Friday, 9 October 2015

Food for thought

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” 
 - Philip Pullman

Whilst good nourishment might not have been easy to come by in a prisoner of war camp, at least Henry Wilkinson had access to books, even if they weren't the well known works. In this set of books read in July and August of 1918 there are several lesser known stories by popular authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle.  It is not say that these books do not have merit, but it is hard to think that even with the limited range available, a book titled 'Yeast' would be considered of interest if it were not written by Charles Kingsley.

Petticoat Government, Baroness Orczy, published 1910, ready 19 July 1918
Written by the same author as the Scarlet Pimpernel books, Petticoat Government is a story in three parts, The Girl, The Statesman, and The Woman, concerning the French aristocracy and the Madame du Pompadour’s influence over Louis XV of France.

During the First World War, Baroness ‘Emmuska’ Orczy set up the Women of England’s Active Service League, which had 20000 members.  Katie Adie’s book ‘Fighting on the Home Front’ says these women had to pledge “not to be seen in the company of a man ‘who had not answered his country’s call’…” 

A Short History of Our Own Time, J McCarthy, published 1879-1890, read 21 July 1918
This is a history in five volumes subtitled ‘From the accession of Queen Victoria to the general election of 1880’.  It is not indicated whether Wilkinson had access to all five volumes of the book given that the library did not always have a full complement of books in multiple parts. However, the next entry in the book list is dated nine days later as opposed to the usual one or two, so maybe Wilkinson did have access to the majority, if not all, of the volumes.  The book seems to be more often referred to without the ‘short’ in the title.  It is not clear if there is a difference or not.

The Score, Lucas Malet, published 1909, read 30 July 1918
There are two stories in this book.  The first tells of a successful actress who cares so much for the best interests of her friend and lover that she sacrifices her own marriage and love.  The second story takes place at an Italian convent and looks at the psychology of evil.  (Summarised from the Internet Archive)

Lucas Malet is the pseudonym of Mary St Leger Kingsley, the daughter of Charles Kingsley. 

The Captain of the Pole Star, Arthur Conan Doyle, published 1890, read 2 August 1918
This book has a series of short stories including the title one, in which the crew of a ship hunting for treasure in the north pole begin to doubt the sanity of their captain after they hear a one sided conversation coming from his quarters.  It also contains ‘J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement’ which is the story of the Marie Celeste.  It popularised the mystery to the point that many commonly held ideas are actually Conan Doyle’s fictional embellishments. 

Arthur Conan Doyle was a popular author in the libraries of prisoner of war camps.  In July 2014, I posted about PHB Lyon reading the Sherlock Holmes story ‘His Last Bow’.

A Fountain Sealed, Walter Besant, published 1897, read 8 August 1918
One of many fictional books written by the novelist and historian Walter Besant, this is a work of historical fiction about the supposed mistress of King George III in the 1700s. 

Hunted Down, Charles Dickens, published 1859, read 12 August 1918
This is a short detective story thought to have been inspired by the alleged poisoner Thomas Wainewright (who also inspired many other writers including Oscar Wilde).  It was published at a time when the London Metropolitan Police was well established and the public had an appetite for crime stories.

Yeast, Charles Kingsley, published 1848 (Fraser’s Magazine), 1851 (book), read 15 August 1918
The second book by Charles Kingsley that Wilkinson read, the Victorian Web describes the novel as telling  “the fate of Lancelot Smith, a wealthy young man, who changes his religious and social views under the influence of Tregarva, a philosophical game-keeper, who acquaints Smith with the social, economic and moral conditions of the rural poor.”

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