Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Latterday Henry Ryecroft - Mark Samuels

Although it only ran for three issues (and a ghostly fourth issue, prepared and announced but not published), The Lost Club Journal, which I edited with Roger Dobson, soon attracted enthusiastic readers keen to learn about forgotten authors and to propose their own favourite neglected figures. We have certainly tried, in Wormwood, to carry on the work of celebrating the under-appreciated, alongside studies of the major figures in our field.

Roger also much enjoyed pilgrimages to the former homes and haunts (and gravesides) of lost authors, and was not averse to knocking on the doors of the usually oblivious current occupants to tell them about their house’s illustrious past, often with mixed results.

The home of H G Wells was one of the goals of a Lost Club Weekend organised by Roger Dobson, memorably evoked in Wormwood 26 by Mark Samuels, who was, as it turned out, the only other participant. The two soon found they had other literary tastes in common, such as the work of George Gissing (pictured), and some of the run-down rackety aspects of Grub Street were certainly in evidence in the town of Folkestone, where they were based. But a foray into lonely country by double decker bus – and the influence of strong Kentish ale – soon bestowed a wondrous, Machenesque glow upon the occasion.

Mark’s memoir of the weekend is a fine comic episode also full of a wistful delight at these impromptu adventures in the company of Roger Dobson, who was, as he suggests, a modern day version of Gissing's mellow literary scholar, Henry Ryecroft.

Mark Samuels is the author of several books of weird fiction and is now working on an “interminable” full-length novel that might be described as a cross between A Confederacy Of Dunces and Brideshead Revisited. He is a past Secretary of the Friends of Arthur Machen, and has always lived in London.

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