Sunday, August 21, 2016

Happy 130th birthday,
Ruth Manning-Sanders

Ruth Manning-Sanders wrote novels and poetry, too.

On this date 130 years ago — August 21, 1886 — Ruth Vernon Manning was born to John Edmondson Manning and Emma Manning (nee Brock) in Swansea, Wales. That baby grew up to become Ruth Manning-Sanders, a collector and teller of timeless fairy tales whose work brought joy and creative inspiration to many young people during the second half of the 20th century.

(That's right. Papergreat has been around long enough to publish two Manning-Sanders birthday posts, five years apart. Here's the 2011 post.)

To mark the occasion, this time around the sun, here are some assorted tidbits from my ongoing (and stalled at times) research on her life and works. If I never get around to writing The Ultimate Piece of Scholarship on Ruth Manning-Sanders, perhaps these will prove useful to some future researcher who can finish the job.

1. It is my understanding that Manning-Sanders' daughter, Joan, submitted some of her mother's unpublished stories to an Australian publication called The School Magazine in the 1990s. I have no idea if any were published or specifically when that might have been.

2. I had some correspondence last fall and winter with John Floyd (Manning-Sanders' grandson) and his wonderful wife, Pat, who live in Cornwall. They generously sent me photocopies of some pages from a 2011 publication titled A Forgotten Prodigy: Joan Manning-Sanders (1913-2002) and her Circle. It was written by John Floyd and Owen Baker.

The book is, of course, primarily about Joan and her time as an artist. (You can learn more about her and the 2011 book from Helen Hoyle at Women Artists in Cornwall, Western Morning News and The Cornishman.)

But there is also a good deal of excellent (and new to me) information about Ruth and her husband, George. And photos! This makes the third photo of the photographically elusive Ruth Manning-Sanders published on Papergreat.

In A Forgotten Prodigy, we learn that, following their 1911 marriage and last-name hyphenation, Ruth and George Manning-Sanders "embarked on a nomadic adventure, travelling in a horse drawn caravan and taking a fashionable interest in gypsy and circus life. They lived in the caravan as a two year adventure until the arrival of their daughter Joan."

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the family was based in Sennen, in extreme western Cornwall. They were living the "artistic life," socializing regularly with other writers and painters. It was during this time that Manning-Sanders, in a prolific period of output, published Hucca's Moor. According to A Forgotten Prodigy, "this too was set in Cornwall and contains some of her best writing about the area."

Caravans and circuses continued to hold a great interest for Ruth Manning-Sanders, according to this passage from the book:
"Ever since her early caravanning days Ruth had been a lover of horses and of the romance of life on the road. During the inter-war years it had become fashionable for artists and writers to seek to record circus and gypsy life. ... Ruth's papers contain correspondence with friends in the circus world spanning the years 1932-1952 and thus inspired, she was to write several children's books Elephant: The Romance of Laura (1938), Luke's Circus (1939), Mr. Portal's Little Lions (1952), The Golden Ball: A Novel of the Circus (1954) and Circus Boy (1960)."

I will delve more into A Forgotten Prodigy in a future post.

3. Samantha Morrish of the University of Reading has published an excellent short biography of Ruth Manning-Sanders on the Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Morrish's work has a bibliography that cites some sources I have not come across before.

4. Manning-Sanders published numerous novels before entering the unofficial second act of her writing career and focusing primarily on folklore and fairy tales. But she always had the world of piskies and magic near and dear to her heart, as evidenced in her early writing. Here are just a few examples from her novels:

  • From The Twelve Saints: "The bulge of the bed knob made her face more elf-like than usual, though there was always something elf-like about Elizabeth."
  • From Adventure May Be Anywhere, a book she dedicated to her children, Joan and David: "They also told us that it was the identical castle where Jack killed the giant." (That's just one of many such references in this fairy-tale-infused novel for children.)
  • The first paragraph of  1931's The Growing Trees contains this passage: "... Margaret; who, with her long strands of bleached hair, and her deep-set blue eyes, reminded James of the picture of Rapunzel in the colored woodcuts in his big old edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales."
  • Two examples from Mystery at Penmarth, which shares characters with Adventure May Be Anywhere: "There was a kind of elfish look about him, if you know what I mean." and "[E]very hill had a giant living on it once, and they used to play a game called bob-buttons, with rocks for ammunition." This book also features horses named Cormoran, Merlyn, Skillywidden, Keri, Pennalunna and Tregeagle.

Hungry for more? Click on (or, using your magical internet device, touch your finger to) the Ruth Manning-Sanders label at the bottom of this post to see the 40+ Papergreat posts that mention her. There's lots of great stuff to dig into.

Birthday tweets for Manning-Sanders
(and her fairy-tale co-conspirators)

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