Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Happy 132nd birthday,
Ruth Manning-Sanders

Today is the 132nd anniversary of the birth of author and modern Renaissance woman Ruth Vernon Manning-Sanders (1886-1988). She gathered and retold folk and fairy tales from all over the world, publishing more than 90 books during her lifetime. And she was a friend to elephants.

She has her own label on Papergreat, so you can check out the 60+ posts in which she's mentioned. Here are the previous birthday posts:

Earler this year, I wrote about her early children's novel, Adventure May Be Anywhere. And this summer I took a trip to the northcentral Pennsylvania library where I first discovered her books in the early 1980s.

For her birthday, here's the lowdown on one of her novels, Mr. Portal's Little Lions, which is one of her toughest-to-find books and hasn't been documented elsewhere in cyberspace, to my knowledge.

  • Title: Mr. Portal's Little Lions
  • Author: Ruth Manning-Sanders
  • Cover illustrator: The only clue is the name "Sax" on the dust jacket. There is no credit inside.
  • Publisher: Robert Hale Limited, 63 Old Brompton Road, London
  • Price: 10/6 (ten shillings, six pence; same as the price of the Mad Hatter's hat)
  • Year: 1952
  • Pages: 256
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: This copy once belonged to "C Bowman"
  • Dust jacket copy: "This is a sensitive and beautifully written story of what happened to a timid, unobtrusive, little middle-aged bachelor when he unexpectedly inherited money and should have found freedom at last.

    "But Mr. Philip Portal's lifetime of devoted service as head clerk in a solicitor's office, lonely, hypersensitive and in a rut of accepted drudgery, has unfitted him for complete freedom. He both yearns for and shies away from the solace of love. He tells himself that he has escaped from the tyranny of his characterful old landlady on the sea front, when he has a home of his own with an attractive, domesticated widow as neighbour on one side and a poetically minded spinster, who is a painter, on the other side.

    "And then there is Cynthia — the young, pretty niece of his landlady — cropping up to play havoc with his wavering emotions, until he sees and hears 'little lions' on every path!

    "The solution is surprising, and to no one more so than to Mr. Portal himself."
  • So there are no real lions? It would appear not.
  • A thought: This should be a movie with Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Helen Mirren and others.
  • Also, Hugh Grant: Yes.
  • Kelly Macdonald, too? OK.
  • First sentence: Two men sat facing one another across an office desk: James Harley, a middle-aged solicitor, good-humoured, good looking, a thoroughly good fellow, and Philip Portal, his head clerk.
  • So, Grant as Harley and Firth as Portal? Indeed.
  • Last paragraph: Did she understand? Perhaps. If she didn't, it seemed to Mr. Portal that nobody ever would.
  • Who is she? Who did he pick? I'm not telling.
  • Random sentence from middle: On a low stone hedge some young lambs were playing at king-of-the-castle, butting their woolly heads into one another's ribs and leaping sideways.
  • Manning-Sanders biography: This is from the back flap of the dust jacket. There are a couple details here that were new to me:
    "The wife of George Manning-Sanders, the artist and writer, Mrs. Manning-Sanders was born in South Wales, of an old Unitarian family. She was a Shakespeare scholar at Manchester University but, before completing her English Honours course, left to get married. With her husband she toured England, Scotland and Wales in a horse-drawn caravan. Then they joined the artists' colony at Newlyn and finally settled in their present home at Sennen Cove, near Land's End. They have two children.

    "Ruth Manning-Sanders began writing verse, and never thought to write anything else till economic pressure acted as a spur. One day she met an elephant in Sennen, and became interested in circus life. She joined a family tenting circus, travelling and living with them to study the practising of the artistes and the training of the animals. She worked as an advance agent, rode an elephant on parade, and went into the lions' cage with the trainer.

    "This has provided material for two circus novels already published and a third in preparation; also for her forthcoming history of the English circus. Her hobbies are gardening, animals and birds, astronomy, poetry and painting, legendry lore and prehistoric research."

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