Constance Savery: Book-Length Biographies CWS

Book-Length Biographies

Savery's wrote three book-length biographies that were published, presented here in chronological order. Reprints follow the description of the first edition. Original editions are shown to scale on the left. Reprints, further reduced by twenty percent, are on the right. Her many short biographical pieces are listed with her articles. The unpublished biographies will be found under manuscripts.

She Went Alone: Mary Bird of Persia . Softcover. London: Eagle Books No. 42, Edinburgh House Press, 2 Eaton Gate, London S.W.1. 1942. 32 pp. Printed by Morrison and Gibb, Ltd., London and Edinburgh. Reprinted often, including one in Australia by The Book Depot, 288 Little Collins Street, Melbourne C.1. in 1947. The fifth and sixth impressions were printed in 1955 and 1964 respectively, also by Morrison and Gibb Ltd., London and Edinburgh. Reprinted in hardcover, 1948, in Eagle Omnibus, Number Seven, Edinburgh House Press, 2 Eaton Gate, London S.W.1. pp 125-154. Omnibus reprinted, 1955, as "Deep-Sea Doctor and other true stories", otherwise the same.

Booklet cover
In 1964 She Went Alone was one of 78 Eagle booklets, and it is probable that more were published after that. Because Savery's name was printed as C. Savery on the title page, her sister Christine is sometimes cited erroneously as the author. Christine, in fact, often signed her name as C. Savery or Chris Savery, because she wrote books for men and boys. Constance Savery was invited to write another 'Eagle,' but the editors rejected her manuscript as too difficult for their young audience. Cf. Bishop Guy Bullen. Each Eagle Omnibus contained six of the original booklets, reprinted without change. The Australian edition of She Went Alone is the only Savery title in the National Library of Australia, probably deposited there for copyright reasons.
Cover of Booklet Cover of Book Cover of Book
Mary Bird (1859-1914) decided when she was five that she would be a missionary, but she was thirty-two in 1891 when she went to Persia, modern day Iran, to work among the women. Using Western medicines, fresh air, and soap and water, she acquired a reputation as a doctor. Although the Englishwoman had an empire at her back as she went among the poor and needy, she was opposed by the mullas who disliked her equally as a Christian and as a woman. She persisted and slowly gained acceptance, even among the wives of the officials. In 1897, a real doctor, Emmeline Stuart, came to take over the medical work. When her younger sister married, Mary spent eight years in England looking after her mother, but returned to Persia after her mother died. She served another three and a half years before she succumbed to typhoid there.
One day two of Savery's sisters were listening to a BBC broadcast about Persia. As they listened, it dawned on them that the information had been taken word-for-word, uncredited, from Savery's little booklet, with which they were quite familiar. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so, presumably, is plagiarism. Savery, incidentally, disparaged the biography, writing to a correspondent on 15 Apr. 1992:
At the end of your list you mention She Went Alone: Mary Bird of Persia. It was not a book, and I don't know how it found its way to the British Library. It was a booklet of about ten thousand words, a sort of mini-paperback...

Bishop Guy Bullen (1896-1937). London: Church Book Room Press, 7 Wine Office Court, London E.C.4. 1948. 32 pp. Printed by The Church Army Press, Cowley, Oxford.

Savery did not list this booklet among her works, but the title page bears her name, and the book is listed as hers by the British Library. After it was rejected as an 'Eagle,' cf. She Went Alone above, it was accepted and published by the Church Book Room Press.
After winning a Military Cross for courage and leadership during World War I, Guy Bullen returned to a student life at Cambridge, where he became involved with various Christian organizations and decided to become a missionary. Sent to Northern Nigeria, he learned that the Moslem natives would listen to a Christian message if it were mixed with some of the marvels of Western Civilization. After building a mission there, he was ordained an Assistant Bishop -- over his personal objections -- and sent to Egypt and the Sudan, where he died in the crash of a small plane near "a lonely little place called Pap." Savery tells us enough about the young, outgoing, effective bishop that we share his colleagues' sense of loss at his sudden untimely death.
I am grateful to the staff of the Missionary Research Library of The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary for making me a photocopy of the booklet in their collection. I do not have a picture of the cover.

God's Arctic Adventurer: The Story of William Bompas. London: Stories of Faith and Fame (Cecil Northcutt, ed.), Lutterworth Press. 1973. 94 pp. Printed by Ebenezer Baylis and Son Ltd., The Trinity Press, Worchester, and London. Reprinted, 1981. Reprinted, 1987, as paperback with cover by Elissa Vial. Cambridge: Stories of Faith and Fame, Lutterworth Press, 7 All Saints' Passage, Cambridge CB2 3LS. 94 pp. Printed by Cox & Wyman Ltd., Reading and London.

Book cover
Many libraries in Western Canada have this biography. The text of the reprints is precisely the same as that of the first edition, and the book is available both new and used. The library of Slavic Bible College in Tacoma, WA, lists Episkop Arktiki as one of its titles, so there may be a Russian translation as well.
When William Bompas treked through the wilderness to Fort Yukon in the Arctic north, he thought he would be replacing the Reverend Robert MacDonald, who was dying, but MacDonald revived, and Bompas was given a roving commission instead in a desolate diocese thousands of miles across. He loved the job. He learned from the natives how to live on nothing, how to sleep warmly in a blanket of snow, and how to speak the native languages into which he translated the gospels and the hymns of the church. When he received word after eight years that the enormous area was to be divided into quarters, and that he would be Bishop of one of them, he travelled three thousand miles to protest his unworthiness. Book cover Still protesting, he was sent on to England, where he finally consented and was consecrated Bishop. He also fell in love and married Nina Cox, who accompanied him back to the far North, where she learned the meaning of hardship and began a lifelong practice of taking in foster children. Time and again Bompas averted death from exposure and starvation, but always he recovered. Time and again Nina fell ill and had to return south for treatment, but always she returned. As more and more people poured into the area, especially after the discovery of gold, the Arctic Bishop's diocese was divided and divided again, until Bompas' territory had been reduced to a mere two hundred thousand square miles. When he died in his early seventies, he had retired as Bishop, but he was still in harness.
Savery's book was intended for children, and it has no references or footnotes; however, it is possible that part of her information came from 'Eagle' No. 45, Tom Tiddler's Ground: William Bompas of the Arctic, by M. Entwhistle, and that booklet does list its sources. Certainly, some of the anecdotes are the same, but they are precisely those that deserve retelling. If Savery has written a potboiler, she has boiled an honest pot. She did, incidentally, write a short story entitled Tom Tiddler's Ground, but it is not about the Arctic.

This web site © 2010 by Eric Schonblom. The unpublished works of Constance Savery are reproduced with the permission of her literary heir and copyright owner, E.C.W. Hummerstone.