Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ivo Pakenham

Ivo Pakenham (b. 4 December 1903; d. reg. Brighton, Sussex, July-September 1980)  

His name at birth was registered as "Robert Ivo Raymond Lygon Pakenham," but he evidently always went by Ivo, and usually gave his name as Ivo Robert Raymond Lygon Pakenham.  He was the oldest child of an Irish-born military officer, Captain Robert Edward Michael Pakenham (1874-1915), who served in the Boer War and died in France in the Great War, and his wife, Nancy Fowler (1881-1934), who were married on 12 September 1900. Ivo had a younger brother (who died as an infant) and a younger sister. 

He was educated at Wellington College, and in the mid-1930s gave his occupation as "interior decorator," with his special interests being medieval and classical history, as well as hunting, shooting, British numismatics, heraldry, genealogy, history and travel. He was a long-time friend of Ivy Compton-Burnett, and was known as a knowledgeable antiques dealer in Kensington. He died in a Brighton nursing home at the age of 76, survived by his male partner.

He published only one book, Fanfaronade (London: Rich & Cowan, [September] 1934). It is a time-slip fantasy set in France. It begins in 1928 when a brother and sister go to visit a very old chateau in France. The brother, Lucius, simply disappears from his room, and awakens as a young amnesiac in 1474. The reader follows this man, now called Blaise, for six years, until his memory awakens, after which time an epilogue returns the reader to 1934, where some lost rooms are discovered in the chateau, and there a manuscript is found in Lucius's hand from over four hundred years earlier. The book is dedicated to Pakenham's mother, "who did not live to see it published," dying about six months before the book was published, and to Maurice Lincoln (1887-1962), a "fellow-author," of novels and journalism, without whose "kindly sympathy" Pakenham says he might never have finished the book. 

Pakenham's short forward lists a number of his favorite historical works  that he used as background for the novel, and gives some relevant opinions:

I have quite frankly, for the purposes of my story, emphasised the colour and splendour of the dying Middle Ages, but I hope that I have not shown myself altogether unaware of the other side of the tapestry--of those loose threads of squalor, discomfort and superstition which were such an integral part of a brilliant period. 
     Against that stumbling-block of the historical novelist, the question of dialogue, I have come up in full measure. To use modern language seems to me to be a slovenly way of working, while that of the "cloak and sword" school is unquestionably worse. . . . All I have tried to do, therefore, is to endeavour to catch the cadence and intonation of fifteenth-century speech, in the hope of conveying to the ear some faint impression of what it probably sounded like. 

Pakenham concludes by noting that the poetry at the end of the book was verbally handed down in his mother's family for generations. "It is not known for certain who wrote it, but it has never, to my knowledge, before been published." The lines closely echo the published poem titled "The Falcon" in An Old Story and Other Poems (1868) by Elizabeth D. Cross

The dust-wrapper blurb entices the prospective reader with the following:

The author has painted for us a magnificent picture with a wealth of colour which should entrance even the non-historical reader. On his canvas, courtiers, priests and lovers, banquets, tournaments and pageantry glow against a dark background of treachery and witchcraft, politics and war. . . . There is about Mr. Pakenham's writing a beauty and fineness that mark him out as destined for big things. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Mrs. Richard S. Greenough

Mrs. Richard S. Greenough (b. Boston, Massachusetts, 19 February 1827; d. Franzensbad, Austria [now Františkovy in the Czech Republic], 9 August 1885)

Sarah Dana Loring was the first of several children of William Joseph Loring (1795-1841) and his wife, Anna Thorndike (1804-1872), who were married in Boston in 1825. 

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 26 September 1846, she married Richard Saltonstall Greenough (1819-1904). They had two children, daughter Anna Loring (known as "Nina") Greenough (1847-1897), and son, an artist, Richard Gordon Greenough (1851-1885) 

Her husband was a well-known sculptor, as was his older brother, Horatio Greenough (1805-1852). The Greenoughs split their time between Europe and America, but spent much of the time in Rome. Richard Saltonstall Greenough's best-known work is an eight-foot bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin, erected in 1856, that still stands in front of Boston's Old City Hall. Novelist Henry James was close with several members of the Greenough family, who inspired various characters in his fiction. 

Mrs. Greenough published five books during her lifetime. The first was an anonymous novel, Lilian (Boston, 1863). This was followed by Treason at Home, published in three volumes in London in 1865, as by Mrs. Greenough. It was a sensational novel of mystery and crime. (A one-volume severely abridged pirated version came out from a Philadelphia publisher; a review in March 1873 called it "mutilated" with "pages left out, apparently at random," and concluded it was "a great injustice to the author".)  

With her third book her byline settled into being Mrs. Richard S. Greenough. Arabesques (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1872 [but published in December 1871]) is a collection of four romantic, imaginative stories of knights, goblins, and necromancers. Reviewers compared the stories to works by the German romantics, to Phantastes by George MacDonald, and to Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. The four tales are each illustrated by a medallion head design, uncredited but by the author's son. The four tales have suitably romantic titles, "Monarè"; "Domitia"; "Apollyona" and "Ombra." (The illustration for "Monarè" also appears on the book's front cover.) E.F. Bleiler thought the book "well-sustained, imaginative; among the best late 19th century fantasies" but that is a generous assessment, as the stories are a bit too pious and predictable and the prose a bit dull. 

Her final novel was In Extremis (1872), which originally appeared as a serial in the Christian Union. It  is described as "the voluntary and unacknowledged sacrifice of a daughter for her parent's sake", noting that "the picture is a sad one, nothing relieving its pathetic sombreness but the touches at the close which show the brilliant hues of the glorious heaven just beyond shining upon the closing hours of Helen" (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1873). Her final book was Mary Magdalene: A Poem (1880). In 1887 it was combined posthumously with two other poems to make up Mary Magdalene and Other Poems.

Mrs. Greenough was buried in Campo Cestio, Rome.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Bertha L. Gunterman

Bertha L. Gunterman in 1968
Bertha L. Gunterman (b. Louisville, Kentucky, 8 May 1886; d. Louisville, Kentucky, 3 October 1975) 

Bertha Lisette Gunterman was the daughter of Peter Anton Gunterman (1842-1898) and his wife, Elizabeth Margaret Jansing (1853-1919), who were married in October 1874. Bertha grew up with one older sister, one older brother, and one younger brother. 

Bertha studied at the University of Louisville between 1911 and 1914, and worked at the Louisville Free Public Library from 1912-1919,  followed by a short stint at the Los Angeles Public Library. For interludes she worked as a bookseller in Berkeley, and in New York City. She joined the publisher Longmans, Green and Company in New York in 1922, and she headed their newly established children's department beginning in 1925. At the time, Longmans, Green was only the fourth publisher to have established their own children's department, the first having been started by Macmillan in 1919. Gunterman ran the department for forty-two years until her retirement in 1967. (In 1961, Longmans, Green had merged with the David McKay Company.) After her retirement she returned to her native Louisville.

Gunterman herself had only three books with her byline. All three came out from Longmans, Green in 1928. In August, her edited version of the 1880 book  Edwy the Fair: The First Chronicle of Aescendune by A.D. Crake, with illustrations by Richard L. Holberg, came out, as did her selection of Tartan Tales from Andrew Lang, eight stories of loyal Scots in the Stuart cause, with illustrations by Mahlon Blaine. Lang's stories were derived from The True Story Book (1893), The Red True Story Book (1895), and The Red Book of Heroes (1909). The third book, which came out in September, was her most significant: Castles in Spain and Other Enchantments: Spanish Legends and Romances, with illustrations by Mahlon Blaine. Gunterson had long been interested in Spanish fantasy, and though she spoke no Spanish, she would take a friend with her to the New York Public Library to translate stories as she worked her way through some Spanish originals. The book contains some sixteen folktales.

It is Gunterman's work as a publisher for which she is best remembered. In late 1925, Padraic Colum, who had come to America from Ireland in 1914,  told her excitedly of some writings by Ella Young, a fellow Irish writer who had just arrived in America. This led Gunterman to pursue Young's works, and she published successfully The Wonder-Smith and His Son (1927), illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff; The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), illustrated by Vera Bock; and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), illustrated by Robert Lawson. Each book went through a number of printings. In 1945 she published Young's autobiography, Flowering Dusk: Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately. And it was through Ella Young that Gunterman came to publish Book of the Three Dragons (1930) by Kenneth Morris, illustrated by Ferdinand Huszti Horvath.

Gunterman also worked with Frances Jenkins Olcott on a series of Wonder Tales, comprising Wonder Tales from China Seas (1925), illustrated by Dugald Stuart Walker; Wonder Tales from Windmill Lands (1926), illustrated by Herman Rosse; Wonder Tales from Pirate Isles (1927), illustrated by Herman Rosse; Wonder Tales from Baltic Wizards (1928), illustrated by Victor G. Candell; Wonder Tales from Fairy Isles (1929), illustrated by Constance Whittemore; and Wonder Tales from Goblin Hills (1930), illustrated by Harold Sichel.  Another book of special interest is Merriam Sherwood retelling of The Cid as The Tale of the Warrior Lord (1930), illustrated by Henry C. Pitz.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

William L. Chester

William L. Chester (b. New York City, 7 January 1907; d. Briarcliff Manor, NY, 9 October 1971)

William Lester Chester was the son of William Chester and Christina Jensen, who were married in Dupage, Illinois, on 6 October 1903. Little is known about his early life. By the 1930 US Census, he was a clerk at a bank, and his father's birthplace is given as Minnesota,  and his mother's as Denmark. In the early 1930s he married Irene Harriet Lang (1907-1997). They had no children.

Chester is remembered for four serials that were published in Blue Book Magazine in the 1930s. All center on an orphaned white boy in the Arctic north of Siberia, who is called Kioga, the Snow Hawk, and who grows up to be the chief of his tribe of native peoples. The first of which, Hawk of the Wilderness (Blue Book Magazine, April through October 1935), appeared in hardcover from Harper & Brothers of New York in February 1936. It was made into a twelve episode film serial, just over three and a half hours long, that was released in late 1938. Grosset & Dunlap published a tie-in edition with the serial.  In 1966, the film serial was edited down for television to one hour and forty minutes in length and retitled Lost Island of Kioga. At the same time Ace Books issued the novel as a mass market paperback under its original name. 

Chester's three related serializations were Kioga of the Wilderness (Blue Book Magazine, April through October 1936); One Against a Wilderness (Blue Book Magazine, March through August 1937); and Kioga of the Unknown Land (Blue Book Magazine, March through August 1938). These three titles were collected in book form by DAW Books in 1976, 1977, and 1978, respectively. (One Against the Wilderness is a collection of six linked stories, not a novel per se.)

Chester published one other known story, "Not to the Swift," in Adventure for October 1938. In the 1940 US Census, Chester is listed in the Bronx as a skating instructor at a rink. During World War II he served with the Ski Troops at Camp Hale, Colorado. He later settled in Tarrytown, and operated a real estate office in Chappaqua, and worked for a time in the administrative offices of Grasslands Hospital (now known as the Westchester Medical Center), in Valhalla, New York. He and his wife eventually settled near Ossining, where Chester died unexpectedly at his home at the age of 64. His wife was his sole survivor.  

*Special thanks to Kevin Cook for assistance with this entry.

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.