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H. DE VERE STACPOOLE

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(1863–1951) married, first, Mrs H. de Vere Stacpoole and, secondly (1938), her sister Florence Robson. Henry Stacpoole was born at Kingstown, Co. Dublin, the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman who ran a school. As a child he travelled widely with his mother, who had been born in Canada. He went to Malvern College before going to London to read medicine at St George's and St Mary's Hospitals (graduating in 1891). His interest in literature was aroused by his reading of Carlyle and the German philosophers and poets. He took up a post as a ship's doctor and travelled the world with the Royal Navy. In the 1890s he became a friend of ‘John Oliver Hobbes’ and members of the Yellow Book circle, whose influence can be seen in early works like Death, the Knight, and the Lady (1897). Fiction such as The Bourgeois (1901) and Garryowen: The Romance of a Race Horse (1903) did not immediately make money, and in 1904 he applied to the Royal Literary Fund, stating that he suffered from recurrent sciatica and nervous depression, and that whereas he had formerly made an income of about £150 from his writing he was now finding it difficult to work. His situation, however, was transformed by the two exotic novels which brought him popular success: The Crimson Azaleas (1907), set in Japan, where two Scottish businessmen bring up a young Japanese girl and one of the them becomes involved with an old flame, now married; and the bestselling desert island romance, The Blue Lagoon (1908). He spent his later life at Chelmsford, Essex, and at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight, a wealthy and successful author. The Ship of Coral (1911) was an attempt to repeat the desert island formula. Two French sailors, Gaspard the Provençal and Yves the Breton, shipwrecked on a remote coral reef, discover the remains of a galleon on the sea-floor. Gaspard murders Yves, enters into an alliance with the captain of the ship which rescues him, falls in love with a woman in St Pierre, on Martinique, returns to the reef, is betrayed by his rescuer, watches the latter's ship sink in a hurricane, is rescued again, and returns to St Pierre a rich man, only to find the town buried under a mound of volcanic ash. Stacpoole also wrote historical romances such as The Street of the Flute-Player (1912), which is set in Athens in the fifth century bc (Socrates and Aristophanes both appear), and on the whole more interested in the setting than in the Greek hero and Egyptian-Persian heroine; as well as some verse and translations of the poems of both François Villon (b.1431) and Sappho (fl.650bc). His own works have been translated into many languages including Dutch, Swedish, French, and Italian. Stacpoole sometimes used the pseudonym ‘Tyler De Saix’, for example for The Vulture's Prey (1909). Stacpoole published two volumes of autobiography: Mice and Men: 1863–1942 (1942) and More Mice and Men (1945). He died in hospital at Shanklin, Isle of Wight. Stacpoole's informative obituary in the Times (13 Apr. 1951) considers the chief merit of his work to lie in ‘the reflected light and colour of his tropical seascapes and landfalls’ and in his ability to communicate ‘a genuine delight and wonder’.