Thursday, September 28, 2017

Romer Wilson

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

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

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

Green Magic (1928)

Red Magic (1930)

from Red Magic (1930)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gerard F. Scriven

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Arnold Dawson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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