Shiel's Collaborators III:
John Gawsworth (Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong)


John Gawsworth . . . Pioneer "Collaborator"
Steve Eng1

In The Nightmare Reader (1973) Peter Haining compares the English poet and editor John Gawsworth (1912-1970) to August Derleth, in his influence upon the English horror-tale. Mike Ashley echoes this opinion in Who's Who in Horror and Fantasy Fiction (1977). Certainly the industrious Gawsworth resembles Derleth, in not only his knowledge of the field, but in his energy at getting authors like Arthur Machen, M. P. Shiel and Thomas Burke back into print. He also anticipated Derleth in his compulsion to "collaborate" - that is, to connect his name with those of more famous authors in order to market "new" works of fiction of slender quality.

But whereas Derleth (and his sorry disciple, Lin Carter) wrote essentially new stories using themes by the more famous author (Lovecraft, or in Carter's case, Clark Ashton Smith), Gawsworth did the opposite. He dusted off old manuscripts and provided very few editorial additions, yet attached his own name. Such as some popular recording artist, who agrees to record a song if his name will be listed as co-writer. (Mel Tillis says Country singer Webb Pierce exacted this kind of credit, for royalties and money, in order to inspire himself to record Mel's songs, in Mel's Stutterin' Boy autobiography, 1984.) Similarly, Gawsworth's name, as well as his earlier by-line "Fytton Armstrong," appears as co-author on story after story, in several of the many anthologies he edited.

Gawsworth, like any self-respecting Romantic, revised his persona repeatedly. Born with almost as many names as Lord Dunsany, Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong became "Fytton Armstrong" for literary purposes as he tried to gate-crash London publishing circles around 1931. Since a distant ancestor, Mary Fytton, was identified with Gawsworth Hall in Cheshire (Gawsworth hoped she was the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets, but she wasn't), Armstrong became "John Gawsworth" inviting (perhaps deliberately) permanent confusion with novelist John Gallsworthy. Gawsworth started working for London bookdealers, and personally trafficked in first editions and manuscripts, whether from auctions or from the authors themselves. Writers from the 1890s like Arthur Machen and M. P. Shiel were his specialty.

Gawsworth's first three anthologies in the 'Thirties are collaboration-free, while his fourth, Thrills, Crimes and Mysteries (1935) contains but two collaborations, both probably genuine. One is by two living writers, and the other is by Richard Middleton (of "Ghost Ship" fame) and his friend Edgar Jepson. The biographical note says Jepson collaborated repeatedly with Middleton, who died in 1911 -- though since Gawsworth hoarded Middleton manuscripts, it's possible he had Jepson merely touch up one of these.

The anthology was published by Associated Newspapers, Ltd. Gawsworth's wife (Barbara Kentish) was society editor for The Daily Mail, and got him the job of editing this and subsequent horror-mystery compilations at Christmas time. Such books were given away in newspaper circulation wars (according to E. F. Bleiler). Since Gawsworth knew everyone, as well as the location of virtually every available manuscript since the 'Nineties, he was a natural. There were 40,000 copies of the book issued.

The Daily Mail supplied him a kitty of £800 to work from. As his cousin R. F. A. Jackson wrote in The Romantist No. 6-7-8 (1982-83-84): "He would recruit unpublished tales from his literary friends, paying £15 or £20 each, making up the rest with his own effusions under various pseudonyms, pocketing the difference."

Gawsworth's anthologies were probably not as good as Lady Cynthia Asquith's Not at Night series, but better than Charles Birkin's Creeps series (whose Gawsworth's resemble in title).

Then in 1935 appeared The Invisible Voices, a short story collection by M. P. Shiel. It was dedicated to Gawsworth "in fond remembrance of days of suggestion, debate and collaboration." After Arthur Machen, Shiel was Gawsworth's biggest hero. He was Shiel's first bibliographer, editor, and after Shiel's death, even "king" of his alleged "kingdom" of Redonda. Since The Invisible Voices consists of old tales stitched together with intervening matter, probably Gawsworth assembled the book and wrote, or partly wrote, its connecting paragraphs.2 The stories constitute a "frame tale" like The Canterbury Tales. Elsewhere Gawsworth claimed credit as a collaborator on this volume. And it served as a warm-up for his next anthologies.

His anonymously-edited Masterpiece of Thrills appeared in 1936, published by Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express (the "Daily Excess," to its detractors). One collaboration in this volume, "Kametis and Evelpis," was by someone called J. Leslie Mitchell, writing with Fytton Armstong, Gawsworth's real name. And Gawsworth as Gawsworth added his name to three tales by M. P. Shiel: "Dr. Todoro Karadja", "The Mystery of the Red Road", and "The Hanging of Ernest Clark." The first of these borrows from "He Wakes an Echo" in Shiel's short story collection, The Pale Ape (1911). Also in Masterpiece of Thrills appears "Red Foam," by-lined by one Hedda Vesely, collaborating with R. L. Megroz, another friend of Gawsworth. There were 100,000 copies of this edition.

How much did Gawsworth add to the Shiel tales? A frequent contributor to the anthologies was Oswell Blakeston,3 who wrote to John D. Squires on March 22, 1978:

			Gawsworth dug out some unfinished stories by Shiel which 
		Shiel said  he hadn't the energy to put into shape. Personally I believe 
		he was bored, as these things were in fact his rejects. Gawsworth 
		however had hopes of getting them into print and asked me to 
		finish them off, giving them some sort of ending. ... He asked me 
		if I'd mind if he put his name as collaborator as he was building up 
		some personal connection with [Victor] Gollancz [the publisher] 
		on the strength of Shiel. I had no objection, as I felt these stories 
		would do Shiel's reputation no good. I couldn't stop publication, I 
		had no power to do that, but I was glad not to be mentioned. Shiel 
		himself I think needed the money, so he let it all go through. Maybe, 
		you might say, I never should have undertaken my part, but 
		Gawsworth had great powers of persuasion and I thought he was 
		only going to slip the stories into the large horror anthologies he 
		was editing which got no reviews or literary attention.  

Some [of the Shiel stories] had actually been "fixed" by Gawsworth:

		. . .There were also some stories in the newspaper anthologies which 
		Gawsworth gave as collaborations with himself or simply used as [by] 
		Shiel, and some of these too I finished.

On April 4, Blakeston added:

		John was good at editing. . .if he wanted to take the trouble. . .but 
		found it hard to invent. My contribution was not to rewrite whole 
		stories but to add ends to unfinished stories, perhaps no more than 
		two or three whole pages of typescript.
And on May 12:
		I remember stories in the book[s] with credit lines above each story: 
		Shiel or Shiel & Gawsworth. The paper was the thick type publishers 
		then used to bulk out a short book, and rough surfaced. John put it 
		in my hands and said, "You don't mind, do you? After all you've got 
		a dukedom" [in the Shiel-Gawsworth "Redonda" kingdom].4  

(When confronted with one of his own stories from the same era, Blakeston couldn't remember having written it, noting "Not only was it very sub-standard but it carried no clue to being my work in turn of phrase or thought.")

Blakeston wrote to A. Reynolds Morse the following day (May 13, 1978):

		I'm sure any Gawsworth MSS. would have beer stains. He 
		was always taking proofs and letters into pubs to work on them 
		there. It was part of the act. Any literary friends who drifted in were 
		too co-opted into helping.
			It's possible that G. from the outset had decided to claim 
		credit on all the fixed-up late Shiel stories-perhaps "late" is wrong 
		and I should say MSS. which Shiel in his old age found he still had 
		and which proved unsaleable. In which case G. may have re-typed 
		sheets I gave him into his own MSS. I don't blame him in the least, 
		as I was setting no store on my contributions but simply trying to 
		help. If G. did juggle a bit, I see it just as a measure of his keeness 
		to get closer to Shiel, as an expression of his admiration.

Editing again for Associated Newspapers, Gawsworth produced (anonymously) Thrills (1936), which includes "A Case for Deduction" by Shiel and Fytton Armstrong. Helpfully Gawsworth supplied a separate biographical note on Armstrong as if he were a distinct individual; August Derleth would do the same thing and write about his "Stephen Grendon" alter-ego. Thrills sold 50,000 copies, to Daily Mail subscribers who sent in coupons.

Gawsworth also found time to anonymously edit a third anthology in 1936 (was he working in competition with himself?) titled Crimes, Creeps and Thrills, published by E. H. Samuel. It contains a Richard Middleton story finished by one "G. Dundas" (Gawsworth? Jepson?). The fantasy author E. H. Visiak (The Haunted Island, etc.) contributed "The Uncharted Islands," co-authored by Gawsworth. And Shiel's "The Falls Scandal" was a collaboration with Fytton Armstrong, as was "The Master" (another one lifted in part from "He Wakes an Echo").5 In this anthology, too, was "The Shifting Growth," by Edgar Jepson and Gawsworth. When Peter Haining reprinted it in his Nightmare Reader (1973), he left off Jepson's name even though Jepson had top billing in the original!

In a manuscript volume titled "The Return of Prince Zaleski", A. Reynolds Morse discovered yet another collaboration, "The Missing Merchants," as by Shiel and Gawsworth. Morse published it in his Works of M. P. Shiel Updated, Vol. II (1980).6

In 1950, in his foreword to Shiel's essay collection, Science, Life and Literature, Gawsworth said that his first letter to Shiel, back in 1931, had provided "the cornerstone of a collaboration which was to last for sixteen years, a collaboration the survivor, without morbidity, feels continues still." And in the same foreword Gawsworth mentioned his hope to publish the Shiel-Gawsworth/Armstrong collaborations in book form as Seven Limbs of Satan.

All of Gawsworth's anthologies, counting all of the earlier ones, attained a circulation of about a quarter of a million. No doubt August Derleth was aware of them, since he had long been corresponding with Shiel. Derleth sent Shiel copies of his own books, and signed him for two collections through his firm, Arkham House. Certainly the Shiel-Gawsworth collaborations gave Derleth a precedent, when he placed H. P. Lovecraft's name in front of his own on The Lurker at the Threshold, a novel he wholly wrote himself but for a few hundred words. Gawsworth also corresponded with Derleth after Shiel's death, so the connection is clear.

Gawsworth even made Derleth a duke of Redonda. So the Lovecraft-Derleth "collaborations" are a dubious tribute to his friends Shiel and Gawsworth, and their dubious collaborations that preceded his!


(By John D. Squires, 2004.)

1. STEVE ENG is the author of A Satisfied Mind: The Country Music Life of Porter Wagoner, Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, 1992, Jimmy Buffett: The Man from Margaritaville Revealed, St. Martin's Press, N. Y., 1996, and poems too numerous to list here. His previous publications on John Gawsworth include: ,"The Lyric Struggles of John Gawsworth," Books at Iowa, No. 38, (April 1983): 29-45; compiler & ed, "John Gawsworth-A Tribute Anthology," The Romantist, No.6-7-8, Nashville: F. Marion Crawford Memorial Society (1986): 85-106; "Profile: John Gawsworth," Night Cry, Vol. 2, no. 3, (Spring, 1987): 73-92; reprinted in Aklo (Spring, 1988): 38-46; "John Gawsworth (Terrence Ian Fytton Armstrong)" in Harris-Fain, Darren, editor, British Fantasy and Science-Fiction Writers, 1918-1960, Volume 255 of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Detroit, et al: A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book, The Gale Group, (2002), 82-88, and various articles in other reference books, including the Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), ed. by Jack Sullivan, and Read More About It (The Book of Days), Vol. 3 (1989.) Mr Eng also edited Gawsworth's ultimate poetry collection, Toreros (1990), honored by Richard Aldington and Roy Campbell.

This particular essay was originally written as a possible Introduction or Afterword to a projected collection of collaborative tales by Shiel and Gawsworth, The Seven Limbs of Satan, under the title, "John Gawsworth......Pioneer Collaborator." It has not previously been published and is used here with permission of Anne Eng.

2. There are surviving typescripts of drafts of the connecting matter which bear Gawsworth's name as co-author included in the Shiel collection at the Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.

3. Oswell Blakeston, (1907-1985) artist and writer, was born Henry Joseph Hasslacher. Author of numerous poems and books, his better known collaborative work was a series of mystery novels written with Roger Burford under the pseudonym "Simon," Murder Among Friends (1933); Death on the Swim (1934); The Cat with the Moustache (1935); and The Mystery of the Hypnotic Room (1949).

4. Blakeston's description of the volume Gawsworth placed in his hands does not match any known Shiel collection, but does suggest the three Gawsworth anthologies published in 1936, Thrills, Masterpiece of Thrills, and Crimes, Creeps and Thrills, each of which includes collaborations credited to Shiel and Gawsworth.

5. "The Master" was a more or less straight reprint of Shiel's first professional story, "The Doctor's Bee," published in Rare Bits on Dec 14, 1889 at pp 57-58. It was a one £ prize winner in a short story contest. Gawsworth's "collaboration" consisted of lifting an introductory framework from another story so that Cummings King Monk became the narrator of the original tale.

6. The three Gawsworth collaborations involving Prince Zaleski were also collected in the omnibus volume, Prince Zaleski, (Carlton, England: Tartarus Press, 2002). They consist of two complete stories and a fragment of a third. From surviving Shiel letters to Frederic Dannay, now at the Humanities Research Center, and notes published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Works II, it is clear that Shiel wrote a fourth Zaleski story around 1945, "Lend-Lease," for submission to a Christmas short story contest at EQMM. The MS never arrived and was presumed lost in the mail, though Shiel wrote Dannay in October 1946 that John Gawsworth had a typescript of the story. After Shiel's death in February 1947, Gawsworth wrote August Derleth on 13 June 1947, "The 4th 'Zaleski' story is not up to the other 3 and I am re-writing it still in parts as M.P.S. did not like it himself and suggested I collaborate. I'll send, if you like, but it definitely is inferior, and I'm having the devil's own job to improve it." (Squires, ed., M. P. Shiel and the Lovecraft Circle, Kettering: The Vainglory Press, 2001, 82.) The revised text was first published as "The Return of Prince Zaleski" in the January, 1955 issue of EQMM. A. Reynolds Morse quoted from a copy of Gawsworth's cover letter submitting the revised text to Fredric Dannay at page 254 of Works II:
			...It is 96% the old master.  You saw a copy of "Lend-Lease," 
		I think.  It was not worthy of publication and completely out of 
		tone with the first three, being 1) placed in 1942 instead of 1875, 
		and 2) conceived with most unsuitable anti-US phobia (although by 
		the villainess.)  
			Carefully studying the Spanish affairs, the books of Russia, 
		etc, of 1875, I have transferred the Zaleski back to its rightful 
		chronological place.  The references to Carlists in Paris, Alfonso XII, 
		Prince Gorchakof, Alfred Wallace's On Miracles therefore are accurate.
			As you will note, I have kept all the Shiel possible, and left it as 
		Dedaction - not a study in suspense.  Zaleski's first two stories were 
		dedaction (only in the third did he leave his room.)...	

"The Return of Prince Zaleski" was also included in Prince Zaleski and Cummings King Monk, finally published by the Mycroft & Moran division of Arkham House in 1977. The text differs slightly from the version published by Dannay, suggesting Gawsworth may have sold Derleth a slightly different typescript. This story was also known in manuscript as "The Murena Murder" and "The Carlist Murder."

"The Missing Merchants" was probably patched together by Gawsworth long after Shiel's death. It is, in a sense, a double collaboration, in that Gawsworth based it on part of Shiel's contribution to an earlier collaboration with Louis Tracy, the "Gordon Holmes" novel, By Force of Circumstances (1909.) The short story is a free adaptation of the Holmes novel with incidents and language directly lifted from the half that Shiel admitted having written, though Tracy's detective has been converted into Prince Zaleski and the central plot twist reversed so the main character becomes the murderer. As Gawsworth claimed in the "Survivor's Note" prefacing the bound collection of typescripts titled "Tales of the Prince" (Morse Collection, Rollins College) the fourth Zaleski tale, "The Missing Merchants" may well contain 90% of Shiel's own words, but they were condensed and abstracted from an unrelated novel in a manner Shiel is unlikely to have approved if he had been alive. The final fragment, "The Hargren Inheritance" was to have been a continuation of "The Missing Merchants." (See, Works II, 250-254.)

Copyright © 2004 by Steve Eng
Notes Copyright © 2004 by John D. Squires
Used with permission.

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