Jeffery Farnol's Gestes
A Chapter From
'Cargoes for Crusoes'

by Grant Overton,
Little Brown, Boston, 1924


A geste is a great exploit or an heroic achievement; the thing that has today pretty generally dwindled to a gesture. But although the fiction of Jeffery Farnol is full of gestures - of ladies who cry, "La!" and of ladies who swoon; of gentlemen who draw swords as naturally as they draw breath, or even more so - the succession of his work is a series of gestes. For one point, he followed his bent in the teeth of literary fashion and scored, at the outset, an enormous popular success. For another point, he kept his head when success was upon him. Although a favorite scene in his stories is one full of lighning fence, swifter guard and dexterous riposte, the true portrait of the author is decidedly different: It shows him in the patient and laborious attitudes of his own Black George, in the toil the young Farnol was himself comitted to for a period in his youth, the heavy work of the forge and the foundry, the slow heating to malleability and the shape hammered out before the cooling. After "The Broad Highway" had captured the fancy of England and America, in an incautious moment Farnol the smith, Farnol the patient artificier, contracted to furnish his next tale as a serial in an American magazine. The editor blithely began publishing with only part of the manuscript in hand. Dissatisfied with his work, the author at one stage tore up ten completed chapters. For several months he worked under pressure. In the end he kept the editor supplied. The experience did not lead him into the misconception that his smithy was a Ford factory. Nor has the fact that he can write one kind of tale ever led him to suppose that he ought to succeed with another variety; he followed "The Definite Object" with "Our Admirable Betty." It is surprising to reflect that he made his first hit by reviving a species of romance when romance of that species, and of pretty nearly every species, was justly considered to have breathed its last; but it is vastly more surprising to realize that he has continued to succeed by the same tactics. Almost ten years later another young man, similarly self-willed, was to score an equal success in America (though not in England) by the same sort of reckless behavior, only the title of the book was to be "Main Street" and not "The Broad Highway." But Sinclair Lewis, although unaware of his advantage, was setting a fashion, not defying one. Both Mr. Lewis's novel and Mr. Farnol's were the products of that kind of saturation which, while it cannot be relied upon to produce enduring literature, can nearly always be counted upon to produce literary phenomena.
  Such a phenomenon, certainly, was the Kentish tale of Peter Vibart, Charmian, the Tinker, Black George, and the Ancient, appearing as a book early in 1911 and rolling rapidly up to a sale of 500,000 copies in England and America. And though perhaps not a portent, as "Main Street" has been a portent, it was a sign of far more significance that the appearance on the scene of a new indiviual writer. But let us tell the story of that story in orderly fashion.


It begins with two little boys in their nightshirts listening furtively buteagerly outside the door of a room in which their father was reading aloud to their mother, whose eyes were on her needle. The book was "The Count of Monte Cristo." The name of the older boy - he was eight - was John Jeffery Farnol; of the younger, who was to fall in the Boer War, Ewart Farnol. The family had removed from Birmingham, where Jeffery was born, to Lee, in Kent.
  The reading proceeded until a sneeze betrayed the boys. But after that they were admitted for an extra hour to the evening readings. The senior Farnol read excellently, varying his voice to suit the characters. He made the stories live, for Jeffery at least. From Cooper, Scott, Dickens, Dumas, Thackery and Stevenson heard at home, Jeffery became a schoolboy who invented tales to entertain his fellows; in particular he started a story which he carried on for three months, winding it up with the close of term. When he had finished school he wanted to become a writer, but as there was not money to send him to one of the universities, his father thought the ambition foolish, and at 17 the boy was set to work in Birmingham with a firm of engineers and brassfounders. Manual labor at the forge was varied by a great deal of fighting with fists. He was short and thickset; he spent his lunch hour either telling stories to other men, "stories from the classics," as he says, "vividly touched up, no doubt, or making a rough drawing of some scowling diffident sitter." As he sat drawing one noon, a man of the crowd looking over his shoulder remarked: "Ah, that's all very well, but drawing ain't manliness." A test of manliness, inquiry developed, was the feat of a chap who had climbed up inside of the big chimney. Farnol laid five shillings to half a crown that he could duplicate the deed. Says one account: "The chimney towered up, one hundred and twenty feet of blackness, choked with the soot of four years and with insecure stanchions, several of them broken." He fastened his handkerchief at the top for all to see; it is easy to believe that the worst of the thing was the climb down with soot tumbling in his eyes. The men refused to pay their bets, he had to fight one of them, though sick and giddy, and was beaten. But a climax was near at hand. Farnol kept a notebook in which he was forever jotting down ideas and impressions. The foreman most reasonably objected to these interruptions of work. There were blows. Leaving the foreman "reclining in a daze against an anvil" - the words aren't Farnol's - the last Farnol saw of the place was his handkerchielf fluttering from the chimney top.

"No good for work, always writing." How singularly right the foreman's verdict had been, some years were required to prove. For a time Farnol stayed at home and wrote stories, poems, whatnot. A few stories got printed. His father was unimpressed, except by the unanimity of family relatives in declaring that he was encouraging Jeffery to grow into an idle fellow. It seemed as if something might be constructed from his son's natural aptitute for drawing. Jeffery began the study of line and figure drawing under Loudon at the Westminster Art School. He found everybody else at the school so much more clever that he became discouraged.

"I think I'll write."

"You can't write," said his father. "You've not had a University education."

He went into his father's business, but as he continued to write stories, and as some of them continued to get accepted, this arrangement was a failure. At this time his favorite recreation was cycling. "All the highroads and byroads of Kent, Surrey and Sussex became familiar to me. I wheeled between the flowery hedgegrows and quenched my thirst at the wayside taverns. It was then, while watching villagers wending their way to church, that I first saw the Ancient. There he sat, tall hat, smock-frock, shrewd, wrinkled face, and gnarled hands grasping his knobbly staff just as I have described him in 'The Broad Highway.' And that was the first inception of the book, though it was not until several years afterward that it came to be written." Black George was fashioned out of his own time spent at the Birmingham forge.

Farnol wasn't yet twenty-one when he married Blanche Hawley, daughter of F. Hughson Hawley, a New York artist. The pair set out for America. The bride of seventeen had been sent to England to visit. It was hoped that Mr. Hawley would take the news well. It was also hoped that Jeffery might sell stories more successfully in the United Sates. He had a negligible amount of money. The seven, and more than seven, lean years were beginning.


Mr. Hawley received them well. In an interview a year ago (1) Mr. Farnol, recalling the New York Period, is quoted as saying:

"I hadn't a cent in the world. My wife had paid for the wedding ring and the honeymoon, and it seemed for me that after that it was up to me to do something. It has been said that her father remained adamant when we arrived, but that isn't true. I'm expecting a knock on the bean from him when he reads that. On the contrary, I found him a delightful old cove, and we were forgiven.

"After that I went to work, living alone in a room at Thirty-eight Street and Tenth Avenue. One night, about 3 o'clock in the morning, I came across a man down by the river whose face was all covered with blood.

'What's the matter?' I asked him.

"'I'm dying, kid, I'm dying!' he told me.

"I took him home and fixed him up. It turned out that he was the leader of a notorious gang. I've never known a finer chap than he. I've found out in this life that if you scratch deep enough you'll always find true worth.

"About a week after that night he came around and took me to a notorious saloon. He took me into the back room and introduced me to the bunch. Several of them have gone to the chair since, but they were good fellows. (2) I've gone into that saloon without a nickel in my pocket, and looking it. I've had one of the gang say to me: 'Stony up against it, kid? Will a fiver help?' and before I could know what happened the gang would have taken up a collection of $25 and given it to me. (3)

"My wife was living with her family at the time, but often she would come to bring me baskets with chicken and all sorts of delightful little delicacies. The neighborhood was a terrible one in those days, and I was afraid at first to have her come there. I told some of the boys about it. They told me never to worry again. They arranged that an unseen bodyguard should follow her from the street car and escort her to my room and back again when she was ready to leave .... She believed in me even then when it meant more to me than anything in the world. People don't know it, but I am naturally a timid man. She gave me confidence in myself, and with it came the ability to succeed."

The room at Thirty-eighth Street and Tenth Avenue was a studio, "dismal, rat-haunted," where a job as a painter of theatrical scenery compelled him to spend a great many of his nights and days. In intervals of scene-painting he began 'The Broad Highway.' "I met O. Henry several times in the offices of Ainslee Magazine. I think it was Will Irwin who introduced us. O. Henry was unusually taciturn for an American, and I - well, I am an Englishman. So though we saw each other frequently, never more than 'How d' ye do' passed between us.

"The pleasantest recollections I have of those old days was the time I spent dabbling in painting and theatricals at the old Astor Theatre. One day a down-and-out young man got past the doorkeeper and strolled on the stage. 'I've go a fortune here in my pocket,' he said. 'We all have that,' I replied.

"The young fellow said he had been a cub reporter in Chicago, but now he was hungry and looking for a job. Finally he got the attention of the producer at the theatre. He pulled out a manuscript and began reading. The producer at first paid no attention, but gradually became more and more interested. When the first act had been read the producer said, 'All right, I'll take it.' The starving dramatist was Eugene Walter and the manuscript was that of 'Paid in Full.' (4)

Farnol wrote in the studio and also at Mr. Hawley's home, in Englewood, New Jersey. When 'The Broad Highway' was the best seller, Mr. Hawley rounded out the picture of the New York period.(5) "Farnol," he said, "is a dreamer and a bookworm, and has just about as much practical idea of time and money as that type is popularly supposed to have. He kept right on writing, and night was the time he had to do it. Many a time when I've been detained late with a press of work I'd get home at midnight or thereabouts to find a light supper waiting for me and Jeffery up working, only waiting to be called to entertain me while I ate. For he is the most entertaining talker I've ever known and loves to talk. His natural speech is the phraseology in 'The Broad Highway.' (6) It has become natural to him through many years of living with the characters in the books of that period he loves so well. And he is a born storyteller. He always kept us sitting overtime at meals, just as he used to keep me sitting up till 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning on the occasion of the midnight suppers. When he gets to spinning a yarn, whether telling it or writing it, he loses all knowledge of the flight of time. Often when I've come down to bbreakfast before catching my early train to New York I've found him just finishing his night's work, fresh and enthusiastic. Even when his days are full of leisure he likes best to work at night. Then, he says, his brain is clearer, and there are no interruptions. His power of concentration and absorption is the most marvellous thing I've ever encountered. I remember once taking him to the Players Club with me for luncheon. After luncheon he wandered into the library and was delighted to see the work of Aphra Behn, an early writer I'd never heard of, but belonging to his favorite period and well known to him. I left him there renewing her acquaintenance with delight. I forgot all about him, but chancing to go back for dinner, on entering the library to my amazement I saw him sitting there in exactly the same posture in which I'd left him hours before. He didn't know whether ten minutes or as many hours had elapsed."

Farnol succeeded in selling a number of short stories and had some work as an illustrator. He wrote two light romances, 'My Lady Caprice' and 'The Money Moon,' which magazines bought. For two years he put all his spare time on 'The Broad Highway,' the history of which is among the curiosities of book publishing.


Like 'Main Street' a decade later, 'The Broad Highway' was possibly conceived and certainly executed in a spirit of revolt. Such rebellions are common, and the only wisdom that can be uttered in respect to them is embodied in that proverb which says that one's man's meat is another man's poison. Editors and publishers endeavor to give the public what the public wants. The public, very naturally, never knows what it wants until it tastes it. The public is like a husband sitting down to his wife's dinner. He may like evrything or nothing; he may enormously relish the unexpected, placed before him with inward perturbation and in a spirit of desperate doubt. He may pounce with appetite upon, and sing loudly the praise of, some dish denounced by him and refused by his palate the week before. If a writer attempts to please editors or publishers, who, in turn, are attempting to please their publics, he will be successful with the entrepeneurs and possibly with the audiences. And his temperament may make such a course the very best thing. If his temperament is otherwise, sooner or later he will please himself; and if he can then get published a large public may just possibly discover that he greatly pleases them.

The completed manuscript of 'The Broad Highway' was submitted to the Century Company and Charles Scribner's Sons in New York, both of whom failed to come to terms and returned it shortly. It was then submitted to Dodd, Mead & Company, who indicated a conditional acceptance and asked the author to come in and discuss possible changes. The firm's readers offered their suggestions and Farnol took notes. The principal result was that he cut 20,000 words out of the book, which still remained of 200,000-word length, or twice the length of the usual 'full-length' novel. The alterations were not enough to give the publisher the necessary confidence; the year was 1907, the year of the money panic; and the manuscript was finally returned to Farnol with a definite declination. The reasons were sound: There had been a bad slump in Wall Street, the book was formidably long, the author unknown, the interest in the tale might be almost wholly for English readers. But there was another reason in the nature of the novel in which a few word should be devoted.

Robert Louis Stevenson had died in 1894. His work spawned a school of historical fiction, much of it pseudo-historical, which had dominated the American book market for years. The public taste did not discriminate during that decade between the good and the bad; 'To Have and To Hold' and 'When Knighthood Was in Flower' were equally hailed as masterpieces and alike elevated to the top of the heap. From that day, indeed, dates the name and the peculiarity of the 'best seller.'The term remains, but it is only in very recent years begun to undergo a tranformation of meaning, the idea of relativity having crept in. With a truer perception and a better sense of proportion, we now tend to speak of a book as a best seller 'in its class,' or in relation to the literary merit of the work or the record of the author or generally with an eye to what sale could be expected in the circumstances. The fact of a sale in so many figures remains; but the estimation in which the the fact is held is quite different. A sale of 20,000 copies that would have passed unregarded twenty years ago is now likely to account as of the greatest significance.

What was fundamentally the trouble in 1907 was not to be stated with vigor until 1914, when Frank Swinnerton's critique of Stevenson (7) was to appear with such concluding sentences as these: "Stevenson ... created a school which has brought romance to be the sweeping of an old costume-chest .... If romance rests upon no better base than this, if romance is to be conventional in a double sense, if it spring not from a personal vision of life, but is only a tedious virtuosity, a pretense, a conscious toy, romance as an art is dead. And if it is dead, Stevenson killed it." Such, even in 1907, was in various quarters uneasily felt to be the fact. In 1907, it is true, George Meredith was spending his declining years in poetry, and Thomas Hardy was at work on 'The Dynast'; but 'The Way of All Flesh' had been published four years earlier, Shaw's plays were being staged, the dead Geoge Gissing was at last coming into attention, Mr. Galsworthy had just given us 'The Man of Property,' Mr. Wells was brewing 'Tono-Bungay,' and Mr.Bennett was at work on 'The Old Wives' Tale.' If the lid of the costume-chest was still raised, it had every appearance of being propped most insecurely. All cogent and immediate reasons aside, the publisher of books had every psychological and intuitive reason for doubting the appeal of a volume of 500 closely printed pages, much of it in dialect and all of it concerning with Kentish scenes of a hundred years earlier.

To return to 'The Broad Highway': An actor with whom the author had become acquainted at the Astor Theatre was about to play an engagement in Boston, and offered to show the manuscript to friends in the office of Little, Brown and Company. Farnol waited for some word in vain; after several months he learned that the actor had returned to New York, and sought him out. The actor had visitied the publishing house but had completely forgotten the manuscript .... It was taken from the bottom of his trunk, where it had lain all the while, and Farnol was minded, first to sell it, with all rights, for $500. Mr. Hawley said Farnol would do no such thing. "if I have to buy it myself." Farnol's next impulse was to burn the cumbersome bundle. He finally gave it to his wife, and Mrs. Farnol sent it to her husband's mother in England. Shirley Byron Jevons, at that time editor of 'The Sportsman,' was the next to see it. He took it to the publishing house of Sampson Low, Marston & Company, introducing it with: "Here is another 'Lorna Doone'" - Blackmore's novel having been the firm's greatest fiction success. The publishing house accepted the book and had drawn an agreement with Mr. Jevons as Mr. Farnol's agent when the author appeared unexpectedly. In fact, Farnol, discouraged by his fortunes in America, had simply got on the boat with his wife and little daughter. A new agreement was drawn with him direct, and signed. Then, but some time before the book was set up in type, the publisher showed it to Clement K. Shorter, editor of 'The Sphere,' whose devotion to the work of George Borrow was well known. Mr. Shorter's account of the incident embdies an interesting estimate of the book: (8)

"I read 'The Broad Highway' with avidity, and recognized at once - as who would not have done? - that here was a striking addition to picaresque romances, that the author had not read 'Don Quixote,' 'Gil Blas' and the best stories by Defoe and Fielding for nothing, nor had he walked along the broad highways of England without observation and profit any more than the creator of 'Lavengro' and 'Romany Rye.' For the vast multitude of readers of each epoch the dictum of Emerson stands: "Every age must write its own books." It is of no use for the pedantic critic to affirm, with pontifical fervor, that Cervantes and Le Sage and Defoe are masters of literature and that our contemporaries are but pigmies in comparison. The great reading public of any age will not be bullied into reading authors who have reached the dignity of classics. The writer who can catch some element of the spirit of the 'masters' and moderize it is destined to win the favor of the crowd. And thus Jeffery Farnol has entered into his kingdom .... 'The Broad Highway' sold in hundreds of thousands. It is a breezy, healthy book, as unpretentious as it is sincere. Neither its author nor his friends need to worry themselves as to whether it is a masterpiece of literature. For our day, at least, it has added to the stock of harmless pleasures. To the critic who complains that 'it is but an exercise in archaeology,' and that the author 'has never felt what he has written but has gathered it up from books, one can reply in the language of Goldsmith's Mr. Burchell, 'Fudge.' It is still possible in England, in spite of its railway trains and its mechanical development, to feel the impulse which inspired Charles Dickens, George Borrow and all the masters of the picaresque romance, who have in days gone by traveled with delight through the countryside, seeking adventures and finding them. 'I felt some desire,' says Lavengro, ' to meet with one of those adventurers which, upon the roads of England, are as plentiful as blackberries in autumn.' Mr. Farnol has a talent for recreating such adventures, and he is perfectly frank with his readers, anticipating a certain type of criticism. 'Whereas the writing of books was once a painful art,' he makes Peter Vibart say in 'The Broad Highway,' 'it has of late become a trick very easy of accomplishment, requiring no regard for probability and little thought, so long as it is packed sufficiently full of impossible incidents through which a ridiculous heroine and a more absurd hero duly sigh their appointed way to the last chapters. Whereas books were once a power, they are of late degenerated into things of amusement, with which to kill an idle hour, and be promptly forgotten the next.'"

The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. On a famous occasion the late Maurice Hewlett tore to shreds the historicity of the work of James Branch Cabell, and Mr. Cabell completely lost his temper. Mr. Farnol's hero in 'Beltane the Smith' "finds himself in an England which from the internal evidence of friars, bowmen, arms and armor we might vaguely discribe as Edwardian (Edward I., II., III.) - the pikes he appears to have borrowed from a later period. And yet it is not Edwardian either; for there is no hint of a king in it all, and never, never was there such an anarchical England, save in the reign of Stephen of Blois." (9) Mr. Farnol's Latin, says J.P. Collins, "gives one the shivers. He mixes his thee's and his ye's, and precisians may murmur at his forms of archaic diction. But ... if Farnol makes a slip in the way of detail, or lapses into excess, he preserves the most important thing, and that is atmosphere. "(10) Everyone will recall Scott's inaccuracies in 'Ivanhoe.' of which the most serious was the depiction of a state of feeling between the Saxons and Normans existing a century earlier than the time of the novel.

Mr. Shorter has made us longer; it remains to say that 'The Broad Highway,' accepted in England, was offered by the English publisher in America, in one instance to Dodd, Mead & Company, who again declined it. Little, Brown and Company were the acceptors, learning for the first time of the actor's delinquency a few years earlier. The book was published on both sides of the ocean and sprang into instant success. In the midst of the smother of applause, appeals, money and golden prospects Mr. Farnol had a moment. He ejaculated: "Just think! I've lost four years of my life!" (11)


He was 33 - ten years older than it has been done, and thirty years younger that it has been done, also. (12) Mr. Henry Sydnor Harrison achieved 'Queed' at 31, Sinclair Lewis was 35 when 'Main Street' appeared. On the whole, the four years seem not an excessive price to have paid for a coup, nor thirty-three years long to have found oneself. The point was neither in the success nor the time taken to reach it; it was in Mr. Farnol's ability to keep his head on his shoulders. This he proceeded to do; although he sold, while yet unwritten, the serial rights to his next work, pressure upon him did not prevent his destroying ten unsatisfactory chapters, as has been related, and although as he said at the time, "I really cannot blame the magazine people," he was emphatic in saying, "I never wish to undergo such an experience again." (13) Two years elapsed after the publication of 'The Broad Highway' before the appearance of 'The Amateur Gentleman'; and except for the publication of a piece of work written before 'The Broad Highway' (14) and his effort to help in the war ('Great Britain at War'), he has had only nine books brought out in the dozen years since he raised the curtain. And of these one, 'The Geste of Duke Jocelyn,' a romance in prose, blank verse and rhyme, is a novelty written for his daughter, Gillian, published because what had entertained one girl might very conceivably entertain others. Mr. Farnol's method of keeping his head on his shoulders has been to practise industry without becoming industrial. Although homesick at first on his return to England, he settled in Kent, at Lee, with a den at the top of the house where he could work from midnight to breakfast. Old English books lined two walls of this refuge; another wall was given up to a collection of old pistols and sabres; and on the desk there usually lay a dictionary of slang dated 1812. More recently the Farnols have lived at the seashore at Brighton, but the winters are generally spent at Ospedaletti, which is on the Italian Riviera.

Except for a short visit to report for the 'London Daily Mail' the fight between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in 1921, (15) Mr. Farnol had not visited America until autumn, 1923. At that time visitors met a shortish man, anything but a figure of romance, whose outstanding trait was his genuine friendliness, " a friendliness which is not an affectation with which he tries to put strangers at their ease, but an actual part of him." (16) To see him rehearse and enact, rather than merely outline, his next novel was an exceptional experience, for at such times he suits his voice to his characters and displays a considerable range of dramatic skill. Interviewers developed evidences of a struggle in the romancer's mind between the type of woman he writes about and the types more usual today; however, chivalry, or perhaps the romantic vision, enabled him to come through the ordeal by newprint without dishonor, He denied the possibility of platonic love and friendships. "After a certain point, such friendships are bound to be no longer platonic. Mark me! I know they wouldn't be in my case, anyway." (17) A subject he did not tire of discussing was the wonder of America. (18) To several who talked with him he expressed the intention of writing another novel about New York City. (19) "New York should be called 'The City of Great Adventures,'" he said, with characteristic enthusiasm, "because anything might happen in New York." (20)

More expressive of the man is the story of how his slighest novel came to be published. He was discussing with his mother the advisability of bringing out work written before 'The Broad Highway.' "Look here," he said to her, "why not rout out 'Mr. Tawnish?' You have been very good to me, and I can never properly repay you, but if you can do anything with 'Mr. Tawnish' you shall have it." The tale - one that reminds most readers of Tarkington's 'Monsieur Beaucaire' - was taken out of a drawer, touched up and added to, and accepted for book publication. The advance royalties, consisting a generous gift, were handed over to Mrs. Henry Farnol. This was in the autumn of 1913.


In an article appearing at the height of Mr. Farnol's first success, Henry Keats wrote: "'The Broad Highway' has seemed to the critics to invite comparison with so many different masters of the English novel - George Borrow, Blackmore, Le Sage, Dickens, Stevenson, Thackeray, to mention a few - that I asked him about his 'foster-father.' Mr Farnol smiled. 'I would not know my own literary parent if I met him out here in the broad highway of Kent,' he exclaimed. Judging from his subsequent confessions, the creator of Peter Vibart and Charmian is under greater indebtedness to Laurence Sterne than to any of the immortals named above. And that was owing to the friend of his 'boyhood ambitions,' to whom 'The Broad Highway' is dedicated. Mr. Shirley Byron Jevon's was the first, some years since, to call Mr. Farnol's attention to the supreme difficulty of writing a book dealing with the abstract, citing, as a rare example of success in that line, Sterne's 'Tristam Shandy.' A copy of that unusuual book was speedily procured by Mr. Farnol, and he recalls as though an impression of yesterday the manner in which he was 'enthralled' by its pages. 'Then,' he adds, 'I went on to 'The Spectator' and 'The Tatler,' the reading of which showed me how great is the loss of those who are unacquainted with the Queen Anne essayists.'" (21) This settles the matter.

Certain books by Mr. Farnol - 'The Honourable Mr. Tawnish,' 'Great Britain at War,' and 'The Geste of Duke Jocelyn,' each outside the true succession of his work - have been incidentally characterized. A descriptive note on his principal novels may perhaps fittingly conclude this account.

'The Broad Highway (1911) has probably already been sufficiently described, as it must be familiar to many who read these lines. 'The Amateur Gentleman' (1913) has for hero Barnabas, son of a retired and famous boxing champion of England. Having come into a legacy, the young man resolves to journey to London to become a gentleman. The period is that of the Prince Regent. There is a rapid series of adventures on the journey; Barnbas meets Cleone, the heroine; he acquires a valet and establishes himself with the quality, and the fashionable world loses him, for he returns home again. 'Beltane the Smith' (1915) concerns a golden-haired giant and matchless swordsman whose odyssey of adventure is lived in a much earlier England. 'The Definite Object' (1917) is the story of a young New Yorker whose wealth has taken from him all incentive to action. For want of a definite object in life he is toying with the thought of suicide when he surprises a youthful burglar in the act of entering his rooms. Then, as 'Mr. Geoggrey,' he takes up lodgings with the housebreaker in the old Hell's Kitchen district of New York - which was the region between Thirty-fourth and Forty-second Streets and west of Sixth Avenue. 'Our Admirable Betty' (1918) is a return to the dimension of 'The Broad Highway' and 'The Amateur Gentleman'. Black Bartlemy's Treasure (1920) and 'Martin Conisby's Vengeance' (1921) are tales of piracy and the Spanish Main, the second novel completing the first. 'Peregrine's Progress' (1922) more closely than any other book approximates the scenes and action of 'The Broad Highway'; it is laid in Kent, it relates a boy's adventurings on the road and by the roadside, and it reintroduces the Tinker. 'Sir John Dering (1923) keeps to the same period. A skilled swordsman who has incurred the enmity of the Lady Herminia Barrasdaile is forced to fight duel after duel which she has instigated in the hope that he will meet his death.

The dictum of Mr. Shorter best fits the case of this friendly writer and honest workman. We have already quoted the words: "The great reading public of any age will not be bullied into reading the authors who have reached the dignity of classics. The writer who can catch some element of the spirit of the 'masters' and modernize it is destined to win the favor of the crowd." The love of a fairy tale, delight in action, pleasure in suchcharacterizations as Black George, the Tinker, and the Ancient - picturesque; in outline broadly simple - have been potent. Stevenson was dead; the good as well as the bad of his legacy had been swallowed up in a flood wherein the sound could no longer be distinguished from the meretricious; what we loosely call realism was in the ascendant. Years were to go by before 'realism' could be seen to be the necessay clearing of paths to an exploration of the romantic impulse more intelligent as well as more subtle. In the meantime an age-old thirst found these draughts to quench itself. On the porch of the 'Bull' at Sissinghurst the readers of Mr. Farnol have set for many an afternoon, washing the dust from their throats with a pleasant ale and enjoying the surprising procession of knights, scholars, gipsies, gallants, pirates and simple maids and ladies of fashion which has passed before them, coming form and returning to a world without end, truly.


1. 'The Evening Telegram,' New York, 21 October 1923, page 20.

2. Identified by a correspondent of the 'Boston Herald' (18 October 1923) as Dago Frank, Lefty Louie, Whitey Lewis, Gyp the Blood - figures in the Becker case.

3. "Tammany ruled through the corner saloon, " Farnol is quoted as saying, in an interview appearing in the 'New York Tribune,' 19 October 1923. "Dear me, yes, we used to vote ever so many times. I always went out with my Hell's Kitchen Gang, and we voted for Tammany as often as we were told, changing our coats and going in time and time again. That was when we were voting against Jerome.
"I've surprised my American friends by saying I though prohibition was a good thing. I've seen too much tragedy and sordidness, too many babies born of drunken parents. I used to love my cups as well as anybody, and I used to say that regeneration could not be forced on a drunkard by law, but now I think law will help give him his start anyway."

4. Interview in 'Boston Herald,' 18 October 1923.

5. Interview in 'The Sun,' New York, 21 October 1911, page 16.

6. "B'gad, no!" Yes, Mr. Farnol talks that way. He has had his characters do it for so long that it comes to him naturally and is in nowise an affectation." - 'The Evening Telegram,' New York, 21 October 1923, page 20. "Glasses are a part of his expressive equipment, as much as 'dammit man' is, and probably more so than a vest which seems to have acquired a habit of coming unbuttoned." - Interview by John Anderson in 'The Evening Post,' New York, 23 October 1923, page 12.

7. R. L. Stevenson: 'A Critical Study,' by Frank Swinnerton. Pages 189, 190.

8. 'The Book News Monthly,' Philadelphia, November 1915.

9. A writer in the 'London Times,' quoted in the 'Boston Evening Transcript,' 24 November 1915.

10. 'The Romance of Jeffery Farnol,' by J. P. Collins. 'The Bookman,' New York, July 1920.

11. Quoted by Henry C. Shelley in his article, "Jeffery Farnol and 'The Broad Highway,'" in 'The Independent,' New York, 7 September 1911.

12. Rudyard Kipling was 23 when 'Plain Tales from the Hills' was brought out in Calcutta; recognition came a few years later. Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote 'This Side of Paradise' at 23. William De Morgan was well past sixty when 'Joseph Vance' made its success.

13. Interview in the 'Boston Sunday Globe,' 28 May 1912 (London correspondence printed without a date line).

14. 'The Honourable Mr. Tawnish' (1913).

15. "A better selection than Mr. Farnol the 'Daily Mail' could not have made," said W. B. ("Bat") Masterson, in 'The Morning Telegraph,' New York, 24 july 1921. "Mr. Farnol's narrative was not only interesting, but for the most part extremely thrilling. I would like to give the whole story as Mr. Farnol wrote it." He does, however, quote salient passages of Farnol's story.

16. Interview by John Anderson in 'The Evening Post,' New York, 23 October 1923, page 12.

17. Interview in 'The Evening Telegram,' New York, 21 October 1923, page 20.

18. "An Attic Salt-Shaker," by W. Orton Tewson in 'The Pulic Ledger,' Philadelphia, 3 November 1923.

19. Interviews in 'The Evening Telegram,' New York, 21 October 1923, page 20; in 'The New York Tribune,' 19 October 1923; in 'The Boston Herald,' 18 October 1923. 'The Definite Object' (1917) is laid in New York.

20. Interview by Fay Stevenson in 'The Evening World,' New York, 24 October 1923.

21. 'Jeffery Farnol at Home,' by Henry Keats, 'The Book News Monthly,' September 1911.

Books by Jeffery Farnol

1907 My Lady Caprice (in England: The Chronicles of the Imp)
1911 The Broad Highway
1911 The Money Moon. Earlier, in point of composition, than The Broad Highway.
1913 The Amateur Gentleman
1913 The Honourable Mr.Tawnish. Earlier, in point of composition, than The Broad Highway.
1915 Beltane the Smith
1917 The Definite Object
1918 Great Britain at War (in England: Some War Impressions)
1918 Our Admirable Betty
1920 The Geste of Duke Jocelyn
1920 Black Bartlemy's Treasure
1921 Martin Conisby's Vengeance
1922 Peregrine's Progress
1923 Sir John Dering

Sources on Jeffery Farnol

The Novels of Jeffery Farnol. Booklet published by Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1923.

The Country of 'The Broad Highway,' by Henry C. Shelley. The Book News Monthly, October 1912.

Jeffery Farnol's Life and Career, by Herbert F. Jenkins. The Book News Monthly, September 1911.

How I Began, by Jeffery Farnol. Booklet published by Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., London. The text is reprinted from T. P.'s Weekly of 14 February 1913.

Love Still Ruling Motive in Life of the Modern Youth and Maiden. Interview by Marguerite Dean in The Evening World, New York, 28 June 1921. Note especially: "As a matter of fact I knew a charming fellow who did, in real life, just what my hero did in The Definite Object - took a little girl from the New York slums, educated her, loved and married her."

Other references will be found in the footnotes to the text of this chapter.
They do not include, by any means, all the interviews in newspapers.


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