Wednesday, April 24, 2013

John Vasseur

John Vasseur (b. Worcester, Massachusetts, 22 September 1894; d. San Francisco, California, 14 March 1952)
Dust-wrapper art by Clifford Pyle

The only published book by John Vasseur is the novel Typhon's Beard (New York:  George H. Doran, 1927), which appeared in June of 1927. (A British edition followed soon afterwards from Allen & Unwin, made from sheets printed in the U.S.)  It tells the story of Pyrrhus, the idle and philandering son of Leonidas, a vineyard owner in the dullest province of Greece, who is sent off to explore the wider world.  The meandering plot takes Pyrrhus and his horse Heraclitus on a series of adventures, one of which is an encounter with Typhon, "the ugliest of all giants", who teaches Pyrrhus to stretch himself to giant-size and together they wander the empyrean. The prose in the novel has a light ironic touch which is mildly diverting, but otherwise the book lacks any depth or substance.

“John Vasseur” was the pseudonym of Chandler Parks Barton, the only child of Herbert Parks Barton (1866-1925) and his wife Frances Johnstone Vasseur (1867-1922), who were married in Brooklyn, New York, on 18 October 1890.  Herbert Parks Barton was a surgeon, and a great-great-nephew of Clara Barton (1821-1912), the founder of the American Red Cross. In the late 1890s, the Barton family settled in California, and in 1904, Herbert Parks Barton organized the Clara Barton Hospital in Los Angeles. Barton served as an administrator at the hospital until his death.
Chandler Barton at Berkeley

Chandler P. Barton grew up in Los Angeles, and attended the University of California in Berkeley, receiving an A.B. in 1916, and an M.A. in philosophy in December 1917.  For the latter, Barton’s thesis was on “Individualism and the State: A Comparison of Hegel and Plato.” Barton also served in World War I. In the 1920s, he contributed a small number of short stories to various magazines, including All-Story Weekly, Argosy All-Story Weekly, and Munsey’s Magazine. His mother died in an automobile accident in October 1922, and his father died three years later to the month. The pseudonym under which he published his novel, “John Vasseur,” was derived from his mother’s middle and maiden names. He married a Pasadena society girl, Mary Joyce, in 1928, but the marriage did not last long. In the 1940s, he worked as a checker for the U.S. Government at Pier 45, San Francisco. Barton died in 1952 at the age of  fifty-seven, and is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

NB: Thanks to Dave Goudsward for identifying the writer behind the pseudonym.


  1. Considering this book seems right up my alley I'd be willing to buy it anyway...but damn, a 10 dollar purchase in the US turns into a 31 dollar purchase when having it sent to the US. 25 $ for shipping guys ? Really ?

  2. I presume you mean shipping from the US to the UK. You must not have bought many books from the US in the last four or five years. The US postal service eliminated all cheap international rates, and since then everything must go airmail. The rates are very high, and they've killed most of the book trade outgoing from the US. That's a fact.