By Richard Shiell & Dorothy Anderson.  Revised Sept. 2006.  Discussion welcome (



The question of the origins of the West Indian novelist M. P. Shiel (Shiell) has intrigued literary scholars for the past century. As A. Reynolds Morse said in his book “Shiel in Diverse Hands”-

      “The connection of the merchant Matthew Dowdy Shiell with the aggressive managerial Shiells has not yet been established. The lineage question mark must be eliminated if we are to trace Shiel’s genetic dynamism.”[1]


While the precise identity of the paternal grandparents of MPS has not yet been confirmed we have suggested some strong possibilities and have located many previously unsuspected sources of data for future research scholars.



During the several years of research into our family history and the writing of Montserrat to Melbourne- The Story of a Shiell Family [2] we came across the story of the West Indian novelist M. P. Shiel. This was in a letter from a retired Montserrat physician and amateur historian, Dr Norman Griffin [3] was responding to a letter that Richard Shiell had written to the Montserrat newspaper in 1974, seeking information about his Shiell ancestors.


At the time, we felt there was some connection between M. P. Shiel (who was born Matthew Phipps Shiell), and our own family. We were both from the tiny Island of Montserrat in the British Leeward Islands (population never more than 10,000). In addition we both laid claim to the same spelling. There are some 60 or more ways of spelling this name when one includes all the Sh, Sch, ea, ie, ei, ee, l, ll, ld, and lds permutations. For reasons unknown, Matthew Phipps Shiell used “M.P. Shiel” in adulthood after he became established in London. [4]


Soon after the publication of our family history in 1984, Dorothy Anderson made a trip to Britain and conducted extensive research, mainly in the Public Records Office with the assistance of her friend and amateur researcher, June Bennett. Many interesting facts emerged about life on Montserrat and of the extended Shiell family.


What did M.P. Shiell have to say about his ancestry?

Those familiar with the writings of Matthew Phipps Shiel, a novelist and writer of science fiction, know that he writes in a flamboyant, imaginative style with little regard to precise facts at times. They would not be surprised to find that his own version of his early life varies from one account to another. His father, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, was variously described as a trader, a ship owner and a Methodist lay preacher. We can confirm all three and now add “tailor” to this list.[5]


In his biographical writings MPS claims to be the only son after “eight or nine daughters[6] but Shiel scholars note that he mentions only four by name in his writings. These were Augusta (“Gussy”, Ada Catherine, Sarah Jane (“Sally”) and Harriet Garry. The other sisters may have died young.  He seldom mentions his mother except when writing about his two wives Lina and Lydia, both of whom he states resembled her in being olive skinned and dark haired.


He does not refer to his grandparents at all but mentions a doctor, Sir James Phipps Shiell, whom he claims to be his great-grandfather.  He also claims to be of Irish descent and “descended from Kings”.[7] On another occasion around 1933, when asked directly about his racial origins, Shiel wrote –


       “I am an Irish Paddy- very mixed blood-Andalusian, Moorish-but perhaps no Negro”, …”Andalusian girls have brown skin, dark brown hair, gaudy green eyes-deucedly pretty. One of my sisters has jet black hair and brown eyes, a throw back perhaps to some dim Negro while I, after a golden haired youth have nearly black hair but Irish grey eyes”.[8]


Based on firmer grounds than the often mistaken beliefs of MPS, the authors of this essay have evidence to believe that the Shiell family of Montserrat are indeed of Irish descent, probably from a 17th century Westmeath family.[9]


We do not know what took the Shiells to the West Indies but what kept them there was probably the lucrative commerce in sugar, rum and slaves. This was boom trade of the 17th century and we have evidence that some of the Shiell family members were certainly involved. [10]


What did we make of all this?

Firstly working backwards from known facts we were aware that MPS was born on Montserrat on 20th July 1865.  His parents were Matthew Dowdy Shiell and Priscilla Ann Shiell (nee Blake). [11]


The origins of Matthew Dowdy Shiell are not known for certain but we have the date of his death and burial, Jan 7th 1888 aged 63.[12] He was said to have been born on 18th Sept 1824 [13] and this would be consistent with the above. We know nothing of his early years but from 1850 onwards MDS appears in the historic record as an owner of small inter-island trading vessels and from 1852 as a merchant.[14]  A previous occupation appears in at least one document where he is listed as “tailor from the Parish of St. Anthony”.[15]


Priscilla’s birth on April 13th 1828 was entered in the St Anthony’s Parish Register. The entry has the word “free” appended to it, which insinuates that the child is of black or coloured parentage but that the family was now free. Slaves were not liberated on Montserrat until 1834 so this was an important point in the registration of any child of free parents, six years before emancipation.


Matthew Phipps Shiel thus undoubtedly had at least one parent who was coloured and his father, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, may also have been of mixed blood, although this is not obvious from the only portrait known to exist.[16]


The only ancestor named by MPS was a doctor, Sir James Phipps Shiell.  We have not been able to identify such an illustrious gentleman on Montserrat or elsewhere at this stage but there was a Mr James Phipps Shiell on the island at the time of his father’s conception.  He was then Customs Searcher and said by Dr Griffin to have been a witness at the wedding of William Shiell in 1826.[17] William was almost certainly his brother and the son of Queely Shiell, the principal land and slave owner on Montserrat in the first half of the 19th century. James Phipps Shiell was on the Assembly and at first Searcher and then Comptroller of Customs until his death in 1834 [18]. His brother William Shiell was on the Legislative Council from 1808 and another brother, John Shiell became Chief Justice of Antigua in 1943.[19]


James Phipps Shiell married Elizabeth Carey [20] and had two children Henry (1826) and Mary Ann (1830) about whom we know a great deal and who are the subjects of separate biographical papers by the authors. They both later migrated to Australia and Mary Ann has many descendants. [21] JPS may have had at least one illegitimate child before his marriage (as was very common on Montserrat both then and now). It is our contention that Matthew Dowdy Shiell may have been the product of such a union and we even have a possible candidate for his mother.


If JPS was the possible father, who could have been the mother of MDS? 

We have discovered a document stating that on 4th Sept 1822 a child slave Priscilla, belonging to Mrs Sarah Dowdy was sold to Mr Dudley Semper at the Provost Marshall’s Sales.[22] A further document[23] shows that Priscilla was captured on the Dutch island of St Eustatius where she had been clandestinely brought by her mother, also a former slave of Mrs Dowdy.


 Priscilla was returned to Montserrat on the sloop “Dasher” with some other runaway slaves in January 1824. Priscilla was identified by Customs Search Officer James Phipps Shiell.[24]  It is our postulation that he may have taken a fancy to this young lady and a coupling (with or without her consent) may have occurred.  MDS may have been the result and certainly the timing is right as Matthew Dowdy Shiell was born on 18th Sept 1824 – precisely 8 1/2 months later. The names of Dowdy and Shiell given to the child could be the crucial pointers to his origins.


 Slaves and their offspring were not granted the privilege of a surname let alone a middle name but were required by law to assume a surname after emancipation. Whether Priscilla gave these names of “Dowdy” and “Shiell” to her son at birth or whether they were taken on after emancipation we have been unable to discover.


Mother and child would have been freed 10 years later in 1834 when all slaves were emancipated on Montserrat. Education for whites or blacks was not a priority on Montserrat at that time and the education of slaves on any of the sugar islands was either completely non-existent or pretty much confined to reading the scriptures. A favoured individual may have received some elementary lessons from a tutor with the other children of the household. As a valued personal slave of Mrs Dowdy, Priscilla may have acquired some domestic, literacy and social skills which she may have passed on to her son. The businessman and lay preacher Matthew Dowdy Shiell was obviously quite literate and many of his letters to his son in London have survived.[25]


We have no way of knowing whether this is the true course of events but if so, it may account for the vagueness and variability of MPS in writing about his origins.  The possession of a father who was born a slave and illegitimate as well, was nothing to brag about in Victorian and Edwardian London. “Descended from Kings” certainly had a better “ring” to it and his earlier “coronation” on the island of Redonda in 1880 by the Reverend Dr. Semper, would have further imprinted such beliefs on his subconscious mind. (or was it by Dr Mitchinson – Phipps gives two accounts of this event).[26]


Alternate paternity for Matthew Dowdy Shiell

Other possible fathers for Matthew Dowdy Shiell were Queely Shiell, William Shiell and John Shiell who were all alive and well on Montserrat in 1824. Their lives have been briefly documented by the present authors but no clues to the precise paternity of MDS have been found. It is almost certain that all those bearing the name of “Shiell” on Montserrat were related in some way - either as legitimate or illegitimate offspring. It is a very small island and everybody knows everybody else. [27] Shiell is a very specific spelling of a name that has, as we said earlier, over 60 alternates worldwide but only one on Montserrat. Bearers of the name Shiell are very particular in the spelling but this care is not shared by others who frequently have difficulty transcribing the name from one document to another.


MPS mentions a doctor Sir James Phipps Shiell as his great- grandfather but, as mentioned above, we can find no trace of this titled gentleman. On the other hand Mr James Phipps Shiell was a person of consequence on Montserrat where he was Collector of Customs, Registrar of Shipping and a member of the island Legislative Assembly. He was not a knight and was long dead at the time that Phipps was growing up but he had living descendents on Montserrat.[28]


A few words should be said here about the name “Phipps”. [29] The Phipps families were prominent in the West Indies, particularly on the island of St. Christopher where a William Shiell and Margaret Queely were married in 1756 and Queely Shiell was thought to have been born.[30] On the other hand MPS may have inherited the “Phipps” name through his mother, formerly Priscilla Anne Blake. Maria Charlotte Phipps of St Kitts married Sir Patrick Blake of Montserrat on 12th August 1789 but they had no children.[31] This does not preclude the possibility that Priscilla Anne or one of her parents had been sired by Sir Patrick and the Phipps name was commemorated.


 There were many men by the name of Shiell holding important administrative positions around the Leeward Islands during Matthew Dowdy Shiell’s formative years. William was on the Legislative Council from 1809 and President between 1842 [32] and 1850. John was the Chief Justice of Antigua (1834-37).[33]  Their father Queely Shiell, the principle landowner, was highly influential as Comptroller of Customs until he retired in 1827. He was Superannuated but did not seem to move to London until around 1843 and died in 1847, at the great age of 93 years.


Dr Norman Griffin presented a confident list of the legitimate male offspring of William  (Appendix I) and in an 1842 petition to Lord Stanley, President William Shiell names William junior,  born in 1826, as his oldest legitimate son.[34] Of course MDS may have been born to a mistress of William Shiell and if so, he had a busy year or two because we know for sure that he also had a son, named William, by the coloured woman Mary McNamara in 1823, before his marriage to Mary Cabey Semper.[35] It is certainly possible that he could have had a second child by this mistress 19 months later as Mary was still alive and paying rates in the town of Plymouth as late as 1848.[36] If so this would mean that MDS was a full brother of the authors’ ancestor. No mention of such a brother has ever been passed down to his descendents so we feel that it is extremely unlikely.


Queely Shiell was about 68 years of age when MDS was born, but as he went on to live to 93, he may have been quite healthy and sexually active for many years. [37] We must not forget John Shiell as a possible father. He was a barrister at law and seemed focused on social advancement but neither of these factors would preclude a dalliance with a coloured lass from a lower class. There is the strong possibility that he was the father of John N. Shiell, a coloured provision farmer who was born around 1820 and elected to the Montserrat Legislative Assembly in 1842.


Although we do not have his precise date of John’s marriage to his wife Elizabeth, it was probably around 1832 and we know that they subsequently had 4 daughters[38]. Brief biographies of both John Shiell and John N. Shiell have been prepared by the authors.[39]


Why was MPS so ignorant of his family background?

In a letter to his sister Augusta in 1895, many years after he had left Montserrat for London, Phipps demonstrated this lack of family background knowledge quite clearly: “By the way I want to know the name of my father’s mother and also the maiden name of our old Granny. Would you write and let me know, and if you we get all we are; they fiz in our blood, and beat in our brain; it is they who stand yourself don’t know, try and find out for me. It is from the old folk, darling, that at my shoulder and dictate to me the very words I am now writing”.[40]


Although Shiells had been prominent on Montserrat for the first half of the 19th century, there were no important members of the family left on Montserrat when Matthew Phipps Shiell was growing up.  His father MDS was a stern religious man, and he may not have cared to talk much about the “old days”. In those times, Montserrat had its own Assembly and Legislative Council and property owners from the planter class had ruled the island with fists of iron. Indeed any discussion on this subject with an inquisitive and intelligent boy like MPS would have required him to discuss his own humble origins as a Shiell from the “wrong side of the tracks”.


James Phipps Shiell had died in 1834 [41] and his only known legitimate son, Henry Shiell had probably been educated in England.  He lived for a time back in Montserrat and married there in 1849 but had migrated to Australia in 1853 well before MPS was born.[42] William (senior) and his wife Mary had also died in 1853 [43] and although some of their children may have remained on Montserrat for a time, nothing is known of any of them except for his second son Henry, who will be discussed in the next section of this essay. 


Other Montserrat Shiells

William, the great-grandfather of the authors of this article, was the illegitimate son of William Shiell senior and the coloured shopkeeper Mary McNamara. He was born in 1823, became a master seaman and departed for England in 1853 on the ship “ Callender” and thence on to Australia on the barque “Gazelle” in the same year. [44]


The provision farmer, John N. Shiell was elected to the Assembly in 1842 [45] and may have still been alive in the time of MPS but life expectancy on Montserrat was short and this cannot be taken for granted.


Henry M. Shiell was alive on Montserrat until 1869.[46] He was married to Rosetta who was given a pension on her husband’s death and she died 17 years later in 1886.[47]


Moro Shiell in mentioned by MDS in a letter to his son in 1887.[48] We have no idea of the identity of this man.


A John Shiell is recorded as dying on Montserrat on 24th June 1899 aged 36. As he was born around 1863 he could have been either the son or grandson of John N. Shiell.  He may have been the father of Arthur and Cornelius Shiell, fathers of the 20th century Shiell clan on Montserrat.[49]


As far as we can determine MPS never mentioned anything about Queely Shiell, the man who was almost certainly his great-grandfather. Queely had been the major land and slave owner on Montserrat with many sugar estates and 656 slaves by 1824.[50] Queely was Comptroller of Customs on Montserrat for many years. He was probably responsible for James Phipps Shiell obtaining the post of Searcher and then Assistant Comptroller[51] and finally Comptroller after Queely’s retirement in 1827.[52] He had died in London in 1847, 18 years before MPS was born.


Why Phipps would ignore such well-connected namesakes is a mystery. Perhaps his father did not speak of this branch of the family because of their association with slavery and the old plantation system. Surely others on Montserrat would have done so however, since they shared a common surname with this influential and possibly hated dynasty. He seldom mentions the evils and excesses of slavery in any of his writings although he appears to have been well aware of them.[53]


MPS mentions one West Indian family connection when he mentioned that his sister Augusta married Samuel L. Horsford, a merchant and sugar agent on St. Kitts.  They had a son Cyril born 25th January 1876, who obtained his medical degree in 1898, MD in 1902 and FRCS in 1903.  He became a throat specialist at 24 Harley St. London and was Shiel’s personal physician.[54]


One can speculate that the local history of tiny Montserrat was of no interest to an academically minded Phipps in Britain in the 1880s and only the history of the Motherland,(Great Britain ) and Europe would have been considered important to him. This same skewed view of geography and history was apparent in Australia up until 40 years ago, so we must not be critical of MPS in this regard. A convict past was hidden and rarely transmitted to one’s descendants in Australia. Similarly, a slave ancestor would be concealed on Montserrat.  In recent decades, both convict and slave ancestry have become badges of honour to be worn with pride.


Later Life of the Author, Matthew Phipps Shiel.

The period up to 1900 has been well covered by Harold Billings in his excellent volume "M.P. Shiel: A Biography of His Early Years" [55] and a further volume on the later years is eagerly anticipated in the years ahead. In the meanwhile the reader of this essay will have to make do with the following summary of events.


The reader must be warned that a large number of purportedly biographical articles have been published about the elusive M. P. Shiel but most, including some written by Phipps himself, contain a good deal of inaccuracy. The most complete and reliable biographical information of the later years is held by author/ librarian Harold Billings of Austin, Texas and American lawyer/ publisher and long-time Shiel researcher, John D. Squires of Kettering, Ohio They have spent over 40 years reading and researching their subject.


For a brief summary of the writer’s life and while we await Volume 2 of the life of M. P. Shiel we enclose excerpts from a biographical sketch written by American poet (and M. P. Shiel webmaster) Alan Gullette. It was revised in 2004 and is approved by both Billings and Squires. [56]

                                            M. P. Shiel: Poet and Prophet

"One of the most remarkable minds and imaginations
of our time... a poet and a prophet..."

– Edward Shanks

After age 20, Shiel lived primarily in London and Paris, where, according to E.F. Bleiler, he gravitated "toward the Bohemian fin-de-siècle extensions of the Aesthetic Movement," which included Arthur Machen, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Louis Stevenson. He also travelled throughout Europe (particularly in Italy and Spain) before settling down in Horsham, in the county of Sussex, England.

Shiel married twice.  Arthur Machen attended his first wedding, in 1898, to Lina (Carolina) Garcia Gomez, who bore a daughter; Shiel left them in Paris in 1903 and the fate of little Lina is uncertain.


 In the winter of 1914-15 Shiel was inmate number 2225 in Wormwood Scrubs Prison. The charges are at present unknown but most possibly are related to debt. In the period between 1914-1919, Shiel had a daughter (and perhaps later a son) by Elizabeth Price.

His second marriage was to Esther Lydia Furley and lasted from 1919-1929, when they agreeably parted ways. According to Shiel, Lydia "resembled both Lina and my mother."

Shiel listed the author of The Book of Job as "the greatest genius among writers who ever lived" and "the greatest poet who ever lived." On the same list, Shiel, never modest, included himself as "the best prose writer living. Phipps said that his first published book, Prince Zaleski (1895) had in it "more Poe than Job."  

Dedicated to healthy living, Shiel listed mountaineering as one of his hobbies. He jogged six miles a day into his seventies. He also practiced some sort of deep-breathing exercises not unlike yogic pranayama and propounded them in essays that accompanied his novels. He preferred to sleep during the day and work at night, proclaiming, "I like the light of other suns better than ours."

During his long life Shiel wrote twenty-five novels, dozens of short stories, a small volume of verse, an essay “Science, Life and Literature” as well as some unpublished manuscripts. Many of them are romantic mysteries and fast-paced adventures, several dealing with world conquest. Others are distinctly supernatural or border on science fiction. Most are interspersed with discourses on his philosophy and sociology of the Overman. And most, regardless of subject matter, were written in Shiel's patented poetic or "purple" prose.

 In a review of the horror collection Shapes in the Fire (1896), Machen wrote "here is a wilder wonderland than Poe ever dreamt of." He wrote to Shiel and praised him for achieving what he himself had long attempted. The previous collection of stories Prince Zaleski (1895) – whose title character is a rather macabre version of Poe's prototypical sleuth Auguste Dupin – is described by Moskowitz as "Sherlock Homes in the House of Usher." Machen addressed the likeness to Poe thus: "It is Poe, perhaps, but Poe with an unearthly radiance." Not so impressed, Moskowitz refers to the style of the early stories as "berserk Poe with all genius spent."

Shiel's The Purple Cloud (1901) is a classic and probably his masterpiece. After Mary Shelley's The Last Man, it was perhaps the first novel treatment of the "last man on earth" theme. H. G. Wells called it "colossal... [a] brilliant novel." The New York Post review declared him to be "A genius drunk with the hottest juices of our language."

In general, praise of Shiel's work flowed in from high quarters. August Derleth dubbed him "the Grand Viscount of the Grotesque" and applauded his "refulgently fanciful imagination and magical command of the English language." Hugh Walpole reduced this to "a flaming genius!" – adding, "He is not to be touched, because there is no one else like him." E. M. Benson called his work "a glorious excursion into the incredible." E. F. Bleiler's summary: "... his stories are a welter of stylistic sound effects, not to everyone's taste." Other admirers included Dorothy L. Sayers, Rebecca West, Dashiell Hammett, J. D. Priestley, Bertrand Russell, and L. P. Hartley. As Moskowitz pointed out, he was "a writer's writer" – "His mad literary rhythms, seemingly improvised, like a jazz artist's at a jam session, were a bubbling fountain at which new techniques of phrasing could be drunk."

Shiel spent over a decade of his last years on a New Testament study entitled Jesus, which he described as "a truer translation of Luke" from the original Greek "in which is some detective work, proving for example, that the Apostle Paul was the Lazarus who in his anti-Sadducee craze for resurrection stayed four days in a tomb" and which set forth Shiel's own "religion of science" – based on knowledge rather than hope ("ignorance"). He finished it five months before he died, but the manuscript remains unpublished and as much as half of it is lost.

After 1934 or 1935, Shiel received a government pension; but his last days in his Horsham cottage (which he named L'Abri, "The Shelter") must have been meagre.  He died on February 17, 1947 at a hospital in Chichester, aged 81. At his funeral a week later, Georgian poet and essayist Edward Shanks eulogized Shiel as "a poet and a prophet ... in the Old Testament manner."

In 1927, Paramount Pictures bought the film rights for The Purple Cloud; in the 1940s a dozen screenplays were produced, but no film. Sol C. Siegel of MGM bought the rights in 1957 and released The World, The Flesh, and the Devil in 1959, starring Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer. While entertaining (and controversial) in its own right, the film falls far short of Shiel's magnificent, prodigal epic.

Though most of Shiel's writings are out of print and hard to find, a few older editions are in print (e.g., the detective stories Prince Zaleski and Cummings King Monk from Mycroft & Moran, 1977). The Purple Cloud is in print in various editions (one may choose between the original, serialized text of 1901 and the revised Gollancz edition of 1929. Most in-print titles from various publishers and a posthumous edition of Shiel's final novel, The New King, are available from J. D. S. Books.[57]


Once the present material on the West Indian Shiell clan is made known to scholars it is possible that a new analysis of Shiel’s writings will reveal coded references to the somewhat “shaded” past of some of his illustrious Shiell relatives.

No thorough analysis of M. P. Shiel is possible without first knowing of his early life on Montserrat. This in turn requires an understanding of the historical, geographic, social and economic forces that formed that society and then brought about its gradual decline.


Montserrat had passed from being a prosperous island dominated by large sugar plantations, white managers and absentee landlords in 1800 to a struggling society of small farmers and heavily indebted and inefficiently worked plantations a half-century later. Sugar was no longer “king”, freed slaves and their descendants made up the vast majority of the population and degree of whiteness was of great importance in the social scheme of things. Such was the circle into which Matthew Phipps Shiell was born in 1865.





APPENDIX I (a). Letter from Dr Norman Griffin to Dr Richard Shiell 


25th August 1974

Richmond Hill,

 Montserrat, West Indies.


Dear Dr Shiell,

I was interested in reading your letter asking for information about your Montserrat family published in the “Montserrat Mirror” of 16th instant. It happens that William G. Shiell, who seems to have been the first on the scene came out from Ireland at much the same time as my great-grandfather, John Griffin who was born in Hutchin, Hertfordshire, England, in 1784 and married in Montserrat in 1815.


William G. Shiell was born in 1784 and married in Montserrat in 1826 to Mary Caby Semper, daughter of Michael Joseph Semper.  This was in June 1826 and in August (2 months after) a son was born and named William.  We have no further record of this son and it could be that he was your great-grandfather who arrived in Australia as Mate on the brig Gazelle in 1853; maybe he ran away to sea from school either in Montserrat or in England.


Of the other children of Wm G. Shiell we have few records. Several seem to have died as children; the family lived at The Grove or at Richmond (these two estates probably even then run as one). Another son Henry was born in 1827; John Ross was born in 1834, James Phipps in 1836, Queely in 1837, and the last, born in 1850, was also given the name of William but died at 5 months.


When Queely was born William G Shiell was President of the Council of Montserrat; in 1848 he owned one estate called Morris’ in the South of Montserrat (small and unimportant in comparison with many others), but was Attorney for about 10 others including a number shown on a list of Montserrat estates as owned by Queely Shiell; he was also Executor, Lessee or Receiver in Chancery of another 14 estates. Presumably as President of the Council he had to divest himself of some of his properties, giving his son the titles. Wm. G. Shiell died in 1853, as did his wife Mary.


In 1849, Henry Shiell, Bachelor, married Mary Ann Wilcox, and we have reasons to believe that he emigrated to Australia but have no idea as to whether he was in touch with any of your family. In 1851, Thomas Masters Howes (of Yorkshire England) who had come out from England in 1835 married a Mary Ann Shiell (relationship not defined) and in 1879, 2 years after her husband died, she went out to Australia with her 2 daughters, one of whom married a McMaster whose son Shiell McMaster became a landowner and sheep farmer in New South Wales. It is thought that Mary Ann was some relation of Henry’s and went out to him in Australia.


Sorry that this Aerogramme does not leave room for more. There is a long story about another family named Shiel (with one l) starting with one Matthew Dowdye Shiel who came out from Ireland and claimed descent from ancient kings of that country. If you are interested I will write again.

Norman Griffin M.D. (Mc Gill 1922)



APPENDIX  I (b).  Letter from Dr Norman Griffin to Dr Richard Shiell


29th October 1974.

Richmond Hill,

Montserrat, West Indies.


Dear Dr Shiell,

Thanks for your letter of 17th September received on 25th. I agree generally with some of your deductions from information available and in particular about the likelihood that your William Shiell may have been the son of the original William before his marriage to Mary Cabey Semper. Sorry I cannot check on the 1823 dates as all records of the births before 1829 have been lost.


As regards the economic conditions of Montserrat in the 1840-1860 period, the effects of emancipation of slavery which took place in 1834 was becoming felt and the labour situation was difficult. Many estates were sold for indebtedness or changed hands to newcomers at a fraction of the value a which they were rated a few years earlier.


It seems that Queely Shiell was the only one of the original William who like his father was interested in agriculture; he followed his father as a Member of Council and in charge of the Richmond and Grove Estates.  It is suggested that the other brothers followed some other calling, either in business or in Government, though we have no records to confirm this assumption. Certainly none of them produced a family in Montserrat.


The family history would not be complete without the story of the Shiels  (spelt with one “ l “) written up by Charlesworth Ross six years ago in the Caribbean Quarterly, a publication of the Extra Mural Department of the University of the West Indies.  It begins with Matthew Dowdye Shiel who claimed descent from the ancient Kings of Ireland and was living in Montserrat in 1865 and trading between Montserrat and the neighboring islands. He had had 8 daughters before producing a son named Matthew Phipps Shiel born shortly before that date.  This son went to live in England where he became a novelist and got to know many celebrities such as Robert Louis Stephenson and Wilde; he was quite a linguist and once had a job as interpreter to the International Congress of Hygiene and Demography.


Charlesworth Ross, himself a West Indian, whom I know very well, went to visit him in his later years when he was living in an Alms House near Horsham on a Civil List Pension, and had a very interesting conversation with him. He afterwards wrote up his story describing him as the first West Indian Novelist. He discovered that his Grandmother was one of the Shiel sisters. Of his other sisters we know little, except that the last surviving one was still alive in 1935 and living in St. Kitts with a niece. She was in looks much as you describe other Shiell descendants in Australia. It may well be that Matthew Dowdye Shiel was an illegitimate son of the original William Shiell in Montserrat.


I hope this is of interest to you


Norman Griffin.



APPENDIX II.  - A Possible Explanation for the use of the Pen name “Shiel”


When Phipps became a published author he used the name “Shiel” rather than the name Shiell (which remained his legal name until the day he died some 40 years later). Many reasons can be put forward but I think that the most convincing comes from a personal communication from the Shiel scholar, Harold Billings, author of the definitive biography of the young M. P. Shiel. [58]


 I think the reason for MPS using the name Shiel on his writing was probably more simple and understandable than many have suggested. The fact is that “Shiel” was the most prominent version of the name extant in the literary/political world in the 1890s.


Richard Lalor Shiel was an extremely well known man of letters and supporter of the Irish masses during the period leading up to MPS's entry into the publishing world.  I suspect that his was the spelling that editors and public expected, and it may be that Phipps was perhaps glad to accept an early mistake in spelling and continue it, or else glad again for an instance in which he might be identified with a famous name.


Phipps continued to use the "Shiell" spelling with his family until he commenced being published, when even to them he used "Shiel. Until he died, his legal name continued to be spelled "Shiell," so that if ever there was a nom-de-plume it was only the shorter form of his legal name.


If one looks at many of the authors in his literary circle, one can find MAJOR changes in their names.  "George Egerton," Henry Harland, Arthur Machen, etc.



APPENDIX III - Certificate dated 30th January 1824.

To the Collector of Customs, Montserrat, in regard to the runaway child slave Priscilla.

Montserrat, 30th January 1824.

I do hereby Certify that Priscilla a Negroe Child Slave, the Property of Mrs Sarah Dowdy, was sold by me at Marshals Sale and Purchased by Dudley Semper Esquire on the 4th day of September 1822.


(signed) Michl. Jos. Semper      Dep. Pro. Marshall



APPENDIX IV- Letter from the Governor of St Eustatius, regarding the return of several runaway slaves.

                                                                                                       27th January 1824

                                                                                                        Government House

St Eustatius.


I have delivered over to Captn Allers of the British Sloop “Dasher” four Slaves by name Simon, Ino Matthews, Ned and William which it appears are the same of whom Your honor gave me Notice under date the 24th July last and which were at the time searched for in vain.


The three first were concerned with nine other Slaves of this Colony in cutting out of the Road of the Dutch Sloop “John and Anna” in the Night of the 30th November last. They were pursued and fortunately taken by an Expedition, fitted out by this Government, off Porto Rico, and brought back to this place where they have been tried and punished according to our Laws.


William did not go with them and returns without having been in anywise punished. Three Slaves complain much of ill treatment and some of them bear evident marks of the truth of their assertions.


There is likewise aboard the “Dasher”a female Child, Slave to Mr. D. Semper of your Island, whom it appears, had been clandestinely brought here by Her Mother, a Slave formerly of Mrs Dowdy. She is sent up to her Master by his Attorney here.


Capt Allers has my direction to report to Your Honor immediately on his arrival and you will direct him farther how to proceed.


I have the Honor to be

Sir, Your Honor’s Most Obedient Servt

(signed) J. M Saba

Post Captain in His Netherland Majesty’s Navy

Governor of St Eustatius



APPENDIX V . Certificate acknowledging the receipt of runaway slaves from St Eustatius and signed by Edmund and Dudley Semper and James Phipps Shiell.


Montserrat  30th January 1824


Mr Dudley Semper, Edmond Semper Junior and James Phipps Shiell of the Island of Montserrat. Do swear. That the Negroe Slaves just arrived in the Sloop Dasher Ino D. Allers Master are truly and Bonafide the same Slaves as are described in the several Certificates of Registration herewith produced. And that the said Slaves did in the Month of July last 1823. Elope without leave, from this Island taking with them the Boat the Property of a Mr John Brambles of this Island. And upon receiving advice from a

Mr Martine of the Island of St Eustatius informing us of the Arrest and Detention of the said Slaves did Hire and dispatch the Aforesaid  Sloop for the Purpose of bringing them to this Island.  So help me God.


(signed and sworn)

Ed. Semper

James Phipps Shiell. (Attorney to the Representatives of James Neave, Deceased)

Dudley Semper



APPENDIX VI. Petition from William Shiell to Lord Stanley, Secretary of State for the Colonies, stating his credentials and seeking assistance in procuring an Army Commission for his oldest son.


Montserrat 7 May 1842

To the Right Honorable Lord Stanley

Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies


The Humble Memorial of William Shiell President of Her Majesty’s Council for the Island of Montserrat

Humbly Sheweth,

That your Memorialist was appointed a Member of Her Majesty’s Council, in the year 1808 and has continued to act in that capacity ever since, being a period of thirty two years, that he succeeded in the month of March 1840, upon the death of Mr President Hamilton, to the local government of the Colony, which he administered until the Month of August 1841, without deriving any Emolument from the Crown, or the Colony, to the satisfaction of those who were placed in authority over him, and with advantage to the general Interests of all classes of Her Majesty’s Subjects in the Island.


That he was superseded in the government of the Colony by Mr Edward Dacres Baynes, the Provost Marshal of Dominica, by Mandamus under Her Majesty’s Royal Sign Manual, and that he receives from the Crown five hundred Pounds per annum, as the Officer Administering the government of the said Colony.


That your Memorialist always anxious to support the dignity of the Station, to which he had been involuntarily called to fill, entertained at his own private expense, all public functionaries who visited the island in their Official Capacities, during the period that he administered the government of the Colony.


That your Memorialist is the Father of Eight children, three of them receiving their Education in England, and three upon the point of being sent there for as similar purpose, that he is desirous, having served her Majesty’s Royal Predecessors, and Her most Gracious Majesty, with the strictest fidelity, in his said capacity as a Member of Her Majesty’s Council, And as President administering the Government of the Colony, during his term of office, to obtain a Commission, in the Army for his Eldest Son William Shiell, now in his Sixteenth Year, but that he is prevented from purchasing the same, from a variety of concurring causes not necessary to be enumerated here, without doing a manifest Injury to the Interests and claims of his other children.


That your Memorialist therefore most humbly solicits your Lordship to take the premises into your consideration, by using your intercession in his behalf and recommending him in the proper quarter, as one not undeserving of the Royal favor, with the view of procuring for his said Son William Shiell a Commission in Her Majesty’s Army, in any Regiment of the line, which may be deemed by those in Authority, most fitting and expedient to appoint him.


And your Memorialist as in duty bound, will ever pray.

Wm. Shiel



APPENDIX VII.   Notes on the Name Horsford.[59]


Samuel “Sammie” appears to have been a natural son of one of the members of the wealthy Horsford family of Antigua, where he was born. He is not included in the extensive “Pedigree of Horsford” listed in Oliver’s book The History of Antigua. This strongly suggests that he was from an illegitimate line. Sir Robert Marsh Horsford was Chief Justice of Antigua at the time of Samuel Horsford’s birth, having taken this office following the death of John Shiell, son of Queely Shiell, in 1847. Whether Sir Robert had any relationship to Sammie is unknown.


Harold Billings has provided details of the Horsford family in his biography of the early years of MPS.  As he notes, the three sons of Sammie and Augusta all attended Bedford Modern School, according to school records, residing at "Matson House."  When Phipps died in 1847, neither Reginald nor Leo was mentioned in his obituary, as were Cyril, Olive and Muriel, so it is likely that they were deceased by that time.  (One of the two had in fact died by the time the family firm was sold in early 1929).


When Sammie died in 1913 The Times of London provided a major obituary for him (December 20th, page 11c)


The Hon. Samuel L. Horsford, of St. Kitts, died in London recently, aged 64. Mr Horsford, who was born in Antigua in 1849, received his commercial training in that island and migrated to St. Kitts, where he succeeded to the mercantile business of the late Captain J. H. H. Berkeley, and became the agent of many of the principle sugar estates in the island. His ability and public spirit were recognised by his appointment to be a member of the Legislative Council of St. Kitts-Nevis and the Federal Council of the Leeward Islands in 1894, and in 1911 he was nominated a member of the Executive Council of the Federal Establishment, on which he sat until his death. He proved a keen debater, and a strong advocate of economy in public affairs and of representative government.  A staunch Freemason, he had filled all the offices in the Mount Olive Lodge of St Kitts, and he was for many years a member of the West India Committee and the West Indian Club in London. The Canadian Government appointed Mr Horseford Commercial Agent for the Dominion of Canada and he represented St.Kitts-Nevis at the conference at Ottawa in 1912, which resulted in the reciprocal trade agreement between the Dominion of Canada and a majority of the British West Indian Colonies.  He was married to Miss Sheil (sic), of Montserrat, who, with five children, one of whom has attained the distinction as a throat specialist, survive him. Mr Horsford will be greatly missed not only in St. Kitts, where he was a general favorite, but also in this country.


The funeral service will be held at College Chapel, Swiss Cottage, at 2 o’clock on Monday, and the interment will be at Kensal Green.


The company of SL Horsford & Co. Ltd on St Kitts grew, in the 21st century, into one of the major corporations in the West Indies.  While located on St Kitts, it handled a major series of business enterprises and supported soccer teams and various cultural and civic activities. The Shiell family interests in the firm were sold in 1929.



APPENDIX  VIII -  Introductory Dedication  in Shiel’s 1896 collection of short stories “Shapes in the Fire” to music hall singer Beatrice Laws.[60]


To Mistress Beatrice Laws

Dear Beatrice,—The pieces of this inkling of a Book, which, with much longing, I dedicate to you, were not all written in the same night, but separated in their execution by intervals for eating and sleeping; and as you know me to be of at least not less nervous vigour than your sweet self (for in Thee is not vigour gobbled up in sweetness?), so you, too, red ruddes, should read them (in spite of the sub-title), with like intervals, one by one, not gulp them like porridge or a novel,—which, you know, are homogeneous, these being designedly heterogene­ous—or you will hardly, I think, get at what one meant to imply (Easily, you know, in the crash of the orchestra, do the light flute-notes lose themselves on the tired ear: a fact which seems to indicate that works of art, especially such as pretend to be more or less musical should be not only pretty short, but separately imbibed; so that the Concert, for one thing, is wrong; and with it, the book, such as this, of short detached pieces, which is a literary Concert; only that here, you have it in your option to extend your concert into as many nights as there are pieces; and your concert-giver, too, hath it more in his dominion what piece shall company with what, and what shall be the precise complexity and information of the whole.) Well, but to maintain the dear fiction of the Winter’s Night, I will say this (epistolary—and not as they write big in the volume of the Books, lest you pout): that the curtain having risen, I will present you first a diary-extract of a poor friend now dead; then a little morne drama which I have encountered in the chronicle of one Aventin von Tottenweis; and next a rather dark experience of my own in the dim Northern seas, which, in dream, yet revisits me. Then will be a short interlude for cigarettes, ices, and whispy-lispy, during which will be rendered a piece just splashed down any­way, for a male reader or two, and in some places dull (to you I mean) and in others pretty cheap,—this, however, being a day of cheap things, sweetmeat; you yourself, perhaps, not so over-dear, and only over-dear to the beglamoured eyes of male-made me. This, then, you should skip (recalcitrant roe that thou art on the Mountains of Endeavour!) Go out on the verandah, pig’s-eye, and there heave, the open secret of that torse my soul remembers to the chaste down-look of Dian’s astonished eye-glass, and the schwärmerei of the winking Stars. But soon, at about midnight, return; for now, to the tinkle of a silver bell, will unfold itself the life-history, very well trans­lated by me from the original, of a poor man of Hindustan, not, I verily believe, unloved of the gods, but loved, you perceive, in their peculiar fashion: those people (as the late Mr. Froude uncommonly said to the dying Carlyle) probably having reasons for their carryings-on, of which we cannot even dream. And truly, dear, this is marvellous in our eyes, or at least in mine. Well, but now, just as that dark Daphne with the gems entangled in her hair turns paling in flight from the red rape of day, I shall (spiritualest wine coming last, you know, as at that Marriage) once more introduce myself in character this time of lover, and tell how I wooed one of the ladies of my heart at world-illustrious Phorfor. Immediately whereupon, Be­loved, shall the Day break, and the Shadows flee away.—Yours, pour toujours et une Nuit d’Hiver!  THE AUTHOR



APPENDIX  IX.  Known partners and offspring of Matthew Phipps Shiel.[61]


1.      “Mary” is pregnant to Phipps in 1894 but we do not know Mary’s surname or what became of her and the baby who would have been born mid-1895.


2.      Ella D’Arcy, short story writer and an Editor for publisher John Lane, may have had an affair with Phipps around 1895.


3.      1895-98. A possible brief liaison with the French maid of fellow-author Arthur Machen. He described her seduction of him in a letter to Gawsworth in 1933 but knowing Phipp’s love of fantasy this may have been wishful thinking.


4.      1896. In a letter to his sister Augusta, Phipps announces that he is “engaged to be married” to a singer at Queen’s Hall, a London music hall. He does not name this lady in the letter but she may have been the singer Beatrice Laws to whom he dedicates his 1896 collection of short stories “Shapes in the Fire”[62].  This dedication is amazingly poetic and worth reading, so please see Appendix VIII above. We do not know what happened to this relationship but after reading the letter and the book Beatrice may have come to the conclusion that Phipps inhabited a different planet and was not suitable marriage material. Alternatively Phipps may have tired of her as he did of so many women.


5.      1898. Phipps marries Carolina Garcia-Gomez (“Lina”). They had a daughter, Dolores Katherine Shiell (“Lola”) born 1900, but they soon separate. Lina died in Paris in 1903 and the child went to live with Lina’s elder sister Salva in Madrid.


6.      1898 – A daughter, Ada Phipps Shiel is born in London from a liaison with Nelly Seward.


7.      1908- Letter from an 18-year-old lass named Mary Price with whom Phipps appears to have had an affair some time earlier (perhaps when she was as young as 15). Mary says in a letter to Phipps that she is now forbidden to see him.


8.      1913- Phipps has a liaison with Elizabeth Price. MPS does not acknowledge paternity of a child whom she names Caesar Kenneth Shiel (born 21 April 1914) or of his younger sister in his later biographies. In a claim for financial assistance from the Royal Literary Fund in 1914 he claims to have 3 children (no doubt Lola, Ada and Caesar).[63] Caesar married and had two children Margaret Parry and Paul Shiel, who now lives and works as a Veterinary surgeon in Australia.


9.      1919, January 31st. Phipps married Lydia Furley, spinster, aged 46 whom he had first met around 1908. They had no children but Lydia had a son, Gerald Jewson, from a prior common-law marriage. They later separated on friendly terms around 1929 and when Lydia died in 1943/4 she left Phipps some money in her Will.


10.  From around 1931 Phipps commenced a long platonic literary relationship with a married American lady, Annamarie Miller. This appears to have continued until his death in 1947 and many of his letters to her are held in the Morse Collection at Rollins College in the USA.


APPENDIX  X.  Novels written by M. P. Shiel.[64]

[Annotations by A. Reynolds Morse (in quotes) and Alan Gullette, except as noted.]

The Rajah’s Sapphire (London: Ward, Lock & Bowden, 1896) with W. T. Stead – a coveted gem haunts its owners.

The Yellow Danger (London: Grant Richards, 1898) John Hardy battles the Chinaman Yen How for domination of the world

Contraband of War (London: Grant Richards, 1899) – a Spaniard and an American engage in a contest of wits; the standoff results in an alliance which will surely subdue the world; written as a serial during the Spanish-American War of 1898

Cold Steel (London: Grant Richards, 1899) – “a swashbuckling tale set among the court and times of Henry VIII” (Morse)

The Man-Stealers (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1900) – the French plot to kidnap the Duke of Wellington to avenge Napoleon’s imprisonment

Lord of the Sea (London: Grant Richards, 1901) – “Richard Hogarth ... finds a meteorite full of diamonds, builds huge steel forts with his wealth, places them at the cross-roads” of the earth’s oceans to control all sea-traffic for tribute to benefit “the citizens of his mammoth iron islands.”

The Purple Cloud (London: Chatto & Windus, 1901) – Adam Jeffson adventures to the North Pole; on returning he realizes the entire population of the world has been destroyed by a cloud of cyanogen; he tours with world as master of all he sees, revelling and destroying as he will.

The Weird o’ It (London: Grant Richards, 1902) – the life of John Hay is a “mixture of tragic romance and adventure” – “stylistically ... not a great deal of the ultra-solar Shiel” but “plotwise the story is magnificent as Hay is transformed by the vagaries of his experiences into an Overman.”

Unto the Third Generation (London: Chatto & Windus, 1903) – mystery, adventure, and romantic narrative.

The Evil that Men Do (London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1904) – “the story of a great impersonation” of one man by another, made possible by the strange fact that both were born in the image of the mad captain of a ship which transported their mothers while pregnant. 

The Lost Viol (New York: Edward J. Clode, 1905) – romance and mystery.

The Yellow Wave (London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1905) Shiel called it his “Romeo and Juliet” as well as “a novel written without adjectives” – the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 is prematurely ended by the death of the enamored son and daughter of the countries’ leaders.

The Last Miracle (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1906) – Baron Kolar comes from distant Styria to rural England, “creating hoaxes of religious miracles with the intended goal of building up religious fervor and eventually revealing them as fake, thereby discrediting the church and causing its downfall” (Laurence Roberts).

The White Wedding (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1908) – a “very straight-forward story” – tragic and with “more conversation, and more natural conversation than is usual for Shiel” (Morse); “a game keeper enters into a Platonic (thus, ‘white’) wedding to save his true love for his unworthy lord” (Squires).

The Isle of Lies (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1909) – “Doctor Lepsius finds an unusual stone but he cannot decipher the ancient writing on it,” so he sires “a son who will be able to read his mysterious piece of basalt” – but the son is distracted from his scholarly, monastic life by the lure of women and the world.

This Knot of Life (London: Everett & Co., 1909) – personal intrigue, misadventure, and a happy ending somehow illustrate Shiel’s philosophy of art and life.

The Dragon (London: Grant Richards, 1913) Re-issued as The Yellow Peril (1929) – a Sino-English war features flying boats and blinding rays – called The Yellow Danger “with the racism removed” just as the 1929 revision “omits most of the strange and controversial elements.” (Paul Spencer)

Children of the Wind (London: Grant Richards, 1923) – adventure set in Africa: tribal warfare including “biological warfare,” lesbianism, and (as usual) “vibrant plotting” – “a full-blooded story done in his fabulously refreshing style” – written after a ten-year hiatus.

How the Old Woman Got Home (London: The Richards Press, 1927) – fast-paced mystery: “real Shiel” – “sold very widely” despite the fact that “it carried a message.”

Dr. Krasinski’s Secret (New York: The Vanguard Press, 1929) – combines “a superb medical mystery, a romance, and an adventure story.”

The Black Box (New York: The Vanguard Press, 1930) – a murder mystery of “almost cryptic” style and “unexpected and ingenious” compactness of plot.

Say Au R’Voir But Not Goodbye (London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1933) – “a sunken ship ... mysteriously floats herself in time to redeem her owner.”

This Above All (New York: The Vanguard Press, 1933) – reissued as Above All Else (1943) – an epistolary “fable of immortality”: “Jesus is still alive – as well as Lazarus, and ... others whom he raised from the dead” (Morse) – Shiel denounces superstition and praises science; “an uneasy equilibrium among the miracles of the Gospels, cellular biology, erotica, and French politics.” (Bleiler)

The Young Men Are Coming! (London: Allen & Unwin, 1937) – a science fiction story, possibly the first to deal with alien abduction: Dr. Warwick and “the young men” battle religious fascists with the help of space creatures.

The New King (Cleveland, Ohio: The Reynolds Morse Foundation, 1981) – Shiel’s last novel, alternately entitled The Splendid Devil, written c. 1934-45; also contains an unpublished dialog with Cummings King Monk.


APPENDIX  XI.   Short Story Collections by M. P. Shiel. [65]

[Annotations by A. Reynolds Morse (in quotes) and Alan Gullette.]


Prince Zaleski (London: John Lane, 1895) – three detective stories: “The Race of Orven,” “The Stone of the Edmundsbury Monks,” and “The S.S.”

Shapes in the Fire (London: John Lane, 1896) – five Poesque stories, an essay, and a long poem: “Xélucha,” “Maria in the Rose-Bush,” “Vaila,” “Premier and Maker (An Essay),” “Tulsah,” “The Serpent Ship” (poem), and “Phorfor”; E. F. Bleiler placed it on his suggested reading list of Victorian supernatural fiction.

The Pale Ape (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1911) – mostly thrillers and a few supernatural stories; contents: “The Pale Ape,” “The Case of Euphemia Raphash,” the three-part “Cummings King Monk,” “A Bundle of Letters,” “Huegenin’s Wife,” “Many a Tear” (which Shiel considered the only “worthy” story in the collection), “The House of Sounds” (revision of “Vaila”), “The Spectre Ship,” “The Great King,” and “The Bride.”

Here Comes the Lady (London: The Richards Press, 1928) – “powerful short stories ... joined by a very thin and unworthy narrative plot in which several suitors compete in telling stories for the hand of a girl” – “ Shiel’s frenzied style and no other would suit such mad amazing adventures”; contents: “The Tale of Hugh and Agatha,” “The Tale of Henry and Rowena,” “The Tale of Gaston and Mathilde,” “No. 16 Brook Street,” “The Tale of One in Two,” “The Tale of Charley and Barbara,” “The Bell of St. Sépulcre,” “The Primate of the Rose,” “The Corner in Cotton,” “Dark Lot of One Saul,” and “The Tale of Adam and Hannah.”

The Invisible Voices (London: The Richards Press, 1935) – “If he had never written any novels at all, these [eleven] unique and varied stories by themselves would set him permanently beside Saki, O. Henry, and Ambrose Bierce”; contents: “The Panel Day,” “The Adore Day,” “The Rock Day (The Vulture’s Rock),” “The Diary Day,” “The Cat Day,” “The Lion Day,” “The Place of Pain Day,” “The Vengeance Day,” “The Venetian Day,” “The Future Day,” and “The Goat Day.”

The Best Short Stories of M. P. Shiel (London: Victor Gollancz, 1948) – John Gawsworth’s selection using original versions of stories; contents: “The Race of Orven,” “The Stone of the Edmundsbury Monks,” “The S.S.,” “Xélucha,” “Vaila,” “Tulsah,” “Phorfor,” “Huegenin’s Wife,” “Monk Wakes an Echo,” “The Bride,” “Dark Lot of One Saul,” and “The Primate of the Rose.”

Xélucha and Others (Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1975) – the Arkham selection of the supernatural tales, revised by Shiel; still in print; contents: “Xélucha,” “The Primate of the Rose,” “Dark Lot of One Saul,” “The House of Sounds,” “The Globe of Goldfish,” “Many a Tear” “The Bride,” “The Tale of Henry and Rowena,” “The Bell of St. Sépulcre,” “Huegenin’s Wife,” “The Pale Ape,” and “The Case of Euphemia Raphash.”

Prince Zaleski and Cummings King Monk (Sauk City, WI: Mycroft & Moran, 1977) – a collection of stories involving these sleuths, still in print; contains the three stories from Prince Zaleski plus “The Return of Prince Zaleski” (a posthumous collaboration with John Gawsworth) and the Monk stories “He Meddles with Women,” “He Defines ‘Greatness of Mind,’” and “He Wakes an Echo.”

Xélucha and The Primate of the Rose (Sussex: Tartarus Press, 1994) – two stories, same versions as the Arkham House Xélucha.

Prince Zaleski (Carlton, England: Tartarus Press, 2002). – presents the “complete” Zaleski: the three tales from the 1893 John Lane edition plus three posthumous collaborations with John Gawsworth: “The Return of Prince Zaleski,” “The Missing Merchants” (set in Machen’s hometown of Gwent), and the unfinished “The Hargen Inheritance.”


APPENDIX  XII.  Essays by M. P. Shiel. [66]

[Annotations by A. Reynolds Morse (in quotes) and Alan Gullette.]


“Premier and Maker” – a 70-page essay on the philosophy of art presented in the form of dialog and included as an interlude in Shapes in the Fire (1896).

“On Reading” – a “tremendous and involved philosophical treatise” that forms the first part of This Knot of Life (1909), reprinted in Shiel in Diverse Hands.  

How to be Happy,” in The Plain Dealer (London, Sept., 1933) pp. 28-29. Shiel describes his “excellent system for achieving a new consciousness” through breathing exercises, reprinted in Science, Life and Literature.

Science, Life and Literature (1950) – eighteen essays collected by John Gawsworth.


APPENDIX  XIII  - Book collaborations by M. P. Shiel. [67]

It may have been an awareness of M. P. Shiel’s philosophic seriousness that led the author and respected editor of Review of Reviews” W. T. Stead (1849-1912), to invite Shiel to contribute to a “continuing serial” in a proposed newspaper. The paper failed but Shiel made use of the first installment in his book, “The Rajah’s Sapphire”.

MPS occasionally collaborated with Louis Tracy (1863-1928) who, at the same time, was a financially successful popular author. “An American Emperor” which was published in serial form in Pearsons Weekly in 1897, The Pillar of Light (1904) and possibly “The Message (1908) were published under Tracy’s name. Three novels were published under the pen name Gordon Holmes; “The Late Tenant” (1906), “By Force of Circumstances”(1909) and “The House of Silence” (1911). “Three Men and a Maid”, sometimes titled “Fennell’s Tower” (1907) was published under the pseudonym Robert Fraser. 

John Gawsworth (1912-1970), also known as Fytton Armstrong, worked energetically to have Shiel reprinted. His name appears in conjunction with Shiel’s, but whether Gawsworth did more than write connecting paragraphs, finish discarded Shiel stories or edit unsaleable works is apparently debatable.


[1] Shiel in Diverse Hands, page 333 (printed privately for the Reynolds Morse Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.)


[2] Pakenham Press, 1984.


[3] Letters from Dr Norman Griffin, 1974 (see appendix I(a) and I(b).


[4] The M.P. Shiel authority, Harold Billings, puts forward a very plausible explanation for the use of this minor spelling variation in his literary works. (See Appendix II.)  MPS never formally changed his name and was born and died with the “Shiell” spelling.


[5] Montserrat Shipping Registers (BT 107 562). Held at the Public Records Office, London.


[6] MPS writing about himself and quoted in The Wilson Bulletin, May, 1929. (Reproduced in The Quest for Redonda, edited by A. Reynolds Morse and published privately by the Reynolds Morse Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.)


[7] From About Myself by M. P. Shiel. Included in The Quest for Redonda by A. Reynolds Morse.


[8]  Excerpts from a letter from M. P. Shiel to Walter Goldwater (quoted in the article “Shiel, Van Vechten and the Question of Colour,” from Shiel in Diverse Hands, pages 75-76. (Morse Foundation).


[9] Lt. Lucan Shiell of Ballinderry, County of Westmeath is mentioned in King James Irish Army Lists of 1689 (published Dublin 1855 edited J. D’Alton.


[10] A man of Irish descent, Luc  (or Lucan) Shiell is mentioned in the book “The Slave Trade” by Hugh Thomas  (Picador Press 1997). He was a prominent slave-trader based in Nantes, France in the early part of the 18th century and two of his daughters married well-known traders.  Marie married Antoine Walsh an Irish Catholic immigrant who was one of the most powerful figures in the French slave trade, sending altogether 57 slaving expeditions to Africa. Walsh was a romantic Jacobite, his father had carried James II from England to France on one of his ships when he fled in 1688 and Antoine had accompanied “ Bonny  Prince Charlie” to the highlands on another of his ships in 1745.  At some point this, or some other branch of the Shiell family, may have settled in the West Indies and became nominal members of the Church of England.


[11] Montserrat Parish Register entry, published in The Quest for Redonda.


[12] From records of the Parish of St Anthony and from a letter written by his daughter Harriet, who nursed him in his final days, to her niece Olive Horsford.


[13] Birth certificates for the period have been lost but the date was confirmed in a letter from MDS to his son in England in 1887.


[14] Montserrat Shipping Register (BT 107 568)


[15] This was at the time of his purchase of the 24 ton schooner “Jane” in 1852 (BT 107 562)


[16]  A blurred photograph of the portrait exists but the original painting disappeared after the death of the owner, Matthew Phipps Shiell, and has never been located.


[17] See Appendix I (a)


[18] CO 178 2, death reference CUST 34 503. PRO, London.


[19] All three of these individuals have individual chapters in this book.


[20] From copies of marriage and death certificates of Henry Shiell in the possession of the authors.


[21] Biographies of James Phipps, Henry and Mary Ann Shiell are included in this book


[22]  CUST 34 502. Certificate dated 30th January 1824, signed by Michael Joseph Semper,      

    Deputy Provost-Marshall (See Appendix III)


[23] CUST 34 502. Letter from the Governor of St Eustatius, dated 27th January 1824.

    (See Appendix IV)


[24] CUST 34 502. Certificate dated 30th January 1824 signed by Edmund Semper and

     James Phipps Shiell (see Appendix V).


[25] "M.P. Shiel: A Biography of His Early Years" by Harold Billings. Published by Roger Beacham, Austin, Texas, 2005.


[26] From ”About Myself” by M. P. Shiel and included in “Quest for Redonda.”

 MPS claims that these events happened on his 15th birthday ( 21st July 1880) and that Dr Semper, Bishop of Antigua conducted the ceremony. Elsewhere he claimed that Dr Mitchinson the Bishop of Antigua was the celebrant. Research shows that William Waldron Jackson was the Bishop of Antigua from 1860-1895 but he was ailing from 1879 and appointed Bishop Mitchinson from Barbados as Bishop Coadjutor and Archdeacon Charles James Branch to be Bishop’s Commissary.  (See “Search for Redonda”.)  Bishop Branch was known to have been the first cleric to visit Redonda and certainly even an acting Bishop in his regalia would have suitably impressed a 15-year-old lad. A Reverend Semper (not Dr.) was a Methodist minister in the region at that time so the reader can take his pick. Knowing the capacity of MPS to embellish a story the more prestigious version was the more likely.


[27] One of the present authors, RCS, found this still to be true when he visited the island in 1984.


[28] Seymour Wylde Howes, born approximately 1853, was the son of Mary Ann Shiell, and thus a grandson of James Phipps Shiell. He married English born Laura Wilkin on Montserrat in 1879 and had 6 children. (see biography of Mary Ann Shiell by the present authors).


[29] There was a Sir William Phipps (born 1651), son of James Phipps. William was the inventor of the diving bell and had salvaged a famous sunken Spanish treasure ship off the coast of Haiti on 1687.  He was handsomely rewarded by the Queen and was the first native-born American to be knighted. He was appointed Governor of Massachusetts in 1690 and died in 1695.


[30] The marriage of William Shiell and Margaret Queely in 1756 is recorded in Transcripts of St.Kitts Parish Register held by the Society of Genealogists in London. A Margaret Shiell died in St Kitts in 1757 but we have no way of knowing if this was the mother of Queely or the death of a baby daughter. We have no record of the registration of the birth of Queely Shiell so can only presume that his parents on the relatively small island of St Kitts were William Shiell and Margaret Queely.  If he was their son, then either he was born BEFORE their marriage or his age as listed on his death certificate (93 years) is incorrect. It is the authors’ opinion that either of these propositions is more likely than the remote possibility that there was another Shiell family propagating on the island at that time and using the distinctive name of “Queely”.


[31] Maria Charlotte Phipps married Sir Patrick Blake of Montserrat and Langham, Co Suffolk on 12th August 1789 (Caribbeana, page 68 and 74).  They had no children. The Phipps family was very prominent on St Kitts and in England.  Many members were knighted and Sir Constantine Phipps (1655-1723 became Lord Chancellor for Ireland (1710-14)


[32] First mention of William Shiell as President of Council on Montserrat (CO 177 22).


[33] John  Shiell Chief Justice dies. (CO 7  88)


[34] Petition to Lord Stanley dated 7th May 1842. This is an attempt to obtain an Army Commission for his 16 year old eldest son William. On this petition a British Government official had written: “I believe that to obtain a Commission in the Army without purchase is almost as difficult as to obtain a Peerage, except in the case of successful students at Sandhurst. Neither can I think that the claims of Mr Shiell could be put for a moment in comparison with those of Military Officers of high rank, who after spending long years in the Army are unable to obtain this advantage for their sons.” (see Appendix VII)


[35] Marriage Certificate (Victoria, Australia) of William Shiell born 1823.


[36] British Parliamentary Proceedings (House of Commons) 1848, Vol.45


[37] Queely’s Death Certificate states that he died on 27th November 1847 at the age of 93 years.


[38] The ages of his daughters obtained from the British 1841 census records and date of his marriage to Elizabeth has been inferred from that material.


[39] These are included in this series of essays.


[40] Excerpt from a letter written to sister Augusta dated 12TH February 1895 and published in “Shiel in Diverse Hands”, page 102.


[41] CUST 34 503


[42] Death Certificates (New South Wales, Australia) of Henry Shiell (1827-1887) and his wife Mary Ann (1827-1885).


[43] These unconfirmed dates were provided in Dr Griffin’s 1974 letter to the author.

See Appendix I (a).


[44] See details in Montserrat to Melbourne - The Story of a Shiell Family - Packenham Press 1984)


[45] Election to Assembly in 1842(CO 177 24). Property ownership (BPP, H of C, 1848, Vol 45).


[46]  It is not known for sure if this Henry was the 1827 son of William Shiell mentioned by Dr Griffin. but the birth date makes this highly likely. As he stayed on in Montserrat after the death of his father it is possible that his wife Rosetta was a coloured woman and the couple had a poor future off the island. We have no record or knowledge of any children from this couple.


[47] Pension noted in old Treasury cash books, Montserrat.


[48] Letter to Phipps late 1887, quoted in Harold Billings biography of M.P. Shiel in which MDS mentions that Moro Shiell, (relationship unknown), applied 2 leeches to his injured leg.


[49] The author met a John Shiell and his daughter Mollie in Plymouth in 1984. John had several other children as well, (Clifford, Hilton, Anez, and Nymphis).  He was the guard at the Bank of Canada on the corner of High St and George St. He was black and knew little about his ancestors except that his father, who died around 1944, had been Arthur Shiell and his grandfather, born in the 19th century had been John Shiell.  Our informant stated that Arthur Shiell had a brother called Cornelius who had a number of children also (John, Agnes and Florence Shiell, Alfreda Weeks and Mary Semper). The author met Alfreda, who was in her mid-30s in 1984 but did not hear where the others were living at that time.


[50] There are many official records of Queely Shiell. 

(i) He is listed in the 1824 Triennial Return of Slaves  (T. Savage English “Records of Montserrat”).

(ii) In the 1836 slave claims he is clearly the main recipient of compensation. (BPP, House of Lords, 1838, Vol 15).

(iii) In the 1847 list of property owner Queely is still a major figure (BPP, House of Commons), 1848, Vol 45.)

(iv) He and his wife appear in the British census records of 1841


[51] CO 178 2


[52] CO 178 2


[53] This exception is the short story A Shot at the Sun, published in the Pictorial Magazine 24th October 1903.  This has been reprinted in full on pages 45 – 56 of Harold Billings’ book "M.P. Shiel: A Biography of His Early Years". Published by Roger Beacham, Austin, Texas, 2005


[54] MPS wrote several times about Augusta’s marriage to the well-to-do Samuel Horsford of St Kitts and of their children.  The Horsfords were a prominent Antiguan family but Samuel seems to have been from an illegitimate branch.  Sir Robert Horsford  (relationship unknown) had succeeded John Shiell as Chief Justice of Antigua in 1847.  It seems odd that a known “social climber” like MPS did not make mention of such a connection, however remote it may have been. For additional notes about Samuel and the trading firm of Horsford see Appendix VII.


[55] Published by Roger Beacham, Austin, Texas, 2005


[56] Alan Gullette (b. 1956) is a poet and aspiring writer of fiction whose work has been published in two dozen amateur, scholastic and small press publications and on several websites.  Alan is also a webmaster whose large website includes samples of his work along with pages devoted to his literary interests – including absurdism, supernatural fiction and surrealism.  He emphasizes that M. P. Shiel is one of his "very favorite" authors.


[57] JDS Books/The Vainglory Press, PO Box 292333, Kettering, Ohio 45429. Email:


[58] "M.P. Shiel: A Biography of His Early Years" by Harold Billings. Published by Roger Beacham, Austin, Texas, 2005.


[59] From M. P. Shiel: A Biography of his Early Years by Harold Billings (Roger Beacham Publisher, 2005).  A much fuller account on the Horsfords may be found in this most interesting book.


[60] From M. P. Shiel: A Biography of his Early Years by Harold Billings (Roger Beacham Publisher, 2005).


[61] Adapted from M. P. Shiel: A Biography of his Early Years by Harold Billings (Roger Beacham Publisher, 2005).


[62] London: John Lane, 1896.


[63] The authors are indebted to publisher John Squires of Kettering, Ohio, for this piece of literary sleuthing.


[64]  With thanks to Alan Gullette whose website, is a mine of information about M.P. Shiel and his literary output.


[65] See for a more detailed version of this list.


[66] Ibid.


[67]  Ibid.


Copyright © 2005-6 By Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson, excepting quoted material copyright by others. 
Used with permission of Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson.  Email:

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