Shiel’s Collaborators II: Louis Tracy (1863-1928)



A Whiff of Collaboration

The Tracy-Shiel Connection

[Revised through August 13, 2006]




John D. Squires



                        “...and simultaneously [I] was in with Louis Tracy, with whom

                        I wrote several ‘books’ under a pen-name, he having ‘the idea,’

                        I concocting ‘the plot,’ writing the first half, he the second—in

                        a wildly different style!  I can’t think now with what motive I so

                        wasted myself.”  M. P. Shiel, “About Myself” (1929.)


            Despite his brave front about writing art for art’s sake in “Premier and Maker” in his decadent masterpiece, Shapes in the Fire (1896),[1] by 1902 Shiel’s motive for collaborating with Tracy was very simple.  He needed the money.  Shiel left few clues about the extent of his relationship with Tracy, and no substantial caches of Tracy’s papers have been located to date.  The bare facts of his biography can be extracted from an early interview and a few short biographical pieces.[2]

            Louis Tracy was born into a comfortable upper middle class family in Liverpool, England on March 18, 1863.  His parents had the resources to give him a private education, first at his home in Yorkshire, and then for three years at the French Seminary at Douai.  Growing up in relative leisure he amused himself with “sport, volunteering, fishing, and riding,” but also joined the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.  He showed an affinity for the army and by his eighteenth birthday had earned a full certificate for a captaincy, an unusual accomplishment at the time.[3]

            Around 1884 he fell into journalism.  “It was all owing to a letter I wrote in the zeal of my youth, a la Ruskin, to a local paper denouncing a railway that it was proposed to bring through a beautiful Yorkshire valley. This letter attracted the attention of a sharp-eyed local editor, who immediately offered me an appointment as a reporter.”[4]  That paper was The Northern Echo at Darlington, where a few years before W. T. Stead [5] had first made his mark.  He later moved on to a paper in Cardiff, Wales, and then to Allahabad where he edited the Morning Post.[6]        

            Tracy returned to England in late 1892 and assisted T. P. O’Connor to start The Sun.[7] While still at The Sun he advised Arthur Harmsworth (later Lord, then Viscount Northcliffe, 1865-1922) of the potential sale of The Evening News and Post and in 1894 joined Harmsworth in acquiring the paper.  Tracy edited the paper for a short time, renamed The Evening News, before selling his shares to Harmsworth.  By his early sale Tracy missed out on a fortune when the shares greatly increased in value, but the early proceeds may have been the source of the funds he spent in the harsh depression winter of 1894.  “What Mr. Tracy is most proud of is the feeding of three and one-half millions starving Londoners in the winter of 1894. For six weeks he ran twenty-three soup kitchens unaided, and expended $45,000."[8]  This was the same brutal winter that hovers in the background of Shiel’s first novel, The Rajah’s Sapphire (1896): “But the poor shivered, and moaned, and starved under the inhumanity of heaven, and the unwisdom and pitilessness of earth.”[9]

            Tracy’s first book had been a biography, Magnay Mallonder, A Brief Memoir of a Short Life, London (1885), followed by (as editor) Marvin's Letters to the "Morning Post." Written during ... 1888-90, Allahabad (1891), and What I Saw in India. The Adventures of a Globetrotter, Allahabad (1892.)  After his return to England Tracy contributed a series of short pieces to the Idlers’ Club and wrote several short stories, most notably “The Cholera Cloud,” all based on his Indian experiences.[10]   He soon conceived the idea for his first novel:


                                    In November, 1895...not at the time being interested in

                        a daily newspaper, and having been accustomed for years to

                        express my opinion in leading articles, I felt very keenly that

                        I was muzzled in face of the pronounced hostility that was

                        being shown to England at that time by France, Germany,

                        Russia and America.  The whole world seemed to be up in

                        arms, ready and eager to jump on Old England. All countries

                        seemed to be snapping like fox terriers at the heels of John

                        Bull. I thought it was time that the bull should turn and give

                        them a taste of his horns, and let them know who was their

                        master. For, notwithstanding the use of modern arms, you

                        know I firmly believe in the old saying that one Englishman

                        is worth five of any other people in the world. 

            Well, I determined that the patriotic sentiments that

                        were very prevalent among the people at that time, although

                        not among the Press, should be supplied with something to

                        keep them alive.  In this way I laid the germ of The Final War.

                        One Sunday Afternoon I discussed the matter with an

                        old friend, and the idea of the romance was thought out: a great

                        war to be the end of all war.[11]


Tracy’s old friend was probably W. H. S. Johnstone.  George Locke, in his A Spectrum of Fantasy: The Bibliography and Biography of A Collection of Fantastic Literature, Ferret Fantasy, London, 1980, quotes at page 213 the following inscription in a first edition of The Final War, “To my oldest friend and invaluable collaborator, W. H. S. Johnstone, with 100 per cent of thanks and 30 per cent of congratulations, Louis Tracy.  Nov. ‘96."  In page v of his Introduction to the 1998 Routledge/Thoemmes Press edition of The Final War, Locke again quoted this inscription and wrote further, “Johnstone was probably W. H. Sonley-Johnstone, who edited Remington’s Standard Library of Foreign Classics.” 

            He sold the serial to C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd. based on an outline of the story, but actually wrote much of The Final War as weekly installments fell due. “You may remember that I broke down with fever when I was in the middle of the story, and, as I was doing an installment a week, just as it was required to go to press, this was pretty awkward.”[12]   The serial ran from 28 December 1895 - 1 August 1896 in Pearson’s Weekly.  The day after it began Dr. Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917) led his abortive raid into the Boer Republic, riding the dream of Cecil Rhodes to unite southern Africa (and the Transvaal gold fields) under the Union Jack.  The raid itself was a fiasco and the invaders quickly captured by the Boers, but Jameson appeared  in later installments of Tracy’s novel as an English hero.[13] 


                             "Now, as to my methods of writing my story. I determined first,

                        that England must start a struggle against France and Germany and

                        Russia, and must not only meet them, but beat them. I resolved to

                        disregard the alliance that most experts agreed existed among the

                        armed Powers on the Continent.

                             "I determined, also, that England was as strong as any other

                        Power on the Continent. It is true, of course, that the army corps

                        of France or Germany are infinitely superior to our own, but once

                        let Tommy Atkins come to the front, and this superiority would

                        be no longer. The English character will fight its way on top.

                             "Having settled this, I arranged my campaigns, and wove in a

                        personal romance with which to string my incidents together. Well,

                        the story started, and," added Mr. Tracy modestly, “it went.

                             "Where did I obtain all my military information? Many people

                        have been puzzled over that. In addition to my juvenile experiences,

                        however, I joined, when I was in India, the Allahabad Light Horse

                        Volunteers. Moreover, military society was the only society that

                        an editor could find in that station, with the exception of the Civil

                        Servants.[14] These latter, you must remember, are the picked men

                        of England. They are, in fact, the men who run India. Again, it is

                        in India that the true British army is to be found. It can't be equaled

                        all the world over, and it was by rubbing shoulders with the men

                        who made it that I picked up my knowledge. This accounts for

                        the very few technical mistakes I made.

                             "I have no defence, of course, for the enormous speed with

                        which I moved my armies from one part of the world to the other.

                        Hannibal or Napoleon never attained such speed as I did. At Mr.

                        Pearson's orders I had to whip the world between December and

                        July, and had also to make the English army invade, in that time,

                        the three capitals of France, Germany, and Russia.[15]

                             "But I can defend all my battles, and I believe that if they were

                        to occur in reality, we should beat those gentlemen who opposed

                        us in very much the same style as I beat them on paper.[16]


As suggested by this quotation, The Final War is a jingoistic fantasy in which the class system is never questioned, all Englishmen are brave and steadfast, all foreigners are deceptive and generally less competent than their English foes.  Tracy’s presumption that small numbers of Englishmen could easily handle multitudes of foreigners was a common fallacy founded in part on the British Colonial army’s experiences suppressing hordes of ill-armed native warriors.  The generation that cheerfully marched off to war in 1914 with their minds filled with such nonsense died between the trenches, including Tracy’s own son.  English character did not deflect machine gun bullets and cannon shells. 

            "After finishing this romance I went to America to get local colour for An American Emperor,”[17] passing through customs in New York on July 18, 1896, having presumably turned in the last few installments early.  In The Final War Tracy wrote of a conspiracy by the European powers to destroy England and steal her colonies in which America came to England’s aid in trouncing old  Europe.  In An American Emperor the hero of the novel was an American millionaire, (Jerome K. Vansittart, the richest man in the world)  who becomes emperor of France.  These novels established a trend.  Tracy’s fiction frequently featured American characters, which made it much easier to sell on both sides of the Atlantic.  This was a practical ploy that Shiel never emulated, which may help to explain his troubles in attracting American publishers for many of his early novels.

            An American Emperor was serialized in Pearson’s Weekly, 26 December 1896 - 26 June 1897.  Tracy again fell ill while the serial was in progress, but this time Shiel was drafted to step in for him, writing chapters 29-39, appearing beginning 17 April 1897.  We don’t know when or how Shiel met Tracy, or even if Shiel was brought in by Tracy or his publisher, but his contribution was retained in the book version, published in America in August 1897 and in England the following month, though without attribution.[18]      

            Then in November 1897 two German missionaries were murdered in a small village in China near the birthplace of Confucius.  Kaiser Wilhelm II immediately went into full bluster and started what history recorded as the Scramble For Concessions, which in a few years would trigger the Boxer Rebellion. In 1929 in “About Myself” Shiel wrote:  “When some trouble broke out in China, Keary,[19] of Pearson’s, for whom Tracy had written a very ‘successful’ serial (The Final War), asked me to do a ‘war-serial’, which became my ‘successful’ Yellow  Danger.....”  It has been suggested that Tracy had recommended Shiel, though Keary may have known him well enough already.  Though the details have yet to be confirmed, it is likely that Shiel’s novel The Man-Stealers (about a French plot to kidnap the Duke of Wellington) had already been serialized in some obscure Pearson paper.  It was listed among Shiel’s prior publications in the caption of the first installment of his new serial, though The Man-Stealers would not be issued in book form for another two years.

            The Empress of the Earth was published in another Pearson weekly, Short Stories, from 5 Feb -18 June 1898 and created a sensation.  Shiel cleverly wove incidents from the previous week’s headlines into each successive installment, so as wild as it reads today, the serial can almost be used as a textbook on contemporary events.[20]  The public loved it.  Pearson was soon urging Shiel to extend it out, eventually to 150,000 words, though he cut it back by a third for the book version, issued as The Yellow Danger by Grant Richards in July.  He had to further excise some anti-American comments and rewrite the last chapter at the insistence of the American publisher.[21]  The serial itself was successful enough to immediately earn Shiel another commission to capitalize on the outbreak of the Spanish-American War.  Contraband of War ran in Pearson’s Weekly, 7 May 1898 - 9 July 1898.  As he had in Empress, Shiel incorporated on-going war news into successive weekly installments, lending verisimilitude to the first half of the serial.  The overwhelming nature of the final American naval victory off Santiago, Cuba outstripped Shiel’s imagination at the end.   He would later have the same problem with his novelization of the Russo-Japanese War which was quickly dated by his failure to anticipate Japan’s crushing victory over the Russian fleet at Tsushima.[22]

            Meanwhile Tracy had written a sequel to An American Emperor, The Lost Provinces, which ran 1 Jan - 11 June 1898 in Pearson’s Weekly and was published in book form that November.  He also drew on his Indian experiences again with Meeting the Sun. Some Anglo-Indian Snapshots, with Occasional Verses, Allahabad: Morning Post Press, 1898. 

            The balance of 1898 was one of Shiel’s most creative periods.  During this time he conceived the loosely linked trinity of novels which made his lasting reputation.  David Hartwell

once described them as the first “Future History” series in Science Fiction.[23]  Each novel has a similar Preface which purports to show that it is the transcription of a medium’s accounts of successively distant future events, numbered notebooks, I, II and III.  The occult framing device may have been suggested to Shiel by his first collaborator, the crusading journalist and spiritualist, W. T. Stead.

            Notebook I became The Last Miracle, an account of a revolution in faith leading to a new scientific church of the overman.[24]  Notebook II became The Lord of the Sea,[25] a critique of  private ownership of land based on Henry George’s Progress and Poverty (1879).   Notebook III became The Purple Cloud, Shiel’s most famous and enduring novel.[26]

            We know from surviving letters from Shiel to his primary English publisher, Grant Richards, that Shiel was seeking a publisher for The Last Miracle as early as the Fall of

1898.[27]  As usual he was hoping to find both a serial market as well as a book publisher.  He needed both to maximize his returns on his work.  His need for money was sharpened on 3 November 1898 when Shiel married the beautiful young Parisian-Spaniard, Carolina Garcia Gomez in Saint Peter’s Italian Church, London.  Legend has it that his London neighbor and friend Arthur Machen was among the witnesses for the ceremony that day, but it was Lina’s mother, Dolores Gomez, who signed the certificate as witness.  Shiel later blamed her meddling for the failure of the marriage.  She repeatedly induced Lina to leave him behind in London to return to her in France, harping constantly over Shiel’s ever precarious finances.  Many of Shiel’s letters to Richards over the period of the marriage contained exhortations for advances against royalties or loans against work to be delivered.

            Despite the best efforts of Richards and the literary agent, J. B. Pinker, the letters reveal that no serial or book publisher could be found for The Last Miracle, presumably due to its “agnostic tone.”[28]  The book itself did not see print until 1906.  The focus of the letters shifted to other books.  

            In May 1899 Shiel wrote that he was well into a “strike story” for Pearson which he expected to begin serialization soon.  On June 15 he added that Pearson was looking into copyrighting the strike story in America.  Then in a letter probably written in July Shiel confessed that he had been told to halt work on the story for now, but reassured Richards that all remained well.[29] 

            Shiel’s hopes then shifted to the anticipated success of his historical romance about Henry VIII, Cold Steel.  It had been serialized in Pearson’s Weekly, 31 December 1898 - 6 May 1899, and through the Summer and Fall Shiel was urging Richards to hurry the book and to “boom” [promote] it.  The heroine of the book was modeled on his young bride, Lina.[30]  Shiel’s initial literary reputation had been based on the popular success of two serial novels inspired by current events, The Empress of the Earth / The Yellow Danger and Contraband of War.  Part of their popular appeal had been Shiel’s skill at incorporating actual headline events from each crisis into the successive weekly installments of those serials.

            It is a little ironic then that his hopes for the success of the book version of Cold Steel were crushed by another international crisis.  As Shiel was correcting proofs for Richards and urging him to hurry the book to print, England was reinforcing her South African colonies in anticipation of trouble with the Boer Republics.  On 13 October 1900 the Boers invaded Natal and by the end of the month Kimberley, Mafeking & Ladysmith were besieged.  Cold Steel was released by Richards on November 14, but the public’s attention was elsewhere.  December 10-15 brought the Battles of Stormberg, Magersfontein & Colenso, and was known as “The Black Week” of British disasters in the war.  Though generally favorable reviews appeared the same month Cold Steel sank like a stone.  The dismal sales left Shiel in a funk.  He had talked Grant Richards into a large advance against anticipated royalties which would now have to be repaid.

            Shiel blamed the war for other personal disasters as well.  He had first mentioned The Purple Cloud to Richards in a letter in July, 1899 as The Second Adam.  Shiel was not above offering manuscripts to several publishers seeking the best terms, and it is unclear if he ever formally offered the book to Richards at all.  Another firm would eventually publish the book version though Richards did bring out The Lord of the Sea.  But Shiel was playing a balancing act among his various publishers with the several books.  C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd had initially agreed to publish serial versions of the two books, but its managing director, Peter Keary, insisted that book versions not be published sooner than four months after completion of the serials.  The respective book publishers were equally concerned that the anticipated books not compete with each other, and expected a six month delay between them.  Shiel was now desperate for money with the failure of Cold Steel, and anxious to get the serials into print so the books could proceed on time. 

            Then Peter Keary pulled The Lord of the Sea from the serialization queue at Pearson’s Weekly.  Anxious to capitalize on the public’s natural focus on the Boer War, Keary commissioned instead a new future war serial from Shiel’s onetime collaborator, Louis Tracy.  The Invaders ran in Pearson’s Weekly, 10 March - 11 August 1900 and  incorporated all the usual future war clichés.[31]  Germany & France take advantage of the diversion of England’s regular army to South Africa to launch a perfidious sneak attack, but are roundly defeated by English militia.  In the end the chastened German and French prisoners practically thank their English victors for the sharp lesson they’ve been taught. Tracy was capable of a level of chest beating jingoism to which Shiel never sank.

            Shiel’s pique at Keary was shared with Richards in at least two letters.  In an undated letter [probably Jan or Feb 1900] in the Morse collection he said:


                        “After leaving you today I gave it pretty hard to Keary, as I said I

                        would — but without the bamboo, after all — with the hand.  He

                        took it rather well, so that now I am, if anything, sorry.  However,

                        he really deserves it....”[32]


            In a letter received stamped by Richards on 28 Feb 1900 he said further:


                        “As to The Lord of the Sea, that will be appearing in Pearson’s

                        after completion of a story by Louis Tracy, as to the putting in

                        of which before mine I have a grievance.  Mine will run quite

                        four to five months, so it will be about eight months before it

                        can be published in book.  From what they tell me, however,

                        it will repay waiting.” [33]


            Unfortunately for Shiel, The Lord of the Sea never made it back into the publishing queue at Pearson’s.  Perhaps he should have dealt more civilly with Keary.[34]  Worse, publication of the book itself was delayed by a dispute over rights between Richards and Hutchinson & Co., who published Shiel’s The Man-Stealers in the summer of 1900.  Shiel’s financial pressures can only have been compounded by the birth of Dolores (Lola) Katherine Shiel in London on 26 July 1900. On 3 September he wrote Richards disputing Richard’s claims to publishing rights over Lord or The Second Adam, while begging for a modification of their terms over Cold Steel so the whole loss should not fall on Shiel.[35]  He also complained again that Pearson had Shiel’s promise that the book would not come out until four months after the serial.   

            Richards and Shiel finally resolved their dispute over the two novels.  Richards dropped his claim to The Second Adam and proceeded with book publication of The Lord of the Sea in May 1901.  Keary ran an abbreviated serial version of The Purple Cloud in another of the Pearson magazine stable, the more upscale Royal Magazine, monthly from January to June 1901 with illustrations by J. J. Cameron.[36]   Shiel’s financial straights, however, had lead him to sell all British book rights to The Purple Cloud on 13 September 1900 for a mere £70.[37]  He was too desperate for immediate money to gamble on the uncertainty of future royalties. 

            The Purple Cloud was published that Fall by Chatto & Windus.  To compound Shiel’s financial woes no American publisher could be found, so the 1901 text actually went into the public domain in America six months later.  Though he was entitled to royalties on The Lord of the Sea, Grant Richards duly applied them first to the royalties previously advanced to Shiel on Cold Steel.  In short, by this time Shiel had written the two books by which he is best remembered today, but was receiving almost no money for his best work.  The depth of Shiel’s financial difficulties is suggested in the letter he wrote to W. T. Stead dated 15 August 1901 thanking him for his extensive review of The Lord of the Sea in the August 1901 issue of Stead’s The Review of Reviews.  In a final postscript Shiel added: “P.P.S. If one of the men who help you to run the Review of Reviews die, or take to drink, or otherwise fail you, I shall be always glad, if you will offer it me, to take his place.  I am at present reviewing and doing causeries for the Daily News: but have heaps of time.”  Here is the Shiel who in his essays espoused art for art’s sake begging for a job as a “mere” journalist.[38]

            While Shiel was struggling with Keary and Richards to get those books published, The Great Strike commenced in the 29 December 1900 issue of Pearson’s Weekly.  The first installment did not give the author’s name, but all subsequent installments through the last on 13 April 1901 were credited not to Shiel, but to Louis Tracy.  What then had happened to the strike story Shiel had written for Pearson?  Shiel’s literary executor, John Gawsworth, left a note suggesting that it had been completed but not published.  No surviving copies of his draft have been located.  Shiel himself had implied to Richards that it was soon to be published, but Pearson had told him to stop work on it for the time.  How did Tracy get involved? 

            Given the similarity of the title in Shiel’s letters to the published serial it seems too much to believe that Tracy, who Shiel had already collaborated with in An American Emperor, independently just happened to write another strike story to submit to Pearson on speculation.  That leaves two possibilities.  Pearson may have rejected Shiel’s version of the story out of hand and turned the project over to Tracy.  Or Pearson may have demanded such extensive revisions that Shiel no longer wanted to have his name on it.  In that case Shiel might have asked Tracy to either front for him, or perhaps, to rewrite his draft to Pearson’s specifications.  In either event 1900 seems the watershed year for Shiel & Tracy’s future relationship.  In the beginning of the year Shiel was badly hurt financially when Keary bumped The Lord of the Sea from the publication queue in favor of Tracy’s The Invaders.  By the end of the year Shiel had either lost another commission to Tracy outright, or they had begun their second collaboration.

            In the chapters Shiel contributed to An American Emperor and to the four subsequent books he later acknowledged as full collaborations, it is fairly easy to spot Shiel’s stylistic touches.  They are much harder to find in The Great Strike.  The characters, plotting and style seem much closer to Tracy’s normal work than Shiel’s.  Particularly the character of the villain, Black Sam, “a good-for-nothing man and a virulent Socialist” seems alien to Shiel.  He was himself a socialist, though a proponent of Henry George rather than Marx.  Shiel would have been more inclined to write a novel espousing socialism, as indeed he did explicitly in The Lord of the Sea, and again in the closing chapters of The Yellow Wave (1905.)  Socialist notions frequently pop up throughout his opus, though generally just in passing.  If his initial draft followed Shiel’s heart on this point, that may well be why Pearson rejected it.  And an outright rejection by Pearson on such political grounds may help explain why his pro-socialist messages were just inserted as asides in most later novels rather than made central to the plot.  Even in The Lord of the Sea there are so many elements of the story that some readers failed to note the essence of the novel was an attack on private ownership of land based on Henry George’s theory.

            One aspect of the story is particularly disturbing to modern readers, and might well have been a source of discomfort with Shiel as well.  That is the attitude expressed towards the Belgian workers who are brought in as “blacklegs” (strike-breakers) in the novel.  The arrival of the first group of workers and their march through the streets escorted by troops is described as follows:[39]


                                    They were an undersized and mongrel crew—puny, even, in

comparison with the average Lancashire mill-hand, whose occupation

                        is not conductive to stalwart frame or well-nourished limbs.

                                    But however insignificant individually, they provided, as a body,

                        a terrifying object lesson.  The were quite as well qualified to guide

                        spindles and control engines as any class of operatives in Lancashire,

and the haunting spectre of an invasion full of greater menace than the

                        appearance of an armed enemy in this country stalked along with them.

                                    For these men would work longer hours for less pay than an

                        Englishman would deem possible.  They were able to exist upon food

                        which the working classes of England have learned to reject.  Their

                        wants were few, their pleasure simple and inexpensive.  The catering

                        which they would receive and the wages they would earn must seem

                        to them an El Dorado by comparison with the slums of Ghent.

                                    In a word, they constituted a moving plague, and men’s hearts

                        were sore, whilst women’s eyes filled with tears as they watched these

                        human bacilli moving through the streets under the protection of British



As has been noted by Harold Billings in his M. P. Shiel: A Biography of the Early Years, Shiel remained conscious that he himself “was no Englishman,” and would have been unlikely to have so readily likened peaceful foreigners in England to plague germs.[40]  In contrast this passage evokes a comment from Tracy’s interview in Pearson’s Weekly, which assured its readers that  “He is a fine specimen of the shrewd Yorkshireman, and the only thing foreign about him is the three years education that he had in France.”[41]

            Though the characters, plotting and style seem closer to Tracy, the conclusion of The Great Strike is pretty radical for the time.  The resolution of the strike includes the owner of the mill effectively giving 2/3 of his future profits to his workers on a cooperative basis, with 1/3 given outright and 1/3 given in trust to a pension fund.  That scheme was revolutionary in 1901 and seems a very odd thing for Tracy to have conceived.  If it was Shiel’s contribution, the outlines of the proposal may well be eventually traced to some progressive tract.  If it originated with Tracy, perhaps it is a reflection of the compassion which led him to run those soup kitchens in the harsh winter of 1894.  The serial was retitled The Wooing of Esther Gray when published in book form by Pearson the next year.[42] 

            In September 1901 Pearson also published Tracy’s The Strange Disappearance of Lady Delia.  A prior serial was likely, but remains untraced since most of the weekly and daily papers of the period which ran such fiction have not been indexed.  No US publication occurred within six months, so that novel passed into the public domain in America.  That may explain why Tracy later changed a few names, retitled it A Mysterious Disappearance, and published it in New York under the Gordon Holmes pseudonym.[43]  Shiel told John Gawsworth that he had nothing to do with it, but this was the first Holmes novel. 

            In 1902 Shiel’s fiction took a new direction.   In Love’s Whirlpool was serialized in Cassell’s Saturday Journal, No 972, 14 May 1902 - No 988, 3 Sept 1902, and published by Grant Richards as The Weird o’It that December.  This was the first of a series of novels published between 1902 and 1909 sometimes described as his middle period romantics.  Unlike the majority of his prior novels they were set in contemporary England and concerned with something closer to everyday life.  In a broad sense they were closer to the more traditional romantic mystery stories that Tracy typically wrote.  But unlike a typical lightweight Tracy novel, The Weird o’It includes multiple layers of meaning and philosophical depth.  In 1909 in “On Reading,” Shiel wrote:


                        “You might read, or reread, if you love life, or conscience, or progress,

                        this Weird o’It: a book no longer in every respect to my liking: but a true

Bible, or Holy Book, once more in modern times, with ‘plenary inspiration’ enough, if you like it plenary.  Only forgive where I ‘spoke as a man’ saying

                        more than I knew, since I meant well.”[44]


In a collector’s copy in 1924 he elaborated:


                        “An attempt this at the presentation of Christianity in a radical way, I

                        at the time being enamoured of ‘the personality of Jesus.’  But, since

                        what we know of Jesus is so much like nothing, that some critics can 

                        even doubt that he ever lived, it follows that whoever is enamoured

                        of ‘his’ personality must be enamoured of a subjective image, not of

                        an objective reality.  I did not realize this then.  However, better an

                        enthusiasm for a dream-image than no enthusiasm, and I can still

                        look down with respect upon our writer here, without having his

                        point of view.”[45]


In contrast Tracy had explained in his 1897 interview:


                        “No. I haven't gone in for any high art in fiction yet. I leave that for

                        the future. I just try to write a bright, popular story that will interest        

                        the reader and carry him on from one installment to another. I am

                        dead against the problem novel, and think that the time is coming

                        when only the books and papers that avoid such things will make

                        their way."[46]


Tracy never really deviated from his early approach to fiction.  He used a simple, straightforward style to tell conventional romantic stories, usually with mystery elements and happy endings.   Shiel’s novels were written in a far more elaborate style, often approaching poetry in prose, and rarely had conventional happy endings.  In the final chapters of The Weird o’It seven major characters die, including the hero and heroine, yet in Shiel’s terms it was a “happy ending” because Jack Hay’s family is morally redeemed.  The Grant Richards edition was not reprinted and no American publisher took on the book.[47]

            Shiel’s next novel, Unto the Third Generation, began serialization in The Morning Leader on March 30, 1903 and ran through May 20.  It was published as a book in September by Chatto & Windus.  There is no evidence that Tracy contributed, but sometime in 1903 Shiel began collaborating with Tracy in earnest.  Perhaps coincidentally Tracy’s output went into overdrive that year, increasing from an annual output of one or two serials or books to five books published in 1903.  It is a little difficult to judge when some of these were actually written. Most were probably serialized, though none of those serials have been confirmed.  It was not uncommon for a six month or a year’s delay between serial and book publication, so some of the 1903 books might have been written in 1902, or even earlier.  But Tracy’s output remained at four or five books a year through 1907.  He may have wanted help from Shiel just to keep up with the volume.  1903 was also the year that Edward J. Clode (1868-1941) left Brentanos to start his own publishing firm in New York.  Clode’s first bestseller was probably Tracy’s Wings of the Morning published in September 1903.  That success sparked a personal and business relationship between the two men which continued throughout Tracy’s life. 

            In December 1903 Tracy’s The Revellers was published in London.[48]  According to the English Catalog of Books it was not reprinted, perhaps because it may have been considered a little shocking.  There are references to illegitimate births leading to marriage as a common consequence of the annual fair in the Yorkshire village described (the “revelling” referred to in the title.)  The novel also opens with a stern Methodist Yorkshire father having one of his daily Bible readings with his adopted son.  Shiel had such daily readings with his own father, a Methodist

lay minister, while growing up on Montserrat.  Stylistically it seems a cut above Tracy’s norm, but there are no verified links with Shiel.  The livelier style may be a reflection of Tracy’s intimate knowledge of the Yorkshire setting and its people.

            Shiel’s next novel was written in 1903, apparently in collaboration with Tracy.  In January 1904 a series of increasingly hot letters went back & forth between Shiel and Grant Richards over The Evil That Men Do.  Richards had advanced royalties against his next book, but Shiel was asking him to release The Evil That Men Do from the agreement because it had been written in collaboration with Tracy and he wanted it to be published by Ward, Lock under more favorable terms.  Tracy confirmed his involvement in a separate letter to Richards who reluctantly consented in return for first refusal of another novel in progress, The Yellow Wave.[49]   The Evil That Men Do was serialized in People, No 1,170, 13 March 1904 - No 1,191, 7 August 1904, and published by Ward, Lock that September solely under Shiel’s name.  Tracy’s specific contributions to the novel are not known.

            In June 1904 Tracy’s The Pillar of Light was published by Clode in New York.  Shiel told John Gawsworth that he had revised the “last part” of the novel for Tracy, but did not specify the pages.  This is actually one of Tracy’s best novels, involving, as usual, intertwining romances, an exciting shipwreck and dramatic rescue.  The chapters describing the storm, wreck and rescue are very well done, and occur in the first half of the novel, presumably untouched by Shiel’s revisions.  Tracy was living at this time on the North Sea coast at Whitby, where he was a volunteer member of the Coast Guard.  Tracy reportedly actively assisted when shipwrecks occurred, so those chapters may well have been based on experience.  They certainly reflect his love of the sea.  An American character in the novel also shares the name Vansittart with the hero of An American Emperor.         

            Two of Tracy’s other books published in 1904 may have links to Shiel.  Though stylistically quite different, The King of Diamonds shares with Shiel’s The Lord of the Sea a plot involving diamond studded meteorites.  Whether Shiel was otherwise involved in the novel, Tracy presumably borrowed at least that idea.  A Morganatic Wife, first published in London by  F. V. White in October 1904, would be issued by Edward Clode in 1911 under the Robert Fraser pseudonym.  Stylistically it reads like Tracy, but some of the revolutionary political asides may suggest Shiel.

            In late 1904 Grant Richards was forced into bankruptcy, though he was soon operating again as manager of a new publishing firm “owned by his wife.”  The Receiver for his old firm wrote Shiel demand letters for repayment of £75 advanced against unearned royalties.  It is unclear if he ever repaid that sum, but Richards didn’t publish another of Shiel’s books until The Dragon in 1913.  In order to solicit business for the new firm Richards wrote a number of letters to American authors or publishers inquiring if British publishers had already been found for books newly released in America.  Ironically, on 13 September 1905 he wrote such a letter to Edward J. Clode about the first Gordon Holmes novel, A Mysterious Disappearance.  Clode’s reply on 25 September politely advised Richards that arrangements had already been made without revealing Tracy’s authorship.

            Curiously, a sharp-eyed reader sent a letter to The New York Times Book Review published 20 May 1905 at BR331 pointing out that the Holmes A Mysterious Disappearance was almost identical to Tracy’s The Strange Disappearance of Lady Delia from 1901.  His question asking whether Tracy and Holmes were the same went unanswered, and was forgotten until John Gawsworth finally confirmed the rumor in the 1930s.

            Shiel published two books under his own name in 1905.  Ward, Lock issued his novelization of the Russo-Japanese War in June, The Yellow Wave, both Keary and Richards having passed on it.  It is unlikely that Tracy was involved.  In October Tracy’s friend and primary US publisher, Edward J. Clode, released Shiel’s The Lost Viol.  This was another of those middle period romantics.  Presumably Tracy at least recommended the book to Clode, but may not have been otherwise involved.  In November 1906 Grant Richards visited New York and dropped in on Clode, who gave him a copy of The Lost Viol as a present.  On his return to London Richards wrote Clode thanking him for the book, which he had read on the voyage home.  Richards said he had enjoyed it, as he did all of Shiel’s books.  He also warned Clode that it was the sort of book which in England would probably draw the praise of intelligent reviewers, but, no matter how much he promoted it, would be unlikely to attract a wide audience.[50]  Though the Clode edition is one of the most common early Shiel titles to be found in the used book market today, it was the last Shiel novel to be published in America until Clode agreed to take 500 sheets from the 1913 Richards edition of The Dragon.

            1905 was another high octane year for Tracy, with five new novels published as serials or books.  Shiel is not known to have contributed to any of them, though they included the second Gordon Holmes title, The Arncliffe Puzzle.  It was first serialized in 14 parts by Associated Sunday Magazines, 3 September - 3 December 1905.  Shiel denied any part in this.  The serialization by Associated Sunday Magazines overlapped the serialization of Tracy’s Karl Grier: The Strange Story of a Man with a Sixth Sense, in 16 parts, 30 July - 19 November 1905. That overlap probably explains the use of the pseudonym, which was retained in the Clode edition published the next year.  Most magazines tried to avoid having more than one story or serial by the same author in the same issue.

            Shiel’s only book published in 1906 was not really new, but The Last Miracle which had existed in draft at least since 1898.  Tracy’s output for the year was also down, but it included the first of the Gordon Holmes titles that Shiel admitted contributing to.  The Late Tenant was serialized both in England and America and first published in book form by Clode in October.  In the Clode edition Shiel revised pages 1-26 & wrote pages 27-168 & 176-196.   They also collaborated that year on Three Men and a Maid which was published early in 1907 by Clode under the Robert Fraser pseudonym.  We don’t know why this appeared as by Fraser rather than Gordon Holmes, but Shiel wrote approximately pages 4-151 of the Clode edition.  Again, on 16 April 1907 Richards wrote Clode about publishing the English edition, but was advised by return mail that Fraser was English & Ward, Lock would issue the book in London.  When it was finally released in October 1908 it was under Tracy’s name with the title changed to Fennell’s Tower, though the first printing retained the American title in the running heads.  Shiel has not been linked to Tracy’s three other novels published in 1907.

            1908 was a slow year for both authors.  Shiel published only one book, The White Wedding, but it was reportedly serialized the year before in the Daily Chronicle, though the details are unconfirmed.  Shiel is also believed on stylistic evidence to have contributed to Tracy’s only new novel that year.  In May 1908 Edward J. Clode became a co-publisher and managing editor of the New York edition of Pearson’s Magazine.  His tenure began with the July issue (which was probably published in late May or early June) and only lasted through the December issue, since he left the magazine in early November.[51]  But during his short tenure every issue had something by Tracy or Shiel: “The Queen’s Locket” by Tracy in July; “At Sea”[52] by Tracy in August; “Many A Tear” by Shiel in September; The Message by Tracy (possibly with Shiel) serialized October 1908 - March 1909, and “The Cholera Cloud” by Gordon Holmes in December 1908.  “The Cholera Cloud” had first been published in England under Tracy’s name in 1895.  The use of the pseudonym was probably to avoid having two items by Tracy in the same issue.  Clode released The Message late that year.[53]  When Ward, Lock published the English edition in July 1909 Richards objected on behalf of one of his authors who already had a novel of that title in print.  Ward, Lock then agreed to change the title to The Message of Fate on all subsequent editions. 

            Despite the flap over The Message, Richards became quite friendly with Tracy and Clode.  On 24 April 1909 Richards wrote Clode about a pleasant weekend with the Tracys at Epson

(southwest of London) attending the races.  Other letters in the Grant Richards collection confirm that the invitation was repeated the next year and the Tracys in turn were invited to visit Richards.  In May 1910 the Tracys returned to their home at Whitby on the north coast.  On 26 May 1910 Richards asked Tracy for advice on how Clode wanted books bound, since he was doing some rush binding work for Clode & had no sample to go by.

            Over the same period Shiel had recommended to Tracy that he have some miniatures done by his niece, Olive Horsford.  The HRC collection includes several postcards from Shiel to Olive reassuring her that Tracy would be contacting her, and suggesting how much she might charge.  It is clear from the tone of the letters that Tracy was the partner in their collaborations with the money.

            In 1909 both Shiel and Tracy published two novels under their own names, and collaborated on By Force of Circumstances released by Clode in March as by Gordon Holmes.  Shiel wrote pages 44-192 of the Clode edition, beginning in chapter III through the end of chapter X.[54]  Shiel had no books released in 1910.  Tracy had three, including another by Holmes, titled 

in America, The de Bercy Affair, and in England, The Feldisham Mystery.  Shiel denied any part in this one.

            In 1911 Shiel had a collection of short stories published, The Pale Ape, but Tracy’s only new book was their last confirmed collaboration, the Gordon Holmes novel titled The House of Silence in America, and The Silent House in England.  Shiel  wrote through page 187 of the Clode edition, pages 7- 204 of the Eveleigh Nash edition.  The second Robert Fraser title was also published by Clode, The Fire Opal, but this was only a lightly revised version of the 1904 Tracy title published in England as A Morganatic Wife, and serialized in America in 1905 as Souls on Fire.  It is possible that Shiel contributed to this novel on some level, either originally or in revising the text, but there is no record of it.  It is also possible that the Fraser pseudonym was simply used to avoid possible copyright problems.

            Tracy and Shiel are not known to have collaborated in anything after 1911.  Shiel denied any part in No Other Way by Holmes, published by Clode in 1912.  The English edition of 1913 was credited to Tracy.  Copyright issues probably explain the use of the pseudonym on the American edition of the final Gordon Holmes title, The House ‘round the Corner (Clode, 1919), since the English edition had appeared under Tracy’s name in 1914.  Shiel is not believed to have been involved.  

            The details of their collaborations were probably discussed in correspondence between the two writers, but Shiel seems to have saved only one letter from Tracy.  It was discovered in a copy of The Final War found by John Gawsworth in Shiel’s library after his death:


                                           24 Jan 1911   Fairlawn, Whitby, Yorkshire

      My dear Shiel: After writing you yesterday, I was driven forth

by a damnable Steamobile, which is crushing our road into a new
smoothness. Hence I strolled into the station and there picked up
a book of yours, This Knot of Life, which is very very readable in
as much as it contains your essay "On Writing". I devoured it, the
essay, last night— read it with care and jubilation, yet not without
a carking fear lest I should be found among the slain. Happily you
spared me though I should have been glad of the immortality
thereby conferred, since your fine pronouncement will live many a
      Surely the time will come when people who read will think with
you, and then some poker and noser in musty libraries will disinter
you and say, "Here my friend, was a prophet." But what need of
my thin pipe of praise? You know what a great thing you have
done, and therein is your reward. What though of the two earlier
letters? I want to browse on them, and chew on some small stone
of knowledge from them, and learn something of the art which I
practice with such dim understanding.
     You will yet horrify the writer who is heedless of the beauty of
words. I believe I could prove in this scanty sheet the influence of
your magic, but alas time and a sounding steam roll forbid.... Who then is Mrs. Meade? And why no mention of Ruskin? Farewell!
Yours ever, Louis Tracy.[55]


Though Tracy may have been the senior partner with the contracts, publishing contacts and popular clout, it is obvious he respected both Shiel’s opinions on literature and his skill as a writer.  This letter also establishes that Tracy had no hand in This Knot of Life (1909), the last of Shiel’s middle period romantics to be published. 

            Shiel’s need for money had not abated, but by 1912 their collaborative relationship had apparently ended.  Shiel’s last novel during his first literary phase was serialized as To Arms! in The Red Magazine, No 90-95, 1 Jan - 15 March 1913.  It was an attempt to recapture the popular success of his one previous best seller, The Yellow Danger, inspired again by current events, the 1911-1912 Chinese Revolution.  That May Grant Richards released the book version, retitled The Dragon, to dismal sales.  Clode was induced to accept 500 copies of Richards’ sheets for the American edition published with similar results in 1914.  The disastrous sales threw Shiel into another funk.  The Dragon also closed with a strangely prophetic speech,  “As to novels, that, I think you will admit, is all nonsense, and I undertake that novels go under in England, if I do not.  Anyway, you get not one out of me for ten years.....”[56]   It would indeed be ten years before Shiel published another novel.

            Tracy’s career continued as before, writing two or three books a year, with occasional trips to America.  On 25 July 1914 he wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times:[57]


      In a review of my book The Terms of Surrender, appearing in The

                        New York Times of June 14, the following remarkable statement occurs:


                                    There is much mystery concerning the author who calls himself

                                    “Louis Tracy,” and as each succeeding romance, usually of an

                                    International character, comes from his pen an attempt is made

                                    to penetrate the mystery. 


But outside these works of mine, which are of the “detective”

                                    order, where is the mystery?  I have called myself “Louis Tracy”

                                    for fifty-one years.  I am well (and, I believe, favorably) known

                                    to the police.  I pay my rates and taxes, though with increasing

                                    difficulty.  I figure in Who’s Who, and I have been heard to

                                    remark that I must either learn to control my temper or give up

                                    golf.  Nay more, when last I had the good fortune to visit America,

                                    The New York Times was prominent among the many newspapers

                                    which greeted me most cordially.

            Now I do maintain that the foregoing facts, taken collectively,

                                    not only prove my existence, but go so far to label me as a person

                                    of good repute and ordinary attributes.  Still your reviewer leaves

                                    me in doubt.  In these days of rapid developments one’s faculties

                                    are plagued by cubism in art and fourth dimensions in space. 

                                    Will you, then accept such a commonplace and orthodox

                                    thing as a photograph as yet another proof that I exist? 

                                    Meanwhile, let me assure you that my appreciation of the

                                    literary critiques in The New York Times Review of Books

                                    remains at the same high level it reached many years ago.

                                                                                                LOUIS TRACY

                                                Whitby, England, July 25.


            Tracy’s world turned upside down on 4 Aug 1914 when England declared war on Germany.  The guns of August were braying.  His son, Louis Turgis Tracy, then 19, joined the 5th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment the next month, later transferring to 4th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. Tracy himself helped to form the Whitby Branch of the North Riding Volunteer Reserve, and was later appointed its sub-commander.  He was with his unit at Whitby when German warships raided the coast and shelled the town early in the war.[58]

            On 31 January 1915 The New York Times published excerpts from a longer article by Tracy which had been published in The London Daily Mail about his exploits chasing rumored gray cars carrying presumed German spies along the Yorkshire coast.  Tracy claimed to have personally witnessed night signals to German submarines.  “The intense loneliness of the Yorkshire moorlands, which stretch for two score miles inland, with baffling cross roads, is ideal for the spy signaler.”[59] 

            Tracy arrived in New York on 5 March 1916 on the Rotterdam out of Falmouth, by way of Saint Paul Parish, Antigua & Barbuda, Leeward Island Federation.  One wonders if he thought of Shiel when steaming past Redonda and Montserrat on route to New York.  He stated on the immigration form that he would be visiting & might stay with his friend, Edward J. Clode, 156 5th Ave, New York City.  Tracy came to America to arouse support for England’s war effort through lectures and press articles, though in 1916 he managed to release a fair amount of fiction as well.  Two of the most interesting were novelizations of silent movie serials, The Grip of Evil and The Yellow Menace which ran in the Boston Sunday Herald.[60]   Neither was released in book form.  The opening chapters of The Yellow Menace have echoes of Shiel’s The Yellow Danger and the Boxer Rebellion, but the balance of the serial is essentially a Fu Manchu novel relocated in America with a US Secret Service agent standing in for Rohmer’s Nayland Smith.  In at least one newspaper article promoting the film version, Tracy makes clear that he was also using the novel  to raise American awareness of the threat of Imperial Germany.[61]  A more blatant example of his war work was The Day of Wrath : A Story of 1914, published in New York by Clode in May.  The New York Times Book Review wrote:


                        “The Human mind is so constituted that it becomes deadened by the

                        weight of numbers, needing the personal, the individual, to awaken

                        its liveliest sympathies.  We read with pity and horror of the sufferings

                        of a nation; but that they may be brought really home to us, become

                        really vivid and forceful, they must be embodied in some person or small

                        group of persons.  And it is something of this embodiment which Mr.

                        Tracy has achieved in his latest book, The Day of Wrath.  We have all

                        read of burned villages, murdered noncombatants, tortured women—all

                        the horror and agony undergone by heroic Belgium in the cruel days of

                        August and September, 1914.  Mr. Tracy takes a little company of six

                        people, two of them English, the others Belgium, and shows us what

                        happens to them during that awful time.”[62]


American opinion was deeply divided over the war.  The Mid-west and Western states generally favored neutrality, while elements in the East were more sympathetic with the Allied cause.  The actual divisions had been foreshadowed by split reviews of Tracy’s first novel, The Final War, in which America had joined England rather cavalierly in its fictional war to end wars.   One positive review concluded:


                        “Finally, the Saxon race triumphs everywhere, and forces a general

                        European disarmament.  There is so much fighting in the book that

                        it grows tedious after a while, but the author achieves a certain

                        emotional effect, and readers who believe that the future of civilization

                        is bound up in the destinies of the Saxon will not escape an occasional

                        thrill, in spite of the author’s somewhat vainglorious manner, the

                        unreality of his characterizations, and the inelegance, or worse, of his



In contrast the reviewer for Overland blistered:


                        Why any publisher should waste paper, engravings, printing, and

                        binding on such a book as The Final War, by Louis Tracy, is beyond

                        finding out.  This writer makes an imaginary sketch of a war to occur

                        between now and 1900, and his descriptions of conversations between

                        diplomatists like Hanotaux and Caprivi are like the prattle of school-boys. 

                        The Prince of Wales is lifted clear out of his Hanoverian mediocrity and

                        made to figure as a military genius.  In a conversation with Kaiser

                        William, Mr. Wettin addresses him, “My Dear Nephew.”  This English

                        writer makes the same error that all English writers make, and imagines

                        that, owing to the fact that “blood is thicker than water,” England in a

                        war against the United Continent might depend upon the support of the

                        United States.  Englishmen always forget that there are in the United

                        States millions of descendants of the Latin, Teutonic, and Keltic races

                        that will never countenance any attempt in aid of England, and in whose

                        veins flows not one drop of Anglo-Saxon blood.  The author has some

                        slight knowledge of military science, but his description of the calvary

                        charge by the American Battalion at Wessenburg is ridiculous in the

                        extreme.  The whole scheme of involving Germany in the war with

                        England seems to be for the absurd purpose of rehabilitating Jameson

                        of unsavory Transvaal notoriety.  Ridiculous as it seems, after England

                        has condescended to allow the United States to help her out of her

                        difficulty, her Gracious Majesty, as a sufficient reward, confers some

                        trivial decorations upon the President and “the Secretary of State for

                        War.”  The American generals and diplomats have the deportment of

lackeys and use the language of cowboys.  This book may amuse the hypertrophied English, but it irritates the reviewer who has to prod

                        through it.[64]


Tracy’s efforts for England included numerous speeches, letters to the editor and articles on war topics.[65]  For the very odd perspective of a German writer trapped in America by the outbreak of the war who became involved in German propaganda efforts there, contrast Hans Heinz Ewers’ poem, “My Mother’s House,”[66] and his bizarre post-war novel, Vampire (1922)[67] which fictionalizes some of his experiences before and after his internment as an enemy alien after America finally entered the war.                                                     

            America’s declaration of war on 6 April 1917 may have been a bittersweet victory for Louis Tracy.  By one account his son died in France within the month.[68]  On May 31 the British War Mission to the United States was officially organized under Tracy’s former business partner, Alfred Harmsworth, then Lord Northcliffe.   Tracy formally joined as a member of Northcliffe’s personal staff.  In November 1917 he edited and wrote the Introduction to Who's Who in the British War Mission to the United States, 1917 (Clode, 1917.)

            Tracy published very little new fiction from 1917-1919, though the Clode edition of The Revellers (1917),[69] was extensively revised from the original 1904 text.  He dropped the slightly racy parts, inserted a new sub-plot adding German spies plotting an invasion, reminiscent of his future war novels written decades earlier, and new chapters bringing the story up to date to include scenes set on the Western Front.

            On 6 November 1919 he was honored at a dinner held by the Association of Foreign Press Correspondence in the US “in recognition of Mr. Tracy’s recently terminated services as head of the British Bureau of Information, an organization formed in this city during the war to give publicity to British affairs.”[70]  The following April Tracy was awarded a C.B.E. for his war service.  “Mr. Tracy was with the British War Mission in this city from its establishment, and remained in charge of the winding up of the affairs of the Bureau of Information, which closed last November.  He has recently entered the motion picture field, and several of his books are about to be shown on the screen.  Mr. Tracy will sail for England on the Adriatic a week from Saturday but expects to return in October.”[71]

            Besides the novelizations of movie serials he had written in 1916, several of Tracy’s novels had been adapted to the screen.  In March 1920 Publishers' Weekly announced that Louis Tracy Productions, Inc. had been formed to bring all of Tracy’s books to the screen.[72]  The new company, however, apparently only released one, The Silent Barrier (1920.) 

            Tracy arrived back in New York on the Celtic out of Liverpool on 29 October, now listing his address on the immigration form as New York.  The New York Times reported on 10 November 1920 on a speech Tracy had given at a dinner of the British Schools and Universities Club soliciting funds for the restoration of Westminster Abbey.  “Mr. Tracy is opening offices at the old Holland House on Fifth Avenue...”[73]  On his next trip to New York in July 1921 he listed his residence as London.  His trip was again related to the campaign to raise restoration funds, as reflected in a long letter to the editor published in The New York Times on July 26.[74]

            Tracy returned to England and to fiction.  His first new novel was The House of Peril (Clode, 1922.)  It was set in New York, though incongruously included a number of Tracy’s familiar English detectives.  Tracy revised the English edition of 1924, The Park Lane Mystery,  resetting the story in London.  From 1923-1928 one or two new novels were published each year.  Around 1927 many of Tracy’s early novels were also re-issued, both in England and America.  These editions, including most of the Gordon Holmes novels, were lightly revised.  The Holmes reprints were all published solely under Tracy’s name.  Tracy died on 13 August 1928 at his home, Dunholme, in Sellindge, a small village outside of Ashford, Kent. 

            A moving obituary was published in the October Bookman:[75]


I heard with great regret of the death of Mr. Louis Tracy, an able

                        and successful novelist; whose books have enjoyed considerable

                        popularity for the last thirty years. His first novel, The Final War,

                        was published in 1896, and the strenuous work he undertook during

                        that War when it came (for since it was a cold war to end war, one

                        hopes it was the final one), broke down his health and hastened his

                        end.  He was turned fifty in 1914, but promptly took a hand in forming

                        the Whitby Branch of the North Riding Volunteer Reserve, and in

                        1915 was made sub-commander of the regiment. He wrote much on

                        the War, went lecturing on it in America in 1916, and in 1917 joined

                        the Headquarters Staff of the British Mission in the U.S.A., and later

                        was temporarily attached to the Foreign Office. For these and other

                        war services he was made a C.B.E. in 1920. For six years most of his

                        literary work was suspended, and at fifty-eight he had to take up the

                        dropped threads and begin again, and did not find the way easy after

                        that interval, but wrote thirteen more novels in the last seven years,

                        and regained his public, though he could not regain the strength he

                        had lost. By a strange coincidence he died on August 13th, leaving

                        unfinished a story called The Fatal Thirteen, of which he had written

                        only thirteen pages. The last book he completed, What Would You

                        Have Done? is to be published shortly.  He was a very modest man,

                        of simple tastes and quiet pleasures; he used to say that the happiest

                        years of his life were those spent in a small cottage (rented from the

                        Duchy of Cornwall at £18 a year) in the Isles of Scilly, from 1922 to

                        1925.  His wife found among his papers and has sent me a poem of

                        his touching on his homely ambitions, and closing with a verse that

                        now seems to have special significance:


                                    “I am content if, when the struggle’s o’er,

                                    And humbled, quelled, I reach the father shore,

                                    A voice shall say : ‘Brother, I bid thee rest,

                                    Because, though not unstained, some worth is manifest,

                                    Nor hast thou basely used the life I lent’ —      

                                                I am content.”


            Shiel’s last comment about Tracy may have been in his essay, “The Inconsistency of a Novelist,” first published in John Gawsworth’s Ten Contemporaries (Ernest Benn, 1932.)  It still reflects the tension he always felt in their relationship between writing as commerce and writing as art.


               that when in a few years the writer fills shelves with empty

                        books, the impression left is that his (her!) only motive was to

                        earn a livelihood, and that he is a common workman, who works

                        for himself and for another man, not for Man, not for a planet, not,

                        so to say, for God.  And since no one is quite unlike his environment,

                        I too, no doubt, am of this kind.  Not wholly, though I fancy —

                        perhaps because my father had some money; so that when my

                        old friend, Mr. Louis Tracy, C.B.E., has said to me “Strange

                        fellow, Shiel: you could make as much money as Bernard Shaw

                        and Edgar Wallace put together, but you persist in casting your

                        pearls before swine-herds, who know not pearls,” I have answered

                        something like this: “It is you, Tracy, who are strange, if you do

                        not conceive that different people can be pleased by different

                        things, that Mr. Shaw may have had a liking for oranges, and I

                        a liking, not less genuine, for pineapple.  And, if I made that

                        money, whatever would I do with it? ... (“The Inconsistency of

                        a Novelist,” (1932), reprinted Works III, 427.)


            By 1932 Shiel was established in a small cottage in Sussex, where he would spend the rest of his life.  He wrote a few last novels and stories, some of the latter in collaboration with John Gawsworth.  In his final decade Shiel was mainly concerned with completing Jesus, his new translation of the Book of Luke, with commentary.  Shiel did finish Jesus, but half of the final manuscript was lost at his death.  From Shiel’s perspective though, perhaps that did not matter.  In The Purple Cloud he had paid tribute to his friend Arthur Machen as an example of the true artist:


                        "..:and I do not know that I ever encountered aught so

                        complimentary to my race as this dead poet Machen, and his race

                        with the cloud: for it is clear now that the better of those poet men

                        did not write to please the vague inferior tribes who might read

                        them, but to deliver themselves of the divine warmth that thronged

                        in their bosom; and if all the readers were dead, still they would

                        have written; and for God to read they wrote...." [page 206 of

                        Chatto & Windus edition.]


And so it was, perhaps, even with Shiel, at the end.





Copyright © 2001, 2006 by John D. Squires
Used with permission of the author.

[ Return to M. P. Shiel ] [ W. T. Stead ] [ John Gawsworth ] [ Tracy - Holmes - Fraser Checklist ]

[1]. In his Introduction to the Tartarus Press edition (2000) at page x, Brian Stableford wrote about the essay:


                            Phipps goes on to argue that no true artist should write for money, and that

                        the novel is primarily a money-making device in whose toils artistic ambition

                        is inevitably ground down to mere prostitution.  Shiel was, of course, to go on

                        to write a great many novels himself, having acquired the habit by writing

                        serials for C. Arthur Pearson’s relentlessly middlebrow periodicals.  There is

                        no reason for lovers of his work to regret this apparent betrayal of his alter ego’s

                        ideals, given that if he had not first written The Empress of the Earth he might

                        not have been able to find a publisher for that undeniable masterpiece The Purple

                        Cloud—and, after all, a man must live.  It is worth bearing in mind, though, that

                        Shapes in the Fire was probably the first and perhaps the last work Shiel penned

                        entirely for art’s sake...

[2]. “The Man Who Wrote The Final War,” an interview with Louis Tracy published in Pearson’s Weekly #348, 20 March 1897, reprinted in Locke, George, Pearson’s Weekly: A Checklist of Fiction, London: Ferret Fantasy, 1990, pp115-116 (PW); “Mr. Louis Tracy,”The Bookman, (NY) September, 1904, p 4 (Bookman I); “Queries and Answers,” New York Times, 7 May 1910, p BR14 (Q&A); [Obituary] The Bookman (London), October 1928, pp 27-28 (Bookman II.) “Fourth Trip to this Country,” Interview/article in the Boston Daily Globe, Nov 25, 1911, pg 8.

[3]. PW, 115.

[4]. Id.

[5]. William Thomas Stead (1849-1912) supplied the plot vivâ voce for Shiel’s first novel, The Rajah’s Sapphire, London: Ward, Lock & Bowden, 1896. Shiel later claimed that he knew Stead “intimately and our collaboration was more than appeared from the one book...” See Squires, John D.,  “The Strange Tale of Shiel, Stead and the Sapphire” in The Rajah’s Sapphire,  Kansas City: Highflyer Press, 1981, and Shiel letter to Malcolm Ferguson of 9 May 1946 in, Squires, ed, M. P. Shiel and the Lovecraft Circle, Kettering, Ohio: The Vainglory Press, 2001, 75.

[6]. Q&A

[7]. Q&A

[8]. Bookman I


[9]. Shiel, M. P., The Rajah’s Sapphire, London: Ward, Lock, 1896; Kansas City: Highflyer Press, 1981, p 63.

[10]. The Idler, Dec 1892; Nov 1893; May 1894; Aug 1894 & Aug 1895. “A Bimetallic Mystery” by L. Tracy in Chambers’s Journal, Feb. 3, 1894,  77-80.   “The Cholera Cloud,” by Louis Tracy in Today: A Weekly Magazine Journal, ed by Jerome K. Jerome, Vol VII, # 85, London, Saturday, June 22, 1895, 193-196.    

[11]. PW, 115.

[12]. Id.

[13]. The Jameson Raid and its aftermath having brought the South African question into the headlines, Pearson was quick to commission a new serial forecasting a future war over South Africa from another of the Pearson stable of authors, George Griffith.  Briton or Boer?, ills by Harold Piffard, ran in Pearson’s Weekly, #316-338, 8 Aug 1896 - 9 Jan 1897, immediately after publication of The Final War.

[14].  Besides various non-fiction articles and books, Tracy’s Indian experiences are reflected in short stories such as “The Cholera Cloud,” (1895), and novels such as Princess Kate (aka At the Court of the Maharaja, 1903), The Great Mogul (1905), Sirdar’s Sabre (1905), and The Red Year, a novel about the Indian Mutiny of 1857, which was serialized in Pearson’s Weekly in 1907, before book publication in New York and London the same year.

[15]. This paragraph is probably one of the sources for Sam Moskowitz’s assertion, “Both George Griffith and Louis Tracy had made it unequivocally clear in the dedications of their books and in interviews that C. Arthur Pearson had not only motivated the future-war stories, but even specified what continental cities were to be conquered and by whom.  Pearson was paying top dollar for his stories and was calling the shots.”  Strange Horizons: The Spectrum of Science Fiction (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons) 1976, 206.  

[16]. PW, 115.

[17]. Id.

[18]. Tracy, An American Emperor, London: C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd, Sept 1897; recently reprinted in Vol 3 of Clarke, I. F., ed, British Future Fiction 1700-1914, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2001, 8 vols.  Shiel’s contribution is not mentioned in Clarke’s Introduction.  Sam Moskowitz implied that Shiel may have written only Chapter 29, appearing 17 & 24 April 1897, but John Gawsworth confirmed that Shiel wrote chapters 29-39, pp 287-397 of the Putnam edition, and 226-314 of the Pearson edition.  See Morse, The Works of M. P. Shiel, Vol III, The Shielography Updated, part Two, Cleveland: The Morse Foundation: 1980 [Works III], pp 746-747.

[19].  Peter Keary (1865-1915) joined the staff of George Newnes’ Tit-Bits in 1884.  By 1890 he was editor of that publication  when he left with C. Arthur Pearson to found Pearson’s Weekly and numerous other magazines as managing director and co-proprietor of C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd.


[20]. For an exhaustive (and exhausting) examination of the contemporary events incorporated into Empress, see John D. Squires, “Some Contemporary Themes in Shiel’s Early Novels” in Shiel in Diverse Hands: A Collection of Essays on M. P. Shiel, edited by A. Reynolds Morse, (Cleveland, Ohio: The Reynolds Morse Foundation, 1983), pp 249-326.

[21]. Besides including anti-American comments (which were actually critiques of materialism) Shiel’s novel in some respects is a parody of the simplistic jingoism displayed in The Final War.  Unlike Tracy’s cardboard Englishmen, Shiel’s hero, John Hardy, is a complex character with serious flaws.  A good example is found in Empress, Chapter X, “John Hardy Among Women,” Short Stories, 5 March 1898, 300, when, after achieving a great naval victory, he visits the girl he loves, Bosy Jay:


                                    “Oh, Mr. Hardy, I am glad!” she cried, springing up vivaciously

                        as John entered the studio.  “Ah, and I have heard! I have heard!”

                                    “About the battle, and all that?”

                                    What else, if ‘all that’ means Mr. John Hardy?  Do sit down. 

                        How very brave you must be!”

                                    “All Englishmen are brave.”

                        “Are they?  A good many of them are detestable cowards, to my certain

                        knowledge.  Men do live in regions of fantasy!  Women are more prosaic—

                        and clearer.  Did you not see an average English girl in the sovereign

                        presence of a mouse, Mr. Hardy?”

                                    “Girls are different,” said John.

                        Bosey’s lips tightened with pressure.  This was precisely the kind of

                        ancient point of view, purely male, to which she had the most touchy

                        antipathy.  John was hopelessly “old,” she actively “new.”

                                    “Oh, different, of course,” she said, “in pose of nervous structure,

                        and so on, and so on.  But is it not rather cheap to say it?  And substitute

                        for the mouse the broker’s man, and you get at once a measure of the

                        average Englishman’s courage.”

                                    “Somebody has been telling you wrong,” said John.  “All

                        Englishmen are brave.  Only foreign people are afraid of things.”

                                    She looked at him in absolute pity, for his narrowness, his

                        insularism, his unintelligence. 

[22]. Shiel, The Yellow Wave, London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1905.

[23]. “Introduction” by David Hartwell, in Shiel, M. P. The Purple Cloud, Boston: Gregg Press, 1977, viii; reprinted, in Morse, A. Reynolds, ed,. M. P. Shiel in Diverse Hands, Cleveland: Morse Foundation, 1983, 115-121 [Diverse Hands.]  The three novels were acknowledged as a trilogy in the publisher’s catalog bound at the back of the Colonial edition of The Last Miracle:


                        “This long-since-promised novel of Mr. M. P. Shiel is the third of the trilogy of

                        novels which commenced with The Lord of the Sea, and was continued by the

                        much-translated Purple Cloud, all the three purporting to be the words dropped

                        from the lips of a clairvoyant in her swoons, as memorandumed in the note-books

                        of her doctor.  The tales of the first and of this last are tacked on to the two large

                        questions of the age, the first to that of the Land, this last to that of the Church. 

                        Tragedy is the note of the present book, which ends in a great gloom, but if Mr.

                        Shiel is notoriously anti-ecclesiastical, he is as fanatically pro-Christian, nor

                        does he abolish without rebuilding, finishing up with a glimpse of the grand

                        Goethean Church of the future.  It is however, a novel, not a Tract.”

                        T. Werner Laurie’s Forthcoming and new Colonial Library List. (1906.)


In reviewing the Gregg Press edition, R. D. Mullen suggested an alternate interpretation of the trilogy:


                        Dr Hartwell reads the three as "the first 'future history' series in science fiction"

                        and as an "ambitious attempt by Shiel to yoke various traditions by force to

                        produce a synthetic whole" –a reading which raises a number of problems

                        that Hartwell acknowledges but does not deal with in any satisfactory way.

                        It is more reasonable, especially when Shiel's mundane novels are taken into

                        account, to see the three parts of the trilogy as presenting three different

                        possibilities for the future, each consonant with a different religious view.

                        The Lord of the Sea is Judeo-Christian and optimistic, concerned with the

                        coming of the Messiah and the redemption of the world (see SFS 2[1975]:

                        186-87 and 4[1977]:78-79). The Purple Cloud is Manichean and catastrophic,

                        with the human race destroyed, except for a new Adam and Eve. The Last

                        Miracle is  rationalist-evolutionist, with God seen as simply the force that

                        has driven the race down the pain-filled road from subman to man and is

                        now driving it toward overman. Existential horror is Shiel's great theme,

                        and The Purple Cloud, though based on a metaphysic soon to be rejected,

                        is his most imaginative and vivid expression of that horror, as well as

                        incomparably the best of all last-man novels. Science Fiction Studies,

                        #13, Vol 4, Part 3, November 1977,  < >

[24]. Shiel, The Last Miracle, London: T. Werner Laurie, 1906 [17 January 1907.]

[25]. Shiel, The Lord of the Sea, London: Grant Richards, 1901 [May 1901.]

[26]. Shiel, The Purple Cloud, London, Chatto & Windus, 1901. [September 1901] The original 1901 text has recently been reprinted in a gorgeous new edition enhanced by all the J. J. Cameron illustrations from the serial version.  London: Tartarus Press, 2004.

[27]. The Shiel collection at the Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, at Austin,  includes John Gawsworth’s transcriptions of hundreds of letters between Shiel and Richards.  Morse quoted from relevant portions of a number of these at pp 46, 97 & 160 of The Works of M. P. Shiel, Vol II, The Shielography Updated, part One, Cleveland: The Morse Foundation: 1980 [Works II.]

[28]. Shiel to Richards letter received stamped 28 Feb 1900, quoted at Works II, 97, but misdated February 29, 1900.

[29]. Copies of three letters (in Gawsworth’s hand) from Shiel to Richards, dated Monday [May?] 1899, 15 June 1899, and [July?] 1899, HRC Collection.


[30]. Shiel’s friends and relatives frequently appear in his fiction, by name, if not also by description.  Lina’s mother was presumably the model for the SeÁora Gomez (mother of the heroine) in The Lord of the Sea.  Lina and her mother show up again in “Dark Lot of One Saul” (1912), probably his best short story, and in “The Death-Dance” (with John Gawsworth, 1935), arguably one of his worst.  Another late collaboration with Gawsworth, “The Falls Scandal” (1936) is equally unimpressive as literature, but even richer in apparent autobiographical references, including as characters Shiel’s sister Gussie, her children, and his second wife, Lydia, to whom the narrator (Phipps, author of The Yellow Danger) is married at the end.

[31]. Tracy, The Invaders. A story of Britain’s Peril, ills by Lawson Wood, London: C. A. Pearson, Jan 1901.  Excerpts from this novel, as well as The Final War, were recently reprinted in Clarke, I. F., ed., The Great War with Germany, 1890-1914, Liverpool: Liverpool U Press, 1997.

            The Invaders was also the last of Tracy’s handful of future war novels.  His subsequent novels were mostly romantic adventures or mystery and detection.

[32]. Works II, 46.

[33]. Works II, page 97.  Morse inadvertently omitted from his quotation the key phrase “as to the putting in of which before mine I have a grievance.” which appears in the original letter at the HRC.

[34]. In Works II at page 98 Morse cites a letter from Shiel to Richards dated 3 May 1901.  In it Shiel mentions that Keary had been receiving many complimentary letters about the serialization of The Purple Cloud, but had not begun to serialize The Lord of the Sea yet.  He concluded by urging Richards again to push forward with book publication of Lord immediately, without regard to its serialization, in order not to delay the planned book publication of Cloud in the Autumn.  Richards duly released Lord that month, which as a practical matter ended any hope of serialization by Pearson.  Morse also cites another letter dated 7 March 1901 for the proposition that serialization in The Queen may have been considered, but he misread the original letter.  Shiel  was obviously referring to the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901, and whether that fact should require some revision in the text of the edition scheduled for publication by Edward Stokes in New York.

[35]. In a letter to his sister Gussie on 14 January 1895 Shiel had explained how he had elected to receive quarterly royalties rather than a lump sum payment for the publication of his first book, Prince Zaleski. See, Billings, Harold, “The Shape of Shiel: A Biography of the Early Years, 1865-1895" in Diverse Hands, 101.  If the book sold well, he would do better over the long term, though accepting a lump sum payment up front represented a bird in hand not dependant on future book sales.  It appears he made a similar gamble on the success of Cold Steel, which left him with little when sales collapsed.

[36]. Shiel, The Purple Cloud, ills by J. J. Cameron, serialized in The Royal Magazine, Vol V, #27-#30, Vol VI, #31-32,  January - June, 1901.  In 1929 several reviewers of the Gollancz reissue of The Purple Cloud would comment upon their fond memories of first discovering Shiel in the pages of The Royal.  The serial version was offset along with the complete serial version of The Empress of the Earth and 15 Short Stories in Writings, Volume I of Morse, The Works of M. P. Shiel, Cleveland: the Reynolds Morse Foundation, 1979.  While the Morse volume includes the original illustrations from the respective offset magazine texts, Morse inadvertently overlooked two which were used as frontispieces for two issues of the magazine.  Those “lost” illustrations have been recovered in the Tartarus Press reprint of the complete 1901 text. 


[37]. The original receipt is in the collection of George Locke.  See, Locke, A Spectrum of Fantasy III, London: Ferret Fantasy Ltd, 2002, 174.  Shiel’s sale of all British book rights would come back to haunt him when Victor Gollancz was threatened with a lawsuit over his reissue of The Purple Cloud in 1929.  Though the matter was resolved, it did little to help relations between Shiel and his new publisher.  Gollancz’s ambitious plans for the reissue of all of Shiel’s novels were abandoned after sales of the first five of The Novels of M. P. Shiel issued in 1929 were disappointing.

[38]. W. T. Stead papers, Churchill Archives, Cambridge.  Shiel never mentioned this late stint of journalism at the Daily News in his autobiographical writings.  We have no record that he subsequently worked for Stead, unless that is what he meant in his ambiguous statement (boast?) to Malcolm Ferguson quoted in note 5, above. 

            We also know that Shiel presented a copy of The Lord of the Sea on 10 July 1901 to Herbert Greenhough Smith, who edited The Strand Magazine from 1891-1930.  Smith had bought some of Shiel’s early translations, short stories and miscellany from 1891-1896.  As with Stead, was Shiel asking Smith for a job on The Strand?

[39]. Tracy, The Great Strike, Chapter X, Pearson’s Weekly, February 2, 1901, 485 (see pages 49-50, above.)

[40]. Billings, Harold, M. P. Shiel: A Biography of the Early Years, to be published in 2005 by Roger Beacham Publisher, 12205 Mustang Chase, Austin, TX 78727.  

[41]. PW 115.

[42]. Tracy, The Wooing of Esther Gray, London: C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd., Sept 1902.

[43]. Holmes, Gordon, A Mysterious Disappearance, New York: Edward J. Clode, 1905.  The dust jacket of the first edition gives no information about the then unknown author, “Gordon Holmes,” but includes a prominent quote from Clode linking it to two of Tracy’s most popular novels: “I am justified in recommending this story as strongly as I did The Wings of the Morning and The Pillar of Light.”  (Original jacket in the Morse Collection, Olin Library, Rollins College.  See also Squires, compiler/editor, Some Comments on Shiel, Gordon Holmes, and Louis Tracy Dustwrappers, Kettering: The Vainglory Press, 2004, revised & expanded edition in production for release in 2005.)

[44]. Shiel, “On Reading”, This Knot of Life, London: Everett & Co, (1909), 64,  reprinted, Diverse Hands, 439.

[45]. Works II, 129.

[46]. PW 116.

[47]. Shiel did revise The Weird o’It for reissue by Victor Gollancz around 1929.  The unpublished typescript, The Innocent Hands, is in the Morse Collection at Rollins College.  It was finally released in a twelve copy offset edition by JDS Books in 1995.

[48]. The Revellers, London: F. V. White & Co., 1904, but actually released December 1903 according to The English Catalogue of Books.


[49].  Richards letter to Tracy dated 6 Jan 1904; Richards letters to Shiel dated 8, 12 & 14 Jan 1904, & 25 Feb 1904.  Grant Richards Collection, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[50]. Richards to Clode letter, dated 22 Dec 1906, Grant Richards Collection, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[51]. New York Times articles, 16 May 1908, page 6 and 7 Nov 1908.

[52]. “At Sea” is an interesting story.  It includes an apparent swipe at the Paris decadents who so influenced Shiel’s Prince Zalesksi (1895) and Shapes in the Fire (1896): “Scanty means, a fine physique, and a cheerful disposition —those are the gifts of the gods to Bohemia, and what Bohemian can want more?  The neurotic phases of the of the artistic temperament did not appeal to him.  In his good-tempered philosophy he used to laugh at the Paris decadents.  He was an American, and tomorrow had its everlasting promise, and the spilt milk of yesterday evoked no sighs.” Pearson’s Magazine, New York, Vol XX, No. 2, August 1908, pp. 113-114.  Also in Windsor Magazine, London, Vol XXVIII, June-Nov, 1908, 599.  Tracy’s character here, a young American art student returning home from France, might also be contrasted with the many similar characters of Robert W. Chambers (1865-1933).  Like Tracy, Chambers made a very comfortable living off his popular romantic fiction, though, besides a few early horror stories, he is little read today.

[53]. The actual release date of the Clode edition is uncertain.  It bears a 1908 copyright, but that may reflect the copyright year of the serial rather than the publication date of the book.  Normally a new novel would not be released in book form until after the serial had ended, here in the March 1909 Pearson’s Magazine, probably issued in February 1909.  Perhaps confirming this release date, The Message was reviewed in The New York Times on February 20, 1909, at page 103.

[54]. In an email dated August 4, 2004, Shiel biographer Harold Billings perceptively wrote of this novel:


            Dear John,

                 I completed By Force of Circumstances.  A decent read for a book of the era. 

            One could simply print the section that MPS wrote in a different color from the

            passages written by Tracy.  Phipps' style is all over those pages.

                 I can't imagine anyone else writing a passage like this" "They walked under

            trees through which the moonlight, peeping, dappled the path with a pattern of

            leaves ..." (p. 177, G&D edition)

                 Far more exciting for me, however, was the geography of this novel – located

            in the general area of Bridgewater, at the head of the River Parrett ("Parret" in the

            book), southwest of Bristol.  The full force of this location strikes one in the final

            chapters, when Inspector Furneaux asks Elinor to direct the yacht up to "... Lydney,

            a town on the other side of the channel ...  A three hours' run at full speed brought

            them to a pier from which Lydney is distant a couple of miles.  There an inspector

            of police met them, and they walked to the railway station, which is much nearer

            the coast than the town."

                 A hundred years later, the railway continues in the same location.  This area of

            England, south of the River Wye, that spilled into the arm of the Irish Sea, was a

            favorite haunt of Phipps, for his "hikes" and love-making....– it is obvious that he

            followed – as I have long perceived it – a pattern of laying out a plot with as close

            a relationship to the geography and other facts with which he was familiar as possible....

[55]. Works II, pp. 169-170.

[56]. Shiel, The Dragon, London: Richards, [May] 1913, p 355.

[57]. The New York Times, 16 Aug 1914, p BR351.

[58]. Bookman II.

[59]. “Using Motor Cars in Spy Work in Yorkshire,” New York Times, 31 Jan 1915, p XX2.

[60]. “Louis Tracy to Write for Pathe,” The Moving Picture World, 27 May 1916, p 1489.  The Grip of Evil, serialized in 14 instalments, 16 July - 15 Oct 1916, Boston Sunday Herald.; The Yellow Menace, serialized in 15 instalments, 3 Sept - 17 Dec 1916, Boston Sunday Herald.  Both serials also appeared in numerous other newspapers around the country as cross-promotions for the films while the respective serial movies were being shown .  Reprints of these rare novelizations are in production from The Vainglory Press. 

[61]. “Great Race Serial, The Yellow Menace, To Be Shown September 4,” Atlanta Constitution, 20 August 1916, p 14.

                            "In writing The Yellow Menace," stated the author, "I must confess

                        that I was mainly actuated by a desire to warn the United States of

                        their deadly peril.  America has up to the present time been a sleeping

                        giant, but now she must arouse herself and be prepared against any

                        invasion or foreign interference that might come.  Certainly, danger

                        from the yellow races is no less than that which threatens from

                        European powers.  The picture drives home powerfully the lessons

                        that I have striven to convey in writing the story."


            In chapter VII of the serial, published in the Atlanta Constitution, 24 Sept 1916, page E6, Tracy may have revealed his thoughts about a journalist’s role in shaping public opinion about war and peace:


                             Manning frowned at such frivolities. "In dealing with Ali Singh we

                        have to take into account a great many things not hitherto dreamed of

                        in our philosophy," he said seriously. "I see now quite plainly that he

                        has made every preparation for a real and merciless war against the

                        leading men of this country. He knows quite well that the millions

                        don't count. In America, as in his own land, the multitude follows its

                        leaders like so many flocks of sheep."

                            "You mustn't say that when the newspaper reporters come along,

                        Errol," broke in Bronson.

                            "It's the truth, anyhow, and no one knows that better than the

                        experienced journalist. Public opinion can be manufactured by exactly

                        the same means as are used by a clever merchant in selling his wares–but

                        let's keep to the business at hand and drop theorizing....

The opening installment of The Yellow Menace is now available on line, pending publication of the complete serial novel.

[62]. The New York Times Book Review, 28 May 1916, p 222.

[63]. The Dial, 1 January 1897, p 21.

[64]. Overland, December, 1896, p 718.  The depiction of the cavalry charge by an American battalion which so irritated this reviewer may suggest that Tracy was inspired by some account of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s calvary tactics during the American Civil War.  Rather than rely on single shot muzzle loading carbines, which were impossible to reload on a moving horse, Forrest’s calvary were famous for carrying a multitude of pistols, which gave them the potential for a high volume of short range firepower until all their revolvers were emptied.  It was a similar barrage of pistol fire which Tracy describes, delivered at point blank range with devastating effect against German calvary expecting a more traditional (19th century) attack with sabers and lances.

[65]. The index to the New York Times includes the following articles or letters by or about Tracy during the war years:

“Using Motor Cars in Spy Work in Yorkshire,” New York Times, 31 Jan 1915, p XX2.

“A Briton’s Bitter Word on Preparedness,” New York Times, 14 May 1916, p E2.

“Louis Tracy Gives America Advice,” New York Times, 15 June 1916, p 9.

“England’s Writers Bowed Down by War,” New York Times, 28 Jan 1917, p 12.

“For a Day of Prayer,” New York Times, 30 July 1917, p 8.

“Tracy Predicts Long War,”  New York Times, 17 Nov 1917, p 11.

“4 U-Boats Betrayed by German Captain,” New York Times, 24 May 1918, p 2.

“Great Britain’s Four Years of War,”  New York Times, 4 Aug 1918, p 38.

“The British on the Sea,”  New York Times, 25 Nov 1918, p 12.

[66].  Translated by Oscar Mueller, in The Literary Digest, 5 December  1914, 1138-39.

[67]. Originally published in German in 1922, it was translated into English by Fritz Sallagar and published in New York by John Day Co. in 1934.

[68]. There is some confusion about the name of Tracy’s son & the date of his death.  The 1901 British census indicates the Tracy’s son was Louis Turgis Tracy, then six years old.  Other records state that Private Louis Turgis Tracy, 4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, son of Louis and Amy Tracy, of Whitby, Lancashire, died in France on June 3, 1916.  This appears to have been confirmed in a NYTs article dated 13 Nov 1916, “WELCH LAW UP IN CHURCH,” about a speech and public discussion of the Welch bill (requiring physical education in the schools) held at the Church of the Ascension, at Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue on the night before: 


                        When it came to general discussion a number of questions were asked

                        and various speakers began by asserting that the bill was designed to

                        train the working class to shoot down their comrades, and went on to

                        observations on housing conditions, the Ludlow massacre, the faults

                        of the British aristocracy, and other topics covering a wide range.

                        Several speakers showed distinct anti-British tendency, and a woman,

                        who said she was Mrs. Louis Tracy and that she had lost a son in

                        the war, stood up to defend England. “We didn't make the war,”

                        she asserted. “We had everything we wanted in the world, and the

                        German Emperor and his dirty son declared war on us.” [page 13]


But in “Tracy Predicts Long War,” published on 17 Nov 1917, the NYTs reported: “Mr. Tracy has made four trips to America since the war began.  He told last night how his son, Lieutenant Donald Tracy, aged 21, lost his life in France six months ago.”  There was no Donald Tracy included in the family in the 1901 census, so “Lieutenant Donald Tracy” appears to have been either an exaggeration by Tracy himself, or, more likely, a reference to Turgis garbled by the reporter.   The rank of “lieutenant” may have been a misreading of Louis Turgis Tracy’s initials, as “LT” Tracy.  Turgis was 21 when he died, apparently in the artillery skirmishing which preceded the formal opening of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916.  The Somme offensive was one of the bloodiest British disasters of the war, with 50,000 killed just on the opening day.  The reality of trench warfare bore no semblance to Tracy’s optimistic fantasies of easy British triumph in The Final War.

[69]. Again, the release date is unclear.  Though published with a 1917 copyright, The Revellers would not be reviewed in The New York Times until June 16, 1918, at page 278.  Normally reviews appear shortly after the commercial release date.

[70]. “Honor Louis Tracy,” New York Times, 7 Nov 1919, p 3.

[71]. “King George Honors Louis Tracy,” New York Times, 15 April 1920, p 8.

[72]. Publishers' Weekly, 27 Mar 1920, p 1018.

[73]. “Seeks Fund for Abbey,” New York Times, 10 Nov 1920, p 8.

[74]. “Westminster Abbey,” New York Times, 26 July 1921, p 10.

[75]. The Bookman (London), October 1928, pp 27-28.