Monday, February 1, 2016

Vincent Price Reads Lord Dunsany

The top half of the album (the whole is too big for my scanner)
I just pulled out an old Caedmon record to listen to Vincent Price reading four short stories by Lord Dunsany, two from The Book of Wonder ("Chu-Bu and Sheemish" and "The Hoard of the Gibbelins"), and two Jorkens tales ("The Club Secretary" from Jorkens Remembers Africa; and "Making Fine Weather" from The Fourth Book of Jorkens).  Price does a pretty good job, letting the stories themselves entertain, without any hamming it up by the performer. 

The LP was released in 1982, in that far-distant time before CDs and MP3s, etc. The liner notes are by L. Sprague de Camp, who when he isn't being too bombastic about himself, can be rather keen as an observer of others.  Yet while de Camp certainly met Lady Dunsany in 1963 and again in 1967, he didn't meet Dunsany himself. Still his capsule description of Dunsany in the liner notes, rings true, perhaps reflecting the views of Lady Dunsany:

He was six feet four inches tall and sometimes called the worst-dressed man in Ireland. He was a writer, poet, playwright, lecturer, soldier, sportsman, country squire and world traveler all rolled into one. When not roaming the world, hunting foxes in the British Isles or wild goats in the Sahara, serving as a British officer in the Boer and First World wars, being wounded in the Easter Rebellion in Ireland, and making an abortive entry into politics, Dunsany found time to write sixty-odd books of stories, plays, essays, verse, and autobiography, How he accomplished all this with a quill pen we shall never know; he never revised or rewrote. An enthusiast for games and sports, from chess to lion hunting, he was at various times the chess and pistol champion of Ireland. 

A man of fiery temperament and poetical sensitivity, Dunsany was torn by the conflict between his background and upbringing, that of a conventional hunting-shooting-fishing-and-soldiering Anglo-Irish peer, and his personal literary tastes and interests. A garrulous, fun-loving, sociable man, he was esteemed by those who liked him as genial, delightful, and fascinating. But no man of such strong personality is liked by all. Those who did not like Dunsany found him  arrogant, opinionated, self-centered, and sometimes testy and inconsiderate. He had strong opinions on many subjects. He denounced the turgid free verse of most contemporary poets and "bells of lead" and dismissed T.S. Eliot's work as "frightful nonsense."


  1. Price was also the narrator on a musical version of The King of Elfland's Daughter released on record in the 1970s.
    Oliver St John Gogarty joked that Yeats - who had quarrelled with dunsany - founded the Irish Academy of Letters just to keep Dunsany out of it.

  2. I thought that was Christopher Lee on the King of Elfland's Daughter. Unfortunately I don't have that so can't check.

  3. re. THE KING OF ELFLAND'S DAUGHTER: yes, it was Lee, not Price, who played the King of Elfland, with Mary Hopkins ("Those Were The Days") as his Daughter. P.P. Arnold is The Witch; the rest of the cast are people I don't know otherwise: Frankie Miller (Alveric), Alexis Korner (The Troll), with Derek Brimstone & Chris Farlowe (Villagers of Erl).

    I have the old album; wish I had it on cd, since there are some songs on it i rather like (esp "Too Much Magic")

    --John R.

  4. Apologies.
    Never rely on your memory!
    I hope I'll remember that.

  5. I'm seeing the LP going for $50 at the moment. Although not unwilling to pay that, is there another way to get ahold of these readings?


  6. Thank you for this! Any chance the author of the cover art is mentioned?

    1. It's Sidney H. Sime. It is the frontispiece to Dunsany's novel The King of Elfand's Daughter (1924).