Friday, May 30, 2014

Rex Ryan and Dennis Clyde

In an earlier post on Rex Ryan I traced some of his history as an actor and playwright from 1925 until 1930 with his wife, Annie Howard, who used the stage name Pauline Duke.  Elspeth Caton, their granddaughter, recently told me in an email that he also used the stage name Dennis Clyde and that he was a partner in a theatre company called “Kimberley & Clyde.”  Another search of The Stage Archive reveals that he used the name Dennis Clyde from about 1907 to 1924, and that Kimberley & Clyde was in fact a repertory company. 

Dennis Clyde is listed in the 1911 census and it seems clear from the entry that he is Rex Ryan.  He is an actor, born in Liverpool around 1881 and has been married for less than twelve months to Nita Clyde, also an actor.  Both are living in a boarding house in Brixton with other actors.

The marriage is confirmed by a notice in The Stage dated 12 Jan 1911: “Dennis Clyde & Nita Imeson thanks all their friends who sent congratulations and handsome presents on the occasion of their marriage; also compliments of the season.”

'Nita Imeson' was almost certainly the stage name of Elizabeth Hornsby, as we know they were married on 21 December 1910, and had a son, Peter.  

The first appearance of Dennis Clyde that I've found is in August 1906 (playing the villain in "The Rich and the Poor of London"), four years after his father was found guilty of company fraud and sent to prison for 18 months.  On 23 May 1907 there is an advertisement for “Mr and Mrs Dennis Clyde (Miss Violet Lesborough)”, which indicates that Rex Ryan was married at this time to Violet Lesborough (it seems likely this was the stage name of Rex Ryan's wife, Florence Bailey, who died shortly after the birth of their son, Lancelot, in 1909; certainly the name 'Violet Lesborough' does not appear in either the 1901 or 1911 census). 

Dennis Clyde and Nita Imeson were the billed stars of Almost His Bride and A Woman’s Passion, which may have been written by Clyde.  The marriage didn’t last long.  By July 1913 he was advertising his own plays – in this case, Slaves of Vice - and acting in them with Annette Howard, who I take to be Annie Howard, his partner for the rest of his life.  From that time Clyde and Howard were the principals in his plays – in 1914 these included The Sorrows of a Nun and Should Girls Marry Young, popular melodramas that were typical of the period.  Either from the beginning of their relationship or shortly afterwards, Dennis Clyde and Annette Howard collaborated on writing plays, and they had significant successes, including Anna of the Night Club.


Advertisements claimed that they collaborated on twenty five plays in a variety of genres, including titles that reflect the themes and titles of the Anglo-Eastern Publishing Co, who we know Rex Ryan wrote for, such as The White Slave’s Wedding, The Painted Woman, Forbidden Love and Should Girls Marry Young? 

Digitised copies of The Stage Yearbook are available online up to 1919, and a check of these reveals that some Clyde & Howard plays made the Plays of the Year list: in 1914, Slaves of Vice by Dennis Clyde, in 1915, What Every Woman Wants by Dennis Clyde, and in 1917, Anna of the Night Club and The Temptations of a Lonely Wife by Dennis Clyde and Annette Howard.

Other successes were Tommy’s Best Pal (1919):

The Woman and the Beast:


Another interesting collaboration between the two was The Hooded Death, here is a contemporary review:

"The Hooded Death"
On Friday, September 16, 1921, was produced at the Royal, Wolverhampton, a drama in three scenes, by Dennis Clyde and Annette Howard, entitled:
“The Hooded Death”
Ambrose Richmond…Mr Dennis Clyde
John Hanna….Mr Paul Ash
Lemuel Richmond…Mr Alan Ward
Sam Bristol….Mr Morris Maud
Elvira Bristol….Mis Olga Jefferson
Faith Richmond….Miss Margaret English
Rose Paline….Miss Mabel Stacey
Marissa Richmond…Miss Annette Howard
Mr Dennis Clyde and Miss Annette Howard’s latest production enjoyed a capital reception in the Black Country metropolis on Friday.  Their repertory company have occupied the Royal boards for a fortnight.  The piece is not really so eerie or weird as the title suggests, and the story is soon told.  Marissa Richmond is the mother of grown-up children, Ambrose and Faith.  The former is a priest in a monastery in Cornwall, in the vicinity of which is his parent’s home.  Marissa’s husband, Lemuel, is and has been for a long period a selfish man about town and fond of paying too much attention to the opposite sex.  In fact, in the opening scene he is guilty of love-making with Rose Paline, a guest of the Richmonds.  The conversation is mainly about a spectre that has repeatedly appeared in the district and become known as “the hooded death”. Visitors are announced in the persons of a local fisherman, Sam Bristol, a man with a strong Scottish accent, and his stepdaughter Elvira. Bristol gives vent to his feelings regarding “the hooded death,” and implores his hearers to leave the district.  The Bristols go home, and the others retire for the night, Richmond, senr., meanwhile arranging to meet Rose later. Rose returns, and is surprised to see one whom she believes to be Ambrose enter by the window in his monastic garb, but with his head covered. Rose realises that she is found out, whereupon the nocturnal visitor raises the hood, revealing a white skull. Rose dies from fright. Ambrose enters, and, finding the body, awakens the household. Richmond senior admits his duplicity, and holds himself responsible for Rose’s death. Hereabouts Mrs Richmond acquaints her daughter and prospective son-in-law, John Hannan, a medical practitioner, with something of her own past life. It appears that she also had a second son, but by her own interference with nature he was born to be a curse, and at her own request was taken away whilst an infant by Sam Bristol. She implores Faith and John to do the right thing should they have children, which they promise to do. Elvira warns them again of “the hooded death,” remarking that when it calls in silver tones “Come to me,” none can resist it. Faith and John are last to retire, the former insisting on remaining downstairs. John departs, ostensibly for the night, when Faith hears the fatal call and leaves by the window. John returns to find her missing, and the household is again awakened. Eventually John decides upon tracing her whereabouts, armed with a revolver, but Mrs Richmond objects, instructing her husband and son to detain him by force whilst she searches for her daughter. Faith is next seen bound hand and foot in a house amongst the rocks, calling for help. John appears first and releases her, but an ankle injury prevents her moving. Mrs Richmond next arrives, and John goes to find help. Mrs Richmond discovers the head and skull previously mentioned. Later Ambrose enters, but not as the loveable son. He reproaches his mother with her past sin, and demands that she shoot him, thereby saving his sister, whom he intends to kill. It transpires that long ago Ambrose suffered an injury to the head, since when he has led a double life, acting the good Samaritan according to his calling, and yet desirous of his mother’s and sister’s death. Elvira has been mainly responsible for the latter, blackmailing Ambrose by telling him of his mother’s sin, but eventually admitting that the second son died in infancy, and did not now exist, as was thought by the Richmonds. Mrs Richmond refuses to shoot her son, but threatens to turm the weapon on herself.  With the return of John there is reconciliation.

Despite their change of programme nightly, the company were letter-perfect in their parts, and everything pointed to careful and skilled rehearsals. The chief acting honours fell to Miss Annette Howard and Mr Dennis Clyde, the former being pathetic as Mrs Richmond, the latter giving a capital delineation of the son, Ambrose. As John, Mr Paul Ash acquitted himself creditably.  Miss Olga Jefferson was pleasing in the difficult role of Elvia, and Miss Margaret English found favour as Faith.  Mr Alan Ward was well placed as Lemuel, and the little required of Mr Morris Maud as Sam Bristol and Miss Mabel Stacey as Rose was well done.

The play also seems to have been known as The Hooded Terror:

Steve Nicholson’s excellent Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 mentions The Hooded Death in a chapter on Horror; the Comptroller described it as “three acts of horror and gloom” and “a farrago of rubbish,” and went on to say “the horror is too silly to frighten educated people but it is a question if an average audience should be exposed to it” and observed that “the growing taste for horrors needs discouragement.”  Another Clyde/Howard play mentioned by Nicholson is The Secret Mother (1920) which was done for a touch of sadism, a feature of the R.R. Ryan novels: the censors ‘insisted on removing as ‘an unnecessary horror’ the visual evidence of a character having been flogged, and demanded ‘a written undertaking that the towel and shoulders marked with red will be omitted.’

It's also apparent that the popular theatre of the time influenced the excessive horrors of the R.R. Ryan novels.  Nicholson describes a play call The Horror, which was licensed for the county theatre, St Albans, in August 1928 (author unknown): 'a play centring on a creature which is half man and half bird, and which is the resulting offspring of a woman who has been raped by vultures.  The monster, Veldt, has been kept in a cage in his house by Sir Gordon, whose daughter rescued the woman who gave birth to it; however, after declaring its love for a young woman in the house, the creature commits a series of violent attacks on the males whom it identifies as its rivals.'  Bizarre stuff.  

At some point Dennis Clyde partnered with the playwright F.G. Kimberley to form the Kimberley & Clyde Repertory Co. that travelled around the country putting on plays written by Kimberley and by Clyde & Howard with the latter as the principal actors.

The company evidently continued to perform Kimberley & Clyde plays up to 1924, although a notice in the London Gazette says it was wound up by mutual consent in 1922.

In 1924 the names Dennis Clyde and Annette Howard cease to appear in The Stage and in 1925 Rex Ryan and Pauline Duke start to appear.  I'm not sure what precipitated this, but it is conceivable that Elizabeth Hornsby had tracked him down seeking child support. What is clear from the notices in The Stage is that Dennis Clyde and Annette Howard were constantly travelling around the country performing and staying for short periods in different towns and cities where he would often manage local theatres.

Here is an image of Olga Jefferson, one of the main actors in the Kimberley and Jefferson repertory company:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Third Alias - a T E Lawrence Mystery

Announcing the first Valentine & Valentine pamphlet…

In The Third Alias – A T E Lawrence Mystery, Mark Valentine explores a little-known conundrum in the bibliography of the enigmatic soldier and author famed as Lawrence of Arabia. This was first noticed by the poet and keen bookman John Gawsworth, later King of the Caribbean literary realm of Redonda.

Following his lead, and with a new and careful study of the evidence, the pamphlet speculates whether there is a significant omission still to be found in the books and writings attributed to Lawrence. A seldom-seen illustration of Lawrence by the artist and visionary Frederick Carter, a friend of John Gawsworth’s, is included.

The Third Alias is the first in a planned series of ‘Valentine & Valentine Pamphlets’, pocket-sized, hand-made and hand-sewn in one signature, with paper dustwrappers, with a simpler and plainer design than our other handmade books. It is in a limited, numbered edition of 50 copies only.

Update: all copies have now been taken. We hope to issue further pamphlets during the year.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Literature of the outré and the fantastic reached a milestone this March with the publication by Penguin Classics of The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies, an annotated selection of stories, prose poems and verse by Clark Ashton Smith, edited by S. T. Joshi.  One of its most important precursors was Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith, a book of signal importance to the study of Smith’s work, which contains some of the most trenchant remarks about the importance of language in fantastic literature this side of  Ursula K. Le Guin's “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie”. This review was written in 2003 for All Hallows: The Journal of The Ghost Story Society.

edited by Scott Connors and David E. Schultz
Arkham House, 2003; xxvii + 417 pages; Hardcover; ISBN 0-87054-182-X

In spite of detractors who claim his work is too richly ornamented and his plots either excessively elaborate or little more than trellises upon which to festoon his verbal bouquets, American poet and fantasist Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) has never been without his champions. Against shifts in literary fashion and continuing hostility from a significant segment of American readers and critics against any trace of sophistication in its art and entertainment, Smith’s adherents have continued to publish and promote greater understanding of his work: from the attention paid his early poetry by such literary luminaries as George Sterling, H. L. Mencken, and Ambrose Bierce in the early decades of the 20th century; through his reception by the readership of the science fiction and horror pulps during the 1930s; the slow, steady accumulation of his work in hardcover volumes by Arkham House since the 1940s; the widespread exposure given to Smith’s story cycles and poems set in worlds widely separated from our own in terms of time, space, and dimension by Lin Carter and Betty Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy Series during the 1970s; and the  painstaking work of such genre scholars as Donald Sidney-Fryer, Steve Behrends, Scott Connors, Ron Hilger, David E. Schultz, S. T. Joshi, and others in establishing the  inception, creation, and market-driven adaptation of Smith’s work; the world has been granted a clearer and fuller appreciation of Smith’s aesthetic and the scope of his  accomplishment. The Smith Renaissance of the past two decades has seen collections of his short stories published by a number of presses specializing in horror and fantasy, as well as the UK publisher Gollancz and the University of Nebraska Press; a five-volume series from Night Shade Books devoted to the complete fiction based on texts carefully edited from all known sources (several of which have only recently come to light); a volume of critical essays devoted to Smith published by Hippocampus Press (The Freedom of Fantastic Things); the emergence of a new journal devoted to Smith studies (Lost Worlds); a  selection of the best fantastic poetry and the first complete edition of Smith’s verse, both from Hippocampus Press; the announcement of a full-length biography from the indefatigable Scott Connors; one volume collecting the correspondence between Smith and George Sterling (The Shadow of the Unattained) as well as another planned to collect the correspondence between Smith and H. P. Lovecraft; and the present volume—one of the cornerstones upon which all future Smith studies will be based.
This first comprehensive collection of Smith’s correspondence casts light on all aspects of Smith’s life and artistic endeavors, revealing an extremely inquisitive, independent autodidact capable of articulating his creative intentions with enviable grace and clarity. Smith’s limitations as a draughtsman may compromise many of his drawings and paintings, but the man who wrote these letters knows exactly what he wishes to convey when he takes up his pen, and is fully aware of the verbal and rhetorical tools he must use to accomplish these ends.

‘My own conscious ideal has been to delude the reader into accepting an impossibility, or series of impossibilities, by means of a sort of verbal black magic, in the achievement of which I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.’ Letter 109, to H. P. Lovecraft (c. 24 October 1930).

The problem of “style” in writing is certainly fascinating and profound. I find it highly important, when I begin a tale, to establish at once what might be called the appropriate “tone.” If this is clearly determined at the start I seldom have much difficulty in maintaining it; but if it isn’t, there is likely to be trouble. Obviously, the style of “Mohammed’s Tomb” wouldn’t do for “The Ghoul”; and one of my chief preoccupations in writing this last story was to exclude images, ideas and locutions which I would have used freely in a modern story.’ Letter to 112, to H. P. Lovecraft (16 November 1930).

From an early point in his career, Smith was also conscious of the wide gulf separating his artistic vision from that embraced by the majority of his contemporaries, reflecting upon it with bitter humor, while resisting the lure of outright misanthropy:   

 ‘I’ve no quarrel with the slogan of “art for life’s sake,” but I think the current definition or delimitation of what constitutes life is worse than ridiculous. Anything that the human imagination can conceive of becomes thereby a part of life, and poetry such as mine, properly considered, is not an “escape,” but an extension. I have the courage to think that I am rendering as much “service” by it (damn the piss-pot word!) as I would by psycho-analyzing the male and female adolescents or senescents of a city slum in the kind of verse that slops all over the page and makes you feel as if somebody had puked on you. [. . .]’ Letter 86, to George Sterling (27 October 1926)

‘One could attack the current literary humanism, with its scorn of all that has no direct anthropological bearing, as a phase of the general gross materialism of the times. If imaginative poetry is childish and puerile, then Shakespeare was a babbling babe in his last days, when he wrote that delightful fantasy, The Tempest. And all the other great Romantic masters, Keats, Poe, Baudelaire, Shelley, Coleridge, etc., are mentally inferior to every young squirt, or old one, who has read Whitman and Freud, and renounced the poetic chimeras in favour of that supreme superstition, Reality.’
‘Ben [De Casseres] says somewhere that poets pay their debts in stars and are paid, in wormwood. But I’ll pay some of mine in nitric acid.’ Letter 87, to George Sterling (4 November 1926).

‘Misanthropy is the inevitable end, if you have both sense and sensibility. But it’s a waste of spiritual energy: people aren’t worth despising. They seem to exist for the same reason that Coventry Patmore said the Cosmos existed: “To make dirt cheap.” ’ Letter 79, to Donald A. Wandrei (24 July 1926).

Smith’s was a lonely and often desperate existence, tending to elderly parents on their homestead in California, his grand visions shared with a few close friends in the vicinity, a few kindred souls among his correspondents, and a small but loyal readership among lovers of poetry and fantastic fiction. At the encouragement of friends, he began writing short stories for the pulp magazines, instilling them with the same strange, multihued fire that had characterized his verse, but as his parents became increasingly frail, these fiction sales became ever more crucial, and with this necessity came the need for grudging compromise, a bane that continues to plague the collector of Smith’s fiction to this day, and a steady source of frustration for a man who crafted his tales as  meticulously as he did his verse:

 ‘I would have told [Weird Tales editor Farnsworth] Wright to go chase himself in regard to “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis,” if I didn’t have the support of my parents, and debts to pay off.’ Letter 130, to H. P. Lovecraft (c. early November 1931).

 ‘ “Necromancy in Naat” seems the best of my more recently published weirds; though Wright forced me to mutilate the ending.**********’ Letter 209, to August Derleth (13 April 1937).

In a letter dated 27 January 1930 Smith reassured Lovecraft (and himself) that the ‘full text’ could always ‘be restored’ whenever his tales were ‘brought out in book-form’, a project he was not fully capable of accomplishing due to poor eyesight and the scattering of his manuscripts by the time his short story collections first started to appear from Arkham House, though Smith did manage to produce one slim volume of preferred texts at his own expense in 1933, The Double Shadow and Other Fantasies. Often Smith edited his own stories following their initial or subsequent editorial rejection, paring away descriptive passages, downplaying eroticism, simplifying vocabulary, and generally making them more generically appealing, while attempting to retain as much of the original’s unique flavor as possible. In other instances, notably the disastrous publication of ‘The Eidolon of the Blind’ as ‘Dweller in Martian Depths’ in the March 1933 issue of Wonder Stories, with the addition of a new character and a happy ending by the editorial staff, magazines made their own substantial changes to Smith’s work without his consent.  This constant editorial interference, lengthy delays and legal disputes over monies owed him for work already published, the unfortunate tendency of such valuable correspondents as Sterling and Lovecraft to abandon him through death, and the saddening release of the burden imposed upon him by his ailing parents led to a marked reduction of Smith’s fictional output, a resumption of his verse on a smaller, often more intimate scale, and the discovery of a hitherto unknown talent for carving outré shapes from local stone.
          Smith’s subsequent life, his loves, the languages he taught himself to aid his appreciation for French and Spanish verse, his love for the geography of the region in which he lived, the steady appreciation he received from the discerning few, and the wider recognition he began to receive as the first quakes in the fantasy boom started to register are all chronicled here as well. Connors and Schultz have done a splendid job of gathering these letters, adding succinct glosses to the text where needed, providing photographs of Smith and his colleagues to highlight the text at different junctures in the man’s life, and setting all this in context with a brief bio-critical introduction. This is an essential book for anyone interested in the work of Clark Ashton Smith or the aesthetics of fantasy.       

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Barry Ono - Penny Bloods

Barry Ono was the greatest of collectors of Penny Bloods.  His collection was bequeathed to the British Library after his death in 1941 and is fully described in Penny dreadfuls and boys' adventures: the Barry Ono collection of Victorian popular literature in the British Library, by Elizabeth James and Helen R. Smith (1998). He was a stage comedian and songwriter in the music hall tradition, and you can see his craft in a Pathé Pictorial film on his collection:

He corresponded widely with other collectors in search of rarities.  Here are a couple of postcards he had made up for his ceaseless quest for Dreadfuls and Bloods, the first dated 1927, and the second 1940:

An advertisement:

He wasn't in any way a modest chap who downplayed the importance of his collection or his preeminent position amongst collectors, as the following letter to fellow collector, Charles Daniel, reveals:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

WE ARE SPOILED by Phyllis Paul

In the new issue of Wormwood (#22), I have a "Late Review" recommending Phyllis Paul's first novel, We Are Spoiled (1933):

for the unusually assured prose style and deft wit. The reader is pulled into the narrative by the very first sentence:
The Laurias came to Hammersing heath in the very bleakest of springs, and Mrs. Lauria, her urban spirit altogether failing at the sight of the place, went upstairs a few days after the removal with the suitable last words, “I am going to rest,” and lay down and died. (p. 7)
This odd but fresh style continues throughout the rest of the book. While there is nothing of the fantastic about the story, the manner of its telling and its moods are fairly gripping and enchant the reader. As the Times Literary Supplement noted, while “many effective chords are struck, it is not easy to discern a dominating harmony. There is music here, angelic or devilish, but hardly earthly” (6 July 1933)
For the full review, see Wormwood.  Here, however, I'd like to share the dust-wrappers of the UK and US editions.  Here is the front cover of the Martin Secker edition (London).  The flaps are blank (save for a price at the bottom of the front flap), and the rear shows only a list of five titles of "Latest Fiction" published by Secker.  There is nothing descriptive of the book--no attempt to sell it via description. 

The American edition, published in 1934 by William Morrow, copies the same woodcut illustration on the front cover, adding a blurb on the front flap (which erroneously identifies Phyllis Paul as aged 23, when in 1934 she would be turning 31).  The rear flap and the rear of the dust-wrapper highlight other books published by Morrow:

Interestingly, Paul's second novel, The Children Triumphant, published by Martin Secker in 1934 (it had no American edition), repeats the same woodcut as cover illustration, but adds some description of the book on the front flap and some quotes from reviews of her first novel on the read flap. Paul's next novel did not appear until 1949, fifteen years later.