Friday, July 31, 2009

WORMWOODIANA

So, while I'm on a Doug Anderson kick, I wanted to celebrate the recent launching of Doug's collaborative blog. Doug is not just a superlative scholar but better than anyone I know in finding out things about obscure dead authors (we were once on a panel together of that name at Wiscon along with several other people, and his author was more obscure, though not more dead, than any of the other offerings).

A while back Doug starting doing reviews in a little journal called WORMWOOD. Now, as of sometime in June, he's started a blog to which he and other contributors make postings similar to the fare in the journal, although so far there seem to be fewer reprints of old impossible-to-find stories from decades ago and more articles and notes about such works--which seems to me to make the blog a good complement to the physical journal.

I haven't read all the posts yet, the blog having been already in progress when I discovered it, but already there's been at least one real gem: Sidney Sime's colour illustration of the first JORKENS story back in 1926, which features Sime's portrait of Dunsany himself as Jorkens. So far as I know, this is Sime's only portrayal of his longtime partner. It thus makes a nice accompaniment for Dunsany's intensely moving word-portrait of Sime, which he wrote upon learning of Sime's death in obscurity and poverty in the early days of World War II, the first and last sentences of which read

"We have lost, in a time of losses, when loss is nothing out of the ordinary, a genius, whose stupendous imagination has passed across our time little more noticed by most people than the shadow of a bird passing over a lawn would be noticed by most of a tennis party."

"And now that vast imagination has left us, having enriched our age with dreams that we have not entirely deserved."


(THE GHOSTS OF THE HEAVISIDE LAYER [1980], pages 168-175)


I first saw this illustration in Edinburgh during a research trip in May 1987 but have never been able to get a copy (the Milwaukee Public Library's records state that they have one, but it's in storage in their sub-sub basement, and I was never able to retrieve it on mulitple efforts). Thus, I am delighted to find it posted here (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_qBZLTknJx80/Smx7s6BoGJI/AAAAAAAAABc/PVq15H1EoWw/s1600-h/Sime+Jorkens+1926.jpg). Quite aside from its associational value, it has intrinsic interest in that it reveals that by 1926 Dunsany had already gone entirely grey, if not white -- I suspect from the stresses of the war years, particularly his harrowing experiences of 1916 (which had such an impact on his work that I devoted a whole sub-section of a chapter to it in my dissertation). I had always assumed that the pictures of Dunsany that appear as frontispieces to the three volumes of his autobiography -- PATCHES OF SUNLIGHT [1938], WHILE THE SIRENS SLEPT [1944], & THE SIRENS WAKE [1945] were contemporaneous with those books' publications. I now believe they are instead pictures of Dunsany as he appeared during the years covered by those volumes, so that (for example) the photograph of Dunsany that appears in the middle volume -- my favorite image of him, the only one which makes him look like an author -- probably shows him as he was at age forty, when the book opens, rather than nearing sixty, as he was when it was published.

And all this from just a single post from a newly launched blog. WORMWOODIANA promises great things, and I've already added it to my short list of sites I check regularly; when I have time, I'll have it added to the list of recommended links on my website. Well done Doug (and associates)!

--John R.


In the meantime, here's the link:

http://wormwoodiana.blogspot.com/

2 comments:

Magister said...

Thanks for the link and the marvellous image!

In regards to Dunsany's colouring: H. P. Lovecraft saw him lecture in Boston in October 1919, and mentions his "abundant light brown hair", so at that time he hadn't yet gone grey.

Magister said...

A little know-it-all correction:

"I now believe they are instead pictures of Dunsany as he appeared during the years covered by those volumes, so that (for example) the photograph of Dunsany that appears in the middle volume -- my favorite image of him, the only one which makes him look like an author -- probably shows him as he was at age forty, when the book opens, rather than nearing sixty, as he was when it was published."

When While the Sirens Slept was published, Dunsany had already left sixty a few years behind him; he was born in 1878, so was 66 at the time.