Dornford Yates

Dornford Yates

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Dornford Yates'
Start a new discussion about 'Dornford Yates'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Dornford Yates was the pseudonym of the British novelist, Cecil William Mercer (7 August 1885 – 5 March 1960), whose novels and short stories, some humorous (the Berry books), some thrillers (the Chandos books), were best-sellers in the 21-year interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

 between the First and Second world wars.
The pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

, Dornford Yates, first in print in 1910, resulted from combining the surnames of his grandmothers — the paternal Eliza Mary Dornford, and the maternal Harriet Yates.

Early life


William (Bill) Mercer was born in Walmer
Walmer
Walmer is a town in the district of Dover, Kent in England: located on the coast, the parish of Walmer is six miles north-east of Dover. Largely residential, its coastline and castle attract many visitors...

, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, the son of Cecil John Mercer (1850–1921) and Helen Wall (1858–1918). His father was a solicitor whose sister, Mary Frances, married Charles Augustus Munro; their son was Hector Hugh Munro
Saki
Hector Hugh Munro , better known by the pen name Saki, and also frequently as H. H. Munro, was a British writer whose witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirised Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy...

 (the writer Saki
Saki
Hector Hugh Munro , better known by the pen name Saki, and also frequently as H. H. Munro, was a British writer whose witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirised Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy...

); Bill Mercer is said to have idolised his elder cousin.

Mercer attended St Clare preparatory school in Walmer from 1894 to 1899. The family moved from Kent to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 when he joined Harrow
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

 as a day boarder in 1899, his father selling his solicitor’s practice in Kent and setting up office in Carey Street. Leaving Harrow in 1903, he attended University College
University College, Oxford
.University College , is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m...

, Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 in 1904 where he achieved a Third in Law.

At university, he was active in the Oxford University Dramatic Society
Oxford University Dramatic Society
The Oxford University Dramatic Society is the principal funding body and provider of theatrical services to the many independent student productions put on by students in Oxford, England...

 (OUDS), becoming secretary in 1906 and president in 1907, his final year. He acted in the 1905 production of Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

The Clouds
The Clouds
The Clouds is a comedy written by the celebrated playwright Aristophanes lampooning intellectual fashions in classical Athens. It was originally produced at the City Dionysia in 423 BC and it was not well received, coming last of the three plays competing at the festival that year. It was revised...

, of which the Times reviewer said: “Among individual actors the best was Mr. C.W. Mercer, whose ‘Strepsiades’ was full of fun, and who possesses real comic talent.” After a small part in the 1906 production of Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

, in his final year, he appeared as ‘Demetrius’ in A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

, and as ‘Pedant’ in The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

, a production which included the professional actresses Lily Brayton
Lily Brayton
Elizabeth "Lily" Brayton was an English actress, known for her performances in Shakespeare plays and for her nearly 2,000 performances in the World War I hit musical Chu Chin Chow.-Early years:...

 as ‘Katherine’, and her sister Agnes as ‘Bianca’.

Among the many useful friends Mercer made in the OUDS were Gervais Rentoul
Gervais Rentoul
Sir Gervais Squire Chittick Rentoul K.C.,M.A. , commonly known as Gervais Rentoul, was a British Conservative politician....

, who asked him to be his best man, and Lily Brayton's husband, actor Oscar Asche
Oscar Asche
John Stange Heiss Oscar Asche , better known as Oscar Asche, was an Australian actor, director and writer, best known for having written, directed, and acted in the record-breaking musical Chu Chin Chow, both on stage and film, and for acting in, directing, or producing many Shakespeare plays and...

, later producer of the play Kismet
Kismet (musical)
Kismet is a musical with lyrics and musical adaptation by Robert Wright and George Forrest, adapted from the music of Alexander Borodin, and a book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis, based on Kismet, the 1911 play by Edward Knoblock...

, and writer of Chu Chin Chow
Chu Chin Chow
Chu Chin Chow is a musical comedy written, produced and directed by Oscar Asche, with music by Frederic Norton, based on the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves...

. After university, Mercer took a caravanning holiday in Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

, with Asche, Lily, Agnes, and another theatrical couple, Matheson Lang
Matheson Lang
Matheson Alexander Lang was a Canadian-born stage and film actor and playwright in the early 20th century. He is best remembered for his performances roles in Great Britain in Shakespeare plays.-Biography:...

 and his wife, Hutin Britton
Hutin Britton
Nelly Hutin Britton , usually credited as Hutin Britton was an English actress. She was best known for her performances in Shakespeare roles early in the 20th century. She also appeared in leading roles in two silent British films.-Biography:Nelly, the daughter of Thomas Britton, was born in...

; Asche and Lang recall that holiday in their respective memoirs.

Mercer’s third-class Oxford law degree
Law degree
A Law degree is an academic degree conferred for studies in law. Such degrees are generally preparation for legal careers; but while their curricula may be reviewed by legal authority, they do not themselves confer a license...

 was insufficient to gain him traditional access to the bar
Bar (law)
Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.-Courtroom division:...

. However, in 1908 his father obtained his son a post as pupil to a prominent solicitor, H.G. Muskett, whose practice often required his appearing in court on behalf of the police commissioner. As Muskett’s pupil, Mercer saw much of the seedy side of London life, some of which is evident in his novels.

In 1909, he was called to the bar where he worked for several years. In his first memoirs, As Berry & I Were Saying, he recalls his involvement in the trial of the poisoner Hawley Harvey Crippen
Hawley Harvey Crippen
Hawley Harvey Crippen , usually known as Dr. Crippen, was an American homeopathic physician hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, on November 23, 1910, for the murder of his wife, Cora Henrietta Crippen...

, when he returned from acting with the Old Stagers
Old Stagers
The Old Stagers is an amateur theatre group, founded in 1842 by Hon. Frederick Ponsonby and Charles Taylor. It claims to be the oldest surviving amateur dramatic company in the world, having staged its first shows in Canterbury in 1842. It has continued to give annual performances every year...

, at Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, to have first look at the legal brief. Mercer is in a photograph of the Bow Street Court committal proceedings, published in the Daily Mirror of 30 August 1910.

In his spare time, he wrote short stories that were published in Punch
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...

, The Red Magazine, Pearson's Magazine
Pearson's Magazine
Pearson's Magazine was an influential publication which first appeared in Britain in 1896. It specialised in speculative literature, political discussion, often of a socialist bent, and the arts. Its contributors included Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, Maxim Gorky and H. G...

, and the Windsor Magazine
Windsor Magazine
The Windsor Magazine was a monthly illustrated publication produced by Ward Lock & Co from January 1895 to September 1939 .The title page described it as "An Illustrated Monthly for Men and Women"....

, maintaining a relationship with this last until the end of the 1930s; after it closed he wrote for the Strand Magazine
Strand Magazine
The Strand Magazine was a monthly magazine composed of fictional stories and factual articles founded by George Newnes. It was first published in the United Kingdom from January 1891 to March 1950 running to 711 issues, though the first issue was on sale well before Christmas 1890.Its immediate...

. He also assisted in the writing of What I Know (Mills & Boon, 1913), the memoirs of C.W. Stamper, who had been motor engineer to King Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

.

The Great War and afterwards


At the outbreak of the Great War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 in 1914, Mercer joined the County of London Yeomanry
County of London Yeomanry
Several British Army regiments have born the title County of London Yeomanry . Most have been mounted, then armoured regiments.-1st County of London Yeomanry:...

 and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, although his stories continued to appear in the Windsor until March 1915. In 1915, his regiment left for Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and, in November 1915 as part of the 8th Mounted Brigade, he was sent to the Salonika/Macedonian front
Macedonian front (World War I)
The Macedonian Front resulted from an attempt by the Allied Powers to aid Serbia, in the autumn of 1915, against the combined attack of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The expedition came too late and in insufficient force to prevent the fall of Serbia, and was complicated by the internal...

 where the war was in stalemate. Suffering severe muscular rheumatism he was sent home in 1917 and, although he was still in uniform, the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 did not again post him. He eventually left the army in 1919. In June of that year the Windsor carried his first story since the end of the war.

Since 1914, the Mercer family home had been “Elm Tree Road” in St John's Wood
St John's Wood
St John's Wood is a district of north-west London, England, in the City of Westminster, and at the north-west end of Regent's Park. It is approximately 2.5 miles north-west of Charing Cross. Once part of the Great Middlesex Forest, it was later owned by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem...

, where his friends Oscar and Lily Asche were close neighbours. In autumn of 1919, he and Asche combined to write the stage show Eastward Ho!, but the production was not a great success and he did not again attempt to write for the stage. A frequent social - and then romantic - Elm Tree Road visitor was Bettine (Athalia) Stokes Edwards, an American girl who danced in Chu Chin Chow (and daughter of Robert Ewing Edwards of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) who became Mercer’s first wife. The New York Times announcement of their engagement (28 August 1919) states: “Mr & Mrs Glover Fitzhugh Perin of 57 West Fifty-eight street have announced the engagement of Mrs Perin’s oldest daughter Miss Bettine Stokes Edwards. . . .” suggesting that her father either was dead or divorced; her re-married mother then lived in New York City. Mercer and Bettine married at St James, Spanish Place, in the Marylebone
Marylebone
Marylebone is an affluent inner-city area of central London, located within the City of Westminster. It is sometimes written as St. Marylebone or Mary-le-bone....

 district of London, on 22 October 1919. The month of October also marked the appearance of a story in the Windsor called Valerie whose female lead made a living as a dancer; this story never appeared in book form.

Mercer decided to not return to the bar, and to concentrate on his writing. He and Bettine lived in Elm Tree Road, where their only child, Richard, was born on 20 July 1920. After the Great War, many ex-officers found that the rise in the cost of living in London precluded maintaining the style of life of a gentleman to which they had become accustomed; some looked beyond England. In 1922, the Mercers emigrated to France, where it was possible to live more cheaply, and where the climate was kinder to Mercer’s muscular rheumatism.

French residence


They chose the resort town Pau, in the western Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

, in the Basses–Pyrénées département (now Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a department in the southwest of France which takes its name from the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.- History :...

) — where lived a sizable British expat colony, but when the Mercers moved in is unknown. In Dornford Yates — A Biography (1982), A.J. Smithers reports “exactly how he hit upon the place is not clear”, but Pau figures several times in the memoirs he is presumed to have ghost-written for C.W. Stamper, and so that might be the answer — “anywhere good enough for King Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

 was good enough for him”.

They rented the Villa Maryland, on Rue Forster, where Mercer proved an exacting husband, while Bettine was a social woman, and by 1929, the failure of their marriage was evident. Bettine had been indiscreet in her extra-marital romantic liaisons, and Mercer sued for divorce. Bettine did not defend, and the divorce was made absolute in September 1933. In the event, she returned to her family in the U.S.

Less than a year later, on 10 February 1934, at Chertsey Register office, Mercer married Doreen Elizabeth Lucie Bowie, whom he met on a cruise in 1932. She was daughter of London solicitor D.M. Bowie of Virginia Water
Virginia Water
Virginia Water is an affluent village, a lake and, originally, a stream, the village being in the Runnymede Borough Council in Surrey and the bodies of water stretching over the borders of Runnymede, Old Windsor and Sunninghill and Ascot, England....

. Elizabeth was twenty years younger than her new husband, who felt he had met the incarnation of his fictional “Jill Mansel”, thus did he call her “Jill” for the rest of his life. For him, Villa Maryland had many memories of Bettine, so he and Elizabeth decided to build a new house, named “Cockade”. They chose a spot twenty miles south of Pau, near Eaux-Bonnes
Eaux-Bonnes
Eaux-Bonnes is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.Nearby is the impressive villa Cockade, the construction of which is detailed in Dornford Yates's novel The House That Berry Built....

, on the route to the Spanish frontier, the project is related in The House That Berry Built
The House That Berry Built
The House That Berry Built is a humorous semi-autobiographical novel by Dornford Yates published in 1945 by Ward Lock & Co of London. It is a fictional recreation of the construction of the author's house, Cockade, in the commune of Eaux-Bonnes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France.-Plot summary:This...

, wherein the name of the house is “Gracedieu” (God’s Grace). They did not enjoy long residence in Cockade.

With France falling to the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 in June 1940, the Mercers hurriedly arranged caretakers for Cockade, and then escaped the country — in company of visiting friends, Matheson Lang and wife — and traversed Spain en route to Portugal. They subsequently took ship for South Africa, arriving in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, in 1941.

The Second World War and the Rhodesian years


C.W. Mercer was re-commissioned in the Royal Rhodesian Regiment, and attained the rank of major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

. As the war concluded, the couple realised their plan of returning to Cockade — but were disappointed in the decrepitude of the house and the socially-conscious, post-war attitude of their one-time servants. After some months, the Mercers obtained exit visas and returned to Umtali, Southern Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

, (now Mutare, Zimbabwe), where they lived for the rest of his life. Mercer supervised the building of a replacement house for Cockade, another hillside venture, and, in 1948, they moved into “Sacradown”, on Oak Avenue. The furniture in France was shipped to Rhodesia, as were the Waterloo Bridge balusters (see The House that Berry Built), which had never reached Cockade, but had been stored in England during the Second World War.

Cecil William Mercer died in March 1960.

His writings


Mercer originally wrote short stories for the monthly magazines. His first known published work, Temporary Insanity, appeared in Punch
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...

in May 1910 - this is the first known occasion of his use of his pen name - and his second, Like A Tale That is Told appeared in the Red Magazine in July 1910. The first known Berry story to be published, Babes in the Wood, appeared in Pearsons Magazine in September 1910. None of these early stories was ever included in his books. Many of his works began as stories in the Windsor Magazine
Windsor Magazine
The Windsor Magazine was a monthly illustrated publication produced by Ward Lock & Co from January 1895 to September 1939 .The title page described it as "An Illustrated Monthly for Men and Women"....

, before being collected in book form. Between September 1911 and September 1939 he had 123 stories published in the Windsor, and after it closed, the Strand Magazine
Strand Magazine
The Strand Magazine was a monthly magazine composed of fictional stories and factual articles founded by George Newnes. It was first published in the United Kingdom from January 1891 to March 1950 running to 711 issues, though the first issue was on sale well before Christmas 1890.Its immediate...

carried three of his stories in 1940 and 1941.

His first story for the Windsor Magazine was Busy Bees, in September 1911, and this and fourteen subsequent stories from that publication up to the July 1914 issue were republished in book form as The Brother of Daphne, in 1914. Some of the stories were edited for the book, to eliminate events, such as marriage, for the leading characters — which suggests that, originally, he had not planned on using the same characters for a story series. The narrator — later identified as “Boy Pleydell” — marries in Babes in the Wood and possibly in Busy Bees, which became The Busy Beers, a chapter in The Brother of Daphne, with the end of the story altered to remove the hint of marriage.

His second book, The Courts of Idleness, was published in 1920, containing material written before, during, and after the Great War. It was divided into three sections. In Book I Yates introduced a new set of characters similar to, but separate from, Berry & Co, in four stories that had appeared in the Windsor between December 1914 and March 1915, and a final story from the Windsor of June 1919 in which the male characters are killed off in Salonika
Macedonian front (World War I)
The Macedonian Front resulted from an attempt by the Allied Powers to aid Serbia, in the autumn of 1915, against the combined attack of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The expedition came too late and in insufficient force to prevent the fall of Serbia, and was complicated by the internal...

, during the Great War. The Interlude has a story entitled And The Other Left, from the November 1914 Windsor, which is set on the Western Front with a unique set of characters. Book II returns to the Berry characters, with two pre-war stories from the August and September 1914 Windsor, and three post-war stories from the issues of July, August and September 1919. The book’s final story, Nemesis, was written for, and rejected by, Punch; subsequently, it appeared in the Windsor in November 1919, with the main character named “Jeremy”; for the book he became “Berry”. Nemesis was written to the Punch length, and so is much shorter than most of the other stories in The Courts of Idleness.

The Berry books are semi-autobiographical, humorous romances, often in short story form, and, in particular, feature Bertram “Berry” Pleydell (“of White Ladies, in the County of Hampshire”) and his family — his wife and cousin, Daphne, her brother, Boy Pleydell (the narrator), and their cousins Jonathan “Jonah” Mansel, and his sister, Jill. Collectively, they are “Berry & Co.” Although all five appear in Babes in the Wood, their precise relationships are unstated, and Berry and Daphne are referred to as second cousins as late as Jonah & Co; later stories feature a simple family tree, showing them to be first cousins descended from two brothers and a sister.

“Berry & Co.” capture the English upper classes of the Edwardian era, still self-assured, but affected by changing social attitudes and the decline of their fortunes. As in many of Yates’ books, grand houses, powerful motor cars, and foreign travel feature prominently in the Berry stories. In the 1950s, C.W. Mercer wrote two books of fictionalized memoirs, As Berry and I were Saying and B-Berry and I Look Back, written as conversations between Berry and his family. They contain many anecdotes about his experiences as a lawyer, but are, in the main, an elegy for a passed upper-class way of life.

The Chandos books, starting with Blind Corner, in 1927, marked a sea change in style and content, being thrillers set mainly in Continental Europe
Continental Europe
Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands....

 (often in Carinthia
Carinthia (state)
Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state or Land. Situated within the Eastern Alps it is chiefly noted for its mountains and lakes.The main language is German. Its regional dialects belong to the Southern Austro-Bavarian group...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

), wherein the hero–narrator, Richard Chandos, and colleagues, including George Hanbury and Jonathan Mansel (who also featured in the Berry books), tackle criminals, protect the innocent, romance beautiful ladies, and hunt for treasure. It is the Chandos novels to which Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett is a British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Born in Leeds, he attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with The Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research mediaeval history at the university for several years...

 especially refers in naming Dornford Yates in the play Forty Years On
Forty Years On (play)
Forty Years On is a 1968 play by Alan Bennett. It was his first West End play.-Subject:The play is set in a British public school called Albion House , which is putting on an end of term play in front of the parents, i.e. the audience...

(1972): “Sapper, Buchan, Dornford Yates, practitioners in that school of Snobbery with Violence that runs like a thread of good-class tweed through twentieth-century literature.” Yates also wrote other thrillers in the same style, but with different characters.

Besides the two genres in which he specialised, some of Yates' novels do not easily fall into either the humorous or the thriller category.

Anthony Lyveden was Dornford Yates’s first novel, telling the story of an impoverished ex-officer; it ends in a cliff-hanger. Originally, it was published in monthly instalments in the Windsor Magazine,

Valerie French, the sequel to Anthony Lyveden features mostly the same cast. At the start of the book Lyveden is suffering amnesia
Retrograde amnesia
Retrograde amnesia is a loss of access to events that occurred, or information that was learned, before an injury or the onset of a disease....

, and cannot recall the events of the previous book, leading to romantic complications.

The Stolen March is a fantasy set in a lost realm, between Spain and France, where travellers encounter characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. A planned sequel, The Tempered Wind, is referred to in the quasi-autobiography, B-Berry and I Look Back, where Yates mentions abandoning the book as it failed to “take charge”.

This Publican features a scheming woman and her hen-pecked husband. Some critics have suggested that the portrayal of the villainess represented a thinly-veiled attack on Mercer's first wife; however it is difficult to believe that the weak-willed husband is intended as a self-portrait.

Lower than Vermin (the title derives from Socialist politician Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

’s description of members of the Conservative party) is a novel in which Mercer defends his views on social class, and criticises the path Britain was following under the post-war Labour government.

Ne'er-Do-Well is a murder story narrated by Richard Chandos, with whom the investigating policeman is staying; it features a visiting Jonathan Mansel.

Wife Apparent attempts to portray “Dornford Yates’s” type of people in a 1950s setting; given that they remain essentially Edwardian in outlook, this novel is only partly successful.

Stage, cinema, and other media


The 1919 musical play Eastward Ho! was written by Oscar Asche
Oscar Asche
John Stange Heiss Oscar Asche , better known as Oscar Asche, was an Australian actor, director and writer, best known for having written, directed, and acted in the record-breaking musical Chu Chin Chow, both on stage and film, and for acting in, directing, or producing many Shakespeare plays and...

 (author) with lyrics by Dornford Yates and music by Grace Torrens and John Ansell. It was produced by Edward Laurillard
Edward Laurillard
Edward Laurillard was a cinema and theatre producer in London and New York during the first third of the 20th century...

 and George Grossmith Jr, and opened at the Alhambra Theatre
Alhambra Theatre
The Alhambra was a popular theatre and music hall located on the east side of Leicester Square, in the West End of London. It was built originally as The Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts opening on 18 March 1854. It was closed after two years and reopened as the Alhambra. The building was...

 in London on 9 September and ran for 124 performances.

Although none of Yates’s books has yet been filmed for the cinema, the BBC produced an adaptation of She Fell Among Thieves in 1977, featuring Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell is an English actor with a career spanning over forty years.McDowell is principally known for his roles in the controversial films If...., O Lucky Man!, A Clockwork Orange and Caligula...

 as Chandos, Michael Jayston
Michael Jayston
Michael Jayston is a Nottingham-born English actor.- Early life :He attended the Becket Grammar School in West Bridgford, then worked briefly as a trainee accountant at the offices of the National Coal Board before obtaining a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to train as an...

 as Mansel, and Eileen Atkins
Eileen Atkins
Dame Eileen June Atkins, DBE is an English actress and occasional screenwriter.- Early life :Atkins was born in the Mothers' Hospital in Clapton, a Salvation Army women's hostel in East London...

 as Vanity Fair.

An episode of the ITV Hannay series, “A Point of Honour”, was based on the eponymous short story published in The Brother of Daphne, but the source was uncredited.

An audiobook edition of Blind Corner, read by Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman
Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman is an English actor and theatre director. He is a renowned stage actor in modern and classical productions and a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company...

, was produced by Chivers Audio Books, but is currently out of print.

The 1973 novel Indecent Exposure by Tom Sharpe
Tom Sharpe
Tom Sharpe is an English satirical author, best known for his Wilt series of novels.Sharpe was born in London and moved to South Africa in 1951, where he worked as a social worker and a teacher, before being deported for sedition in 1961...

 plays a lot upon the 'Englishman' that Dornford Yates created in his novels. There is a group of characters in the novel who style themselves as the 'Dornford Yates' club and who try to emulate the 'Master' in avoiding reality and a changing world.

External links