Thursday, September 28, 2017

Romer Wilson

Romer Wilson  (b. Ecclesall, Sheffield, 26 December 1891; d. Lausanne, Switzerland, 11 January 1930)

Florence Roma Muir Wilson was the daughter of Arnold Muir Wilson, a solicitor, and Amy Letitia Dearden Wilson. She was educated at West Heath School and at Girton College, Cambridge.  She began writing in 1915, and published the first of several novels, Martin Schüler, in 1918.  Further books of fiction include If All These Young Men (1919); The Death of Society: Conte de fée premier (1921), winner of the Hawthornden Prize; The Grand Tour (1923);  Dragon's Blood: Conte de fée deuxième (1926); Latterday Symphony (1927); and Greenlow (1927).  Her nonfiction includes a play, The Social Climbers: A Russian Middle-class Tragedy in Four Acts, Seem Through Western Eyes (1927);  and a biography, All Alone: The Life and Private History of Emily Jane Brontë (1928). The Hill of Cloves: A Tract on True Love, with a Digression upon an Invention of the Devil (1929) is a philosophical story.  Wilson met the American anthologist Edward J. O'Brien (1890-1941) in Italy, and they were married in 1923.  A few years later they settled in Switzerland. They had one son. Romer Wilson died of tuberculosis in 1930 at the age of thirty-eight. A posthumous collection of short stories was Tender Advice (1935).  

Wilson also edited three illustrated anthologies of fairy tales, which merits her attention here. All three books have the same subtitle: "A Collection of the World's Best Fairy Tales from All Countries." The first two,  Green Magic (1928) and Silver Magic (1929), were illustrated by Violet Brunton.  The third, Red Magic (1930), was illustrated by Kay Nielsen. All three volumes (but especially the Kay Nielsen volume) command high prices on the collector's market. 

Green Magic (1928)

Red Magic (1930)

from Red Magic (1930)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gerard F. Scriven

Gerard F. Scriven (b. reg. Wandsworth, October-December 1910; d. Clifton, Bristol, 9 January 1949)

Gerard Francis Scriven was the son of Robert Scriven, a journalist (and sub-editor at a newspaper, according to the 1911 UK Census), and his wife Grace Scriven.  Gerard had one older brother and a number of younger sisters.

He was educated at The Priory, the White Fathers' Junior Seminary at Bishop's Waltham in Hampshire, where around 1926-27 he honed his skills as editor of and contributor to The Priorian, the school magazine.

He was ordained a priest in London in 1937, and was appointed to Heston, Middlesex, where the Society of Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers because of the white robes of their dress, ran a thriving parish. He then spent about six years in North Africa (Algeria) before returning to England and taking over the editorship of the White Fathers' magazine. Between 1943 and 1948, he published six books, all with the firm of Samuel Walker in London.  Four are in a series of books about Wopsy, a small Angel who is suddenly given the care of a Matongu (African) baby, known as Shiny John. The first book, Wopsy: The Adventures of a Guardian Angel, came out in November 1943, though it began as a serial in 1940 in the children's section of the magazine The White Fathers of Africa. It was followed by Wopsy Again: The Further Adventures of a Guardian Angel (1945), Wopsy and the Witch Doctor (1946), and The Wanderings of Wopsy (1948). These illustrated books were popular among Catholics through the 1950s and 60s, though today they would be considered racist and culturally insensitive. Scriven published another volume in 1946, "a Life of Our Lord for children as told by the Angels," entitled While Angels Watch: The Life of Jesus Our King

The book for which Scriven deserves attention here is The Ghost Shop (1948), which gives some examples of the history of the Spectral Agency of  Mr. Ivanish, who hires out spooks from his shop in Fingle Street, which is open only "when required." The book contains twelve chapters, with the first being a set-up for the adventures that follow. According to the blurb on the dust-wrapper, Scriven did not intend these stories for children but for their elders. The illustrations (including that on the dust-wrapper) are by Rosemary de Souza, and are suitably atmospheric.  Scriven's prose shies away from horror, and is more straightforward. The tales are at times moralistic. Scriven is buried in the Heston Cemetery.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Arnold Dawson

Arnold Dawson (b. Islington, London, 13 November 1888; d. reg. Camberwell, July-September 1971)

Arnold Woodroffe Dawson was the second child of Charles James Dawson (1840-1904), a schoolmaster, and his wife, Ellen, née Cooper (c.1849-1894), who were married 29 May 1884 in St. Jude, Mildmay Grove, Islington.  Their first child was Lorna Pearl Dawson (1885-1970).  The father, as C.J. Dawson, published in August 1890 a textbook, Essays, Essay-writing and Paraphrasing: being models and hints for pupil teachers, scholarship candidates and students, followed in 1891 by a new edition, "sixth edition revised and enlarged by C. J. Dawson," of W. J. Dickinson's The Difficulties in Grammar and Analysis Simplified, originally published in 1878.

After the deaths of his parents, Arnold lived with his older half-brother, Charles Dawson. Arnold was educated at the Haberdashers' School and the Islington Training College. He served in W.W.I from 1915-1919 in the Roy West Kent Regiment. He married Jean Brown Wilson in Hampstead in early 1919. He had a later common-law wife called Nesta who died around 1960.

Arnold worked primarily as a journalist, at The Daily Herald from 1919 through 1930 (Literary Editor, 1927-1930), The Sun Graphic & Daily Sketch from 1931 through 1947, and at The British Weekly from 1947. He contributed to various journals including The Bookman, Clarion, and T.P.'s Weekly. In his final years he lived in a book-filled flat in Brixton in south London.  

In 1927, while Literary Editor at The Daily Herald, he started publishing a series of short stories under the title "Tales That Enthral".  A selection of these stories were collected in an anthology Tales That Enhtral: A Selection of Twenty-nine of the World's Best Short Stories, published by Richards in March 1930.  It is Arnold Dawson's only book. In the Introduction, he wrote:

This volume is an answer to numerous requests from Daily Herald readers who have followed with interest the series of short stories published in that newspaper during the past three years, and have written asking that a selection from them should be published in book form. In making the  selection I have endeavoured  to cover as wide a range as possible, and it will be found that there is a considerable variety of theme and treatment, which is not surprising in view of the fact that the authors represented include the writer of a “Sheik story” a thousand years old, the famous Italian, Giovanni Boccaccio, many nineteenth century masters of the short story, and several noted authors of our own day.  Humour and horror, irony, pathos and fantasy are all represented in these pages, and I think it may be claimed justly that each story is a little masterpiece of its kind.

He also noted that some of the stories were written specifically for the Daily Herald series, and claimed that E. Nesbit's contribution, "A Christmas Criminal" was printed for the first time in the series, being her last story, written on her death-bed, though that event occurred on 4 May 1924, nearly three years before the Daily Herald series began. Overall, though, the anthology delivers a good number of entertaining stories, a number of which are weird or fantastic. Here is the table of contents:

Tales That Enthrall ed. Arnold Dawson (London: Richards, 1930, 2/-, 256pp, hc)

Introduction · Arnold Dawson
A Romance of the Desert · Al-Asma’I
The Three Rings · Giovanni Boccaccio
Kirk Alloway Witches · Robert Burns
Dream Children · Charles Lamb
“El Verdugo” (The Executioner) · Honoré de Balzac
The Shot · Alexander Pushkin
A Tale of Terror · Thomas Hood
The Lost Hand of Zaleukos · Wilhelm Hauff
The Haunted and the Haunters · Lord Lytton
The Wicked Prince · Hans Andersen 
The Mummy’s Foot · Théophile Gautier
The Masque of the Red Death · Edgar Allan Poe
The Moss-Rose · Grenville Murray
The Passage of the Red Sea · Henri Murger
A Terribly Strange Bed · William Wilkie Collins
Journalism in Tennessee · Mark Twain
Our New Neighbors at Ponkapog · Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Tennessee’s Partner · Bret Harte
After Twenty Years · O. Henry
The Pearl of Love · H. G. Wells
Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock · Henry Lawson
A Christmas Criminal · E. Nesbit
Many a Tear · M. P. Shiel
The Mother Stone · John Galsworthy
The Wag · Henri Barbusse
The Opening of the Door · M. P. Willcocks
A Love Tale of Two Common People · Joe Corrie
The Soul of Ivan the Peasant · Alexander Neveroff
Biographical Notes

NB: Thanks to Kate Stout for sharing information given in this entry. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Michael Hayes

The 1978 hardcover edition

Michael Hayes  (fl. 1970s)

Michael Hayes edited and introduced some six hardcover collections of supernatural stories from 1976 through 1980, in addition to a collection (probably his most significant book) of Supernatural Poetry: A Selection, 16th to the 20th Century (hardcover 1978; trade paperback 1981).  All seven books came from the same publisher, John Calder of London. The blurbs about the editor on the dust-wrappers all say something to the effect that Michael Hayes was born and educated in Ireland, and that he has been in publishing for many years. His one other book, co-authored with his wife, Arlette Hayes, was Dining Out Beside the River Thames (1973).

His six collections are as follows:  The Supernatural Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson (1976); The Supernatural Short Stories of Sir Walter Scott (1977); The Fantastic Tales of Fitz-James O’Brien (1977); The Supernatural Short Stories of Charles Dickens (1978); The Ghostly Tales of Washington Irving (1979); and The Haunting Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1980). 

The seven volumes make up a nice series.  Hayes and his wife were the dedicatees of Arthur Rex (1978) by Thomas Berger. They were apparently still living in London in the early 2000s.

NB: I’ll be grateful if anyone can provide further biographical information. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Henrietta Weaver

Henrietta Weaver (b. San Francisco, California, 20 September 1870; d. Florence, Italy, 7 January 1951)

Henrietta Weaver was the daughter of Philip Liscum Weaver (1828-1902), a businessman based in San Francisco, and his wife Ellen, née Armstrong (1844-1924), a daughter of Richard Armstrong (1805-1860), an early missionary to Hawaii. She had one brother, who became a well-known lawyer in Honolulu, and one sister. 

Henrietta spent much of her life abroad, in Europe from 1874-75; Paris from 1893-1900; Florence from 1906-08; the Orient from 1910-12; and Florence from 1921 until her death.  

Weaver’s one book was a collection of fifteen short stories, Flame and the Shadow-Eater (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1917), published during a three year period when she lived in New York City.  She had married, probably in Paris sometime in the latter half of the 1890s, Henry Guy Fangel (1875-1943), an illustrator and artist; they were divorced around 1908, with no children. Fangel married Maud Tousey in 1909, and worked for a while as an art editor at Good Housekeeping, but his second marriage also ended in divorce, and he died destitute in Paris. 

Flame and the Shadow-Eater was published in May 1917, and earned mostly appreciate reviews.  Asia noted that Weaver presents the philosophy of the Old East “through the medium of a series of tales in which holy men who follow the Path of the Lotus Law, proud rulers surrounded with Oriental splendors, maidens in whose sleeves subtle perfumes linger, are drawn like silken threads.  The stories themselves are without action and are perhaps too vague to be truly Oriental. In the manner that ‘A.E.’ and Yeats and the Irish Revivalists have translated primitive Celtic ideas into terms of modern poetry, so Henrietta Weaver translates the Orient and makes of it a somewhat moralized and simplified Arabian Nights. Yet the book has charm. The style is graceful and is characterized by well chosen imagery” (July 1917).  The New York Times Book Review was slightly more critical:  “The stories themselves are not unentertaining, and many of the descriptions are very gracefully written. But this type of fiction is peculiarly exacting . . .  Weaver frequently succeeds only in being obscure when she endeavors to be mystical.  Nevertheless, this volume has a touch of unusualness which is rather refreshing, and though the reader is seldom without a feeling that the tales are falling short of what they ought to be and of what the author intended them to be, their abundance of color, their intellectual quality, and their departure from the commonplace make them quite interesting” (8 July 1917).

Weaver attempted to secure a London publisher to reprint the volume in 1935, but found no interest.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Norman Power

Norman Power (b. Islington, London, 31 October 1916; d. reg. Birmingham, May 1993)

Norman Sandiford Power was the eldest son of Walter Sandiford Power, a clergyman, and his wife May, née Dixon. 

Power grew up in Newcastle-on-Tyne, where his father was vicar in a poverty-stricken parish.  The family moved to Birmingham in 1926. He went to Stanley House School, and then to St. John’s School, Leatherhead. Power studied history at Worcester College, Oxford (B.A. 1938; M.A. 1942), and theology at Ripon Hall, Oxford (B.A. 1940).  He was ordained a priest of the Anglican Church in 1940, and thereafter served in the Birmingham area, settling as the vicar of Ladywood in 1952, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. He was also the canon of Birmingham from 1965. Power married Jean Edwards on 17 April 1944; they one son and three daughters.

Power’s first publications were nonfiction, including The Technique of Hypnosis (1953) and The Forgotten People: A Challenge to a Caring Community (1965), the latter concerning the displacement of the poor and elderly in his district as properties were being destroyed by developers. Power also contributed a weekly column to The Birmingham Evening Mail, beginning in 1953, and wrote articles, stories, and verse (sometimes using the pseudonym Kratos) for various periodicals, including Argosy, Punch, The Observer, The Guardian and The Birmingham Post.  He published a volume of poetry, Ends of Verse (1971), with an introduction by Ruth Pitter, and two short books, In Bereavement–Hope and Son of Man–Son of God, both in 1979.

Power’s fiction grew out of stories he told to his children as bedtime stories.  He wrote three short novels about a north Atlantic island, the home in the fifth century of the kingdoms of Firland and Borea, the latter ruled by the evil magic of Queen Ivis.  In the first book, ten-year-old Richard learns he is the rightful king of the forbidden territory of Firland.  He is aided by the wizard Greylin, who goes forward in time to consult with Sherlock Holmes (with the permission of the publishers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories).  The first book was published in paperback (with cover and a map signed Clebak) as The Firland Saga (Kinver: Halmer, 1970), and reissued in a nice hardcover (illustrated by Michael Jackson) as The Forgotten Kingdom (London: Blackie, 1973). The second volume (also illustrated by Jackson) was Fear in Firland (London: Blackie, 1974). The first book was translated by Benedikt Benedikz into Icelandic in 1973, and both were translated into Danish in 1973 and 1974.  A third volume, Firland i Flammer [Firland in Flames] (1974) appeared only in Danish translation; it has never appeared in English.  In 1978, Power wrote:  “I thought, if Tolkien can create a world and Lewis a country, surely I could manage an island! In not too serious a mood, I mixed an element of Tolkien, a sampler of Lewis, a touch of T.H. White (The Sword in the Stone—which I also loved) and a dash of Asterix the Gaul—and plastered them on to a rough Malory background.  Hence Firland!”

Power’s association with J.R.R. Tolkien began in March 1938 when Tolkien was invited to speak at a meeting of the Lovelace Society at Worcester College.  Power already knew The Hobbit, published some months earlier in September 1937, and he sat at Tolkien’s feet as Tolkien read his then-unpublished fairy-story Farmer Giles of Ham. Years later, just before Tolkien died  in 1973, Power and Tolkien exchanged some letters and books, when Power lived near Tolkien’s boyhood home. After Tolkien’s death  Power wrote a handful of articles about their association, in Library Review, The Tablet, and various Tolkien-related publications.

One further Tolkien association comes via artist Pauline Baynes, who illustrated Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham (1949) and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962), among other Tolkien-related projects (in addition to illustrating C.S. Lewis's seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia).  Baynes also did an illustration of a scene from the first Firland book which appeared as the cover illustration for the Autumn 1980 issue of Mythlore (whole no. 25).

Cover art by Pauline Baynes for The Forgotten Kingdom

Monday, March 28, 2016

Marjorie T. Johnson

Marjorie T. Johnson (b. Nottingham, England, 24 February 1911; d. Nottingham, England, 26 October 2011)

Marjorie Thelma Johnson was the younger of two daughters of George William Johnson, a solicitor’s clerk, and his wife Ellen Gertrude Johnson. Her sister was Dorothy Alexandra Johnson (1902-1988). Johnson worked professionally as a secretary in a solicitor’s office.   

Johnson had seen a fairy first as a six-year-old child, and wrote an account of this visitation (initially omitting the fact that her sister was also a witness, though later accounts correct this) that was published as a letter in John O’London’s Weekly, on 28 March 1936, following a request published on 7 March 1936 for “first-hand accounts of fairies seen in this country,” which brought in over a dozen signed accounts during subsequent months.   

In 1950 Johnson become the secretary of a resurrected Fairy Investigation Society, which had originally been founded in 1927 by naval captain Quentin C.A. Craufurd (1875-1957), and though it lasted some years its meetings dwindled out during the war. In 1955 Johnson began putting together a book of first hand encounters with fairies which she called Fairy Visions, and she was assisted by Alastair Alpin MacGregor (1899-1970) who published letters in The Listener  and Folklore soliciting further accounts. MacGregor dedicated his Ghost Book (1955) to Johnson, yet withdrew from the project a few years later as he wanted to go abroad and Johnson wanted to press forward with publication. Around this time Craufurd wrote a foreword for the unfinished book.

On 23 October 1960 The Sunday Pictorial, a London tabloid, published an article “She Does a ‘Kinsey’ on Fairies . . . ,” by Tom Riley,  which traduced Johnson and her beliefs by highlighting her comments about the sex lives of fairies, claiming falsely that her entire book was on fairy sex. Johnson published a letter in The Sunday Pictorial disassociating herself from the article, because of which she and her sister had been plagued by sensation-seeking journalists. Johnson soon withdrew from an active role in the Society. The work on her book continued, though it was delayed by family health concerns and her own professional obligations. 

In 1996 Johnson finished the final draft of her book, now retitled Seeing Fairies: Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times, A Book for Grownups. Leslie Shepard (1917-2004), who had run the Fairy Investigation Society for some years, helped her to try to find a publisher, though they were long without success, at least among English-language publishers. The book first appeared in German translation as Naturgeister: wahre Erlebniss mit Elfen und Zwergen [Nature Spirits: True Experiences with Elves and Dwarfs] in 2000. Two further translations appeared in 2004, in Czech as Přírodni duchové [Nature Spirits] and in Italian as Il popolo del bosco [The Forest People]. Johnson died in 2011 at the age of 100.  Her book finally appeared in English (in the United States) three years later as Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Time (San Antonio, Anomalist Books, 2014), with an introduction by Simon Young. The cover photograph shows Marjorie Johnson playing a bamboo pipe in 1934. 

Johnson apparently also self-published, in association with the Nottingham Writers Society and the Gypsy Lore Society, a booklet Gypsy & Fairy Lore & Children’s Verse (date unknown), but no copies are currently known to have survived.