Thursday, July 18, 2019

Faber & Faber: A Biased History

The old saw goes something like this: History is written by the victors.  And if that isn't precisely correct, history, as written, is at least shaped by various prejudices. This is particularly true of literary history, and a newly published example is Faber & Faber: The Untold Story by Toby Fisher.

This book purports to tell the story of Faber & Faber from its founding in 1924 as Faber & Gwyer (it became Faber & Faber in 1929) to 1990.  It is basically an anthology of extracts from the publisher's (private) archive, compiled by Toby Faber, the grandson of the founder, Geoffrey Faber. In one sense it does just that, but it tells a very slanted tale, highlighting Toby Faber's view of Faber as "the home of literary Modernism" (104).  So if you're interested in T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, W.H. Auden, etc., you'll find much of great interest in this book.  If you are interested in the dynamics of literary publishing in the 1920s onward (the coverage of the early years through the Second World War is especially good), ditto. And it's nice to recall the days (now extinct) when an editor had the autonomy to publish almost anything, whereas nowadays everything is overseen by timorous editorial boards which are in turn dominated by the number-crunchers and marketing zealots obsessed only with immediate enlargements of the bottom line.

But if you are interested in the eclectic books that Faber published over the decades you won't find much here to satisfy your appetite.  Fantasy and supernatural literature, and science fiction, are given short-shrift.  If Faber's early fantasy novel Elnovia (1925) hadn't been written by founder Geoffrey Faber himself, I doubt it would even have been mentioned. (I reviewed Elnovia in my "Late Reviews" column in Wormwood no. 15, Autumn, 2010; my review is reprinted in my 2018 collection Late Reviews.)  Despite Richard de la Mare's central involvement with the firm for over four decades, the numerous Faber & Faber publications by his father, Walter de la Mare, are barely mentioned. (There is no mention at all of his brother Colin's single book, They Walk Again (1931), the anthology of weird stories that re-introduced William Hope Hodgson to the reading public.)

From scanning my own shelves for Faber titles I would have loved to read more about in this book, I find most aren't even mentioned at all.  There is a sort of shadow history of Faber & Faber that is completely neglected.  For example, I'd love to know more about the publication of Kenneth Morris's signal collection, The Secret Mountain and Other Tales (1926), beautifully illustrated in an art-deco style by K. Romney Towndrow.  Or of the publication of E.R. Eddison's Mistress of Mistresses (1935), of Donald Macpherson's two intriguing novels (see here), or of the last two novels of Charles Williams.

There is virtually nothing about science fiction in this book, though Faber & Faber had a long history of publishing good science fiction since the 1950s.  None of the many such writers they published are covered: Brian Aldiss, James Blish, Robert Holdstock, Gary Kilworth, or Christopher Priest, not to mention anthologists like Basil Davenport or Edmund Crispin.

So what we are left with in Faber & Faber: The Untold Story is a perfectly readable but heavily slanted and partisan book. Intriguing in some ways, yet disappointing in other ways.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Electricity Sub-Stations of Stoke-on-Trent - Anwyl Cooper-Willis


One of my earliest poems, for which I even got paid, was about an electricity sub-station, contrasting its well-manicured lawn and cypress trees to the run-down estate where it was situated.

These little buildings, which usually sit in their own fenced enclave, with grass, gravel or paving slabs, and neat shrubs, are often met with on walks in strange or familiar places, and despite their outwardly functional character seem to exude an air of quiet mystery.

It is somehow hard to avoid the notion that they are not quite what they seem: that there might be something else other than electricity manifestation going on inside them. You wonder whether they emanate curious colours at certain times of day or night, or if sometimes sinister figures emerge from them and engage in enigmatic transactions.

So I was just the right sort of reader and collector to appreciate a find at an artists' book fair: Anwyl Cooper-Willis’ A6 booklet of photographs and captions portraying some of The Electricity Sub-Stations of Stoke-on-Trent (scroll down to view: to order use the contact page).

The electricity sub-stations of Britain are to be found in a pleasing array of architectural styles – Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Tudorbethan, Modernist, Brutalist, and simply Downright Odd. They are often now rather scruffy and neglected, adding a further element of decay and semi-dereliction to their appeal.

This engrossing publication reflects pretty much the full range of these styles and adroitly captures their curious character, and rather lonely beauty.

MV

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Old King Cole - Edward Shanks


Edward Shanks was a poet, reviewer and essayist associated with J C Squire at the London Mercury and part of the Georgian coterie known as ‘the Squirearchy’. But he was also a novelist, noted for his fantasy of a future Britain after a revolution, The People of the Ruins (1920), and for his long saga of Bohemian life, Queer Street (1933) and a sequel, The Enchanted Village (also 1933). What is less well-known is that he was also the author of an occult thriller.

In his last novel, Old King Cole (1936; The Dark Green Circle in the USA), a young retired Major (a stock figure of many English thrillers of this period) named Laver has a personal aircraft, an auto-gyro, rather like a helicopter. Hovering above the countryside one day, he notices a great green circle marked out in the ground below, and supposes it must be an ancient earthwork. Landing, he finds an enormous recumbent monolith, but the green embankments cannot easily be discerned.

This scene reflects contemporary developments in historical field-work. The archaeologist O G S Crawford, who had carried out reconnaissance in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and was now working for the Ordnance Survey, was among the first to realise that aerial photographs taken by the RAF and amateur fliers could reveal previously undiscovered prehistoric, Roman or later remains: and he commissioned further, specialised aerial surveys. Shanks had evidently heard about this new approach.

When Laver investigates further, he finds a seemingly tranquil, idyllic little village, Temple Overroads, nearby, but it has a ‘curious’ atmosphere. It seems watchful, and does not welcome strangers. He learns that the local squire, Cole, claims very ancient descent and is obsessed by the Romans, still regretting the 5th century withdrawal of the legions from Britain.

But he is no quaint antiquarian, for he also admires their rule, and is himself an autocrat: ‘You see, he directs everything and the people are so dependent on him that if his attention were to slacken they would be helpless,’ says the parson, a cousin of his. He is talking about the village sports day, but it is clear a wider application is meant. Later we learn that a 17th century journal describes the village as ‘the one piece of Britain that was never conquered after the Romans went, not by the Angles and the Saxons nor yet by the Normans, so that it is still verily a kingdom itself and its lord admits it to be a part of England only by courtesy . . .’

The village, including the vicarage and church, is rich in images of the classical gods, and there is a mosaic in the garden of the manor house with a sinister sacrificial scene. ‘It is believed,’ says Cole, ‘to represent Agamemnon giving his daughter, Iphigenia, to be offered up as a sacrifice’. And he adds that there is a tradition one of his ancestors did something similar on the great stone on the hill to win victory in battle.

The pilot involves Dr Dyson, an archaeologist acquaintance of his, in looking into the matter. Dyson is excited by the discovery. ‘Bigger than Avebury,’ he proclaims, and posits a buried stone circle beneath the banks. We are bound to recall the Mr Dyson who was Machen’s antiquarian savant in The Three Impostors (1895) and other stories, though Shanks’ character is rather more like Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger, a boisterous, bluff individual. Still, the name may well be a nod to Machen’s fiction, because Shanks’ story indeed soon echoes one of his themes, surviving pagan practices in secretive country.

There are implications of the supernatural in Shanks’ book: premonitions, the baleful hold the squire seems to have over the villagers, and the uncanny atmosphere. But he draws back from following Machen in making these more overt, and he does not have the Welsh author’s lyrical, evocative prose when invoking lonely country. Even so Old King Cole clearly draws on stories of antiquarian horror. Hints suggest that a young woman, effectively a ward of the squire, might soon be involved in a re-enactment of the ritual in the mosaic, to safeguard the village's independence. There is a thrilling Buchan-esque climax when Laver, Dyson and their allies pitch themselves against this.

His novel is also, though, a harbinger of allegories involving autocratic conspiracies in the English landscape that appeared in the next two decades, such as Rex Warner’s The Aerodrome (1941) or Jocelyn Brooke’s The Image of a Drawn Sword (1950). In all three books, there are authority figures who talk about preserving order against an approaching darkness and chaos, and who exercise a sinister influence over their followers: the analogies to the politics of the period are obvious. In Shanks’ book this theme is allied to an ancient but revived cult involving old gods and rites.

It may also be seen as a forerunner of another noted work. A local squire who rules over a secluded community; an interfering stranger who arrives by air; an aversion to outside interference; signs of continuing pagan practices; preparations for a sacrifice. Aspects of Edward Shanks’ Old King Cole seem to presage a well-known 1970s film with a similar plot, though there is no mention that his villagers are accomplished in wicker-work.

MV

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Ghostly Company


A Ghostly Company is a small, friendly and informal group of ghost story enthusiasts who meet two or three times a year for weekends involving talks, story readings and visits to ancient places, but most of all good company.

Pilgrimages have been made to towns and cities linked to M R James and his successors, to William Hope Hodgson, Ramsey Campbell, and many others. The next two gatherings will be in Hereford in October and Chester in late March 2020, and the group is always open to suggestions for other places to visit.

Although most of these excursions are in Britain, the group has also had and is planning European weekends, and has overseas members who enjoy its publications.

The society also shares messages about relevant books, films and events, issues a newsletter and publishes The Silent Companion, a journal of new original supernatural fiction. New members are welcome. If you would like to share your enjoyment of ghost stories with like-minded enthusiasts, this could be just the group for you.

MV

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Northern Lighthouse Board


The Northern Lighthouse Board is a self-titled eighteen track CD album of instrumental pieces on the always interesting Reverb Worship label (scroll down to the 5 June announcement), whose releases are often inspired by the uncanny and macabre.

The album is described as “a rather wonderful and mysterious disc of recordings which features soundscapes for victorian séances and nocturnal forest gatherings. Abandoned lighthouses, possessed goats, occulted moons and haunted doll houses.”

The two brief opening tracks use M R James stories for their titles, ‘After Dark in the Playing Fields’ and ‘The Haunted Doll’s House’, and other pieces have similarly eerie references, invoking the moon, haunted woods, witches and revenants. The music involves sinister synthesizer swathes, doleful, doomy and slow-moving. Bleats, birdsong, tolling bells and distorted voices occasionally intrude.

It is all splendidly like the half-preserved soundtrack to a forgotten low-budget Nineteen Seventies (oc)cult film. To be enjoyed while perusing your well-thumbed, luridly-covered paperbacks of Blackwood, Machen and Hope Hodgson.

The CD is in a limited edition of only 40 copies. Some of the pieces are also available digitally via bandcamp.

MV

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Wormwoodiana: The Tenth Anniversary of This Blog

Yes, it's hard to believe it, but the first two posts on this blog date from 22 June 2009, ten years ago.  Since then we've had some 575+ posts by Mark Valentine, myself, James Doig, and a number of other people (including guest posts).  So herewith a hearty thanks to all of the contributors to Wormwoodiana, and to our readers and commentators. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Guest Post - Outsider Literature, Part 2, by R B Russell


Part One of this post suggested that Outsider Literature might follow rules set down by Art Brut and Outsider Art, which would mean that an Outsider Writer should be self-taught, compelled to write without thought of publication, and should not have been recognised by the literary establishment. Additionally, Outsider Writing should be at pains to keep itself free from writers who have simply failed to make the grade.

However, very few candidates for Outsider Writer status fulfil all of these requirements. Take, for example, the American Joseph Gould (1889-1957) who claimed to have written the longest book ever, An Oral History of the Contemporary World (only fragments of which have been found and published.) Gould was eccentric and often homeless, but he worked for the New York Evening Mail, and had his work commented on by both Edward J. O’Brien (editor of Best American Short Stories) and Ezra Pound.

These connections make him much less of an Outsider than, say, the Australian Sandor Berger, a character well-known in Sydney for walking around wearing placards and handing out leaflets with the message ‘Psychiatry is Evil’. (He arrived in Sydney in 1952 and died, aged eighty-one, in 2006.) During his time in Sydney, Sandor was driven to self-publish countless books and booklets, including poetry and his letters to newspaper editors. He doesn’t appear to have had any connections, or success, but nobody has seriously suggested that his work ‘makes the grade’.

The appreciation of any art is subjective, but in defining Outsider Literature a certain quality threshold is required, unless the writing is to simply be laughed at. This would suggest that Outsider Literature should exclude an author like the Irishwoman Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), who published at her own expense and who is described by the Oxford Companion to Irish Literature as ‘Uniquely dreadful’. She might be seen as the literary equivalent of the French philosopher Jean-Pierre Brisset (1837-1919) whose major self-published work presented the theory that man is descended from frogs.

A better candidate might be the British writer Anna Kavan (1901-1968), but, despite a troubled life, she was published several times by the very reputable publishing house of Cape, which, surely, makes her a literary establishment insider. Kavan is a good example of the problem facing Outsider Artists generally — they are often associated with unconventional life-styles, left-field ideas, elaborate fantasy lives and sometimes serious mental health problems. This gives rise to the suspicion that the writers/artists and their problems are more important than their work, and that there is a ‘freak show’ element to any interest in them.

The Pepsi-Cola Addict
by June Allison Gibbons, for example, is a self published novel that sells (if you can find a copy) for a very high price, but interest in the book stems mainly from the fact that its author was one of the ‘silent twins’ who were sentenced to indefinite detention in Broadmoor Hospital (for a few petty crimes) purely because of the girls’ refusal to communicate with others. By any standards, The Pepsi-Cola Addict is not very good, and surely the writing needs to be more important than the story of the writer (no matter how related these are.)

The authors above fulfil certain requirements of Outsider Writing, although not all of them. It is tempting to allow some leeway, not least in terms of the desire for publication. A compromise might be to allow within the classification books that are self- or vanity-published.

All of the above authors have had the term Outsider applied to them retrospectively by third parties, but what should we make of contemporary authors who claim, themselves, to be Outsiders? I am inclined to believe that an ambition to be an Outsider Writer is one of the qualities that should preclude inclusion within the classification.

I have come to few definite conclusions about the validity of the terms Outsider Writer or Outsider Writing, not least because there are some potential candidates who appear to break all the rules. A case in point may be Colin Wilson himself, whose book The Outsider is in some ways a progenitor of the nascent Outsider Writing movement. Famously, The Outsider was written in the British Museum Reading Room at a time when Wilson was sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath, but publication by Gollancz, critical acclaim and best-seller status brought him firmly within the precincts of the literary establishment. (For a short time he was considered one of the ‘angry young men’, alongside John Osborne and Kingsley Amis.)

However, Wilson’s career thereafter saw him move slowly into Outsider territory. He was driven to write and was widely-published, but fiction and non-fiction on subjects such as true crime, mysticism and the paranormal damaged his reputation as literary critic and philosopher. Books such as The Occult, A Historyy (1971) sold very well, but the critics generally disliked his work — Philip Toynbee described Wilson as ‘much battered by reviewers’. Critics have even gone back to find fault with The Outsider. Colin Wilson was slowly pushed to the margins, published by more and more specialist and esoteric publishers, and by the end of his life in 2013 he had become a cult figure, as far from the establishment as can be imagined.

To be taken seriously, Outsider Writing must establish what its requirements are. But, perhaps, its own rules will have to be broken, especially by genuine Outsiders.

R B Russell

Monday, June 17, 2019

Guest Post - Outsider Literature, Part 1, by R B Russell


A few years ago any use of the term Outsider with reference to literature would probably have been an allusion to Albert Camus and his 1942 novel L’Étranger, often translated as The Outsider, or to Colin Wilson’s 1956 study of existentialist literature of the same title which explored the idea of outsiders and their place in society. Of course, definitions vary widely, and outsiders have featured in all forms of writing down the ages, but Outsider Literature has recently become a term that some have applied not to characters or themes in books, but to certain authors.

One blog online has a post about Outsider fiction that describes it as: ‘. . . a cool new genre that we’re hoping will take the world by storm' (www.patricialynne.com, 12th August 2014). Lyndall Gordon’s book Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World (2017), was widely reviewed and has led to some discussion of what really constitutes Outsiders. (After all, three of the writers—Mary Shelley, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf—were well-published in their time.)

Of more interest to readers and collectors of genre or non-mainstream writing is the use of the term Outsider with reference to curious books from the past that have gone unappreciated, especially when their authors have often lived non-conventional lives. Wormwood contributor Adam Daly has recently published two volumes of The Outsider-writer with The Paupers' Press, containing essays about authors whose obvious similarity is simply that they are not well-known in the mainstream. The term Outsider Writer is applied on Wikipedia to Jean-Pierre Brisset, although it does not yet hyper-link to a dedicated entry on the subject. However, an Outsider Literature/Writer page is inevitably on its way . . .

These different applications of the terms Outsider Literature or Outsider Writer appears to have been inspired, in part, by the Outsider Art movement, which has become a successful marketing tool promoted by specialist galleries, art fairs and magazines, and while it is still contentious, it has become widely accepted. It would appear to be a good model for assessing what constitutes an Outsider in literature, and it is worth offering a little background.

Outsider Art was a term first used by the critic Roger Cardinal (Outsider Art, Praeger Publishers, 1972) when searching for a synonym for Art Brut (itself coined by French artist Jean Dubuffet (‘Place à l’incivisme’, Art and Text, No. 27, December 1987–February 1988, p. 36), referring to art undertaken outside the purview of the art establishment. Dubuffet provided a definition of ‘art brut’ that is instructive, recognising only:

‘Those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses—where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere.’

Dubuffet argued that true art brut was ‘more precious than the productions of professionals,’ and the idea was taken up by the Outsider Art movement. However, appreciation of all art is to some degree subjective and the movement claims to be at pains to keep itself free of artists who have simply failed to make the grade. In the tradition of the established art world, certain respected galleries and critics have become gatekeepers, but that is itself problematic: it can be argued that the very term Outsider Art when conferred by this new establishment offers recognition to favoured artists and must therefore mean they have been gathered ‘inside’.

Outsider Literature does not yet have its gatekeepers, although there are some commentators, collectors, and book dealers who are beginning to recognise the classification. There is, as yet, no manifesto or definition, but, perhaps Outsider Literature can take its cues from Outsider Art (while recognising that they are not completely analogous—for example, the long tradition of Art Schools is not replicated in contemporary creative writing classes.)

One celebrated Outsider Artist who should be able to help us define the Outsider Writer is Henry Darger (1892-1973), because his drawings and watercolour paintings illustrate his posthumously discovered fantasy manuscript The Story of the Vivian Girls . . . —if he was an Outsider Artist, then he must also have been an Outsider Writer. Another recognised Outsider Artist who also wrote is Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930), and the examples of Darger and Wölfli suggests that the Outsider Writer should be defined by work that is self-taught (naïve), driven by a deep-seated need to write rather than publish, and it should not have been recognised by the literary establishment at the time of composition.

In addition to these considerations, to be taken at all seriously as a classification, Outsider Writing should be at pains to be like the Outsider Art movement and keep itself free from writers who simply fail to make the grade.

(Part Two of this blog post will consider a number of writers who might be considered Outsiders.)

R B Russell

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Tea With Mrs Goodman - Philip Toynbee


In Vol XVI, December 1947, of his literary journal Horizon, Cyril Connolly published the replies he had received to a questionnaire asking recipients to name the three best books of that year. ‘The replies are not to be taken as a vote of popularity,’ he said, ‘but as an indication of which books some of our best critics have derived real satisfaction from . . .’ He notes a tendency to choose those later in the year and so fresher in the memory, and also that the response to a book may be influenced by mood and circumstances: holiday books might fare better than ones read in a cold spell.

This last is an interesting observation, although it might be that a book enjoyed by the fire in wintry conditions is relished equally as well as one on a beach. To take an extreme example, Apsley Cherry-Garrard recorded in The Worst Journey in the World (1922) the glee with which the Antarctic expedition he was part of encountered a book “encased in ice” in a previous foray’s hut. It was ‘an incomplete copy of Stanley Weyman’s My Lady Rotha; it was carefully thawed out and read by everybody, and the excitement was increased by the fact that the end of the book was missing’. The book, subtitled, A Romance of the Thirty-Years War, is one of the author’s popular swashbucklers: he was compared to Stevenson and Dumas in his day.

Some of Connolly’s respondents declined to play by the rules. T S Eliot said, ‘I do not get round to reading books so quickly as that’ and instead nominated two, both non-fiction books on Christianity, from the previous year. George Orwell said, ‘Writing this in bed—very unwell. Have read a lot this year but nothing of any value except old books . . .’: and so he nominated classics by Conrad, Henry James and Trollope instead. Of fiction that was published in 1947, L P Hartley’s Eustace and Hilda was chosen by a few, while Hartley himself included in his choice Connolly’s own The Rock Pool and Elizabeth Jenkins’ Young Enthusiasts.

The book chosen most often, however, by four respondents (Lord Berners, Arthur Koestler, John Russell, and Edward Sackville-West), was Philip Toynbee’s Tea With Mrs Goodman. Koestler added a parenthetic comment: ‘(It breaks the ice, or rather the polished parquet floor, of the contemporary English novel).’ This title was published by Connolly himself at his Horizon imprint.

It is an experimental novel, which includes on page 5 an explanatory ‘Notation of the Book’, with a tiresome diagram showing the plan of the book along a vertical axis (lettered a to g) and a horizontal axis (numbered 1 to 11). This, I think, has the unfortunate effect of suggesting a sort of game, like three-dimensional chess, and the note has the plaintive but still rather opaque quality often found in instruction booklets for board games or household devices, where the writer knows what they mean but can’t quite get it across.

In fact, all the preamble is trying to explain is that the novel presents the same scene, a tea table, from the perspective of seven different characters in turn. The first section is from the viewpoint of, and inside the thoughts of, a cautious, almost timorous professor; the second that of his bolder, decisive explorer brother; and other parts follow a rather fey young woman, a dingy low comedian, a greedy little boy and a religiose spinster. The seventh overlaps two figures, a dancer, the brother of the young woman, and a priest: they perhaps epitomise Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter.

The introductory apparatus is likely to daunt the reader, and that would be a pity because the prose itself, once you get past the diagram, is resonant and rich. We are offered a sequence of scenes which seem infused with rare significance, using timeless symbols and fresh, startling imagery. Read simply as an album of prose episodes the book is an exquisite creation, alternating lyrical charm with pungent grotesquerie. I suspect this was what attracted the aesthetes Berners and Sackville-West to it, rather than its avant-garde structure.

But there is another dimension to Toynbee’s work which also makes it worth perseverance from all its angles: it is an exploration of the Grail legends. That is made more explicit in its American title, Prothalamium: A Cycle of the Holy Graal (New York: Doubleday, 1947), and on the dustjacket flaps of the British edition, which tell us: ‘But behind the conventional scene of this extraordinary book lurks an older story, of a siege perilous, a land laid waste, a sick Fisher King and his jester, a dead knight in a chapel, another who fails in the quest, and a hero who at last refreshes the land, marries the King’s daughter and receives the long-sought Graal.’

Without doubt, Toynbee must have been influenced in his choice of theme by Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, but I suspect two other books may have been known to him too: Charles Williams’ War In Heaven (1930), a metaphysical thriller in which the Grail is discovered in a quiet country church and pursued by a suave diabolic villain; and Armed With Madness (1928) by Mary Butts, a modernist novel involving a group of quarrelsome bohemians on the Dorset coast who fish out an agate cup from an old well. He also uses Arthur Machen’s preferred spelling of ‘Graal’ to ‘Grail’, and may have known the Welsh mystic’s writings on the holy vessel.

In Toynbee’s book the breaking of a tea cup, a surrogate for the Grail, seems to let in demonic forces which possess almost all the characters, and expose their brutish aspects: and this is mingled with images that hint at Merlin and Nimue, and explicitly reference Prospero and Caliban. We are things of darkness and light, we are reminded, and must seek to balance these instincts and forces within us. I like the fact that the Grail is a tea cup, not an ancient holy relic, because, as Mary Butts particularly knew, it must be understood as a presence, a spiritual force, rather than a particular object. It can be contained in one small thing, certainly: or it can descend on a whole tract of country, as she thought it was descending on Sancreed.

Philip Toynbee later wrote an equally poetic and provocative prose experiment, this time using the myth of Eden, in The Garden By the Sea (1953), and this redeploys three of the archetypal figures from Tea With Mrs Goodman, as aspects of Adam: the dancer Noel as ‘the Voice of his Innocence’; the explorer Tom as ‘the Voice of his Fall’; and the comedian Charley as ‘the Voice of his Punishment’. This was followed, amongst other things, with Pantaloon, or, The Valediction (1961), a novel in verse. There were several sequels to this. His work is always original and rich in symbol and both personal and universal myth, and beautifully crafted.

MV

Monday, June 10, 2019

Faunus - Arthur Machen Essay Prizes


The Friends of Arthur Machen have announced a competition for essays on Machen submitted to their journal, Faunus. There will be a £200 prize for the best essay, and two runner-up prizes of £100 each. All three prizes will also include a year's free membership of the Friends. It is open to non-members: anyone except Committee members of the Friends may contribute.

Essays should be a minimum of 4000 words, and may concern any subject likely to be of serious interest to members. The Faunus Editors, James Machin and Timothy Jarvis, will be the judges, and submissions should be made to:

faunus(dot)editor(at)gmail(dot)com (replacing the words in brackets by the relevant symbols)

MV

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The True Story of Lord Jim - Petronella Elphinstone


Turnstile One (1948), edited by V S Pritchett is an anthology of contributions to the New Statesman and Nation, mostly from 1931 onwards. It contains, under ‘Essays and Reviews’, a piece entitled ‘Tuan Jim’ by Petronella Elphinstone, from 1932.

This is an unusual piece of Conradiana. The five page sketch is an alternative version of Lord Jim (1900) in which the title character did not, as in the original story, abandon a ship full of pilgrims, but instead steered it safely into port, won praise for his coolness, continued his career in the merchant navy, and eventually settled on shore to run a ship’s chandler’s. It concludes, ‘This is the true story of Tuan Jim, as told me by himself.’ It is very nicely done.

The mystery is, who was the author? There is no Petronella Elphinstone in the catalogues of the major public libraries, so she probably never published a book. Her surname is that of an eminent line of Scottish nobles: but she does not seem to appear in the extensive peerage records for that house.

Her name, however, does occur in an unexpected context. A poem by Guy Davenport, ‘The Resurrection in Cookham Churchyard’, on Stanley Spencer’s celebrated painting of that scene (1924-7), lists in resonant phrases some of the supposed figures emerging from their graves. It includes the beautiful lines: ‘In pleated light and diamond bone/Comes Petronella Elphinstone.’

Most of the other characters in Davenport’s poem are well-known: they include the Tudor judge Sir Edward Coke; Karl Marx; John Ruskin; and Edward Lear. But no annotator, to my knowledge, is able to explain where he got the name of Petronella Elphinstone. Spencer’s painting does include portraits of some friends and contemporaries, and possibly Elphinstone was one of these. Or perhaps Davenport had read the New Statesman piece or some similar literary work and decided to make use of the author’s memorable name in his poem.

I have a feeling I am missing something obvious either about the author or her enjoyable piece of Conradiana. Any information or speculation will be welcome.

MV

Monday, June 3, 2019

Carcosa Revisited

In the early 1980s, I discovered to my liking a number of recently published stories bylined "Galad Elflandsson." I'm not sure which exact story I first encountered, but it seems likely to have been "Night Rider on a Pale Horse," published in The Phoenix Tree (1980), edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski.  The blurb about the author told me of other stories to look for, in various (often Canadian) small press magazines, and also of the short novel The Black Wolf, published by Donald M. Grant in 1979, and illustrated by Randy Broecker.  I picked up the stories as I could find them, exchanged several letters with the author (who kindly supplied more information and more stories), and I looked forward to more publications in the future. But around 1987 Elflandsson ceased writing and publishing.

One of his early projects had been a series of stories (and a few poems) based on Robert W. Chambers's The King in Yellow.  He had submitted the collection to Donald M. Grant in 1978, and from it Grant asked him to rewrite and expand one longer story, "The Cave of the Hill Beast." Minus the Carcosa references, and adding some Lovecraftian ones, it became The Black Wolf.  Some of the other Carcosa tales appeared in various magazines.

Late last year, Graeme Phillips with his Cyaegha Press resurrected most of the Carcosa tales in an elegant trade paperback volume, Tales of Carcosa, with a cover and interior illustrations by Steve Lines.  It contains two poems and five stories (one a previously unpublished short, "An Augury") and a new "Afterword" by the author.  The edition is small (four lettered and fifty numbered copies), so act quickly if you are interested.  There is no web page specifically for Tales of Carcosa, but the Cyaegha magazine web page (hosted at Glynn Owen Barrass's Strange Aeons site), with contact email for Cyaegha in the short introductory paragraph, can be found here.  Send Graeme an email for ordering details. 

Update 6/28/19: Tales of Carcosa is now officially out of print.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Guest Post - 'The Dangers of Nostalgia' by R B Russell


Nostalgia is not necessarily one of the worst vices. It is possible to fondly recall aspects of the past without resorting to romanticism and inaccuracy. In book collecting, nostalgia often manifests itself in re-acquiring much-loved volumes from childhood, which means that the most avid collectors of children’s books are often adults. However, ‘nostalgia’ isn’t quite the word to describe grown-ups buying children’s books that they never owned or read themselves. Perhaps this phenomenon deserves another name? The Brazilian/Portuguese ‘Saudade’ comes close (a melancholic longing for something absent), as does the German ‘Sehnsucht’ (a yearning for an ideal, alternative experience), but neither are quite adequate.

I understand the power of nostalgia: re-reading the blurb from an Armada paperback edition of one of Anthony Buckeridge’s ‘Jennings and Derbyshire’ books is enough to transport me into the past—to the pleasures of sitting in my bedroom on sunny summer days when I should have been outside playing. However, re-reading such books usually fails to recreate for me any of the pleasure I experienced as a child—exposing villains with the Five Find Outers and the Hardy Boys, or going on adventures in foreign lands with Biggles.

Among the books I had as a young teenager I can still re-read Ian Fleming’s ‘James Bond’ books with (a guilty) pleasure, but Leslie Charteris’ ‘Saint’ books now seem terribly dated. Likewise, H.P. Lovecraft’s overwritten stories do not hold my interest as they once did, although the cover art on those Panther and Ballantine paperbacks still promises eldritch horrors. How, though, did I ever read the appalling ‘John Carter of Mars’ books by Edgar Rice Burroughs? (Perhaps, the cover art was an incentive.)


Some of the books of my childhood have come back to me through my family, and I am pleased to give up a little precious shelf space for Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars by Terrance Dicks and The Tomorrow People in The Visitor by Roger Price and Julia Gregory. To make sure they don’t lose their power, I don’t attempt to read them. They are all later printings of tatty paperbacks and have no value to collectors, but I can’t see the point in upgrading them to pristine first editions (in dust jackets, where appropriate.) To do so would be to own copies of books that were not really a part of my history—it was those particular paperbacks that I knew and loved.

At book fairs I often see copies of old Rupert annuals that I had as a child. I occasionally flick through them, receive the nostalgic ‘hit’, and replace them on the shelf. (I know that dealers are annoyed by customers doing this!) One good reason for not buying them is the price, but I have noticed that they are not quite as expensive as they once were. There also seem to be more examples on offer. Perhaps they are going the way of books and comics by Frank Richards.

When I first started compiling my Guide to First Edition Prices in 1996, I valued Richards’ ‘Bunter’ books at between £20 and £75, and was immediately taken to task by a number of dealers who said I had undervalued them. (The Times Literary Supplement called me ‘Parsimonious Russell’ in a review.) Perhaps the Bunter books were usually priced a little higher by dealers than I had suggested, but over the various editions of the Guide, dealers admitted to me that Richards’ books were becoming more and more difficult to sell because those who remembered them from their youth were becoming increasingly elderly. Not only was the demand diminishing as collectors died, but the supply was increasing as their collections were sold by uninterested heirs.


Prices have continued to increase for serious rarities by Richards in pristine jackets, presumably by collectors nostalgic for a childhood they never experienced, but those collectors can expect to cut a better deal now that much of the committed competition has left the scene. Basic economics ought to mean a fall in prices, but dealers are always unwilling to reduce the pencilled price on the front free endpaper, even though a book may have been on the shelves for year after year.

Until recently even later issues of Rupert annuals were commanding a great deal of money, but the market is not what it was. Despite periodic and half-hearted revivals, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers are not collected like they used to be. Next to fall in value will be early issues of 2000AD comics. (For over a decade Prog. 1 has been stuck at a value of £100 for the first issue—with the free ‘space spinner’, of course.)

Nostalgia is all very well, especially for those who can afford it, but it is a dangerous investment. The most financially rewarding answer is to invest in books that have more than just a nostalgia value, but collecting children’s books is about a sense of wonder and excitement that has little to do with literary merit or cultural significance. Their qualities cannot be easily defined, and it is impossible to put a monetary value on their importance to us. However, if you really want to indulge, a dealer will always have a specific price in mind. Just remember to point out the jam stain on the boards, the gift inscription on the title page, and the fact that the word-search has been inexpertly filled-in. Considering these faults, the dealer ought to knock off at least ten percent.

R B Russell

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Brick Index


It is possible that it has never occurred to you before that you might like a book consisting of pictures of bricks. But if this is so, I invite you to reconsider. Brick Index (from Centrecentre) offers 155 full scale photographs of bricks arranged from the palest through to the darkest, processing therefore from cream and beige into ochre, amber, rose, scarlet and crimson, shading into purple and dusk and ending almost at charcoal.

Nor is this the only visually appealing aspect. For each brick has incised lettering giving the name of the manufacturer and sometimes its place of origin, and occasionally a motif or motto. These inscriptions are in various types, from the purest Roman to the most floral Gothick. The finely-grained texture of the bricks and the vicissitudes of their history (such as dents, crusts, accretions) are fully brought out by the images (the work of Inge Clement), so that each is like looking at the battered, worn visage of some ancient sage or poet.

The names of the brick-makers are sometimes brisk, sometimes quaint: and the places where they plied their trade are also varied, and often obscure. As the book observes, the brevity of the text has a certain terse appeal, like a sort of brick haiku.

The accompanying text in the book is also brief, but sufficient, and it tells us that surreptitious collectors of old bricks are flourishing in numbers, haunting sites of dereliction and demolition for rare finds. It also predicts that readers of the index will soon find it difficult to resist becoming one of them.

I suspect there may be a sort of sub-sect of the brick collectors in which the qualities of the brick itself are not the only motive for their obsession. I speak of those who seek for bricks from curious or recondite edifices, whose walls may have witnessed mystical or momentous matters. These bricks may be sought simply as historical mementos, certainly: but also in case they should still possess, caught inside their staunch forms, secrets.

MV

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Guest Post - 'Revelations' by R B Russell


Literary research can reveal information about writers that some of them might have preferred to remain hidden. For example, it was recently discovered that Bernard Heldmann (1857-1915) started to use the pseudonym Richard Marsh only after he spent eighteen months in prison for passing forged cheques. (It had previously been assumed that he adopted a pseudonym to hide his father’s German-Jewish origins.)

The conviction doesn’t really affect his posthumous reputation as the author of the Victorian blockbuster The Beetle (1897), but it must now become a part of his biography, and critics will have to bear it in mind when considering his many books. For example, does the author’s experience affect his treatment of crime and criminals? The revelation of his conviction will inevitably alter the way we appreciate the man and his writing, but it does not lessen his achievement in The Beetle. We do not overlook the crime, but, on the whole, it will have little bearing on his work — the prime interest for most readers.

Of course, there is no reason why authors should be any more honest, or dishonest, than any other section of society. A number of great writers have committed crimes and many will have served time, while others, of course, have been convicted for political reasons, or for activities that are not recognised as crimes today. A criminal past may have as much, or as little, bearing on creative writing as the author’s gender, sexuality, political views, etc: after all, we are discussing fiction. But even in composing works of ‘high fantasy’, authors inevitably draw from their own experience, offering viewpoints that are consistent with their understanding of the world.

Fraud might not be too problematic for an author’s reputation (even though they may have caused others anguish through their actions), but other crimes may call for a more uncomfortable revaluation of an author. For example, it has recently been discovered that M.P. Shiel (1865-1947) spent time in prison not for fraud (as had previously been assumed), but for ‘indecently assaulting and carnally knowing’ his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Such a conviction inevitably leads us to question our appreciation and understanding of the man and his writings.

It ought not to make ‘Xelucha’ or ‘The House of Sounds’ any less effective as wonderfully over-wrought tales of horror, but it is understandable that some readers will not want to read fiction by a convicted paedophile. Nobody can now consider The Purple Cloud and not question the author’s thought processes when he describes the relationship between Adam Jeffson and the young girl who appears towards the end of the novel. But despite our new knowledge of the author and the fact that we abhor his crime, The Purple Cloud remains powerful and innovative writing.

It can be difficult for long-time admirers of an author to come to terms with unpalatable revelations. H.P. Lovecraft’s racism, for example, has caused a great deal of debate in the last decade, although his views were always present in certain published stories if one was looking for it. In ‘The Horror at Red Hook’ it is overt, but in other stories such as ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ aspects of the story we now find problematic had previously been open to legitimate multiple interpretations. Some commentators have defended Lovecraft, using the ‘man of his time argument’; that he was merely echoing widely-held beliefs of his era, but in the 1920s not everyone was racially prejudiced. Moreover, Lovecraft cannot be excused for ‘unthinking’ or lazy prejudice, because he appears to have considered issues of race in some depth.

Lovecraft’s undeniable racism was a facet of his personality and illuminates both his character and his writing. He was much more a ‘man out of time’ than a ‘man of his time’, suggesting that he would have been far happier as an eighteenth-century gentleman who was able to devote himself exclusively to literature. His inability to come to terms with many aspects of the modern world probably influenced his fiction just as much as it fueled his racism, and there are parallels between both. Lovecraft is an endlessly fascinating subject for study, not least because of the contradictions in his views, and the fact that he may well have been ameliorating them in the years before his early death at only forty-six.

It is entirely natural that some readers will not want to read Lovecraft because of his racism, just as others will shun Shiel. Readers often tend toward writers whose beliefs, attitudes, etc accord with their own, but we can still appreciate the work of those with whose world-view we fundamentally disagree. One does not have to be a High Church Tory to appreciate the writing of Arthur Machen, or a Communist to enjoy Sylvia Townsend Warner’s work. Finding interest, even enjoyment in a writer does not necessarily mean we endorse all of their views. But when one is forced to look again at an author, as Lovecraftians have had to, it makes as little sense to completely turn one’s back as it does to insist that there is nothing to discuss. Admitting to problematic aspects of an author’s biography and allowing for discussion has to be preferable to either censorship or denial.

R B Russell

Illustration: from a dustjacket design for 'The Beetle'.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Faunus - The Decorative Imagination of Arthur Machen edited by James Machin


Strange Attractor Press have just published Faunus - The Decorative Imagination of Arthur Machen, edited by James Machin, an anthology selected from over twenty years of issues of the journal of The Friends of Arthur Machen, with a new introduction by Stewart Lee.

This handsomely produced book surveys many of the Gwent master's range of interests, including the legends of the Great War, the Celtic Church, the “real” Little People, the occult, the byways of London, and a myriad other investigations into Machen’s life and legacy. The contents include rare pieces by Machen himself as well as items from the Faunus archive by writers including Tessa Farmer, Rosalie Parker, Ray Russell, Mark Samuels, and Mark Valentine.

(Picture: James Machin)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Lawrence Durrell's Cricket by the Book



The smugglers, at their risky work, were waiting at the rendezvous, an obscure harbour with an old abandoned jetty. Some slept, some darned socks, some played cards. But the skipper was consulting the Bible.

In Lawrence Durrell’s lesser-known novel Judith, begun in the early Sixties but not published until 2012, his old sea-captain Isaac Jordan is often seen with his Bible, making notes. He has been through it twice, ‘but without actually reading a word’. This is because he uses the holy book to play a form of pencil-and-paper cricket:

‘He had contracted a schoolboy passion for playing county-cricket in this fashion, letting each letter stand for a number of runs scored. The life of each batsman was determined by the emergence of the letters “O” (out), “B” (bowled), “C” (caught) and so on. . . . He was in the middle of Judges now. It looked as though Surrey was going to beat Kent.’

Durrell’s character is an engaging rogue: a decorated Royal Navy Great War veteran, he now runs a desperate old ship smuggling contraband, but also arms, through the British blockade, for Jewish settlers in Palestine. As the novel begins, the crates he loads in the deserted bay prove to contain more than he expected: in two of them are hidden refugees rescued from Nazi Germany, including a religious scholar, and Judith, a scientist with important knowledge.

Durrell had originally written this as a screenplay for a film to star Sophia Loren, but the actor thought the title part was too intellectual for her audience’s perceptions of her, and the plot was refashioned by other hands. He then turned his idea into the novel.

This brief vignette of Isaac at his book-cricket, learnt or devised in prep school days, conveys a lot with beautiful succinctness. For one thing, it suggests the character’s insouciance in a time of danger. But it is also a neat hint by Durrell that Captain Jordan cannot quite shake off, despite his rather raffish, exotic existence, his English origins.

The author himself, born in colonial India, lived most of his life abroad, either in the Greek islands or in France, and used to refer to his ostensible homeland as ‘Pudding Island’. But there were many aspects of his character which kept their English traces, and he is perhaps obliquely alluding to that in his portrait of old Issac. The irreverence of using the Bible for this playful purpose would also have appealed to the pagan and freethinking Durrell.

There were various forms of cricket in England that did not involve a bat or ball. Schoolboys used dice or six-sided pencils to score, and a popular trade version of this, Howzat!, offered specially-designed metal dice. It is possible to play cricket using playing cards: the novelist and literary scholar Timothy d'Arch Smith once sent me a version, which he used to devise matches between teams of decadent poets.

Pub or inn sign cricket, played on long car journeys, awards runs for the number of legs (eg four for the Red Lion, two for The Green Man), but other types of sign mean the batsman is out. There are also rumours of a sort of chess cricket, perhaps originating in the cathedral city of Lincoln, the home of The Circular Chess Society.

A simpler form of book cricket is apparently still current among young enthusiasts in India and Pakistan, where it involves a sort of bibliomancy. A book is opened at an unseen random page-spread and the page with even numbers is consulted. In these games, though there are probably all sorts of local attributions to the numbers, they might typically be as follows. Numbers 2,4 and 6 count as those number of runs, 8 counts as 1 or as 0 (a ‘dot ball’, no run) and 0 means out. In some versions, to make 6 less likely, as it is in cricket, it has to be scored twice in a row before it counts.

But Durrell’s version of the game is different. It does not involve opening the book at random nor scoring with page numbers. It relies on working through a book from beginning to end and deriving outcomes from the letters, either one by one or at given spans (eg every sixth one). This game was reportedly outlined in an issue of the boys’ magazine The Eagle in the Nineteen Fifties, and that will have made it better-known, but most likely it had been played for some years previously in various versions known in particular schools, clubs or youthful gangs.

Its virtue is that it more closely approximates to the actual run of play in a cricket match than all the other types of games outlined above, which are apt to be (no doubt intentionally for bored young spirits) both quicker and more eventful than the real thing. To achieve this, the rules can have an almost algebraic complexity, roughly aligning the frequency of letters in English to the likelihood of outcomes in a typical four- or five-day cricket match.

Hardly surprisingly, Durrell does not interrupt the thrilling beginning to his book to give a full account of the rules of this ‘cricket by the book’, which could of course equally be played using any other book. But he gives perhaps just enough information for us to work out how it could proceed, so that we might if we wish try to emulate his disreputable skipper in his unusual devotions.

Mark Valentine

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sentences - Philip Trussell


Sentences by Philip Trussell. Arranged by Bradley Ray King. Cuneiform Press 2019. An edition of three hundred copies.

'In 2012, he started writing discontinuous sentences as a daily practice. He soon began arranging them into sequences on postcards and mailing them out.'

A book of barbed aphorisms with something of the atmosphere of Kafka, Walser, Cioran, Ligotti, strange, sardonic, sometimes sharp, sometimes oblique. Each provides a jag, a jolt, one of those forks of lightning that eerily illumine a scene, so that for a moment it seems utterly other.

A pocket notebook in appearance, a slim volume, austerely designed with black covers and silver lettering. This discreet form is pleasing: it seems as if you are holding something clandestine, to consult when you need it, on train journeys, in waiting rooms, while out wandering, or in backstreet cafes. It is like a bible-black tract from some obscure sect, full of singular interpretations and prophecies. Chiselled flakes of obsidian.

MV

Monday, April 22, 2019

Supernatural Tales 40


Supernatural Tales, edited by David Longhorn, has reached its 40th issue and is celebrating with a special issue containing stories by Steve Duffy, Mark Valentine, Tracy Fahey, S.P. Miskowski, Helen Grant, Jane Jakeman, and Laura Lucas.

'Red Lion Rising', my contribution, involves the mystery of why so many pubs bear the name of the scarlet beast, the significance of a Test Match against the Australians, the College of Heralds, and an obscure passage in London, amongst other things.

MV

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Michael Arlen's London


Some years ago Nicolas Granger-Taylor ran a series of London Walks, in which an assembly of louche characters visited literary haunts. Here is my guide to Michael Arlen’s London.

1 BERKELEY SQUARE

It is famous for the song, “A Nightingale Sang in . . .”, written by Eric Maschwitz. Up against a deadline, he glanced at the title of a story in a book lying about and seized on that for the theme and chorus of his song. The story was by Michael Arlen, in his collection These Charming People, sub-titled:

“Being a tapestry of the fortunes, follies, adventures, galanteries and general activities of Shelmerdene (that lovely lady), Lord Tarlyon, Mr Michael Wagstaffe, Mr Ralph Wyndham Trevor and some others of their friends of the lighter sort, written down by Ralph Wyndham-Trevor and arranged by Michael Arlen . . ."

Friends, they don’t write sub-titles like that any more, and we are the poorer for it. Arlen’s story was “When the Nightingale . . .” etc. And it concludes: 'A nightingale has never sung in Berkeley Square before and may never sing there again, but if it does it will probably mean something.'

Ironically, the story is quite the opposite of the song; not about spoony lovers but about a bitter irony to do with marital disloyalty.

Incidentally, Maschwitz himself was also a novelist, the author (amongst other things) of a fantasy, The Passionate Clowns, The Story of a Modern Witch (1927), under the name Holt Marvell, and several detective novels written with Val Gielgud.

2 CHARLES STREET

Here is situated Quorn House, with a view of Berkeley Square, and a flight of stone steps going up to its door. This is the home of the Countess of Quorn & Beaumanoir, who entertains gentlemen to [ahem] tea. Here she is blackmailed by Michael Wagstaffe, the Cavalier of the Streets, a Raffles-like character who disapproves of her, in the title story of Arlen’s third Mayfair collection, The Crooked Coronet; they prove to be a real match for each other.

In “a quiet house” here lived Hugh, in the story “To Lamoir” in Arlen’s second collection, Mayfair. He is a man whose marriage is haunted by a childhood dream of an ideal playmate, a girl in a strange garden

Left into Queen Street, right at the end into Curzon Street - and here was where the narrator of The Green Hat saw the last of Gerald March, author of The Savage Device, a queer brutal mystic history about transcendence through pain, serialised first in The New Voice, disguise for The New Age, the journal that took Arlen’s early work.

We cross the road to Trebeck Street, and go down this to . . .

3 SHEPHERD’S MARKET

Michael Arlen lived here for around four years when he was trying to earn a living as a writer. He describes these in his runaway success The Green Hat. Above him, in the story, lives the tragic Gerald March. At the corner here was parked the sleek yellow Hispano-Suiza of the heroine Iris Storm, the almost-twin of Gerald, when she came to see him and ended up seeing rather more of the narrator.

Iris is modelled in part on Nancy Cunard, who told Arlen, 'I have a pagan body but a puritan mind'. To which he is said to have replied, 'I see. Tell me, are you ever absent-minded? . . .'

4 CLARGES STREET

By the flower shop here, Maturin in “The Ace of Cads” meets a mysterious car sent to take him to the home of Sir Guy Conduit de Grammercy - with £1,000 for his trouble.

5 HALF-MOON STREET

In Arlen’s thriller Hell! Said the Duchess, a white cardboard hat-box is found just inside the railings of Green Park, almost opposite Half-Moon Street. What’s in it? The head of a man - seemingly 'Jane the Ripper', the devilish villainess of the book has struck again. Riots result.


6 LANDSDOWNE PASSAGE

The scene of a story (in These Charming People), “The Locquacious Lady of” (etc): George Tarlyon was “almost half-way through before he realised that he was sharing the passage with another, a woman just ahead of him, walking slowly in his direction, loitering against the wall” who passes but then calls after him, and he touches his hat. 'I am afraid to walk alone through this passage', she says, and asks him to walk with her to the Curzon St end.

And she tells him why she is afraid and what happened to her here and how she heard the clock striking three: and Tarlyon runs headlong out of the passage as the clock strikes that hour again . . .

It is also the scene of Arlen’s story "The Prince of the Jews", in Mayfair, wherein Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Fasset-Faith is haunted by Julian Raphael, the black archangel. Here Landsdowne Passage is described as 'a slit in a grey wall' off Curzon Street, which 'leads between Landsdowne House and the wreck of Devonshire House to Berkeley Street'.

7 CORNER OF DAVIES STREET/MOUNT STREET

In "The Ghoul of Golder’s Green" (in Mayfair), Ralph Wyndham Trevor was walking up Davies Street and at the corner with Mount Street caught a cab, that lead to adventure.

8 BROOK STREET

In "The Man With the Broken Nose" (These Charming People), we think we meet an Armenian, who is really Michael Wagstaffe.

Michael Arlen was an Armenian by birth, born Dikran Koyoumoudjian. His family fled the Turkish persecutions and came to England when he was an infant, settling in Lancashire. But he never forgot his Armenian roots. In this story the hoaxer Michael Wagstaffe poses as an Armenian in order to pull off a theft from his own father. But Arlen uses it, subtly, ironically, to get across to his readers the history of his race, their courage and their implacable patience against their foes.

9 NORTH/SOUTH AUDLEY STREET

In the Prologue to Mayfair, we are told that 'where South Street becomes North Street', in 'a great house that stood in a walled garden' where 'ladies recline in slenderness on divans, playing with rosaries of black pearls and eating scented macaroons out of bowls of white jade', a young man sees a pale hand with a scarlet flower. Here the Princess of Valeria lives, a Ruritanian damosel, and a duel is fought for her in the garden - while she insouciantly goes off with another.

This is a light disguise for North/South Audley Street. And finally . . .

10 GROSVENOR SQUARE

In “The Gentleman from America” (Mayfair), a tale is told by 'a decayed gentleman at the sign of The Leather Butler in Shepherd’s Market' about an untenanted, lonely house in Grosvenor Square.

And there are riots here in Hell! Said the Duchess, columns pouring down Bruton Street and South Audley Street, because here is where the demure Duchess of Dove, the chief suspect in the book, has her house.

Mark Valentine

Monday, April 8, 2019

Wormwood 32 - Literary Enigmas


Wormwood 32 is now available. Several of our contributors in this issue discuss literary enigmas. Peter Bell considers ‘The Mystery of Mark Hansom’, an author who published a succession of weird thrillers in a five year period in the mid Nineteen Thirties, and then vanished. The name was no doubt a pseudonym — but who was the writer behind the mask?

Various theories have been suggested, but Peter puts forward a startling new proposal, supported by careful discussion. If he is right, this brings a whole new dimension to the work of another author in the supernatural fiction field.

Chris Mikul, meanwhile, looks into the unusual career of Julian Osgood Field, who wrote racy fin-de-siecle thrillers under the pseudonym ‘X.L.’ Though this identity has never been in doubt, the full extent of his other activities has not been revealed before, and they even involve an unfortunate contact with another noted literary family.

The decadent thrillers of Edogawo Ranpo, who may have adopted his pen-name from an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe, ought to be better-known outside his native Japan. Oliver Kerkdijk, in his celebration of the writings, concedes that Ranpo is no stylist, but celebrates the utter strangeness of his extraordinary fantasies.

Charles Eric Maine wrote what he liked to call ‘scientific thrillers’. As John Howard recounts, this pseudonym was adopted by a young SF fan from Liverpool who went on to produce a score of brisk futuristic novels. Like Ranpo’s work, they may not be read for their style, but they have their furtive enthusiasts for their narrative drive.

Victor Neuberg is perhaps still mostly known as an acolyte of Aleister Crowley. But, as Adam Daly explains, there was much more to this eccentric figure than this. He was a poet, an editor, an encourager of poets (among the first to publish Dylan Thomas) and most of all an elliptical visionary.

R B Russell discusses a mystery concerning that most recherché of literary figures, Frederick Rolfe, who adopted the pen-name Baron Corvo, and who has long obsessed collectors keen to discover anything at all to do with him, including somewhat unusual impedimenta.

In our regular columns, Doug Anderson offers Late Reviews of several books (and authors) which have not been widely noticed before. But obscurity does not necessarily mean quality, and Doug assesses which of them are merely competent and adequate, and those that are distinctive and original.

John Howard’s Camers Obscura column, devoted to the independent presses, ranges from an early 19th century supernatural tale which may be a previously unidentified piece by a distinguished figure in the field, to experimental contemporary prose.

Reggie Oliver reviews a new biography of Oscar Wilde, and offers his own illuminating insights into his life and work, and also discusses some recent contemporary fiction.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Secondhand Bookshops in Britain - Still Rising


In 2017, I reported on The Rise of Secondhand Bookshops in Britain, and in 2018 I updated this, noting that the numbers seemed to be remaining broadly stable.

The news pages at the excellent website The Book Guide report regularly on newly opened or newly discovered bookshops, and also on closures, while customer reviewers provides notes on any that seem to be in peril.

In the first quarter of this year, the guide has reported new second hand bookshops opening in York (Pitch 22), Barnard Castle (Curlews – a reopening), Bath (Fact or Fiction), Eastbourne (Vintage etc), Epping (Oxfam), Shipley (The Children’s Society), Hay-on-Wye (The Story of Books), and Halifax (Brame), and newly discovered ones at Strathcarron (Hospice Bookshop) and Kingcussie (Caberfeidh Horizons): whereas only one closure (Marlow, Oxfam) has been noted.

That’s a net increase of nine second hand bookshops.Two thirds of those are privately owned, so the increase is not being driven mainly by charity bookshops.

Recent reviews by browsers do, however, note several existing bookshops that proved not to be opened when advertised or expected, although that has always been a characteristic in some parts of the trade, particularly in those shops gallantly run by sole owners.

It may well be, therefore, that a few shops are for all practical purposes closed, even if not officially so. But even if this is the case, we can still say that the number of secondhand bookshops in Britain remains at least stable, and more likely the total is continuing to rise slightly. Of course, this is only a picture from one full quarter of a year, but so far the sense that many collectors have of a steep decline continues not to show up in the figures.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sivori Levey And His Masks


Going through The English Catalogue of Books 1919 from Z towards A, I was looking out for obscure and interesting-sounding books, when I discovered several listed for Sivori Levey, a songwriter, playwright, entertainer, poet, Shakespeare enthusiast and prolific self-publisher.

From his address at 6, Roehampton Lane, Putney Heath, London SW15, he issued around 80 titles under various personal imprints. A few were also published by commercial publishers, such as series of songs from Chappell & Co in 1913. Most of his work is light verse written with jaunty verve, or comic songs on popular themes.

There are notes about him on two war memorial websites, and brief allusions elsewhere. He was born in Steyning, Sussex in 1879 to Richard and Emma Levey (nee Raymond). His full name was Sivori Antonio Joachim Levey.


In the First World War, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and served on the Western Front. A big jolly man who composed comic and cheery songs for his men at the front, he lost a leg at Passchendaele, and undaunted later wrote, as “A Wounded Warrior”, The Story of a Wooden Leg, December 1918.

His work ranged from the frivolous and fey to serious interpretations of Shakespeare. For example, in 1918 he published The Fairie Boat, and Other Verses Written in the Pixie Parlour. On 23 April 1919 he gave what was described as “his 20th Poetry Music Recital” at the Steinway Hall, “A Special Reading, with music, of the DRAMA reconstructed by Gerald Massey of SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS.”

In July 1919, he published Jazzers’ Joy! Song Souvenirs. In 1921 he toured a striking solo performance of Shakespeare characters using only masks, together with songs from the plays with his own piano music. The masks were made by a friend, Maie Hoey.

Sivori Levey died following the amputation of his remaining leg as a result of complications from his wartime injuries, in 1924.

The checklist below, which may be the first compiled of his works (and is certain to be incomplete) is a tribute to the dauntless creativity of a man who clearly enjoyed writing, singing and performing, and was determined to offer his work to others. The many publications cover both topical themes and timeless classics. Very few seem to have survived and they may have only been issued in fairly small numbers. But that does not seem to have discouraged Sivori Levey’s prolific and varied output.

A Checklist of Sivori Levey’s Publications


Jane Shore written by Siv Levey and F.V. St. Clair ; composed by F.V. St. Clair (Francis, Day & Hunter c1899)
Immortality: The Creation of Woman; and Other Legendary Lines in Vivacious Verse (1908)
Parted: Dramatic Poem with Music, for reciter and singer (1908)
Popular Recitations with Musical Accompaniment [for Pianoforte]. 1. The Brook. - Tennyson. - 2. All the World's a Stage. - Shakespeare. - 3. Sweet Music. - Shakespeare. - 4. Le Corbeau et le Renard. - La Fontaine. (Metzler & Co, 1908)
Alcyone, Fate, Death or Life, and The Silver Flute: Rhymes (1909)
The Angels of the Heavens (1909)
The Conquest of the Air (E T Heron, 1909)
Plays (E T Heron & Co, 1909)
The Drummer Boy, A Tragedy, Founded on An Old Scottish Legend (1910)
The Empires of the Earth: A History of the World in Summary (1910)
Love in the Forest, A Fancy (1910)
The Student: A Masque (1910)
The Wedding Party: A Scene (1910)
'The Little Blue Flower', and Other Simple Thoughts in Rhyme (1911)
Sacred Poems: Legends of The Childhood of Christ (1911)
‘A Smile’, ‘Don’t Worry’ & Other Verses (1911)
Daddy and Babsy. Song, words and music by . . . (Chappell & Co, 1913)
He Met Her On the Stairs; Song, words and music by . . . . (Chappell & Co, 1913)
His Little Teddy Bear, Song, words and music by . . . . (Chappell & Co, 1913)
The Salvation of Satan & Other Impressions (1913)
Britishers! And Other Songs of the War (1914)
Cornish Pasty: Lines in Verse Written at Fowey (1917)
Flanders to Fowey: "Ypres" and "Après"; Verses of Active Service, Hospital, and Convalescence. By ‘A Wounded Warrior’. (1917)
The Air-Raiders, Twelve German Gothas (1918)
The Bird's Nest in the Church Clock (between minutes 48 and 49) (1918)
The Black Hunter : a Dramatic Ballad. The Old Cornish tale of "Treg'ayg'l the Wicked" by John Penwarne, edited by Sivori Levey (1918)
The Boy and His Angel by Robert Browning, Arranged for Stage Representation in Costume (1918)
Cornwall in general and Fowey in particular : selections in verse from my Cornish note book (1918)
Egg Days (1918)
The Faerie Boat & Other Verses Written in the Pixie Parlour (1918)
The Fairy Prince: ‘Tis Love that I Love (1918)
Forty-Seven Thousand! The Black Book (1918)
The Fourth of July (Inter-dependence day, London, 1918) (1918)
H.M.S. "Vindictive" (The Raid on the Mole) : a Story of the Old Nelson Touch (1918)
Ils ne Passeront Pas (They Shall Not Pass) (1918)
Lost Love: The Boyhood of The Pied Piper (1918)
"My son" and "The Old Saw Mill" (Priceless old thing): the Words of Two New Songs (1918)
Nana, The Fruit Girl, The Love Story of My Life, Song (1918)
Nennette and Rintintin (Paris, 1918): dedicated to the American Red Cross (1918)
Penny Postage, The Post We Always Leaned On (1918)
Radadou, The Baby (1918)
Ready Money Cove, & Way Back o' Beyond: Verses (1918)
Roehampton Rhymes: Selections from a Dover House Revue, etc.(1918)
The Rose of France (July 14th, 1918) (1918)
The Second Thousand Million! National War Bonds. An up-to-date patriotic recitation (1918)
Six Songs; Words and Music (1918)
Songlin’ Series: Words and Music (1918)
The Storie of Foye, or, Rather Some of It, in verse.(1918)
Story of a Wooden Leg (1918)
When the Sammies Marched Through London (May 11th, 1918) (1918)
The Words of Two Beautiful Ballads, written and composed by . . . (1918)
Bible Children: Word-Pictures in Song-Verse. (Pilgrimage poems) (1919)
Comfort (1919)
The Fountain Reciter: Pleasant and Playful Selections in Verse. (1919)
A "Foyen" picture book. By ‘A Wounded Warrior’ (1919)
Guinivere and Arthur, Adapted from Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' (1919)
Jazzers’ Joy! Song Souvenirs (1919)
Mahmud the Sultan, Adapted from Shelley's ‘Hellas’(1919)
The 'Mummie' Reciter. Cheer-o! And Other Selections [written by S.A.J. Levey] from the Repertoire of A.A. Levey (1919)
Peter! ... Peter Pan! (the Boy Who Won't Grow Up): A Song for the Family Circle (1919)
The Pilgrimage Reciter, Legendary Lines in Rhyme for Recitations (1919)
Shakespeare in London, 1919 : an incomplete but helpful record to Shakespearean activities-literary, dramatic and musical, etc. With On the Threshold, 1919. Companion volume to “Shakespeare in London, 1919.”). (Both 1919)
Sunshine and Shadow (1919)
The Two Knights, Adapted from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: Dramatised as a Pageant Play for Costume Representation (1919)
Virginel, An Ancient Historical Drama, Reconstructed (1919)
"Feramorz", Adapted from Tom Moore's "Lalla Rookh" (1920)
Longfellow's ‘Hiawatha’, Dramatised for Costume Presentation (1920)
A Merry Masque of the Months: a Calendar of Ancient Rome (1920)
A 'Minerva' comment: an indication of how to produce Shakespeare's 'comedy' Twelfe night, or, What you will and why (1920)
A "Minerva" comment as a "Mayflower" Tercentenary Celebration Contribution on Shake-speares Anglo-American Mystery-Morality play The Tempest: what led up to it, and what followed. 1623-1923 First folio tercentenary (1920)
A Play entitled "Ozymandias king of kings". Portrayed for Costume Representation (1920)
The Roehampton Reciter: Dramatic and Humorous selections (1920)
The Ruby in the Wine: A Persian Allegory of old Omar Khayyam and his friends, being Fitzgerald's 'Omar Khayyam' Dramatised for Costume Presentation (1920)
The Tempest : What Led Up to it, and What Followed (1920)
The New Study of Shakespeare (1921)
Sir Gareth's Quest, Adapted from Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' and Arranged for Costume Representation (1921)
Three short plays. I. Dagobert the jester ... II. Radezka ... III. The Enchanted Garden, Adapted and Arranged (1921)
The Bell-ario, a Series of Shakespeare’s Most Beautiful Songs, Arranged by . . . (The Ludo Press, 1922)
Dream Flowers, Being the Version of Aarak: Verses (1922)
Ivory Leaves: a Medium of Expression for the New Intensive Study of Shakespeare (1922)
Melody-Harmony, A Re-Study of the Shakespeare Play Songs, No 1, It Was a Lover and His Lass (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
The Merchant of Venice: A Mystery Play (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
Old Pierrot: written and composed by . . . (Reynolds & Co, 1922)
Shakespeare's Morality Play, The Comedy of Errors (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
Shakespeare's Wonderful Women : a 1923 Translation-Dictionary (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
After 300 Years (1623-1923) (Ludo Press, 1923)
King Macbeth (1623-1923) : a Shakespearean morality play, founded and modelled on Greek tragedy and Roman comedy generally, and medieval mystery and morality plays particularly: a study (Ludo Press, 1923)
The Elemental Drama: A Re-Study of the Shakespeare Plays (1924)

Note

All issued by the author unless stated. His private press at Putney Heath is variously called Fountain Publishing, The Roehampton Press or Sivori Levy Publications, or sometimes catalogued as ‘privately printed’. The Ludo Press and The Pilgrimage are probably also the author’s imprints. The author is given as ‘S Levey’ or ‘Sivori Levey’ unless stated. The date of many of those attributed to 1918 has been assumed by library cataloguers: 1919 is also possible.

References


100 First World War Stories. Cornish Collections Illuminating the First World War (blog). ‘Sivori Levy (1879-1924)—Songwriter and Amputee’. Short biographical note.
Lewis-Stempel, John. Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War. Quotes from SL’s poem ‘The Road That Brought Me to Roehampton’.
London, Lucy. ‘Sivori Levey (1879 – 1924) – British Author, Composer, Actor, Pianist, Poet, Lyricist, Teacher and Soldier’ on Forgotten Poets of the First World War blog. Posted 16 January 2016. Biographical note. Notes that “in the early 1900s the family lived in Oxford and Cambridge Mansions in Marylebone, London and Sivori was apparently a Civil Servant. Sivori’s elder sister Adeline was a singer.”
MacDonald, Lyn. They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres [etc] With a portrait of SL.
Spitalfields Life (blog).‘East End Entertainers of 1922'. Posted January 23, 2015. Illustrates poster for ‘Sivori Levey And his Masks’

Mark Valentine

Thursday, March 21, 2019

John P. Quaine: Catalogue of Penny Bloods (1931)

Melbourne book dealer  John P. Quaine (1883-1957) is well known for fooling Montague Summers into adding some invented Penny Blood titles into his Gothic Bibliography (1940).  As Michael Anglo explains in his book, Penny Dreadfuls and Other Victorian Horrors (1977),

"Montague Summers.....was certainly fooled by [John. P. Quaine,] an extremely knowledgeable Melbourne bookseller with a sense of humour, who issued an important catalogue for collectors in the 1930s. Stanley Larnach, a writer and collector of ‘dreadfuls’ who lived in Sydney, New South Wales, and was a leading member of the Book Collector’s Society of Australia, said that Quayne’s catalogue included two beautiful ‘dreadful’ titles: ‘The Skeleton Clutch; or, The Goblet of Gore’, a romance by T. Prest issued in penny parts (E.Lloyd 1841); and ‘Sawney Beane, the Man-Eater of Midlothian’ by T. Prest issued in penny parts (E.Lloyd 1851). Montague listed both of these splendid titles, which were Quayne inventions, in his Gothic Bibliography."

The catalogue in question may be the one preserved in a Scrapbook of Bloods in State Library of Victoria, MS 3700/3 (though it doesn't include "The Skeleton Clutch").  Described as "late 1940s-1950s, comprising press clippings, illustrations clipped from journals, published bibliographies of penny bloods, book sales, lists of penny dreadfuls and penny bloods; also, seventy letters from the Melbourne bookseller J.P. Quaine (1951-1957) to Stanley Larnach, Walter W. Stone and J.K. Moir."


Here is the catalogue in Mr Quaine's inimitable style, replete with "fierce cuts" and rarae aves.  I've made a few comments in square brackets.  "James & Smith" is Penny Dreadfuls and Boys' Adventures : the Barry Ono Collection of Victorian Popular Literature in the British Library (1998).  "Summers" is his Gothic Bibliography.  The list clearly isn't the original catalogue, but has been typed by someone, presumably Stanley Larnach.





Copy of Sales List From J.P. Quaine, 139 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria. 1931.

Rare Penny Dreadfuls offered from my own Private Collection.  All unobtainable anywhere else in Australia.


1.  Edwin J. Brett’s “Boys of England”.  The four first vols., a reissue dated 1876 et seq., bound in 2 large vols.  Containing dozens of the best “bloods” issued by Brett.  Only £4, less than quarter the London price.  SOLD.


2.  Brett’s “Young Men of Great Britain”.  The first 4 vols.  Original Editions, 1868 et seq.  Bound in 3 vols, with all the rare gory illustrations and coloured Xmas Number.  £5-10-0.


3.  “Young Men of Great Britain”, odd vol. 1880.  Contains “Ned Nimble amongst the Pirates” complete.  Good order.  Only 20/-


4. “Young Men of Great Britain”, thick vol containing numbers between 1884 and 1886, not quite complete.  One vol. 20/-.


5.  Brett’s “Jack Harkaway Series”.  Broken series, 13 vols, original covers. £3.  A Mint set of this rarity sells at 20 guineas in London.


6.  “Handsome Harry of the Fighting Belvedere”. Exceedingly scarce, wants 2 leaves, original cloth. 15/-.  A perfect copy worth £4.
[James & Smith, 102]


7.  “Broad Arrow Jack”, a perfect copy.  Coloured Front.  A bargain at £4. 2 others bound in.
[Edwin Harcourt Burrage, Broad-arrow Jack.  James & Smith, 89]


8.  “The Rival Apprentices” and “Rupert Dreadnought” or “The Secret of the Iron Chest”, with all gory woodcuts, 2 bound in 1 vol.  £3.
[Vane Ireton Saint John, The Rival Apprentices, a Tale of the Riots of 1780.  James & Smith, 581.  Vane Ireton Saint John, Rupert Dreadnought; or, The Secrets of the Iron Chest.  James & Smith, 582-584]


9.  “The London Apprentice” by Pierce Egan, Large vol, of over 90 numbers, each with a quaint cut.  Well bound copy in Mint Order.  Sold for £5-10-0.


10.  “Black Bess or The Knight of the Road”.  A tale of Dick Turpin, is the longest Penny Blood in history.  Just recently an article in the Herald from a London Paper referred to it as being in the possession of a man who refuses to sell at any price.  2 vols, which contain two thirds of the original 254 numbers, gory cuts. £2.
[James & Smith, 674; Summers, 247]


11.  Aldine “Tip Top Tales” 40 Blood-thirsty little penny books with coloured covers issued in the Nineties.  One coloured wrapper missing.  Bound in 5 dumpy vols. £2-5-0. (300 others, loose, for £20.)


12.  “Tom Wildrake’s Schooldays”.  A cloth copy of this rara avis midst old boy’s books.  London value at least £5, my price £2.
[James & Smith, 189-191]


13.  Hogarth House “Shot and Shell Series”.  The six vol set by George Emmett.  2 thick vols, with Brett’s “Comic History of London” bound in. 2 vols. £4


14.  Mint bound copy of that famous old boy’s book “Tom Tartar”. £1.
[E. Harcourt Burrage, Tom Tarter at School; or, True Friend and Noble Foe.  James & Smith, 118]


15.  “Will Watch, the Bold Smuggler”. 1852. 47 Penny Numbers each with a quaint cut.  Well bound. 30/-.
[Summers, 558]


16.  “The Parricide”, by G.W.M. Reynolds.  The rarest of his works.  Never knew of another in Australia and heard of few in England.  Original issue 1847. £2.  Even the cheap Dick’s reprint is rare now.
[G.W.M. Reynolds. The Parricide; or, A Youth’s Career of Crime.  Summers, 457]


17.  The ORIGINAL Penny Weekly issue of Hugo’s “Esmerelda, or the Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Small vol, well bound, dozens of cuts.  35/-.


18.  Hugo’s “Hans of Iceland”.  The first English Edition.  Cruikshank’s fine fierce plates.  £3-10-0.  London price – Ten guineas.


19.  Brett’s “Barons of Old; or the Robbers of the Rhine”. Each number has several cuts, also 3 coloured plates are bound in the vol.  35/-.
[James & Smith, 13]


20.  “Dark Deeds of Old London” and another Brett “Blood”. 25/-.
[James & Smith, 340]


21.  “Bravos of Alsatia” and one other Brett “Blood” in one vol. 30/-.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 337]


22. “Massacre of Glencoe” by Reynolds, in one vol: original numbers. 20/-. SOLD.
[Summers, 404]


23. “Kenneth” by Reynolds, original issue in one vol. 15/-, Gilberts illustrations.
[Summers, 152-3]


24. “Gentleman George, the King of the Road”, with sequel “King of Diamonds”, with all the cuts, and 2 others in one vol. £2-10-0.
[James & Smith, 68-69]


25.  “Dashing Duke; or the Mystery of the Red Mask”. 20/-.
[James & Smith, 683]


26.  “The Outlaws of Epping Forest”, a real gory old ‘un, fierce cuts. £2.
[James & Smith, 440-441]


27.  “Manfrone the One-Handed Monk”.  Mrs Radcliffe, early edition.  Well Bound leather back, gilt title.  Dated 1839.  10/6.
[Summers, 398]


28.  Pirated American edition of “Oliver Twist”.  Very rare. 20/-.  SOLD.


29.  Dickens imitation, “Dombey and Daughter”, Penny numbers, each with crude cut, neatly bound.  Sells at Five pounds in London.  My price £2-2-0.  SOLD.
[Summers, 298]


30.  Autobiography of the Author of the above item (self-styled “Chief Baron Renton Nicholson”.) with his autograph.  This is a unique volume, and of immense interest to Dickensians. £1.  SOLD.


31. “Tales of Chivalry; or Adventures by Flood and Field”. Original cloth, each Penny number has a curious cut, issued in 1839, but the condition is as if it was just off the press. £3-10-0.
[Tales of Chivalry, Perils by Flood and Field.  Summers, 523]


32.  “Jack Harkaway at School in America”, “Among the Pirates” and “At the Tales of Palms; the Last Stronghold of the Black Flag”.  These three tales selected by E.J. Brett and issued as the “American Series”.  One vol. 20/-.


33.  The Brett “Tom Floremall Series”, the three original series in one vol. 20/-.


34.  Brett’s “Boyhood Days of Jack Straw” and “Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes”, the two in one neat vol.  20/-.
[James & Smith, 335-336]


35.  “The Corsican Brothers; or the Fatal Duel”. Really a piracy of Dumas’ play and book of the same title.  39 numbers, each with a lurid cut.  Magnificently bound.  A perfect Collector’s Copy!  1852.  Published by Purkess, who ranked high among the “Blood” producers. 30/-.


36.  A rare Lloyd “Blood”: “Adeline, or the Grave of the Forsaken”.  52 most fearsomely illustrated number.  First page was typed in by previous owner from a complete copy.  25/-
[James & Smith, 542; Summers, 222]


37. “The Cottage Girl; or Betrayed on Her Marriage Day”.  Neatly bound, each number with crude cut.  12/6.
[Elizabeth Bennett, The Cottage Girl; or, The Marriage Day.  Summers, 285]


38.  Ada the Betrayed; or, the Murder in the Old Smithy”.  This tale is quite unprocurable now.  This is the original issue in Lloyds Miscellany. 2 large vols with dozens of other loathsomely gory stories.  This journal was issued without illustrations.  2 vols. Dated 1842.  45/-
[James Malcolm Rymer, Ada the Betrayed; or, the Murder at the Old Smithy.  James & Smith, 541; Summers, 221]


39.  “The Ship-wrecked Stranger”, in 49 crudely illustrated numbers. 1850.  7/6. SOLD.
[Hannah Maria Jones, The Shipwrecked Stranger.  Summers, 502]


40.  “Rough and Ready Jack”, and 2 other Bretts bound in one gorgeous volume.  Mint order. 20/-.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 538]


41.  The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God Among Books [in red ink].
“The Pixy” by G.M.W. Reynolds.  An Xmas story done in imitation of Dickens Xmas books.  The Great Auks Egg of Rarities! [again in red ink]  2 illustrations. Small pocket size.  Original edition. 15/-.  Sheer chucked away at that price.
[G.W.M. Reynolds, The Pixy; or, The Unbaptized Child. James & Smith, 528; Summers, 464-465]


42.  3 vols Fox’s “Boys Leisure Hour” First page was typed in by previous owner from a complete copy.  25/- £5.


43. 2 large vols “Boys Standard”. 3 smaller ones. £5.


44.  “Boys Halfpenny Standard”.  One vol. £1-10-0.


45.  “Young Men of Great Britain”, from 1868 to finish as “Boys of Empire & Young Men of Great Britain”.  Approx 60 vols. £25.


46.  Run of “Boys of England” from Vol 1 (1866) to last vol (No 66) in 1899.  Wanting a few between vols 20 and 40. £30.


Supplementary List of “Penny Number Bloods” at outrageously reduced prices.


47.  “The Wild Witch of the Heath; or the Demon of the Glen”.  1841.  Lacks the last number, but contains some of the most luridly gory cuts in the history of fierce literature.  25/-.


48.  “The Secret Oath; or the Bloodstained Dagger”. 1812. 7/6.  SOLD.
[Summers, 499]


49.  “The She-Tiger; or Felina the Female Fiend”. 1853.  Merely part of the tale, but an interesting example of ferocity.  7/6.
[Melchior Frédéric Soulié, The She Tiger of Paris: Containing a History of the Life and Adventures of a Celebrated French Lady of Fashion, Under the Name of Felina de Cambure.  James & Smith, 607; Summers, 501]


50.  “The Horror of Zindorf Castle”. A rare Lloyd “Blood”. 52 very alluring cuts sublime in their crude ghastliness.  25/-.


51.  “The Cavern of Horrors; or the Miseries of Miranda”.  1833. 10/-. SOLD.
[Summers, 270]


52.  “The Black Monk; or the Secret of the Grey Turret”.  Lloyd. 1842.  Wildly illustrated with blood-curdling cuts. £5.
[James & Smith, 544; Summers, 248]


53.  “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”.  The rare Chas. Fox edition.  Practically a reprint of the original Lloyd issue, with the addition of further gruesome details.  Bound with “The Brigand of the Sea; or the Sailor Highwayman”, and another old-timer.  Coloured wrappers and cuts. £12.  Worth five times as much in London.
[James & Smith, 626; Summers, 519-521]


54.  “The Revenge of the Blighted Man”.  Lloyd. With all the fierce cuts.  1844.  This is one right out of the box.  35/-. 
[Possibly Alice Home: or, the Revenge of the Blighted One. A Romance of Deep Interest]


55.  “Melina the Murderess; or the Crime at the Old Milestone”.  Cuts. 20/-.  SOLD.


56.  “Three Times Dead; or the Trail of the Serpent”.  (Miss Braddon’s first story.)  Original issue in Half-penny Miscellany.  1864.  Crude cuts.  20/-.
[Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Three Times Dead; or, The Secret of the Heath.  Revised as The Trail of the Serpent; or, The Secret of the Heath.  Summers, 15]


57.  “The Wife’s Tragedy; or the Secret of the London Sewers”.  1850.  The 104 numbers of this choice old “Blood” backs all the rest off the board.  The quality of the cuts is indescribable! £2.
[Helen Porter; or, A Wife’s Tragedy and a Sister’s Trials.  Drop-head title is “The Wife’s Tragedy: A Secret of the Sewers of London.”  James & Smith, 289]


58.  “The Female Bluebeard”.  Many quaint cuts.  (By Eugene Sue.)  10/-.  SOLD.


59.  “The Cannibal Courtezan”.  Six humdinging cuts.  1866. 12/6.  SOLD. [May be an invented title]


60.  “The Parricide Priest; or the Murder in the Monastery”.  Cuts.  15/-.  SOLD.  [May be an invented title]


61.  “Mabel the Marble-hearted; or the Outcast’s Revenge”. Cuts. 1842. 20/-.  SOLD. [May be an invented title]


62.  “The Outcasts of London; or the perils of Pauline, the Victim of Crime.”  The first seven instalments of this famous story in an illustrated publication called The London Pioneer.  1844.  10/-.


63.  “Mabel; or the Child [JPQ has “Ghouls”] of the Battlefield”.  55 numbers, each with a gory cut.  Lloyd. 1846. 20/-.  SOLD. 
[James & Smith, 382]


64.  “The Blue Dwarf; or Love, Mystery and Crime”.  With coloured folding plates and innumerable fierce cuts.  Coloured wrappers. 3 vols in one. £3-10-0.
[James & Smith, 573; Summers, 250]


65.  “Wagner the Wehr-Wolf” by Reynolds, and several other “Bloods” by the same author, in one thick vol.  15/-.
[Summers, 550]


66.  “The Loves and Crimes of Paris”.  On its own as a thriller of the past.  29 numbers.  Vickers.  London. 1846.  Damaged badly.  3/6.
[Paul Feval, The Loves of Paris.  Summers, 393]


67.  “Walter the Archer; or the Robber Lords of the Mountains”.  Coloured wrapper.  Scarce.  Brett. 3/6.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 684]


68.  “Florence Graham; or, the Pirate’s Daughter” [Quaine has “Penelope the Pirate’s Daughter].  Lloyd.  1847.  Crude cuts.  20/-.
[James & Smith, 515]


69.  “The Death Grasp; or the Father’s Curse”.  Weird cuts.  20/-.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 476]


70.  “Rook the Robber”.  32 numbers.  Cuts.  Dicks.  London.  1868.  35/-.
[James & Smith, 160-161]


71.  “Under the Blood-Red Flag; or at War with the World”.  Cuts.  10/-.


72.  “The Murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn at Polstead”, with all the strange engravings.  Original edition.  1828.  Polished calf.  Very rare.  £4.  SOLD.
[Maria Marten; or, The Murder in the Red Barn.  Summers, 400-401]


73.  “Burke and Hare, the Body snatchers”, with appropriate cuts.  Neat little vol. Well bound.  30/-
[Summers, 256]


74.  “The Bravo of Venice”, by ‘Monk’ Lewis.  Early edition, with fine frontispiece.  Only 7/6.
[Summers, 252-253]


75.  “The Robber Foundling”, a rare Lloyd “Blood”.  Weird cuts.  25/-.
[Possibly The Robber Chief; or, The Foundling of the Forest, though not a Lloyd title]

76.  “William Tell, the Patriot of the Mountains”.  Cuts.  Scarce. 10/-.
[Possibly William Tell, the Hero of Switzerland.  James & Smith, 431; Summers, 559]


77.  “The Mysterious Avengers; or the Voice of Blood”.  Cuts.  (Mentioned by George Saintsbury in one of his essays.)  Rare. 15/-.  [May be an invented title]


78.  “Ela the Outcast; or the Gypsy of Rosemary Dell”, by Prest, the author of Sweeny Todd.  (This work has been mentioned by Sala, as the before-mentioned Author’s best seller.)  Many fierce cuts.  35/-.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 478; Summers, 305]


79.  “The Wreck of a Heart; or the Trials of Agnes Primrose”.  Really a travesty of Mrs Inchbalds “Nature and Art”, but a better tale because it has a more reasonable conclusion, melodramatic and gory.  Cuts.  20/-.


80. “The Lady in Black; or the Wanderer of the Tombs”, by Prest.  Lloyd. London.  1844.  Gory cuts.  40/-.  [May be an invented title]
[Possibly The Lady in Black; or, The Widow and the Wife.  James & Smith, 558]



81.  “The Doom of the Dancing Master”.  Original periodical issue, with all the crude illustrations.  10/6.  In book form also 10/-.


82.  “The Gypsy Chief; or the Haunted Oak, a Tale of the Other Days”.  This most sensational story is now rare in the weekly form.  Many plates.  10/-.  SOLD. 


83.  “Fatherless Fanny; or the Misfortunes of a Little Mendicant”.  Plates.  A morally immoral old story.  Now scarce.  5/-.  SOLD.
[Fatherless fanny; or, A Young Lady’s First Entrance into Life, Being the Memoirs of a Little Mendicant and Her Benefactors.  Summers, 320-321]


84.  “Doctor or Demon; or the Doom of the Deloraines”.  Original periodical issue.  1882.  10/6.  SOLD. 


85.  “The Dance of Death; or the Hangman’s Plot.”  Cuts.  1874.  10/6.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 80]


86.  “Edith the Captive; or the Robbers of Epping Forest”.  104 cuts.  Fine copy. 40/-.
[James & Smith, 549]


87.  “Ruth the Betrayer”.  Fine copy. Many cuts.  15/-.  SOLD.
[James & Smith, 162]


88.  “Barnfylde Moore Carew, the Gypsy Gentleman”.  12 cuts.  Rare.  10/-.  SOLD.


89.  Emalinda, the Orphan of the Castle”.  Cuts. 10/-.  SOLD.


90. “Jessie the Morgue-keepers Daughter”.  Gruesome cuts.  1845.  20/-.  SOLD.
[Jessie the Mormon’s Daughter. James and Smith, 293; Summers, 375]


91.  “The Mysteries of the Dissecting Room”.  Horrific cuts.  1846.  20/-.  SOLD.
[Possibly Secrets of the Dissecting Room]


92.  “The Maniac Mother; or the Victim of Vice”.  Damaged.  10/6.  SOLD.  [May be an invented title]


93.  “The Monk”, by ‘Monk’ Lewis.  The Penny number Lloyd issues, with most fearsome cuts.  1848. £2.  SOLD.
[Summers, 419-426]


94.  “The Profligate Pope; or the Mysteries of the Vatican”.  Cuts in keeping with the Title and text.  1866.  20/-.  SOLD.  [May be an invented title]


95.  “The Mysteries of the Inquisition”, by Reynolds.  1846.  Contained in the rare first volume of the London Journal.  Terrific cuts.  20/-.
[James & Smith, 213; Summers, 434]


96.  “The Mysteries of Bedlam; or the Annals of a madhouse”.  Cuts.  25/-.  SOLD.


97.  “Vipont the Vulture”, an imitation of that rara avis midst “Bloods” – Varney the Vampire; or The Feast of Blood.)  The cuts are glorious in their repellancy.  £2.  SOLD.  [May be an invented title]


98.  “Tyburn Dick, the Boy King of the Highwayman; or Take Me Who Dare”.  The prosecuted issue of this rather ‘over the fence’ story, Mint order. Neatly bound with two other similar tales.  £4.  SOLD.
[Tyborn Dick, the Prince of Highwaymen.  Cover has the title Tyborn Dick; or, Take Me Who Dare.  James & Smith, 669]


99.  “Turnpike Dick, the Star of the Road”.  The desirable Chas.  Fox edition, with all the coloured wrappers.  3 vols. (60 numbers) in one.  £3.
[James & Smith, 348]


100.  “The Headless Horseman”.  Original edition.  1866.  Half calf. £10. 


101.  “Robin Hood; or the Merry Men of Sherwood”.  Pierce Egan’s original Penny number edition.  1841.  40/-.
[Possibly Pierce Egan the Younger, Robin Hood and Little John; or, the Merry men of Sherwood Forest.  Summers, 481]


102.  The same tale, re-issued in 1865, different cuts.  Three coloured plates. 10/-.


103.  “Robin Hood”.  Hogarth House edition, by George Emmet.  Mint copy.  Crude cuts.  Three copies.  15/- each.
[James & Smith, 185]


104.  “Jack Cade, the Rebel of London”.  1851.  Cuts. Last number out.  SOLD.
[Jack Cade, the Insurrectionist; A Tale of the olden Times.  Summers, 372]


105.  “Wat Tyler”, by Pierce Egan. Original edition 1844.  With fierce cuts. Damaged.  7/6.
[Summers, 553]


106.  Same tale, reprint with different cuts.  1864.  10/-.


107.  “The Black Bandits of the Rhine”, with four other tales.  Cuts.  20/-.


108.  “The Ned Nimble Series”, in 2 large vols, with all the coloured wrappers of the 11 vols.  £4-4-0.


109.  The World Famous Deadwood Dick Series.  5 vols containing the original ALDINE run from No. 1 “The Outlaw of the Black Hills” to No. 58.  Absolutely unobtainable anywhere else in the Universe.  Actually dumped at £25.


110.  The original Harkaway Series running through the Boys of England, 1871-1878.  £20.


111.  The original Penny Number and Shilling volume edition, sumptuously bound in 4 gilt-backed vols.  With all the coloured wrappers.  An exhibition set, lettered “Jack Harkaway” and decorated with crossed swords, an anchor and a sailing ship in gold ornament. £20.


112.  The Hogarth House Series of the American “Jack Harkaway”.  The set of seven with all the gory coloured wrappers and fierce crude cuts in one thick volume.  £6-10-0.


113.  “The Wild Riders of the Staked Plains; or Jack the Hero of Texas”, and 12 other equally choice “O’er Land and Sea” series, on one vol.  30/-.


114.  “Sawney Bean, the Man-eater of Midlothian”.  Fierce frontispiece.  20/-.  SOLD.  [invented title]


115.  “The Nameless Crimes of the Quaker City; or Devilbug the One-eyed Ghoul”.  A rare American Dime-a-number Dreadful.  Large thick vol. 15/-.  SOLD.  
[George Lippard's The Quaker City; or, The Monks of Monk Hall]


116.  “The Headsman of Old London Bridge”, and another Brett “Blood”. 1 vol. 15/-.
[James & Smith, 255]


117. “The Hunchback of Old St Pauls”, and 2 others in one vol.  20/-.


118.  “Alone in the Pirate’s Lair”, “The Brigand Muleteer; or the Scourge of the Pyrenees”, and “Alone Among the Brigands”.  2 vols.  35/-.
[James & Smith, 616-617, 77]


119. “Boys of England”, the last 26 vols. 1884 to 1899. £20.  A gift.


120.  Reynolds “Mysteries of London”. Original Penny numbers in 4 vols. 20/-.


121.  Reynolds “Mysteries of the Court of London”.  Original issue. 8 vols. 30/-. SOLD.


122.  “Catalina; or the Spaniard’s Revenge”.  9 numbers.  Cuts. 1847.  20/-.
[James & Smith, 287]


123.  “Jane Shore the Goldsmith’s Wife”.  Original numbers, bound.  7/6.
[Summers, 374]


124.  “The Jester’s Revenge, or the Seven Masks”, and three others in the one vol.  20/-.  SOLD.
[Summers, 375]


125.  “Under the Black Flag”, and 2 others in 1 vol. 25/-.  SOLD.
[Possibly Under the Pirate’s Flag.  James & Smith, 671]


126.  “The Maniac’s Secret”, and 6 others in one vol.  No cuts.  7/6.


127.  “The Rival Hangman”.  3 numbers only, all that were issued.  3 cuts. 1870.  5/-.  SOLD.


128.  “The Ruin of the Rector’s Daughter”.  Weird cuts.  London.  1848.  20/-.
[Possibly Emma Mayfield; or, the Rector’s Daughter.  Summers, 309]


129.  “The Black Band; or the Mysteries at Midnight”.  (Miss Braddon’s early blood)  Cuts by Dore. 20/-.
[James & Smith, 66]


130.  “The Secrets of the Old House at West St.”  (Jonathon Wild’s House).  One of the most blood-freezing of the old Bloods.  In 2 vols.  104 cuts.  SOLD for £10.

[The Old House of West Street; or, London in the last Century.  James & Smith, 503; Summer, 541]


131.  “The Hebrew Maiden; or the Lost Diamond”.  (A piracy of Scott’s Ivanhoe).  A rare 1841 Lloyd.  Crude cuts.  Damaged badly.  15/-.
[James & Smith, 488; Summers, 349]


132.  “Black Plume, the Demon of the Ocean”, and ten other small bloods, with coloured wrappers.  Now rare.  15/-.  SOLD.


133.  “The Ghost of Inchvally castle, a Tale, alas, too true”.  Old cuts.  1821.  7/6.


134.  “The Smuggler King; or the Wolf of the Wave”.  Second half only.  Cuts. 10/-.
[Possibly The Smuggler King; or, The Foundling of the Wreck. James & Smith, 509]


135.  “Powerful Dramatic Tales”.  6 large vols of Romantic Dramas, each with coloured cover and cuts.  £5.


136.  The Demon of Brickarhein; or the Enchanted Ring”.  Bound with “Wolfgang; or the Wreckers Beacon”.  Both extracted and bound from the Australian Journal of 1876 and 1877.  rare. 1 vol.  7/6.
[Should be "The Demon of Brockenheim"]


137.  “Black-Eyed Susan”, “The Pirate’s Isle”, and 2 others.  Coloured wrappers.  Cuts.  In one vol.  30/-.
[James & Smith, 165-166, 182]


138.  “Manualla, the Executioner’s Daughter”. 2 vols (should be 3).  Frontispiece. 5/-


Contents of both lists cheap at £200.


ADDENDA 1945


139.  Vols 1 and 2 of the “Boys Comic Journal” in one thick vol.  45/-.


140.  Number of vols of “Young Men of Great Britain”, several vols.  Cloth or paper covers.  25/- each.


141.  “Boys of the Empire and Young Men of Great Britain”, several vols.  Cloth or paper covers.  25/- each.


142.  Rehash of the Brett’s Journals issued in the early 1900s under the title of “Up-to-date Boys” and later “Boys of Empire”, slightly broken run to finish in 1906.  27 vols. £15.


143.  Miscellaneous vols, such as “Boys Champion Journal” 1891, “Our Boys Paper”, “Boys Weekly Reader”, “Our Boys Journal”, etc. 30/- each.


144.  About 600 of the Aldine Library, Penny, Twopenny and Threepenny Tales.  All in Mint order, with coloured wrappers.  £30 the lot.  SOLD SOME.


145.  Robert Macaire the French Bandit in England”.  Gorgeous vol.  Cloth Gilt.  1847. £3-10-0.
[Summers, 480]


146.  Ada the Betrayed; or the Murder in the Old Smithy”.  Original Penny Numbers.  Bound in one vol, with all the fierce cuts.  1847. £3-10-0.
[James & Smith, 541]


147.  “Sweeny Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”.  Original Chas. Fox edition.  (First time the ‘Demon’ was used in the Title).  With Coloured wrapper, bound with “For Honour” by Burrage, and “The Brigands of the Sea; or the sailor Highwayman”, also with a fierce cover.  “Sweeny” by itself is almost priceless in England.  Costs, when found, up to £20.  (The 1851 edition went to £30).  This vol is cheap at a tenner.
[James & Smith, 626; Summers, 519-521]


148.  “Cartouche, the French Jack Sheppard”.  Very rare Fox item published 1897. £1.
[James & Smith, 682; Summers, 262]


149.  Brett, Fox and Hogarth House Shilling vols, some in paper, others cased, with coloured wrappers preserved; also 15 in limp cloth, without coloured wrappers.  Worth marked prices, ranging from 15/- to 30/- each.


150.  “The Handsome Harry Series”.  Original “Best for Boys” edition, in one thick vol.  Finishes at “Young Ching Ching”.  £5-10-0.


151.  Another vol. Hogarth House: “Handsome Harry and Cheerful Ching Ching”.  Cloth £2.  SOLD.


152.  The same, bound with Willie Grey” and “Young Tom Wildrake”.  Coloured frontispiece.  £5.


153.  “Slapcrash Boys” and “Black Bandits of the Rhine”, in one vol. £1.


154.  10 vols “Australian News” and “Melbourne Post”, between 1860 and 1881.  Worth at least £50.


155.  Volume of “Melbourne Herald” 1865.  (Bushranging year, Morgan, Hall, Gilbert, etc).  £2.


156.  “Golden Hours”, rehash issued in the nineties, of various American Boys papers and Burrage’s Ching Ching own”.  3 large vols.  £3.


157.  “Spring-heeled Jack, the Terror of London”. Vols 2,3,4, bound with two fierce coloured frontispieces. £2.
[James & Smith, 347; Summers, 513]


158.  “Shot and Shell” Series.  Hogarth House.  Five of the original six.  With coloured wrappers intact, and duplicate “Captain Jack”.  £2.


John P Quaine's copy of The Lady in Black