Saturday, March 14, 2015

Leslie Barringer's Lost Book

A "Late Review" from Wormwood, no. 23 (Autumn 2014), newly illustrated:
The 1946 dust-wrapper

Cartmell, Esmé. Rescue in Ravensdale (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, [February 1946]). Illustrated by Drake Brookshaw.
This is a children’s book, telling of a fortnight-long family holiday in Yorkshire in August 1939, just before the start of World War II. (One suspects that the book might have been written around that time, with paper shortages delaying publication until after the war.) The plot is minimal. It centers on the Levington family, father and mother, their four daughters (the youngest are twins), and cousin Roger who joins them. The father, Brand, is an author and publisher’s reader of books for older children, and the whole family is rather bookish, making their conversation one of the more enjoyable aspects of the book. Brand brings home some manuscripts for the opinions of his children, and even their evaluative banter is amusing. When one child complains of the “very dull beginning of very dull Ivanhoe,” the father responds: “Scott wrote Ivanhoe for grown-ups . . . He had to describe everything so carefully because no one had tackled the Middle Ages like that before.” His daughter sensibly replies: “M’m. I see. But I wish he wouldn’t make his people say Hark ye, villain, I’ll give ye a bonk on thy nose, and things like that” (p. 106).
The 1955 dust-wrapper
            The family holiday includes a good amount of hiking and sight-seeing, attractively described, but a tone of seriousness comes in when they find a supposed German spy—actually a sculptor and artist who had come to England via Denmark to flee Hitler—who is hunted by a local figure the Levingtons have christened Oswald Poop. Oswald Poop ends up having a sinister agenda (assisting the Nazis), and the Levingtons are able to save the artist and thwart his adversary. 
            The book has an added interest because Esmé Cartmell was a one-time pseudonym of Leslie Barringer (1895-1968), author of Gerfalcon (1927) and its two sequels, Joris of the Rock (1928) and Shy Leopardess (1948). Besides being an author, Barringer was, like Brand Levington, a publisher’s reader of books for older children, and the father of four daughters (the two youngest being twins). One suspects that the physical description of Brand may also apply to Barringer (of whom I know of no published photographs): “He is tall, thin, mild, with bushy grey hair, grey eyes, horn-rimmed spectacles (the whitish kind), and tweed clothes” (p. 12). Rescue in Ravensdale was reprinted once, in February 1955, in the “Triumph Series” by published Thomas Nelson and Sons. 

The title and frontispiece to both editions

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