Unpublished Books, Fiction CWS

Constance Savery: Unpublished Books, Fiction

Savery's unpublished novels are listed alphabetically by title. When the title underwent changes, older titles are listed, but the final title is the one that is annotated. Most of the surviving manuscripts are in the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.

Brother and Guardian. July 1919-April 1923, no page numbers, handwritten in eight composition books of varying sizes.

The manuscript for Brother and Guardian survives as a collection of tattered books with broken bindings and scattered pages. The covers of the first two bear not Constance's name, but Doreen's, the sister who no longer needed these school notebooks. When I assembled the pile, I found the first eight volumes intact except for a missing two-inch strip from the top of one page. On the other hand, the narrative stops in mid-sentence at the end of the eighth volume and refers to a missing 'black book' for the continuation. Fortunately for readers, the conclusion has been clearly foreshadowed. There is no evidence that the manuscript was ever edited, revised, or submitted for publication.
When Savery began this long story in 1919, she titled it Them and Patricia, and the first words are:
"I hate them all", wrote Patricia, in her best copybook writing, "and if you don't come and guardian me properly I shall run away and ern my own living. You ought to be here...
The guardian, Drayton (Dart) Beresford, does come and assumes absolute control over his ward, Patricia, and his six undisciplined half-brothers and half-sisters, not to mention his ineffectual complaining stepmother. It is a financial crisis rather than Pat's letter that brings him, and the book's title has been revised to Brother and Guardian by the time the novel is recorded in Savery's work diary.
Dart shows little affection for either his ward or his siblings, but he takes his responsibility as guardian very seriously, setting high standards and punishing any failure of the children to meet them. Even more is expected of Barney, the eldest, who is supposed to keep his brothers and sisters in line. When they are disciplined, Barney is punished, even more severely, as well. Barney has a twin sister, Victoria, but as a girl, Vic is not expected to exert any authority. Since Vic is taller than Barney, more athletic, and a natural leader, she pays little heed to Barney, himself a mischief-maker.

Dart's abusive punishments create an atmosphere of fear in which the children tremble to confess their failings, and their inevitable lies and equivocations bring down even more severe measures on their heads. Three kindly adults are of some assistance, a reclusive author, Mr. Dalrymple who lives in a cottage on the moor, but refuses to talk to Dart because of a quarrel, Squire Hoxton, who listens to the children and offers spiritual guidance, but is dominated by the unsympathetic women in his household, and Mr. Merton, a cheerful friend of Dart's who comes from London from time to time, but doesn't stay long enough to provide permanent relief.

Dart himself is haunted by his failure seven years earlier to help a younger brother, Jack, who had fallen among bad companions and squandered his inheritance. When Dart turned him out, Jack disappeared and a disfigured body wearing his overcoat washed up on the seashore. Dart's failed attempts to find any other trace of Jack confirm his own failure to help Jack, but also feed his determination that the younger brothers and sisters will never follow Jack's example.

The relationship between Dart and the miserable Beresford children presages the dominant tutor and the Tenthragon family in Forbidden Doors a few years later, and both are accounts about children that are not intended for children to read.

Charles of Dolorous Gard. 1927-1986, 518 handwritten pages.

When Savery received the nicely bound journal that became her work diary, she filled in some older information including this entry, which was followed by a parenthetical entry made much later:
Early 1927. "Charles of Dolorous Gard" (2 months; novel)
[Immature rubbish; never submitted for publication]
The manuscript, in three handwritten composition books, was among Savery's effects, but it was in a folder with the largest of black letters instructing her literary heir to destroy it. When in 2006 I was assisting Mrs. Hummerstone in the disposition of the Savery manuscripts, we set Charles aside for destruction. When the other manuscripts arrived in Kentucky from England, I was surprised to find the first and third volumes of Charles among them, and I set those composition books aside on a shelf when I took everything else to the Oregon archives. The two volumes were still on the same shelf in 2010 when I revisited Devon, where I discovered that Mrs. Hummerstone had not destroyed the second volume either, explaining to me:
If she wanted it destroyed, she could have destroyed it herself.
So, against all odds, Charles survived, and what is more, another revision, also in three volumes, surfaced in Devon a month after the first.
Savery completed one revision, the second that we found, on Sept. 14, 1982. About this she wrote:
Today I finished the revision of Charles of Dolorous Gard, the old story roughly drafted at some time in the 'twenties (?1927) but never prepared for publication. It was a story of Edwardian days, and it was neither quite a story for children nor a story about children. It "fell between the two stools", from which predicament this revision has unfortunately been unable to rescue it. The revision is in longhand only; I have not thought about typing this ms. as it is still not likely to meet with acceptance, though of some interest as a tale of old days without radio, television, or computers. [The University of Southern Mississippi might like to have the ms. for their Children's Collection] I have destroyed the early typescripts.
The one that was almost destroyed, handwritten with an occasional interpolated correction, was completed when Savery was 87 years old. Although it was in a folder marked "Early work - Useless - Burn at Death," there is no such condemnation in the composition books themselves. Perhaps she had hopes of revising it again, but wanted it destroyed if the revision did not take place. The sporadic work diary that she kept after 1973 has this entry:
May 5, 1986   Finished revision and attempted shortening of Charles of Dolorous Gard begun Sept. 2nd, 1985. No use whatever. Very much disappointed.
I agree that it was still too long, and it was marred by too many characters with convenient physical disablilities. There were two psychologically abused children whose relationships with their dysfunctional family foreshadowed similar conflicts that were worked out more satisfactorily in later novels. Nevertheless, the manuscript included some well-written scenes, especially one in which a frightened, blindfolded child tries to evade a clumsy, blind uncle, while a roomful of other adults looks on laughing. Persons interested in Savery should read Charles for the insight it provides into later works.

The Charming Companion. 1969-1991, 241 pp, double-spaced typescript.

There are three separate manuscripts, the first with separated chapters, the second collated, but missing some pages, and the third collated with a few handwritten corrections.
This novel was not published. The book-length manuscript was repreatedly revised, submitted, and returned. Rejections include Ives Washburn, Nov. 25, 1969; Dec. 10, 1969, Coward-McCann, May 7, 1970; Oxford University Press, May 20, 1970; U. London, June 8, 1970; Follett Publishing, Aug. 13, 1970; Macmillan on May 18, 1971; and George G. Harrap, Aug. 23, 1971.
This book reminds one of Nordhoff and Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty. An English ship in the South Seas is seized by its crew, its tyrannical captain is set adrift with twenty others in an open boat a thousand miles from civilization, and the mutineers sail off toward Tahiti. The captain and his men survive, returning to England where a ship is sent to find the mutineers. Subsequently, a midshipman from the crew is found on a lonely island, arrested, and returned to Portsmouth for trial, where he is acquitted at the last minute by a young surprise witness.
Thus far--and quite far it is--the stories are the same, but there are important differences. The captain of the ship that finds and arrests the marooned midshipmen is his father, and his 15-year-old brother and sister, twins, are on the ship as well. The story is told from the twins' point of view. The Third Officer on the ship is one of those set adrift following the mutiny, so there is a villain conveniently at hand.
During the return voyage an undersea volcanic eruption produces a tidal wave that leaves first the vengeful officer and subsequently the accused mutineer in charge of the crippled vessel. It is sufficiently exciting. Once returned to England, the twins play more plausible roles in locating the missing witness and bringing him to the court martial.
Savery's characterization and dialogue are excellent despite an over-dramatic plot. It is probably unfair to criticize a book written for young teenagers for having too much action. It would make an exciting movie.

Come Choose You East. 1956-1983, 422 pp, double-spaced typescript.

There are three separate manuscripts, the first with separated chapters, the second connected, but missing some pages, and the third collected with a few handwritten corrections. The story was begun on Oct. 20, 1956. Old-fashioned when it was written, the book's last unsuccessful submission to a publisher was on Apr. 2, 1984. If someone were to abridge it, remove occasional references to religion, and add a torrid love scene or two, it might sell today with a 'romance' cover (but without Savery's signature).
Orphaned Judy East lives with six cousins in a decaying house in London where Aunt Lydia takes in boarders to keep up her aristocratic connections. Fortunately, she marries the irascible Squire Danecourt, who takes them all to his splendid residence in Suffolk. Oliver, the Squire's son by his first wife, accepts the new arrivals courteously, and makes friends readily with Judy and the madcap youngsters, Meg and Jacky, but there is an immediate contemptuous dislike between Oliver and Lydia's oldest son Gilbert.
Living like a hermit four miles distant in a neglected heap, is Roger, the Squire's estranged brother. When Oliver was growing up, he was inseparable from Roger's scapegrace son Drogo, who fell into bad company and used his father's name to obtain three hundred pounds from the East India Company. The indignant father stormed up to London, refused to repay the Company, and allowed Drogo to be arrested for obtaining money under false pretenses. Roger then left the country on the first ship, arriving in New York to read a London newspaper account of his son's hanging. Roger returned to Suffolk to find himself isolated, condemned as a heartless father by his family and former friends.
This melodrama is backdrop as we watch Judy, neglected and unappreciated, grow from an awkward thirteen to adulthood, while Oliver, four years her senior, must cope with the Drogo scandal, a good-hearted, but bone-headed and obstinate father, a treacherous stepbrother, false accusations, and blackmail.
Savery is to be congratulated on handling the large family so well, providing each of the seven cousins with a distinct personality, so that even Meg and Jacky have independent roles to play.

Haggiston Hall. Aug. 16, 1980 - July 8, 1981, 384 pp, double-spaced typescript.

In addition to the collated manuscript listed above, there are others. These include the rather scruffy early versions and a neat typescript prepared by Agneta Thomson, which is single-spaced with 140 pages. I have my own copy of the latter in digital format, which I edited and printed.
If you have two dear sisters, one in poor health, and you wish to brighten their days, what do you do? If you are a talented author, you choose a book that you wrote forty years earlier--the best book that you ever wrote, one that you and your sister both know and love--and you write a new book, prequel and sequel to the first. No matter that you are in your mid-eighties. You invent two small charming children, twins because you always write about twins when you can, and place them in the custody of the man who plans and participates in the burning of Haggiston Hall, their father's house. Paint that man in no flattering colors, because he was feared and dreaded in Green Emeralds for the King, and he must be feared and dreaded now. He, too, has a twin, but that brother must remain in the background of the new book, because he took center stage in the old one. Leave the children for a year, and return to them at the end of Green Emeralds. Then turn their world upside-down again as their school is closed and they are left in the charge of a wrathful, stingy widow, who hates them, because they are the children of a Royalist, such as the ones who killed her husband. Return to this scene the wicked twin of part one, who underwent a crisis at the end of Green Emeralds, is estranged from the twins' sister, whom he loves, and finds himself the twins' guardian, much to his dismay and theirs.
It is a loving book, and it is a loving experience to read it. Certainly it is flawed and improbable, because it was not written for publication, but--as with The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood, below--those infelicities are irrelevant, and our only regret is that this long book was not yet longer.

Meet Me at the Anchor. 1959-1964, 219 pp, double-spaced typescript.

There is one manuscript, heavily corrected in ink, with twelve separately collated chapters. It was begun on July 29, 1959, and, according to the title page, written for 12-year-olds. It is as good or better than many of Savery's books, and I'm surprised it did not find a publisher.
Fifteen-year-old twins John and Gillian (Jack and Jill) are employed in Wales for the summer as junior helpers at a resort. They make friends quickly except for a fractious old 'Tartar' whom they antagonize the first day and who dogs their steps thereafter with a perpetual scowl. The plot revolves around estranged family relationships, a valuable curio of the Tartar's that vanishes mysteriously, the inevitable false accusations, and, eventually, an explosion and rescue. The stock situations are handled well, and the twins respond like teenagers to their incident-packed summer.
Savery amuses herself by including the children from The Quicksilver Chronicle, below, as vacationers, and anyone who has read Gilly's Tower will find out here about the life-threatening episode from which Gilly was recuperating.

The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood. 1944-1993, 365 pp, double-spaced typescript. Published posthumously, 2004.

Besides the manuscript listed above there is an older one with separately collated chapters. Agneta Thomson prepared a digital version, which I edited and printed in a limited edition of fifty copies and distributed to research libraries around the English-speaking world.
Savery thought this was her best book, and it has much to recommend it. The characters are well-developed, the historical background is accurate, the inticate plot, though far-fetched, has no holes in it, and there is an abundance of fast-moving action. Beginning with his objection, aged seven, to being washed before he is hanged, Kit, a captivating young foundling, plays off well against the stalwart Jack, who is shanghaied and imprisoned by the family of the charming girl he loves, herself burdened with a secret sorrow. Three men threaten Jack, one stalking him from childhood, one confronting him with implacable hate, and a third, shifting in the shadows, envious and poisonous. Of these, one becomes a friend, one runs away in disgrace, and the third dies miserably, something unusual in Savery's fiction, where retribution is conspicuous by its absence. There are a hoard of other characters, but care is taken that every one will have a memorable moment, even in the background.
What is there to dislike? Savery admitted her story was improbable, but that is scarely relevant if we enjoy it, and we do. She postpones for too long an unraveling of the mesh of circumstances that entangle poor Jack, so the penultimate chapter is all talk, when we would prefer a conclusion as fast-paced as the rest of the novel, but it is nice to have everything explained at last, which a more careless writer might have considered unnecessary. This was not Savery's best book, but it did deserve to be published, and I am glad we were able to do it!

The Monster of Loch Grea. -1955, double-spaced typescript.

There are two manuscripts. The first of is 206 pages in length of which the first fourteen, with all of Chapter One, are missing. The second, longer version, has 340 pages, and is complete. The longer version reads more smoothly, and I prefer it. The story is straightforward with plenty of lively children with detective instincts, suitable brutal villains, an heroic young hero, and well-meaning adults who remain in the background while their children provide the action.
Loch Grea, around which everyone lives, has acquired its own version of Nessie, which has been seen by many, chased and been chased, and blamed for missing chickens and cats. The monster is, of course, a fake, and three brothers--who are coining money from the tourist trade--are obviously responsible, but who is the mastermind? Like all Savery novels, it includes orphans and twins, not to mention a passing reference to Dym Ingleford, the stalwart older sibling in Enemy Brothers.
Recommended as a quick read for a lazy evening, but not memorable.

The Primrose Children. Sep. 18, 1923-Apr. 29, 1926, 292 pp, single-spaced, handwritten, in five manuscript books.

It took Savery less than four months to write The Primrose Children. She began a typescript afterward, but abandoned it. The fainter image on the cover reads "29/4/26   Rubbish : Burn", and the blacker image which followed reaches the same conclusion. The date of 1924 in bold print may refer to the date the manuscript was completed, Jan. 4, 1924, or it may be the year in which the author reached her discouraging conclusion. There is no record other than the note on the cover that she considered sending the story to a vanity publisher.

In 1923 Savery was teaching school, and I think writing this book was an escape from duties she found irksome. Despite rejecting the story, she kept the manuscript for seventy-five years. Neither her literary heir nor I was willing to burn it.

The narrator is 'Rags' (Rachel) Greenaway, recalling her long past childhood, when she lived with her brother, Jock, sisters Brown and 'Tags' (Theresa), and mother in a rural cottage called The Haven some distance from the village of Erewardham. One of their few neighbors is Sir Gervase Ereward, who is raising his five younger brothers and sisters, Pat, Desmond, Maxworth, Primrose, and Bluebell. Three other siblings died after Gervase was born. The four youngest, Des, Max, Primrose, and Bluebell, are so attractive that that Tags calls them the 'Primrose Children', and the name sticks. The fifth, Pat, is plainer in appearance, but his effervescent personality makes him a universal favorite despite his being, inevitably, spoiled.

Having heard that Brown teaches the younger Greenaways, Sir Gervase arrives to ask their mother if Brown can teach his siblings as well, and the offer is repeated even after he discovers that Brown is a nineteen-year-old girl, rather than a young man. Sir Gervase is too charming to be resisted.

It soon develops that his charm conceals a vile temper, so that the children lead unhappy lives, and the persecution exaggerates their natural failings despite attempts by Pat to intercede for them. Eventually, even Pat falls victim to Gervase's temper, and Pat dies in a tragic accident as a result.

There are parallels with some of Savery's other novels, published and unpublished. Gervase's temper arises in part because of a foolish childhood accident that left him handicapped and in pain. Other brothers with disabilities play bitter roles in Tenthragon, Up a Winding Stair, Charles of Dolorous Gard, and The Monster of Loch Grea. The unhappy children are similar to those in The Primrose Children and Brother and Guardian, among others.

Mrs. Greenaway may have been modeled upon Savery's own mother, and Brown is exactly the age of Savery's sister Christine, who was known in her family as "Brown Rabbit" or, often enough, "Brown."

The Primrose Children draws upon a literary tradition that was already out of date when the book was written, and there was little chance that it could ever find a publisher, but I am reluctant to join Savery in calling it "Rubbish."

The Quicksilver Chronicle. Other titles: Wyverne Chronicle and Quicksilver. Begun in 1918, This "sixth or seventh version" is dated Aug. 30, 1995. 692 manuscript pages or about 70,000 words.

There are a number of references to these titles in the author's work diary. Although publishers showed occasional interest, and the story was extensively revised and edited, it was never sold.
The manuscript is handwritten in a composition book with large margins, wide spacing between the lines, and occasional blank pages. The handwriting is shaky, but almost always legible. There are false starts and corrections with some misspellings and irregular punctuation, all easily attributable to deteriorated eyesight that prevented Savery from editing as closely as she would have desired. The manuscript is complete and was completed not long before Savery's 99th birthday.
Although the story is seen through the eyes of an eleven-year-old girl, Elsie Wyverne, her feelings are of little importance to the story's telling. There are sufficient incidents. Elsie and her five siblings, the children of missionaries, are rescued by British sailors from a third world country. While the parents recover from tuberculosis in a Swiss sanitarium, the Wyvernes are taken in by their autocratic Uncle Robert, who turns them over in turn to his sister and son. Living in the same manor house are five orphans, whom Uncle Robert is boarding while their orphanage is being rebuilt. The Wyvernes' education has been so neglected that they are sent for tutoring to an eccentric, irrasible archeologist, who is already over-acerbated by another student, Nick Urquhart, whose father is missing and under suspicion as a spy.
As a friendly editor informed Savery, there are too many children for them all to have enough to do, and they get in each other's way. There are some excellent episodes, especially in the Dickensian classroom, but the book shows evidence of its overlong incubation, with scenes reminiscent of the thirties and fifties intermixed with anachronistic word processors. There is a lot to like and a lot that we forgive, remembering the difficulties under which the final draft was completed.

Violet Jacket or The Violets of Arcadie. 1965 - 1989, 222 pp, double-spaced typescript.

There are three manuscripts, an older one with separately collated chapters and two later versions, original and carbon copy. A romance novel set in Nova Scotia during the late eighteenth century, it follows the 'Violets of Arcadie,' Violetta Danecourt (Etta) and her foster brother, Viollet Jacut, Vi, as they grow from young children to adulthood. Stirred into the pot are Violetta's uncle, who prevents her brother Perseus from joining his father in the New World, Perseus himself, who arrives, disinherited, in Nova Scotia to conspire against his foster brother, and a bevy of older women, most of whom seem dedicated to making Violetta's life miserable.
There is the usual false accusation and period of disfavor, and, typically for Savery, reformation rather than retribution is the order of the day as the novel ends.

Text of this web site © 2010-2011 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.