Thursday, April 18, 2019

P.A. Stuart

P.A. Stuart (b. Greytown, Cape Colony [now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa] 25 or 29 April 1876; d. Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa, 11 March 1946)

Philip Arnold Stuart was the son of Martinus Stuart (1841-1881), a magistrate of the Ixopo district, and his wife Mary Porter Stuart, nee Taylor (1846-1918), who were married in Pietermartizburg on 24 October 1866.  They had eight children, three of whom died young.  The five surviving children included four sons and one daughter.

Little is known of Philip's youth, but some details can be gleaned from the life of his oldest brother, James Stuart (1868-1942), who became a civil servant in the Colony of Natal, and who studied the Zulu language and collected Zulu oral traditions. James Stuart published a History of the Zulu Rebellion (1906), and, in the 1920s, five school readers in Zulu. (His extensive collection of materials have been preserved, and a series of books from The James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples began appearing in 1976.)  Martinus Stuart was killed in July 1881 in the Battle of Ingogo of the Anglo-Transvaal war, after which their mother took James and two of his brothers (presumably including Philip, the youngest) to England, where they were educated.  James returned to Natal in 1886, when he was eighteen.  Philip presumably returned in the 1890s, for he married May Alice Runciman (1876-1958) in Pietermaritzburg on 4 September 1901. They had eight children, four sons (one of whom died young) and four daughters.
The 1938 second edition

Philip shared with his brother James a considerable interest in the Zulu language and history.  His book on the Zulu language first appeared  as Stuart's Zulu Course (1907; second edition 1912), and was retitled for its third edition as A Zulu Grammar for Beginners (1932; fourth edition 1940).

All of his books appeared as by P.A. Stuart.  His one work of historical fiction was An African Attila: Tales of the Zulu Reign of Terror (London:  T. Fisher Unwin, 1927).  It contains nine stories primarily centered on the Zulu ruler Shaka (1787-1828), spelt by Stuart as "Tshaka," who was sometimes called the "Black Napoleon" or an "African Attila," for in twelve years he conquered an area in southern Africa larger than western Europe, unifying many tribes and thus temporarily resisting European domination. A second edition of An African Attila, with illustrations, was published in Pietermartizburg in 1938. An African Attila was translated into Zulu as Unkosibomvu (1938, reprinted 1963, 1964 and 1978).  One of the stories from the book was made into a play in Xhosa (a Bantu language related to Zulu), and performed at the Freemantle School in Lady Frere in the early 1940s.

P.A. Stuart worked as a civil servant in Pietermaritzburg. At the time of his death he was a resident of Durban, though he died in a suburb of Cape Town.

Monday, April 15, 2019

M.H. James

M.H. James (b. Eltham, Kent, 17 July 1858; d. Marylebone, London, 9 December 1938)

Margaret Helen James was the oldest of four children, two sons and two daughters, of Henry Haughton James (1827-1885) and his first wife, Sophia Courthope (1833-1866).  Margaret also had one half-brother and one half-sister from her father's second marriage in 1867, to Annie Sparks (1838-1909).  She was a first cousin of the ghost-story writer M.R. James--her father was the younger brother of Reverend Herbert James (1822-1909), the father of M.R. James.

Her only book was Bogie Tales of East Anglia (Ipswich: Pawsey & Hayes, 1891). Despite its title, which makes it sound like a collection of weird tales, it is a collection of twenty folk tales, as recorded or remembered by Miss James.  Only the first thirteen have a "bogie" element, while the remaining seven are not supernatural at all.

M.H. James worked as an index-maker for over forty years. According to her obituary in the journal of the Alpine Club, she possessed "two assets of great value to her in her work: a wide knowledge and a really brilliant memory."  Her work was praised for its accuracy and completeness.  She was responsible for the index to her cousin M.R. James's Suffolk and Norfolk (1930). Margaret Helen James died of pneumonia at the Nightingale Hospital in Marylebone. 

Bogie Tales from East Anglia was reprinted in 2019, with an appropriate new subtitle "A Victorian folklore collection" and an introduction by Francis Young.  The contents are slightly altered (mostly in terms of punctuation), but also the footnotes, originally at the end of the book, now appear throughout the book on relevant pages. Francis Young interestingly notes that Morley Adams (1876-1954), in his book In the Footsteps of Borrow and Fitzgerald (1914), plagiarized some of James's stories without any credit to her. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Katharine Metcalf Roof

Katharine Metcalf Roof (b. Clifton Springs, New York, 31 March 1871; d. probably New York City, after 1958)

Katharine Metcalf Roof (her first name is often mispelt Katherine) was the only child of Francis Henry Roof (1840-1916), a physician (and a 1862 graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University), and his first wife, Mary Metcalf Stocking (1841-1917), who were married in 1866.

Katharine was educated at private schools, and at the New York School of Art.  Her parents were divorced in the 1890s, and in 1901 her father was remarried to a much younger woman.

Katharine started publishing in 1902, and from then on through the 1920s she was a prolific writer of short stories and novellas for Ainslee's Magazine, The Smart Set, All-Story, The Century Magazine, Munsey's Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and many others. Though her output diminished in the 1930s, she published a good number of detective stories on into the 1940s. She also published some weird tales. Two appeared in Ghost Stories in December 1927 ("How I Got Back My Soul")  and February 1928 ("My Bewitched Bedroom"), while another, "A Million Years After," appeared in Weird Tales in November 1930. A ghost story, "The Edge of a Dream," had earlier appeared in The Smart Set for December 1907. Despite her prolificity, very few of her stories have ever been reprinted.

With regard to books, Roof published three plays, two works of nonfiction and three novels. The plays include Three Dear Friends: A Feminine Episode in One Act (1914), The Mirror: An Original One Act Play (1924) and Man under the Bed (1924). ("The Mirror" is a play about reincarnation; it originally appeared in Shadowland, July 1920.) Her first work of nonfiction, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase (1917), a biographical work on her former teacher at the New York School of Art, was her most successful. Her other nonfiction title was Colonel Williams Smith and Lady: The Romance of Washington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams (1929).

Of her three novels, the first, The Stranger at the Hearth (1916), is a study of New York society, while her third, Murder on the Salem Road (1931), is both a romance and a murder mystery, set in the late 1830s, during the presidency of Martin Van Buren. With regard to supernatural literature, Roof's main contribution is her second novel, The Great Demonstration (New York: D. Appleton, 1920). It is primarily a romance, with some occult happenings. Basically it is a love triangle between two men and one woman.  Both Roger Lessing and Terry Endicott are in love with Lucretia Dale.  When Terry goes off to war, Lucretia decides that she loves him, but Terry is reported dead, and Roger then presses her to marry him.  Roger is a proponent of New Thought, believing that "What I desire, will come to me." He has become successful but is rather arrogant and unpleasant. To gain Lucreita's favor he strengthens his will and attempts mind control. When Terry returns after having only been imprisoned in Germany, Roger uses astral projection, which goes tragically awry. The novel is flawed but not wholly without interest. 

The last I have been able to trace Roof is to December 1958, when she renewed the copyright on her book Murder on the Salem Road. She was then living in New York City, where she had resided for decades.  (If any one can supply an obituary and a death date, I'd be grateful.) 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Joan Davids / Joan Hewitt

Joan Davids (b. Hampstead, London, 23 November 1912; d. reg. Windsor, Berkshire, July-Sep. 1981)

Little is known of Joan Evelyn Davids. One entry in a writer's directory (1977) lists her as a writer and portraitist. She married Arthur F. Hewitt in Hemel Hemsptead in late 1948.  So far as I know, she published only two books.

The first, under her maiden name Joan Davids, was The Glastonbury Adventure (London:  Peter Lunn, 1946). It is set up like a book of the type that Alan Garner would write a few decades later. A bunch of (annoying) children become involved in the mythic legends of Glastonbury, and most of the book is seemingly just that, if on the light side, until the final chapter throws a curve ball, making the book into something on the lines of a ghost story, with an unexpected and disappointing final twist (in the final line) that undermines any interpretation.

Under her married name, as Joan Hewitt, she published one additional novel, A Pity Beyond Telling (1956). It is a story of eccentric characters and love in a country village called Broone.

Copies of both books are held in the Robert Aickman Collection at Bowling Green State University, in Bowling Green, Ohio.  The Glastonbury Adventure is inscribed by the author to Aickman.  One suspects that she was a client of the Richard Marsh Agency, the literary agency run by Aickman and his wife, and that they secured publishers for the two books. 

The writer's directory listing for Hewitt notes two further items: "The Grandfather Clock," as by Joan Davids, was read by May E. Jenkin on the BBC Children's Hour on 23 May 1950;  and a second item, possibly unpublished, is given as "Unfinished Portrait of a Royal Nanny" (Royal Archives).