Sunday, July 30, 2017

Photo of Ruth Manning-Sanders at age 100 (or possibly 102)

Here's a somewhat-poor reproduction of a photograph, taken by Phil Monckton, that appeared alongside Ruth Manning-Sanders' obituary in the October 17, 1988, edition of The Guardian. (Manning-Sanders had died on October 12.) She is holding A Book of Magic Horses, which was published in 1984, and her books of Giants and Witches, among others, are positioned behind her.

There remains some confusion over Manning-Sanders' birth date. I remain in the camp that she was born on August 21, 1886, and was thus 102 when she sat for this photograph. But there is also evidence that she was born in 1888, and obviously that date has been recorded in some newspapers of record.

As I've mentioned before, photos of Manning-Sanders are fairly scarce. Here are all of the previous images that I've come across:

Here's her full obituary from that 1988 issue of The Guardian. It was written by Stephanie Nettell.
Ruth Manning-Sanders, a teller par exellence of folk tales, knew more than most about the foibles of the world, so she is doubtless laughing that the telephone lines which kept doggedly silent for her 100th birthday just two months ago are now buzzing at news of her death. It would take more than that to surprise a woman who, as a newly-wed, paraded Victorian streets on the back of a circus elephant.

She was born in Swansea, the youngest of three daughters of a north of England Unitarian minister, and ejoyed [sic] that care-free, book-filled childhood typical of many intellectual families of the time, performing their own plays and "running wild" through long summers in the Highlands.

The family moved to Sheffield, then Manchester, and at 14 Ruth was sent to boarding school in Highgate, London, from where she won a Shakespeare Scholarship to Manchester University to read English. She had decided to become an actress when a serious illness forced her to leave university and recuperate in Italy; on her return she went to Devon and there met George Manning-Sanders, a Cornish artist.

The young couple led a wandering life in a horse-drawn caravan, spending two seasons with Rosaire's Circus, but eventually, with two children, settled in Cornwall: at the end she was still living in Penzance, writing her stories as she looked out over Mount's Bay. Although always an enthusiast for fairy tales and myths, she began her writing with long narrative poems, until the young family's shortage of money directed her to prose.

She wrote several novels, a history of the English circus, and collections of her own lively stories, inspired by folklore, for the very young, but it was her retelling of legends from around the world that brought her the devotion of generations of children.

She combined a perky humour with traditional cadences, narrative purity and sophisticated wit, spellbinding young readers with magic and suspense and injecting her own compelling personality into an ancient genre. Her work, simply titled "A Book of..." — Giants or Dragons, Dwarfs or Witches, Spooks and Spectres, Ogres and Trolls — fills a long, long shelf, and her formidable energy meant her latest book [A Cauldron of Witches] was published in this, her century year.

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