Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Maurice Drake and WO2

I just followed up the reference in Adventure through Red Devon to "Maurice Drake's strange novel WO2", since it turns out to have local connections.

Firstly, the author. I found a few detailed, if similar, explanations of his identity and background.
An uncommonly interesting writer is Mr. Maurice Drake, the author of The Salving of a Derelict, Wrack, and a curiously named new romance, W02. Mr. Drake is one of the many folk, nowadays, who combine the writing of fiction with a more prosaic trade, his regular business being the rather rare one of artist in decorative glass, carried on in an old West of England town on premises where practically the only modern thing is a telephone. He is a big, brawny, moustached sunburned man of forty-two, who looks what he is, namely, an ardent amateur yachtsman. Everything in connection with the sea interests him, and it was this love for salt-water that led him, some seven years ago, to try his hand at a novel about life on the ocean wave. This, however, was not his first essay in literature, for he had already written a couple of books about stained glass, which are now standard works. Soon after his first novel, which he called The Salving of a Derelict, was finished, a London newspaper offered a prize of £200 for the best romance submitted to it, and Mr. Drake sent in his maiden effort and carried off the prize. This rattling story sold well in book form on both sides of the Atlantic, and was followed by Lethbridge of the Moor and Wrack, which Mr. Drake personally considers the best thing he has done. Mr. Drake has recently returned from a trip to America, where he valued a wonderful collection of stained glass, and he does not think much of that "hustling" country. He thinks that all the breathless energy on which the business men over there pride themselves so much is mostly show.
- Lady's Realm: an illustrated monthly magazine, Volume 34, 1913

Mr. Maurice Drake, whose new novel, The Doom Window, Messrs. Hodder & Stoughton are publishing, is a distinguished designer of stained glass and an expert on antiques, as well as a novelist. His knowledge of the former art may be said to be hereditary, as he represents the fourth generation of a famous glass-painting family in Exeter, dating back over a century. He and his ancestors have specialised in mediaeval stained glass, and Mr. Maurice Drake is an adviser at South Kensington. His history of the art of glass painting is a standard work, and he is well known as a lecturer on this subject here, in America and on the Continent. He became a novelist from the sheer love of writing, and his first book, The Salving of a Derelict, carried off the Daily Mail prize for a best first novel. The best known of his other stories are WO2 and Wrack. The Doom Window, which treats of the ways and wiles of dealers in sham antiques, has a strong and original plot and is Mr Drake's first novel since the war, in which he served from 1914 onward.
- The Bookman: Volume 63, 1923

Novelist's Death
We regret to learn from the Daily Mail of April 30, 1923, that "Mr. Frederick Morris Drake, better known as Maurice Drake, the novelist, glass painter, and authority on old stained-glass, died at Exeter yesterday. Mr. Drake, who had been ill for some weeks of pneumonia, was in his 49th year".

His best known novels were Wrack, The Salving of a Derelict, WO2, and The Doom Window. The Salving of a Derelict  won a Daily Mail prize of ,£100 in 1906, offered for the best story by a new writer. Mr. Drake, who served in the war in the infantry and the RAF, carried on at Exeter a glass-painting studio established there by his grand-uncle in 1827. In conjunction with his brother, Mr. Wilfrid Drake, he wrote two standard volumes on old stained glass. Messrs. Methuen published some of Mr. Drake's works, and we remember during the war, in May, 19 16, Mr. Laurie published his Saints and their Emblems, written in conjunction with Wilfrid Drake, who also did the photos and drawings.
The Publishers' Circular and Booksellers' Record, Volume 118, 1923, page 471
The New International Year Book for 1924 adds the detail that Drake was born on May 31, 1875, and was educated at a grammar school in Teignmouth.

Saints and their Emblems is on the Internet Archive (cu31924030663052), as is their other co-written A History of English Glasspainting (Internet Archive cu31924020532903); their family premises was at 4, Cathedral Yard, Exeter (see Exeter Memories). The Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter has in its collection a thesis, Maurice Drake, glass painter and the Drake workshop, Exeter 1906-1923 / by J.E.Stephenson.

As to the "strange novel WO2", this was preivously in Google limbo: so far too obscure to have been scanned even in snippet view. But I just managed to find it via the Hathitrust (see below). Here are the opening lines:
I woke on Exmouth beach that early summer morning much as I should think a doomed soul might wake. Resurrection Day. To the southward rosy, sunlit cliffs showed through faint haze like great opals—like the Gates of Pearl—and the bright business of getting-up was going on all around. Hard by the slimy piles of the wooden pier, in a corner tainted by rotting seaweed and dead shell-fish, I came slowly to consciousness, my eyes clogged and aching, a foul taste in my mouth, and in my mind lurking uneasiness as of a judgment to come. And lying out all night on dewy shingle had made me stiff in every joint, and sore as though I had been beaten all over with a stick.
From contemporary reviews, however - see particularly Mr. Drake's Sea Story -- Some Noteworthy Novels (NYT) - I find that the protagonist, James Carthew-West, is a superior tramp: a down-and-out remittance man whose remittance has ceased. Poverty has forced him to sell his dinghy, his last possession, but he soon obtains work in sailing cargo shipments between English ports and Terneuzen for the Axel Trading Company. The bargeloads are invariably loss-making, and yet the company is mysteriously making a large profit. Carthew-West eventually solves the mystery: they're actually smuggling wolframite - a valuable tungsten ore - disguised as mud ballast. He gets rich, foils a rival company, achieves redemption, and acquires a girlfriend (Pamela Brand, a "suffragist" "viper-tongued" "guttersnipe"); all ends happily.

Punch liked it:
It is not often that one comes across a piece of coastline of which the mere subsoil is worth two hundred pounds a ton for export, by reason of its containing wolframite, known amongst the knowing as W02. When one does, it is tiresome enough to find another fellow there already exporting that subsoil as fast as he can. It would be difficult to think of a more convenient way of dealing with this other fellow than that of blowing him up, himself, his assistants, his head offices and all, with an adequate charge of picric acid and an electric fuse a method which has the double advantage of eliminating one trade competitor and putting off others. But for myself, if I had the picric acid carefully arranged and the electric fuse timed to work punctually at 10pm, I should hesitate to keep an appointment at the doomed office anywhere near that hour. Van Noppen was quite in order in making the appointment, for that ensured the presence of the right people in the right place at the right time; but his mistake, his elementary mistake, lay in keeping it. Otherwise WO2 (Methuen) is quite the most convincing tale of scoundrel adventure that I have read for a long time. I seemed to have lost the capacity for being excited, mystified, devoted to heroes, distressed by villains and kept up past midnight to see things put right. Mr. MAURICE DRAKE, however, in his dashing, breezy style, has enamoured me again of my old love, the drama in which one watches, breathless, the progress of events and is not worried with the too minute analysis of motive and character. There is so natural a charm in his picture of the good ship, Luck and Charity, that I am forced to assume that he is a sailor himself, and the crudeness of his brief digression into female suffrage, so far from irritating, pleasantly confirms me in that belief. We like our seamen to be boisterous, sturdy and downright, thorough masters of their own subject and, if not frankly ignorant of, at least not too conversant with, the subtleties of domestic politics. And a man of the sea, most emphatically, is this author.
- Punch, February 19, 1913
Wolframite isn't WO2, by the way, and I rather like the geeky review in Mining Journal, which mostly focuses on the chemical mistakes:
This book, despite the chemical formula by which it is entitled, is a work of fiction of the full-blooded variety. The plot is original, and the interest is thoroughly maintained until the end of the story. The clue is first suggested about half-way through the book by the cryptic message "ask a chemist what WO2 means." We gather that the author himself did not follow the advice or he would have been told that it does not mean wolframite, which, at the later point of the story, we learn was the mysterious substance which forms the material basis for the story. Under these circumstances we need not perhaps take too seriously the new use ascribed to tungsten (sic) acid as an ingredient in the latest Herman military explosive. While the book owes something perhaps to the Riddle of the Sands, it is for the most part a novel plot handled with boldness and originality.
- Mining Journal, Volume 103, 1913
WO2 was republished in 1930 as The Mystery of the Mud Flats. Other novels by Maurice Drake include The Salving of a Derelict - - (Internet Archive salvingofderelic00drak), Lethbridge of the Moor (a story of crime and prison life), and The Ocean Sleuth (Internet Archive oceansleuth00drakrich). The Ocean Sleuth is a kind of sequel to WO2, a mystery featuring the now respectable and married James Carthew-West and his "tomboy, rackety" wife Pamela; but in this book they take backstage to the hero, their maritime detective friend Austin Voogdt, "Sherlock of the Sea". The mystery concerns, in part, the switch of a batch of real and counterfeit notes aboard a train in the Parsons Tunnel at Dawlish.

  • The Heraldic Glass At Ashton (1905) ... ?
  • The Salving of a Derelict (Maurice Drake, London: T. Werner Laurie, 1910, a.k.a. The Coming Back of Laurence Averil, 1906; 1912 edition illustrated by G. H. Evison. Also in: “Daily Mail” Sixpenny Novels. “Daily Mail” Sixpenny Novels. 1907. Also New York: Edward J Clode, illustrations by AW Parsons, 1915, Internet Archive comingbackoflaur00drakiala). Also London: Methuen, Third Edition, 1919, Internet Archive salvingofderelic00drak. See gallery of AW Parsons images from the Clode edition of The Coming Back of Laurence Averil).
    Maurice Drake won the "Daily Mail" prize of £100 with "The Salving of a Derelict." which we have from Dymock's Circulating Library. The book is just what might have been ex pected to do this—a slashing, quickly-moving story of fishing and fighting in the North Sea, threaded with a bright little "love-interest" pivoting on the fascinating of the derelict— a well-bred young man who has become animalised by long contact with rough fishermen and wild life—by a dainty but self-possessed young newspaper woman of London.
    - Have You Read—? The World's News (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 12 January 1907, page 31. Via Trove.
  • The Great East Window Of Exeter Cathedral (1907) ... ?
  • Lethbridge of the Moor (Maurice Drake, London: T. Werner Laurie, 1908. New York, J.E. Kearney, 1908 edition - full view via Hathitrust 008668590. This edition comes with a credit "To G.E.A.-C. and A.W.T., in memory of old days upon the heather" - any thoughts on identification?).
    Mr. Maurice Drake has written an excellent story, full of incident and contrast, on the over-cruel consequence of an unpremeditated, hysterical act. The hero injures a gamekeeper while on a foolish poaching expedition, and receives five years' penal servitude. The unlucky boy's feelings are cleverly described. Each character stands out distinctly, and all are people whom we might meet in everday life. Mr. Drake has evidently studied the subject of penal servitude, and writes with authority. The fall and rise of George Lethbridge are artistically described.: The gentle nature of the man rises to the surface at the smallest touch of sympathy. He bears a remarkable personal resemblance to the other convict, and in a powerful scene, decides to allow himself to be sent back to gaol in place of the husband, who has evaded the vigilance of his warden. Naturally he has fallen in love with the charming wife, and the end of the plot must be read in the book.The literary style is good and clear, the description of Dartmoor scenery is vivid, and the love passages are restrainedyet forceful.
    - The Register (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 18 April 1908, page 9. Via Trove.
  • Wrack (Maurice Drake, London: Duckworth & Co., 1910).
    Wrack (Maurice Drake). One can hardly call this a novel, and the plot is crude and carelessly constructed—so much so as hardly to deserve the title. And yet the reader will find it of absorbing interest. The hero is a young naval officer, incapacitated from service at the very beginning of his career, who turns to salvage work and succeeds in wonderful fashion. And salvage work and all its risks and chances have never been better described. And the hero goes on from success to success till the final catastrophe, which, by the way, is neither pleasing nor artistic. The heroine, according to the teachings of high authority, is brought on the stage early, but goes , off again till the book is half finished. And then she is a series of surprises in her own person, and, it must be admitted, rather unconvincing.
    Have You Read—? The World's News (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 28 May 1910, page 30, via Trove.
  • A history of English glass-painting, with some remarks upon the Swiss glass miniatures of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Maurice Drake. illustrated by 36 plates from drawings by Wilfred Drake. London: Clifford's Inn, T. Werner Laurie, 1912, Internet Archive cu31924020532903).
  • WO (Maurice Drake, New York: E.P. Dutton and company, 1913 edition, Hathitrust 100561563), republished as The Mystery Of The Mud Flats, Maurice Drake, London & Glasgow: W. Collins Sons & Co., 1930).
  • The Ocean Sleuth (Maurice Drake, London: Methuen & Co., 1915, Internet Archive oceansleuth00drakrich).
    Here is a fine mystery story of the sea, different in many ways to Mr. Drake's previous books, but withal as strong and vigorous and as exciting as
    anything he has written. The wreck of a foreign liner near the Lizard, the supposed drowning of a runaway banker with £80,000 in notes, and the subsequent appearance of many of these notes as forgeries, is a fine theme on which to build a strong and realistic story, and Mr. Drake has done all this. The sea touches are superb, and the love theme most, admirably worked out. The reader is caught the moment the great liner hits the rocks, and from then till the end of the story is carried along with ever-increasing interest. The chasing and tracing of the notes lands the hero in strange places, but, for the love of a lady, whose complicity is suspected, he goes right on until the whole thing is solved. There are weaknesses here and there, but they may be overlooked in .the all-round excellence of the story.
    - Have You Read—? The World's News (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 4 December 1915, page 29. Via Trove.
  • Saints and their Emblems ... (Illustrated by XII. plates from photographs and drawings by Wilfred Drake. With a foreword by Aymer Vallance. Maurice Drake, of Exeter, and (Wilfred), Contributor: Wilfred Drake; William Howard Aymer Vallance, London: T. Werner Laurie, 1916).
  • The Costessey Collection Of Stained Glass (1919) ... ?
  • Windows You Can Put in Your Pocket, article on miniature stained-glass windows, syndicated from Daily Mail to The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 2 December 1922 ("Swiss miniature stained glass windows are wonderful little things, writes Maurice Drake, the well-known authority on stained glass, in the London "Daily Mail").
  • The Doom Window. A novel (Maurice Drake, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923).
    "The Doom Window" by Maurice Drake (Hodder and Stoughton, 7/6 net). The late Maurice Drake, whose daughter, it will be remembered, was recently appointed to succeed her father as adviser on stained glass matters to the Exeter Cathedral authorities, is the author of this most interesting and unusual book about a firm of gass-painters and stainers in Butcher Row, Shrewsbury. The plots and intrigues which centre round the famous "Doom Window" of St. Edmund's Church make most exciting reading, and the love interest is skilfully worked into the tale and its technical and commercial aspects. Certainly a book which should not be missed by those in the look-out for "something fresh."
    - New Books, Queensland Figaro (Brisbane, Qld), Saturday 2nd Feb, 1924, page 9. Via Trove.
  •  Galleon Gold (Maurice Drake, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1924).
    "Galleon Gold" (Maurice Drake). Those who remember Mr. Drake's particularly graphic and entrancing salvage stories, and later his "W.O.2," will not be disappointed in his latest,"Galleon Gold." It has, how ever, nothing to do with the Spanish Main or wrecked galleons carrying the treasure of the Indies to Spain in the heyday of that nation's prosperity. Instead, the locality is the Hebrides, and the author knows the spot well. It may be said, without any qualification whatever, that it is something of an achievement to write a story of galleons and gold which holds the reader's attention to the very end. without a single murder or even a kiss to help it along, yet Mr.Drake has done it. and there is a pleasing touch of reality and a thoroughly natural balancing of good and bad luck which put the story well within the bounds of possible adventure, and thus enable it to thrill every amateur yachtsman with the delightful ambition that he too might do likewise, and perhaps better in the matter of the missing kisses, for they, after all. were in the offing. Mr. Drake is a master of phrase, especially those dealing with the sea and its varying moods.
    Have You Read? The World's News (Sydney, NSW), Saturday 13 September 1924, page 14. Via Trove.

These are largely books that have disappeared into 'copyright limbo': while definitely out-of-copyright (Drake died in 1923), these are too old/obscure to be in print, even by print-on-demand or even in fully legible format. However, the excellent Hathitrust has come up with the goods on WO, and has it in full:
WO (Maurice Drake, New York: E.P. Dutton and company, 1913 edition, Hathitrust 100561563).
It's an interesting novel with a deal of local colour; the hero James Carthew-West spends a deal of the start of the story slumming it as a part-time tattooist, part-time boatman, in Exmouth working with 'Kiah (Hezekiah Pym) from Topsham, working on his shallow-draft ketch The Luck and Charity. His fortunes turn round when he's engaged by a Mr Leonard Ward to ship clay from Teignmouth to Terneuzen and bring ballast back, for the Isle of Axel Trading Company; he takes on a third crewman called Austin Voogdt, and all goes well ... for the time. Though for those of us who've been naughty and read out of sequence, Voogdt's name ought to sound a note of caution as the "ocean sleuth" of Drake's following novel - and Carthew-West eventually finds himself involved in the far more dangerous scenario of realising that he's smuggling tungsten ore, against lethal rivals.

I found another Topsham connection in the Times Archive: a letter shortly after Drake's death.
The last piece of work Maurice Drake (whose death was announced in The Times of May 1) did was a stained-glass window, full of symbolism, and dealing with the old handicrafts of the town of Topsham, near Exeter. The following verse, his own composition, which appears with three other verses in the window, seemed to anticipate his impending death.

Nothing is here abiding, naught can stand;
Our dwellings but a house upon ye sand.
There's death amongst ye roses: even soe,
Yet 'tis from bones the fairest flowers grow,
And when death lays our weary bodies bye,
Ye soul sets sail and seeks Eternity.

- Mr H Wilson Holman, Furlong, Topsham.
- The Times, Tuesday, May 22, 1923; pg. 8
These works were mentioned in an account of Furlong (a large house, once a sail loft, on Ferry Road) in the BBC magazine London Calling in 1951:
As you move in wonder round the room, your eye is suddenly caught and held by the pieces of stained glass you casually noticed before. The windows are memorials, glowing memorials to ships which were built and launched here. In delicate colours the vessels ride calmly on opalescent seas. There are verses, too — and you learn that verses and designs are the work of artist-poet Maurice Drake, a man of Exeter.
I wonder if they're still extant?

They are! See Drake window: Furlong.

- Ray

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