Sunday, August 14, 2011

I have discovered a new author. Well hardly new as he died in 1909 but new to me. One of his books has been nestling in the bookshelf upstairs for goodness knows how long and who can remember where it came from and why, but I took it down the other day merely out of curiosity. At first I thought it was by an authoress because I can never remember which Francis/Frances is male/female and I read the second name as Marian. So, as I was rather impressed by the writing, I decided to look her up on the internet only to discover she was a he. Francis Marion Crawford - Marion not Marian.

The book I am reading is called “Cecilia – a story of modern Rome” and was copyrighted in the states in 1902.

Evidently our author was born in Italy of American parents but was brought up and educated in America, finishing at Harvard. He went back to Italy to live and write; the author of a number of novels and short stories.

It made me think, unless in your period you come in the top five or six writers of any nationality, for example a Charles Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austin, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy, Gogol, Pushkin, Chekhov, Alexander Dumas, Stendhal, Mark Twain, Henry James etcetera, or unless you have written some classic, even if in some cases only a one off; Frankenstein or Gone With The Wind or Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz for example, you will merely for the most part disappear among the thousands of other writers of your time unless somebody discovers and decides to resurrect you. Such is fleeting literary fame. How many female novelists in the Victorian era are remembered today and how many of those writing chic-lit or Mills and Boon type romance be remembered in fifty years time?

Starting as a third former in 1945, I spent four years at Glenwood High School in Durban. Today as an Old Boy (and I must be one of the very few still left of my generation) I receive e-mails keeping me up to date with all the news. My goodness what a change is there! Have I mentioned this before? In my day there were four sports – rugby, cricket, athletics, (two fields, upper and lower) and swimming for which one had to go to the municipal baths downtown or at the beach. Today the school has its own swimming baths plus tennis courts, no such thing as hockey or squash in my day and the furthest a field sports teams went to play away matches was to Natal schools: Maritzburg College, Michaelhouse (very posh Church of England) Hilton College (also very posh), Kearsney. I don’t really remember but I think this one was Presbyterian. These days the teams tour Europe and I see the first fifteen rugby team is due to tour Argentina for the second time. The school has expanded in every direction, both in building and ex-curriculum opportunities including drama and music. And of course the biggest change of all is that, with the ending of apartheid, the school is no longer whites only but has a fair sprinkling of Zulu and Indian pupils. I’m sure, even though it will take time, that there is hope for South Africa yet.

Since writing the above I have found another Marion Crawford in the bookshelf! This one is titled SARACINESCA. One Marion Crawford in the bookshelves is a mystery; two is a quadruplicated mystery! According to Google he is being rediscovered, his books recently reissued so bang goes my theory. Anyone can be rediscovered. The first editions are worth a few hundred bucks which is nice to know. If things get really desperate we could try flogging them on e-Bay. I’ve discovered in life though that buying something is easy, trying to flog something is another story altogether.

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