Friday, 22 November 2013 impressed

Should any readers be thinking of self-publishing, I want to share a recommendation for Blurb. I decided a while back to self-publish A Wren-like Note, in strong part because I wanted it to happen quickly, and had recommendations for Blurb - for combination of affordability and high quality - from reliable colleagues and friends (such as Felix Grant).

They have a few options for creating books, including PDF upload; a couple of high-power Adobe applications mostly suited to top-quality photo books; and Blurb BookSmart, a dedicated DTP program designed to interface with Blurb's system. I went for BookSmart. You register to download it, create your book, then upload the book direct from the program.

BookSmart - edit mode
BookSmart is pretty self-explanatory. It walks you through creating the basic template for the book (name, size and format, hardback/paperback) and importing files - in my case, the chapters of A Wren-like Note in Word format. Then it launches a WYSIWYG word processor with completely standard controls: the usual menus (file, edit, fonts, etc) with various additions customised for creating book, such as inserting different classes of page. When you add a page (text, text and picture, picture, chapter heading, table of contents, etc), a side menu offers various presets for content location on the page; these can be customised once in place. If you have images, there's an image library that handles importing them into BookSmart (this is necessary for the final upload). The ordinary edit mode shows box borders in grey, but you can switch to a preview mode that shows what the book will look like.

BookSmart - preview mode
I found BookSmart very easy to use, and mostly trouble-free. When you're adding text 'live', it gives a lot of temporary warnings about text overflowing the page, and this can cascade forward through the book to give a list of hundreds of such errors. Mostly, however, these self-correct. It crashed on a few occasions, but gracefully - it auto-saves frequently, and restarting the program takes you smoothly back to the pre-crash state. You can also manually save, and doing this frequently is always good practice with such work.

BookSmart - image organiser launched
Once you're happy with the result, you just click on 'order book', and BookSmart uploads it to the Blurb site (it may take around 15 minutes, depending on how graphics-heavy the work is). Blurb processes it, and advises you shortly that it's ready. Online, there's an again self-explanatory setup for creating a sales page, deciding profit margin, and setting your options for receiving payments (in most cases, PayPal is the most convenient, so I directed it to my account). All Blurb asks up-front is that you buy one copy of the book straight away, or it'll be deleted from the system.

My proof copy took a week (ordered 16th November, arrived 22nd November); the quoted ETA was 3rd December, but I assume this is a Mr Scott worst-case estimate to cover them legally, Once it's in transit, you can follow the FedEx delivery trail online, and so know what day it'll arrive, which is a nice touch.

I'm absolutely delighted with the book quality, in terms of cover, paper and binding, and print (including photos), and all my dealings with Blurb have been an extremely good experience. Blurb is also completely transparent about costs; there may well be other self-publishing companies that are a little less expensive, but quality and a complete lack of hassle are aspects very worth paying for.

Note that you won't get into any kind of personal interaction with Blurb; any help you might want is conducted through their forum page, and that doesn't go beyond nuts-and-bolts of using the software and the system.

This is actually a significant point. Self-publishing does need a large toolkit of skills beyond writing the stuff: for instance, a modicum of aesthetics about layout, readiness to learn how to use various software, ability to manipulate photos and other graphics (if you're doing your own artwork), organising ISBNs (both the number and creating the barcode), and so on. That's not to mention your responsibilities - and I've found these horribly good at keeping me awake at night - for areas such as copyright and photo permissions.

What you upload is what you get. Blurb won't talk you through the creative process, do your ISBN, or spot any proofreading or legal problems for you. But if you have those skills, and are 100% confident about exactly what you want printed, Blurb will do their side of the job quickly and outstandingly well.

- Ray

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mysterious superwhatevers #4

Yahoo! advertising has showcased another rich crop of biological oddities, this time drawn from a mix of plant and animal kingdoms. I say "oddities", but they're not - eggs and seeds are commonplace biologically - but they're certainly odd when used irrelevantly in advertising something completely different. The ads all have the slogan "Eat THIS, Never Diet Again" and lead to the blurb for the latest fad weight-loss nostrums: "Garcinia Cambogia" (which has mysteriously changed its name almost overnight from the same advertiser's "Garcinia Gambogia") and "Green Coffee Bean".

This first one appears to be the eggs of some species of Apple Snail, probably the invasive Pomacea canaliculata. I haven't been able to identify the source image, but there are plenty of images of its distinctive pink eggs online.
This, as I described at Mysterious superfruit #2, is a Finger Lime (Citrus australasica), the fruit of a thorny shrub native to Australia; it has lately acquired a reputation as a gourmet "lime caviar".
Google Images didn't find this one (I wonder if the advertisers are getting sneaky and trying to avoid identifiable images). But I'm pretty sure it's Alaska Salmon roe - see the image at Alaska Fish Radio.
This one: I don't know. It might be more roe.
I couldn't identify this one ... but (24th November update) Emily at Ephemeral Curios has a likely identification that it's a salp (or, I think, two of them). See the comments section below.

These are slug eggs: image cropped from a Dutch Flickr photo by "Jolle" (eitjes van 'n naaktslak).
More fish eggs: these are eggs of Arctic grayling, an image from a series by the brilliant photographer Paul Vecsei showing the developing embryos. See Inside the egg at the blog Way Upstream.
One I recognise: these are the edible fruit of the longan (Dimocarpus longan), a tree of the soapberry (Sapindus) family, closely related to the lychee. They're rather nice - while very similar to the lychee, they have a pleasant aromatic muskiness - and our local greengrocer occasionally has them in.
These I recognised too. They're wasabi peas,  a hot (spice-hot, not temperature-hot) snack made by dusting dried cooked peas with a seasoning powder containing the very pungent brassica, wasabi (aka Japanese horseradish). The image seems to come from this Romanian online food magazine.
More salmon roe, I think
A third I recognise: a raw cocoa pod (the fruit of Theobroma cacao). The image tracks to a stock photo from Visuals Unlimited.
No luck, but it looks like some kind of fish eggs on seaweed.
Most likely slug or snail eggs again ...

... and finally, more slug or snail eggs, the image cropped from this Flickr photo - teeny tiny eggs - by "Luckybon".

Whatever the dubious merits of the advertised products, these guys certainly provide interesting biological quizzes ...

- Ray

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dean Maitland locations

Cross-posted from A Wren-like Note:

While I managed to source most of the Maxwell Gray books as e-texts on the Internet, I did want a print copy of The Silence of Dean Maitland, and was pleased to find the 1897 Kegan Paul, Trench & Trübner illustrated edition with line drawings by Frederick Hamilton Jackson (1848-1923). The book itself is undated, but it's listed in The Publisher, Volume 12, Issue 65, 1897. Jackson clearly took the trouble to go to the relevant locations, in the Isle of Wight and Winchester, since the scene pictures are mostly very identifiable.
This is Alma looking over a gate as she climbs the hill from Chalkburne (Carisbrooke) towards Malbourne (Calbourne). The view is of the western end of St Mary's church, Carisbrooke, somewhere on the steep ascent up the present B3401 called Alvington Shute, though trees and building obscure this view nowadays.

The village of "Malbourne" - in fact Calbourne. This is more or less the view from the Sun Inn, on the present B3401, looking down Lynch Lane (the Isle of Wight Family History site has a couple of similar views - see particularly the first image at Photo Gallery : Isle of Wight - Calbourne). The British Listed Buildings Entry - Church of All Saints, Calbourne, #392986 - doesn't say why and when the church lost the stubby spire that formerly topped its tower.

This is St Mary's church, Carisbrooke, viewed from the northern rampart of Carisbrooke Castle:

Alma with her baby; Carisbrooke church, with its small turret, is visible on the horizon.

This shows the wrongly-convicted Everard escaping from Portsmouth. The arch behind him is the Unicorn Gate, Portsmouth, then the entrance to the dockyard (there's a nice early 20th century photo here at Rootsweb, (detail below) ...

... and a British Listed Buildings record #476642). Due to general redevelopment, it now sits isolated on a roundabout on a ring road within the HM Naval Base.

This shows Winkle Street (aka Barrington Row) Calbourne, from the NW end. The Isle of Wight Family History Society site has a similar photo: see Photo Gallery : Isle of Wight - Calbourne, second row down, middle image.

This - "Belminster" in Dean Maitland - is the Bishop's House, Winchester Cathedral.

This is where Everard talks to Dean Maitland's blind son, also called Everard; it's supposed to be in one of the doors of Winchester Cathedral, but I can't find any such view; and no building is so close to the cathedral (even on contemporary maps). Any ideas?

This is the scene where Maitland, realising his guilty secrets have finally come back to bite him, says goodbye to his family. The view is of Winchester Cathedral from the east, from a location around what's now Abbey Gardens.

This is the much-photographed Cheyney Court, Winchester Cathedral Close.

- Ray

Saturday, 16 November 2013

A Wren-like Note: launch imminent

An update: A Wren-like Note, my biography of Maxwell Gray, is now finished and uploaded to the publisher, and I'm expecting a proof copy at the beginning of December. All being well, the book will go live then.

Just so you know what the deal is: this is a very geeky biography of a little-known author whose biographical details are sparse. Her own stated opinion was "There is so little to tell about me ... so little that can be told", so this is not a book packed solid with non-stop life story. Whole swathes of her life, especially in her younger days, are a virtually closed book. Nevertheless, her works are intensely autobiographical in their recycling of what she knew, and places she had visited. To me, they abound with fascinating regional, cultural and geographical detail: Isle of Wight locations and dialect, the dangerous technicalities of driving a heavy-horse wagon, the Indian Rebellion, the sighting of Donati's comet, the culture of Menton (a French winter resort) in the Edwardian era, and much more, often with crystal-clear authorial asides. A Wren-like Note is a book with the mindset of JSBlog: to digress into anything about Maxwell Gray - life, works, and contemporary reviews - that seems pertinent and interesting.

Meanwhile, A Wren-like Note ( is the support site for the book. But it's turning out to be a little bit more: a website and weblog to celebrate Maxwell Gray, and provide a central focus for finding her works online.

- Ray

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Mysterious superwhatevers #3

Emily at the excellent Ephemeral Curios, which largely focuses on biological curios, just commented in response to Mysterious superfruit #2 with another good example of advertising using weird biological images completely unrelated to the product advertised:

Possibly even weirder are these ads for a "weird food" that "kills blood pressure." It's a Glaucus nudibranch! I think they're actually toxic.
Actually, these advertisers don't seem to be very picky about what marine organism they use. A quick Google image search for "weird food" "blood pressure" finds these.

Glaucus atlanticus
"Glaucus atlanticus (commonly known as the sea swallow, blue angel, blue glaucus, blue dragon, blue sea slug and blue ocean slug) is a species of small-sized blue sea slug, a pelagic aeolid nudibranch, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Glaucidae." - Wikipedia

Google images of it: "Glaucus atlanticus".  It's an absolutely amazing little creature.

This one is just some species of squid.
Nine-tentacled octopus
This one you're unlikely to find; it's a well-circulated image of a mutant nine-tentacled octopus that "was spotted at the Marusan Seafood Shop in Marugame, Japan (Kagawa prefecture) on October 26, one day after it was caught in the Seto Inland Sea. Masa Koita, the 60-year-old shop manager, noticed the abnormal Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris) after he had boiled it in preparation for market."

This one is just calamari salad (Insalata di calamari) from the Angela's Italian Organic Oregano website.

This one is amiyaki surume: a Japanese seasons and dried squid snack. The image appears to have been ripped off from the Snack Attack blog.

This one is a California sea hare (Aplysia californica). The image comes from the Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon weblog (text by Tom O’Brien, photos by Karen Capp).

Go figure...

Edit: Dan Schwab of Keytoons explains at Weird Food (for yout heart!). There is a partial pertinence, in that the ads are for a new supplement in vogue, partially based on calamari oil; that at least explains the squid.

- Ray

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

"The Baby was an anachronism"

Mirrored from A Wren-Like Note, as potentially of geeky interest:

A while back I mentioned the versatile and prolific Scottish writer Andrew Lang - see Andrew Lang: a sampler - and in particular his 1890 Old Friends: Essays in Epistolary Parody (Internet Archive ID oldfriendsessay00langgoog) which imagines correspondence between various literary characters.

In the light of the current MG project, I re-read "From Mr. Paul Rondelet to the Very Rev Dean Maitland" (see pages 121-125). Dean Maitland we know from The Silence of Dean Maitland: the cleric who gets a young woman pregnant and accidentally kills her father in a fight, his guilt only revealed a couple of decades later. Paul Rondelet is a major character in a distinctly forgotten novel, the social satire The Monks of Thelema (Walter Besant and James Rice, Chatto & Windus,1878, Internet Archive monksthelemaano00ricegoog). Lang has Rondelet - an aesthete turned hack journalist, and apparently based on Walter Pater - escape his responsibilities by doing a runner to a Pacific island, and his letter advises the disgraced Maitland to do the same.

The bit that intrigued me was this footnoted sentence:
[Rondelet writes to Maitland] "And, in your time, no doubt you have loved?" 1

1 Alas, not wisely! But any careful reader of "The Silence of Dean Maitland" will see that the Baby was an anachronism. Ed. 
Lang is presumably referring to some problem with the chronology of the conception and birth of Alma Lee's baby by Cyril Maitland, and I thought I'd check this out. It wasn't wildly difficult, but nevertheless takes close reading; Maxwell Gray is an author prone to subliminal chronologies that take some piecing together from details chapters apart.

The novel starts with Alma Lee hitching a wagon ride to Malbourne on an autumn day. We know it's autumn by the cold weather and the clematis being in seed:
the high tangled hedges, draped with great curtains of traveller's joy, now a mass of the silvery seed-feathers which the country children call "old man's beard"
On this day, Cyril Maitland first meets Alma Lee in Malbourne - they're mutually attracted (in his case, despite his engagement to another woman) - and offers to escort her home from his sister's regular Bible class. Then:
Rather more than a year after Alma Lee's evening ride in the waggon
Maitland (after some months away) returns to Malbourne, where the general gossip is that Alma Lee is now pregnant. It's a few days before the New Year, and another character thinks:
" I shall long remember sixty-two," he thought ; "it has been a good year ..."
We're then told the chronology of Maitland's temporary break-up with his fiancée Marion in that year.
Cyril wrote back to release her from an engagement which he said he perceived had become distasteful to her ... This was in March. At Whitsuntide, Everard spent some time at Malbourne, whence Cyril went to Belminster for ordination at Trinity ... and got himself placed on a mission staff in the East of London, where he led a semi-monastic life in a house with his fellow-curates ...
On New Year's Day (referred  to as that of "sixty-three"), Alma gives birth to a son.

So this connects up to place Alma's first meeting with Maitland as autumn 1861; Maitland's split with his fiancée as March 1862; his leaving Malbourne as Whitsun 1862 (Google finds this to be June 8th); and the birth as January 1st 1863. Thus, given a normal 40ish weeks pregnancy, this timeline easily accommodates Alma's son being conceived in early April 1862. Unless I've missed something, the baby doesn't seem to be an anachronism; I'll probably never know what precisely Lang meant.

- Ray

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Magic Merganser metafiction

While checking out one of the titles in the previous post, William Black's 1877 Madcap Violet (Internet Archive madcapviolet01blacgoog), I ran into a comment in William Lyon Phelps's litcrit collection Essays on Modern Novelists. Phelps describes various instances of novelists addressing the reader - what we'd now call "breaking the fourth wall" - and singles out Black as an egregious example, implying Black wasn't quite taking the novel seriously:
William Black once wrote a novel called Madcap Violet, which he intended for a tragedy, and in which, therefore, we have a right to expect some artistic dignity.
- page 14, Essays on Modern Novelists (1910, Internet Archive cu31924027206170).
Black's authorial excursion is worth quoting in full:

At this point, and in common courtesy to his readers, the writer of these pages considers himself bound to give fair warning, that the present chapter deals solely and wholly with the shooting of mergansers, curlews, herons, and such like fearful wild-fowl; therefore those who regard such graceless idling with aversion, and are anxious to get on with the story, should at once proceed to the next chapter. There is no just reason, one might urge, why fiction should speak only of those days in a man's life in which something supremely good or supremely bad happened to him — jumping over the far greater number of days in which nothing particular happened to him — and thereby recording the story of his life in a jerky, staccato, impossible manner. Destiny is not for ever marching on with majestic stride ; even the horrid Furies sometimes put away their whips. Give a man a gun, place him on a Highland loch on a still day in August, show him a few dark specks swimming round the distant promontories, and he will forget that there is even such a thing as to-morrow. To write out the whole story of his life in this fashion would, of course, be impossible ; for it would be twenty times as long as the longest Japanese drama in existence ; while the death rate among the readers — say twenty-four in a thousand per annum — would interfere with the continued attention demanded by the author. But occasionally, in the briefest story, one of these idle and unmemorable days ought to come in, just to show that the people are not always brooding over the plan of their existence. Anyhow — and this is the long and the short of it — three out of five of the passengers onboard the Sea-Pyot are going in pursuit of mergansers ; and the gentle reader is entreated to grant them this one holiday, which will be the last of its kind.
- pages 214-15, Madcap Violet.
I've only skimmed so far, but far from this aside being an aberration, it marks out Madcap Violet as having metafictional elements, which appear elsewhere in the book. At the beginning of Chapter IV, for instance, Black brings slightly dizzying multiple layers to the text by quoting from a highly autobiographical romance about a "Virginia Northbrook" written by the protagonist, Violet North - then noting that it might be plagiarised from some un-named original, which in turn may itself be unconsciously plagiarised.

A secret rumour ran through the school that Violet North had not only got a sweetheart, but was also engaged in the composition of a novel. As regards the novel, at least, rumour was right ; and there is now no longer any reason for suppressing the following pages, which will give an idea of the scope and style of Miss North's story. The original is written in a clear, bold hand, and the lines are wide apart — so wide apart, indeed, that the observant reader can, if he chooses, easily read between them.
"It was a beautiful morning in May, and the golden sunshine was flooding the emeraid meadows of D—, an ancient and picturesque village about two miles nearer London than the C—  P—. Little do the inhabitants of that great city, who lend themselves to the glittering follies or fashion — little do they reck of the verdant beauties and the pure air which are to be had almost within the four-mile radius. It was on such a morning that our two lovers met, far away from the haunts of men, and living for each other alone. In the distance was a highway leading up to that noble institution, the C—  P—., and carriages rolled along it ; and at the front of the stately mansions high-born dames vaulted upon their prancing barbs and caracoled away towards the horizon.*
* This sentence, or the latter half of it, may recall a passage in a famous novel which was published two or three years ago ; and I hasten to say that Miss North had really never read that work. The brilliant and distinguished author of the novel in .question has so frequently been accused of plagiarism which was almost certainly unconscious, that I am sure he will sympathize with this young aspirant, and acquit her of any intentional theft.
I shall give this a bit more attention.

- Ray

More Wight literary miscellany

Dave Parker's very browsable Isle of Wight Nostalgia site has some transcripts from the 1948 Ward Lock Guide. The introduction has a section on literary references, which I thought worth annotating in case anyone wants a bit of an Isle of Wight reading list.

A Literary Note

It is somewhat curious that the Isle of Wight, with its wealth of natural and historical interest, should have figured so little in fiction. The writer has yet to rise who will do for it what Scott did for the Highlands, Blackmore and Kingsley for North Devon, Thomas Hardy for "Wessex," and more recently Sheila Kaye Smith for Sussex, and Brett Young for Worcestershire. Dickens, we know, stayed at Bonchurch, and wrote enthusiastically of his surroundings, but, beyond a brief reference to Shanklin Sands in Our Mutual Friend, he did not introduce them in any novel. References, more or less extended, are made to the Island in numerous well- known works, of which we need only mention Fielding's Voyage to Lisbon, Scott's Surgeon's Daughter, Marryat's Poor Jack and The Dog Fiend, and Meredith's Adventures of Harry Richmond and The Ordeal of Richard Feverel.

Readers with a partiality for "local colour" may be glad of references to other novels dealing with the district. Recent works can of course be purchased from any bookseller, or borrowed through the subscription libraries. For others it may be necessary to consult the files at public libraries or seek for second-hand copies.

Chronologically, our summary should commence with two excellent historical stories, The Count of The Saxon Shore, by Professor Church, and Caedwalla, or the Saxons in the Isle of Wight, by F. Cowper.
The Count of the Saxon Shore for Britain (Latin: comes littoris Saxonici per Britanniam) was the head of the "Saxon Shore" military command of the later Roman Empire. Alfred John Church's 1887 novel, a well-researched sword and sandal adventure, is on Project Gutenberg: The Count of the Saxon Shore, or, The Villa in VECTIS: A Tale of the Departure of the Romans from Britain (Gutenberg E-Text No. 44083).
Frank Cowper's 1887 Caedwalla takes place between 680-709 CE, and tells of the Isle of Wight campaign of Cædwalla of Wessex; I can't find it online.
  Maxwell Gray needs little introduction ...
Topographically, we will start with the capital of the Island, Newport, which appears as "Oldport" in Maxwell Gray's The Silence of Dean Maitland, in which also "Chalkburne" is Carisbrooke.
... so I'll skip and direct you to
The Captain of the Wight, by F. Cowper, is a romance of Carisbrooke Castle in 1468; The Prisoner of Carisbrooke, by S. H. Burchell, deals with the imprisonment and attempted escape of Charles I, and the same subject is treated in The Cavaliers, by S. R. Keightley, and in Marjorie Bowen's Governor of England. The White King's Daughter, by Mrs. H. Marshall, narrates the latter days at Penshurst and Carisbrooke of Charles's young and ill-fated child, the Princess Elizabeth.
  The Captain of the Wight follows the exploits of Sir Edward Woodville, the last "Lord of the Isle of Wight", up to his death in a disastrous and undermanned expedition to fight the French in Brittany.
  Sidney Herbert Burchell's 1904 The Prisoner of Carisbrooke focuses strongly on the life and loves of the hero, Robert Hammond, who became the jailer of Charles I.
  Samuel Robert Keightley's 1896 The Cavaliers tells of a young Cavalier, Thomas Duncombe, who becomes involved in the failed attempt to spring Charles I from Carisbrooke Castle; it's on the Internet Archive (ID cavaliers00keiggoog).
  As Marjorie Bowen died in 1952, her 1913 Governor of England is in UK copyright until 2027 (though you could look for it on Project Gutenberg Australia).
  The 1895 The White King's Daughter isn't findable.
A Reputed Changeling, by C. M. Yonge, has episodes at Carisbrooke Castle and Blackgang Chine about 1667; and Moonfleet, by J. Meade Falkner, in its early pages an exciting smuggling story of Dorset about 1757, hinges upon the discovery of hidden treasure in the well of the Castle. Jitny and the Boys, by B. Copplestone, describes a visit to the Island and especially to Carisbrooke during the Great War. Reminiscent of the War also is The Sub., by Taffrail - the training at Osborne of a naval sub-lieutenant and his after experiences.
  Charlotte Mary Yonge's 1889 A Reputed Changeling, or, Three Seventh Years Two Centuries Ago (Internet Archive areputedchangeli12449gut) tells of episodes in the life of the rebellious and lovelorn Peregrine Oakshott, born in 1667, who becomes involved with royal politics and a plot to reinstall James II after his deposition.
  The well-known 1898 Moonfleet, actually mostly set on the coast of Dorset, is at Gutenberg E-Text No. 10743.
  Bennet Copplestone's 1916 Jitny and the Boys isn't online, but if you like maritime stories, his 1916 The Lost Naval Papers is.
  "Taffrail" is the pseudonym of  the writer Captain Henry Tapprell Dorling; The Sub: Being the Autobiography of David Munro, Sub-Lieutenant, Royal Navy is one of his many naval thrillers based on his own experience.
Cowes appears as "Lowport" in The Caddis Worm and as "Thorneyhurst" in The Story of Anna Beames, by Mrs. C. A. Dawson Scott, whose The Burden is set at the mouth of the Medina. Wootton and neighbourhood are the scene of Scarlet Sails, by Mrs. Baillie Saunders.
  The Caddis Worm refers to Catherine Amy Dawson Scott's 1914 novel The Caddis-worm; Or, Episodes in the Life of Richard and Catharine Blake: the saga of Catherine Blake (the self-effacing "caddis worm" of the title), married in her teens to the domineering but successful Lowport doctor. Her first novel, The Story of Anna Beames (1907), tells of the conflict between its titular heroine and the Heathcliff-like Stephen Barclay. The Burden (1908) seems to be in similar vein.
  Margaret Baillie-Saunders' 1924 Scarlet Sails is a love story: according to The Bookman, "a delightful story with the fragrant beauty of the Isle of Wight for background, and a celebrated journalist on holiday and the pretty daughter of a reprobate mother".
Bembridge, Ryde and Sandown all appear in The Privateers, by H. B. Marriott-Watson. Ventnor and Shanklin, under different names, will be found in Old Mr. Tredgold, by Mrs. Oliphant. Ursula, by Miss E. Sewell, and A Romance of the Undercliff, by Mrs. E. Marshall, deal with the Undercliff, and the closing chapters of William Black's Madcap Violet take us to the same delightful region. The Rev. Wm. Adams, author of Sacred Allegories, lived at Bonchurch, the scene of his stories, and is buried there.
   H. B. Marriott Watson's 1907 The Privateers is a thriller in which (according to the advertising blurb) "Lieut. Kerslake, a good type of the British naval officer meets Herbert Alston, a young American, and becomes involved in adventures of a Conan Doyle description".
  Margaret Oliphant's 1895 Old Mr. Tredgold: A Story of Two Sisters (Internet Archive oldmrtredgold00margoog) is a novel of social drama and satire about two sisters, one staid and deserving, the other who elopes with her lover.
  I've already mentioned the locations of Elizabeth Missing Sewell's 1886 Ursula: A Tale of Country Life - see "Ursula" and Blackgang and the Internet Archive (ursulataleofcoun00sewe).
   Emma Marshall's A Romance of the Undercliff; or, the Isle of Wight in 1799, was described by the author as "a shilling story of the French War" - see Emma Marshall, a biographical sketch (1900).
  William Black's 1877 Madcap Violet (Internet Archive madcapviolet01blacgoog) tells the story of a wilful and impulsive tomboy, from childhood to womanhood and tragic love.
  William Adams and Sacred Allegories: see William Adams: The Old Man's Home.
Blackgang will be found in A Cavalier's Ladye, by Constance MacEwen, a tale of the sixteenth century. Freshwater and the Needles are seen in H. B. Marriott-Watson's Twisted Eglantine. The Trespasser, by D. H. Lawrence, includes a visit to Freshwater; Headon Hill's Spies of the Wight and Millions of Mischief are staged at Totland Bay, while Beacon Fires, by the same author, includes stories of Freshwater and Hurst Castle. Laurence Clark's Bernard Treve's Boots is a Wartime "spy" story set at Freshwater and Newport. And the Stars Fought, by Eva Fitzgerald, The Lady Isabella, by Sir F. W. Black (Cowes and Carisbrooke), and Towards Love, by Irene Macleod, are other good Island stories for holiday reading, as is also Yesterday, a Tory Fairy Tale of the Isle of Wight, by Norman Davey.
  The 1889 A Cavalier's Ladye: A Romance of the Isle of Wight by Constance Macewen (aka Mrs AC Dicker) is a saga set during the English Commonwealth, purporting to be the journal recounting the adventures of an ardent Royalist, Miss Judith Dionysia Dyllington.
  Marriott Watson's 1905 Twisted Eglantine (Internet Archive twistedeglantin00watsgoog) is a romance of the Regency, the hero being Sir Piers "Beau" Blakiston.
  The Trespasser (1912) is DH Lawrence's second novel, drawing on the experiences of a friend of Lawrence, Helen Corke, and her adulterous relationship with a married man.
  "Headon Hill" (a pseudonym based on an Isle of Wight coastal hill between Alum Bay and Totland) was the author and journalist Francis Edward Grainger; he wrote a number of mystery and adventure stories, including some in the paranoid pre-WW1 'invasion threat' genre. Spies of the Wight (1899) is one, in which a holidaying journalist encounters German agents. Millions of Mischief: The Story of a Great Secret is online (Internet Archive millionsofmischi00hilliala), and concerns a plot to kill the Prime Minister of England. Beacon Fires (1897) is an anthology of "war stories of the coast" generally featuring the foiling of foreign coastal invasions in various eras, including the Napoleonic Wars and Anglo-Dutch war of a century before.
  Laurence Clark's 1920 Bernard Treves's Boots; A Novel of the Secret Service is online (Gutenberg E-Text No. 42459); it's another invasion story, involving the foiling of a German submarine attack on the fleet at Portsmouth.
   And the Stars Fought (A Romance) (1912) by Ena Fitzgerald is an Isle of Wight romance; you may recall the author from Poets of the Wight.
    Lady Isabella: A Thirteenth Century Tale Of Carisbrooke Castle And The Isle Of Wight Told In Verse By Sir Frederick W Black (1924) looks a fairly eccentric effort. The author was a civil servant for the Admiralty, and another of the IOW celebrities to appear in Poets of the Wight: Sir Frederick Black KCB. Lady Isabella tells the story of Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Devon, the wealthiest woman in England in the late 13th century, and owner of Carisbrooke Castle. She is, incidentally, the Countess who Countess Wear, near Topsham, is named after.
    Towards Love. A novel (1923) is by Irene Rutherford Macleod (later wife of Aubrey de Sélincourt). I haven't been able to find anything about it.
     Yesterday: A Tory Fairy-Tale (1924) is by Norman Davey, and features a near-future secession of the Isle of Wight.
Finally, The Scarlet Rider, by Bertha Runkle, is an exciting romance of a highwayman about 1780, and deals with an old manor-house, and we are informed that the manor-houses of The Reproach of Annesley and Ribstone Pippins, both by Maxwell Gray, are respectively Arreton and Westridge.
      The Scarlet Rider (1913) is by the American author Bertha Runkle. , and concerns the headstrong daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family who shelters a fugitive who appears to be the "Scarlet Rider", an infamous highwayman. See the Internet Archive (ID scarletrider00compgoog).
      I'll refer you to previous posts for The Reproach of Annesley and Ribstone Pippins.

An older edition of the Ward Lock guide is online - A pictorial and descriptive guide to the Isle of Wight in six sections : with excursions, and cycling and pedestrian routes from each centre ; upwards of seventy illustrations, map of the Island (1900, Internet Archive guidetoisleofwig00ward). There's a deal of historical and pictorial interest in there.

- Ray

Saturday, 9 November 2013

None so fast as stroke

An out-take from the Maxwell Gray work: I just ran into a MG reference in a 1923 article, Novelists' sporting blunders, which concerns sporting bloopers in novels.
Ouida's classic hero, who rowed twice as fast as his fellows in the Boat Race, is the supreme example of the errors into which authors who venture to deal with a phase of sport of which they are ignorant may fall.
Maxwell Gray's Boat Race
Maxwell Gray, the author of "The Silence of Dean Maitland," makes a curious reference to the Boat Race in "The Great Refusal," published in 1906.
Once he remembered — on a boat-race day — when every coster cart fluttered light or dark blue ribbons and the colours were in shop windows and ladies' dresses, and expectation was on tiptoe for the result of that five minutes' swift sweep over Thames waters — he remembered thinking that the sixteen god-like youths smiting the river with strokes too swift to count were, after all, of real flesh and blood like himself.
These inaccuracies are the more inexplicable as it does not require a knowledge of rowing to know that about twenty minutes is the average time for the race from Putney to Mortlake, and that it is perfectly easy to watch and count the strokes of the oars as they are seen rowing past.
Novelists' sporting blunders, page 580, T.P.'s and Cassell's Weekly, Volume 1, 1923
The Maxwell Gray error is verifiable. The Ouida one is not. A little Googling finds that its attribution to Ouida (the novelist Maria Louise Ramé) seems to have been a popular meme of the early 20th century. The quotation generally took the form"All rowed fast, but none so fast as stroke" ("stroke" being the rower at the stern who sets the pace for the whole crew), and it seems to be an abbreviated paraphrase of this passage ...
The word sounded clear from the mouth of the 'Varsity captain of boats, and at once Ralph exerted the full force of Herculean arms. His blade struck the water a full second before any other; the lad had started well. Nor did he flag as the race wore on… as the boats began to near the winning-post, his oar was dipping into the water nearly twice as often as any other.
... which comes from Desmond Coke's 1903 Sandford of Merton. Written under the pseudonym Belinda Blinder, it's a comic novel of Oxford university life, a pastiche of The History of Sandford and Merton - and the howler is of course a deliberate joke.

I can't find any precise origin of the accretion of the story to Ouida. The first citation I can find for the "... none so fast as stroke" line is 1908 ...
In one way and another, however, the crowds which watch the practice of the crews have come to know more about rowing than any earlier generation. ...  And there is certainly not a novelist left who could write with a grave face that "all rowed fast and furiously, but none so fast as stroke."
- The Boat-Race, The Spectator, 28 March 1908
... and in the same year, it was ascribed to a female novelist (for no reason I can see beyond sheer sexism):
We do not know whether or not it was a lady novelist who wrote gravely that "all rowed fast and furiously, but none so fast as stroke," but we suspect it was.
 - 'Varsity Howlers, The Press (Canterbury, NZ), 14 Hōngongoi 1908, Page 6
By the 1920s, the story was solidly attached to Ouida (see Google Books hits). Probably the connection was forged because of the female pseudonym of the author of Sandford of Merton, and the easy target that Ouida made as an eccentrically florid stylist known for such inaccuracies. The misattribution has been repeatedly debunked - notably via the correspondence column of The Spectator in 1937, and by Elizabeth Knowles on page 21 of What They Didn't Say: A Book of Misquotations (OUP, 2006) - but it refuses to die, and has been given new currency by the usual quotation websites.

Addendum: I find a clue in a contemporary review of Sandford of Merton:
"The Oxford Magazine" once published a delicious chapter on the Eights extracted from an imaginary novel by Ouida ...
- Reviews,  The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, page 817, Volume 95, 27 June 1903
If this is accurate, it might be identifiable as the source that kicked off the meme.

- Ray