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Category Archives: Starrett, Vincent E.

R.I.P. Peter Ruber (1940-2014)

Peter A. Ruber, BSI, PSI passed away on March 6, 2014. Peter was born September 29, 1940. I have had no contact with him since 2004. He had a major stroke in 2005, and has been in long-term care since 2011. But Peter was absolutely pivotal in my learning and understanding of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vincent Starrett, August Derleth, Luther Norris, Seabury Quinn, George F. Worts, H. Bedford-Jones and Bertram Fletcher Robinson among others.

Austin McLean introduced Peter to me when I commenced my research on Vincent Starrett in 1994 along with Cameron Hollyer.

I have many fond memories when we travelled together to Minnesota and visited the Sherlock Holmes Collection in Minneapolis. We were royally entertained by Allan Mackler at the time; Allan was full of book stories as well.

Peter and I first visited Arkham House and April Derleth together in 1996. I helped him carry four boxes of books and manuscripts to the airport on his return flight; and Peter was appointed Editor of Arkham House, the following year.

Kay Price extended her hospitality to both of us, and we planned many Derleth publications together for The August Derleth Society in Sauk City. Most, but not all of these can be found on their website www.Derleth.org.

l have pleasant memories of countless long telephone conversations about a multitude of literary matters.

During the course of preparing The Original Text Solar Pons Omnibus 2 volume edition, we had many heated discussions, and resolved many difficult points, but I believe the final published result was worth the effort on both our parts.

Peter talked with me at great length about his publication on The Baker Street Gasogene in 1961-1962. He had plans for a regular journal, but that didn’t work out.

He revised one of the articles to be his introduction to the book The Chronicles of Addington Peace by Fletcher Robinson.

I well remember a meeting on a Friday morning in New York with Richard Lancelyn Green, Peter Ruber, Christopher Roden and myself in New York City. Richard had brought along his personal copies of Baker Street Gasogene for Peter to sign. Richard had also brought along his file of correspondence between Michael Harrison and August Derleth. Peter Ruber also had a file of correspondence he had obtained from Arkham House archives. I was to meld the two and publish the results. Richard also noted there were some missing originals in the files of John Michael Gibson. I did not have the opportunity to complete that correspondence until May 2012. But that’s another story, and the book is ready to go, introduced by David Hammer. I shall dedicate the volume to Peter Ruber and to Richard Lancelyn Green. At the end of breakfast, I adjourned to a second breakfast at The Harvard Club down the street with Dan Posnanysky. I learned later that Peter then presented a number of unpublished manuscripts by H Russell Wakefield which were subsequently published as Reunion at Dawn. But the conclusion to that story is an adventure for another day.

Peter had also done research on the bibliography of George F, Worts. The last item I sent him was the two volume collection of Peter the Brazen. I have also been working a multi-volume collection of Gillian Hazeltine. Rodney Schroeder recently completed the huge editorial job, and the set should be ready for publication soon. I shall dedicate this volume to Peter.

Peter also maintained a rich correspondence with August Derleth, after his first visit to Sauk City in 1962, This is all, now held in the archived of The State Historical Society in Madison Wisconsin. The Derleth archives is well worth a visit. It contains a note scribbled to Derleth by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If you have trouble finding it, it is filed under “D”.

Peter and I spent three days perusing this archive in some detail in 1996.

Finally, Austin McLean introduced us, and I agreed to publish Ruber’s volume of Vincent Starrett’s poetry. (This is Volume 1 in the Starrett Memorial Library.) Peter sent me four manuscripts, which had been sitting on a shelf in his office since 1971, when his publishing company The Candlelight Press ceased to operate. I examined them in detail. There was also correspondence attached, but in particular Peter had a letterhead logo for his Candlelight Press. You will find it in his version of the Last Bookman. I asked him if I could adopt it as my own since he was no longer using it. The answer was an unqualified yes. The logo had been designed by Henry Lauritzen featuring deerstalker hat, book, candle and pipe. Peter also noted that he did not like the title for my press, in fact he said it was awful! as well as too long! And so The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box press was born amidst controversy. Peter noted that Henry had created it at the same time as he did the illustrations for The Adventure of the Orient Express which was published in 1968.

I well remember when Peter finally consented to let me publish, The Bibliography of H. Bedford Jones, tiled The King of the Pulps. We had talked about it for many years. Peter had two co-authors, Darrell Richardson and Victor Berch. Bedford-Jones was a Canadian, who lived and wrote in the USA. Bedford Jones was prolific to say the least. The rest of this story must be for another day — very complicated and convoluted, but the book was published and is still available. Many additional projects resulted after my perusal of this Bibliography. The Compleat Saga of John Solomon and The Exploits of Riley Dillon are two which immediately come to mind.

In summary, Peter, R.I.P. it was a pleasure to recall our times together, and exciting to remember there are still projects, yet to be published, which will have your imprimatur on them, as well as Henry Lauritzen’s design.

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Five Authors and Hand Puppets

I recently visited Ken Vogel in Madison, Wisconsin to retrieve a set of five authors represented as hand puppets that Ken created from pictures that I gave him. I enclose a photo here, and now I will simply have to practise operating them. It involves the use of the five fingers on the dominant hand. I also have a set of five marionettes, but these definitely require coordination of both hands in manipulating a number of strings attached to an overhead cross stick. A couple of these fellows will serve double duty as characters in the January 2013 dramatic reading of “The Riddle of the Starving Swine” by Gayle Lange Puhl. The final location and time to be announced.

 

Update on the Vincent Starrett Memorial Library

I started to compile The Vincent Starrett Memorial Library in 1995 shortly after I was introduced to Peter Ruber. It grew into a multi-volume work, and it is nearly completed now; there have been many forks in the road, a litany of half-truths, incompetence and duplicity which does not bear repeating. The project started with Cameron Hollyer and I searching out Vincent Starrett’s birthplace at 47 Oxford Street. There are still volumes left to complete:

V14. The Fugitive, Other Stories and the Caboose

by Vincent Starrett, with commentary by Peter Ruber. Hard Cover, 220p. ISBN 978-1-55246-116-7 @ $36.00
This is the last collection of short stories by Starrett. SOme have been collected elsewhere, and some have never been collected. There are a couple of Jimmie Lavendar stories that have been uncovered since the 4th volume of his stories went to press. I do believe there are no more, but would like to be proven wrong!

V23. Born in a Bookshop

by Vincent Starrett Hard.  Hard Cover, 318p. with Index ISBN 978-1-55246-130-3 @ price not set yet
With a new Introduction by Michael Dirda
This volume is Starrett’s autobiography. It was originally published in 1965 by The Universary of Oklahoma. I have delayed publication since Starrett noted after its publication that there was a lot of material that was never included. I have made numerous inquiries, and nothing more than an additional 35 pages has appeared, and this has been included as an appendix. This will not appear in 2011.

V24. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and Other Sherlockian Pieces

by Vincent Starrett. With an introduction by Karen Murdock. Hard Cover and TPB, 500+pp. ISBN 978-1-55246-132-7 @ Price not set yet.
This volume includes the text of the 1960 University of Chicago Press edition which was ememded by Starrett with the assistance of Michael Murphy. As originally conceived, this volume was scheduled to published last so that it could include all and any Sherlockian pieces collected from anywhere they might have appeared. I invited Karen Murdock, and she rapidly discovered that much was taken from the “Books Alive” column of The Chicago Tribune and and she went on to collect these separately and that appeared in 2010 as Sherlock Alive. The first edition cover has an extraneous apostrophe in “Book’s” and this has been removed in subsequent editions.
 

Another Vincent Starrett Signature

When I met with Bob Weinberg last week in Chicago prior to my visit to Arkham House in Sauk City Wisconsin we talked of many things; 1) the list of future publications 2) the The Arkham House Mission Statement 3) the Arkham Brotherhood and Sisterhood — past and future authors who have published with Arkhma House 4) The Arkham House contract which August Derleth designed and used consistly right from the foundation of the firm.

When I arrived at “The Place of Hawks” April showed me the relevant contract filing cabinet drawers in the bookhouse and invited me to have a look. He had to carefully move a stack of vintage unfolded vintage Dustjackets to have a look. The contract that Vincent Starrett signed for his collection of The Quick and the Dead back in 1964 was neatly filed under V and I perused it carefully. It was printed  on two double sided No. 14 inches pages, and I reproduce Clause I of XVI clauses belowm, along with the signature block and the face. The title story for the collection first appeared in Weird Tales, and I also append the illustration header for the first appearance.

Both AWD’s and VS’s signatures are witnessed by Roberic Meng who worked at Arkham House, fulfilling orders and serving as Augie’s chauffeur, because Derleth didn’t drive a car. Because of the same witness for both signatures, Starrett undoubtedly travelled from Chicago to visit August for the signing, and the signature is therefore undoubtedly genuine. I would speculate that Starrett came bearing gifts, perhaps his inscrobed copy of The Private Life? which he presented to Augie; unfortunately no DJ, but great inscription!

Clause I. RIGHTS GRANTED TO PUBLISHER : The Author hereby grants to the Publisher the following exclusive rights and privileges in, to, and in connection with the work now entitled THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (hereinafter sometimes referred to as “the Work”, the title to which may be changed only by mutual consent of the parties

1. The sole and exclusive book publication rights in the United States, its territories and dependencies, the Philippine Islands, and the Dominion of Canada; and the right to sell copies of the Work in the open market throughout the world.

2. Second and third serial rights, abridgment, condensation, selection, and other serial and publication rights following book publication, in the United States, its territories and dependencies and in the Dominion of Canada.

3. The right to lease or to sell plates of the Work to others for reprint publication or otherwise to license reprint publication.

4. The right to license others to publish the Work or any portions thereof in the English language outside of the United States and Canada or to translate into and/or publish the work in foreign languages, and the right to license others to exercise in any foreign country any of the rights granted to the Publisher under this Article I.

5. All rights relating to the work of dramatization, motion picture rights, rights of mechanical recording, transmission or reproduction by radio, telephone, television or other means of recording, transmission or projection, or other medium now existing or which hereafter may be developed, in the United States, its territories and dependencies and in all foreign countries.

The remaining fifteen clauses are also interesting to read, but I don’t want to bore the reader with technicalities, nor do I want to provide the read with a model template for a contract that favo(u)rs the publisher and not the author.

It is also interesting to note that Frank Utpatel designed the cover for “The Quick and the Dead.” I purchased this original art in 2001 from Bob Weinberg acting as April Derleth’s agent. I introduced the two of them in 2000. I plan to reccyle this Utpatel art as the cover for Volume XIV of the Vincent Starrett Memorial Library entitled “The Fugitive, Other Stories and The Caboose.” This title was changed because I wanted to include additional Starrett writings which would better have been included in previously published volumes, namely “Gallant Meals” which was first published in Gourmet Magazine and uncovered by Karen Murdock, some additional Memoriable Morsels, also uncovered by Karen and a number of quotes which would have ideally been included in “A Little Anthology” — Volume IX and “Memorable Meals” — Volume II in the series.

 

Update on Vincent Starrett

The Vincent Starrett Memorial Library is a project conceived by Peter Ruber and I back in 1994. I have been working on it on and off since then. It is a project presently in 25 volumes and 21 have been published so far.

The Vincent Starrett Memorial Library

( Published 1994–2010 )

Volume 1 • Collected Poems Hard Cover, 194p. ISBN 1-896032-62-1 • $30.00

Volume 2 • Memorable Meals Hard Cover, 218p. ISBN 1-896032-64-8 • $30.00

Volume 3 • The Last Bookman Hard Cover, 172p. ISBN 1-896032-66-4 • $30.00

Volume 4 • New Adventures of Jimmie Lavender H.C., 252p. ISBN 1-896032-72-9 • $30.00

Volume 5 • More Books Alive Hard Cover, 223p. ISBN 1-896032-76-1 • $30.00

Volume 6 • Eleventh Juror and Other Mysteries H.C., 225p. ISBN 1-896032-78-8 • $30.00

Volume 7 • Escape of Alice and Other Fantasies H,C.., 205p. ISBN 1-896032-80-X • $30.00

Volume 8 • The Memoirs of Jimmie Lavender Hard Cover, 255p. ISBN 1-896032-74-5 • $30.00

Volume 9 • A Little Anthology Hard Cover, 229p. ISBN 1-896648-00-2 • $30.00

Volume 10 • War Correspondent Hard Cover, 226p. ISBN 1-896648-01-0 • $30.00

Volume 11 • Reporter’s Notebook Hard Cover, 365p. ISBN 978-1-896648-02-6 • $36.00

Volume 12 • Wayside Tales Hard Cover, 284p. ISBN 1-896648-05-3 • $30.00

Volume 13 • The Return of Jimmie Lavender Hard Cover, 302p. ISBN 1-896648-04-5 • $32.00

Volume 14 • Fugitive and the Caboose Hard Cover, 220p. ISBN 978-1-55246-116-7 • Almost published

Volume 15 • Tales of Mystery and Imagination Hard Cover, 263p. ISBN 1-896648-06-1 • $30.00

Volume 16 • The Casebook of Jimmie Lavender Hard Cover, 332p. ISBN 1-55246-114-9 • $36.00

Volume 17 • Murder Mystery Classics #1 ( Murder on B Deck and Dead Man Inside ) Double Hard Cover 331pp. ISBN 1-55246-118-1 • $38.00

Volume 18 • Murder Mystery Classics #2 ( End of Mr. Garment, The Great Hotel Murder) Double Hard Cover 312pp. ISBN 1-55246-120-3 • $38.00

Volume 19 • Murder Mystery Classics #3 ( Midnight and Percy Jones and Murder in Peking ) Double Hard Cover, 272pp. ISBN 1-55246-122-X • $38.00

Volume 20 • Literary Classics #1 ( Seaports in the Moon, Penny Wise and Book Foolish, Persons from Porlock and Other Interruptions and Buried Caesars ) Hard Cover, 408p. ISBN 978-1-55246-124-2 • $40.00

Volume 21 • Literary Classics #2 ( Books Alive and Bookman’s Holiday ) Hard Cover, 395p. ISBN 978-55246-126-6 • $40.00

Volume 22 • Literary Classics #3 ( Books and Bipeds, Best Loved Books of the 20th Century and Book Column ) Hard Cover, 424p. ISBN 978-1-55246-128-0 • $40.00

Volume 23 • Born in a Bookshop Hard Cover, 318p. index ISBN 1-55246-130-0 • Almost published

Volume 24 • The Private Life and Other Writings Hard Cover, 500+pp. ISBN 978-1-55246-132-7; Paperback, 500+p. ISBN 978-1-55246-133-4 • Almost published

Volume 25 • Sherlock Alive! Hard Cover & TPB, 500+p. ISBN 978-1-55246-908-8 • Almost published

More information is available at my website by clicking on this link : http://batteredbox.com/VincentStarrett/index.htm

 
 

Six New Titles in 2010

It’s snowing here today overlooking the ice on Lake Eugenia. Standing on my veranda overlooking the lake I can see some fishing shacks in the channel beside the island. I am holding a fresh, hot mug of coffee in my hands, and many projects at hand to occupy the day. Later in the afternoon I will drive up to the post box where 3 days mail still waits in Post Office Box 50. I am also trying to prepare for a read trip to Sauk City Wisconsin; I am looking forward to the visit very much. Finally I am posting the front covers of the six books that have been published so far in 2010 (and it’s only January) — and time permitting each will require a separate blog post, but maybe not enough time. Yes, a good day lies ahead of me.

Reporter's Notebook -- Volume 11 -- by Vincent Starrett

A Verdant Green: A Florilegium of Poetry for Anna & Bill McCoy

The Greatest Canadian Love Poem and Other Treasures of the Heart by Allan Glenn Rose

Walt Whitman's Canada compiled by C.Greenland & J.R.Colombo

Millennium Madness by Raymond Souster

War Christmas by Dwight Whalen

 

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 derleth.org 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.

four-literary-classics

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.