Thursday, 18 October 2012

Salmon fishing around the Exe and beyond

I feel a trifle guilty to be once again picking up and running with a topic by Ralph at Wayland Wordsmith, but I was interested in his recent post Arthur L Salmon's "Sunset by the Exe".

I'm familiar with Arthur L(eslie) Salmon's name, as he wrote a couple of the Blackie Beautiful England series illustrated by the previously-mentioned Ernest William Haslehust, and many other travelogues, mostly of southern England. This prompted me to look for anything else he might have written specifically about the Exeter area, and I immediately found the anthology that the poem Sunset by the Exe comes from West-Country Ballads and Verses (William Blackwood, 1899, Internet Archive ID westcountryballa00salmuoft). It also has a verse retelling (page 16) of the fictional legend of the Parson and the Clerk.

His Literary Rambles in the West of England (Chatto & Windus, 1906, Internet Archive ID literaryrambles00salmgoog) has some very interesting topics:
Near the mouth of the Exe: a literary and historic pilgrimage - p1
George Borrow in Cornwall - p30
Literary memories of Tavistock - p51
The poet Gay and the Barnstaple district - p72
With Sir Joshua Reynolds in Devon - p87
Herrick in Devon, and some other memories - p110
With Keats at Teignmouth - p130
Hawker of Morwenstow - p149
Saints and saint-lore of the West Country - p182
Tintagel and its Arthurian traditions - p211
With Coleridge and Tennyson at Clevedon - p228
Literary associations of the Quantocks - p248
Richard Jefferies: an attempt at appreciation - p276
Literary Bristol - p303
I rapidly realised, however, that these books were just the tip of the iceberg. Salmon was astonishingly prolific, and not merely in travel writing. He produced many anthologies of poetry, as well as publishing poetry and litcrit in newspapers and periodicals; he was a correspondent with Elgar, who set a number of his poems to music. He wrote (assuming it's the same author) a guide to relationships, The Man and the Woman: Chapters on Human Life. He wrote a considerable body of short stories, tending toward fantasy and horror including a 1927 anthology The Ferry of Souls: A Book of Fantasies and Sketches (see The FictionMags Index , and this summary of his erotic horror story The Were-Wolf, in The Essential Guide to Werewolf Literature (Brian J Frost, Popular Press, 2003).

Despite this large body of work, his biography is elusive; he seems to have played his cards very close to his chest about biographical disclosure, and to have dropped off the map at the end of his career. About all that I can find his birth date - 1865 - which appears in various copyright catalogues (for instance, the Library of Congress Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1916). He's not in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, nor in the National Archives nor any news archives or books I can find on Google, nor does the Times Digital Archive or TLS Historical Archive have an obituary. I've also skimmed the prefaces and end matter of his books online: nothing there either. I've just two possible leads. One is a Times entry mentioning the will of an Arthur Leslie Salmon:
Large bequests to Friends of Poor
Salmon, Mr Arthur Leslie, of Felpham, Sussex (duty paid £3,641) ... £36,242
- The Times, Saturday, Jul 02, 1966; pg. 13
If it's him, he lived to around 100. The other is a late work by him, the 1937 A Book of Memories: Sketches and Studies of Reality. In this - see the blurb on page 39 of his poetry anthology Swan Songs - he discusses what childhood memories mean to him in later life. It looks the one most likely to yield autobiographical detail - I've ordered it, partly out of sheer curiosity, partly because it looks likely to be an interesting and poetic work of introspection. I'll report back once I've read it.

Finding a more detailed biography could be an interesting project - probably one involving trawling different newspaper archives - but one I'll resist getting sidetracked on. If anyone wants to give it a go, feel free.

Here's an almost certainly partial bibliography:
  • Noon-Song: a poem (Castell  Brothers, 1887)
  • Haunted: and other Poems (Spottiswoode and Company, 1894)
  • Songs of a heart's surrender, and other verse (Blackwood, 1895, Internet Archive ID      cu31924013219831)
  • Life of life, and other verse (Blackwood, 1897, Internet Archive ID cu31924013219823)
  • Lyrics and Verses (Blackwood, 1902)
  • Cornwall (Methuen, 1903, Internet Archive ID cornwall00salmgoog)
  • A Popular Guide to Devonshire (Methuen and Company, 1904)
  • A Book of Verses (Blackwood, 1906, Internet Archive ID cu31924013219815)
  • Literary Rambles in the West of England (Chatto & Windus, 1906, Internet Archive ID literaryrambles00salmgoog)
  • The Weeded Moat (with Hugh Wyand, Breikopf & Härtel, 1907)
  • A Little Nook of Songs (Blackwood, 1908)
  • West-Country verses. Collected and revised (Blackwood, 1908, Internet Archive ID westcountryverse00salmiala)
  • Dorset (Cambridge University Press, 1910, Internet Archive ID dorsetguil00salmuoft)
  • The Cornwall Coast (TF Unwin, 1910, Internet Archive ID cornwallcoast00salmuoft)
  • A New Book of Verse (Blackwood, 1910)
  • The Man and the Woman: Chapters on Human Life (Forbes & Company, 1913, Internet Archive ID manandwomanchap00salmgoog)
  • Dartmoor (Blackie, 1913?, Internet Archive ID dartmoor00salmuoft)
  • Bath and Wells (Blackie, 1914, Internet Archive ID bathwells00salm)
  • Songs of wind & wave: a collection of verse (W. Blackwood & Sons, 1916)
  • The Joy of Love and Friendship ( Chicago : Forbes and Company, 1919)
  • Plymouth (Macmillan, NY, 1920, Internet Archive ID plymouth00salm)
  • The heart of the west, a book of the west country from Bristol to Land's End (R Scott, 1922, Internet Archive ID heartofwestbooko00salm)
  • Bristol: city, suburbs & countryside (London : Bristol Times and Mirror, 1922)
  • City, Sea and Countryside (1925)
  • The Ferry of Souls: A Book of Fantasies and Sketches (Foulis, 1927)
  • Selected Poems (1932)
  • The Augustan Books of Poetry (Ernest Benn Limited, 1932)
  • In Later Days: A Collection of Verse (E. Benn, 1933)
  • A Book of English Places (E. Benn, 1934)
  • Tales from the West Country (A.H. Stockwell, 1937)
  • A Book of Memories: Sketches and Studies of Reality (Chapman & Hall, 1937)
  • Swan Songs: A Collection of Later Verses (Chapman & Hall, 1938)
  • Flowings and Ebbtides: Stories of the Vicar and the Doctor (Chapman & Hall, 1939)

As I mentioned above, here at The FictionMags Index is a separate biobliography of his short fiction and poems in magazines.

Addendum: Jan Gore kindly contacted me about Arthur Leslie Salmon, and we compared notes. She has found him on, which says he was Exeter-born, but was living in Bristol in 1911. This ties in a newspaper clipping, dated 1943, I found in A Book of Memories, saying he spent his boyhood in Bristol ...
Compliment to Bristol poet
The name of Mr Salmon is not now so familiar to Bristol readers as when some years ago he was a regular contributor to our local dailies - sometimes the 'Western Daily Press', but more often that fine weekly issue of the old 'Times and Mirror'.
Bristol as it was when Mr Salmon was an observant boy spending his spare time in the fields of St. Andrews and Bishopston, or the Ashley Hill environment, so dear in memory to elderly Bristolians.
... and, in the first chapter of the book, a reference to his having a grandmother in Teignmouth.

- Ray

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