Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Legends of Torquay and nearby

Torquay c. 1850 - Legends of Torquay frontispiece
I think I just spotted a bibliographic connection. Kevin Dixon's excellent Torquay's other history series featured a recent post, A deal with the Devil at Daddyhole Plain, mentioning an 1850 book called Legends of Torquay. and a story about a demon-hunter set at Daddy's Hole, a coastal chasm at Torquay.

The book is online in Google Books - Legends of Torquay, &c (1850, ed. anonymous, pub. Torquay, RT Wreford, Braddons Row. London, Whittaker & Co., Ave Maria Lane). It's a very slim volume of three stories: The Mysterious Chamber! - a legend of Ilsam; The Demon Hunter! - a legend of Daddy's Hole; and the poem Berry Pomeroy Castle. The distinctly literary stories reek of being 'made-up' legends rather than retellings of authentic ones, and in this immediately recalled the also anonymously-compiled Legends of Devon (1848, ed. and author(s) anonymous, pub. London: Whittaker and Company, Exeter: Holden - Wallis, Dawlish LA Westcott) that I mentioned in the blog post Parsons unknown about two years ago.

The particular point of the shared London publisher, Whittaker, along with the same regional origin and general flavour, strongly suggest to me that the two books were compiled by the same person. As I mentioned in the previous post, the 1868 Notes and Queries had a brief correspondence in which it was revealed of Legends of Devon ...
The legends in question were severally composed by members of a very agreeable little private society, some thirty years ago, of whom I was one. The lady who collected and printed them, and was also one of the contributors, is dead, and so are some of her associates; and to give the names (even if I had permission), would interest few now. But I can say pretty confidently from memory, that they were each and all original whims of the moment, and not reproductions of popular legends.
- Jean Le Trouveur [pseudonym]
I can't find anything at all about Legends of Torquay &c., except for a brief advert for it in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post for June 6, 1850.

I also suspect some authorial crossover with Lays and Legends of the West: A Series of Papers on Some of the Less Known of Our Local Traditions, &c., &c., with Minor Poems of a Miscellaneous Character (1850, ed. Frank Curson [Curzon in later editions], London: Whittaker and Co. Exeter: Curson and Son; Falmouth: Lake) which has a similar Westcountry / Whittaker publication trail, and a largely similar mix of inauthentic-smelling folklore. For example, its story A Night in the Cathedral is an abridged version of Dicky Cross, the idiot of Exeter in Henry Glassford Bell's 1832 fiction anthology My Old Portfolio; or Tales and Sketches, and the character Geoffry Arundel, central to the other Exeter-based story The Yellow Head, appears in no historical or folklore source prior to Lays and Legends of the West.

- Ray

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