A founding member of this society in April 1997, a kind and gentle man whom we have been honoured to know.
Ian and Doth
A few words about myself. I was born in San Jose, California, 3-II-20. My father was an Electrical Engineer and a Minister. My background is Architecture and Construction. I spent I7 years as the Planning Director of the City of Watsonville and retired at the age of 65. I have 3 sons, two daughters, numerous grandchildren and about 7 great-grandchildren. I quit counting. My present status is retirement with a liberal helping of my son Robert in his Construction business and my son David who is a Graphic artist and a Professional Sign Painter. David is deep into computer graphics and does miracles on his Power Mac 8500 with 64 mb. My oldest son Jeffery was named after you know who. He has a problem with the spelling but I told him (in later life) that Mrs. Farnol was pleased that we named him J. even though it is the family surname and thus the spelling.
Here is a brief history of my interest in Jeffery Farnol. In I933, when I was 13, my pal Stanley Scott found a book in the Library which, by his open exuberance, let me know that his choice was much more interesting than the book I had chosen. When I finally got my turn to read it the first sentence gripped my attention "The Frenchman beside me had been dead since dawn." Needless to say, I became "hooked." Upon returning from New Guinea after WWII, I started my Farnol collection. Many of my books were from different Bookshops in UK, in fact most of them were until I began to find a few in local bookstores. I wrote to Jeffery but some time later found out that he had passed away from cancer in I952. I contacted Phyllis in later years and arranged to be her guest in I980. My son David and I first spent a week in Edinburgh with Miss Lillian Britton, one of my book searchers for many years, after which we spent a few days in Brighton before meeting with Phyllis in Eastbourne. I have many hours of taped interview with her which reveal her disappointment in the people of England for not having spoken to her of Jeffery in the previous twenty years. I find it rather sad that he did not evoke any public recognition for his contribution to the happiness of so many people all over the world. I have 2 of his books written in Polish in I933. Another thing that I learned was that she never was allowed to edit or even see any of the Biographies written about JF. This upset her very much, since there was so much error written about her husband. I pleaded with her to write the truth but she was reluctant to start and never did. Phillis and her friend Lady Pamela took us on an unforgettable series of trips, stopping at sites of story locations while she reminisced on the writing experiences of each story. It almost seemed like Jeffery would step out of a 700 year old pub or thatched roof cottage at any time. She was so full of joy that someone had finally come purely out of respect for her husband that she almost overdid it with her wonderful welcome.
As the time for our departure drew near, she called us in to the parlor where stood the round table and the old chair where for many years he would write in the wee hours of the morning while she slept. Upon the table were all that remained of the Manuscripts of his life's work. She had become so disconsolate in the previous years that she started to burn them, one by one. In a magnanimous gesture, she offered us all that we could take home with us. We immediately went to a store and bought a large canvas bag and returning, gathered every one in sight and packed them for the trip home. She also gave us other books from her home collection to augment our own. She was a marvelous cook and treated us like Royalty. I shall never forget our visit together. Lady Pamela also hosted a visit in her home where we were regaled by pictures and a lifetime of experiences of her life in Burma, where her husband was the Minister of Transportation for many years. Her house was like going into a museum of wondrous mementos. A most delightful visit.
I have one complete set of Farnol writings, 53 in all. Some are with different titles which account for the excessive number. In my second set I have 34 titles so far and still searching. All the rest are duplicates and most are easily found. I have I0 titles from the library of Sir Harry Preston, Jeffery's dear friend. All are enscribed by JF. I have a total of I4 books enscribed by JF and A New Book for Jane enscribed by Jane. Phyllis told me that A Book For Jane was nearly never printed since twice the Printing establishments were bombed before a few were finally published. Last December in response to my christmas greeting to Phyllis I received correspondence from Brian and Jane Curtis (Farnol) indicating that they had come from their home in Australia to care for Phyllis in her home. I called them on the phone and talked with Brian for quite awhile. He told me that Phyllis had become somewhat senile and needed daily care so they were arranging for her to be placed in a Care Facility since they were obliged to return to their home last February. I was told that all of the Farnol belongings were being put up for auction to assist in her financial crisis. I was also informed that twice in the last two years her house had been burglarized by men pretending to be officials who would talk to her in a back room while accomplices would carry out everything they could get their hands on. This was a very sad time in her life I know. They wanted me to have the chair that he wrote in, but it didn't work out. Jane sent me his favorite pipe as a memento, which is in the collection book case. I have many other things of interest, such as I9I I McCall's Magazines containing the entire Beltane the Smith with copious illustrations each month for I2 months. I have The Broad Highway and The Amateur Gentleman both in Special Editions containing many coloured illustrations by C.E. Brock. These cost me $35.00 apiece several years ago and I beat the professional book searchers by one hour, so I consider myself fortunate. They are dark blue, 2I/2 inches thick printed on parchment paper with gold embellishments.
I also have the small "Library" editions of The Broad Highway, Black Bartlemy's Treasure and Martin Conisby's Vengeance. They are black, 6 3/4" tall, with gold embellishments and Jeffery's signature enscribed in gold on the cover. Phyllis never cared for this edition and said she preferred the regular editions. I could have obtained more in England, but didn't think I would have space enough to bring them home. The Curtis's promised they would inform me if anything happened to Phyllis. Australia is far away from us and it's a far trip to England, but at any rate I am so pleased to have been friends of the Farnol family during my years of collecting his works. A friend in Santa Cruz has willed her Farnol books to me, many of which are first editions. At last count she had around 46. Barbara Cartland's version of The Broad Highway sits on my bookcase, but after reading a few chapters I put it down .... forever!
I have most of the Biographies on JF but after my visit with Phyllis I find myself unimpressed with most of them.
Robert Ellenwood - April 1997