09 July, 2008

Sean O'Casey




Seán O'Casey was an Irish dramatist and memoirist. A committed socialist, he was the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes.

O'Casey was born at 85 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin, as John Casey, the son of Michael Casey, a mercantile clerk, and Susan Archer. His family background was "shabby genteel", and not, as often assumed, the working-class culture in which his plays are set. His parents were Protestants and he was a member of the Church of Ireland, baptized on July 28, 1880 in St. Mary's parish, confirmed at St John the Baptist Church in Clontarf, and an active member of Saint Barnabas until his mid-twenties, when he drifted away from the church.

O'Casey's father died when Seán was just six years of age, leaving a family of thirteen. The family lived a peripatetic life thereafter, moving from house to house around north Dublin. As a child, he suffered from poor eyesight, which interfered somewhat with his early education, but O'Casey taught himself to read and write by the age of thirteen.

He left school at fourteen and worked at a variety of jobs, including a nine-year period as a railway man on the GNR. O'Casey worked in Eason's for a short while, in the newspaper distribution business, but was sacked for not taking off his cap when collecting his wage packet.

From the early 1890s, O'Casey and his elder brother, Archie, put on performances of plays by Dion Boucicault and William Shakespeare in the family home. He also got a small part in Boucicault's The Shaughraun in the Mechanics' Theatre, which stood on what was to be the site of the Abbey Theatre.

As his interest in the Irish nationalist cause grew, O'Casey joined the Gaelic League in 1906 and learned the Irish language. At this time, he Gaelicised his name from John Casey to Seán Ó Cathasaigh. He also learned to play the Uilleann pipes and was a founder and secretary of the St. Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and became involved in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, which had been established by Jim Larkin to represent the interests of the unskilled laborers who inhabited the Dublin tenements. He participated in the Dublin Lockout but was blacklisted and could not find steady work for some time.

In March 1914 he became General Secretary of Larkin's Irish Citizen Army, which would soon be run by James Connolly. On 24 July 1914 he resigned from the ICA, after his proposal to deny dual membership to both the ICA and the Irish Volunteers was rejected.


In 1917, his friend Thomas Ashe died in a hunger strike and it inspired him to write. He wrote two laments: one in verse and a longer one in prose. Ballads authored around this time by O'Casey featured in the two editions of Songs of the Wren, published in 1918; these included "The Man from the Daily Mail", which, along with "The Grand Oul' Dame Britannia", became Irish rebel music staples. A common theme was opposition to Irish conscription into the British Army during the First World War.

He spent the next five years writing plays. In 1918, when both his sister and mother died (in January and September, respectively), the St Laurence O'Toole National Club commissioned him to write the play The Frost in the Flower. He had been in the St Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band and played on the hurling team, but the club declined to put the play on, out of fear that its satirical treatment of several parishioners would cause resentment. O'Casey then submitted the play to the Abbey Theatre, which also rejected it but encouraged him to continue writing. Eventually, O'Casey expanded the play to three acts and retitled it The Harvest Festival.

O'Casey's first accepted play, The Shadow of a Gunman, was performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1923. This was the beginning of a relationship that was to be fruitful for both theatre and dramatist but which ended in some bitterness.

The play deals with the impact of revolutionary politics on Dublin's slums and their inhabitants, and is understood to be set in Mountjoy Square, where he lived during the 1916 Easter Rising. It was followed by Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). The former deals with the effect of the Irish Civil War on the working class poor of the city, while the latter is set in Dublin in 1916 around the Easter Rising. Both plays deal realistically with the rhetoric and dangers of Irish patriotism, with tenement life, self-deception, and survival; they are tragi-comedies in which violent death throws into relief the blustering masculine bravado of characters such as Jack Boyle and Joxer Daly in Juno and the Paycock and the heroic resilience of Juno herself or of Bessie Burgess in The Plough and the Stars. Juno and the Paycock became a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

The Plough and the Stars was not well received by the Abbey audience and resulted in scenes reminiscent of the riots that greeted J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World in 1907. There was a riot reported on the fourth night of the show. His depiction of sex and religion even offended some of the actors, who refused to speak their lines. The full-scale riot occurred partly because the play was thought to be an attack on the men in the rising and partly in protest in opposition to the animated appearance of a prostitute in Act 2. W. B. Yeats intervened and described the audience as "shaming themselves". The takings of the play were substantial compared with the previous week. O'Casey gave up his job and became a full-time writer.

After the incident, even though the play was well liked by most of the Abbey goers, Liam O'Flaherty, Austin Clarke and F. R. Higgins launched an attack against it in the press. O'Casey believed it was an attack on Yeats, that they were using O'Casey's play to berate Yeats.

In 1952 he appeared in a play by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy called "The Wild Goose" in which he played the part of Father Ryan. O'Casey was involved in numerous productions with the Abbey; these can be found in the Abbey Archives.

While in London to receive the Hawthornden Prize and supervise the West End production of Juno and the Paycock, O'Casey fell in love with Eileen Carey. The couple were married in 1927 and remained in London until 1938, when they moved to Totnes.

In 1928, W. B. Yeats rejected O'Casey's fourth play, The Silver Tassie for the Abbey. It was an attack on imperialist wars and the suffering they cause. The Abbey refused to perform it. The premier production was funded by Charles B. Cochran, who took only eighteen months to put it on stage. It was put up at the Apollo Theatre but lasted for only twenty-six performances. It was directed by Raymond Massey, starred Charles Laughton and with an Act II set design by Augustus John. George Bernard Shaw and Lady Gregory had a favorable opinion of the show.


The plays O'Casey wrote after this included the darkly allegorical Within the Gates (1934), which is set within the gates of a busy city park based on London's Hyde Park. Although it was highly controversial, Eugene O'Neill responded positively to it. The play was originally going to be a film script for Alfred Hitchcock.  It closed not long after opening and was another box office failure.

In the autumn of 1934, O'Casey went to the United States to visit the New York City production of Within the Gates, which he admired greatly. It was directed by actor Melvyn Douglas and starred Lillian Gish. This is when he befriended Eugene O'Neill, Sherwood Anderson and George Jean Nathan.

The Star Turns Red (1940) is a four-act political allegory in which the Star of Bethlehem turns red. The story follows Big Red (who was based on O'Casey's friend, James Larkin) who is a trade-union leader. The union takes over the unnamed country despite the ruthless efforts of the Saffron Shirts, a fascist organization openly supported by the Roman Catholic hierarchy of the country. It was staged by Unity Theatre in London during 1940 (later, in 1978 by the Abbey in Dublin).

Purple Dust (1943) follows two wealthy, materialistic English stockbrokers who buy an ancient Irish mansion and attempt to restore it with their wrong notions of Tudor customs and taste. They try to impose upon a community with vastly different customs and lifestyles that are much closer to ancient Gaelic ways and are against such false values.

The Englishmen set their opposing standards against those represented by the men employed to renovate the house. In the resulting confrontation the English are satirized and in the end disappointed when a symbolic storm destroys their dream of resettling the old into the present. The hint that is enforced by the conclusion is that the little heap of purple dust that remains will be swept away by the rising winds of change, like the residue of pompous imperialism that abides in Ireland. The show has been compared to Shaw's John Bull's Other Island, which was one of O'Casey's favorites, but aside from a few similarities, there are no real grounds for comparison.

He also penned Red Roses for Me (1943), which saw him move away from his early style in favor of more expressionistic means and overtly socialist content to his writing. It went up at Dublin's Olympia Theatre (which was the first one produced in Ireland in seventeen years). It would move on to London in 1946, where O'Casey himself was able to see it. This was the first show of his own he saw since Within the Gates in 1934.

Oak Leaves and Lavender (1945) is a propaganda play commemorating the Battle of Britain and Britain's heroism in the anti-Nazi crusade and it takes place in a manor with shadowy 18th century figures commenting on the present.

These plays have never had the same critical or popular success as the early trilogy. After the Second World War he wrote Cock-a-Doodle Dandy (1949), which is perhaps his most beautiful and exciting work. From The Bishop's Bonfire (1955) O'Casey's late plays are studies on the common life in Ireland, "Irish microcosms", like The Drums of Father Ned (1958).

His play The Drums of Father Ned was supposed to go up at the 1958 Dublin Theatre Festival, but the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, refused to give his blessing (it has been assumed because works of both James Joyce and O'Casey were in the festival). After Joyce's play was quietly dropped, massive changes were required for The Drums of Father Ned, a devious way to get O'Casey to drop. After this, Samuel Beckett withdrew his mime piece in protest.

In 1959, O'Casey gave his blessing to a musical adaptation of Juno and the Paycock by American composer Marc Blitzstein. The musical, retitled Juno, was a commercial failure, closing after only 16 Broadway performances. It was also panned by some critics as being too "dark" to be an appropriate musical, a genre then almost invariably associated with light comedy. However, the music, which survives in a cast album made before the show opened, has since been regarded as some of Blitzstein's best work. Although endorsed by the then 79-year-old O'Casey, he did not contribute to the production or even see it during its brief run. Despite general agreement on the brilliance of the underlying material, the musical has defied all efforts to mount any successful revival.

Also in 1959, George Devine produced Cock-a-Doodle Dandy at the Royal Court Theatre and it was also successful at the Edinburgh International Festival and had a West End run.

His eightieth birthday occurred in 1960, and to celebrate, David Krause and Robert Hogan wrote full-length studies. The Mermaid Theatre in London launched the "O'Casey Festival" in 1962, which in turn made more theatre establishments put on his works, mostly in Britain and Germany. It is in the late years that O'Casey put his creative energy into his six-volume Autobiography.

On 18 September 1964 at the age of 84, O'Casey died of a heart attack, in Torquay, Devon. He was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.

A.A. Milne



Alan Alexander Milne was an English author, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various children's poems. Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work.

Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and later, after a debilitating illness, the Royal Corps of Signals. After the war, he wrote a denunciation of war titled Peace With Honour (1934), which he retracted somewhat with 1940's War With Honour. During World War II, A. A. Milne was Captain of the Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row, insisting on being plain 'Mr. Milne' to the members of his platoon.

He married Dorothy "Daphne" de Sélincourt in 1913, and their only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. In 1925, A. A. Milne bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex. He retired to the farm after a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 left him an invalid and by August 1953 "he seemed very old and disenchanted". terary career

After graduating from Cambridge in 1903, A. A. Milne contributed humorous verse and whimsical essays to the British humour magazine Punch, joining the staff in 1906 and becoming an assistant editor.

During this period he published 18 plays and 3 novels, including the murder mystery The Red House Mystery (1922). His son was born in August 1920 and in 1924 Milne produced a collection of children poems When We Were Very Young, which were illustrated by Punch staff cartoonist E. H. Shepard. A collection of short stories for children Gallery of Children and other stories that became part of the Winnie-the-Pooh books were first published in 1925.

Looking back on this period (in 1926) Milne observed that when he told his agent that he was going to write a detective story, he was told that what the country wanted from a "Punch humorist" was a humorous story; when two years later he said he was writing nursery rhymes, his agent and publisher were convinced he should write another detective story; and after another two years he was being told that writing a detective story would be in the worst of taste given the demand for children's books. He concluded that "the only excuse which I have yet discovered for writing anything is that I want to write it; and I should be as proud to be delivered of a Telephone Directory con amore as I should be ashamed to create a Blank Verse Tragedy at the bidding of others."

The real stuffed toys owned by Christopher Robin Milne and featured in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. They are on display in the Donnell Library Center in New York City.Milne is most famous for his two Pooh books about a boy named Christopher Robin, after his son, and various characters inspired by his son's stuffed animals, most notably the bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. Christopher Robin's bear, originally named "Edward", was renamed "Winnie-the-Pooh" after a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), which was used as a military mascot in World War I, and left to London Zoo during the war. "The pooh" comes from a swan called "Pooh". E. H. Shepard illustrated the original Pooh books, using his own son's teddy, Growler, as the model. Christopher Robin Milne's own toys are now under glass in New York.

Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926, followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. A second collection of nursery rhymes Now We Are Six was published in 1927. All three books were illustrated by E. H. Shepard. Milne also published four plays in this period. He also "gallantly stepped forward" to contribute a quarter of the costs of dramatising P. G. Wodehouse's A Damsel in Distress.


The overwhelming success of his children's books was to become a source of considerable annoyance to Milne, whose self-avowed aim was to write whatever he pleased, and who had, until then, found a ready audience for each change of direction: he had freed pre-war Punch from its ponderous facetiousness; he had made a considerable reputation as a playwright (like his idol J. M. Barrie) on both sides of the Atlantic; he had produced a witty piece of detective writing in The Red House Mystery (although this was severely criticised by Raymond Chandler for the implausibility of its plot). Indeed, Milne's publisher was displeased when he announced his intention to write poems for children, and he had never lacked an audience.

But once Milne had, in his own words, "said goodbye to all that in 70,000 words", he had no intention of producing a copy of a copy, given that one of the sources of inspiration, his son, was growing older.

His reception remained warmer in America than Britain, and he continued to publish novels and short stories, but by the late 1930s the audience for Milne's grown-up writing had largely vanished: he observed bitterly in his autobiography that a critic had said that the hero of his latest play ("God help it") was simply "Christopher Robin grown up... what an obsession with me children are become!".

Even his old literary home, Punch, where the When We Were Very Young verses had first appeared, was ultimately to reject him, as Christopher Milne details in his autobiography The Enchanted Places, although Methuen continued to publish whatever Milne wrote, including the long poem 'The Norman Church' and an assembly of articles entitled Year In, Year Out (which Milne likened to a benefit night for the author).

He also adapted Kenneth Grahame's novel The Wind in the Willows for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall. The title was an implicit admission that such chapters as Chapter 7, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, could not survive translation to the theatre. A special introduction written by Milne is included in some editions of Grahame's novel.

Several of Milne's children's poems were set to music by the composer Harold Fraser-Simson. His poems have been parodied many times, including with the books When We Were Rather Older and Now We Are Sixty.

Milne died on January 31, 1956

Sir Compton Mackenzie


Sir Edward Montague Compton Mackenzie was an English-born Scottish novelist and nationalist.

He was educated at St Paul's School and Magdalen College, Oxford where he obtained a degree in Modern History. Mackenzie was married three times and aside from his writing also worked as an actor, political activist, and broadcaster. He served with British Intelligence in the Eastern Mediterranean during World War I, later publishing four books on his experiences. Compton Mackenzie was from 1920–1923 Tenant of Herm and Jethou and he shares many similarities to the central character in D. H. Lawrence's short story "The Man Who Loved Islands", despite Lawrence saying "the man is no more he than I am." Mackenzie at first asked Secker, who published both authors, not to print the story and it was left out of one collection.

Sir Compton Mackenzie is perhaps best known for his Hebridean comedies Whisky Galore and Monarch of the Glen (sources of a successful film and a television series respectively). He published almost a hundred books on different subjects, including ten volumes of autobiography, My Life and Times (1963-1971). Of his fiction, The Four Winds Of Love is considered to be his magnum opus. It is described by interviewee Dr John MacInnes, as "one of the greatest works of English literature produced in the twentieth century."

He also published the novels The Passionate Elopement in 1911, Carnival in 1912, Sinister Street in 1913/1914, Extremes Meet in 1928, Whisky Galore in 1947 and Rockets Galore in 1957.

Among his many other achievements, he was the co-founder in 1923 of The Gramophone, the still-influential British classical music magazine.

Mackenzie went to great lengths to trace the steps of his ancestors back to his spiritual home in the Highlands, and displayed a deep and tenacious attachment to Gaelic culture throughout his long and very colourful life. As his biographer, Andro Linklater, commented in the programme, "Mackenzie wasn't born a Scot, and he didn't sound like a Scot. But nevertheless his imagination was truly Scottish."

He was an ardent Jacobite, the third Governor-General of the Royal Stuart Society, and a co-founder of the Scottish National Party. Mackenzie built a house on the Isle of Barra in Scotland in the 1930s, just one of the islands in Europe where he established a temporary residence. It was on Barra that he gained much inspiration and creative solitude, and where he befriended a great number of people in the community that he described as "the aristocrats of democracy". One such friend was John MacPherson, known as "The Coddy". MacPherson's son, Neil, recalled Mackenzie as a man of huge imagination, generosity, and talent.

Such was Sir Compton Mackenzie's love of the Scottish Highlands that he is buried in Barra, where he is still very fondly remembered.

He died on November 30,1972 at the age of 88.

Laurie Lee



Laurence Edward Alan "Laurie" Lee was an English poet, novelist and screenwriter, who was brought up in the village of Slad.

His most famous work is the autobiographical trilogy Cider with Rosie (1959), As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969), and A Moment of War (1991). The first volume recounts his childhood in the Slad Valley. The second deals with his leaving home for London and his first visit to Spain in 1935, and the third with his return to Spain in December 1937 to join the Republican International Brigades.

Having been born in Stroud on 26 June 1914, Laurie Lee moved with his family to the village of Slad in 1917, the move with which Cider with Rosie opens. After fighting in the First World War with the Royal West Kent Regiment, Lee's father, Reginald Joseph Lee, did not return to the family. Lee and his brothers grew up loving their mother's (Annie Emily Light) family, the Lights and intensely disliking the Lee side. His sister, Frances Nemariah Joan Lee died in 1915 aged 3 when Lawrence Lee was a toddler. He had older siblings from his father's first marriage, including Dorothy, Phyllis and Marjorie. His brother Jack Lee (born 1913) was to become a film director.

At 12, Lee went to the Central Boys' School in Stroud. In his notebook for 1928, when he was 14 he listed "Concert and Dance Appointments", for at this time he was in demand to play his violin at dances.

He left the Central School at 15 to become an errand boy at a Chartered Accountants in Stroud. In 1931 he first found the Whiteway Colony, two miles from Slad, a colony founded by Tolstoyan anarchists. It gave him his first smattering of politicization and was where he met the composer Benjamin Frankel and the "Cleo" who appears in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. In 1933 he met Sophia Rogers, an "exotically pretty girl with dark curly hair" who had moved to Slad from Buenos Aires, an influence on Lee who said later in life that he only went to Spain because "a girl in Slad from Buenos Aires taught me a few words of Spanish."

At 20 he worked as an office clerk and a builder's labourer, and lived in London for a year before leaving for Vigo, in northwest Spain, in the summer of 1935. From there he travelled across Spain as far as Almuñecar on the coast of Andalusia. Walking more often than not, he eked out a living by playing his violin. His first encounter with Spain is the subject of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969). During this period he met a woman, Wilma Gregory, who supported him financially, and also met Mary Garman and Roy Campbell. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936 Lee was picked up by HMS Blanche,[4] a British destroyer from Gibraltar that was collecting marooned British subjects on the southern Spanish coast.

He started to study for an art degree but returned to Spain in 1937 as an International Brigade volunteer. His service in the Brigade was cut short by his epilepsy. These experiences were recounted in A Moment of War (1991), an austere memoir of his time as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). According to many biographical sources, Lee fought in the Republican army against Franco's Nationalists. After his death there were claims that Lee's involvement in the war was a fantasy; the claims were dismissed as "ludicrous" by his widow.

Before 1951 Lee worked primarily as a journalist and as a scriptwriter. During the Second World War he made documentary films for the GPO Film Unit (1939–40) and the Crown Film Unit (1941–43). From 1944 to 1946 he worked as the Publications Editor for the Ministry of Information. In 1950 Lee married Catherine Francesca Polge, whose father was Provençal and whose mother was another of the Garman sisters, Helen; they had one daughter, Jessie. From 1950 to 1951 he was caption-writer-in-chief for the Festival of Britain, for which service he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1952.

The success of the autobiographical novel Cider with Rosie in 1959 allowed Lee to become a full-time independent writer. It continues to be one of the UK's most popular books, and is often used as a set English literature text for schoolchildren. The work depicts the hardships, pleasures and simplicity of rural life in the time of Lee's youth; readers continue to find the author's portrayal of his early life vivid and evocative. Lee said that the creation of the book took him two years, and that it was written three times. With the proceeds Lee was able to buy a cottage in Slad, the village of his childhood.

Lee's first love was always poetry, though he was only moderately successful as a poet. Lee's poems had appeared in the Gloucester Citizen and the Birmingham Post, and in October 1934 his poem 'Life' won a prize from, and publication in, the Sunday Referee, a national paper. Another poem was published in Cyril Connolly's Horizon magazine in 1940 and his first volume of poems, The Sun My Monument, was launched in 1944. This was followed by The Bloom of Candles (1947) and My Many-coated Man (1955). Several poems written in the early 1940s reflect the atmosphere of the war, but also capture the beauty of the English countryside. The poem "Twelfth Night" from My Many-coated Man was set for unaccompanied mixed choir by American composer Samuel Barber in 1968.

Other works include A Rose for Winter, about a trip he made to Andalusia 15 years after the civil war; Two Women (1983), a story of Lee's courtship of and marriage to Kathy, daughter of Helen Garman; The Firstborn (1964), about the birth and childhood of their daughter Jessie; and I Can't Stay Long (1975), a collection of occasional writing.

In As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Lee writes of his stay in Almuñécar, a Spanish fishing village which he calls "Castillo". In 1988 the citizens of Almuñécar erected a statue in Lee's honour. In 1993, A Moment of War was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.  Lee provided a great deal of valuable support to the Brotherhood of Ruralists in their attempts to establish themselves in the 1970s, and he continued to do so until his death; his essay Understanding the Ruralists opened the Brotherhood's major 1993 retrospective book. Indeed, it was Lee who is said to have given them the name "Ruralists."

In 2003 the British Library acquired Lee's original manuscripts, letters and diaries. The collection includes two unknown plays and drafts of Cider with Rosie, which reveal that early titles for the book were Cider with Poppy, Cider with Daisy and The Abandoned Shade.

In the 1960s, Laurie Lee and his wife returned to Slad to live near his childhood home, where they remained for the rest of his life. Lee revealed on the BBC1 Wogan show in 1985 that he was frequently asked by children visiting Slad as part of their O-Level study of Cider with Rosie "where Laurie Lee was buried", assuming that the author was dead.  Lee narrated the 1998 television adaptation of Cider with Rosie by Carlton Television, which was first broadcast after his death.

Laurie Lee died in Slad on 13 May 1997, at the age of 82. He is buried in the local churchyard.

W. Somerset Maugham



William Somerset Maugham was an English playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was one of the most popular authors of his era, and reputedly the highest paid of his profession during the 1930s.

Maugham's masterpiece is generally agreed to be Of Human Bondage, a semi-autobiographical novel that deals with the life of the main character Philip Carey, who like Maugham, was orphaned, and brought up by his pious uncle. Philip's clubfoot causes him endless self-consciousness and embarrassment, echoing Maugham's struggles with his stutter. Later successful novels were also based on real-life characters: The Moon and Sixpence fictionalizes the life of Paul Gauguin; and Cakes and Ale contains thinly veiled characterizations of authors Thomas Hardy and Hugh Walpole. Maugham's last major novel, The Razor's Edge, published in 1944, was a departure for him in many ways. While much of the novel takes place in Europe, its main characters are American, not British. The protagonist is a disillusioned veteran of World War I who abandons his wealthy friends and lifestyle, travelling to India seeking enlightenment. The story's themes of Eastern mysticism and war-weariness struck a chord with readers as World War II waned, and a movie adaptation quickly followed.

Among his short stories, some of the most memorable are those dealing with the lives of Western, mostly British, colonists in the Far East, and are typically concerned with the emotional toll exacted on the colonists by their isolation. Some of his more outstanding works in this genre include Rain, Footprints In The Jungle, and The Outstation. Rain, in particular, which charts the moral disintegration of a missionary attempting to convert the Pacific island prostitute Sadie Thompson, has kept its fame and been made into a movie several times. Maugham said that many of his short stories presented themselves to him in the stories he heard during his travels in the outposts of the Empire. He left behind a long string of angry former hosts, and a contemporary anti-Maugham writer retraced his footsteps and wrote a record of his journeys called "Gin And Bitters". Maugham's restrained prose allows him to explore the resulting tensions and passions without appearing melodramatic. His The Magician (1908) is based on British occultist Aleister Crowley.

Maugham was one of the most significant travel writers of the inter-war years, and can be compared with contemporaries such as Evelyn Waugh and Freya Stark. His best efforts in this line include The Gentleman In The Parlour, dealing with a journey through Burma, Siam, Cambodia and Vietnam, and On A Chinese Screen, a series of very brief vignettes which might almost be notes for short stories that were never written.

Influenced by the published journals of the French writer Jules Renard, which Maugham had often enjoyed for their conscientiousness, wisdom and wit, Maugham published in 1949 selections from his own journals under the title "A Writer's Notebook". Although these journal selections are, by nature, episodic and of varying quality, they range over more than 50 years of the writer's life and contain much that Maugham scholars and admirers find of interest.

He died on December 16, 1965 at the age of 91.

J.B. Priestly


John Boynton Priestley was an English writer and broadcaster.

Priestley served during the First World War in the 10th battalion, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. He was wounded in 1916 by mortar fire. After his military service Priestley received a university education at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. By the age of 30 he had established a reputation as a humorous writer and critic. His 1927 novel Benighted was adapted into the James Whale film The Old Dark House in 1932. His first major success came with a novel, The Good Companions (1929) which earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and made him a national figure. His next novel Angel Pavement (1930) further established him as a successful novelist. However, some critics were less than complimentary about his work, and Priestley began legal action against Graham Greene for what he took to be a defamatory portrait in Stamboul Train.

He moved into a new genre and became as well known as a dramatist. Dangerous Corner began a run of plays that enthralled West End theatre audiences. His best-known play is An Inspector Calls (1946), later made into a film starring Alastair Sim in 1954. His plays are more varied in tone than the novels, several being influenced by J.W. Dunne's theory of time, which plays a part in the plots of Dangerous Corner (1932) and Time and the Conways (1937).

Many of his works have a political aspect. For example, An Inspector Calls, as well as being a "Time Play", contains many references to socialism — the inspector was arguably an alter ego through which Priestley could express his views. During World War II he was a regular broadcaster on the BBC. The Sunday night Postscript broadcasts through 1940 and again in 1941 drew audiences of up to 16 million; only Churchill was more popular with listeners. But his talks were cancelled, apparently as a result of complaints that they were too left-wing. He chaired the 1941 Committee and, in 1942, he was a co-founder of the socialist Common Wealth Party. The political content of his broadcasts and Priestley's hopes of a new and different England after the war influenced the politics of the period and helped the Labour Party gain its landslide victory in the 1945 general election. Priestley himself, however, was distrustful of the state and dogma.

Priestley was one of the interviewees for the documentary series The World at War (1973), in the episode Alone: May 1940–May 1941.

He was a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958. He declined lesser honours before accepting the Order of Merit in 1977.

He was married three times. In 1921 he married Pat Tempest, and in 1922 two daughters were born. In September 1926, he married Jane Wyndham-Lewis; together, they produced two daughters and one son. In 1953, he divorced his second wife and married Jacquetta Hawkes, his collaborator on Dragon's Mouth.

He died on August 14, 1984.

Andre Dubus




Andre Dubus was an American short story writer, essayist, and autobiographer.

Dubus graduated from McNeese State College in 1958 as a journalism and English major. Dubus then spent six years in the Marine Corps, eventually rising to the rank of captain. At this time he married his first wife and started a family. After leaving the Marine Corps, Dubus moved with his wife and four children to Iowa City, where he later graduated from the University of Iowa's Iowa Writers' Workshop with an MFA in creative writing, studying under Richard Yates.

Dubus's life was scarred by tragedy. His sister was raped as a young woman, causing Dubus many years of paranoia over his loved ones' safety. Dubus carried personal firearms to protect himself and those around him, until the night in the late 1980s, when he almost shot a man in a drunken argument outside a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In his essay "Giving up the Gun", published in The New Yorker, Dubus describes that night as the point at which he decided to stop arming himself and to take a less hostile and defensive view of life.

Dubus experienced a personal tragedy late on the night of July 23, 1986, when he was seriously injured in a car accident. He was driving from Boston to his home in Haverhill, Massachusetts and he stopped to assist two disabled motorists--brother and sister Luis and Luz Santiago. As Dubus assisted the injured Luz to the side of the highway, an oncoming car swerved and hit them. Luis was killed instantly; Luz survived because Dubus had pushed her out of the way. Dubus himself was critically injured. As a result of the accident, both Dubus's legs were crushed. His left leg had to be amputated above the knee, and Dubus would eventually lose the use of his right leg. Dubus would spend three painful years undergoing a series of operations, and extensive physical therapy. Despite his efforts to walk with a prosthesis, chronic infections confined him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Dubus continued to battle the physical pains imposed by his condition, and with clinical depression. Over the course of his struggles Dubus's third wife left him, taking their two young daughters.

To help Dubus with his mounting medical bills, his friends and fellow writers, Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike held a special literary benefit. Dubus was extremely grateful, and his appreciation extended to holding workshops and reading sessions for aspiring writers. Despite these physical, psychological, and emotional difficulties, Dubus continued to write, producing two books of essays and a collection of short stories. He also conducted a weekly writers' workshop in his home, meeting with a group of young writers, many of whom were teenage girls in a residential program for abused adolescents.

Dubus also found a deeper religious faith at this time. A practicing Catholic all his life, Dubus found that the loss of his mobility drew him closer to God, and renewed his Catholic faith at a deeper, personal level. Those who knew him admired the peace and acceptance he had achieved, as well as his ability to live his life without bitterness or self-pity.

Although he did write one novel, The Lieutenant, in 1967, Dubus considered himself to be and is mainly known as a writer of short fiction. Throughout his career, he published most of his work in small but distinguished literary journals such as Ploughshares and Sewanee Review. He was also loyal to a small publishing firm run by David R. Godine that published his first works. When larger book publishers approached him with more financially-rewarding deals, Dubus stayed with Godine. It was only in the last few years of his life, when his medical bills became substantial, that Dubus switched publishers, moving to Alfred A. Knopf.

Dubus's literary career was extensive. His collections include: Separate Flights (1975), Adultery and Other Choices (1977), Finding a Girl in America (1980), The Times Are Never So Bad (1983), Voices from the Moon (1984), The Last Worthless Evening (1986), Selected Stories (1988), Broken Vessels (1991), Dancing After Hours (1996), and Meditations from a Movable Chair (1998). His writing awards include the PEN/Malamud, the Rea Award for the Short Story for excellence in short fiction, the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations. Several writing awards are named after Dubus. His papers are archived at McNeese State University and Xavier University in Louisiana.

Dubus spent his later years in Haverhill, until his death from a heart attack in 1999, at age 62.

After Dubus's death, his story "Killings" was adapted into Todd Field's In the Bedroom (2001). It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published. The 2004 movie, We Don't Live Here Anymore is based upon two of Dubus' novellas, "We Don't Live Here Anymore" and "Adultery."

A Study of Man

Bad men want their women like cigarettes, slender and trim. They want them all in a row to be selected at will, set aflame, and when the flame has subsided, discarded, only to select another.

Fastidious men want their women like a cigar. They are more expensive, they make a better appearance and they last longer. After all, if the brand is good, they are seldom discarded but used to the end.

The good man wants his woman to be like his pipe. He wants something he becomes attached to, knocks gently but lovingly and takes good care of always.

A man will give you a cigarette, offer you a cigar, but never share his PIPE!

My Pipe and I

There may be comrades in this world,
As stanch and true as steel.
There are: and by their friendships firm
Is life made only real.
But, after all, of all these hearts
That close with mine entwine,
None lie so near, nor seem so dear
As this old pipe of mine.

My silent friend--whose voice is held
Fast for my ear alone--
Stays with me always, well content,
With Darby to be Joan.
No fickleness disturbs our lot;
No jars its peace to smother;
Ah, no; my faithful pipe and I
Have wooed and won--each other.

On clouds of curling incense sweet,
We go--my pipe and I--
To lands far off, where skies stay blue
Through all the years that fly.
And nights and days, with rosy dreams
Teems bright--an endless throng
That passing leave, in echoing wake,
Soft murmurings of song.

Does this dream fade? Another comes
To fill its place and more.
In castles silvern roam we now,
They're ours! All! All are ours!
What'er the wreathing rings enfold
Drops shimmering golden showers!

No sordid cost our steps can stay,
We travel free as air.
Our wings are fancies, incense-borne,
That feather-light upbear.
Begone! ye powers of steam and flood.
Thy roads creep far too slow;
We need thee not. My pipe and I
Swifter than Time must go.

Why, what is this? The pipe gone out?
Well, well, the fire's out, too!
The dreams are gone--we're poor once more;
Life's pain begins anew.
'Tis time for sleep, my faithful pipe,
But may thy dreamings be,
Through slumbering hours hued as bright
As those thou gav'st to me!

ELTON J. BUCKLEY.

Ousmane Sembène



Ousmane Sembène often credited in the French style as Sembène Ousmane in articles and reference works, was a Senegalese film director, producer and writer. He was considered one of the greatest authors of Africa and has often been called the "Father of African film."

As an author so concerned with social change, one of Sembène's goals had always been to touch the widest possible audience. After his 1960 return to Senegal, however, he realized that his written works would only be read by a small cultural elite in his native land. He therefore decided at age 40 to become a film maker, in order to reach wider African audiences.

In 1963, Sembène produced his first film, a short called "Barom Sarret" (The Wagoner). In '64 he made another short entitled Niaye. In 1966 he produced his first feature fim, La Noire de..., based on one of his own short stories; it was the first feature film ever released by a sub-Saharan African director. Though only 60 minutes long, the French-language film won the Prix Jean Vigo,[1] bringing immediate international attention to both African film generally and Sembène specifically. Sembène followed this success with the 1968 Mandabi, achieving his dream of producing a film in his native Wolof. Later Wolof-language films include Xala (1975, based on his own novel), Ceddo (1977), Camp de Thiaroye (1987), and Guelwaar (1992). The Senegalese release of Ceddo was heavily censored, ostensibly for a problem with Sembène's paperwork, but more probably for its anti-Muslim themes. However, Sembène distributed fliers at theaters describing the censored scenes and released it uncut for the international market. In 1971, Sembène also made a film in the Diola language and French entitled Emitai.

Recurrent themes of Sembène's films are the history of colonialism, the failings of religion, the critique of the new African bourgeoisie, and the strength of African women.

His final film, the 2004 feature Moolaadé, won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the FESPACO Film Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The film, set in a small African village in Burkina Faso, explored the controversial subject of female genital mutilation.

Ousmane Sembène died on June 9, 2007, at the age of 84. He had been ill since December 2006, and died at his home in Dakar, Senegal.

Edward Fox




Edward Charles Morrice Fox is an English stage, film and television actor. He is generally associated with the role of an upper-class Englishman. He is known particularly for playing the title role in the film The Day of the Jackal and for his portrayal of Edward VIII in the television miniseries Edward and Mrs Simpson.

Gordon Parks


Gordon Roger Alexander Buchannan Parks was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft.

Parks is remembered for his activism, filmmaking, photography, and writings. He was the first African American to work at Life magazine, and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film.

Gordon Parks died on March 7, 2006 of cancer at the age of 93.

F.A. Mitchell-Hedges


Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges was an English adventurer, traveller, and writer. His name was almost always seen in print as F. A. Mitchell-Hedges. Mitchell-Hedges had a talent for telling colourful stories. The veracity of much of his autobiographical writings is in question.

Mitchell-Hedges spent some years alternating between Central America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some sources say he was a mercenary, others that he was a British government spy, and others that he was independently wealthy and traveling for diversion. Some of his "expeditions" to Central America were financed by well-to-do British socialites. He was also supported by the British Museum to whom he donated numerous artifacts.

Mitchell-Hedges repeatedly made claims of having "discovered" Indian tribes and "lost cities" that had already been documented years, sometimes centuries, before. He claimed he discovered "the cradle of civilization" in the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, and that the Bay Islands of Honduras were remnants of the lost civilization of Atlantis.

In 1906 he married Lillian Agnes Clarke, known as "Dolly". Most of the time he lived apart from his wife. They had no children on their own but adopted Canadian orphan Anne Marie Le Guillon, today known as Anna Mitchell-Hedges.

For a time in the 1930s he had a weekly radio show out of New York City on Sunday evenings. Talking over a background of "jungle drums", Mitchell-Hedges would tell dramatic tales of his adventures, usually including narrow escapes from death at the hands of "savages" or from jungle animals ranging from a jaguar to a vicious attacking iguana.

Mitchell-Hedges claimed to have discovered a "crystal skull" — he called it "The Skull of Doom" — at the Maya ruin of Lubaantun, which he also claimed to have discovered in British Honduras in the 1920s. However he published no mention of the skull until the late 1940s, not long after a crystal skull was auctioned off at Sotheby's in 1943. Some think that Mitchell-Hedges' crystal skull is actually the one from Sotheby's. He died in June of 1959.

W.W. Denslow


William Wallace Denslow usually credited as W. W. Denslow was an illustrator and caricaturist remembered for his work in collaboration with author L. Frank Baum, especially his illustrations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Denslow was an editorial cartoonist with a strong interest in politics, which has fueled political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Born in Philadelphia, by the 1890s he was based in Chicago, where he met Baum. Besides The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Denslow also illustrated Baum's books By the Candelabra's Glare, Father Goose: His Book, and Dot and Tot of Merryland.

After Denslow quarreled with Baum over royalty shares from the 1902 stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, for which Baum wrote the script and Denslow designed the sets and costumes, Baum determined not to work with him again.

The royalties from the print and stage versions of The Wizard of Oz were sufficient to allow Denslow to purchase an island off the coast of Bermuda, and crown himself King Denslow I. However, he drank his money away, and on May 27, 1915, died in obscurity, of pneumonia.

William Conrad



William Conrad was a Golden Globe-nominated American film and television director and an actor and narrator in radio, film, and television known for his baritone voice, as well as his sizable girth.

Early life
Conrad served as a fighter pilot in World War II. He returned to the airwaves after the war, going on to accumulate over 7,000 roles in radio by his own estimate.

Conrad's deep, resonant voice led to a number of noteworthy roles in radio drama, most prominently his originating the role of Marshal Matt Dillon on the Western program Gunsmoke from 1952–61. He was considered for the role when the series was brought to television in 1955, but his increasing obesity led to the casting of James Arness instead. Other series to which Conrad contributed his talents included Escape, Suspense and The Damon Runyon Theater. One particularly memorable radio piece was the 1957 CBS Radio Workshop broadcast "Epitaphs," an adaptation of the Edgar Lee Masters poetry volume Spoon River Anthology; Conrad both directed and narrated the production.

Among Conrad's various film roles, where he was usually cast as threatening figures, perhaps his most notable role was his first credited one, as one of the gunmen sent to eliminate Burt Lancaster in the 1946 film The Killers. He also appeared in Body and Soul, Sorry, Wrong Number, Joan of Arc, and The Naked Jungle.

Conrad moved to television in the 1960s. He and Sam Peckinpah directed episodes of NBC's Klondike in the 1960–1961 season. He returned to voice work most notably as narrator of The Fugitive from 1963–67 and the direction of Brainstorm in 1965. He narrated the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle series from 1959–64 as "Bill Conrad", and later performed the role of Denethor in the 1980 animated TV version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Return of the King. But the 1970s saw him starring onscreen in the first of three detective series which would bring him an added measure of renown, Cannon, which ran from 1971–76. He later narrated Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and starred in both Nero Wolfe and Jake and the Fatman. He was also the on-camera spokesman for First Alert fire prevention products for many years, as well as Hai Karate men's cologne.

Conrad's credits as a director include episodes of The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Route 66, Have Gun – Will Travel, and 77 Sunset Strip, among others, and feature films such as Two on a Guillotine.

On February 11, 1994, Conrad died from congestive heart failure in Los Angeles, California. He is interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in the Lincoln Terrace.

William Gillette


William Hooker Gillette was an American actor, playwright and stage-manager.

Gillette was a major stage actor in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While he was not the first actor to portray Sherlock Holmes, he became best known for that role until he last played it on stage in 1932. Through Gillette's portrayals of Holmes, the use of the deerstalker cap and curved pipe, became synonymous with the character. Gillette was seen as the definitive Holmes of his day, appearing on stage as the character for over thirty years, starring in a silent motion picture based on his play, and voicing the character twice on radio.

Born in the era of melodrama, with its grand gestures and sonorous declamations, he created in his plays characters who talked and acted the way people talk and act in real life. Held by the Enemy, his first Civil War drama, was a major step toward modern theater in that it abandoned many of the crude devices of 19th century melodrama and introduced realism into the sets, costumes, props and sound effects. In Sherlock Holmes, he introduced the fade-in at the beginning of each scene, and the fade-out at the end, instead of the slam-bang finishes audiences were accustomed to. Clarice in 1905 was significant because, for the first time, he sought to achieve dramatic action through character rather than through incident and situation.

Gillette died on April 29, 1937, in Hartford, due to a pulmonary hemorrhage.