13 February 2011

Hannen Swaffer and Edgar Wallace

I've just come across this wonderful drawing of Hannen Swaffer (1879-1962) by Joseph Simpson. Swaffer was a very prolific British journalist and drama critic who incidentally gave strong journalistic support to Lionel Britton in his early days as a playwright. This sketch is from Hannen Swaffer's Who's Who (London: Hutchinson, [1929]), which contains brief but highly idiosyncratic essays on people Swaffer knew. The book has a Foreword by Edgar Wallace called 'The Plague of Swafferism',  in which Wallace says:

'Usually, Swaffer is right; sometimes, he is ravagingly, madly wrong. His audacity in telling me that I was a bad producer because one of the actors in my play forgot his lines and a light went on when it should have been off, remains with me as an instance of his unparalled nerve.

'With the conclusions he forms in this book, I can neither agree nor disagree, as he didn't take the trouble to send them to me. I shall like all the unpleasant things he says about people I dislike, and hate his reference to my friends. I hope he has written nothing about me because we are, just now, on speaking terms.'

Swaffer of course does include an essay on Wallace - 'The Dictaphone that Churns out Novels' - and it is probably the longest in the book. He continues the pantomime:

'[Wallace] works half his life, and yet you seldom see him doing anything. He boasts he has the fastest typist in the world. Whenever I see this typist, however, he is at Newmarket with Edgar, being sent to the rails to find out what they're backing. The man, Wallace means, I suppose, has the finest typist's job in the world.

'There is only one Edgar Wallace. Thank Heaven there are not two! The present one, when he saw "Too Much Edgar Wallace" in a headline of mine, merely went to his dictaphone and started three more plays!'
Below is a later post I made with images of the Edgar Wallace pub:
Edgar Wallace in Essex Street


Showcomms said...

I wondered if you might be interested to share a lttle thing withyou.
I found today a little book of hand written of poems. It appears to be by none other than Hannen Swaffer dedicated to his wife. The book is from 1904.
I liked the poems howver I could not afford the many 1920s and 1930s Programmes for Plays and Ballets in London nor the parliamentary Blue books and papers from famous dates accompanying it. Had I known they were related I would have kept them together. I thought Hannen swaffer might have been a lesser known poet I wasn't quite ex[pecting to discover he was so reknown! At least the poems are not lost

Dr Tony Shaw said...

This is interesting stuff, although I can't find any work of poetry that Swaffer had published - I've checked the British Library catalog.

Also, he'd be in his early twenties when he wrote this. Juvenilia? As I say, though, interesting.