Sunday, December 5, 2021

Charles R. Dake / Charles Romeyn Dake

Homeopathic News, May 1893 
Charles Romeyn Dake (b. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 22 December 1849; d. Belleville, Illinois, 22 April 1899) 

There persists a question over Dake's middle name. Throughout his life, in his profession as a doctor, and as a journal editor and author, he by-lined himself as "Charles R. Dake" (or sometimes "C.R. Dake").  His only book was published four months after his death, and gives his name in two variants: "Charles Romeyn Dake" on the front cover, and "Charles Romyn Dake" on the title and copyright pages.  His college records from the early 1870s give his full name as "Charles Romeyn Dake" (and in a short story from 1892, Dake named a character "Charles Romeyn"), so I believe "Romeyn" to be the correct spelling of his middle-name.

He was the only son of David Merritt Dake (1814-1891) and Mary Bainbridge Manuel (1814-1895), who were married in 1835. He had four sisters, one of whom died in infancy. According to a biographical sketch in a History of St. Clair County, Illinois (1881), "Dake's father, grandfather, great-grandfather, all of his uncles and their sons, have been and are physicians," some of them allopaths, some homeopaths, and some other types.

Dake was educated at the Western University of Pennsylvania, and he graduated with honors from the College of Physicians and Surgeons (the Medical Department of Columbia College) in New York in 1872.  He went west in 1873, intending to go south, but stopped off in Belleville, Illinois, where his father had started a practice, and decided to remain there. He married Belleville native Eugenia Cordelia Swyer (1857-1944) on 12 September 1874.  They had two daughters, Grace (1883-1954) and "Mae" [Mary] (1880-1946).  [Mae's third daughter, Grace Bechtold (1909-1988) became a well-known figure in New York publishing, and worked for Bantam Books for almost forty years.]

Dake became one of the best-known physicians in western and southern Illinois. He was made editor of the monthly journal Homeopathic News (published out of St. Louis) in May 1893 (a photo of Dake appears in his inaugural issue). He wrote articles, and in the December 1892 issue he published his first attempt at fiction, a short story entitled "The Limits of Imagination," which won a $200 prize for the best short story submitted by an active physician. By popular request it was followed by a second story, "The Death and Regeneration of Gerald Deane," in the May 1893 issue. Dake's only published novel was A Strange Discovery (New York: H. Ingalls Kimball, [17 August] 1899). H. Ingalls Kimball  (1874-1933) had been a partner with Herbert S. Stone in the publishing firm of Stone & Kimball which operated from 1893-1897, first (briefly) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before settling in Chicago, where Stone's father had many literary connections. After Stone & Kimball dissolved their partnership, Kimball set up the Cheltenham Press in New York City for commercial and advertising purposes, but as "H. Ingalls Kimball" he did publish a handful of books over the next decade. In this phase, Kimball may have operated as a vanity publisher. 

In 1898 Dake became ill with cancer of the diaphragm. He and his doctor withheld the diagnosis from his family, who believed Dake was suffering from consumption. In early 1899 the symptoms became much worse, and for more than six weeks he was unable to eat, taking only small portions of liquid nourishment. Death by slow starvation became a certainty, and he purchased (unbeknownst to his family) a revolver, with which, on the evening of 22 April 1899, he fired a bullet through his heart while in his library. He died instantly.   

Dake's two short stories and one published novel all descend directly from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. In "The Limits of Imagination, " a young man prepared for the onset of a hereditary condition of paralysis. As his condition descends upon him, he starts writing novels in his head, and then living other imagined lifes, followed by animal and plant lives (in a downward scale of consciousness), until, after nine years, he awakens astrally in his own room and witnesses his physician revive him via trephining his skull and using electricity to reduce the two tumors pressuring his brain. In "The Death and Regeneration of Gerald Deane," Dr. Gerald Deane meets an old boyhood friend and tells him how he survived death from a heart attack by a process of thought-transference with his wife, whom he instructs how to revive his corpse via electric stimulation of his heart. Deane affirms (based on his own experiences) that we live forever independently of the body. 


Dake's novel A Strange Discovery is a direct sequel to Poe's short novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). It concerns a doctor who discovers Dirk Peters (a surviving character in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym who, according to Poe, settled in Illinois), now an old man in Bellevue, Illinois (Dake's stand-in for Belleville). The doctor elicits from Peters the rest of the story of his experiences with Pym in the Antarctic. Dake adds to Poe's mystery a lost-race element and a plot of the style of H. Rider Haggard, along with some ill-fitting historical narrative about a lost log of an Antarctic visit by Sir Francis Drake. This makes for a unwieldy and cumbersome narrative.

Dake's three known pieces of fiction are all flawed in ways, but they are of interest. The short stories work better than the novel, but all are somewhat unsatisfying in set-up and structure.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Arthur MacArthur

Arthur MacArthur (b. New Orleans, 19 May 1896; d. New Orleans, 24 October 1970)

Arthur MacArthur (the surname in his family sometimes appears as McArthur) was the son of Arthur MacArthur (1866-1908)--himself the son of another Arthur MacArthur (1838-1916)--and Celena Delphina Kemp (1874-1951), who were married in New Orleans on 3 April 1895.  After his father's death, his mother remarried in 1909. He did not attend college but studied music and singing. MacArthur did some military service in the Field Artillery towards the end of W.W. I. 

In the early 1920s MacArthur served as the Assistant Manager and Secretary to the (openly gay) concert pianist George Copeland (1882-1971), and toured with him around Europe. He lived at times in England, France, Germany, and Italy. After returning to America, he went to Hollywood for a while, but returned to New Orleans.

He published very little. One short story is known, "Told in the Mid-Watch," in Sea Stories Magazine, 20 December 1922. (He claimed he gave up short story writing because it was too restrictive.) And he published only one novel, After the Afternoon (New York: D. Appleton-Century, [October] 1941), though  it was retitled Aphrodite's Lover  and given a racy cover when it was reprinted in paperback in 1953. 

After the Afternoon tells the story of the faun Lykos in Crete, who, after a tryst with Aphrodite, becomes a human being, endowed with immortality and able to enter the human body, male or female, of his choice. He passes through various incarnations, one at the bizarre court of an Egyptian king. The "Books" section of The New York Herld-Tribune noted: "Arthur MacArthur displays an inventive capacity, a skill in writing credibly of the absurd and the impossible, that is reminiscent of Thorne Smith. But actually he is less interested in humor than in invention, while his taste for the macabre and the brutal leads him to scenes that read like effective illustrations of Krafft-Ebing. Within his own mythos his characters are strong, rounded and real, once he leaves Greece for Egypt and, fortunately for his story, this happens very early" (review by Lorine Pruette, 21 December 1941). The New York Times Book Review said: "Mr. MacArthur's first novel is provocative enough to call for a trilogy, and as our friend Lykos, since that fatal hour on Olympus, can become who and what he will with each death I suggest that an evening or two could be profitably spent in America at the turn of the last century, and for the present day I give him his choice of London or Berlin" (review by Francoise du Moulin, 9 November 1941).

In the 1930s and 1940s he lived in New Orleans with his paternal aunt and her husband, Edward Alexander Parsons (1978-1962), a lawyer and noted bibliophile. At the time his novel was published, he worked for the Federal Art Project of Louisiana. Little is known of his later life. He never married, and died in 1970. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Robert Husted Chambers / Robert E. S. Chambers

Robert Husted Chambers in 1922
Robert Husted Chambers (b. Broadalbin, New York, 3 October 1899; d. Washington, D.C., 1 January 1955)

Robert Husted Chambers was the only child of the famous popular novelist, Robert W. Chambers (1865-1933), and his wife Elsa Vaughn Moller (1878?-1939), who were married in Washington, D.C., on 12 July 1898.

There is some confusion in many sources about his name. Early records (censuses, draft registration, passports, publications) all give his name as Robert Husted Chambers, but after a divorce in 1926 he apparently started using the name of Robert E. S. Chambers or Robert Edward Stuart Chambers, which from then on appeared as his byline and in official records and newspaper accounts. The sole exception I have encountered is on his gravestone, which reverts to Robert Husted Chambers.

The Chambers family lived in Brooklyn but spent long summers each year at their family estate in Broadalbin, northwest of Albany and in the Adirondack region. Elsie Chambers had many relatives--uncles, aunt and cousins--in the Washington D.C. area, where most were members of society, and many of the males were officers in various branches of the armed services. 

Robert Husted Chambers matriculated at Harvard University in 1917. After his eighteenth birthday, he reportedly went to serve in a machine gun corps. He was about to receive a commission when the Armistice was signed. In November 1920, in his junior year at Harvard, his engagement to Miss Grace Talbot (1901-1971), who became a noted sculptress, was announced in New York newspapers, but the betrothal was broken by mutual consent several months later. 

At Harvard, Chambers was on the editorial staff of The Harvard Magazine, and planned to follow his father as an author. His first short story, "The Throwback," appeared in McClure's Magazine for December 1920; a second, "A Matter of Medicine," appeared in the same magazine in June-July 1921. Chambers finished his education in 1924 after two years at Christ Church College at Oxford, England (though his degree came from Harvard). He had another story,"Captain Sebastian," in Everybody's Magazine for December 1922, and "Snows of Yesteryear" appeared in The English Review for October 1923. 

Chambers returned from England with a bride, Olive Irene Victoria Gain (1900-1967), whom he had married in the summer of 1924. Chamber's parents were not happy, and apparently made his young wife so miserable that she by mid-September she had returned to London, a trip paid for by the parents. She told newspapers that she intended to sue his father for $500,000 for the alienation of her husband's affections, and that the parents were insistent that their son marry a wealthy society girl after divorcing her. Chambers spent part of 1925 in Algiers, and filed for a divorce in late 1925 based on his wife's desertion; it was granted in May 1926. 

Whatever happened seems to have created real family tensions between Chambers and his parents. Around this time, Chambers began using Robert Edward Stuart Chambers (or Robert E.S. Chambers) as his full name. He would use it as his name for the rest of his life.

On 29 June 1932, in Washington D.C., he married Barendina Gardener (1903-1961), the daughter of late Colonel Cornelius Gardener of the United States Army. This marriage was evidently approved of by Chambers's parents, who attended the wedding. It produced at least one child, an unnamed son buried in the family plot at Broadalbin in 1938, and possibly also a short-lived daughter (the family plot has a gravestone for an otherwise unknown Margery Gale Chambers who died in 1941). 

The novelist Robert W. Chambers died in 1933, and after that Robert E.S. Chambers based himself in Broadalbin. He ran for the New York State legislature in the election of 1934, and again in 1937, but was unsuccessful both times. In 1936 he arranged a local Chamber of Commerce and was elected its president, though his resignation was soon demanded by businessmen who objected to his environmental concerns. 

His first and only book, a collection of twelve short stories (four of which are known to have appeared in magazines), was John Tom Alligator and Others (New York:  E.P. Dutton, [May] 1937). A few stories concern the title character who takes as a wife in Florida the daughter of a Seminole medicine man. Other stories concern the Arabs of northern Africa. Many of the tales are slightly macabre. One review noted that "the collection is pervaded with an artificial flavor of Kismet, and there is too much reliance on irony to turn the trick and make a story out of an incident" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 May 1937). Howard Baker noted that "Chambers' work is immature and much marred by class-room acrobatics" (Sewanee Review, 1938). It was evidently quite apparent, as George Currie noted in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, his short stories had "little in common with the work associated with his famous father" (20 May 1937). And modern sensibilities find the tales very dated, with many regrettable attitudes from the past.

His mother, Elsie Chambers, died in November 1939, and Robert E.S. Chambers was the only heir to the large estate. Chambers rejoined the U.S. military for World War II, and after that details of his life become uncertain, with prevailing amount of poorly-documented gossip. Evidently his wife took control of the estate because of her husband was discharged from the Army for being a "psychopathic personality." The marriage broke up, and by 1946 his wife had moved away (reportedly taking truckloads of furniture with her, which she sold at auction). The couple is reported to have divorced (though her obituary in the 14 August 1961 Lexington Herald, calls her the "widow of Robert Edward Stuart Chambers" and notes she had lived in Lexington, Kentucky, for the past fifteen years). 

Chambers evidently next sold the estate to an antique dealer, who auctioned off its remaining contents and then defaulted on payment, after which the ownership reverted back to Chambers. What remained in the house was vandalized or stolen (his father's books, manuscripts, and paintings had all disappeared). Chambers litigated to get the Army to reverse his discharge, and after various appeals he was successful. In 1954 Chambers sold the estate to the Albany Catholic Diocese. Chambers died in Washington, D.C., on 1 January 1955. His will was contested by his nearest relatives, three cousins (all sons of his father's only sibling, a brother), who accepted a settlement. (Apparently his cousins were responsible for burying him.)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Boyne Grainger / Boine Grainger

 Boyne Grainger, circa 1938
Boyne Grainger / Boine Grainger (b.  Maine, 17 December 1877; d. New York City, 13 October 1962) 

Bonita Rosita Ginger was known familiarly as "Bonnie." She was the daughter of Lewis (sometimes "Louis") Ginger (1846-1933), reportedly a former colonel in the U.S. Army, and his English wife, Grace Elizabeth Clayton (1839-1909). Bonnie had one older brother, Francis ["Frank"] Joseph Ginger (1871-1961). The family evidently moved often.

Bonnie came to adulthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and later settled in New York City. As Bonnie R. Ginger, she was a prolific contributor of short stories to popular fiction magazines, like Ainslee's, The Century Magazine, The Delineator, Lippincott's, and Everybody's, from 1912 through 1923.  

By the 1920s she was a resident of Patchin Place in Greenwich Village, a cul-de-sac where a number of prominent writers and artists lived, including e.e. cummings, and two of the Powys brothers, John Cowper Powys, and Llewellyn Powys. 

 The 1938 NY edition
Ginger published only two novels, a number of others never achieved publication. The first was The Hussy, published by Boni and Liveright in New York in 1923, as by Boine Grainger. It concerns a young woman disappointed in her quest for love and happiness. The epigraph notes the theme of the book:  "When a man goes  here, there and everywhere looking for love he is called an idealist, but when a woman does it she is called a hussy." It quickly went into a second printing. An abridged version was published in 1950 by St. John Publishing of New York as a paperback, as no. 22 of the Readers Choice Library.

Her second published novel was The Jester's Reign (New York:  Carrick and Evans, [January] 1938), with the spelling of her first name changed to "Boyne," the spelling she used for the rest of her life. It is a fantasy novel of the month during which strange phenomena manifest at the same time all over the whole world. The first event is a peculiar laughing sound that is heard round the globe. How these events influence a small group of mixed people living in a city court much like Patchin Place is the basis of the novel. The central character is one Roger Ergo.   

 The 1939 UK edition

The Jester's Reign was published in England in 1939 by the short-lived publisher of fantasy and modernism, Laidlaw Books, under their Laidlaw and Butchart imprint. Both editions are rare today. John Cowper Powys reportedly blurbed the book, but Powys scholars have noted that no Powys blurb appears on the dust-wrapper of either edition.  In fact, Powys's blurb, along with blurbs by two other people, appeared on a wraparound promotional band put onto some copies of the American edition. Powys's comment reads: "The book is written with such a warm glow and with such swift narration that it is like being carried in an old-fashioned coach, full of good company and mellow quips, and yet with the rapidity of the latest modern machine!"

Five Poems (1942) were published in England by Kenneth Hopkins as no.6 in his Grasshopper broadsheets series. It was likely through her connections with the Powyses that this publication came about. 

A late, brief memoir, We Lived at Patchin Place (2002), was published by Cecil Woolf, mostly because of Grainger's association with the Powys brothers. 

Grainger spent some of her final years in New Mexico, but moved back to New York before she died in late 1962.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Hannen Swaffer

Hannen Swaffer (b. Lindfield, Sussex, 1 November 1879; d. London, 16 January 1962) 

Charles Frederick Hannen Swaffer was the oldest of nine children (one died as an infant) of Henry Joseph Swaffer (1858-1932), a draper, and Eugenie Katherine Hannen (1858-1947), who were married in 1879.  He was educated at Stroud Green grammar school in Kent. 

He quickly turned reporter and critic, and joined The Daily Mail in 1902, The Daily Sketch in 1913, and after a few other stints he became the drama critic at The Daily Express in 1926, and in 1931 joined The Daily Herald. His journalism was witty, gossipy and very popular. He was also very prolific and became a well-known colorful personality (with a wide-brimmed hat, and often a cigarette dangling from his lips) and author of several books. In 1904 he had married Helen Hannah Sitton (1877-1956). The marriage survived several infidelities, but there were no children.  

When Men Talk Truth (London: Rich & Cowan, 1934) was his first book of fiction. It collects thirteen stories commissioned by Britannia & Eve, published in 1933 and 1934. The stories are simply and vividly written, and range from the tale of a dog who sees ghosts to that of a rationalist using a planchette, who thereby encounters an infinite being.  Another concerns a supernatural resolution of an eternal triangle: here a child enacts the revenge of his dead biological father upon his dead-mother's lover, who reared the boy. The best and most intriguing story in the book is the title story, in which a prison chaplain has a quite revealing and unexpected discussion with a prisoner on the night before his execution: the chaplain confesses his own deep doubts, and the prisoner notes that in such a position he should hang himself. 

My Greatest Story (1945) tells of Swaffer's involvement with spiritualism and various mediums. A later volume Stranger than Truth (1947) purports to collect Swaffer's "best short stories." 

Swaffer died in University College Hospital, London, at the age of 82. A serious biography of him appeared as "Swaff": The Life and Times of Hannen Swaffer (1974), by Tom Driberg. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ivo Pakenham

Ivo Pakenham (b. 4 December 1903; d. reg. Brighton, Sussex, July-September 1980)  

His name at birth was registered as "Robert Ivo Raymond Lygon Pakenham," but he evidently always went by Ivo, and usually gave his name as Ivo Robert Raymond Lygon Pakenham.  He was the oldest child of an Irish-born military officer, Captain Robert Edward Michael Pakenham (1874-1915), who served in the Boer War and died in France in the Great War, and his wife, Nancy Fowler (1881-1934), who were married on 12 September 1900. Ivo had a younger brother (who died as an infant) and a younger sister. 

He was educated at Wellington College, and in the mid-1930s gave his occupation as "interior decorator," with his special interests being medieval and classical history, as well as hunting, shooting, British numismatics, heraldry, genealogy, history and travel. He was a long-time friend of Ivy Compton-Burnett, and was known as a knowledgeable antiques dealer in Kensington. He died in a Brighton nursing home at the age of 76, survived by his male partner.

He published only one book, Fanfaronade (London: Rich & Cowan, [September] 1934). It is a time-slip fantasy set in France. It begins in 1928 when a brother and sister go to visit a very old chateau in France. The brother, Lucius, simply disappears from his room, and awakens as a young amnesiac in 1474. The reader follows this man, now called Blaise, for six years, until his memory awakens, after which time an epilogue returns the reader to 1934, where some lost rooms are discovered in the chateau, and there a manuscript is found in Lucius's hand from over four hundred years earlier. The book is dedicated to Pakenham's mother, "who did not live to see it published," dying about six months before the book was published, and to Maurice Lincoln (1887-1962), a "fellow-author," of novels and journalism, without whose "kindly sympathy" Pakenham says he might never have finished the book. 

Pakenham's short forward lists a number of his favorite historical works  that he used as background for the novel, and gives some relevant opinions:

I have quite frankly, for the purposes of my story, emphasised the colour and splendour of the dying Middle Ages, but I hope that I have not shown myself altogether unaware of the other side of the tapestry--of those loose threads of squalor, discomfort and superstition which were such an integral part of a brilliant period. 
     Against that stumbling-block of the historical novelist, the question of dialogue, I have come up in full measure. To use modern language seems to me to be a slovenly way of working, while that of the "cloak and sword" school is unquestionably worse. . . . All I have tried to do, therefore, is to endeavour to catch the cadence and intonation of fifteenth-century speech, in the hope of conveying to the ear some faint impression of what it probably sounded like. 

Pakenham concludes by noting that the poetry at the end of the book was verbally handed down in his mother's family for generations. "It is not known for certain who wrote it, but it has never, to my knowledge, before been published." The lines closely echo the published poem titled "The Falcon" in An Old Story and Other Poems (1868) by Elizabeth D. Cross

The dust-wrapper blurb entices the prospective reader with the following:

The author has painted for us a magnificent picture with a wealth of colour which should entrance even the non-historical reader. On his canvas, courtiers, priests and lovers, banquets, tournaments and pageantry glow against a dark background of treachery and witchcraft, politics and war. . . . There is about Mr. Pakenham's writing a beauty and fineness that mark him out as destined for big things. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Mrs. Richard S. Greenough

Mrs. Richard S. Greenough (b. Boston, Massachusetts, 19 February 1827; d. Franzensbad, Austria [now Františkovy in the Czech Republic], 9 August 1885)

Sarah Dana Loring was the first of several children of William Joseph Loring (1795-1841) and his wife, Anna Thorndike (1804-1872), who were married in Boston in 1825. 

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 26 September 1846, she married Richard Saltonstall Greenough (1819-1904). They had two children, daughter Anna Loring (known as "Nina") Greenough (1847-1897), and son, an artist, Richard Gordon Greenough (1851-1885) 

Her husband was a well-known sculptor, as was his older brother, Horatio Greenough (1805-1852). The Greenoughs split their time between Europe and America, but spent much of the time in Rome. Richard Saltonstall Greenough's best-known work is an eight-foot bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin, erected in 1856, that still stands in front of Boston's Old City Hall. Novelist Henry James was close with several members of the Greenough family, who inspired various characters in his fiction. 

Mrs. Greenough published five books during her lifetime. The first was an anonymous novel, Lilian (Boston, 1863). This was followed by Treason at Home, published in three volumes in London in 1865, as by Mrs. Greenough. It was a sensational novel of mystery and crime. (A one-volume severely abridged pirated version came out from a Philadelphia publisher; a review in March 1873 called it "mutilated" with "pages left out, apparently at random," and concluded it was "a great injustice to the author".)  

With her third book her byline settled into being Mrs. Richard S. Greenough. Arabesques (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1872 [but published in December 1871]) is a collection of four romantic, imaginative stories of knights, goblins, and necromancers. Reviewers compared the stories to works by the German romantics, to Phantastes by George MacDonald, and to Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. The four tales are each illustrated by a medallion head design, uncredited but by the author's son. The four tales have suitably romantic titles, "Monarè"; "Domitia"; "Apollyona" and "Ombra." (The illustration for "Monarè" also appears on the book's front cover.) E.F. Bleiler thought the book "well-sustained, imaginative; among the best late 19th century fantasies" but that is a generous assessment, as the stories are a bit too pious and predictable and the prose a bit dull. 

Her final novel was In Extremis (1872), which originally appeared as a serial in the Christian Union. It  is described as "the voluntary and unacknowledged sacrifice of a daughter for her parent's sake", noting that "the picture is a sad one, nothing relieving its pathetic sombreness but the touches at the close which show the brilliant hues of the glorious heaven just beyond shining upon the closing hours of Helen" (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1873). Her final book was Mary Magdalene: A Poem (1880). In 1887 it was combined posthumously with two other poems to make up Mary Magdalene and Other Poems.

Mrs. Greenough was buried in Campo Cestio, Rome.