Stanley J. Weyman

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Stanley J. Weyman
Stanley J Weyman.jpg
Born(1855-08-07)7 August 1855
Ludlow, Shropshire
Died10 April 1928(1928-04-10) (aged 72)
OccupationNovelist
NationalityEnglish
EducationChrist Church, Oxford

Signature

Stanley John Weyman (pronounced [waɪ mæn], 7 August 1855 – 10 April 1928) was an English writer of historical romance.[1] His most popular works were written in 1890–1895 and set in late 16th and early 17th-century France. While very successful at the time, they are now largely forgotten.

Biography[edit]

Stanley John Weyman was born on 7 August 1855 in Ludlow, Shropshire, the second son of a solicitor. He attended Shrewsbury School and Christ Church, Oxford, leaving in 1877 with a degree in Modern History. After a year's teaching at the King's School, Chester, he returned to Ludlow in December 1879 to live with his widowed mother.

Weyman was called to the bar in 1881, but had little success as a barrister, as he was shy, nervous and soft-spoken. The shortage of briefs gave him time to write: his short story "King Pippin and Sweet Clive" appeared in the Cornhill Magazine, although its editor, James Payn, himself a novelist, told Weyman it would be easier to make a living writing novels. Weyman viewed himself as a historian and so he was particularly encouraged by positive notices for an article he wrote on Oliver Cromwell that was published in the English Historical Review.[2]

Weyman's ill-health prompted him in 1885 to spend several months in the South of France with his younger brother Arthur. In December of that year the brothers were arrested on suspicion of espionage at Aramits. A 24-page critical biography of Weyman published as an annex to an edition of his novel Ovington's Bank (1922) suggests that this ordeal galvanised the thirty-year-old Weyman, who until then had scraped a meagre income writing short stories [3]. His first novel, The House of the Wolf, was published in 1889. Like many of his successful works, it is set in the French religious wars of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He became a full-time writer in 1891. Four years later he married Charlotte Panting at Great Fransham, Norfolk and moved with her to Ruthin in Wales for the rest of his life. Weyman died on 10 April 1928, his wife surviving him by four years; they had no children.[4]

Reputation[edit]

Weyman in his day was immensely popular and admired by Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde. In a 1970 BBC interview, Graham Greene said, "The key books in my life included Anthony Hope, Rider Haggard, Captain Gilson and I do occasionally re-read them. Stanley Weyman in particular."[5] Works like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas had established a market for popular historical fiction and it was a crowded field. Contemporary rivals included Baroness Orczy, A. E. W. Mason, John Buchan and Rafael Sabatini.

The biographer Reginald Pound grouped Weyman with Arnold Bennett, Anthony Hope, Aldous Huxley, Dorothy L. Sayers and Somerset Maugham as Strand writers.[6] He is now perhaps the least familiar of all these. His greatest success came before 1895 (Under the Red Robe, A Gentleman of France and The Red Cockade) and he stopped writing entirely between 1908 and 1919. His style and focus are more typical of Victorian writers, as are his faults. With odd exceptions such as Gil de Berault in Under the Red Robe, his characters are fairly uniform, his women caricatures, and his dialogue wooden.[4]

Weyman's strength lies in historical detail, often in less familiar areas. The Long Night is based on the Duke of Savoy's attempt to storm Geneva in December 1602, an event still celebrated annually in a festival called L'Escalade. Weyman received an award from the city for his research.[4] The financial security of early success allowed him to choose subjects of personal interest. Some had less general appeal, such as the 1832 Reform Bill (treated in Chippinge), post-1815 industrialisation (Starvecrow Farm) or the 1825 financial crisis (Ovington's Bank, reprinted in 2012 and 2015 on the back of a similar crisis in 2008).

Luck also plays a part. The reputation of many of his contemporaries now rests on one book, e. g. The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Four Feathers, or The Prisoner of Zenda. His close friend and equally successful author Hugh Stowell, who wrote as H. Seton Merriman,[7] has also been largely forgotten. Weyman called his own books "pleasant fables" and was aware of their modest literary value.[4]

Bibliography[edit]

  • The House of the Wolf (1890)
  • The King's Stratagem (1891)
  • The New Rector (1891)
  • The Story of Francis Cludde (1891)
  • From the Memoirs of a Minister of France (1893)
  • A Gentleman of France (1893)
  • The Man in Black (1894)
  • My Lady Rotha (1894)
  • Under the Red Robe (1894, about Cardinal Richelieu and the Day of Dupes)
  • A Little Wizard (1895)
  • The Red Cockade (1895)
  • The Snowball (1895)
  • For the Cause (1897)
  • Shrewsbury (1897)
  • The Castle Inn (1898)
  • When Love Calls (1899)
  • Sophia (1900)
  • Count Hannibal (1901)
  • In Kings' Byways (1902, short stories)
  • The Long Night (1903)
  • The Abbess of Vlaye (1904)
  • Starvecrow Farm (1905)[8]
  • Chippinge Borough (1906)
  • Laid Up in Lavender (1907) (short stories)
  • The Wild Geese (1908)
  • The Great House (1919)
  • Madam Constantia (1919)
  • Ovington's Bank (1922, set in the UK financial Panic of 1825; TV mini-series 1965)
  • The Traveller in the Fur Cloak (1924)
  • Queen's Folly (1925)
  • The Lively Peggy (1928)

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Weyman, Stanley John". The International Who's Who in the World. 1912. pp. 1085–1086.
  2. ^ Merriman, CD. "Stanley J Weyman biography". The Literature Network. Jalic Inc.
  3. ^ Weyman, Stanley. "Ovington's Bank". Merlin Unwin Books.
  4. ^ a b c d Williams, John. "Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society". Stanley Weyman.
  5. ^ Graham Greene in Ronald Bryden, "Graham Greene Discusses Collected Edition of His Novels", The Listener, 23 April 1970; reprinted in Henry J. Donaghy, Conversations with Graham Greene, University Press of Mississippi, 1992, p. 85.
  6. ^ Marsh, Dolores (1984). British Literary Magazines: The Victorian and Edwardian Age, 1837–1913 (Historical Guides to the World's Periodicals and Newspapers). Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313243352.
  7. ^ Seccombe, Thomas. "Scott Hugh Stowell" – via Wikisource.
  8. ^ "Telegraphic reviews: Starvecrow Farm". The Cumulative Book Review Digest. 1. 1905. p. 378.

External links[edit]