Thursday, December 27, 2018

Dunsany, Smiling . . .

A recent acquisition is an odd, college magazine, The Oread Magazine from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  This issue is dated March 23, 1920, and the reason for my interest is an interview with Lord Dunsany from his 1919 lecture tour of America. The interview, by Francis Herbert Stevens, is accompanied by a photograph headed "Lord Dunsany Greets You With a Smile"--which is I think the only photograph of Dunsany that I've seen in which he sports a toothsome smile. A scan accompanies this post (at right).  Otherwise, the most interesting quote from the interview is as follows:
I have no settled form of philosophy that I am aware of, except that I think one should write from the heart what is actually in one's heart. Then, one will be sincere. I do not put any hidden meanings into my play[s]. The stories are there as plain as starlight. Let each one find his own meaning in them.  I wrote my plays to be acted, not to be read. If I had written them for reading I should have put them in story form.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lord Dunsany and the "Dictator" series

In 1933, the publisher E.V. Lucas of Methuen in London came up with the idea for a series of small books  to be authored by "a number of the foremost men of the day" to describe what attitudes they would adopt towards "current problems if a dictatorship were set up in England and they were placed in this position of supreme power." (Whether or not this series was inspired by a very similar series of articles published in 1931-32 in the American magazine The Nation is not known. The Nation's series included writers such as Stuart Chase (November 18, 1931), G. Lowes Dickinson (November 25, 1931), William Allen White (December 2, 1931), Lewis Mumford (December 9, 1931), Glenn Frank (December 23, 1931), Harold J. Laski (January 6, 1932), Morris L. Ernst (January 13, 1932), and Oswald Garrison Villard (January 20, 1932).)

Lord Dunsany was invited to contribute in December 1933, and he wrote his book (just over 18,000 words) in a mere four weeks. Dunsany's volume was published in May 1934, the second published of the series.  The first published was by Lord Raglan, and two more appeared in 1934, including volumes by Julian S. Huxley and St. John Ervine.  The "Dictator" series (as it was named by the publisher) had a standard cover design.

Methuen published three more of the series in 1935, by Vernon Bartlett, H.R.L. Sheppard, and James Maxton.  An announced volume by Robert Lynd never appeared, but a volume by C.E.M. Joad entitled The Dictator Resigns appeared in 1936, and was self-evidently connected with the series, providing (at least) a definable endpoint.

Dunsany's biographer Mark Amory gave an interesting evaluation of Dunsany's volume:
He gave it the sub-title, The Pronouncements of the Grand Macaroni, and listed his main quarrels with the twentieth century. It is a good-tempered, short book which manages to include his disapproval of misprints, advertisements (at length), white flour, which destroys the teeth, tinned food, wooden pips in raspberry jams, ginger beer, weedkiller (only salt was allowed at Dunsany), skinning seals, cutting dogs' tails (surprisingly brief), lampshades that fail to shield the glare of the naked bulb and many, many more. Apart from his views that the League of Nations and disarmament are good in themselves but will not present men fighting and a few jokes against Indian independence, he is unconcerned with politics. His only serious positive plea is for a national theatre (Lord Dunsany: A Biography, p. 235).
What Amory leaves out is how dull and dated the book is.  Coming immediately after The Curse of the Wise Woman (1933), one of Dunsany's best novels, it marks a considerable step downward in quality. If I Were Dictator is certainly a low point in Dunsany's oeuvre.

Friday, July 27, 2018

David Lindsay: Familiar Bindings

Mark Valentine recently wrote at Wormwoodiana (direct URL here) about Mary Tyrwhitt Drake's novel Outgoing Tides, published by John Long in May 1924.  What struck me first is that the binding of the book is the same design, and same color of cloth, as that used on David Lindsay's novel Sphinx, published by John Long in December 1923.  Here are some scans of the binding of Sphinx:


Front cover

 Here is the (soiled) binding case of Outgoing Tides:

And here's another one, for H.M. Egbert's [Victor Rousseau's] Draught of Eternity (John Long, January 1924):

I wonder whether there are other John Long publications from 1923-24 that have the same binding?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Dust-Wrapper for David Lindsay's Devil's Tor

The first edition of David Lindsay's Devil's Tor, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons of London in April 1932, has an elegant dust-wrapper.  The central illustration is uncredited, but one of the early newspaper reviews of the book reproduces it with a caption that describes it as "A Woodcut for Devil's Tor by William Kermode."

The illustration is probably not a woodcut, but rather art done on scraper board, which was a specialty of Kermode's, so much so that he wrote a book about it, Drawing on Scraper Board for Beginners (1936).

William Kermode was born in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1895.  He came to England before World War I and joined the British Army (he would also serve in W.W. II.) In the mid to late 1920s he studied at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. He made a series of vibrant linocuts of his own war experiences, for which Henry Williamson wrote the accompanying text. The resulting book, The Patriot's Progress, appeared in 1930.  Kermode therafter provided illustrations for many magazines, books, dust-wrappers, etc. He contributed a frontispiece to Sylvia Townsend Warner's A Moral Ending and Other Stories (1931). Kermode died in 1959.

A close-up of the vignette for Devil's Tor

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Pamphlet Edition of Dunsany's CARCASSONNE Dated at Last!

There was a undated pamphlet edition of Lord Dunsany's short story Carcassonne released by the John W. Luce Company sometime in the past. (The story was reprinted from the 1916 Luce edition of A Dreamer's Tales.) I've known about it since the late 1970s or very early 1980s, when I saw a copy in Manuel Tarshish's Dunsany Collection, which was in the Rare Books department at Cornell University. It's definitely a curiosity, for it states right on the title page that it is a limited edition, "reprinted for Miss Virginia Berry."  And that's all.  No hint as to who Miss Berry was, and no details of the limitation, though the booklet is fairly rare.

It was never listed in Books in Print, and for years the only detail I could find about it was that it appeared in the 1947-1950 John W. Luce & Company trade list, probably the final Luce list before it slunk out of business. Thus owing to its listing in this 1950 listing, I presumed Carcassonne probably dated from c. 1950, though the last real Luce books dated from the early to middle 1940s.  

Finally, I can say that the booklet came out much earlier. It was produced for a lavish book fair in Washington, D.C. which took place on Wednesday, April 14th, 1920, at the  home of Mrs. Frances Berger Moran at 2315 Massachusetts Avenue (for photos of the house, see here). The book fair was sponsored by the National League of American Pen Women, founded in 1897 and still active today.

Apparently Miss Virginia Berry ran some sort of custom restaurant in Georgetown she had named "Carcassonne" after Dunsany's story, which Dunsany himself had visited the year before when he was on his first American tour in late 1919. Details are given in a fairly long article from the Society pages of The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.), April 4, 1920, which I give below.  Meanwhile, I'm pleased, after nearly forty years of wondering, to date the pamphlet to April 1920.

"Is every one in Washington either a writer, artist or musician?" This is the question that the Penwomen are asking. Since they announced their plans for the authors' carnival ball and book fair, to be given on April 14 at the home of Mrs. Francis Berger Moran, 2315 Massachusetts avenue, so many responses have been made from the talent of Washington that the affair could well be entitled "Washingtoniana."

The league being a national organization, with auxiliaries in many states and representatives in every state in the country, with headquarters in Washington, is drawing much outside talent to the city for that occasion. So instead of it being wholly a local affair it will really be a contest between who is to receive the greatest honors, those coming to Washington to appear or our own home aspirants.

From the time the guests enter the door of Mrs. Moran's beautiful residence they will be in an atmosphere literary. The large reception room, with its many priceless pieces of art brought from abroad, will be turned Into a Japanese garden, to be entitled "The Spell of Japan," from the book by that name of our own Isabel Anderson—Mrs. Lars Anderson, wife of the former ambassador to Japan. It was while residing in Japan that Mrs. Anderson, who is a member of the League of American Penwomen and one of its strongest supporters in its effort to establish a literary center in Washington, wrote this exquisite story of the flowery kingdom. The ladies' dressing room is to be turned into a bower of beauty by a leading specialist in that line, and is to have the appropriate title of "Vanity Fair." The men's smoking room on this floor is to be Persian in atmosphere and decoration, an Omar Khayyam room, with "a loaf of bread, a Jug of wine and thou," the jug of wine, alas, being merely a cup of coffee, owing to a vast change having taken place since Omar sang In the wilderness, but "thou" will be there, pretty young ladies in Persian costume, who will serve the coffee, which will, by the way, be very delicious, being made in the true oriental style.

On this floor also will be the luncheon room, the Carcasonne, under the management of Miss Virginia Berry. The name Carcassonne is taken from one of the stories in "A Dreamer's Tales," by Lord Dunsany, and is a story of the beautiful, mythical city of happiness, which all seek and so few find. Lord Dunsany came to Washington last fall, and, although here only one day, he took the time to visit the Carcassonne in Georgetown. He congratulated Miss Berry upon her materialization in so beautiful a manner his mental conception, and left his signature on the wall, just over the fireplace, as a memento of his visit. At the book fair the basement kitchen will be turned into an old French room of tile medieval period, with an old bar, with pretty barmaids and French waitresses in costume of that early French period, thus carrying out the atmosphere of the fanciful and imaginative story of the Carcasonne. John W. Luce & Co. of Boston, publishers of "A Dreamer's Tales," are having a special edition made of the single story of the Carcassonne to be sold at the book fair.

Then up the winding stairway the guests reach the ballroom floor. Here author, musician and artist will vie with each other in giving entertainment. In the music room a continuous program of music will be given from the time the affair opens at 11
o'clock until it closes at 6, interspersed with author's readings and tableaux. The large dining room will be turned over to the sale of autographed books, illustrations, original manuscripts, songs and photographs. The list of books is headed by one of Mr. Wilson's books, and among the autographed photographs to he sold is one each of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson; also one of Mr. Marshall, Mr. and Mrs. Taft, and an interesting one of Premier Lloyd George of England.

Special exhibits in this room are to be under Mrs. Keyes, wife of Senator Henry W. Keyes of New Hampshire who will have an exhibit and sale of the works of official Washington: Miss Bertha Frances Wolfe, who will present the works of the Daughters of the Revolution; Mrs. Theodore Tiller who is collecting the works of the members of the Press Club. Mrs. Florence Jackson Stoddard, who will exhibit hooks of the romance languages; Mrs. George Combs, who will present her own collection of Madonnas, which is considered by authorities to be one of the largest in the United States. There will be many others, among them one given by Mrs. Rachael Tongate Beck, widow of Gen. William H. Beck. Mrs. Beck is a past president of the league and its oldest writer, who is still producing. Mrs. Beck has written for fifty years, and is now engaged in writing her memoirs of this eventful period in world's history. Art. literature and music among the American Indians will also be represented. Mrs. Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa), a Sioux Indian from Yankton, S.D., will present her own book. Old Indian Legends." Mrs. Bonnin has made a place for herself in America with this book and her others, "The Memories of Indian Childhood" and "School Days of an Indian Girl." Mrs. Bonnin will autograph all copies of her books sold.

Through all the spirit of festival and carnival will reign. Every room of the forty rooms of this great mansion will be overflowing with unique entertainment. One room will be turned into a gypsy camp, from Carmen, under the direction of Mrs. S. B. Milton, who will take the part of Carman. She will appeal in the same costume of Carmen in which she appeared when she sang the title role in that opera. She will have assisting her many of this season's young debutantes, who will dress as gypsies and read the fortunes by palms and cards For the more serious minded, the biblical room, under Mrs. Nanette H. Paul, who will show the famous Madame Mountford collection of costumes and articles from the Holy Land. Then for the lover of the futurist art and brilliant coloring of the modern-day poster painter there will be the poster room. Here will be shown the wonderful collection of posters made by the camouflage section of the 40th Engineers. The men composing this section were the leading young illustrators and artists of the country. There is also to be a mystery room entitled "The Anna Katherine Green Mystery Room.' Mrs. Patterson, wife of Col. Charles H. Patterson, is in charge of this room. All plans are being kept secret.

At 6 o'clock the book fair ends. At 9 the ball starts. From the land of literature, art and music, as represented at the fair, beloved characters of the readers’ world will step forth, as the hall is to be a costume affair, all costumes to be chosen from the land of make-believe. A prize will he awarded for the best impersonation after all have passed before three judges in the grand march.

While the dancing is in progress on the ballroom floor there will be card-playing on the upper floor. Refreshments will be served and if summer breezes blow the roof garden will be open to the guests.