Friday, February 22, 2019

Harrison Dale

Harrison Dale (b. London, 10 February 1898; d. County Mayo, Ireland, 19 March 1988)

from the cover of Bus by the Brook (1964)
Between 1926 and 1933 six books appeared in England under the byline "Harrison Dale." In several reference sources, these books have been erroneously attributed to an American author and academic, Harrison Clifford Dale (1885-1969). A directory of writers from the early 1930s notes that "Harrison Dale" was the pen name of an author and journalist born in London in February 1898.

The first of the six published books was autobiographical, Vanishing Trails: Ten Years of a Wanderers Life (1926), in which the author described being the wireless operator on a steamer ship sunk in May 1918 by a U-86 submarine, from which three men were taken by the Germans as prisoners of war.  From these details, research reveals that this was the British steamer Medora, sunk on 2 May 1918, and the radio operator who was captured was one Maurice James McGrath. Other sources have confirmed his identity as "Harrison Dale."

Maurice James McGrath was the second child of Patrick McGrath (1862-1918), who was Irish-born but worked in London as a Constable with the Metropolitan Police, and his wife (born in England of Irish immigrants) Mary Mulligan (1866-?). Their first child was a daughter, Mary Isabella McGrath (1894-1971), who emigrated to Australia at the age of eighteen.

Maurice was educated at Bishop Eton, Wavertree (near Liverpool), and at the Marconi Radio School. After he qualified as a Wireless Officer, he joined the Merchant Navy. His father was a great lover of books, and passed that love onto Maurice, often reading to him stories of the "creepy" variety. After a torpedo struck his steamer ship, he spent a month as a prisoner in a submarine before being interred in Brandenburg Camp. He gradually lost his hearing until he went completely deaf.  In 1924, facing his loss, he settled in London, having sailed on the seas for seven years.

In 1925, Maurice McGrath married Blanche Edith R. Axton (1900-1938); they had one daughter. His first autobiography Vanishing Trails appeared in March 1926.  This was followed by another work of nonfiction on Ireland, published in October 1927.  Next came four anthologies, Great Ghost Stories (London: Herbert Jenkins, [October] 1930), The Marryat Book: Scenes from the Works of Captain Marryat (1930), More Great Ghost Stories (London: Herbert Jenkins, [November] 1932), and Where Away? Famous Stories of the Sea: The Boys' Book of Sea Stories (1933). He also published stories and articles in newspapers and journals, like The Nineteenth Century and After, Fortnightly, T.P.'s Weekly, Irish Independent, Manchester Guardian, and various other periodicals. 

The two anthologies of ghost stories are McGrath's most significant contribution to the field of supernatural literature. The first book contains fifteen stories, the second twelve. The first contains a wide-ranging twenty-four page introduction on "The Art of the Ghost Story," while the second contains another eleven pages on "Anthologists and Other Ghouls." These introductions exhibit McGrath's particular knowledge of the genre, as he mentions familiar works along with some much lesser-known writings like Ferelith by Lord Kilmarnock. He calls Bulwer-Lytton and J. Sheridan Le Fanu "the two great masters of the ghost story during the Dickens period" and shows a familiarity with many stories published in periodicals. In his introduction to the second volume, McGrath admits that he doesn't believe in ghosts, and that he isn't much interested in the "true ghost story." He notes that for both anthologies he has selected a number of tales that have not been previously reprinted but he feels that all of the tales selected are worth reading.

Where Away? contains twelve stories (authors include A. Conan Doyle, Captain Marryat, and W. Clark Russell, among others) but has no introduction at all, and a surprising omission from the contents is anything by William Hope Hodgson, whose first-rate sea stories, often horrific, with a large number of them classics of weird fiction, would be likely to have been favorites of the editor if he knew them.

He reworked his autobiography into a new book, The Last Landfall as by Desmond Malone, published in 1936.  It was the first (and only) of his books to achieve an American edition.  In fact, it was more successful in the U.S. than in England, for there was a book club edition published by the Book League of America.

After the Second World War, McGrath moved to western Ireland to explore his family's roots. He married Gertrude [later known as "Jill"] O'Kane (1914-1977) in Mayo, Ireland, in 1949; they had three daughters.  His final book was a third autobiography, detailing his life after he came to Ireland.  It was published as Bus by the Brook (1964) under a pen name slightly altered from his real name, Morrow MacRath.  He died at the age of ninety.

*Thanks to Shirley Burns and Geraldine Gahan for their generous help.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Alan Hyder

Alan Hyder (b. reg. Croydon, Surrey, Jan-March 1895; d. The Lizard, Cornwall, 29 June 1952)

Alan Hyder was born Frederick Alan Hyder, the oldest of three children of Frederick Richard Edie Hyder (1863-1942), a railway clerk, and Ellen Frances Jackson (1864-1843), who were married in Deptford St. Paul on 20 December 1890.  He had two younger sisters. Before adulthood he switched the ordering of his names (presumably to avoid confusion with his father Frederick), and was thereafter known as Alan Frederick Hyder.

Hyder published four novels between 1932 and 1936, and two story collections in 1944 and 1950.  He appears to have kept a regular job in the architectural department of the Civil Service all the while he was publishing.  Biographical details on Hyder are scarce. The dust-wrapper of the U.S. edition of Hyder's fourth novel, Prelude to Blue Mountains (1936), has a photograph (reproduced at right) and some biographical data, worth recording here:
Age 39. Height 6' 3" Weight 14 stones (196 lbs). Fought as a boy throughout the War in France. Wounded 5 times. Survived to discard 3 medals with a lot of other old junk and to regard the unfortified frontier between America and Canada with ardent admiration. Been at various times: Civil Servant, black-and-white artist and short-story writer. Lived in Egypt, Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, and the West Indies. Have never yet visited U.S.A. but two main ambitions are (a) to spend a week on horse in the Grand Canyon; (b) to spend a day with a blonde—a real hard-boiled American Cinematic gum-chewing wise-cracking ganster's moll—is that correct?—at Coney Island. 
Hyder's narrative of an episode in his war service, "A Nightmare," was published in Everyman at War: Sixty Personal Narratives of the War (1930), edited by C.B. Purdom.

Hyder's four novels include Lofty (1932), the story of wild boy sent to a reformatory, who escapes and is taken to Cairo where he falls in love, only to end up in the trenches in France, after which his poverty and despair leads to tragic results. Black-Girl, White-Lady (1934) is the story of a "near-white" woman in Jamaica. It is filled with annoying dialect and today the book would doubtless be considered racist.

Hyder's third novel is his most significant, Vampires Overhead (London: Philip Allan, [April] 1935). It was published as part of the Creeps series, and is basically a pulp horror thriller, wherein London is invaded by hordes of vampires, devastating the city.  Three survivors escape to the countryside. While it has a fascinating set-up, the story quickly descends into a simplistic contest of jealousies and survival.  Vampires Overhead was championed by Karl Edward Wagner in one of the ecclectic lists he published in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine in 1983.  Wagner listed Vampires Overhead as one of "The Thirteen Best Science Fiction Horror Novels." 

Hyder's final novel Prelude to Blue Mountains is the only one of his books to achieve a contemporary American edition. It tells of Start Hansone, who murders his nagging wife, and falls in with a vagabond and his daughter, escapes execution and end up in Jamaica.

Jack Adrian, in an introduction to the 2002 Ash-Tree Press reprint of Vampires Overhead, notes that Hyder's novels all concern "doomed lives battling hopelessly against the inevitable," and that his four novels all come from publishers not known for quality literature. 

Between 1934 and 1950, Hyder published around 130 short stories in the London newspaper The Evening News. Many of these stories are about a ten-year old Jamaican boy named Matthias Nehemiah Martingue but called Matt, and twenty-six stories were collected in Matt (London: Quality Press, 1944).  A further fifty  stories were collected in The Magic of Matt (London: P.R. Gawthorn, 1950), which includes seventeen rather crude illustrations by the author.  The dust-wrapper blurb notes the ingredients of the stories are "humour and pathos, thrills and adventures, fantasy and romance, with a slight salting of horror." Jack Adrian characterized Matt as "lively, mischievous, and irrepressible" and his stories as "knockabout tales in which Matt either gets the better of fat constable Mermian, or gets whupped by his (equally fat) Mammy."

Hyder also published stories in The Star, Empire Youth Annual, Britannia and Eve, The Strand Magazine, and Pearson's Weekly.

Hyder married Winifred M. Lillington in Fulham, London, in the last quarter of 1924.  He died of cardio vascular degeneration. His death certificate notes he was a "retired author."

Friday, February 15, 2019

Clifford Ball

Clifford Ball (b. New York City, 24 January 1908; d. Baltimore, 11 January 1947)

Clifford Nankivell Ball was the only child of Emma Vaughn Nankivell (1874-1965), and her first husband, whose first name is presently unknown.  By the 1910 US Census, Emma had been married for three years, but she and her son had moved in with her parents in Millerstown, Pennsylvania. Emma's parents were Thomas Nankivell (1844-1930), who had been born in England (the name Nankivell originated in Cornwall), and his wife Martha Ann Vaughn (1848-1918). Around 1921 Emma married Asel B. Porter (1876-1956).

Clifford graduated from the Millerstown High School in May 1925 and, according to his 1941 U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, completed one year of college.  Between 1937 and 1941 Ball contributed six short stories to Weird Tales magazine, the first three of which are sword and sorcery tales reminiscent of Robert E. Howard's barbarian tales. These feature Duar, a muscular barbarian, or Rald, a barbarian thief. The first, "Duar the Accursed" (May 1937) is fairly derivative of "The Tower of the Elephant" (Weird Tales, March 1933), a Conan story. The other two are "The Thief of Forthe" (July 1937); "The Goddess Awakes" (February 1938). Ball's last three stories are very different from the first three. These stories include "The Swine of Aeaea" (March 1939); "The Little Man" (August 1939); and "The Werewolf Howls" (November 1941). Ball's first four stories were accompanied by illustrations by Virgil Finlay. 

A biographical note on Ball, announcing two further stories forthcoming, appeared in October 1937 issue of Weird Tales, after two of his stories had already been published.  It reads:
This 29-year-old newest sensation of Weird Tales has led a life as adventurous as that of either of his two barbarian heroes. He went through high school in Millerstown, Pennsylvania, experiencing great difficulty with his mathematics and with a young and attractive school-teacher of whom he became enamored. After he had been graduated, he took a job in the license bureau of the State Highway Department. A few months later he began to hate the place, and left. The Miami catastrophe of 1927 occurred [actually a devastating hurricane which hit Miami in September 1926], and he and a friend trekked south to Florida, expecting to find heavy salaries waiting for eager workers. The state was "broke;" and tourists, alarmed by the tidal wave, were frightened away. Ball has slung hash, worked on dynamite crews as a capper, fry-cooked, run a dice table in a gambling-house, dug ditches, leveled auto springs, spread cloth in a shirt factory, and served beer in a Virginia tavern. This will always remain in Ball's memory, he says, as the best moments of his life (p. 510).
Ball also wrote three letters to Weird Tales that were published in the letter column, "The Eyrie."  The first was in appreciation of the late Robert E. Howard:
I have been a constant reader of your magazine since 1925, when some author's conception of weirdness was a gigantic ape dragging a half-naked female about a jungle, and I have watched it progress steadily upward to the zenith. I do not write criticisms; the main purpose of this letter is that I feel moved to offer my condolences upon the death of Mr. Howard. A hundred international Tarzans could never erase the memory of Conan the Cimmerian. Neither Northwest Smith nor Jirel of Jory—and in Moore you have an excellent author—can quite supplant his glory. When I read that "Red Nails" would be the last of Conan's exploits I felt as though some sort of income, or expected resource, had been suddenly severed. (January 1937, written from Astoria, New York) 
A letter in the January 1938, Ball praises stories by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch; and in a final letter in June 1938 Ball issue replies to some criticisms of Ball's third story "The Goddess Awakes."

He married twice, first, on 7 June 1933, to Hermine J. Mahle, of Woodside, Long Island.  The couple settled in New York City after their marriage, but were divorced before the 1940 Census.  Ball enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on 27 January 1941, and served in W.W. II as part of the 788th Bomb Squadron.  He married Jean E. Stewart in Boise, Idaho, on 12 January 1943.

Ball settled in Baltimore with his wife after his discharge from the Army in September 1946. He drowned in the harbor in Baltimore on Saturday night, 11 January 1947, moments before a rescue boat could reach him. Clifford Ball is buried alongside his mother's family in Millerstown, Pennsylvania.

Ball's first story "Duar the Accursed" was reprinted by Lin Carter in his anthology New Worlds for Old (1971), part of the acclaimed Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. All six of Ball's stories were collected in The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories (2018).  None of Ball's stories are very original, and they do not aspire to be more than competent and entertaining pulp fiction.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rah Hoffman

Rah Hoffman (b. Muscatine, Iowa, 25 November 1920; d. Los Angeles, 25 February 2013)

Robert Arthur Hoffman was the son of Fred Harold Hoffman (1887-1933) and Hazel Miriam Becker (1894-1955),  He had an older sister, Miriam Hazel Hoffman (1912-1975), whose married name was Auld.

Hoffman was a 1937 graduate of Muscatine High School, and in the 1940 Census he is listed as a secretary at a real estate firm.  Sometime later in 1940, or soon after, Hoffman and his mother moved from Iowa to California.  Hoffman studied music at the University of Southern California, his education being interrupted by war service (he was drafted in 1943), after which he received his B.A.

Clark Ashton Smith, Francis T. Laney, and Rah Hoffman in 1943
Hoffman did not write much, and is primarily remembered as a friend and associate of Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961). He became a leading figure behind the scenes in Smith scholarship. Hoffman read Smith's stories in Weird Tales when he was in high school, and visited Smith in Auburn first on 27 December 1941, and several times in 1943, after he was posted near Auburn for his war service. On 30 October 1943 he was accompanied on a visit to Smith by Francis T. Laney (1914-1958), the editor of the Lovecraftian fanzine The Acolyte. Hoffman had secured a number of Smith items for publication in Laney's fanzine, and the Spring 1944 issue of The Acolyte (volume 2 no. 2; whole number 3) contains an article "The Arkana of Arkham-Auburn" as by "R.A. Hoffman" (soon to acquire the nickname Rah), an account of his visits to Smith. (The uncredited co-author was Smith himself.)  The same issue includes a poem ("The Statues") by Hoffman in the manner of Smith, and drawings ("Lemitrons on Venus," the other untitled) by Hoffman, as well as a contribution by Smith ("Excerpts from The Black Book"). "The Arkana of Arkham-Auburn" was reprinted in the Clark Ashton Smith issue of Nyctalops, no. 8 (August 1972).

Hoffman was active for many years in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and professionally he was as a film editor in a number of Hollywood studios. Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer met in May 1961, inaugurating a friendship that would last for over fifty years. Hoffman contributed a letter of Smith-related reminiscences to Sidney-Fryer's long-awaited Emperor of Dreams: A Clark Ashton Smith Bibliography (1978).  The letter is reprinted, along with some of Hoffman's photographs of Smith, in the exquisite volume In the Realms of Mystery and Wonder: Collected Prose Poems and Artwork of Clark Ashton Smith (2017), edited by Scott Connors. The 1979 Arkham House volume The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith is based on a transcription by Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer made of Smith's notebook in 1961-62.

Hoffman is credited with advice and help on the textual corrections to two of the three volumes of the stories of Clark Ashton Smith, as edited by Donald Sidney-Fryer and published as mass market paperbacks by Timescape:  The City of the Singing Flame (1981) and The Last Incantation (1982).  Hoffman assisted Steve Behrends on many of his Smith publications throughout the 1980s, most notably the grab-all volume Strange Shadows: The Uncollected Fiction and Essays of Clark Ashton Smith (1989), edited by Behrends, "with Donald Sidney-Fryer and Rah Hoffman."

In August 1998 Hoffman asked Donald Sidney-Fryer to share his house in Westchester on the west side of Los Angeles, and Sidney-Fryer, in his autobiography Hobgoblin Apollo (2016), called that fifteen year period beginning in 1998 the happiest and most productive of his life. Hoffman died at the age of 92, while recuperating from a broken hip sustained in a fall.

Monday, February 11, 2019

R.H. Wright

From The Imp
R.H. Wright (b. Belfast?, before 1880; d. New Zealand?, after 1920)

R.H. Wright is known to have published four books between 1904 and 1908, three novels and one work of nonfiction.  In order the books were A Plain Man's Tale (Belfast, 1904). The Surprising Adventures of My Friend, Patrick Dempsey (Dublin, 1906); The Outer Darkness (London:  Greening & Co., [December] 1906), and The Scout in War: What He Does and How to Do It (Dublin, 1908), as by R.H.W., one of "Rimington's Tigers."

A Plain Man's Tale is boys adventure story about a young Yorkshireman who sails for Ireland and lands in Antrim.  The Surprising Adventures of My Friend, Patrick Dempsey is a shorter book, comprising seven comedic tales told by the hero.

Wright's third novel, The Outer Darkness, is a significant fantasy novel.  Bookseller George Locke listed it, along with two other books, as forerunners "of the mystical but very imaginative interplanetary which was to culminate in David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus."

It is an afterlife fantasy, told in the method of a found manuscript. The set-up is that Wright has read in a Tasmanian newspaper about a sailor who has found a curious silver casket which contains a strange manuscript. The manuscript is the narrative of a cruel businessman who died in "189—", having  neglected his wife and children in his pursuit of wealth. He is taken bodily through space to be judged by the King before the Great White Throne. What makes The Outer Darkness interesting is that it is not a preachy tract but a series of strange episodes that gradually unfold the mystery of the story. It has sentimental touches, yet the ending is intriguingly left ambiguous. The book has no apparent relationship to A Voyage to Arcturus beyond the fact that both are early interplanetary fantasies. [Some of the above is extracted from my much longer review of the book in my Late Reviews (2018).]

A contemporary review of the book in The Evening Post for 29 June 1907 is quite dismissive:
The infernal regions are controlled by a she-fiend, a blend of Circe and "She," omnipotent and omniscient in her own domain. So long as her subjects do not displease her, they enjoy themselves to their heart's content in the indulgence of their desires; but for the slightest offence they are tortured to death or consigned to perpetual misery immured in the most loathsome hells.  Here again, there is no co-ordination between offence and penalty, all being at the absolute caprice of the Queen of Evil. The book strikes us as a mere "pot-boiler," something to meet the desire of jaded readers for a new sensation. But it is dull and lifeless, appealing neither  to the intellect not to the imagination. Its lurid horrors may commend it to depraved tastes; but it has no value, literary or otherwise.
It has been difficult to track down R.H. Wright, for nowhere have I been able to discover his full first and middle names. (He was not Robert Hamilton Wright, as one source has alleged.) I give here the relevant details from the two known sources of biographical information on Wright. I'll be grateful if any one can add to it.

From Ireland in Fiction (1919) by Stephen J. Brown:
A Belfast man who served with the Rimington Guides in the South African War and afterwards emigrated to New Zealand. He was wounded in the present war. . . . he has written . . . many short stories and articles.
From The Imp Supplement to December 1907, the house organ of Greening & Co., publisher of The Outer Darkness:
The earliest ambition of Mr. R.H. Wright, author of The Outer Darkness, was to be a locomotive driver. Although he has never attained to this ambition, he has had a fairly varied and interesting career. At the age of eighteen he emigrated to New Zealand, where he gained a vast amount of Colonial experience. When the South African War broke out he joined Rimington's Guides, or "tigers"  as they are called. During the war he had two horses shot under him, and gained a medal and five clasps. He is very keen on shooting and yachting, and is the honorary secretary of the Ballyholme Sailing Club. He is also a staunch Home Ruler and Socialist, but not a Little Englander. The Outer Darkness is a strange story, dealing with the life we are to live in after we die. It is distinctly powerful and original.
The records of the Rimington Guides do not give his full name (only "R.H. Wright"), and the New Zealand Army WWI Casualty Lists for 1914-1919 confirm that R.H. Wright of the New Zealand Engineers, was injured on 9 June 1915.  The minutes of the Ballyholme Sailing Club for 1907-1909, held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland,  confirm that R.H. Wright was a member but they do not spell out his full name. 

Of his "many" short stories and articles, only three are known: "The Training of a Rifle Shot" in The Imp, August 1907, "The Building of the 'Susan Jane'" in The Imp, November 1907, and "Heads or Tails?" in The Novel Magazine, July 1909.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Marie Coolidge Rask

Marie Coolidge Rask (b. Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, 15 August 1872; d. reg. New York, 20 November 1949)

Marie Aurilla Coolidge was the daughter of Charles S. Coolidge (1842-1922) and his wife Helen Mott Post (1840-1921).  She had one brother, John Milton Coolidge (1877-1916).

She apparently attended college, but details are unavailable.  On 8 January 1896, in Dunn county, Wisconsin, she married Olaf Harold Rask (1872-1902), who had been born in Minnesota of Norwegian parents. Olaf studied at Granville University in Granville, Ohio, and at the University of Minnesota, and became a journalist for Minnesota newspapers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. He was a major in the Minnesota militia, and during the Spanish-American war became a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. The couple had one child, Fredrik August Rask (1896-1963).  Olaf Rask died of cholera in the Philippines, and after 1904, Marie Rask received a widow's pension.

In 1904, she was studying for her novitiate (as Sister Harriet) at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Peekskill, New York, when she was transferred to Kenosha, Wisconsin, visiting with her parents in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, on the way there (The Wellsboro Agitator, 14 September 1904).  For unknown reasons, she soon left the order, and began writing plays, stories, and articles, for newspapers as well as for magazines. Her first book was a short farce in one act, How the Shrew Was Tamed (1909), as by M.A. Rask, "with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare."  Around this time she settled in Brooklyn, while writing for papers such as The New York World.  She also wrote for The Motion Picture Story Magazine, and for Photoplay Magazine, serializing the stories of popular films. Some of her newspaper work was apparently syndicated, appearing regularly in other newspapers in cities including Pittsburgh.

By 1911 her byline changed to include her maiden name, which she sometimes hyphenated as "Coolidge-Rask." She was pleased to claim Calvin Coolidge as a distant relative (she believed that they shared Josiah Coolidge, a Revolutionary War hero and participant at the Boston Tea Party, as a great-great-grandfather) who rose in political prominence, as Lt. Governor and then Governor of Massachusetts, and then Vice President (1921-23) and President (1923-1929) of the United States. 

Mary Coolidge-Rask is remembered for her three photoplay books, all published by Grosset & Dunlap:  La Bohème, by Marie Coolidge-Rask, illustrated with scenes from the photoplay, King Voidor's production, [July] 1926; Sparrows, novelized by Marie Coolidge-Rask, original story by Winifred Dunn,  illustrated with scenes from the photoplay starring Mary Pickford, [October] 1926;  and London after Midnight, by Marie Coolidge-Rask, based on the scenario of the Tod Browning production, a Metro-Goldwin-Mayer picture, starring Lon Chaney, [February] 1928. 

London after Midnight is by far the most significant of these, for the last known print of the film was destroyed in a studio vault fire in May 1967, so Coolidge-Rask's novelization is one of a small number of sources from which the plot of the film can be reconstructed. The situation is complicated, and I refer anyone interested to two books by Thomas Mann, London After Midnight: A New Reconstruction Based on Contemporary Sources with a transcription of a newly-discovered magazine fictionization of the lost film (2016), and London After Midnight: An English Translation of the 1929 French Novelization of the Lost Lon Chaney Film (2018), edited with a preface and afterword by Thomas Mann; translation of Lucien Boisyvon's Londres Après Minuit by Kieran O'Driscoll.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Edith Birkhead

Edith Birkhead (b. Harrowgate, Yorkshire, 28 November 1888; d. Clifton, Bristol, 14 June 1951)

Edith Birkhead was the daughter of Robert Dax Birkhead (1836-1908), a commercial traveler, and his wife Mary Jemima Taylor (1848-1921), who were married in Barnsley, Yorkshire, in the summer of 1869.  She was the youngest of seven children, and had four sisters and two brothers.

She was educated at South Liverpool High School, Liverpool College, Huyton, and entered the University of Liverpool in October 1906 (B.A. 1910, Honours in English Literature; M.A. 1911), with further study of English Literature at Liverpool under the William Noble Fellowship for 1916-17 and 1917-18.*

Birkhead's first and most important book was the result of her research fellowship. The Tale of Terror: A Study of the Gothic Romance (London:  Constable, [April] 1921) is one of the first extended works of scholarship covering the beginnings of the gothic romance in the late eighteenth century up to modern times.  (Dorothy Scarborough's The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction had come out in 1917.)  An undated American edition of The Tale of Terror came out from E.P. Dutton around July 1921, made up of sheets imported from England with a cancel title. Birkhead's preface is dated December 1920, which has resulted in bibliographical references erroneously stating that the book was published in 1920.

The review in The Times Literary Supplement, 5 May 1921,  was by Virginia Woolf. The New York Times Book Review gave the book a full-page review by noted critic Brander Matthews in the issue for 25 September 1921. Both reviews are positive about what Birkhead achieved, but both wished that she might have expanded her scope a bit. A few years later, H.P. Lovecraft, when writing his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (1927), relied heavily on Birkhead's book, especially with regard to early gothic writers covered in its first five chapters. 

By 1920, Birkhead was Assistant Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Bristol. By 1930 her position had been elevated to Lecturer, and later, Senior Lecturer.

Birkhead did not publish much. Her first known work was an essay on "Imagery and Style in Shelley," published in Primitiæ: Essays in English Literature (1912) by students of the University of Liverpool. An essay on "Sentiment and Sensibility in the Eighteenth Century Novel" appeared in Essays and Studies by Member of the English Association (1925), and a second, small book was Christina Rosetti & Her Poetry (1930).

Birkhead never married, and her estate of over six thousand pounds was left to another "spinster," Anne Mackenzie Couper (c. 1888-1966).

One of her older sisters was Alice Birkhead (b. Heaton Moor, Lancashire, 22 June 1880; d. Golders Green, Middlesex, 22 September 1918), who was a teacher of art and painting at a girls' college.  Alice Birkhead also published several books, including two novels The Master Knot (1908) and Shifting Sands (1914), along with popular histories Tales of Irish History (1910), Stories of American History (1912), The Story of the French Revolution (1913), Heroes of Modern Europe (1913), Marie Antoinette (1914), and Peter the Great (1915).

*Information courtesy of the University Archivist, The University of Liverpool.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Elizabeth Whiteley

Elizabeth Whiteley (b. reg. Halifax, Yorkshire, Jan-Mar 1879; untraced after c.1906)

Elizabeth Whiteley was the second child of Thomas Whiteley (1847-1893), a house painter, and Dorothy Gratton (1847-1912), who were married in Derbyshire in early 1874. Their first child had been a son, John Henry Whiteley (1875-1880).

In 1894, after her husband's death, Dorothy Whiteley married James Hutchinson (1844-1919), a wool sorter who was a widower with one son, Henry Hutchinson (1871-1962).  The family made their home in central Halifax.  In the 1901 UK Census, Elizabeth is listed as a music teacher. She was also, according to a 1905 profile in Yorkshire Notes and Queries, a vocalist and  a solo violinist of considerable ability. She also apparently contributed many short stories to the local papers.

Her only book was the novel, The Devil's Throne (London:  Digby, Long, [October] 1903), one which George Locke listed as "a forerunner of the mystical but very imaginative type of interplanetary which was to culminate in David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus." Some reviews give some flavor of the book:
On the title-page we find the words "And lo! I beheld a serpent-throne, and a beauteous woman." On the vellum square, over which the two characters are poring as the story opens, was written in cabalistic letters a description of "The Devil's Throne," which was hidden behind the orb of the lambent moon. Thither they fare in the flying machine which is ready made for the purpose, and before long we are in a phantasmagoria in which we distinguish at intervals Circe, Marcus Aurelius, and the two investigators. For sheer extravagance this story surpasses anything we have met with in recent fiction.  The Academy and Literature, 21 November 1903

In The Devil's Throne, a father and daughter set out on a series of adventures in a wonderful airship, reaching all sorts of extraordinary countries in the clouds, encountering a tribe of feathered dwarfs and other marvellous creatures, and undergoing all sorts of strange hardships and transformations in the ethereal regions. The Bookseller, 6 November 1903

A singular and thrilling story. The story of a "she-devil" disguised as a beautiful and attractive woman who lures men to destruction.  The Bristol Mercury, from a Digby, Long catalogue
Presumably on the basis of her published novel, Elizabeth was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature on 27 April 1904.  In the Royal Society of Literature "List of Fellows" for 1906 the following entry appears:
Mrs. Elizabeth Boyle (formerly Miss Elizabeth Whiteley), 9, Orange Street, Bloemfontein, O.E.C., South Africa. 
After this migration to southern Africa she disappears from public information. I can find no record of her marriage or death, and would welcome any knowledge of her later life.