Sunday, May 23, 2021

New Issues with Following Blogs by email

The short version:  Most blogs I'm involved with have a "Follow by email" option. The "Follow by email" function worked (fine) via Google's Feedburner since I started using it.  Google is eliminating Feedburner in July, which means I have had to find an alternate source. I have transferred this following-by-email function to follow.it. I already have seen anomalies, and hope they won't be numerous. This blog has a new "Follow by email" widget that goes directly to follow.it. I have migrated the subscription list there too, but I suspect there will be issues. I'll try to fix errors if they are reported to me. 



Sunday, May 9, 2021

Theodore Frederick Poulson

Theodore Frederick Poulson (b. Bronx, New York, 2 January 1911; d. Newington, Connecticut, 16 July 1987) 

Theodore Frederick Poulson was the second child of three of Frederick John Poulson (1879-1964), a dentist's office worker (according to the 1910 US Census) and later a shipping clerk at a tobacco company (according to the 1920 US census), and his first wife, Rosabel Barbara Demmerie (1885-1918), who were married around 1906. Little is known of Theodore. His step-mother (his father's second wife), Marie Ursula Dunton (1892-1967) was a teacher. Theodore enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1935, and was discharged in December 1952.  He never married, and later worked at the Beth David Hospital in Manhattan.  He moved to Sharon, Connecticut, around 1981, and died in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Newington. He is buried in the family plot in Culpeper Nation Cemetery, in Culpeper, Virginia, where his brother had settled. 

Poulson is the author of a single small book, a curiosity entitled The Flying Wig . . . A Horrifying Tale: Being the first time in the history of the Great Art of Story Wiring that the reader will meet the Ghost of an Hallucination (Honolulu: Abel Skiff, [April] 1948). Published in an edition of 500 copies, it is basically a short story in two parts.  The first tells the history of two twin sisters, Margaret and Amelia Simmy, who were entirely hairless, and who must therefore wear wigs. The twins grow into lonely spinsters, who come to blows when Margaret plans a dinner with a new lodger at their boarding-house, hiding Amelia's wig to keep her away. This enrages Amelia, who beats her sister. Amelia puts on her sister's wig and attends the dinner herself. Margaret dies, and immediately begins to haunt Amelia by making the stolen wig become tighter and tighter on Amelia's head. In the second part of the story, exactly one year later, Amelia is killed, and her heir, a crippled cousin, begins to witness nightly the reenactment of Amelia's death, which includes the flying wig of the title.  

The prose is amateurish, but the silliness keeps one reading this small endeavor. Poulson apparently wrote nothing else. The dedicatee of The Flying Wig was Gizella Polachek (1874-1959), a teacher in New York, like Theodore's step-mother. Polachek is known to have written some three act dramas, The Snow Nymph (1927), Out of the Fog (1934), and The Way of One Woman (1937). It seems likely that she was one of Theodore's teachers. 

The Flying Wig is the only title published by "Abel Skiff" which may be a mask for vanity-publication, though the book was in fact printed by The Honolulu Star-Bulletin. It may have come about in Honolulu  because Poulson was stationed there for a time during his long military service.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

John Angus

John Angus (b. Forfar, Angus, Scotland, 9 June 1873; d. Sheffield, England, 24 June 1950)

“John Angus” was the pseudonym, on three novels,  of George Kydd Cuthbert, who was the fifth child (of eight) of William Cuthbert and his wife Betty Kydd, who were married in Forfar, Scotland, on 16 September 1864.

Little is known of his life.  He became a clergyman, and was known as G. Kydd Cuthbert. In biographical dictionary he noted that he was educated at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, and the Yorkshire Theological College. He married Sarah Helena Brown (1870-1941) in Settle, Yorkshire, in  late 1900. They had two daughters.

By 1906, he was settled in Paisley, Renfewshire, Scotland, but information about him afterwards is spotty. Later he was posted to New Whittington, near Chesterfield. In 1912 he became the vicar of St. Chad’s Church, Woodseats, Sheffield, a position he held until 1928, when, due to indifferent health, he was posted Warmsworth, near Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.

His first book was a collaboration, The Scorpions’ Nest (1929), as by John Angus and Fielding Hope.  It is set in India, and is a romance with thriller elements.  “Fielding Hope” was one of several pseudonyms of Graham Montague Jeffries (1900-1982), a prolific writer of crime novels who also published two solo novels as Fielding Hope,  The Mystery of the House of Commons: A Novel of Thrills (1929) and The Guinea Pig’s Tail (1934). Writing as “Bruce Graeme,” his series of ten books about the popular crime writer Richard Verrill who is secretly the gentleman crook known as Blackshirt, were very popular, spawning a another series of four books (as by “David Graeme”) about an ancestral Blackshirt, followed by yet another series about Blackshirt’s son, before the author turned the series over to his actual son (Roderic Jeffries) in the 1950s who carried it on for two decades writing as “Roderic Graeme.”

Cuthbert’s two solo novels bylined “John Angus” are most interesting, and both are fantasies. The Sheltering Pine (London: Hutchinson, [April] 1934) was published as no. 20 in “Hutchinson’s First Novel Library.” Hutchinson’s blurbed the book very strangely, as if expecting it to fail because it is a fantasy: “None but the most ambitious of writers adopt fantasy as the motif in their first novel, and few achieve success with it. Mr. Angus, however, has succeeded with brilliance in this strange, haunting story which deals with a man who lived under the protection and guidance of the ancient spirits of a pine tree.”  Here the fairies of a remote Highland glen seem to have more life than the central human characters upon whom they effect the curse and blessing of the titular pine tree.  The Times Literary Supplement noted: "The descriptive passages have charm and a certain power of evocation, the action of the book is rapid, there is suspense, excitement and several minor characters who give the impression of truth. The book is least successful in creating interest in the chief characters" (23 August 1934). 

The book had at least a small success. It was quickly followed by The Homecoming: A Tale of Two Ages (London:  Hutchinson, [June] 1935). Again Hutchinson's blurbed it strangely: 

It is customary in this modern age to deride fantasy, to ridicule the faerie element in life and to concentrate on what are known as "hard facts". When John Angus published The Sheltering Pine and courageously told his strange story of the deathless "Little Folk" of Celtic legend, few expected for it the success it finally achieved.  

Now, in his second novel, Mr. Angus, with the same brilliance of imagination, in the same quiet style so well suited to the mysticism of his subject, tells a story in which the past and present are inextricable involved, and of a warlock who cheated death five hundred years ago, played havoc down the centuries, and met his final defeat in out present century.

The Homecoming is even more steeped in Scottish history than its predecessor. Angus invents a character James Ogilvie and places him in the middle of a fifteenth-century conflict between the Ogilvies and the Lindsays, and sets up a mystery to do with the comfit box given to him by his wife. He is killed by the evil Anthony Sinclair, who is in turn killed by his master, Earl Beardie. Sinclair's spirit then passes from with to witch until the present time when the comfit box is discovered and the story plays out. The Times Literary Supplement said: "Mr. Angus's touch is not so sure when he is writing of the present day as it is when he deals with the exciting scenes of 1444, but if his pen seems to flag and his modern characters are not completely successful, his fantasy nevertheless holds its interest to the end" (27 June 1935).

Both of the John Angus novels are rare today. 

Cuthbert died in 1950 and is buried in Hutcliffe Wood Cemetery, nearby to his former parish at St. Chad’s.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sidney Stanley: A Query

My Lesser-Known Writers entry (from 2013) on the artist Sidney Stanley (1890-1956), linked here, has attracted a good amount of attention over the years.  Recently I got a query from a person who owns four original watercolour works by Sidney Stanley. The four pictures are related, and may perhaps have been done as illustrations to a book, or to some story in some periodical. But we don't know, really, and it's entirely possible the art was never published. With permission of the owner, I am presenting one of the four here. (Click on the illustration to make it larger.)  It is titled "The Gunpowder Factory"--a related image is titled "The Firework Factory."  The other two pictures are similarly associated,  "Teapot Factory" and "The Tea Ceremony." The strange-looking figures, with long faces and long noses and a single high curl to their black hair, are common to all four illustrations. Are these supposed to be elves of some sort (even their shoes come to curled points)?  Do these ring a bell for anyone?  Comments welcomed! 



Thursday, April 22, 2021

Regina Miriam Bloch

Regina Miriam Bloch (b. Sondershausen, Thuringia, November 1888; d. London, 1 March 1938)

Regina Miriam Bloch was the youngest of three children of Jacob Bloch, a schoolmaster in Birmingham, and Henrietta Davis, a schoolmistress, who were married in Birmingham in the summer of 1875. Henrietta Davis had been born in Thuringia, where Regina was also born, though Henrietta's two previous children, a daughter and a son, were both born in Warwickshire. 

Regina was educated in Germany and in London. She started appearing in print around 1906, and she published frequently in periodicals for the next few decades, including The Academy, The IdlerThe Spectator, The Saturday Review, The Contemporary Review, The Fortnightly Review, Nash's Magazine, The Celtic Monthly, and B'Nai B'rith Magazine. She contributed to a number of anthologies, from New Songs (1907), edited by Fred G. Bowles, and The Book of the Poets' Club (1909), which includes early poetry by Ezra Pound, to The Real Jew (1925), edited by H. Newman; and some of her poetry appeared in small editions, like The Vision of the King: A Coronation Souvenir (1911).

dust-wrapper, 1917

She contributed book reviews (mostly of non-fiction) to The Occult Review from around 1914 through 1926. For a time she was the Honorary President of the Jewish Society for Psychical Research.

Her most significant books were The Confessions of Inayat Khan (1915), a study of the Indian philosopher and musician, and two volumes of short stories, most of which are mystical and decadent, and some but not all are eastern. The first collection, The Swine-Gods and Other Visions (London: John Richmond, 1917), is a slim volume containing seven stories, the most substantial of which is the title story. All appear in print for the first time save for the third tale, "The New Creation," an exemplary vision that previously appeared in The Occult Review (January 1915). There is also a Foreword by Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), a friend of Bloch's. The dust-wrapper is gorgeously designed by W. Gordon Mein (1866-1939), and the illustration on the binding derives from Mein's dust-wrapper art. It gives the feel that the book may resemble something by William Hope Hodgson, but that is not the case. The Swine-Gods was reprinted; marked as "Second impression" without a date given.

binding, 1917
Bloch's second collection is much more substantial, The Book of Strange Loves (London: John Richmond, 1918). It contains twelve main items, nine of which are stories, the other three being dramatic episodes ("not to be regarded as plays" Bloch states in her Author's Note). They are mostly romantic tales, but they range from oriental and medieval to a Breton tale, "The Leper of Vannes; An Early French Romance," to an Arthurian one, "The Garden of Meliograunce: An Early Welsh Romance." Others tell of "Samson and Delilah" and of an ancient Amazon. The Scotsman noted that "all have the same imaginative richness and unforced exaltation of feeling, and some have neat snatches of lyrical poetry in them, both graceful in itself and  in harmony with the emotional effect of the prose" (22 July 1918). The Book of Strange Loves was reprinted in 1919. 

Bloch achieved some short-lived notoriety beginning in October 1918  when an editor of the Egoist erroneously implied that Rebecca West and Regina Miriam Bloch were the same person. This mistake proliferated in the U.S. magazine Current Opinion, in September 1921, where is stated that "Rebecca West's real name is Regina Miriam Bloch, which she rejected, according to her own confession, because it 'suggested a lovely blond in a white muslin frock with a blue sash,'--and she 'recognized her limitations'!" Eventually the mistake was corrected.

For much of the last decade of her life Bloch was devoted to the Children's Museum in London, which she conceived in 1929 and founded soon after. It was designed to be a national and international centre, "to educate and inspire the children of all Races." According to the prospectus, lectures and exhibits were planned, a Children's Orchestra and Chorus, a Children's Theatre, Dance and Concert Hall, a Children's Cinema, Folk-lore and Fairy Tale room, etc. She had a large list of supporters from society and the arts. 

Regina Miriam Bloch died in Hammersmith, London, at the age of 49.


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Stanley McNail

Stanley McNail (b. Centralia, Illinois, 14 March 1918; d. Alameda, California, 4 April 1995)

The 1965 Arkham House edition
Stanley Duane McNail was the only child of Karl (sometimes Carl) Hicks McNail (1897-1991), a railway switchman (per his 1918 Draft Registration and the 1930 US Census), and his wife Constance Kathleen, nee Poyner (1898-1978), who were married around 1914. The family  lived mostly in Illinois, though the 1930 Census locates them in Evansville, Indiana. 

Stanley moved to the San Francisco area around 1953. He contributed to many small press poetry magazines, and served as editor and publisher for some literary journals, including The Galley Sail Review (founded 1958), and Nightshade (founded 1965). He also served as poetry editor at other publications such as Renaissance and The Bay Guardian. Many of McNail's poems are macabre in nature.

His first publication was a genealogical booklet, Notes on the Family History of William B. McNail (1782-1868), as by Stanley D. McNail, published in 1957. It details his family history. His first of four poetry collections was the slim booklet Footsteps in the Attic (1958). His second collection, also small, was The Black Hawk Country (1960, second edition 1967). McNail contributed five poems to August Derleth's Arkham House anthology, Fire and Sleet and Candlelight (1961).

The 1987 Embassy Hall edition
His third collection is certainly his most famous work. Something Breathing contains thirty-two poems and was published by Arkham House in 1965. Only forty-four pages, it was printed in an edition of 500 hardcover copies for Arkham House by Villiers Publications in England. The cover art is by Frank Utpatel. McNail issued an expanded edition of this title, containing forty-six poems, in trade paperback, under the Embassy Hall Editions imprint, of Berkeley, California, in 1987. It includes Utpatel's original cover illustration (printed interiorly), as well as a new cover and three illustrations by Christopher Chavez. There is also a brief prefatory note by Steve Eng, who describes McNail's poems as "admirably brief" and "energetically wry." 

McNail edited a chapbook Sorcerer's Samplecase: Selected Poems in a Jugular Vein (1986), with all poems reprinted from either The Galley Sail Review or Nightshade. It includes works by nineteen poets, including four by McNail, and one by Paul Zimmer.

His final collection was At Tea in the Mortuary: Poems and Tales (1991), with an introduction by Alan Warren and illustrations by Christopher Chavez. 

McNail died of a heart attack at his apartment at the age of 77. An obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that he had worked for Greyhound for fifteen years, retiring in 1983.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Anthony Prior

Anthony Prior (b. Manchester, England, 20 May 1886; d. Stafford, England, 24 August 1959)

"Anthony Prior" published two novels. The name has been suspected of being a pseudonym, and the discovery of an inscribed copy revealing the author's real name as Alicey Crowther has confirmed this. 

Alice Crowther was the older of two daughters of Joseph Crowther (1861-1932), a bookkeeper, and Alice Elizabeth Winders (1859-1937), who were married in Bradford, Yorkshire, on 27 February 1881.  Alice's sister was Annie Crowther (1888-1973). 

Little is known about Alice. In the 1901 Census she is described as a typewriter's apprentice, and in the 1911 Census as a typist for a Status Enquiry Agency.   In the 1939 England and Wales National Register she is listed as a "Novelist -- partially incapacitated" whatever that may mean. 

Her first novel as Anthony Prior was not published until 1946, so with the 1939 description as a novelist, we can wonder whether she published any previous books under a different name (there are none under her real name). The first novel is Lone Elm (Skeffington, [1946]). It is a occult melodrama to do with interactions between the dead and the living. The dead prey upon the living, often on their own relatives, and a doctor works at a house called Lone Elm where he and others treat such cases of "astralitis" by dislodging and interrogating the spirits, and then exorcising them. 

The second novel, Concerning Mrs. Hubertson (Skeffington, 1951) is non-fantastic, covering the struggles of a starving maid who is preyed upon by a renowned artist. 

*Thanks to David Tibet for help with this entry.