Ernest V. Chandler
by Pat Bryan and Shirley Bishop

Those of you who have read my biography of Jeffery Farnol, "Farnol - The Man Who Wrote Best- Sellers", will know that I expressed criticism of the part played in Farnol's life by his friend and one- time secretary, Ernest V.Chandler, who died in 1936. I believe that criticism to be justified, based on my research. A number of parties - family, friends and business associates of Farnol - provided evidence to that effect.
However, I have been in correspondence with Mr Chandler's niece, Mrs Shirley Bishop of Chardonne, Switzerland who, not surprisingly, disagrees with my assessment of her uncle. I think it only fair that fellow Farnol enthusiasts should read what she has to say. Her letter, in its entirety, is reproduced below with her permission.

Pat Bryan









Dear Pat,

In the months since we corresponded I have read your book several times, and have had the opportunity to consider my reaction to your description of my uncle, Ernest Chandler.
    You said in a letter to me that "As a biographer I relied on the memories of people who were in their late teens or early twenties at the time, and from letters in the business files of Watt & Sons, and other reminiscences, and people bring their own biases to their accounts"
    It seems to me that in your assessment of Ernest you have indeed been prejudiced by the reminiscences of Farnol family members and business associates, all of whom had an axe to grind against Ernest.
    I don't recognise my uncle in the contemptuous terms used from page 129 of your book onward. You cast doubts on his war service; his ability to pay his own way to the USA; his business acumen; even his personal appearance - the duelling scar which you claim to have seen in a photograph did not exist.
    These references, however, are unimportant compared to the real accusations you have made against Ernest, which, were he to be alive, would be libellous. These are:

    1. Chandler persuaded Jeffrey to end his 20 years association with Watt and appoint him as his literary agent, even though Chandler "of course knew nothing of the intricacies of successful literary agency"
   Comment: Earnest had already been secretary for 6 years, presumably knew the literary scene reasonably well - perhaps Jeffrey thought he might do better than Watt - or he would save himself some money- who knows?

    2. Edward Farnol, having briefly himself managed Jeffrey's business affairs, was "highly critical of Chandler's handling of the Farnol fortunes"
   Comment. Jeffrey can have thought very little of Edward Farnol's abilities since he did not last very long. Sour grapes?

    3. Since Farnol "appears to have trusted Chandler implicitly there would be plenty of opportunity for some creative bookkeeping"
   What evidence exists?

    4. Ernest "forced up all the royalties" to the extent that Samson Low withdrew; and the book was subsequently published by Macmillan.
   Comment: Macmillan were presumably prepared to pay the higher royalties

    5. Jeffrey "had been let in for an action for breach of contract, most probably occasioned by Chandler's manoeuvres"
   Comment: This was settled out of court and there was the quarrel and estrangement between Jeffrey and his brother immediately afterwards.

    6. You raise accusations that "a possible deathbed confession(! )" revealed that Ernest had systematically been milking his good friend Jeffrey of thousands of pounds over the years.
    Comment: your account of Ernest's death is completely inaccurate as you have seen from the Obituaries.

    It seems to me that these accusations come from Blanche (soon to be divorced, and plainly a woman scorned) Watt - the replaced Literary Agents, and Edward Farnol, your "victim figure" who quarrelled with everyone. As far as Blanche is concerned you will recall that she asked Jeffrey to choose between her and Ernest and he chose Ernest. Nothing she subsequently says can really be relied upon.
    For you to be right, Jeffrey Farnol would have had to be a mere cypher, with no knowledge of what Ernest was doing on his behalf, of the monies coming in, and more importantly, of the alterations to the Trust which Blanche had plainly signed and later tried to repudiate. None of this was likely to have been done without Jeffrey's full agreement and knowledge.
    During the whole period of their association Jeffrey gave Ernest copies of his books, all signed and many dedicated to Ernest, and other members of his family. I have supplied you with a complete list of these dedications and you will know of the flattering terms in which Jeffrey speaks of his friend.
    You say that Jeffrey was very loyal to his friends; however, his loyalty would have been stretched indeed if he shared his house for over ten years with a man (whom you imply was without business experience) who milked him for the money; schemed against his family and alienated his friends. I have sent you the newspaper reports of my uncle's death. You will know beyond a shadow of doubt that it was not due to a snake bite whilst mowing the grass (that had in fact happened a couple of years before). My Uncle died from septicaemia following giving a blood transfusion to Sir Harry Preston. You have had the inquest reports, and the obituaries.
    You will note from the "Times" that he was educated at the City of London School; became a Member of the Stock Exchange; became Amateur Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World in New York in 1914 and served in WW1 as a Captain in the Royal Field Artillery.
    He was not a hanger-on "floating around the edges of the Noble Art"; or a man with no business experience. My uncle was popular with men of substance like Sir Harry Preston and travelled in an official way to foreign sporting events e.g. being invited by the Crown Prince of Germany to view the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
    Had you had this information concerning Ernest I believe you would have recognised the possible bias in your informants' information, and might had modified your strictures on him.
    Since almost all of the readers of your biography will also consult the Farnol web site from time to time, I had hoped that I might have seen an acknowledgement by you that you got it wrong in some respects - that further evidence had come to light concerning Ernest Chandler, and that you now knew that at least your account of his death was completely inaccurate .
    May I ask you to do this now?
    You said in an e-mail that I would not enjoy your biography, and of course you are correct. I would be foolish if I thought that I could possibly know the details of things which happened so long ago, and what were the real rights and wrongs of this affair. But neither can you! My family were proud of Ernest and since I am now the only one around to defend him I am tackling you about all this when I would much prefer just to leave it be.

Yours sincerely,

Shirley Bishop

 


 









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