Friday, August 31, 2018

Donald Macpherson

Donald Macpherson (b. Boughton, Kent, 17 July 1889; d. Cambridge, England, 24 April 1966)

"Donald Macpherson" was the pseudonym, used on two novels, of the British-born academic George* Humphrey, the son of Edmund Humphrey and his wife Emily Anne Maddex. He had a younger sister Dora Humphrey. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth's School, Faversham, and All Souls College, Oxford (1909, Honour Mathematical Moderations; 1912 Literae Humaniores). After graduating from Oxford he was awarded a Cassell scholarship to the University of Leipzig, where he studied experimental psychology under Wilhelm Wundt.  From 1916 to 1918 he taught classics at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and from there moved on to Harvard University, where he received a PhD. in psychology in 1920. He was an assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut from 1920 to 1924, then in 1924 he was appointed the Charlton Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University on Kingston, Ontario, a post he held until 1947, when he became the first professor of psychology at the University of Oxford.  He retired in 1956, moving to Cambridge, where he died in 1966.

Humphrey's professional works include The Story of Man's Mind (1923), The Nature of Learning in Its Relation to the Living System (1933), Directed Thinking (1948) and Thinking: An Introduction to Its Experimental Psychology (1951). With his first wife, Muriel Miller Humphrey, whom he married in 1918 and with whom he had one daughter, he translated Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard's early nineteenth-century account of the case history of a French feral child discovered around the year 1800 (at the estimated age of twelve). The translation was published as The Wild Boy of Aveyron (1932). Muriel Humphrey died in 1955, and in the following year George Humphrey married his colleague Berta Hochberger.

In The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers (2005), edited by John R. Shook, Humphrey's professional publications are assessed as follows:
The pattern of Humphrey's lifetime research reflected his concern with integrating the separate approaches of the various schools. In writing The Story of Man's Mind, he had found that he could not deliver a popular account of problem solving by adults, or even of the normal flow of adult mental associations, without recourse to the notion that all thought was guided by motives of some kind. In a second popular book, Direct Thinking (1948), he suggested that psychoanalysis might provide a rationale whereby even conflicting thought processes could be shown to have an underlying logical structure if the motives underlying them possessed common elements. Humphrey's Thinking (1951) is the most detailed account in English of the research on human mental problem solving that had been carried out in Germany by the Würzburg School, by Otto Selz, and by the Gestalt psychologists. Their experiments all demonstrated the importance of motivation ("set") in determining the sequence of thoughts. 
The two Donald Macpherson novels come directly out of Humphrey's professional work.  At their simplest, they are novels which experiment in methods of using the mind to manipulate matter.  Both center around four main protagonists:  Reginald Brooks, who works at a Montreal private experimental scientific think-tank, the McDuffie Institute; George MacTavish, a journalist who became friends with Brooks when they were both at Oxford; Olive Paynter, a distinguished scientist herself and Montreal society debutante, and the fiancée of Brooks; and Mary Raiche, another eligible society woman who had gone to school with Olive. In Go Home, Unicorn (London:  Faber and Faber, 1935), Brooks and his friends study some bizarre phenomenon, including a man who has seen a disembodied hand come through an open window of his car, causing an accident; in another instance a woman's severed head angrily manifests itself at a dinner party; in another, a celebrated composer directing his own "Hymn of Hate" is flung violently across the stage as a result of the audience's reaction; and subsequent to two of the characters attending a lecture on Mythological Animals, an angry unicorn manifests itself to the danger of all. Only the presence of Mary Raiche calms the animal, and its rage at Olive Paynter forces her to admit sexual indiscretions in her past, and she withdraws from the intended marriage to Brooks.  The solution to the supposed hauntings turns out to be quite silly.  At the McDuffie Institute, Brooks's research involves radiating guinea pigs, and the altered states of the minds of the guinea pigs is determined to have caused the hauntings.  As a novel, Go Home, Unicorn has considerable problems:  the characters are wooden, much of the heavy dialogue is either humorless banter irrelevant to the story or Brooks's info-dumps of his ongoing analysis of the case, given to set up the next plot moves of the characters in their attempt to solve the mysteries. Yet despite these and other flaws (ranging from dated sexism to nonscientific explanations), the story is readable and compelling primarily because what keeps happening is unusual and unexpected. Oddly, in the final chapter, after Brooks has explained the situation, a strange and seemingly-evil tentacled thing appears on the ceiling at the McDuffie Institute, giving the novel it's most intriguing development—yet this happens after the mysteries have been explained. (The book appears to switch genres with this last section, going from a light comedic fantasy to unrestrained horror. The only other book I can think of like this is Michael Arlen's Hell! Said the Duchess, published in 1934.)

The second novel, Men Are Like Animals (London: Faber and Faber, 1937) is a direct sequel to the first, taking place something over a year after the events of the first novel.  Brooks and Mary Raitch are married, but Olive has put together some sort of electrical machinery that amplifies and alters human emotions from a distance, so much so that Mary Brooks is lured into infidelity with George MacTavish. Olive is seeking to get Brooks back, but things do not work out as she had planned.  Again the same flaws appear in the novel, and the again it's the sheer unusualness of the plot and straightforward readability of the prose that keeps one going to the end.  Damien Broderick, in his Psience Fiction (2018), counts Go Home, Unicorn as one of the earliest novels of telepathy or psi powers.

*Internet resources give "William" as a middle name, but none of the genealogical and printed sources I have consulted corroborate this, and his birth and baptism registrations include no middle name.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Genevieve Genevra Fairfield

Genevieve Genevra Fairfield (b. New York City, 1830; d. Washington, D.C., 5 February 1912)

Frontispiece to Irene (1852)
There can be few literary families as ill-fated as the Fairfields. The father was Sumner Lincoln Farifield (1803-1844), editor and poet, author of such volumes as Cities of the Plain (1828) and The Last Night of Pompei (1832), the latter of which Fairfield sent to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose novel The Last Days of Pompei came out two years later.  Fairfield stoutly maintained that Bulwer-Lytton had plagiarized from his work. In American Authors 1600-1900 (1938), Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft note that "Fairfield was subject to spells of insanity and all his poetry shows the effect of his morbidity and bitterness.... He had few friends, and his poetry, at times reaching a high level in early American literature, is now little read" (p. 261). Fairfield's mental health broke down around 1836-37, and his wife wrote in The Life of Sumner Lincoln Fairfield (1846):
From this fatal period commenced the decline of the poor poet ... It was not long before his constitution began to suffer from severe attacks of epilepsy. The exposure and suffering to which he became inured brought on a complication of diseases which lasted  during life. For the last five years of his life he was unable to make any exertion whatever for the support of his family, which consisted of five young children. (p. 58)
The mother was Jane Fairfield, née Frazee (c.1804-c.1863). She met Sumner Lincoln Fairfield in July 1826, as he returned to America after some months in England.  They were married on 20 September 1826, and soon after she moved in with her husband and his mother, all their household furnishings were seized for debt. After their first child Angelo died on 11 May 1832, at the age of four years and three months, the doctor told the parents that a post-mortem examination of the child's brain had disclosed that "probably at twelve years of age your son would have fallen into fatuity"  (The Autobiography of Jane Fairfield, p. 96). They were told to "be grateful that your son has gone to rest" (ibid).

Jane realized that she had to step up and find ways to provide for her family, soliciting advance subscriptions for her husband's publications, and arranging the financing for their monthly magazine venture, The North American Magazine, which debuted in November 1832. It was retitled The North American Quarterly Magazine in 1835, suspended in 1837, and revived and sold in 1838.  Jane Fairfield published two books, The Life of Sumner Lincoln Fairfield (1846), which includes a large selection of her husbands poems; and The Autobiography of Jane Fairfield (1860).

Besides their first child who died very young, they had five other children.  The two elder daughters were Genevieve Genevra Fairfield  (b. 1830) and Gertrude (b. 1832). Their birth-years have been confusingly interchanged in various reference works, though in their mother's two books it is clear that Genevieve was the "eldest daughter" and Gertrude the younger. Little is known about the subsequent children, which (according to the 1850 U.S. Census) included Ellen (aged 15, thus born circa 1834-35) and Elizabeth (aged 12, thus born circa 1837-38).  The final child was evidently a boy, Eugene.

Genevieve's first book, Genevra: or, The History of a Portrait (1851) was published anonymously, as "By an American Lady / A Resident of Washington City." In her Autobiography, Jane noted that Genevieve "gave to the novel her own name. She had both the following, Genevieve Genevra. She preferred Genevra, on account of its easy pronunciation" (p. 190), though her mother always referred to her as Genevieve.  The book took her a little less than a year to write, and after its publication Genevieve continued to write and paint.  She sent copies of her book to many notables, and received praise in various letters from Eugene Sue, Henry W. Longfellow, and Fitz-Greene Halleck, among others. Jane Fairfield published these letters in her Autobiography.

Genevieve put together a second book, and secured a publisher, but what came out is something rather different.  The book is called Irene: or, The Autobiography of an Artist's Daughter and Other Tales (1852).  The title story is not by Genevieve but by her sister Gertrude, and it takes up some two-hundred and sixty-some pages of a volume comprising three-hundred and eighty-three pages. In an "Authoress' Notice" it reveals that:
In consequence of an unavoidable delay in the completion of a Novelette, by Miss Genevieve Genevra Fairfield, which was originally designed to conclude this work, Miss Gertrude Fairfield, her sister, will supply its place with 'Irene.'
The other one-hundred and twenty-odd pages include two items by Genevieve, a novella "The Vice President's Daughter" (ninety pages) and a short story "The Wife of Two Husbands" (twenty-five pages).  The book is dedicated to Eugene Sue as "the greatest of living authors and the most elegant man of his time." The front matter includes the text of a letter from Sue accepting the dedication.

This was apparently the last of Genevieve Genevra Fairfield's publications. (Some sources list another undated publication entitled "The Inkeeper's Daughter" but this has not been traced.) She was soon courted by the English immigrant William North (1825-1854), who was then emerging as an interesting and promising writer and journalist.  But according to her mother, Genevieve insisted that she would never marry, and though she enjoyed North's company (as did her mother), she spurned his offers of marriage.  In the end North committed suicide by swallowing prussic acid on 14 November 1854, some saying he was sick of the poverty of the life of a journalist, others that he was frustrated by disappointed love. Both are probably true.

By the winter of 1859, Genevieve, whose own mental balance had long been erratic, was put into the West Philadelphia Insane Asylum by her mother.  After some months she seemed to have recovered, and was released for a short while, before she broke down and was committed again.  Sometime in the 1860s (perhaps after the death of her mother) Genevieve was transferred to Washington D.C.'s Government Hospital for the Insane (St. Elizabeth's Hospital), where she spent the rest of her life, dying on 5 February 1912.

Gertrude Fairfield fared no better than her sister.  On 6 May 1853, in New Orleans, she married Francisco Xavier Vingut (1823-1857), a Cuban immigrant who was a Spanish professor at the City University of New York from 1848 until his death. Vingut was a prolific writer and editor. With his wife, he edited Obras de don Jose Antonio Saco (1853).  Gertrude (as Gertrude F. de Vingut) also edited Selections from the Best Spanish Poets (1856) and wrote Naomi Torrente: The History of a Woman (1864). They had one daughter. After Vingut's death, Gertrude married George Carter Barrett (1838-1906) on 30 November 1865. Barrett was a well-known and distinguished judge, for many years on the New York State Supreme Court. Barrett adopted Gertrude's daughter (Gertrude Josephine Vingut Barrett, 1857-1888) and was devoted to her.  Gertrude and Barrett had their own daughter, Angela Carter Barrett (1867-1891).  After the deaths of both of her daughters, Gertrude experienced some sort of mental derangement, and was put into a private asylum in Lindenhof, Coswig, Saxony, run by Dr. R.H. Pierson. At the time of her husband's death in 1906, Gertrude had been institutionalized for several years.  Her husband's will left a trust fund of $25,000 for the care of his "afflicted wife." Gertrude reportedly died in Lindenhof in 1912.

Judge Barrett evidently had some literary aspirations, which brought about some public discord with his wife.  In December 1883, Walleck's Theatre in New York put on a performance of a play entitled "An American Wife," authored by Barrett. A letter from Gertrude F. Barrett, sent from Florence, Italy, and dated 22 December 1883, was printed in New York newspapers beginning on January 9th 1884, claiming that the play was a collaboration, with Gertrude writing the serious portion of the play and her husband writing the comedic part. Judge Barrett maintained that he was the sole author of the play (though he admitted that his wife contributed to another of his plays from 1876 entitled "The Watchword: A Comedy in Five Acts").  Another newspaper noted that "there is only one thing about the play of any importance just now, and that is that the public is thoroughly tired of it and everything connected with it." (The Evening Star, 12 January 1884).

Genevieve and Gertrude's brother Eugene is also reported to have been institutionalized.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Harry Ludlam

Harry Ludlam in 2005
Harry Ludlam (b. reg. Holborn, London, Oct-Dec 1924; d. reg. Hastings, Somerset, 25 November 2011)

Herbert William Ludlam, always known as Harry, was the son of  Charles W. Ludlam and his wife, Winifred Hook, who were married in Tendring, Essex, in early 1924.  Little is known of his early life, but during W.W. II he served in the R.A.F. in the Far East. After the war he was engaged in newspaper work, in the Midlands and later in London. Harry Ludlam married Barbara E. Steele in Birmingham in the summer of 1951. They had two children.

In the early 1950s, Ludlam met Bela Lugosi, and a few years later he found a cheap first edition of Dracula (a book he had previously encountered as a schoolboy) and began to work on a biography of Bram Stoker. Ludlam had written short stories and novels without any achieving publication, and he yearned to do something more noteworthy.  He was aided by Stoker's son, Noel, and Ludlam spent seven years researching the book, which finally came out as A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker (1962), some months after Noel Stoker's death. Decades later Ludlam would publish a short book My Quest for Bram Stoker (2000), which gives an account of the evolution of Ludlam's most famous work. The Stoker biography was pioneering, as no one had bothered previously to study Stoker in such detail. Despite several more recent (and much better sourced) biographies of Stoker, Ludlam's anecdotal book still retains interest. (A paperback edition from New English Library in 1977 was more sensibly titled A Biography of Bram Stoker: Creator of Dracula.)

After his first book, Ludlam published prolifically. His publisher, Foulsham, hired him to edit two volumes of "true" hauntings by Elliott O'Donnell (1872-1965), who was a very popular figure in his time for his lectures, broadcasts and writings on the paranormal, being well-known as the premiere  ghost-hunter. The first, The Screaming Skulls and Other Ghost Stories (1964), contains thirty-eight of O'Donnell's tales compiled and arranged by Ludlam from O'Donnell's many books. Ludlam also contributed a one-page introduction about O'Donnell. The second, The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts (1965), contains another thirty-seven tales, similarly arranged by Ludlam, with an even shorter introduction. After O'Donnell's death, Ludlam was given to complete O'Donnell's last project, which he was working on when he died.  It was published as Elliott O'Donnell's Casebook of Ghosts (1969). A further collection appeared as Elliott O'Donnell's Ghost Hunters (1971). It has no introduction but on the dust-wrapper it notes that "recent discovery of further papers among the effects of the late Elliott O'Donnell makes possible this collection of true stories by Britain's most renowned ghost-hunter." It contains eighteen tales. An Omnibus edition Elliott O'Donnell's Great Ghost Stories (1983) collects only two books, The Screaming Skull and Other Ghosts from 1964 and Elliott O'Donnell's Casebook of Ghosts from 1969.  The 1991 volume The Great Ghost Hunter (as by Elliott O'Donnell, with the cover title True Stories form the Great Ghost Hunter) contains twenty-one tales; it is basically a reprint of Elliott O'Donnell's Ghost Hunters from 1971, with the final three tales in the book being reprinted from The Midnight Hearse (1965), itself having been made up of reprints from previous publications.

Ludlam launched his own series of books of true hauntings with The Mummy of Birchen Bower and Other True Ghosts (1967) and The Restless Ghosts of Ladye Place and Other True Hauntings (1967).  Both volumes were combined in 1985 in what was labeled by the publisher "A Harry Ludlam Omnibus" but which was otherwise confusingly titled the same as his first volume, The Mummy of Birchen Bower and Other True Ghosts. In the 1990s Ludlam published two further volumes of true hauntings,  Ghosts Among Us (1994) and True Ghost Stories (1999). 

The 2005 Ash-Tree reprint, using the first edition cover art
In 1964, Ludlam published his first novel, The Coming of Jonathan Smith (retitled Witch's Curse in the 1969 U.S. paperback edition).  This book is Ludlam's most significant achievement in the weird fiction genre. It is supposedly based on some material discovered during Ludlam's research on his Stoker biography.  The story concerns a haunting from the past by a malevolent spirit which is possibly causing suicides in the present. The details of the haunting aren't entirely worked out (some aspects are left without any explanation or context), but the narrative is engaging.  Ludlum's second novel was a paperback original, Oh Jimmy, You’ve Gone (1974), in which a rock-star continues to make and release hits after his supposed death in an airplane crash.

Ludlam also published another biography, Captain Scott: The Full Story (1965), about the antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912).  And with Paul Lund, Ludlam began a series of books that recount various stories of action in World War II.  These include: PQ 17: Convoy to Hell (1968);
Trawlers Go To War (1971); Night of the U-boats (1973); The War of the Landing Craft (1976); Out Sweeps! (1978); and Nightmare Convoy (1987). The series was very popular. Atlantic Jeopardy (1990) is a compilation of the first three volumes. In 2010-12 the six books were reissued in a series headed "I Was There" with the original titles sometimes slightly altered.  The first few came out as trade paperback and ebooks, but subsequently the others came out as ebooks only.  

Lund and Ludlam also tried their hand at military fiction of World War II, including novels The Fate of the 'Lady Emma' (1978); Hit the Beach (1979); and Icekill (1984). 

Ludlam's final solo novel was The Eye of Starosta: Being the Strange Journals of Captain Adam Thain (2005). Billed as his "second horror-thriller" (the first being The Coming of Jonathan Smith), it is the reminiscences of Adam Thain, a criminal who committed supernaturally-inspired atrocities in World War II who is imprisoned by his mother at a house in Cornwall. Sadly, the novel is rather diffuse and ineffective.  

Ludlam's final book was Talk of the Devil ... and His Awful Relations (2006), a slim collection of eighteen lighter notes on topics such as "Lilith the Shriek," "Loki the Fickle," "Choice Hells," "The Wild Huntsman," and "Dracula's Relations."  It is illustrated by Paul Lund.  Ludlam spent most of his last years as caregiver for his wife, who suffered from Parkinson's Disease. Ludlam died at the age of 87.
Thanks to Andrew Parry for considerable help with this entry. Originally posted on 12 August 2018, this entry has been updated on 1 October 2018.