith aficionados when they visited Auburn. He died a few week shy of his ninety-third birthday. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

H. Frankish

H. Frankish (b. Kirmington, Lincolnshire, England, 12 March 1873; d. Hampstead, London, 24 June 1918)

The byline "H. Frankish" appeared on only one book, and has long been thought to be a pseudonym, but an entry in The Literary Year-book for 1917 confirms that the author was indeed named H. Frankish.

Harold Frankish was the second son of William John Frankish (1840-1886), a gentleman farmer, and his wife Louisa Ann, née Raven (1849-1914), who were married in 1869 and who settled in Kirmington, Lancashire. He had three brothers and two sisters. 

Harold matriculated at Worcester College, Oxford, in October 1892 (B.A. 1896), and was further educated at Oxford (Bachelor of Medicine, 1900; Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, 1906). He also received the Diploma of Fellow at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1906.  He married Ethel Beatrice Symons in Dunton-Cum-Doughton, Norfolk, on 18 April 1897.  His book was published in 1913, and he died at the North Western Hospital in Hampstead in 1918. His estate of over eight thousand pounds was probated to his youngest brother, Arthur Rupert Frankish (1884-1960).

His single book was Dr. Cunliffe, Investigator (London:  Heath, Cranton & Ouseley, [May 1913]).  It is a collection of seven stories about the titular Dr. Cunliffe, an egotistical Oxford-educated medical doctor who has developed extraordinary physical strength. Cunliffe investigates strange happenings, often assisting Scotland Yard.  The seven adventures are sensational, and mostly science fiction of some sort. In one, a scientist has invented a machine that disintegrates people. In another a strange creature has emerged out of a recently fallen meteorite, and the creature is killing local children. Another story tells of a partial brain transplant from a death-row criminal into an ape's cranium. A contemporary review of the book notes:
"The quality of imagination is not lacking in these rather blood-curdling detective stories, but the author has not troubled greatly about plausibility, and he generally discloses the plot too early. The investigator himself, who relates the adventures, is somewhat pretentious, and the writing is not improved by the frequent use of cliches." The Atheneum, 1913
The publisher Heath, Cranton & Ouseley is believed to have been a vanity press, so the print-run was probably very small, and Dr. Cunliffe, Investigator has been a legendary rarity for many years, particularly among detective fiction collectors.  The short-lived small press Thomas Loring announced in 2006 a forthcoming reprint, but it never appeared. And unfortunately none of the seven stories have ever been anthologized.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Mrs. Jack McLaren

Mrs. Jack McLaren (b. Sandhurst, Victoria, Australia, 1887; d. London, 3 April 1946)

Born Ada Elizabeth McKenzie, she was the daughter of William Kenneth McKenzie (1850-1920), a merchant, and his wife, Elizabeth Ann, née Stoker (1854-1930).  She had six brothers and three sisters.

On 21 February 1912, she married Captain Edmund Fox Moore (1884-1917), the oldest son of Notley Moore (1858-1922), the Chief Police Magistrate of Melbourne.  Her husband was killed in battle in Flanders in World War I.  They had three sons.

On 19 August 1924, she married the Melbourne writer John McLaren (1887-1954), who published as Jack McLaren.  In 1925 the couple moved to London, which remained their base for the rest of their lives.

She published her one novel Which Hath Been (London: Cecil Palmer, 1926) bylined as by "Mrs. Jack McLaren."  It is, as it is subtitled, a novel of reincarnation. The young London artist Patricia Leigh meets some benefactors who tell her she is the reincarnation of a Syrian woman from two thousand years earlier.  She is given to read a manuscript of a tragic love story, titled "Karan the Syrian," and this text takes up about half of the novel, before the plot returns to modern times where Patricia is able to atone for the mistakes of her previous incarnation in her present situation. The metaphysical blather is overdone, and the romance aspect is paramount. A "second edition, new and revised" of Which Hath Been was published by Philip Allan in 1936, and the blurb on the front flap of the dust-wrapper signals the intended audience: "the book, with its emotional intensity, should strongly appeal to every woman."

Mrs. Jack McLaren died at the Homeopathic Hospital in Great Ormand Street, London.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Viola Garvin (Viola Taylor; Mrs. J. L. Garvin)

Viola Garvin (b. Gilbraltar c.1883; d. reg. Oxford, Jul-Sep 1959)

Viola Lucy Taylor was the elder of two children, both daughters, of Captain Harry Ashworth Taylor (1855-1907), a royal Foreign Service Messenger, and his wife Minna Gordon Handcock (1861-1947). Viola's younger sister was Una Troubridge (1887-1963), whose lesbian relationship with the poet and novelist Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) was widely (and disapprovingly) publicized in the 1920s. Viola's paternal grandfather was the poet Sir Henry Taylor (1800-1886).

In late 1908, Viola married Maurice Henry Woods (1882-1929), a 1905 graduate of Oxford University who became private secretary to Lord Beaverbrook, and their sole child was Oliver Woods (1911-1972). Maurice Woods left Viola in 1918, and their divorce went through a few years later. On 21 August 1921, Viola married James Louis Garvin (1868-1947), the famous editor of the London newspaper The Observer.  J.L. Garvin had four surviving daughters from his first marriage, including the eldest, Viola, who was a poet and translator.  This fact of two writers named Viola Garvin has caused some problems in the attributions of their respective works.

Viola's first book was The Story of Amaryllis and Other Verses (1908), as by Viola Taylor.  Her second book was a collection of sketches and poems entitled As You See It (1922), signed as by "V" with "Mrs. J.L. Garvin" underneath "V" on the title page.  Another miscellany of stories and poems was Corn in Egypt (1926), as by Mrs. J.L. Garvin (an early page of acknowledgements is signed "Viola Garvin").  A final book, a novel, was Child of Light (1937), which was published as by Mrs. J.L. Garvin. 

A line from Viola's 1906 poem "The House of Cæsar" was famously used by Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) in a verse couplet found after his suicide. For more, see here.

Viola Gerard Garvin

Viola Gerard Garvin (b. Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1 January 1898; d. London, 26 January 1969)

Viola Garvin was the second child of James Louis Garvin (1868-1947), famous editor of the London newspaper The Observer, and his first wife Christina Ellen Wilson (1876-1918), who were married in Newcastle-on-Tyne late in 1894.  Viola had an older brother and three younger sisters.

Viola was educated at the South Hampstead School for Girls, and at Somerville College, Oxford (A.B. 1920).  After her brother's death in World War I in 1916, she took his middle name "Gerard" as her own middle name. She taught English for some year at the Putney High School for Girls, and then served as the Literary Editor of The Observer from 1926-1942, the newspaper at which her father was editor.  When her father left The Observer, she left too, and thereafter worked as a freelance journalist and translator. In the 1930s she was romantically associated with Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940), who was then married to someone else.

She published one volume of poetry, Dedication (1928), and many translations from the French, from The Life of Solomon (1929) by Edmond Fleg, to The Schooner (1959) by Freddy Drilhon. All volumes are signed as by either Viola Gerard Garvin or Viola G. Garvin. She assisted in the preparation for Alfred M. Gollin's The Observer and J.L. Garvin, 1908-1914: A Study in Great Editorship (1960).

Viola Gerard Garvin has sometimes been confused with her father's second wife (married in 1921), Viola [Taylor Woods] Garvin (1882-1959), also a writer under a number of names. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Henry Keen

Henry Keen (b. St. Pancras, London, 2 August 1899; d. Walberswick, Suffolk, 26 June 1935)

Henry Weston Keen was apparently the youngest of six children of Edwin Henry Keen (1853-1936), a merchant taylor and director of a manufacturing company (according to the 1911 UK Census) and Mary Elizabeth, nee Williams (1860-1923), who were married in 1880. Little is known of his life, though he served in W.W. I and he became a printmaker and lithographer, exhibiting lithographs at the Senefelder Club in London. He is remembered primarily for the four elegant books he illustrated, all published by John Lane / The Bodley Head in London, and Dodd, Mead of New York.  The four books are:

The Twilight of the Gods and Other Tales, by Richard Garnett, with an Introduction by T.E. Lawrence. [Published November 1924 at 21s.] Twenty-eight full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, with an Introduction by Osbert Burdett. [Published October 1925 at 16s.] Twelve full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces.

Zadig and Other Romances by Voitaire. Translated by H.I. Woolf and Wilfred S. Jackson, with an Introduction and Notes by H.L. Woolf. [Published November 1926 at 16s.] Twelve full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces. [Note: the 1931 edition Privately Printed for Rarity Press has very inferior reproductions of the illustrations.]

The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil: Two Plays by John Webster. [Published October 1930 at 21s.] Twelve full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces.

A selection of illustrations are reproduced below. Some resources state that Keen died in Switzerland, but his brief will, made the day before he died of consumption, was made at Walberswick in Suffolk. The will was probated one month later to one of Keen's older brothers, Arnold Grey Keen (1890-1977). The valuation was just over £200. A memorial showing of his drawings and lithographs was held in London in October 1935 (the foreword to the catalogue was written by Edward Garnett).

Mark Valentine has written on Keen at Wormwoodiana—the link is here.  


The Twilight of the Gods



The Picture of Dorian Gray




Zadig and Other Romances




The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil