Monday, August 11, 2008
Percy Bolingbroke St. John (1821-1889)
“Mr. St. John has visited Texas, roamed through the woods, and in reality witnessed the scenes he delineates in so powerful a manner. Knowing that he has sailed upon salt water - worn a cocked hat upon the deck of a man of war; that he has handled the rifle, the paddle and the musket, and for aught we know danced the bear, the scalp, or the buffalo dance -”
> Every Week, a Journal of Entertaining Literature, London : John Dicks.
Every Week ran to fifty-four volumes from July 7, 1869- February 28, 1896, when it merged with Bow Bells Novelettes. Emmerson Brand, editor. The Trappers of Blue Ridge Every Week Vol. XXIV No. 600 1881. By the Camp Fire Every Week Vol. XXI. No. 535, 1878 (reprints from The Trapper’s Bride .
Percy Bolingbroke St. John. 1821-1889. (1819 is birth date according to Allibone.) Percy was a son of James Augustus St. John, and a brother of Bayle and Horace. His earliest work seems to have been “Young Naturalists Book of Birds” in 1844. After “The Trapper’s Bride” came out in 1845 he was reviewed in Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany. This was edited by Thomas Hood, author of “Song Of A Shirt,” his son and namesake would become editor of Fun. Hood was dead by the time Percy began writing tales for the magazine in 1846. His first works for Hood’s were short stories, “Caleb Von Dustenberg,” “The Inheritance,” “The Two Travellers” and “The Usurer.” Then he began a short western serial, “White Cloud,” taking place amongst the Seminoles in Florida.
He contributed to the Mirror ( The Misers Will,) Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (The Raven of the Reynards ,) Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper, The London Journal, The London Reader (Violetta,) and edited The London Herald. His most famous penny dreadful was The Blue Dwarf , A Tale of Love, Mystery and Crime; Introducing Many Startling Incidents In The Life of That Celebrated Highwayman, Dick Turpin, Hogarth House, Illustrated by Robert Prowse.
The first mention of Percy in Hood’s is a review of “The Trapper’s Bride” in 1845 :
The Trapper’s Bride: A Tale of the Rocky Mountains. With The Rose of Ouisconsin (Wisconsin.) Indian Tales By Percy B. St. John. London: John Mortimer, Adelaide Street. 1845.
‘It is a bold undertaking in Mr. St. John to take up a subject which Cooper seems to have exhausted; and it is no slight merit to have produced a tale which, even after the vivid and graphic scenes of the American novelist, is interesting and exciting. The present little book consists of two slight tales, which lead the reader to desire that the author would write more on the same subject, and this is as high praise as he can desire. In order to do justice to him, we present our readers with the following extracts, as specimens of his style and matter. We should premise that the author states in his preface, that “a residence in the wilds of America, in the backwoods of Texas, and much study, have rendered him familiar with the scenes and habits which he has endeavored to illustrate.”’
There follow numerous quotes on ‘Native aristocracy of Oregon,’ ‘Substitute for a lucifer match’ and ‘the Ojibeway (sic) Indians,’ taken from the two fictional tales. In his Preface St. John says “a residence in the wilds of America, in the backwoods of Texas, and much study, have rendered him familiar with the scenes and habits which he has endeavoured to illustrate.”
Hood’s next reviewed The Enchanted Rock under the heading Indian Tales by Percy B. St. John.
The Eagle’s Nest; or, the Lone Star of the West By the Editor (St. John). Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction Vol.2 No. 1 July-August 1846.
The Enchanted Rock London : Hayward and Adam. 1846.
The Trapper’s Bride, Second Edition. London : Hayward and Adam. 1846.
The Miser’s Will; or, Love and Avarice. English Tale by the Editor. January, 6, 1847 The Mirror of Literature No. 6
‘Apart from their merit as stories, Mr. Percy St. John’s productions have the great advantage of being records derived from personal observation. this makes them valuable. We learn from a contemporary, “Mr. St. John has visited Texas, roamed through the woods, and in reality witnessed the scenes he delineates in so powerful a manner. Knowing that he has sailed upon salt water - worn a cocked hat upon the deck of a man of war; that he has handled the rifle, the paddle and the musket, and for aught we know danced the bear, the scalp, or the buffalo dance - his narratives acquire a zest and interest which would not otherwise belong to them.” Utility is thus added to the mere amusement of the tales, and this quality must always make them suitable books for the young.’
Three pages are devoted to quotes from the “Rose of Ouisconsin” and the review ends with the following ;
‘“The Enchanted Rock,” just published, has been received with enthusiasm by the press.
We are told that “this Comanche legend is written in a style so simple and yet so fresh, truthful and picturesque, that it carries the reader along with an irresistible charm.” The story of the enchanted Rock is founded upon a somewhat simple plot - possessed, however, of a certain dash of mystery in its composition, quite sufficient to enlist the interest of the reader at the outset, and maintain it uninterrupted to the end.’
Now the editor, impressed by Percy’s western tales, began publishing his short stories in 1846 and The White Cloud a Tale of Florida was serialized in Hood's.
Percy would seem to have been in the West about the same period Mayne Reid traveled west from St. Louis either with Audubon to Fort Union or with Sir William Drummond Stewart to Wyoming in 1843 or 1844. Percy beat him to the punch as an “authentic” writer of Western fiction, Reid’s first western was “War Life” privately printed in 1849 in New York. The book was later polished up and republished as the “Rifle Rangers.” (1850.)
Percy wrote stories with backgrounds in Texas, Florida, and St. Louis and may have been at Bent’s Fort in Colorado. The “dude” Englishman or German on a hunting jaunt was a common site in the camps of the mountain men and fur trappers in the 1840’s. By 1846 the war against the Seminoles was over and the war against Mexico was about to begin.
Penny dreadful author Bracebridge Hemyng was another late travelling “dude,” and in Boy’s Library Series; or, Frank Leslie’s Popular American Tales For Boys (1876-1877,) contributed in #23, Jack Harkaway Out West Among the Indians, and #25 Red Dog, Blue Horse, and Ghost-that-Lies-in-the-Woods.
A list of St. John’ books from Allibone follows;
St. John, Percy B., a son of James Augustus St. John, and a brother of Bayle and Horace, (q. v.,) b. 1819, has been a large contributor of Tales to Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper, (The London Journal, &c.,) and pub. the following works :
1. Young Naturalist’s Book Of Birds, new ed. London, 1844, 18 mo.
2. King’s Musketeer.
3. Paul Peabody, last ed.,1865, fp. 8 vo.
4. Trappers Bride &c, 12 mo. 1845, ’55.
5. Keetsea; or, The Enchanted Rock, 12 mo., 1846, ‘55.
6. White Stone Canoe, 1846, 12 mo.
7. Fireside, 1847, sq. 16 mo.
8. Three Days of the French Revolution, 12 mo., 2 edits. in 1848.
9. Arctic Crusoe, Lon. p. 8 vo, 1854, ‘56. Bost. 1859, 12 mo.
10. Our Holiday, A Week in Paris, 12 mo. 1854, ‘55.
11. Book Of The War. 12 mo., 3rd ed. 1855.
12. Lobster Salad Mixed, 1855, 12 mo.
13. Amy Moss, fp. 8vo., 2 edits. in 1860, ‘61, ‘63.
14. Mary Rock, 1860, fp. 8vo.
15. Countess Miranda, 1861., fp., 8vo.
16. Alice Lisle, 1861, fp, 8vo.
17. Quadroona; or, The Slave Mother, 1861, fp., 8 vo.
18. Indian Maiden, 1863, fp. 8vo.
19. Red Queen, 1863, fp., 8vo.
20. Creole Bride, 1864, fp. 8vo.
21. Sailor Crusoe, 1864, fp., 8vo.
22. Backwood Rangers, 1865, fp., 8 vo.
23. Snow Ship, 1865, fp. 8vo.
24. Coral Reef, 1866, fp. 8vo.
Beadle’s Dime Novels;
1. The Big Hunter : or, The Queen of the Woods. A Romance of the Days of Boone by the author of "The silent hunter"
2. Blackhawk, the bandit : or, The Indian scout.
3. Keetsea, queen of the plains : or, The enchanted rock New York : Beadle, .
4. Queen of the woods : or, The Shawnee captives. A romance of the Ohio New York : Beadle,  c1868.
5. The white canoe : or, The spirit of the lake / by the author of the "Silent hunter."
6. The silent hunter : or, The Scowl Hall mystery / by Percy B. St. John.
New York : Beadle & Adams, 1878.