Miscellanea of the Early 1930s
MISCELLANEA OF THE EARLY 1930s
There are several interesting items – essays, stories and introductions – that HW produced in the early 1930s that I feel are important enough to mention separately here. Apart from anything else, they demonstrate the variety and the amount of work he was producing at this time over and above his published books.
HW in New York, 1930
(photograph by Pirie Macdonald)
The Book of Fleet Street (‘Confessions of a Fake Merchant’)
The Children’s Playhour Book (‘Timbo’s Dream’; ‘Educating the Cuckoo’)
Decent Fellows (Introduction)
Little Peter the Great (Foreword)
Daily Express (‘What I am Teaching My Children About God’)
The Compleat Angler (Introduction)
The Book of Fleet Street, edited by T. Michael Pope
(Cassell & Co., November 1930, 10s 6d)
The book is dedicated to:
A. D. PETERS
In Gratitude and Affection
(A. D. Peters, the literary agent who had taken over Dakers’ Agency at this time, was of course well known to HW personally.)
There are 29 essays in this book (the cover names some of the contributors), of which HW’s is the last (pp. 280-302): the order being strictly alphabetical so as not to cause any jealousy in the ranks! The frontispiece is by C. R. W. Nevinson, depicting the scene of the busy-ness (and business) of Fleet Street, sadly reproduced only in black and white. Readers will recollect that it was about this time that HW met the artist and was presented by him with the etching of his famous First World War study ‘A Group of Soldiers’; in return HW dedicated his war volume The Wet Flanders Plain to Nevinson.
HW’s essay tells us of his early days in Fleet Street when he was first demobbed – and as such is a companion to the collection of HW’s early articles The Weekly Dispatch, edited by John Gregory, who painstakingly collected and published these in 1969; the edition was reprinted by the HWS in 1983, a new e-book edition being published as On the Road in 2013.
There is one single review cutting for the book in HW’s archive: a rather poignant tribute which provides for us today an interesting background.
John O’London’s Weekly (Edward Shanks), 29 November 1930:
HW wrote at least two charming little stories for children in Southwold’s series:
No. 2 (1928) contains ‘Timbo’s Dream’ – reprinted in facsimile in HWSJ no. 32, pp. 42-6
No. 4 (1930) contains ‘Educating the Cuckoo’ (not yet reprinted – but pending)
Stephen Southwold was also known as the novelist Neil Bell. Living in Cornwall, he moved to Georgeham at HW’s suggestion in 1929, just as HW moved to Shallowford (it is not clear whether that was actually into Vale House, vacated by HW) – but left precipitously on discovering that his well was contaminated by sewage seepage. He and HW were literary rather than real friends, though they kept in touch from time to time.
|US edition, 1931|
HW’s Introduction (which appeared only in the USA edition – probably to explain the background to American readers) refers to the adverse reviews that appeared in the English press, and actually reprints that published in the Daily Express. John Gregory states that the introduction appears to have been withdrawn half-way through the edition. I suspect that HW’s comments were noted in England and their withdrawal was legally demanded!
John Heygate’s first novel caused quite a furore in England. It relates the story, fictionalised but based on reality, of his school days at Eton, the prestigious English public school, in great detail. The book is dedicated ‘TO HENRY WILLIAMSON’ and his copy is inscribed by Heygate:
John Heygate (1903-1976) had made himself known to HW soon after (and no doubt because of) the award of the Hawthornden Prize for Tarka the Otter in June 1928. The two men immediately became firm friends, which lasted throughout their lives; though not without one or two stormy periods! They both liked larking about and almost immediately got into severe trouble by pasting over the Georgeham village sign (see HWSJ 29, March 1994, pp. 44-47). Heygate’s father had been a ‘Master’ at Eton and John was heir to the baronetcy and Irish estate of his uncle, succeeding him in 1940. (For further background see AW’s biography Henry Williamson: Tarka and the Last Romantic, and HWSJ 48, 2012, Appendix B: ‘Sir John Heygate 4th Bart.’, pp.57-60.)
HW, John Heygate and Bobby Roberts outside Vale House in Georgeham; Billy Goldsworthy's barn is on
the right. HW has written on the reverse of this: 'HW; J. Heygate, & Bobby Roberts, 1928 after "pasting
up" unpleasant new village sign'.
John Heygate went on to write several novels though none were particularly successful. Of more historical interest perhaps is his book Motor Tramp (Jonathan Cape, 1935), which ostensibly tells the story of his travels and adventures in his new 4-seater touring MG sports car (the book is dedicated ‘To CG 1425’!), but develops into a paean to Hitler’s Germany. After taking delivery of the car and running it in, Heygate promptly took it to the Continent, first touring Germany – then on the brink of Nazism – Austria and Italy; and then later returning ‘To the New Germany’, Hitler now in power – and where indeed he would find work at the UFA film studios, which by then, whether Heygate knew it or not, was an instrument for Nazi propaganda. Heygate features as Piers Tofield in the Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight novels.
The dustwrapper to the 1931 US edition features Harrison Smith's design department's rather curious interpretation of Eton schoolboys; not entirely appropriate perhaps to the content of the novel!
(Joiner & Steele, as William Jackson (Books) Ltd, 1931; Furnival Books, No. 7, limited edition of 550 copies, 10s 6d)
Foreword by HW, written in New York City, dated 1st December 1930 (note – this was HW’s birthday)
Edward Garnett, the noted critic who had helped HW get established, informed HW in a letter dated 22 March 1928 that he had given his (HW’s) name and address to a young man whose first book Nightseed he thought was ‘a remarkable set of tales’ and, in effect, would HW give him a welcome. Manhood immediately contacted HW to say he would call on his way back from Cornwall two days later. That was the first of many self-invited visits that eventually got on HW’s nerves. However at this stage the two men became friends.
HW wrote a glowing review of Nightseed in Now and Then (Cape’s house magazine) No. 29, Autumn 1928, pp. 11-13. HW is noted as the ‘Author of Tarka the Otter (Hawthornden Prize, 1928), and The Pathway, A New Novel’. In this review HW notes that he had been shown the typescript of these stories by ‘an agent’ (his own of course) when they were first handed in, and had realised they were ‘quality’.
. . . Within the covers of Nightseed are sixteen short stories. . . . These stories are original: every page is full of achievement and signs of the highest promise. H. A. Manhood is a real writer: . . . when his wings are grown . . . he should soar around the peaks of the eagles.
This review is accompanied by a formal portrait:
The man in that photograph is almost unrecognisable as the Manhood who is shown in the only photo of him in HW’s archive – and indeed of HW’s own description as in his foreword to Little Peter the Great:
The author, a brown-faced youth with a wide smile and regular white teeth . . . always smiling or grinning . . .
On the reverse of the photograph above Manhood has written: '13½lb pike'. Below that HW has written: 'Manhood. Pheasant thief at Stiffkey 1939, "Cabton" of the story'.
Manhood wrote to HW (letter dated 17 November 1930), then on his visit to America, asking him if he would write an ‘Introduction’ – ‘not particularly about the story, but rather about me’ as he knew no-one else to ask: ‘payment can only be 5 guineas’.
HW must have sent off his piece by return, as a letter from Manhood thanking him is dated 15 December 1930. In it HW repeats the story about seeing the original typescript of Nightseed, but with greater detail; then rather drifts off on to his own early experiences (hearing the music of Delius and reading Jefferies’ The Story of My Heart); but returns to describe Manhood’s wandering and frugally frightful lifestyle first on Sedgemoor and then in Cornwall, and ends with mention of Manhood’s novel Gay Agony, which he has not yet had the chance to read. In the last paragraph he praises this young writer’s sensitivity and intuition.
In due course, on 3 March 1931, Manhood sent HW a complimentary copy of Little Peter the Great, accompanied by a letter (note his monogram) and his cheque for five guineas for the Introduction, as promised:
Little Peter the Great was a signed limited edition:
H. A. Manhood (1904-1991) appears to have had quite a forceful personality and a large sense of his own importance, and let no hindrance get in his way. He signed his letters with his initials and a great flourish. He often announced himself for a visit without forewarning, to HW’s great annoyance as time went on. He was a very keen fisherman and often sent HW fish through the post or by rail – frequently to their detriment! He is portrayed as the rather unpleasant character ‘Cabton’ in the later Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight novels.
|HW in 1921|
First printed as an article in the Daily Express on 30 May 1930 as part of a series; it was later incorporated into a book of the same theme and material, published by the Express. Curiously the Express chose to illustrate the newspaper article with a cropped photograph of HW taken nine years earlier outside Skirr Cottage 'in the brilliant sun of drought, 1921'. The uncropped photograph was used as the frontispiece to The Village Book, which was published in July 1930, shortly after the article appeared; so perhaps Jonathan Cape's publicity department had provided it to the newspaper, thinking it a recent photograph of the author!
The first and seventh pages of the corrected typescript:
The article prompted at least two responses from readers:
|Trade edition, 1931|
Introduction by Henry Williamson; illustrated by Arthur Rackham (12 colour plates, many line illustrations)
Limited edition, 775 copies, 3 guineas
Trade edition, 15s
The essay was reprinted in The Linhay on the Downs and Other Adventures . . . (Cape, 1934).
Izaak Walton (1593-1683), probably the best-known piscatorial writer, was born in Stafford and went to London in 1618, apprenticed to a draper, and then to an ironmonger, eventually making himself prosperous through his own drapery business.
He lived in the Parish of St Dunstan’s and became friends with the vicar, who was none other than John Donne (later Dean of St Paul’s, who introduced to him to other influential people. Walton took over the writing of Donne’s biography, which was published in 1640, and proceeded to write other biographical books.
His unique place in English Letters is due to The Compleat Angler,a classic book on fish and fishing, first published in 1653 andwhich has since had numerous (some sources say hundreds) reprints, including this particular edition.
HW’s introduction is in his own inimical and idiosyncratic style: he is not particularly enthusiastic about the book, although he does state near the beginning that:
While there are fish in England, there will be men who dream of catching them . . . and so The Compleat Angler will continue to be a classic of fishing. [But he continues:] Much of the book is tedious and prolonged . . .
HW particularly notes the friendship between Walton and John Donne, whose poetry HW liked very much – indeed, Donne was one of his guiding lights. He also notes with dry humour the comments made by Mr Richard Franck, celebrated fly-fisher, who ‘recently’ rather slammed the book as a work of plagiary: ‘recently’ was 1656! And further, with tongue in cheek, he writes as if Walton were still alive and will learn how to write better in due course!
HW’s typescript for this essay has a well-corrected last page:
And indeed another version, which comes from the typescript of the Linhay on the Downs volume:
The cover for the trade edition, followed by the Rackham-designed endpapers:
Rackham's frontispiece, which is captioned: 'The quietest and fittest place for contemplation':
The Financial News, 4 December 1931; possibly more interesting because of its source: it is saying, loud and large as it were, that this is a collector’s item which will be of great value in due course! (As indeed it was – books illustrated by Rackham are much sought after today.)
A gift volume that should appeal to lovers of classic prose and fine illustrations and to all anglers is a handsome edition of “The Compleat Angler” (Harrap, 15s. net). Arthur Rackham has supplied twelve full-page illustrations in colour and many line-drawings. There is a special introduction by Henry Williamson, author of “Tarka the Otter” who asks: “Why is the book still read?” and supplies the inevitable answer: “While there are fish in England there will be men who dream of catching them; and so ‘The Compleat angler’ will continue to be a classic of fishing. It is a jolly book, a book with which we can feel at home.” Everyone who appreciates Mr. Rackham’s art will also feel at home, for his delicate illustrations have caught the very atmosphere of Walton’s masterpiece. The original drawing of one of the plates is at present on view at Messrs. Denny’s shop in Queen Victoria-street.
Countryman, January – March 1932; under the sub-heading ‘Angling’ several books are mentioned, including:
The combination, as introduction writer, of Henry Williamson, and Arthur Rackham as illustrator, has produced a particularly pleasing edition of The Compleat Angler. . . . Mr. Williamson deals faithfully with the classic. Form and style are not ‘such as we could lose ourselves in it’. Further, ‘Mr. Walton will write a better book when he learns the art of selection, the art of compression, the art of construction’!
The reviewer obviously assumes that the reader will understand the joke.
The Fishing Gazette, 5 December 1931 (16-inch column):
There can be few books other than the Bible which have passed through so many editions as “The Comleat Angler”. .. including this edition with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. . . . This edition has an Introduction by Henry Williamson. . . . a great deal kinder, despite its fault finding, than the splenetic criticism of Walton’s contemporary, Captain Franck . . . .
Mr. Williamson finds “much of the book tedious and prolonged”. [The reviewer goes on to criticise HW’s attitude to Walton’s book – picking up on several technical points.]
If Mr. Williamson had endeavoured to discover why “The Compleat Angler” has lived for nearly three hundred years instead of devoting his energies to proving it is not all it is “cracked up” to be, he would have done better. . . .
Surely a modern reviewer need not feel superior when writing of the anglers of Walton’s day, who caught trout on a single hair and had not the advantage of a free-running reel which the modern angler considers an essential item in his angling outfit.
This edition is very nicely produced and the illustrations are extremely good. . . .
This brought forth a reply from HW thus:
The Fishing Gazette, 19 December 1931 (21-inch column); the first 6 inches are devoted to editorial comment vindicating their previous comment. Then HW’s letter:
Dear Sir, -- in your issue of December 5 you quote from my Introduction . . . in such a way that you are unfair to the Introduction as you say the Introduction is unfair to “The Compleat Angler”. . . .
He then goes on (and on) justifying what he had written in the Introduction with extensive quotation. Quite a little storm in a teacup!
Birmingham Post, 4 December 1931; a long article headed ‘The Art of the Modern Illustrator’, which includes this new edition:
Mr. Arthur Rackham has graced with his cool and lovely sense of colour “The Compleat Angler” (Harrap, 15s.). His pictures are indeed studies of “the contemplative man’s recreation”, as it was in the golden age . . . The text is from Richard le Gallienne’s edition of the author’s last revision, with a polite and piscatorial introduction by Henry Williamson, who says what we all think, even those who have never fished in their lives, that it is a “jolly book”, which is even jollier for Mr. Rackham’s bland and courteous art.
Connoisseur (Stanford Rayner), December 1931; again a composite article, headed ‘The Christmas Bookshelf’. It includes Dicken’s Pickwick Papers, Hudson’s Far Away and Long Ago, and Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Man.
Another instance [of pleasant harmony between artist and author] of this is afforded by Harrap’s recently issued edition of The Compleat Angler whose whimsically serious vein accords admirably with the peculiar genre of Arthur Rackham . . . . It is an edition which will appeal to all lovers of that old angler Izaak Walton; and Mr. Henry Williamson’s preface, sweeping aside the veil of veneration and treating the text purely on its merits, renders it the more valuable.
Evening Transcript, Boston, Mass. (E.F.E.),5 December 1931:
Edition after edition of “The Compleat Angler” have followed its first publication in 1654 [sic] and it now comes from the press again with its distinguishing feature a group of exquisite illustrations in color by Arthur Rackham. The introduction is by Henry Williamson [and the reviewer quotes several phrases from this, continuing:] “the apologia of each of the three ambulating gentlemen – Fisherman, Falconer, and Hunter – is quaint and stuffed with all the ‘facts’ and information which the author could assemble from his various sources. Much of the book is what today would be called hackwork” [and there is a great deal of plagiarism in Walton’s text].
Perhaps the most eloquent tribute to Izaak Walton is the permanence given by the archaic spelling of his Christian name and of the adjective that forms a part of the title of his book.
It is perhaps also appropriate here to remind readers that it was at this time too that HW produced much revised editions of his early Flax of Dream series of novels:
The Beautiful Years: new edition, Faber, 1929, and a limited edition of 200 copies; Dutton, USA.
Dandelion Days: new edition, Faber, February 1930, and a limited edition of 200 copies; Dutton, USA
The Dream of Fair Women: new edition, Faber, June 1931, and a limited edition of 200 copies; Dutton USA (this was revised while HW was living in New York during autumn 1930, or rather: ‘H.W., Manhattan Island, Fall 1930.’)
The Pathway, which first appeared in 1928 was not given a major revision, although the Dutton 1929 edition had minor corrections. However, the limited edition, published uniform with the other three limited editions in 1931, included a new and illuminating 7-page Preface. The Preface has been reprinted in Threnos for T. E. Lawrence and Other Writings, edited by John Gregory (HWS, 1994; e-book 2014).