Wednesday, May 10, 2023

C. Armitage Harper

C. Armitage Harper (b. Harrison, Arkansas, 24 June 1905; d. Little Rock, 30 June 1975)

Clio Armitage Harper was the son of Clio Harper (1872-1932), at times a newspaper editor, and proprietor of a printing shop, and his wife, Zella Armitage (1876-1942), who were married in Harrison, Arkansas, on 26 September 1897. They had a daughter in 1899 who died in infancy; the son was their only other child. The father published several small booklets of poetry in the 1920s.

Little is known of the boy’s youth, but he was educated at the University of Arkansas (B.A., 1925) and Harvard University (M.A. 1927). He married [Grace] Eleanor Purifoy (1906-1983) in El Dorado, Arkansas, on 29 March 1928. He would follow his father and run a printing shop. Harper and his wife had three children, two sons and a daughter, the oldest of which was C. Armitage Harper, Jr., who has sometimes been confused with his father.

His first book, American Ghost Stories (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, [5 October] 1928), collects sixteen stories, with an introduction by the editor. Harper notes that the American contribution to the ghost story is to break it away from the conventional and to add humor, so he has included such stories by Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, and Frank R. Stockton. The book also includes representative tales by Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fitz-James O’Brien, Ambrose Bierce, Edith Wharton, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and F. Marion Crawford, among others, including Brander Matthews, Wilbur Daniel Steele, and Theodore Dreiser. Harper closes by saying that he has made an attempt to choose representatives of the various types: “from different sections of the country; tales of the sea; stories in dialect and with slang; tales perfect in exposition and technique, There are terrifying ghosts, malignant ghouls, ludicrous spectres . . .  Humorous stories have been interspersed among the tragic and horrific to allay the chill of terror which comes naturally . . . A happy balance of ghostland material has been attempted” (17). The book was published in England by Jarrolds in November 1929. It must not have sold well, for copies of both editions are scarce.

Harper also wrote The Story of Arkansas (1931), and, co-authored with L.A. Henry, Conservation in Arkansas (1939). 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Arthur A. Nelson

Arthur A. Nelson (b. Pentwater, Michigan, 24 December 1875; d. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 28 May 1917)

Arthur A. Nelson is known as the author of one single work, a four part serial "The Adventurers" which first appeared in the magazine Adventure from January through April 1915, and was collected in book form under the title Wings of Danger (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, [September] 1915). The story is a better-than-most lost race novel (clearly influenced by H. Rider Haggard), but not without its problems, and E.F. Bleiler accurately described it as "well-written pulp adventure, but cliched and disorganized in structure and incident." In the novel, a political race to claim land in East Africa for the English (led by pro-colonialist Cecil Rhodes) or by the Belgians (on order from the infamous King Leopold) brings about the discovery a lost race of ancient Norse descendants. The conflicts turn upon various love interests. The only hint about the author's identity occurs in the blurb for the story on the contents pages of the January issue of Adventure, where it refers to him as "a business man in a responsible position"--which isn't much to go on. 

Interestingly, Robert M. McBride & Company issued a special "Autograph Edition" of Wings of Danger with a tipped in page signed by the author, and including his photograph (see at the bottom of this entry). The novel was even serialized in at least two Canadian newspapers (The Manitoba Free Press and The Globe of Toronto) in July 1916. 

But the author himself proved very elusive, until a short profile, "Fascinating Story by a Type-Writer Man," was discovered in the December 1914 issue of Office Appliances, where it was revealed that Nelson was then the Advertising Manager of the Royal Typewriter Company. The profile includes the same photograph of Nelson as is found in the Autograph Edition of Wings of Danger, as well as a number of tantalizing if imprecise details:

He is the writer of the advertisements used by the Royal company in its last two advertising campaigns, introducing the new Royal Master Model No. 10, and promoting the development of the Royal business.

He won his way to his present position through the company's merit system. Starting as a salesman for the Royal . . . he was connected with one of the offices in the West. His good work as a salesman and his letters to the company upon matters of business led to his appointment as editor of the Royal Standard, the company's house organ. The excellence of his work in that capacity won for him his present position as advertising manager.

Arthur Nelson is one of the "Western brand of New Yorkers." He is of an adventurous disposition, and has spent much time in hunting and fishing in the woods of northern Michigan. He made good friends with the Ojibwa Indians, and learned to speak their language well, Years ago he was a police reporter on a metropolitan newspaper in the West; and city editor of a Michigan daily. All the while he utilized his spare time writing fiction and enjoying the unusual experience of selling everything he wrote. A number of his earlier stories were sold to the Frank A. Munsey people, and a serial to Street and Smith.*

The serial rights to "The Adventurers" were bought many months ago, for its publication in The Adventure magazine, before the story was actually completed.   

It is the biggest story from Mr, Nelson's pen, and is sure to give him a permanent place among writers of stories of adventure, One who read one of the manuscripts of "The Adventurers" said:

"It is far above the usual romance-adventure story as Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and should prove a rare delight to the lover of clean, idealistic romance, and new, surprising adventure. It re-echoes through its mysteries the days of the Dark Ages in a thundering clash with modern civilization. The characters move with a realism which quickly arouses the reader's sympathies, or the reverse. They are real people, in a real environment that makes the pages of "The Adventurers" pulsate with life throughout a swift, powerful action full of fascinating and natural incident.

The central character of the book is Cecil Rhodes, the British "Empire-Builder"; the other personages of the story run the gamut from an English "gentleman adventurer"--the hero--a French Marquis of the stuff of which D'Artagnan was made, a globe-trotting London savant, a "Kentucky widow," and some of the fairest heroines that were ever loved in books, to the Portuguese ex-artilleryman who manned the machine guns of the 'Black Company.' The final scene describes how the 'Black Company' held the fortress of Valkyria against the Red King's army and is a scene that powerfully grips the reader." 

More research has allowed these brief facts to be fleshed out. Arthur A. Nelson was born "Alfred Arthur Nelson" in 1875 in  Pentwater, Michigan, on the Lake Michigan coast to the south of Manistee. He was the youngest of eight children of Horatio James Nelson (1839-1924), who was born in Canada of paternal Scotch descent, and his wife, Margaret H., née Conlan (1839-1933), who was born in New York of paternal Irish descent; they married around 1860. The Nelson family emigrated from Canada to Pentwater around 1873, where Alfred Arthur and his one-year older brother were born.

Little is known of Nelson's youth or education, but he was known as "Fred Arthur Nelson"  or "Fred A. Nelson" from a young age. The story "Nadir Singh's Cavern" as by Fred A. Nelson in the June 1895 issue of The Argosy (a Munsey magazine; the story was reprinted in another Munsey magazine, The Quaker, for July 1899) is likely by him. Throughout his life he was itinerant. For some time through his youth he lived in Manistee, and it was there, at some point (perhaps in the 1890s), he was city editor of The Manistee Daily News. Around the 1890s his parents settled on the other side of Michigan, in Blaine, a small town (now extinct) in rural St. Clair County, to the northeast of Detroit and bordering on the southernmost tip of Lake Huron.

As Fred Arthur Nelson, he married Jeanette Caroline McConkey (1880-1954) in Mattoon, Illinois, on 22 June 1901. They would have two daughters (a third child did not live). The first daughter was born in Kentucky in 1901; the second in Michigan in 1907. By the 1910 Census the family was living in McAlester, Oklahoma. The Nelson family is found in the 1915 New York Census, living on West 70th Street in Manhattan, where Arthur's occupation is given as "Ad Manager." At this point he was certainly working for the Royal Typewriter Company, which had been founded in 1904 and which began operating in Brooklyn in 1906.  Nelson is credited as editing the house organ, The Royal Standard, which ran from about 1909 through 1926. Institutional holdings of this serial are scarce, especially for the years of 1914-1915 when Nelson was known to have been involved. Just when Nelson ceased employment with the Royal Typewriter Company is uncertain. Nelson died in Ann Arbor in the spring of 1917, of tuberculosis. He was buried in Blaine, Michigan. 

Aside of his novel (serialized in Adventure), and the one story in Argosy, no other publications are known, save for a small number of typewriting trade articles in the teens. One brief obituary states that he had "published several books including Wings of Danger, dealing with outdoor life," but none have been located. 

* Adventure was not a Street and Smith publication, which leaves open the possibility of another unknown serial by Nelson, perhaps published under a pseudonym.

Thanks to Kevin Cook for his interest and assistance with this entry.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

H.T.W. Bousfield

H.T.W. Bousfield (b. Sudbury, Derbyshire, 29 May 1891; d. reg. Kensington, London, Jan-March 1965)

Henry Thomas Wishart Bousfield was the second child (and only son) of the Rev. Stephen Bousfield (1850-1903), and his wife, Edith Mary Wishart (1859-1926), who were married on 8 April 1888 in Sudbury. Stephen Bousfield had been educated at St. John's College, Cambridge (B.A. 1872), and was ordained a deacon in 1881, and priest in 1882. He served as Curate of Plaistow, Essex, 1881-1883; Curate of Sudbury, Derbyshire, 1883-1898; and Rector of Shelton, Nottinghamshire, 1898-1903. 

Like his father, Henry went to Cambridge, but to Christ's College (B.A. 1912) instead of St. John's. Afterwards he was appointed Professor of History at the newly-formed Islamia College, Peshawar, North West Frontier, India. During the War he served in North Waziristan, France, and Mesopotamia. After leaving the Army in 1919, he went into business in London, working in advertising and as a bank manager. 

By 1913, he was publishing occasional poems and short stories, later appearing in other venues with occasional non-fiction (one piece, "A Coming Event Foreshadowed" in Pearson's Magazine, August 1919,  recounts Bousfield's occult experience during the war). Some short essays appeared as booklets, Elements of Effective Advertising (1924); RMS Queen Mary: The Ship of Beautiful Woods (c. 1935), an advertisement for the Cunard White Star Line of passenger ships; and It's Time to Think! How to Win the Peace (1943). The short stories for which he won acclaim began appearing in the 1930s, in Britannia and Eve, The Windsor Magazine, and Nash's-Pall Mall Magazine, and continued through the Second World War. Two books collecting his short stories, all competent commercial fiction, were Bousfield's main publications: The God with Four Arms and Other Stories (London: Arthur Barker, 1939), which contains eleven stories, and Vinegarand Cream (London: John Murray, 1941), which contains twenty-one.

After a few failed engagements (announced in newspapers in the early 1920s), Bousfield married Mary Adeline Guest (1904-1998) in 1929. They had no children. Bousfield died in London at the age of 73 in 1965 (not 1967 as is sometimes given). 

James Doig has collected eight short stories, comprising Bousfield's entire output of fantasy and weird fiction, from Bousfield's two collections, in The Unknown Island and Other Tales of Fantasy and the Supernatural (Ramble House, 2022). Bousfield's best tales concern the revival of pagan motifs in modern culture. "The Unknown Island" (Nash's-Pall Mall Magazine, May 1935) concerns the rediscovery of a gorgon on a Greek island, and is very similar to later stories like William Sambrot's "The Island of Fear" (1958) and C.S. Lewis's science fictional version (set on the Moon), "Forms of Things Unknown" (first published posthumously in 1966). (I have written about these stories previously here.) In "The God with Four Arms" a bronze image of Indra enacts a revenge. A few other stories are witchcraft themed. "The Impossible Adventure" is noteworthy in that it originally appeared in Weird Tales (November 1940), where it was accompanied by one illustration by Hannes Bok. In this story, a man visiting Greece find an injured  young centaur and, after nursing him back to health, takes him to Scotland, with disastrous results. "Death and the Duchess" is a tale of a kind of vampirism by blood transfusion. It was clearly inspired by "The Good Lady Ducayne" (1896) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.


Sunday, February 13, 2022

Alice Conger

Alice Conger (b. Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, 19 May 1908; d. Sauk City, Wisconsin, 6 November 1983)

A 1958 Bowling Team photo
Alice Josephine Conger was a school classmate of August Derleth. Both graduated from the Prairie du Sac High School in  June 1926. She went on to teach in nearby rural schools for about a decade. In 1936 she began doing research work for August Derleth, and this association continued until Derleth's death in 1971. It was evidently only part-time work, for her obituary notes that she also worked as a bookkeeper.

She typed many manuscripts for Derleth, and for Arkham House. In turn, when each new Arkham House book was published, as Derleth sent copies to authors to be signed and inscribed, he always requested one be inscribed to Alice Conger. Dozens of these have been sold at auction at premium prices. 

So far as I know, Conger never published anything, but her contribution to Arkham House was vital to its day-to-day operation. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Nicholas L. Brown

Nicholas L. Brown (b. Bialystock, Russia [now Poland], 5 October 1885; d. Philadelphia, 17 November 1947) 

Nicholas Leon Brown was the second son of Leon Brown (1862-1922) and his wife Anna Helen Brown (1861-1939). He had one older brother, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters). 

He immigrated to the United States in October 1902, at the age of 17, and within a few years had set up a bookshop in Philadelphia at 5th and Pine Street (where around 1904 or 1905 the future publisher E. Haldeman-Julius bought a pamphlet edition of Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol and mused about how thousands of such booklets could be made available--it was the germ idea of Haldeman-Julius's famous series of booklets that began in 1919 and became known after 1923 as the "Little Blue Books"). 

Nicholas L. Brown remained primarily a bookseller for the rest of his life.  He married Anna Koren (1886-1961), another immigrant from Bialystock, in Brooklyn on 1 June 1910. They would have three children, Constance Ruth Brown (1914-1919), Daniel Coleman Brown (1921-1999), and Ruth N. Brown (1925-2005). 

In the early teens, Brown began publishing books, as privately printed limited editions of what passed in those years as classical erotica. By 1916, he was publishing some books under his own name as publisher, first in Philadelphia, and after a move in 1918 in New York. His publishing list was never large, but included volumes of poetry, belles lettres, and translations. Brown published most of the output of Mitchell S. Buck, a Philadelphia heating engineer who translated classical erotica, and wrote modern works on classical themes. His volume Afterglow: Pastels of Greek Egypt 69 B.C. (1924) was published by Brown and includes a preface by Arthur Machen.  I have written more fully of Buck and his publications in an entry at Lesser-Known Writers. Brown also published in 1918 a reprint of Sonnets from the Pantagonian (originally 1914) by Philadelphian Donald Evans, and Precipitations (1920), a book of poems by the modernist Evelyn Scott (Scott would marry the British weird fiction writer John Metcalfe in 1930, after five years together as a couple). Other publications include a limited edition of Samuel Putnam's translation of Claude Farrère's Fumée d'opium, as Black Opium (1929), and the occult novel Souls in Hell (dated 1924, but published in December 1923), by John O'Neill, which sports a dust-wrapper blurb by Arthur Conan Doyle. 

In February 1931, Brown's bookstore in New York was robbed of rare books and letters valued at $5,000.  The letters included ones by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Dickens, and Daniel Webster. Brown's publishing activities seem to have ceased in 1932, and by 1935 he had moved back to Philadelphia where he remained for the rest of his life. Brown died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 61.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Charles R. Dake / Charles Romeyn Dake

Homeopathic News, May 1893 
Charles Romeyn Dake (b. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 22 December 1849; d. Belleville, Illinois, 22 April 1899) 

There persists a question over Dake's middle name. Throughout his life, in his profession as a doctor, and as a journal editor and author, he by-lined himself as "Charles R. Dake" (or sometimes "C.R. Dake").  His only book was published four months after his death, and gives his name in two variants: "Charles Romeyn Dake" on the front cover, and "Charles Romyn Dake" on the title and copyright pages.  His college records from the early 1870s give his full name as "Charles Romeyn Dake" (and in a short story from 1892, Dake named a character "Charles Romeyn"), so I believe "Romeyn" to be the correct spelling of his middle-name.

He was the only son of David Merritt Dake (1814-1891) and Mary Bainbridge Manuel (1814-1895), who were married in 1835. He had four sisters, one of whom died in infancy. According to a biographical sketch in a History of St. Clair County, Illinois (1881), "Dake's father, grandfather, great-grandfather, all of his uncles and their sons, have been and are physicians," some of them allopaths, some homeopaths, and some other types.

Dake was educated at the Western University of Pennsylvania, and he graduated with honors from the College of Physicians and Surgeons (the Medical Department of Columbia College) in New York in 1872.  He went west in 1873, intending to go south, but stopped off in Belleville, Illinois, where his father had started a practice, and decided to remain there. He married Belleville native Eugenia Cordelia Swyer (1857-1944) on 12 September 1874.  They had two daughters, Grace (1883-1954) and "Mae" [Mary] (1880-1946).  [Mae's third daughter, Grace Bechtold (1909-1988) became a well-known figure in New York publishing, and worked for Bantam Books for almost forty years.]

Dake became one of the best-known physicians in western and southern Illinois. He was made editor of the monthly journal Homeopathic News (published out of St. Louis) in May 1893 (a photo of Dake appears in his inaugural issue). He wrote articles, and in the December 1892 issue he published his first attempt at fiction, a short story entitled "The Limits of Imagination," which won a $200 prize for the best short story submitted by an active physician. By popular request it was followed by a second story, "The Death and Regeneration of Gerald Deane," in the May 1893 issue. Dake's only published novel was A Strange Discovery (New York: H. Ingalls Kimball, [17 August] 1899). H. Ingalls Kimball  (1874-1933) had been a partner with Herbert S. Stone in the publishing firm of Stone & Kimball which operated from 1893-1897, first (briefly) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before settling in Chicago, where Stone's father had many literary connections. After Stone & Kimball dissolved their partnership, Kimball set up the Cheltenham Press in New York City for commercial and advertising purposes, but as "H. Ingalls Kimball" he did publish a handful of books over the next decade. In this phase, Kimball may have operated as a vanity publisher. 

In 1898 Dake became ill with cancer of the diaphragm. He and his doctor withheld the diagnosis from his family, who believed Dake was suffering from consumption. In early 1899 the symptoms became much worse, and for more than six weeks he was unable to eat, taking only small portions of liquid nourishment. Death by slow starvation became a certainty, and he purchased (unbeknownst to his family) a revolver, with which, on the evening of 22 April 1899, he fired a bullet through his heart while in his library. He died instantly.   

Dake's two short stories and one published novel all descend directly from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. In "The Limits of Imagination, " a young man prepared for the onset of a hereditary condition of paralysis. As his condition descends upon him, he starts writing novels in his head, and then living other imagined lifes, followed by animal and plant lives (in a downward scale of consciousness), until, after nine years, he awakens astrally in his own room and witnesses his physician revive him via trephining his skull and using electricity to reduce the two tumors pressuring his brain. In "The Death and Regeneration of Gerald Deane," Dr. Gerald Deane meets an old boyhood friend and tells him how he survived death from a heart attack by a process of thought-transference with his wife, whom he instructs how to revive his corpse via electric stimulation of his heart. Deane affirms (based on his own experiences) that we live forever independently of the body. 


Dake's novel A Strange Discovery is a direct sequel to Poe's short novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). It concerns a doctor who discovers Dirk Peters (a surviving character in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym who, according to Poe, settled in Illinois), now an old man in Bellevue, Illinois (Dake's stand-in for Belleville). The doctor elicits from Peters the rest of the story of his experiences with Pym in the Antarctic. Dake adds to Poe's mystery a lost-race element and a plot of the style of H. Rider Haggard, along with some ill-fitting historical narrative about a lost log of an Antarctic visit by Sir Francis Drake. This makes for a unwieldy and cumbersome narrative.

Dake's three known pieces of fiction are all flawed in ways, but they are of interest. The short stories work better than the novel, but all are somewhat unsatisfying in set-up and structure.