Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sheila Hodgson

Sheila Hodgson (b. Beckenham, Kent, 22 December 1921; d. South Newton, Wiltshire, 25 December 2001)

Ruth Sheila Hodgson was the only child of John Stuart Hodgson (1877-1950) and Emily Storr Best (1875-1965), who were married in Bromley, Kent, in the spring of 1915.  Her father was known as Stuart Hodgson, a journalist and author, most-known as the last editor, from 1921-31, of the left-wing newspaper the Daily News.  He wrote a number of books, including The Liberal Policy for Industry (1928); Portraits and Reflections (1929); and The Man Who Made Peace: The Story of Neville Chamberlain (1938).

Sheila (who like her father was known familiarly by her middle name) was educated at Broadstairs, the Brighton and Hove High School, and the Michel Saint-Denis Stage School. During World War II she acted in repertory companies, and began to write plays.  She worked for the BBC as a scriptwriter for about six years in the 1950s, later moving on to ATV.  Her serialized thriller for children, Stranger on the Shore (1961), was well-received and is remembered for its theme music for clarinet by Acker Bilk.   Additionally, she edited and introduced a volume Love Story: Based on ATV’s Top Play Series (1968), and a few of her plays appeared as booklets, Alarm Call (1976) and Tunnel Vision (1995). 

Hodgson was a prolific writer of radio dramas for over four decades. Her first radio play was “Night without Sleep”, broadcast in the “Saturday Night Theatre” on 6 June 1959. In the 1970s she was working freelance out of Brighton. She sometimes adapted stories by other writers, including five by Algernon Blackwood, four of these utilizing Blackwood’s psychic detective John Silence, all first broadcast on BBC Radio 4. These include “The Camp of the Dog” (broadcast 28 August 1974); “The Nemesis of Fire” (18 December 1974); “Secret Worship” (19 March 1975); and “The Empty Sleeve” (2 October 1975).  The fifth Blackwood adaptation was “The Human Chord” (10 December 1985). She was also known for her own thrillers, including her first full-length play, “The Long Drive Home” (1967), and “Inter City Incident” (1975), “This Line is Now Closed” (1978), and “Sea Fever” (1989).  

After adapting Blackwood’s John Silence stories in 1974-75, she took M.R. James’s “Stories I Have Tried to Write” as a springboard for further radio dramas. Eight radio scripts were done in all (the first three utilizing James’s discarded plots): “A Whisper in the Ear” (broadcast 7 October 1976); ‘Turn, Turn, Turn” (3 March 1977); “The Backward Glance” (22 September 1977); “Here I Am; Where Are You?” (29 December 1977); “Echoes from the Abbey” (21 November 1984); “The Lodestone” (19 April 1989); “The Boat Hook” (15 April 1992); and “The Fellow Travellers (20 February 1994). Afterwards Hodgson turned the scripts into short stories. Two were published in Blackwood’s Magazine: “The Turning Point” (March 1978, retitled from the radio script “Turn, Turn, Turn”) and “The Villa Martine” (July 1978, retitled from the radio script “A Whisper in the Ear”).  These were followed by an essay on “The Ghost of M.R. James” (June 1979). After Blackwood’s Magazine ceased, Hodgson found a ready market for her ghostly tales in the small press magazine, Ghosts and Scholars, edited by Rosemary Pardoe.  Four further stories appeared there: “Come, Follow” (no. 4, 1982); “Echoes from the Abbey” (no. 9, 1987); “The Lodestone” (no. 13, 1991), and “The Boat Hook” (no. 19, 1995).

Hodgson’s twelve ghost stories (eight of which were based on her radio plays) were collected in The Fellow Travellers and Other Ghost Stories (Ashcroft, British Columbia: Ash-Tree Press, 1998), with a new introduction by the author but oddly not including Hodgson’s essay on “The Ghost of M.R. James”. (One further uncollected story is known, “Slip Stream”, which appeared in the June 1972 issue of London Mystery Selection, presumably excluded from the collection because it is not a ghost story.)

In early 1970 (not 1971 as is sometimes reported), Hodgson had married David Roderick Middleton (1923-2003), a travel journalist, in Hampstead in Greater London.  Eventually they settled in Wiltshire, about three miles from Stonehenge. They had no children, and in their last few years they were institutionalized and unable to care for themselves. Sheila had a stroke about six weeks before she passed away on Christmas Day 2001, three days after her eightieth birthday. Her husband passed away nine months later. 

Update 11/30/19: A correspondent has told me that Hodgson acted in a Christmas day 1951 broadcast of a one-hour BBC live studio presentation of The Princess and the Swineherd, a dramatization by Nicholas Stuart Gray of the story by Hans Christian Andersen.  Sadly no copies of it seem to survive.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Edwin Eddison

Edwin Eddison (b. Gateford, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, 22 June 1805; d. Headingley Hill, Leeds, 13 January 1867)

Edwin Eddison (b. Worksop, c. 1823; d. reg. Hastings, Sussex, July-Sep. 1867)

Edwin Eddison (1805-1867) was fifth of nine children, and the fourth of six sons, of John Eddison (1756-1812) and Ann Booth (1770-1845).  He lived in the Leeds area for most of his life, having come there from Worksop in his youth.

E.R. Eddison's uncle, John Edwin Eddison
In Leeds on 18 November 1830, he married Hannah Maria Baker (1809-1872), and they had nine children, the first of which died in infancy.  The ninth child was the eighth son, so named Octavius (1850-1916), and he became the father of fantasist E.R. Eddison.  One of Octavius’s older brothers, John Edwin Eddison (1843-1929) became a professor of veterinary medicine. He had literary interests, and was a friend of Andrew Lang. Though married, he was childless, and his nephew E.R. Eddison was one of the three beneficiaries of his large estate.

Edwin Eddison was a solicitor, and served as Town Clerk in Leeds for several years.  He kept a farm at Adel, where he practiced animal husbandry, producing some of the finest breeds of animals. He was also a member of the Society of Friends. Edwin Eddison suffered from heart problems for the last year of his life, and died at the age of sixty-one.

Because he was born in Worksop, it has been believed that this Edwin Eddison was the author of a History of Worksop; with Historical, Descriptive, and Discursive Sketches of Sherwood Forest and the Neighborhood (London: Longman and Co.; Worksop: S. Sisson, 1854), but recent research has shown this to be by another Edwin Eddison (c. 1823-1867), the son of Benjamin Eddison.  This Edwin Eddison was a resident of Worksop through the early 1860s. He was also a solicitor, and his wife’s name was Mary.  Which Edwin Eddison wrote the serial “Dick Turpin and His Horse” that appeared in New Sporting Magazine (March, June and July 1865) remains unknown.  These two Edwin Eddisons were likely related. With some overlapping biographical facts, they have become easy to confuse.  This entry is an attempt to disambiguate the two.

Monday, November 19, 2012

George Frost

George Frost (b. Clapham, London, 25 August 1857; d. Banstead, Surrey, 23 December 1944)

The British Museum Catalogue attributes three books published as by “George Frost” to Mrs. Octavius Eddison, the mother of fantasist E.R. Eddison.  Closer study of the three volumes show that one, The Troubles of Monsieur Bourgeois (1890), is erroneously attributed to her, and in this instance the pseudonym “George Frost” was used by George E. Vail, an Englishman resident in Paris, and author of L’Art du Patinage (1886). The other two “George Frost” books were certainly authored by Mrs. Eddison.

She was born Helen Louisa Rücker, the fifth of six children of Daniel Henry Rücker (1813-1890), a merchant of colonial produce, and Mary Antoinette Williams (1824-1905), the eldest daughter of a Dublin merchant, who were married in Dublin on 4 November 1847.  Helen had three brothers and two sisters.  Her eldest brother was Arthur William Rücker (1848-1915), who was educated at Oxford and became a distinguished professor of physics at the Royal College of Science, London, and later the first principal of London University from 1901 to 1908.  He was knighted in 1902. 

Helen was apparently educated privately, and she married Octavius Eddison (1850-1916), an Oxford-educated solicitor, at the Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, London, on 2 March 1882.  They settled in Adel, near Leeds, and had two sons, Eric Rücker Eddison (1882-1945), a civil servant and fantasist, and Colin Rücker Eddison (1889-1957), who was for many years active in promoting Christian Science.

Both of Helen Eddison’s books came out the same year, one in the summer and the other in the autumn:  Where Is Your Husband? and Other Brown Studies (London: Thomas Burleigh, [June] 1901), and A Medley Book (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., [November] 1901). Despite her second book appearing from a major London publisher, it is by far the rarer of the two.  Both books are a mix of fiction and meditative essays, with the essays dominating the contents. The first book reprints items from The Leeds Mercury.  A Medley Book contains one novella, “What Mrs. Dunn Knew”, which borders on the fantastic, and could be considered a psychological ghost story. Mrs. Dunn’s friend Margaret loved one man but married another, who, a few years later on his death bed, threatened that he would never allow her to marry again. Over time, Margaret’s relationship with her first love is rekindled, and on the evening of their wedding she is found dead. Margaret left a letter for her friend Mrs. Dunn in explanation, but the interpretation is left open for the reader as to whether Margaret’s haunting was real or merely psychological. The author of the tale did not interest herself in stylistic effects or atmosphere, but primarily in the young woman’s melodrama. Thus the story has a curiously flat tone to it. 

Helen Eddison also published a serial Fate and a Fiddle in The Yorkshire Post Weekly (beginning circa October 1906), and contributed to The Academy, Country Life, and other publications.  Late in life she accompanied her son Colin on trips to the United States for his work on promoting Christian Science.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amy G. Eddison

Amy G. Eddison (b. Leeds, Yorkshire 22 November 1868; d. Harrogate, Yorkshire 8 March 1962)

Amy Gordon Eddison was the fourth of five children (two boys, followed by three girls) of John Eddison (1835-1920), a land surveyor, auctioneer, and insurance agent, and his first wife Emily Jemima Horncastle (1834-1871), who were married in Firbeck, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on 3 March 1859.  In July 1874, three years after his wife’s death, John Eddison married Mary Best (1847-1893), and they had two daughters.  In the nineteenth century there was a rather large population of Eddisons in Yorkshire.  Noted fantasist E. R. Eddison (1883-1945) was a second cousin of Amy G. Eddison, as they shared great grandparents. E. R. Eddison’s grandfather Edwin Eddison (1805-1867) was a younger brother of Amy Eddison’s grandfather William Eddison (1801-1970); the brothers were both the children of John Eddison (1756-1812) and Ann Booth Eddison (1770-1845). 

Little is known of Amy Eddison’s life.  In the 1890s, she moved southwards and resided in the greater London area for many years. She wrote and illustrated her first book, Tales the old Governess Told: A Week of Stories Spun by the Story-Spider (London: H.R. Allenson, [1907]), as by A.G. Eddison, after which time she signed her work as by Amy G. Eddison.  The book begins with an explanation that the very old governess, who had been governess for three families, has a Story-Spider that lives in her brain, and has spun the tales she told.  There follows seven tales, one for each day of the week, beginning with Monday and “The Bumble Bee Brownie” and ending with Sunday, “Christina and the Christ Child”.  Each tale has an illustration by the authoress. The most interesting stories are the fairy tales, including “The Bumble Tree Brownie” and “The Mermaid”.  Less interesting are the non-fantasies, like “Eric the Terrible”, which concerns an obnoxious young boy.
Miss Eddison also contributed to periodicals: one sentimental religious story, “The Flash in the Pan”, is known to have appeared in Quiver (March 1908). Around 1909, she became involved with W.T. Stead’s famous “Books for the Bairns”—small cheaply-produced and often illustrated booklets for children.  The series ran from 1896 through 1923, outlasting their originator, W.T. Stead, who died on the Titanic in 1912.  Amy G. Eddison contributed six volumes, and three of these were reprinted in updated forms.  A few have Eddison’s own illustrations.  Her contributions include:  A Brownie’s Love Story (no. 168, January 1910); The Enchanted Village (no. 178, November 1910); Little Peter—Second Part of the Enchanted Village (no. 179, December 1910); The Spotted Cat (no. 192, December 1911); Kit-Kat (no. 200, August 1912); The Tale of Pat (no. 201, August 1912); and three new editions: Tale of a Cat: Kit-Kat and His Friends (no. 254, August 1917, illustrated by the author); The Tale of Pat (no. 266, August 1918); and A Brownie’s Love Story (new series, no. 19, June 1923, with illustrations by Brinsley Le Fanu and the author). 
Amy G. Eddison never married, and late in life returned to Yorkshire, where she died at the age of 93. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mitchell S. Buck

Mitchell S. Buck  (b. Waterbury, Connecticut, 10 February 1887; d. near Philadelphia, 12 May 1959)

Mitchell Starrett Buck was second child and only son of Roswell Hollister Buck, a travelling salesman who was born in Pennsylvania in 1841, and his wife Minnie A. Donaldson, born in Connecticut in 1856, who were married in 1878.  Mitchell’s sister Marian was eight years older than him. Little is known of his early life.  He was educated at the Vermont Military Academy. According to the 1900 Census, the Buck family was still in Connecticut, but as of 1910 Mitchell is listed as a heating engineer in Philadelphia, living with his brother-in-law, H. Leon Stoll, an electrical engineer.  Buck would remain in the Philadelphia area, as a heating and ventilating engineer, for the rest of his life.  

Buck’s earliest known publications (signed “M.S. Buck”) appeared in The New Age (New York), a magazine of literature, science and freemasonry. These include an essay on “Present Day Occultism and Its Literature” (June 1911) and a follow-up piece, “The New Science” (September 1911); “A Treatise on Immortality”, an attempt to assist in the establishment of a scientific basis for a belief in the immortality of the soul (in three parts, January through March 1912); and some quasi-historical fiction, including “While Egypt Slept” (June 1913), “The Story of Isis and Osiris: From the Writings of Harkases, the Scribe, Son of Nargases” as “collected and prepared by Mitchell S. Buck” (September 1913), and “The Builder: A Leaf from the Past” (April 1914).  From that time until the late 1930s Buck mined a narrow vein of literature, often classically inspired, and often tinged with eroticism. Some of his most interesting writings are what Buck himself termed “pastels”. Buck’s writing was secondary to his work as a heating engineer, and the money he made professionally allowed him to become a noted book-collector, specializing in first editions, English literature, Greek and Latin classics. In 1917 he married Helen N. Boyer (1890-1976). During World War I he served as a Supervising Ship Camoufleur.

Buck’s first book was a translation of Aphrodite by the French decadent Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925). It appeared in 1913, and was “privately printed”, probably at Buck’s expense.  It may have been arranged through the Philadelphia bookseller Nicholas L. Brown, who officially became a publisher in 1916, and thereafter issued most of Buck’s output.  Between 1916 and 1932, Brown published small editions of poetry, belles lettres, translations, sometimes without his imprint but stating that the title has been “issued privately for subscribers” (in order to evade prosecution for dealing in obscene materials). Such classical erotica is very tame by modern standards, but in the teens and twenties such material was policed by self-appointed authorities such as John S. Sumner of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.  Sumner and his ilk had success in getting various literary works banned, such as Theodore Dreiser’s The Genius (1915) and James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen (1919). Nicholas L. Brown moved from Philadelphia to New York around the end of 1918. 

Buck’s second book was Syrinx: Pastels of Hellas (1914), issued by Claire Marie of New York, a small avante-garde publisher who in the same year issued Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein. Claire Marie was run by a poet from Philadelphia, Donald Evans (1884-1921).  Nicholas L. Brown issued four of Buck’s works under his imprint while still in Philadelphia, first an expanded edition of Syrinx under a new title, Ephemera: Greek Prose Poems (1916); followed by The Greek Anthology (Palatine MS): The Amatory Epigrams (1916); a small collection of prose poems entitled The Songs of Phryne (1917); and a nonfiction work Book Repair and Restoration: A Manual of Practical Suggestions for Bibliophiles, including some translated sections from “Essai sur l’art de restaurer les estampes et les livres”, par A. Bonnardot, Paris, 1858 (1918). Without Brown’s name listed as publisher, there was also Buck’s translation from Lucian, Dialogues of the Hetaerai (1916), which was “privately printed for subscribers only”.

The dust wrapper of the first edition (1924)
After moving to New York, Nicholas L. Brown continued with Buck’s various books, including  The Life of Casanova from 1774 to 1798: A Supplement to the Memoirs, drawn from the work of J.F.H. Adnesse and other sources (1924); Afterglow: Pastels of Greek Egypt, 69 B.C. (1924); and Rose of Corinth (1929), all with the Brown imprint, and the following “privately printed for subscribers”, without Brown’s imprint: a new edition of Buck’s translation of Pierre Louÿs’s Aphrodite (1919); Buck’s new translations of works by Louÿs, The Songs of Bilitis (1919) and Byblis, Leda, A New Pleasure (1920);  and translations from, respectively, the Greek and Latin of The Mimes of Herondas (1921), and Martial: Epigrams in Fifteen Books (1921).

In 1932, Liveright Publishing of New York issued a very large volume of The Collected Works of Pierre Louÿs, with a new introduction by Buck, along with his translations of Aphrodite, The Songs of Bilitis, The Twilight of the Nymphs, and Psyche. The translation of Sanguines is by James Cleugh, and the translations of Woman and Puppet and The Adventures of King Pausole are unattributed. It seems possible that Buck translated the latter (or was involved with the process), for it was originally published out of Philadelphia in 1926, as a limited edition “privately printed for the Pierre Louÿs Society”, with illustrations by Clara Tice, but such an attribution is only guesswork. 

Frontispiece and title page of Rose of Corinth (1929)
In his Foreword to Louÿs’s Collected Works, Buck noted how the times have changed:  “Unless we are professional reformers, we are no longer shocked, except at tragedy. . . . we can, in the main, observe public semi-nudity without rioting. Even the sinister manifestations of sex are known to all who care to read about them. And our physical health and perfection now receive as much, if not more, attention than the ultimate destination of our soul. All of which is a rather encouraging development.”  As applied to the works of Louÿs, Buck sums up their attractions to him, based on decades of close attention and study:  “We know, as he did, that worship of the physical, literally, is essentially the religion of youth; and that any religion or scheme of existence, such as the Alexandrian, which ignored maturity and old age, which depended for stimulation on physical pleasures, is falsely based and cannot endure. We can appreciate, also, throughout his works, many scenes of indescribable charm which haunt the memory, often with a touch of wistful sadness. Perhaps he may help us better to feel the spirit of the nocturnal, silver-flooded landscape, the glory in the surge of the sea, the mystery of life in the shadowy glades of the forest. We need someone to teach us such things.” 

Buck’s final book was another translation from the Latin, The Praipeia: An Anthology of Poems on Priapus (1937), privately printed in an edition of only one hundred and fifty copies. 

Buck’s own creative writing can be found in four volumes: Ephemera: Greek Prose Poems, which contains and expands his earlier Syrinx; The Songs of Phryne; Afterglow; and Rose of Corinth, the latter being Buck’s most extended narrative, around eight thousand words telling of the sexual awakening of a beautiful young woman on Corinth, published with decorations by Franz Felix. Afterglow is probably the most representative volume, and the most collectible, for it includes a thirteen page preface by Arthur Machen.  The original edition was remaindered with a binding that gives prominence to Machen’s name, also giving his originally untitled preface a title. The cover itself makes the book appear to be primarily as by Machen, with On Paganism, by Arthur Machen, given above the title of Buck’s work.  Following the latter example, the book was reissued by Tartarus Press in a two hundred copy edition in 1998, with a short biographical note on Buck by Stephen Michaluk, Jr.

The binding of the first edition (1924)
The remainder binding of the first edition
Mitchell S. Buck and his wife are buried in Beverly, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. They had no children.