Monthly Archives: March 2009

In re: Drs. J. de Grandin & S. Trowbridge

Since I published The Compleat Adventures of Dr. Jules de Grandin in three volumes at the end of August 2001, I have been asked many times what ever motivated me to undertake such a project? I would attempt at the time to give a simple explanation to the questioner, but I found myself repeating the same concatenation of facts and events, and frequently leaving out a number of the pieces of the mosiac for the sake of brevity.
I can say with a considerable degree of certainty that what follows is more or less what happened, although the people mentioned may place, and likely will place a different spin and perspective on the situation.
First of all I was born in 1946, so I can’t attest to have read these stories in my childhood! I remember that my father had a magazine rack in his Pharmacy when I was a child. It disappeared in the early 1950s when the pharmacy converted to selling only pharmaceuticals and therapeutic nostrums, and stopped selling candy and magazines. I hesitate to confess I missed the candy more than the pulps.
I first heard of Dr. Jules de Grandin and his adventures from a colleague William Nadel in one of those long evening telephone conversations about everything in general and nothing in particular. Bill and I have been collaborating on book entitled A Sherlock Holmes Old Time Radio Show Companion since January 1991; this collaboration still continues today, and the book is yet to be published. I usually see him at least once a year in New Year City in January on the Sherlock Holmes Birthday weekend sponsored by The Baker Street Irregulars, usually in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel or at one of the events. The Radio Show Companion progresses very slowly, I have a working galley, but Nadel’s onging research into date of radio show performances, and the chapters on Edith Meiser are still a work in progress. In any case on one of my irregular telephone calls to motivate Bill to do a chapter and send it to me, he deftly changed the subject and mused about how he had read Dr Jules de Grandin stories as a child in Weird Tales magazine, and how difficult they were to find, and collecting them would be a good idea. He didn’t know exactly how many they were but there could be up to a 100 of them. Bill commented that Dr. Jules de Grandin and his sidekick Dr. Trowbridge were noted as the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of the Supernatural Sleuths. The conversation then drifted to Jacques Futrelle (The Thinking Machine stories), Baroness Orczy (The Old Man in the Corner stories, and The Scarlet Pimpernel), R. Austin Freeman (Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke) and Maurice LeBlanc (Arsène Lupin). At the end of it, the seed was planted for de Grandin project and this was in 1996, or perhaps earlier. The seeds were also planted for the other Detectives as well.
I was talking with Peter Ruber the next day. Peter and I conversed virtually daily by phone back in those days, because we were collaborating on a collection of the writings of Charles Emerson Vincent Starrett. This project too, is still today, very much a work in progress; it is entitled The Vincent Starrett Memorial Library. Twelve of the twenty-four volumes have now appeared in print, and the other 12 volumes exist electronically on my computer’s hard drive, and are all virtually complete in text, and await an assortment of things such as a final proof reading, or the design of a dustjacket.
Well back to de Grandin, Peter knew of the Jules de Grandin stories. In fact he mentioned that August Derleth had published two of Seabury Quinn’s books — Roads (Arkham House) and The Phantom Fighter (Mycroft and Moran). Peter thought it would be a good idea to try and find the copyright holder who was either the second wife or the son Seabury Quinn, Jr. to seek permission to proceed with the project.
But in the meantime he had already assembled a collection of essays that Quinn wrote for Weird Tales entitled “Weird Crimes” and “Servants of Satan” and we decided to start with this collection. Initially the plan was for two separate publications, but as the page proofs came together, it was apparent that a single volume would suffice.
Over the course of the nine months this search continued, and Peter finally found the son living in retirement in The Bronx in New York. He was very agreeable to the project, and knew nothing of the second wife who had married his father after he had his first stroke. She had been his nurse prior to the marriage, and the son and the step mother did not get along well, and he had not heard about her in over 10 years. I subsequently found information about the registration of her death in a small community outside of Boston in 1986, and therefore did not pursue the matter further. Seabury Quinn’s filing cabinet likely followed with the widow to Massachusetts, and is now lost in the sands of time!
Peter also knew that Seabury had written editorials for Casket and Sunnyside, a trade magazine serving the Funeral Home Industry. When Quinn stepped down as the Editor of this magazine he assumed the responsibility of Editor for another trade magazine produced by The Dodge Chemical Company of Boston Massachusetts. There were some current issues of this magazine available from the local mortician, but I was initially unable to unearth any archive, and none of the Reference Libraries I checked had a run of this journal. I contacted John Dodge at Dodge Company Headquarters, and he graciously invited me to the company library in Boston because they had a complete bound run available to refer to. I visited the library for two days in May 1997, and worked through every issue of the magazine. Quinn started to write for the magazine in 1936. Each magazine contained an editorial, and also a column entitled “This I Remember” by Jerome Burke. This column was written by Quinn, but published under the pseudonym Jerome Burke. There were over 145 of these separate columns, and then in the early 1970s, three years after his death, the columns started a second run, and they still appear in the quarterly magazine published today. I made a second set of photocopies of this series, and sent it along to Peter Ruber, who felt, that these would be of limited interest to those who read Quinn’s weird and horror fiction. And so, I set the project aside until the Jules de Grandin project was completed.
In the fall of 1997 Peter Ruber sent me a photocopy from Weird Tales of two of the Jules de Grandin adventures. Neither of them inspired me. I did read them with interest, and I spoke with Allen Hubin in White Bear Lake Minnesota who kindly forwarded a Seabury Quinn Bibliography from one of the many reference works on his shelves. Allen and I first talked of his major reference work Crime Fiction II. He was working to produce a CD-ROM version entitled Crime Fiction III. More recently Allen Hubin and I are now collaborating to publish his magnum opus Crime Fiction IV, a comprehensive bibiliography of crime fiction from 1749 through 2000.
In January 1998, I flew out of Buffalo airport to attend the Sherlock Holmes’s Birthday Weekend in New York City. The weather was inclement and I drove to Alden New York the night prior to the trip to overnight with Carl Thiel. We had a great evening of conversation after a trip to McDonald’s and I retired to the spare bedroom, with the room lined with shelves of books. I found a couple of items of great interest on those shelves that evening, but in particular a couple of collections of the A.J. Raffles stories by E.W. Hornung and a couple of paper back collections of Jules de Grandin stories with commentary by Robert Weinberg. Carl let me borrow them on a read and return basis. I read these with great interest on the flight to New York from Buffalo and the return flight three days later.
I was more inspired with the Raffles character, and on my next trip to Sauk City, Wisconsin I visited “Place of Hawks,” the home of August Derleth and chatted with April his daughter and her husband David Rajel. I got permission to borrow the Raffles titles from the library of August Derleth to scan them at my leisure. I got Mr. Justice Raffles, on interlibrary loan. I borrowed a copy of the play from Richard Lancelyn Green, but the A.J. Raffles Portfolio and The Collected Works of E. W. Hornung is the subject of another article, but while E.W. is a great story teller he is hardly the subject of interest for the Weird or Horror story afficiado!
I returned the Raffles books a couple of months later in the spring and had a long talk with Dave Rajel at that time. The subject turned to Seabury Quinn, and David went upstairs and came back with Roads and The Phantom Fighter from the Family collection of Arkham House titled. I borrowed these two volumes next and returned them the next day after visiting Giedrerich’s print shop in Prairie de Sac to make copies. Roads fascinated me, and the collection of stories in The Phantom Fighter sparked my interest to read more.
I mentioned this to Dave when I returned the books, and he grinned mischievously, and took me down downstairs to the basement room across from the Derleth’s Detective and Weird and Horror Fiction library. He showed me a wonderful collection of Weird Tales Magazines carefully preserved in mylar folders. I happened to have the Quinn bibiliography list that Hubin had sent me in the car.
The rest of the day was a write off. I meticulously worked through the many, many volumes of Weird Tales — in immaculate condition — I might add, something that was totally lost on me in my ignorance. These issues dated back to the early 1920s, and they were obviously accumulated by Derleth starting as a teenager.
The pile selected fit nicely into an Archive Box. The next day was a write off as well, standing patiently in front of a photocopier at Giegerich’s. I was ably assisted by Henry Russell who kindly made high definition colour reproductions of all the covers that featured de Grandin stories. I also first discovered that Quinn had written other weird-horror fiction besides the De Grandin tales. Starting in the late thirties, I discovered many other Quinn stories, that had illustrated covers. These were not listed in the list from Hubin, and this was a temporary loose end. I made photocopies of them as well, but laid the project aside in lieu of completing the de Grandin collection.
I now had a list of a total of 93 stories that I was looking for. I had a total of 63 from the Derleth archives. All I had to do was scan and proof read these, and continue to look for more. The foxed pulp paper and the Weird Tales text font in two columns, combines to be a difficult scan, and so the proof reading proved to be a lenthy and laborious process which I plodded away on through 1998 and early 1999 while I contined to work on various other Derleth collections including In Lovecraft’s Shadow and The Final Adventures of Solar Pons. Now each of these books have their stories as well! but those are both the subject of another essay and another day.
In June of 1999 my internet provider decided to go out of business, and I was left with no e-mail service ( for the summer. I quite enjoyed it, but when I got a new service in August and a new and present e-mail address (, I retrieved a batch of 300 messages in one lump from the business who inherited the server equipment of my original provider. I worked my way meticulously through these messages, and there were a couple of frustrated messages from Alice Bentley of The Stars Our Destination a purveyor of books in Chicago who wanted to purchase a wholesale quantity of In Lovecraft’s Shadow and other Derleth titles for her inventory. I was travelling to Sauk City to attend the Walden West Festival in late September. It was held early that year to accommodate the visit of Ramsay Campbell. I offered to personally deliver the order because I was passing through Chicago and could save her the postage expense. Alice and I shared coffee that morning that I delivered the books, and we got to know each other. She mentioned that she had purchased her mail order book business from Bob Weinberg and that Mail Order was a significant part of her business, and Mail Order was where most of the Derleth titles sold.
I asked where did Bob Weinberg live? She told me and furthermore gave me his address and phone number in the South Chicago suburbs. The car was however still loaded with books and I continued my trip to Sauk City. I delivered Bourland to James P. Roberts and The Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones to Aaron P. Larson. I also delivered books to Arkham House and to The August Derleth Society. The car was empty but I did have a working page proofs of the de Grandin Omnibus with me. It was a memorable weekend (an understatement). Ramsay Campbell gave a great presentation, and I met the founder of the August Derleth Society Richard Fawcett and his wife Jayne who were visiting from Uncasville, Connecticut. Dick Fawcett had a look at the de Grandin project as it existed at that time and gave me strong encouragement to continue it to completion. He also noted that he would very much like to see Roads back in print.
I called Bob Weinberg that Friday evening, and we made arrangements for me to visit him at his home, upon my return visit from Sauk City. Bob and I met the next Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t have any problem finding his home. I showed him the De Grandin page proofs for the 63 stories and asked if he could help with the remainder. He went to the garage and came back with a set of his 6 paperbacks which he had collected some 30 plus of the stories. I posted Carl’s two volumes back to him when I got home the next day)
Over the course of the next nine months I worked with Bob to collect the remaining stories. I would borrow the selected volumes of Weird Tales on my way to Sauk City. I would make the copies and Henry would make copy of the requisite colour covers. and I would return the volumes on my return trip to Shelburne.
In mid-2000 I received an e-mail from Jim Rockhill of Dowagiac, Michigan. He had posted an inquiry to the August Derleth Society Web Site, and I had received it for a reply. I called Jim, and we discussed many matters relating to Derleth and other Weird and Horror Fiction authors. I asked him if he would be interested in proof reading the de Grandin Stories? He agreed. I suggested that as he was proofing the stories, he should consider writing an essay for Volume Three and he agreed to do this as well.
Dick and Jayne Fawcett and I met Seabury Quinn Junior for Dinner in New York City in January 2001, and Seabury agreed to write a brief commentary for Volume 2.
Bob Weinberg also agreed to written additional commentary for Volume one. On one of my subsequent visits to Bob’s place I discussed the other Weird Fiction by Quinn, and he gave me a mimeographed list of the contents of Weird Tales. This was useful, and I compiled a definitive list of all Quinn’s other appearances in the magazine, as well a selection of other Quinn writings that also appeared in the pulps.
Bob suggested that Seabury had written a series of five short stories featuring Carlos the Murderer entitled The Vagabond-at-Arms. I suggested that would make a great “next” project when the de Grandin Volumes were completed. This volume was published in late 2001.
The page proofs had grown from one volume to two volumes and finally three volumes. Initially the stories were all added to the end of the computer file, and then they were sorted in the order of their first appearance in Weird Tales and divided into the three separate volumes.
I attended Walden West Festival in Sauk City again in October 2000. I met Dwayne Olson and Philip Ramon one of the principals behind Fedogan and Bremer. He suggested that I should work with Charles McKee who ran an on-line book shop on the internet. I was in touch with Charles, and he arranged to take prepublication orders for The Compleat Adventures of Jules de Grandin.
Bob Weinberg had been invited to attend the Festival as the Guest Speaker. He spoke on Derleth’s weird and horror fiction as it appeared in Weird Tales. We had a great weekend together and visited Place of Hawks and met with the Derleth family as well as travelling around Sauk City to see all the familiar sites including the Railroad Bridge which has now been blown up — but that’s another story. Bob presented his latest publication Horror of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History to April Derleth, a collection of magazine and horror fiction art work. In fact this publication was the reason that there was a delay in the deGrandin project. I picked up the last of the covers illustrations and the remaining stories which were contained in volumes that had been sent to Bob’s printer for this latest publication. The accumulation of text and covers was now complete. A total of 92 stories and one novel in addition to 35 different colour covers. A set of page proofs was prepared and dispatched to Jim Rockhill, who had already been working on the project for some time.
Jim carefully worked through the page proofs, and did an excellent job over the next 6 months of proof reading the stories.
I was also introduced to Philp Ramon at this Walden West Festival. He was one of the co-owners of Fedogan and Bremer, and he suggested I get in touch with Charles McKee who ran in web site in British Columbia. Charles listed all the F&B publications, and Philip though that Charles would be interested in also listing the publications of The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box.
I was in touch with Charles and he was interested, especially in the de Grandin project, and he mounted a campaign to obtain pre-publication orders. this was very successful, and in large measure accounts for the print printing of one hundred sets selling out before they were received. Likewise the second printing of sixty sets; a third printing of sixty sets; and a fourth printing of forty sets. Now Charles McKee has teased me about this low initial print run, and I suppose to a degree the criticism is justified — but here’s my excuse. I use a printer in Kitchener which is a 125 kilometer drive from home, and that’s 250 kilometers roundtrip. Now sixty sets of three is a nice comfortable load for my jeep with the read seat down. A larger printing simply wouldn’t fit and it would make a necessity of two trips. These sets are expensive to produce, and when you are printing and custom binding them individually, it is simply not necessary to maintain a large inventory. There is no economy of scale in producing larger print runs, until you get above 500 sets.
There was one printing problem in Volume 2 of the first printing. Four lines of text at the end of one story on page 662 ran into the cover of the next story on the same page. This was corrected for the second printing retaining the same pagination. Otherwise the various printings are identical.
The prepublication price of the set of three volumes was $225.00 plus shipping. The current price is $250 plus shipping. This is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
I have received many compliments on the production standards for the set. I take no credit for this whatsoever. The text blocks are printed two up by a Xerox Docutect printer at M&T InstaPrint of Kitchener Ontario on 70 lb Plainefield white, grain short paper. These text block are knifed in two and sent shipped for custom binding by Bookshelf Bindery of Ridgetown, Ontario with black buxom with gold embossing on the front board and on the spine. The distinctive woven red ribbon bookmark comes from a spool I acquired in Nairobi, Kenya where I served as a Flight Surgeon in the Canadian Armed Forces for six weeks in 1993. But that’s another story!
The logo used for the set was designed by Henry Lauritzen for Peter Ruber in 1968 for his Candlelight Press when he was publishing the works of August Derleth. Peter invited me to adopt it and I have with considerable pride. It features a candle, book and deerstalker cap, and the the name — The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box — derived from the fact that most of the publications are Sherlockian scholarship and pastiches, and Dr. John H. Watson kept his papers for his Sherlock Holmes cases in a Battered Tin Dispatch Box in the vaults of Cox and Company in London. This building was destroyed in WWII in the German Blitz bombing of London in 1940. Since I use a microcomputer to compile the various literary projects, and they are stored on the computer’s hard drive and are managed with a silicon chip, I substituted “silicon” for “tin” and hence the name. One than one person has frankly told me its a silly name, not memorable and too long. I agree on the first and third counts, but the problem is I like it! and that’s the end of that discussion.
I have been criticized for the assembled two part full colour dustjackets. Some collectors have recoiled in horror when they learn I used Scotch 3M invisible tape to reinforce the assembly with Lepage’s two way stick glue. I take full responsibility for this decision. I attribute the two part DJ to a matter of cost. The Colour Docutect 80 has a limitation in size to 11 x 17″. These folio size volumes require an oversized DJ. A minimum length of 2 x 8½” + spine + width of front and back flap is required. The cost of doing three jackets by the traditional route for a small print run is simply prohibitive.
I picked the first printing up at the end of August 2001 and had them all in the mail before departing for Door County for the 1st Reunion of Canonical Conference and Caper. A thoroughly memorable weekend. The last before September 11th!
I received positive feedback from many of the purchasers, and they requested more Seabury Quinn. I took up the Vagabond project once again, and worked on This I Remember (March 2002). I also produced a new edition of Roads (June 2002) using the original Weird Tales text and new illustrations by Paul Churchill.
I have now collected all the other Quinn appearances in Weird Tales, as well as other pulp magazine appearances of Quinn’s weird and horror fiction. It looks as if this form another two similar size volumes. But the difference is there will be not so many covers to illustrate. These stories will fit into another volume which I have tentatively titled The Other Weird Fiction of Seabury Quinn (Volume 4)
I have also started to collect all the Professor Forrester Detective Stories series, The Major Harvey Sturdevant of the Secret Service stories and Captain Sir Haddingway Ingraham Jameson Ingraham (Hiji) stories which appeared in Short Stories. Aomw of these titles are proving quite elusive, and interested readers should contact me at the e-mail listed above for the current want list. There’s about 12 stories on the list.
Adding up all the appearance my count comes to approximately 300 stories. Now Seabury Quinn himself relates in an introduction to The Phantom Fighter, that he published over 500 short stories. Was his memory playing a trick on him, or are there still more than 200 stories to find in the pulps? Did he ever publish under a pseudonym? Other than the “This I Remember” series by Jerome Burke I don’t know of any other pseudonyms.
When Seabury Quinn died on Christmas Eve in 1969 virtually none of his writing was in print. I can say with some pride that Seabury Quinn and the character he created are now back in print, and they are likely to remain so for the forseeable future.
I had dinner with his son Seabury Quinn, Junior at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station in New York City in early January 2003. It was a great seafood repast and a great evening of conversation, cheese and cigars. We talked of his father and his writing—
So there you have it, my recollection of how I came to publish the three volumes of The Compleat Adventures of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn — good memories all!

This was an article I wrote for Pulpcon a couple of years ago now. It appeared in their magazine, but almost a year late, but it did appear. At Pulpcon 2007, I was welcomed by a number of members of Peaps to the group and I was very flattered, and regretted not being able to visit Brian’s suite to dialogue. It was suggested that I had not included by “autobiography” with my first contribution, and I set about to do so, but realized that the article above contained most if not all of what I was going to say, so why reinvent the wheel?
The following eight pages further outline the various pulp projects that will occupy my time in the next couple of years. I welcome you constructive comments to expand and improve them.
The first page announces the Secret Six, a six-pack of projects from Argosy which have been referred to in previous editions of Peaps, but also The Satan Hall Omnibus. The six-pack also refers to the Editorial Board (The Sacred Six) which meets irregularly, but keeps in touch electronically. I also include the Table of Contents for Gillian Hazeltine by Worts, The Philip Strange Stories by Kehoe, and The A.E. Apple series of Mr. Change and Mr. Rafferty adventures. Collectively these contain quite a few words which will be attacked one pulp at a time.


DAY BY DAY by Betty Case (November 28, 1939)

Day by Day

HISTORIANS and future generations won’t know whether to call this the Year of the Two Thanksgivings or the Year of the Great Wind at Sauk City. In September August Derleth, like the Third Little Pig, built himself a house of stone. Then he did a Jekyl-and-Hyde, threw a long shaggy black coat over his smooth, pink, well-filled skin and huffed and puffed until he put the Big Bad Wolf to shame. Because the BBW couldn’t budge the stone house no matter HOW hard HE blew . . . but August blew the cornerstone of HIS stone house all the way from Sauk City to Madison, where it landed ker-plunk in the pages of the “other newspaper.” Last month he huffed and he puffed and he puffed and he huffed until he blew HIMSELF into the pages of Time magazine as a “Horn Tooter” of experience and ability. This month he has done it differently. This month Mr. Derleth saved what breath he had left and hoarded it and coddled it and warmed it with his own benign presence until it expanded and increased and dilated and spread and produced the most magnificently inflated ego on record.No helium gas for Mr. Derleth! I should say not! His own special brand is so far superior that there’re rumors of the government taking it over as a subsidiary.
(We will pause one moment now for Ego Identification, which is necessary to the rest of the story:

Mr. Derleth is a young man who lives in Sauk City and writes pieces. He is now engaged in writing several novels which he says are the history of his part of the state, and which he calls “Sac Prairie Saga”. Sinclair Lewis once said Wisconsin people should watch him, but he forgot to say Hold on to your hats and skirts, meantime, Ladies and Gentlemen! We will now return you to Station WIND)
THIS month, as I said, Mr. Derleth did it differently. This month he had 20,000 stamps, the same size as a postage stamp, printed, each with his own picture on it. Above the picture it says: SAC PRAIRIE SAGA . . . and below it it says,with simple eloquence: AUGUST DERLETH These stamps Mr. Derleth is affixing to letters which he sends out and he has given sheets of them to Sauk City merchants with the request that they affix them to whatever mail they happen to be sending out during the holidays. Just like the Tuberculosis seals, you know.

AND all this, mind you, right after I’d sworn a swear to continue ignoring all blasts from that direction. But you can’t ignore a guy like that any more than you could ignore Toto the World’s Funniest Clown if he insisted upon performing in your front yard. And who WANTS to ignore him? August may write novels which take two reviews in the same newspaper to do them justice, but ya gotta excuse a fella even THAT when he furnishes this dreary old world such fresh and regular belly-laughs as he does. Anyway, other men have blasted their way to fame when other means failed, so why not August?


With Wisdom and Diplomacy

During a long conversation recently with Bob Weinberg in his living room surrounded by original Pulp art on the wall, when we were discussing the “Forthcoming Arkham House List,” I noted that of course, all this would have to be done with a large dollop of of diplomacy and wisdom. Bob immediately retorted with a glimmer in his eye, somewhat malevolently humorous in nature; “That’s a good motto! Which do you want to be ‘Diplomacy’ or ‘Wisdom’ and then chuckled with that same touch of humo(u)r in his voice. I thought about it for perhaps a second or two and said “Diplomacy.”

Now that’s not entirely truthful, but it is a goal to aspire to! I have been described by my friends — and by people who cannot yet be called friends — as “Like a bull in a China Shop” or “Peck’s Bad Boy,” but hopefully with Wisdom (Bob) my well meaning actions can be interpreted as “diplomatic.”

And so the Motto is “With Wisdom and Diplomacy” and the order is significant because ‘W’ follows ‘V’ in the alphabet. I suppose the alternative would also be acceptable in Latin! It only remains to translate it into Latin, French, German and Spanish.

Latin because it is the official language of the Necronomicon; French because it is the second official language in Canada; Spanish because it is the second unofficial language in the US of A; and German because there are a lot of Arkham collectors there.

Latin: Sapientiant Astutiantque or alternatively Astutiant Sapientiantque

French: Avec Sagesse et Diplomatie

German: Mit Weisheit und Diplomatie

Polish: Z Ma*broscia* i Diplomaca*

Swedish: Med visdom och diplomati

Dutch: Met Wijsheid en Diplomatie

Spanish: con sabiduria y diplomacia

Suggestions welcome in no particular order for Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Danish, Russian, Yiddish and of course Swahili.


A first glance at Derleth’s covers

I emptied the contents of two boxes onto the table in the bookhouse yesterday, and started to wade through it. There certainly was no order, and there is a plethora of Arham and Derleth material to wade through to tell the story of Derleth and his publishing house and his interest in philately simultaneously. This will have to wait for another post, and I plan to assemble the material into a couple of volumes and donate it back to The August Derleth Society for their archives. But I would like to tell you 10 items here now which tell significant parts of the story. The correspondence that these envelopes contained is undoubtedly part of the archives at The State Historical Society in Madison.

1. A 1914 postcard addressed to Zona Gale from Ada recommending a John Evans of Waupaca because he was a “strong, reliable suffragist.” Derleth published Still Small Voice, a Biography of Zona Gale after her death. This card was likely in the Zona Gale archive that Deerleth used to write the biography after her death.

2. A registered envelope dated April 12, 1940 bearing a nicely cancelled set of Famous Americans addressed to August Derleth in pen, with a return address in pen from “Donald Wandrei, 1152 Portland Avenue, St. Paul, Minn.” This letter undoubtedly contained money, perhaps Wandrei share of the pot for founding Arkham House or at least a significant portion of it.

3. A printed return envelope dated October 28, 1941, to Derleth with a stamped return address “Wings/A Quarterly of Verse/Mill Valley, Calif.” this is likely a payment for a poem or two that appeared in this quarterly either before or after the date on the envelope.

4. A plain no. 8 envelope dated October 10, 1941 typed to August Derleth with the letterhead “Herman Herst, Jr./ 116 Nassau Street, New York, N.Y.” this early letter undoubtedly contained correspondence and or stamps. Herst later wrote for Stamp Collector Magazine. And this can be the basis for an article that Ken Grant plans to write for The American Philatelist. There are at least two of these envelopes and one of them will end up in Ken’s collection.

5. A printed return envelope dated October 27, 1941, to Derleth with a type written return address “Poetry Caravan & Silhouettes, Route 1, Box 55, Lakeland, Florida” this is likely a payment for a poem or two that appeared in this journal either before or after the date on the envelope.

6. A no. 8 envelope type written to Derleth and dated “US Army Postal Service Jan 3, 1945” from “T/4 Malcolm M. Ferguson / ASN 31135599 / 828th Convalescent Center/ APO 511 / c/o Postmaster, New York, NY.” There is also “passed by Army Examiner 04705 marking” This is undoubtedly a personal leeter from a wounded acquaintance who is still alive, and I think I saw his name on the ADS membership list.

7. A First Day Cover for the Pony Express Stamp dated Jul 19, 1960, with an additional circular marking “Founders, Sacramento, Calif. St. Joseph, Mo.” It is a no. 8 with a letterhead along the long side “August Derleth/—/Literary Editor: The Capital Times, Sauk City, Wisconsin.” Now I know Derleth served as editor from 1948 until the 1960’s sometime, and I know that he had an unpleasant disagreement with the paper’s owner because of editorial censorship, but perhaps he was dismissed for using Capital Times stationary for Philatelic purposes?

8. A First Day Cover for the Garibaldi stamp in the Champion of Liberty series dated Nov 2, 1960. It is a no. 8 envelope with the logo of “Arkham House, Arkham House: Publishers, Sauk City Wisconsin.” Perhaps he started to use his own envelopes for FDCs when his Editorship of the Capital Times was completed? It contains a cut card for TEAM RECORD CARD for The Woman’s International Bowling Congress. I suspect this was merely waste filler, as I know of no relationship with a Lady Bowling Team, but I would like somebody to prove me wrong!

9. A folded oversize manilla envelope with some nice blocks and singles of the US Flags series, namely France, Belgium and Greece dated Nov 17, 1943. It has a printed slanted return address in the upper left “from/A. Derleth/Sauk City/Wisconsin” and an additional address label from Arkham House, with a type written address to “Miss Marcia Masters/c/o August Derelth, Sauk City, Wisconsin” It undoubtedly contained a manuscript or a book. Perhaps it was a proof of a book from the printer that the two of them were working on at the time?

10. A registered over-sized manilla envelope from the US Philatelic Agency and back dated “May 15th, 1944.” It has a lightly cancelled plate block of the “Completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.” It undoubtedly contained postage stamps. The fact that it has a perforated address to label typewritten to August Derelth and a number 78757 would indicate to me that Derleth was on their mailing list, and perhaps had a standing order for such postage to use on his regular correspondence. It also indicates that he did not solely rely on the local post Master for supplies. He visited the local Postmaster every business day with his morel basket and sandals in the summer, and always stopped to talk with Hugo at the Harness shop.

Now perhaps that’s too much information, for the interested philatelist they will simply have to wait to read about it in Ken’s article in The American Philatelist — if they accept it for publication. Or alternatively the stamp collector can visit Sauk City and view the collection in the basement of the Sauk City Library in The August Derleth Room where the archives reside — after they get there.

I originally planned to scan and include illustrations of these covers, but I now reckon the verbal description will suffice, and perhaps titillate the philatelist’s passion for more, and I can assure there is more in that mound of paper on my desk which will be boxed up now to make room for applying dustjackets.

Now what would be my wish list of things that I might hope to find. Covers from correspondence with Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Robert Howard, Seabury Quinn and perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Perhaps the first generation of Sherlockians such as Edgar Smith, Vincent Starrett,  and Christopher Morley as well as second generation  for example Julian Wolf, Michael Harrison, Luther Norris and Peter Ruber.

Best not to speculate, but rather to take pleasure in and document the finds. This could develop into a slide show, in fact the more I think about it, it will!


USPS has rules and regulations to follow!

But the result is worth it. When I got to Sauk City, I quickly discovered that the two special cancellations were somewhat large than I had planned on. I believe the regulations said no larger than 4 inches in the design submission. But the actual cancel(l)ing device was wider and did not fit the set of four advertising postcards which you can find illustrated elsewhere; also if stood up “portrait” style with the address for the postmark, the postcard would no longer be a postcard, but in fact a first class letter at a different rate, .42 cents instead of .27 cents. Very poor planning on my part! So the set of four advertising cards were used as inserts into the souvenir envelopes that Henry Russell had prepared with a no. 10 envelope and a picture of Derleth in cape and sandals on the left, and lots of room, portarit or landscape for an address and cancellation. I was initially worried that the inserts would make the cover overweight, and I checked two with the postmaster, and all was well on the weight front.

The postcards that I had prepared by affixing Derleth Sac Prairie stamps to prior to arrival also fell out of the postcard definition, and had to be sent as first class mail. I used additional 3 cent stamps mounted in two blocks of 7 plus an additional AD cinderella so that two cancellations would be required. Affixing the 3 cent stamps was very time consuming but I managed a few and came home with a pile of 3 cents “sheets” but thes 3 cent stamps are self adhesives, and it takes time for the ink to dry on these cards. The postmasets handed back these “first class” cards in glassine envelopes in order to minimize smudging.

I also prepared a number of sets of 2 covers to send out to various Philatelic enthusiasts of my acquaintance, and also included the Macabre Quarto advertising cards in addition to a mint block of 4 of the Sac Prairie Cinderella.

I also took the opportunity to send 10 of these covers to myself in Canada at .72 cents a pop. I gave up on 3 cents stamps here and used a single .72 in addition to a pair of Sac Prairie Cinderella. They were all sent out in glassine envelopes to prevent additional cancellation, and seven of them were in my box on my return. Two more arrived the next day, and I hope the 10th arrives shortly, but perhaps not! (During the Vietnam War, the Americans accepted the loss of 1 in 10 trucks in a convoy as normal business practise, and I hope this does not apply to United States Postal Service or for that matter Canada Post.

I won’t bother with illustrations, it is perhaps too much detail for the “normal” reader, but not the philatelist, I assure you. I have already received requests from as far as Australia for these Philatelic souvenirs, and while I prepared them initially as book premiums, I shall have to prepare “sets” to satisfy demand.

In closing, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the two Postmasters and their staff (Bill Brickl at Sauk City, 53583 and Mitch Ohnesorge at Prairie du Sac, 53578 ) who both accommodated my requests graciously but firmly. After all I would have been just as happy to acquire multiple cancellations on sheets of the “Sac Prairie” cinderellas and dispensed with the covers altogether, but that would tend to minimize Post Office revenue!


The Clown-Infested Manuscript

Pulpwood Proofing by Rodney Schroeter

The Clown-Infested Manuscript or How the Human Brain Has Not Yet Been Rendered Obsolete

The title of my first column in this series, “A Thousand Fops,” might have conjured up sugar-plum visions of a gigantic ballroom filled with men in tuxedos, each holding a martini in one hand, sipping it with pursed lips, and holding a monocle in the other hand. With pithy comments like, “I say!” and “Jolly good, ole chap!” each looks askance at the other, and wonders if his neighbor might be the Scarlet Pimpernel, or Zorro, or someone of that ilk.

This column’s title refers to my most recently-finished proofreading project, The Compleat Adventures of The Suicide Squad, by Emile C. Tepperman (forthcoming, as I write this).

The characters of the title are three G-Men, each one a loose cannon as ferociously tough as Dirty Harry. Now, they don’t work in a circus. And they’re not called on to solve any crimes in a carnival (that’s another project I worked on, for another column).

But there were clowns all over. The manuscript is crawling with them! They kept coming, and coming, and coming… as if the manuscript were a little Volkswagen…!

Now, I am not one who thinks clowns are creepy. I know such people. And I’m usually able to suppress the little derisive laugh that wants to break free, belch-like, when someone jitteringly describes their own personal hellish coulrophobia. But after finishing this manuscript, well–I can almost sympathize.

It would be a cheap, completely unjust shot for me to blame this on the OCR program. No, I readily admit that programs like this are incredible time-savers. I’d hate to think of keying all the source material for these projects. Computer programs like this have greatly enhanced our civilization’s ability to get things done.

So the OCR program saves us an incredible amount of time. But it can’t be held personally responsible when it scans a not-the-clearest photocopy, made from a text page that’s not-too-sharp in the first place, sees the letter “d” with a slight break in it, and interprets it as a “cl”.

That’s where the human brain comes in. Specifically, my human brain.

It’s my job to walk through the result of that scanned text, keeping my eye on what’s happening in the story, until I–oof!–grunt!–THUD–stumble clown-like over something like the following examples. Please savor the sweet visual implications of each.

“His eyes gleamed. He was to be caught between two fires here. If he tried to go up, the gunner on the next landing would get him. If he tried to go clown, the gunner on the first floor would get him.”

“The hallway was still thundering with gunfire. The gunner on the next landing was firing burst after burst clown the stairs.”

“The girl reached clown and turned on the ignition, and got the coupe going. It was cramped driving with the wounded and bleeding gunman slumping against her.” (Better a bleeding gunman than a creepy clown.)

“One of the thugs reached over to the bar and picked up a half-full whiskey bottle. He raised it by the neck, started to bring it clown in a smashing blow to Johnny’s face.” (Background research for this article uncovered some exciting recipes for sugar glass bottles, by the way.)

“He was swaying on his feet, and there was sweat on his face. Blood seeped through his coat on the right side, and also clown his right trousers leg. But he held himself erect.”

“The car came careening clown the street, and Dan Murdoch opened up with his revolver.” (Maybe it was a Volkswagen?)

“Far below, over the river, he caught the lights of a ferry, crawling across the Jersey shore like an immense, squat tortoise. An excursion boat, brilliantly illuminated, was working clown the river. Life, and gaiety, and music. While up here on the bleak cliffs above the city, there was stalking peril and lurking death.” (How could it be anything other than life, and gaiety, and music?)

“Time passed in that room, with each second ticking slowly, like an aeon of time. If only one of those men should decide to shoot, that would be the end of Stephen Klaw. He would go clown, taking with him many of these rats. But he would be dead.”

“They couldn’t face hot lead in the open. Half of those remaining on their feet went clown under the first volley from Kerrigan and Murdoch. The rest screamed in panic and turned to flee. They barged into panic-stricken patrons, stumbled over tables and chairs, as they gave way to blind terror.”

“Kerrigan and Klaw once more raised their guns. Murdoch thrust Martha Gray behind him, and threw clown with both revolvers on the hurtling roadster.”

“This latter one was holding a small, sawed-off sub-machine gun, with the foreshortened muzzle poking out of the window straight at Klaw. His face was clown low, sighting along the barrel, and his finger was on the trip.”

“Kerrigan scowled, and nodded. ‘I thought so, when we drove up and saw the shade clown.’”

“He leaned forward and pushed open the pane of glass which separated them from the driver’s seat. ‘Take us clown to police headquarters!’ he ordered crisply, and slid the pane shut again.”

“‘Go on clown there, you heels, an’ check on the water pressure, an’ don’t argue!’” (We all know how that’s going to turn out, as he looks into the nozzle. “Everything normal, sir–GLUB-DUB-FLUB-BLUB!!”)

“Something swished viciously clown past his shoulder blades, and then there was a dull thwack as a knife-point embedded itself in the veneer of the wooden bench upon which he had been sitting.”

“Hand over hand he climbed clown to the window below.”

“He plopped the Boston bag clown on the desk. It was so heavy it almost cracked the glass top.” (To say nothing of his wooden head.)

“Slugs smashed clown into the hall, burying themselves in the bodies that lay there.”

“Klaw held the blind aside, his automatic ready, as the ghostly shapes came clown the fire escape ladder from the roof.”

“There was nothing but darkness clown below.”

Gasp! Sputter! Choke! You know, sometimes reading a lot of this type of pulp fiction at one sitting can get a little intense! But I’m not sure this type of comic relief improves anything.

Thirty-nine clowns in this manuscript. And not a single one of them of the carnival species. Sounds like a lot, but let’s be fair to our friend, the OCR program: The same manuscript had 932 instances of the word “down”, which were translated properly.

Decades ago, there was much fear-mongering from Luddites who claimed that the computer would render the human mind obsolete. Despite the incredible improvements in computers since then, that fear no longer seems to be common. The sophistication and capability of the human mind is still safely ahead of the smartest artificial intelligence.

I believe a partial explanation for this lack of progress in AI is that the science of epistemology–the study of the nature and validation of knowledge–is still in its infancy. Or, perhaps, it has retrogressed the past couple of centuries. If significant advances are made in epistemology, we might someday see OCR programs smart enough to do the proofreading; we’d undoubtedly also see the same kind of magnificent advances in the social sciences (which currently are anything but “science”) that we have seen, the past centuries, in applied science (technology).

In the meantime, I’m happy to contribute to cultural advancement–or, more likely, slow its decline somewhat–by helping to proofread.

Rodney Schroeter
Wisconsin, March 5, 2009



Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Schroeter, Rodney


For Arkham House Compleatists Only!

During my last visit to Sauk City, I visited the Arkham House warehouse beside Place of Hawks on a couple of occasions. This building is very unassuming, but it contains a wonderful selection of books that are still in print. All of the titles arrive in boxes from the printer, in various quantities per box. In times past Augie used to receive his books in boxes too, but usually the boxes contained individually wrapped 5-packs, 6-packs, 8-packs or 10-packs depending on the size and thickness of the individual volumes. Many times unless the outer box was marked the individual packs are unmarked, and would have to be opened in order to identify the contents. Well! on at least one occasion a 5-pack received an additional label to identify it. I illustrate it below — The Folsom Flint and other Curious Tales by David H. Keller (1969). Has anyone made a study of these labels? I suspect much of the information would be lost in the sands of time and consumption. We all know that Arkham House ephemera is very desirable and collectible — advertising circulars, brochures and the like are very costly to acquire, unless you are the prescient collector who purchased books originally from the source in Sauk City. But did you but them 5 and 10 at a time? Well obviously dealers did over the years, but did they save these packet labels? I don’t think so — but I would love to be proved wrong! There a great story behind Derleth and Keller but that will have to wait for a future blog report.


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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Arkham House


A genuine Vincent Starrett signature

On my way to Sauk City WI I stopped in Oak Forest IL to visit with my friend and colleague Bob Weinberg. I presented him with a a total of nine (9) books that we had collaborated on over the past couple of years, all discussed else in this blog or on the website — The Macabre Quarto (in hard cover with dustjacket with the Arkham House Logo on the front board, and the August Derleth Society Logo on the spine of the cloth in gold leaf.) The Compleat John Solomon in three volumes, The Adventures of a Professional Corpse, and Carnacki-The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson. The latter was the last of the Mycroft and Moran editions to bring back into print. I arrived there the evening of 23 February, after a harrowing afternoon at Customs and Border Protective in Detroit. A reasonable Customs Official finally realized that my carload of books did not pose a threat to the US of A.

I arrived at 02:30 hrs and arose at 06:00 to start work to prepare for the 100th birthday celebrations at The Freethinkers’ Park Hall at 13:00. You can read about all that elsewhere with pictures at or in the next edition of The August Derleth newsletter. I was asked to say a few words, in fact my name was on the program — first I heard about it! I had received a couple of negative comments about my tie which featured Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and this was one of the rare occasions when I wore my tattered deerstalker proudly. I mentioned that The Solar Pons stories had lead me to discover Derleth years ago, and that Derleth if his writings survived being dead and out-of-print, he would be remembered for his Sac Prairie Saga — novels, short stories and his poetry and his Journals, especially Walden West. I closed by pointing out that Bugs BUnny had achieved immortality through his creator, and I did not remember his name at the time (Walter Lance I was reminded by Richard Fawcett a little later on the phone) and that it was desire to get Augie’s writings a similar measure of immortality by bringing them back into print.

The next day April and Walden Derleth invited Kay Price and I out to dinner at The Place of Hawks. I presented both of them with Hard Cover sets of The Macabre Quarto and they were pleased with the gold leaf Arkham Logo as well. We talked about future projects, and April invited me, and I quickly added Robert Weinberg’s name to edit and publish “Seventy-Five Years of Arkham House.” I did the math and this was 2014. I asked if there was anything in between and we agreed that Bob and I should explore the Arkham back list for potential revised and expanded projects. I spoke with Bob later that evening on the phone and he immediately suggested a hard cover facsimile of the 1948-1949 Arkham Sampler in a two volume slipcased edition.

On Friday Kay and I travelled to Dubuque Iowa to visit David Hammer and I delivered a supply of his most recent book For the Record — My Name is Hammer. We went to lunch, and I was left out the table conversation about the Supernatural and Ghosts, and David was enchanted with Kay’s knowledge in these matters. The car was then loaded with boxes of books that David had received back from the Wessex Press in Indianapolis.

Saturday we travelled to the Milwaukee library. We had a little trouble finding the celebration on the second floor. The old library is a labyrinth of stairs and elevators. This event will be reported elsewhere as well.

I met with April Derleth on Sunday morning and I was able to purchase August Derleth’s stamp collection in two large Banker’s File boxes, and it was a tight fit in the vehicle with Hammer’s books.

On my way home I stopped for lunch with Donald Izban in Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago. I had my first Sazerac, a whisk(e)y cocktail a specialty of New Orleans, LA and I was slurring my words after a couple of sips. I delivered the hard cover edition of the Izbans’ book The Problem of the Nine Sazeracs. Donald and Pat were both pleased with Joe Bogart’s design and full colo(u)r dustjacket.

Next Bob Weinberg, and as soon as I got there he said he had something for me. He presented me with an Argosy check for 500.00 made out to Vincent Starrett. It was signed on the back by the author and it was payment for the story “The Day Before Yesterday — Argosy” — I was pleased both with the item and also with the thought behind giving it to me. Bob noted that this was when Argosy was a slick magazine, and it might be a non-fiction article. I noted that I was not familiar with the title, but would look it up when I got home. We had dinner together and we discussed the Forthcoming Arkham House List, and agreed that we could likely make an announcement at The Windy City Pulp and Paper back Show at the beginning of May. We discussed many other things including a project in development for some time — the collected writings of Nictzin Dyalhis and The Adventures of Rogan Kincaid by Henning Nelms as by Hake Talbot. I had transported a box of pulps from April to Bob and one of the items was the original appearance of “The Rim of the Pit” in Thrilling Mystery Novel Fall 1945.

When I got home, I discovered that “The Day Before Yesterday” was one of the chapters in Persons from Porlock. I replished it in Volume 20 of the Starrett Memorial Library series, and I will append it here for your reading pleasure. It is quintessential Starrett dense wonderful writing for he was a writer’s writer, the “Last Bookman.” I will also append dj for Starrett Volumes 20. The dj’s for Volume 21 and 22 are equally attractive.


The Day Before Yesterday

There is a phrase I shall never forget. It leaped out at me, a small boy, from between the covers of a book — “the field of the cloth of gold.” The book was in my grandfather’s library, and I am still grateful to the old gentleman for those seven words of sorcery. They stand to-day, after many years, in the forefront of my memories of youthful discovery. I suspect that in some degree they have colored literature for me ever since. For a long time, at any rate, they were the sign and symbol of all that was romantic and alluring in a painted past. Thereafter — after their discovery, I mean — history, as it was written in fiction, was for me a confused and colorful drama of rogues and heroes, of haggard kings and kingly vagabonds, of lovely unfortunate women and brave Byronic men. I had found the magic glasses — the spectacles of glamor — and was forever lost in the wonder of that timeless mist that is the past.

The day before yesterday has always been a day of glamor, of gilt and glory. The present is sordid and prosaic. Time colors history as it does a meerschaum pipe. The sweet days of old are little vignettes of vanished happiness and splendor quaintly preserved in little silver frames. Is it not so? And yet, we may be sure that our grandsires, too, and their grandsires before them, looked back with captured eyes to the “good old days” of still earlier generations.

The thought is not particularly new; but it is an excellent text for a gossip on the perennial popularity of historical fiction. We associate the cloak and sword drama with other years; but it is still with us — it has never become quite extinct. Naturalism and contemporary bad manners may be the order of the day, but the thin echo of clinking swords and the clatter of horses’ hoofs never dies in the distance…. It is not too bad, I think, that this is so. Tastes are as catholic as bookshelves are wide; and the discriminating reader may admit the excellence of the Russians without yielding an ounce of his liking for the romantics. Possibly it is only a matter of alphabetic arrangement; and after Dostoevsky, on the shelves, come Doyle and Dumas.

An Archbishop of Canterbury once put a question to Betterton, the actor: “How is it that you players, who deal only with things imaginary, affect your auditors as if they were real; while we preachers, who deal with things real, affect our auditors as if they were imaginary?” The player answered: “It is, my lord, because we actors speak of things imaginary as if they were real, while you preachers too often speak of things real as if they were imaginary.”

The remark may be applied to the writing of history and historical fiction. Often enough historians are stately, solid fellows, dealing unromantically with arid fact, while poets and romancers, out of distance and illusion, create living images of times and persons as perhaps they never were. In the end, it is the poetry and the romance that survives. It is fiction, not fact, that the world wants with its evening pipe. Critics of life and letters, with painfully creased brows, and brains that fairly creak with portentous thoughts of no particular importance, cry out at the false glamor of such presentations; but wise men enjoy the solitary horseman, the clatter of hoofs in darkness, the gleam of swords in moonlight, and the lusty bawling of picturesque adventurers spoiling for a fight. If, in such fictive tales of — eld, is perhaps the word — an enormous gusto and a delicate but not overdrawn atmosphere of burlesque or satire be contrived, so much the better. Facts, after all, are only things that a relatively small minority has agreed to believe; and fact — in the singular — is not too rashly to be confused with truth. “What is truth?” asked a celebrated jurist, in a celebrated work of historical fiction; and the time has come to answer him. Truth is that which seems to be true, and that which one chooses to regard as true.

But is it stranger than fiction? How much more readily we remember romance than history! Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Richard certainly are not the Richard and Macbeth of history, yet we cling to those familiar portraits and discard the so-called truth. “Macbeth,” Sir Walter Scott informs us, “broke no law of hospitality in his attempt on Duncan’s life.” He attacked and slew the King at a place called Bothgowan, back there in 1039, it appears; not, as Shakespeare asserts, in his own castle of Inverness. The act was bloody, as was the complexion of the time; but the claim of Macbeth to the throne, according to the rules of Scottish succession (and according to Sir Walter), was better than that of Duncan. As a king, the tyrant so much deplored was actually, it is said, a firm, just, and equitable prince.
The very existence of such persons as Banquo and his son, Fleance, has been disputed by authority; and there is small reason to believe that the latter fled farther from Macbeth than across the flat scene of the stage — as called for in the playwright’s direction. Neither were Banquo and his son ancestors of the house of Stuart, so ’tis said. Sir Walter, himself, for all his strictures upon the accuracy of Shakespeare, was a fictioneer who took what liberties he pleased with the grim hussy, History.

Yet the mind retains completely the impressions made by the imposition of genius. While our language exists, and the works of Shakespeare are read, history may say what it will; but the general reader will remember Macbeth as a sacrilegious usurper, and Richard as a deformed murderer who once cried lustily for a horse.

Or, conceivably, the greater popularity of romance is founded on its interest in those things which, for the most part, are minimized by the historian, save where they bear upon the — to him — larger affairs of state. It is only the occasional and dilletante writer of history who fathers an adequate volume on the domestic tantrums of a princess or the love-life of a prince. One is grateful for the revival of interest in the wife and lives — the life and wives, one should say — of Henry VIII. Obviously, it is a subject that lends itself admirably to the talents of the writer who, like certain photographers, specializes in groups…. Popular interest in Henry, one fancies, will always be in the number of his wives, rather than in his overthrow of the monasteries; and nobody ever will remember the number. How many were there, now? At first blush, eight; but one is sure to confuse the number of Henrys with the number of the last Henry’s wives. It is possible that there were only six. In point of fact, there were just six, one is informed. But, really, does it matter? And, of course, it is not alone the number of wives that draws one to the subject and makes it memorable; it is, in large measure, the spectacular fashion of their removal. “Bluebeard for happiness!” as Henry is reported to have said, looking up from a volume of M. Maeterlinck’s dramas.

I was speaking, however, of the novel of the cloak and sword, of historical fiction, of history in fiction; and defending its right to be plausible rather than factual. I hasten to add that I am far from deprecating the more immediate novel of contemporary consciousness, concerned with the several manifestations — sex, religion, politics, et al — of our complex civilization. I suggest merely that we get a better perspective on all these no doubt momentous matters in a sparkling tale of other days, in which less significance is attached to them than to the happier consideration of pinking the villain and rescuing the girl. In such narratives, the irritating matters suggested are relegated to their proper places, with a lift of the eyebrow and a toss of the shoulder.