Monday, December 23, 2013

Walter Reginald Latham

Walter Reginald Latham (b. reg. Driffield, Yorkshire East Riding, 13 September 1902; d. reg. Hastings and Rother, East Sussex, Oct.-Dec. 1988)

Walter Reginald Latham, known familiarly as Reg, self-published his collaborative first book, a small gathering of poems titled Verses and Cuts (1934), as by Reg. Latham and Walter E. Spradbery.  During the early years of the Second World War, he wrote more poetry, including some translations of André Gide, as well as a cache of nonsense verse, with Violet Ethel Palmer (1906-2002), who was apparently his common-law wife.  (There is no public record of their marriage, but there is a notice in The London Gazette for 3 September 1943 that natural-born British subject Violet Ethel Palmer would henceforth use the name of Violet Ethel Latham, beginning three weeks after the publication of the notice.) 

Around 1944 a bunch of the poems came into the hands of Robert Aickman, then working with his wife as literary agents. One long poem, “Liza Lottie Leopold”, was accepted by The Nineteenth Century and After, and appeared in their January 1945 issue.  A collection of eleven of the (longish) poems was published as Latham’s Nonsense Verses by Constable in September 1948. The volume had been accepted by Michael Sadleir at Constable with the understanding that they were all by Latham, but as publication neared Latham insisted that his wife should be named as co-author. From the standpoint of publicity, Constable felt they could promote one Latham as a new Edward Lear, but not a husband-and-wife team, and their interest in the book lessened. In the end, only Walter Reginald Latham’s name appears in the book, and only on the copyright page, not the title page.

The published volume had many humorous line-drawings by “Victoria”, the working name of Victoria Davidson (1915-1999), who was born Lilli Ursula Barbara Commichau in Bavaria, and who married Erich Victor in 1935, the same year they both emigrated to England.  They were known familiarly as Victor and Victoria—hence her working name.  They separated during the Second World War, and in 1949 she married her second husband, Dr. Hans Davidson (1913-1980). Victoria’s illustrations were staples in Lilliput and The Picture Post for nearly twenty years, and appeared in many other English and German magazines.

Latham’s Nonsense Verses was not a publishing success, and though there are references to a later published book of Latham’s poems, I have not been able to confirm it.

The first page of a poem

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