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OUR JULY ONLINE BOOK FAIR WILL OPEN 29TH JULY AT 12 NOON.
Archive of original manuscripts and typescripts, of novels, short stories, and various other ephemera, written by the author, ‘E. Shaw-Cowley’, giving an unusual insight in to her unconventional, and ultimately rather tragic life.
A fascinating group of manuscripts and typescripts, including short stories and two unpublished novels, on marriage, divorce, illegitimacy, much of which was evidently from first hand experience. Elsie Mary Wright was born in 1872 at Sydenham, South London, the daughter of a moderately successful hosiery agent, her early life is difficult to unravel although what we have been able to deduce may lead to a more rounded picture of this moderately successful, if in the end tragic, author. Her manuscript and typescript together with a proof of the first gathering of the published novel ^gPrisoners of State^g are preserved with the archive. The subject was an ‘irregular union’, divorce and illegitimacy. A review of the work summed it up thus, a miniature painter taking the portrait of the son of the owner in a large house ‘who is married but virtually separated from his wife. The subsequent treatment of events is interesting, sympathetic, and refreshingly free from any sensational bias.’ This novel seems to parallel at least some of her own experiences. As indeed did her second novel ^gThe Drawn Line^g - not present in the archive - that includes the tale of Sherlock, a seducer of women and a philanderer who seems to attract women, one wonders if this again is part autobiographical, for good measure it also ends with suicide of a girl. The typescript for the the unpublished novel ^gLooking Down to Camelot^g includes another dysfunctional family, a fear of being afflicted with inherited madness who discovers he is illegitimate and his but is not tainted with the family curse. ^gThe Golden Valley^g concerns the life of a squire whose first marriage to a baronet’s daughter had proved unfortunate and he was about to marry a younger woman, who had become his secretary. One does get the feeling that there is a certain pattern to Elsie’s writing and although it fits well into the type of popular romantic fiction common to this post-war period, it is more unusual to find such a close relationship between the life of the writer and their subject, almost to the point that she continually reinvents her own life into various fictional outcomes. Elsie’s family moved from Sydenham to Islington soon after her birth, and there she was a violin student at the Metropolitan College of Music, receiving a prize in 1891. Elsie may have been influenced by her brother, who training to become a physician, for Mary also entered the medical profession as an apothecaries assistant. She moved from London to Wellington in Shropshire to continue her profession, but as fate would have it she met with Thomas George Boulton, a married man, who was a manager in his father’s successful coal factoring and brick manufacturing business of A. Boulton & Co. It is clear that Thomas deserted his wife and disappeared with Mary, sometime in 1913, to make a new life together at Delcourt Mansion flats in West Dulwich, not far from where Mary was born. Eventually life caught up with the couple for early in 1917 Boulton was divorced by his wife for desertion. One wonders if both Thomas and Mary were estranged from their families and money was rather tight. Later that year a veritable barrage of advertisements extolling the virtues of Goodall’s Egg Powder appeared in the press with Miss Elsie Mary Wright described as ‘"Cordon Bleu" Medallist of the National Training School of Cookery; Domestic Editress, "Everywoman's Weekly," and one of the best known cookery experts in London.’ How this came about we have no idea, although included in the present archive is a manuscript and typescript article for the making her Simnal cake, with recipes for other cakes under both her own name and under the pen name she was to adopt ‘E. Shaw-Cowley.’ Elsie married Thomas in 1918 and they moved to Rose Cottage, Mickleham, Surrey but the union does not appear to have lasted long for he had returned to Shropshire where he died was to die in 1922. At any rate the next stage of her career had begun when the first of her three published novels was issued in 1921, this and her two later novels were all taken on by the famous John Lane imprint. It is clear that the material contained in these novels was partly biographical, with illegitimacy, feckless men et al, all fairly constant themes. Reviews of her works, although critical, were not unkind, but did not excite any great attentions, though probably the sale were steady. Maybe the monetary rewards for these novels was poor, or her husbands death left little spare money, but for whatever reason Elsie gave up her cottage in September 1925 and removed a few miles away to a boarding house at Ewell and we presume that Elsie may have had no income from the Boulton side of the family and was also estranged from her own relatives, when she died just just before Christmas in 1925. The inquest describes how she was found seated in a chair of her bed sitting-room, there was a strong smell of gas and the tube connecting the gas fire and cooking ring had ‘fallen off.’ Some ‘white powder’ was found on the floor, which was described as an ‘irritant’ by the doctor attending the death, with another witness describing that the window blind was open and the door unlocked and one feels the impetus was to leave the verdict open. The proprietress of the boarding room describe how Mrs. Boulton was worried over a dispute interfering with her latest book, ^gOne dreamer awakes^g, and that she had made arrangements to leave the boarding house on the day she was found dead. The verdict given was ‘accidental poisoning by gas’ and the inquest purposefully speculated no further.
Author [BOULTON, Elise Mary, née Wright, ‘E. SHAW-COWLEY’ pseud].
Date [c. 1917-1925]
Binding a further typescript relating to the tradition and preparation of Simnel cake, most items held together with butterfly clips, occasionally a little browned, due to paper stock, one short story lightly stained; an unusual and remarkable archive.
Publisher [5, Delacourt Mansions, West Dulwich, and Rose Cottage, Mickleham, Surrey]
Condition Comprising three novels, two in manuscript with accompanying typescripts, the third in typescript, together with eight short stories in typescript (with some mss. corrections in ink), also an envelope of mss. recipes,