Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Mad Author

Thomas Frost (1821-1908) was the author of several penny bloods in the 1850’s including Paul the Poacher, The Black Mask; or, the Mysterious Robber, and George Barrington, the Gentleman Pickpocket. In the 1870’s he began writing boys’ serials for Edwin Brett on the Boys’ of England story paper. In the following excerpt from Frost’s Reminiscences of a Country Journalist (1886) he recalls an eccentric author who contributed to Boys’ of England during the same period.

“There was another contributor to the Boys of England whose name I never heard, and am not sure that it was even known at the office. Before I had ever seen him, or heard anything concerning him, I was one day asked my opinion of a story which had been commenced two or three weeks previously, without the author’s name.

“There are some good characters in it, and some of the incidents are told with great force,” I replied. “But the plot is too intricate for me to follow it. I cannot understand.”

“I am not surprised at that,” rejoined my interlocutor. “The author does not understand it himself. He is mad.”

The next time I visited his office, I found in the ante-room to the proprietor’s sanctum, besides Townsend and Hildyard, a tall, gaunt individual who sat apart from the others in silence, enveloped in the stained and worn cloak of a trooper of the Life Guards. His throat was destitute of collar or necktie, and when a movement disarranged the ample folds of his capote, I caught a glimpse of a bare and hirsute chest, rendered visible by the absence of a vest and the fact that his not over-clean shirt was minus all the buttons. I never saw him again and never could learn anything concerning him. No one knew who or what he was, or where he lived. That was the mad author.”

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