Friday, April 6, 2012

Colin de la Mare

Colin de la Mare (b. reg. Bromley, Kent, 10 January 1906; d. reg. Horsham, West Sussex, 16 April 1983)

Colin Francis de la Mare was the youngest of the four children of writer and poet Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) and his wife Elfrida, née Ingpen (1860-1943), who were married on 4 August 1899.  Colin’s older brother was Richard de la Mare (1901-1986), for many years a publishing executive at the firm Faber & Faber. Colin also had two sisters, Florence (b. 1900) and Lucy Elfrida, who was known as “Jinnie”, (b. 1903). Colin married Lilias Awdry (b. 1916) in 1941.  They had one daughter Julia de la Mare (b. 1943).

Colin de la Mare (right) with his parents in the early 1930s
Colin de la Mare published only one book, They Walk Again: An Anthology of Ghost Stories (1931). Containing eighteen tales, it is a fine collection with a number of classics, including Richard Middleton’s “The Ghost Ship,” Edith Wharton’s “Afterward,” William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night,” Oliver Onions’s “The Beckoning Fair One,” W. W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw,” and J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Green Tea”—along with less familiar tales by top-shelf writers such as Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Ambrose Bierce, E. F. Benson, and M. R. James, among others.  That this volume was a kind of family affair is signaled first by the inclusion of two items by the compiler’s father, one story (“All Hallows”) as well as a twenty-two page “Introduction.”  The book was published by Faber & Faber, where the compiler’s brother, Richard, was even then a leading executive.  Colin de la Mare’s only prose contribution to the book is a short “Note,” mostly comprised of acknowledgements, but observing at the beginning that “the precise definition of a ghost story is almost as elusive as a ghost itself. But it is elastic enough, I think, to warrant the inclusion of certain examples only just over the border-line.”  Though this was his only publication, Colin de la Mare remained active in the literary world, working (according to his nephew Giles de la Mare) for many years as a colleague of Jack Morpurgo (1918-2000), who held various offices in the National Book League from 1955-87.

Historically this anthology has special significance because it began the revival of interest in the works of William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918).  American bibliophile H.C. Koenig (1893-1959) read Hodgson’s tale in this volume and thereafter sought out all of Hodgson’s first editions, which he generously circulated throughout the 1930s and 1940s amongst his correspondents, including H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, and others.  He brought Hodgson to the attention of a number of editors, including Mary Gnaedinger (who reprinted Hodgson in Famous Fantastic Mysteries) and Ellery Queen (who selected Carnacki, the Ghost Finder as part of Queen’s Quorum, an annotated listing, first published in 1948,  of the most important detective and crime fiction books).  Koenig befriended Hodgson’s sister, and assisted August Derleth on the Arkham House editions, writing the introduction to The House on the Borderlands and Other Novels (1946), and supplying Derleth with unpublished Hodgson manuscripts (including the Carnacki story “The Hog”)  that he received from Hodgson’s sister.  The growth of Hodgson’s posthumous reputation owes much to the seed planted by the reprinting of his one story in They Walk Again.
The 1942 Dutton reprint

A few final bibliographical notes. The Faber & Faber edition was published in April 1931, followed in October by the Dutton edition in the United States. The 1942 Dutton reprint adds a two page “Foreword” by longtime Yale English professor William Lyon Phelps.  Later Faber & Faber reprints were retitled The Ghost Book: or, They Walk Again.  In April-May 1956, the National Book League in London held an exhibition of Walter de la Mare’s books and manuscripts.  Item no. 21 was Walter de la Mare’s own copy of the first edition of They Walk Again, inscribed by Colin de la Mare to his father, with “copious notes and corrections in ink to the introduction” made by the writer himself. These notes, wherever they might be today, would make for fascinating reading. 

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Lost and Forgotten Writers”, All Hallows no. 43 (Summer 2007). 


  1. A great piece on Colin de la Mare!

  2. Walter de la Mare's copy of _They Walk Again_, inscribed by Colin, is now at Senate House Library, University of London (classmark [WdlM] T.315), where it forms part of the Walter de la Mare Library. There is a brief description of the Library at:, and another in the article K.E. Attar, 'Cataloguing Modern Special Collections: A University of London Case Study', published in the journal _Journal of Librarianship and Information Science_ - the latter specifically mentions this copy of _They Walk Again_.
    Unfortunately we cannot mount the notes on the web for copyright reasons, but anybody who is interested is most welcome to visit Senate House Library to read them.

    1. Thanks for commenting. It's great to know this copy has a good home, and one where it can be accessed.

  3. That is a great photo of Walter de la Mare. With the mackintosh and hat, he looks very appropriately a sinister authority. Impressive. I wish it had better resolution, then I would print it out and leaf it into one of my de la Mare books. Perhaps edit away Colin first, who looks rather swaggering dominant and unruly, an element of late life worry and distraction to Walter's fantastic musings. That's the impression the picture gives anyway. There are other photos of Colin, where he looks much more pleasant.

    Another favorite photo of Walter de la Mare, is where he and Keats sit on chairs, charming the ladies. Well, . . . I can't say I like self-pompous William Butler, really . . . Walter seems a much nicer fellow to deal with.

    1. Thanks, Knygathin. The photo is a cropped version of one from Theresa Whistler's IMAGINATION OF THE HEART: THE LIFE OF WALTER DE LA MARE (1993). It's not that much better in the original appearance. (I note the typo of "Keats" for "Yeats", but couldn't fix it in your post.) Cheers.

    2. Hello Kyngathin.
      Tell me... is that a name?
      I have never had "swagger" in my life, in fact I abhor swagger in people who don`t deserve to swagger, and I don`t.
      My name is Colin De La Mare.
      Please don`t edit me.