| It had never occurred to me that my early recollections of my brother would he of any general interest until my good friend James Stevens Cox, the well known literary antiquarian of Beaminster in Dorset, pointed out to me that they were not only of general interest but important as a contribution to the Literary History of the past fifty or sixty years.
Mr Stevens Cox now tells me that he has received so many "Appreciations" of my first short essay, from people who want more of my brother's early history, and writing data, that he would like me to write some more for him to publish. It is interesting that our old friend that I was at school with nearly 70 years ago, wrote to Stevens Cox asking to be put in touch with me - as a fact he is the "Famous Architect" that I mentioned as one of our "Purity Squad" in my earlier memories--and he is coming to see me again in a few days time - we lost contact during the 1914-18 War and have never met since!
I will do what I can to set down further memories of my brother, regarding happenings in his earlier life and his writings. I have a full list of his forty-three books which I will include at the end of these notes of mine for the information of those people who know some of his books so well, but have never read many of the others.
As I think I have said before, I am the only person now left alive who knows Jack's earlier history fully, and the hard endeavour, frustration and final great and enduring success which he made of his life.
No one now knows just how many copies of his books were sold because all the records of the publishers (Sampson, Low & Co.) went up in flames during the blitz, but, as Maurice Wiggin says in his review of "The Ninth Earl" in the "Daily Graphic"---"Nobody else has sold so many books as Jeffery Farnol"-- and I think that this statement is perfectly true for all his books sold 'like wildfire'.
My brother was always a person of persistence and dogged determination, and very self-willed, so that once he had begun anything — from the making of a kite to writing a novel— no one could change his line of action. Many of his friends and relatives tried to persuade him to drop his writing and concentrate upon his landscape painting in oils, as they were convinced that his very lovely pictures would bring him greater fame and reward. But their efforts were all in vain for Jack was always sure (as Mother was) even in those early years, that his pen would earn him both in full measure in due time--"You just wait old cock and you'll see"-and so he went steadily on with his writing and got a few short stories published in the late 1890's, but never anything of any moment.
It is these years of really hard effort and small return that I like best to remember. From our very early boyhood my brothers and I never quarrelled and fought amongst ourselves--as so many families of boys seem to do today. --and the property of one of us was 'owned by all three' and was, as a matter of course, used by any one of us.
Jack was always the acknowledged leader, but he discussed and planned any adventure, outing or other 'ploy' with us and we agreed upon what to do, so that there was never any friction. In all this I now see the guiding mind and hand of our very wonderful mother --she--matriarch that she was, would have crushed any family quarrel with firmness and dispatch. Mother never missed a point and was always glad and ready to advise and counsel us (and many other people) out of her vast store of knowledge and wisdom--a great reader and student of life always, one could depend upon her to point out the best way and the wise course. Her house was always a happy one and full of fun and laughter.
And so it is that I can now look back over all this time that has gone with happiness in our trust, friendship and affection for each other in those 'golden' days, and which lasted for so many years thereafter with a staunch respect one for the other. This atmosphere of integrity, courtesy and honour gives very clearly, an idea of the foundation upon which the clean and wholesome "tour" of all my brother's books was founded - for he never once in all (or any) of the forty-three books which he wrote, set down anything that could do any harm, but tended to uplift the spirit and raise the code of honour of his readers.
And so the years passed on their way, and Jack met and married Blanche Hawley in 1901.
In 1902 as I have already written, Jack and his wife went to the United States to live with Blanche’s parents-Mr. and Mrs. Hawley-for a time in their house at Englewood, New Jersey. Some months later Jack had a fierce row with Mr. Hawley and left his house.: telling no one where he was going. Actually he found himself a job scene painting at the old Astor Theatre in New York and lived alone in one of the 'property rooms' amongst the rats which infested the place.
I had letters from him at this time which disclosed the terrible state of loneliness and homesickness which had him in its grip.
It was as a result of this condition of mind that he began to write the "Broad Highway" putting into it all his love and longing for England and the English way of life. His first and most successful book was, therefore, born out of the great travail and stress of mind from which he suffered for many, many months during which time he wrote and wrote, mostly I think as a means of projecting himself into the scenes and atmosphere of his desire.
During the days he worked at the scene painting, slapping on as he told me, "perfect rivers of paint" and in the evenings he would prowl around New York's East Side and the district known as 'Hell's Kitchen' getting to know all sorts of strange and 'Tough' people -- gang leaders, riverside salvage men and many other unusual folk studying them and their ways for future use in drawing his "characters".
Thus we find in some few cases the people of his books drawn from actual persons that Jack met and studied--as I go through the list of his books I will try to set down the details of such cases as they seem to have an interest for the readers of his books.
In most cases the figures are drawn, not from real life, bur are "children" of the brain and imagination of his own active mind
One of the first of his "real person framework" characters was Charmian Nerovine of the Broad Highway. The drawing of her was built up upon a cousin of ours who came over from Chicago to stay with us at Lee, I think in 1896.
She was a really lovely dark beauty full of "sparkle" and the joy of living and set many of our friends to attempt her capture. But Maud went back to America when her visiting time was over, still Miss Mills of Chicago, still free and still lovely. Jack saw a good deal of her some years later when they met in New York in 1903. He used to mention her in his letters to me about then, and when he came home in 1910 he told me that he had modelled "Charmian" upon her. All the other people in this book are Jack's own "brain children", except Black George who was modelled around the mighty man who was at our time (about 1895) the actual smith who worked at the forge in Sissinghurst, Kent.
The weeks passed slowly and drearily for Jack at the theatre in New York — pay was very small and friends there were none, and he always loved friendly companionship above most things.
After his evening's wanderings and adventures he would return to his lonely property room and write for hours in the sordid place, his only company the myriads of rats which scampered about stopping now and then to watch him, their beady eyes bright as dewdrops in the dim light of his lamp.
"The Broad Highway" being, at last, finished--I believe he got Maud Mills to type it for him--it started on its round to practically every publisher in the States, and always came back "with regrets" that it was "too English".
Here it is amusing to note that one of these publishers, years later, bought the American rights for, I think, 5,000 dollars, and an increasing royalty!! If they had offered him $500 for the copyright in the days of the Astor Theatre, my brother told me, he would almost have died from joy and sold the book to them on the spot.
However, the manuscript took many, many months on its travels around the United States bringing greater despair with each return, until, at last, he gave up sending it out, and sent it (I think at the end of 1908) to mother in the old home, with a letter telling her "to read it for your own amusement and then burn the damn thing as I am sick of the sight of it".-- Mother, always a sound judge of literature, read it and was fired with a great enthusiasm.
She gave the manuscript to her old friend Shirley Byron Jevons, asking him to read it and give her his opinion.
About a week later, one Sunday evening, I remember, Jevons came over to tea and said "Well; Kate, that book of Jack's is very good indeed, I think it is a real 'winner', so I have passed it on to my old friend Ryman of Sampson Low, Marston and Co., the publishers. advising him to read it personally as I think it is the best 'Romance' which has been written for very many years".
Some weeks later mother had a letter from Ryman saying that they would like to publish the book and asking that someone representing Jack should call at his office to arrange 'Terms'.
I went to see them at their offices in Southwark Street, S.E., the following afternoon, and met three of the directors, Mr. Ryman, Mr. Tyrrell and Mr. David Murray. At first they were all three very cautious and offered only a small fixed percentage on sales, by way of 'royalty' but, after quite a debate, I got them to agree to pay a rising percentage on every thousand copies of the book which they sold after the first printing which was, I think, only one thousand copies. They all three laughed at me when I pressed for a very large jump in royalties after the first twenty thousand copies; said I was too optimistic to expect such large sales, but in the end they did agree with my suggestion and my brother collected some handsome cheques later on as a result.
Next I asked them for 500 pounds at once as an advance of the royalties, and after a 'tussle' I got away from their office that evening carrying a cheque for 250 pounds.
On all his later books it was usual for them to pay out some very large advance payments in this way.
It is interesting to note here that as a result of the world copyright, "The Broad Highway" earned for Jack something over 40,000 pounds from first to last, and is still selling. His sales in America were astronomic, and in the British Empire more than astonishing.
Here it might be of interest to set out fully the reasons which influenced his decision to write under his second name of Jeffery.
My brother was really named after my mother’s paternal uncle and her childhood's "hero"-one Captain John Jeffery who fought with great distinction in the Indian Mutiny of 1857 as he had done in the Crimea in1854. My mother's maiden name was, of course, Jeffery and my father was named John, so that people. think that his, Jack's names, John Jeffery are derived from both our parents, but this is not the truth of the matter.
Many years later when I was commissioned into the Royal Artillery at the outbreak of the 1914 war, mother gave me my great uncle's sword, and as we still had to carry swords in those early days of the 1914~1918 war, I took the beautifully engraved and damascened blade to the Wilkinson Sword Company, who had it fitted with an Artillery hilt and leather scabbard. I carried this weapon during my active service and after I was invalided home from the Cameroons, German West Africa in the early part of 1916, used it when in command of Guards of Honour for "Big Wigs" who came to Brighton on various occasions.
My unusual sword never failed to catch these people’s eyes and some of them even took the weapon into their hands and examined it closely. Earl Haig. Admiral Beatty, The Rajah of Patiala and, not least, Edward Prince of Wales when he came to Brighton to unveil the Indian Memorial and Charter on the Downs at Patcham.
The old sword still hangs on my bedroom wall where I see it as I write. But once again I digress-sure sign of old age!!
I sent this money I had obtained from Sampson Low on to New York, and within three weeks had a letter from Jack telling us that he was sailing for England in one of the Atlantic Transport Company's ships (I think the "Minnetouka") and would arrive at Tilbury on a given date. I went down to the Port to meet him but as the ship had not got in but was on her way up the Thames, I hired a man with a motor boat to take me down river to meet her. It was one of England's most beautiful days, I remember, with bright sun and sparkling water ruffled by a soft and gentle wind, so that I felt happy and more than glad that the old country should give the returning exile so bright and glittering a welcome home.
The liner soon came into sight, steaming very slowly up river, and I got my boatman to run close up under her counter. A Quartermaster who was leaning over the ship's rail must have thought me some kind of official for he shouted asking if "I was coming aboard"--of course I yelled Yes! as soon as possible and, at once, he lowered a long rope ladder end invited me to climb up. I grabbed the highest rung I could reach and hung on so that in no time at all I was swinging over the water, for the ship went steadily ahead and my boatman backed away from the ship's side to keep out of her wash. Looking up I saw the Quartermaster looking down at me, his face and that of my brother both grinning at my climbing efforts and evidently exchanging jokes about my antics on the nasty swinging ladder. However, I climbed fairly steadily up and over the side on to the deck where Jack slapped me on the back, giving me his familiar old smile and his "well done, Old Cock" just as he used to do when I was a small boy and had pleased him. At once things were back as they had always been between us, the eight years of our separation forgotten.
When Jack got back to here, he took up his old manner of living--writing for most of the nights, for he was working on "The Money Moon"-and coming up to bed at 3 or 4 in the morning. I was also staying in the old house at that time as my wife was away looking after a relative who was very ill (I had married in 1908) so that my brother and I shared our old room as we had done for so many years before.
He had a delightful habit of tucking little written messages into the mirror for me to find in the morning (he never woke me up when he was getting to bed), quaint things they were and I must have had hundreds of them in the early years, but like an ass, I never kept them, and can now only find one of them left. I set it out here as an example of those I found so often in the old days:
Dear my brother, brother ED, Wake thy brother now in BED, Please you ED, like a good old COCK, Wake me up at twelve O'CLOCK, If you should be a moment LATER, I’ll punch and pinch and pound the MATER.
I went with him a day or two later to the Publishers offices and introduced him to their three Directors with whom I had bargained on his behalf. It was a most happy afternoon as they made much of Jack (and were merry at my expense) saying that they hoped he would consider them his very good friends. This was just the note to strike with Jack as "Friendship" had always been an almost sacred word to him and the theme of all his dealings with other men. One of the three, David Murray, was to become in the following years, as great a friend as Jack ever had and they were much together as I mention from time to time in these memories of mine. David was a most charming companion with his ‘pawky' Scots wit and jolly laugh, his bright eyes merry and twinkling behind his glasses. I can see him now as he was then, although I did not meet him for many years before his death, my life leading me far away from London.
In November, 1911, "The Money Moon" was published and was also acclaimed by critics and public. In fact it sold very well indeed and many people to this day think it the most charming of all Jack's books. The royalties on this book were fixed on the same lines as for "The Broad Highway" and they added greatly to the stream of money flowing into his bank. That same year (1911), Dodd, Mead and Company, the American publishers of New York, brought out a very lovely de luxe edition of "The Money Moon" with many nice illustrations in colour by Arthur I. Keller. This beautiful volume together with the de luxe edition of "The Broad Highway" and "The Honourable Mr. Tawnish" both with colour illustrations by C. E. Brock and published by Sampson Low in London about 1912, make a very handsome addition to any library. All three of these editions had a very wide sale at the time, and are, I believe, still much sought after by collectors.
I am happy that I possess all three of them.
The American 'Hero' of "The Money Moon" was modelled on Leo Hawley, Blanche’s brother, who was a great chum of Jack's whilst he was in America, and they did much hunting and fishing together. Leo was very much as Bellew is described in the book, a good sportsman and athlete with a very pretty wit and a sense of humour all his own. The part of 'George Bellew' fits him like a glove-at least I think so from all Jack told me about him, for I never met him personally.
Anthea Devine was built around one of two sisters we knew very well in the old days around 1900. The elder, Ada, a dark and charming creature whom, at that time, I thought Jack would probably marry, just as I planned in my own mind to marry her blue-eyed younger sister Elsie (I was 16) when I had made a position for myself. However, time and circumstance, that chancy jade who intervenes in our lives so often--turned my path aside, and now, after more than sixty years, I don't expect that dainty Elsie even remembers me, despite the fact that I once carried her in my arms all the way out of Angley Woods to her father's lovely old Flemish weavers house in the High St., Cranbrook--more than two long miles--when she had sprained her ankle very badly. Heavens! how things come back to mind as one grows old!
All the other people in "The Money Moon" are creations of Jack's own brain. The dedication of "The Money Moon" to "Jennifer" was a tribute to Mrs. Jennifer Hawley, who was Blanche's mother-she was ever most kind to Jack and came to be very fond of him and his very good friend. She was quite a dear woman and we all grew to like her enormously.
She came over to England every year or so and stayed in Jack's house for months on end. Actually both she and her husband, Hughson Hawley, died at different times when staying with Jack and Blanche and lie in the little churchyard at Patcham, close to the grave of my own father and mother.
It is a matter of fact that Jack settled down more and more to his work as a professional author, he used the memories of his friends of the past less and created more of his characters from his own brain.
The absorption in his work seemed to grow as the years went by, so that when he arrived at middle age, he lived very much in a world of his own, lost in thought for the most part, formulating and working out his 'plots'.
It became almost an 'event' for him to write a letter to any one at all, so that letters written by him are very scarce indeed and much prized by collectors of such things. There will never be a volume of "The Letters of Jeffery Farnol' as there have been of so many other people. There would not be enough.
His hatred of letter writing can be well understood if one remembers that everyone of his forty-three books was written and revised by him personally in his own handwriting, for he hated a typewriter and would never use one at all. "The noise and rattle of the things puts me off so that I can't think, old cock", he said to me once when I spoke to him about it--also he did not like dictating, which he tried with me a few times in the early years. I must except from this statement the last two of his books for, I understand that he dictated the end of "The Waif of the River" to his second wife Phyllis, and that she wrote up a good deal of his last book "Justice by Midnight" herself. I think she made a pretty good job of it, but to any person who knows my brother's work as well as I do it is not hard to find where he left off and she began.
"The Amateur Gentleman" published in March, 1913, was, as usual, seized on by the critics and the public as another first class romance. It sold, again like the other books, and spread his popularity even wider than before.
Of the creation of the people in this book I cannot write much for they were almost entirely Jack's "brain children" except for "The Gentleman" himself who was modelled on a member of our nobility, a great sportsman at that time and now the owner of a great title and estates. He was often at Jack's house in those days, always a charming companion and friend.
This book was again published by Sampson Low, and they also dealt with every one of his later books for, though tempted by many alluring offers Jack always refused to let any other firm have his work, "for you see old 'un the Sampson Low folk have treated me very well and are now my friends"--and so book after book went to his "Friends" as a matter of course and without any new arrangement of terms.
I now felt that looking after Jack's publishing affairs and copyrights needed someone with the specialized knowledge of the publishing world which I did not possess, and so I got my brother's permission to go and see A. P. Watt & Son of London, who are very well known Literary Agents.~They proved most reasonable as to terms, and took on Jack's business with pleasure.
In the years that followed Watt & Son fixed up all the contracts all over the world and I must say that they did more than well, and paid every attention to their new client's welfare and interests. A. S. Watt, the son, became a great friend and was frequently at Jack's house for week-ends, special dinners and other "occasions", Business now began to crowd in on my brother — correspondence in floods, "Fan Mail" as people would call it now, and all sorts of legal matters-agreements, contracts and so forth, all of which had to be dealt with fairly promptly, so that the old boy was very soon lost and almost submerged.
As a means of self-preservation, Jack invited one of the old friends of our boyhood-Herbert London Pope (Bertie) -to take on the duties of Private Secretary. This was a most happy appointment and Bertie worked very hard and most loyally for many years until he (Bertie) died quite suddenly, and at a very early age.
I think it was in the Spring of 1912 that Jack bought a house of his own in the Eltham Road, at Lee. It was a very large place of Georgian type with beautiful large and lofty rooms and built round a central hall and upper landings. There were lots of rooms which he wanted as he had persuaded mother that she and father should sell the old house at Lee which they had lived in for so long, and go with him to his newly acquired house.
The house was nicely placed well back from the road and had a beautiful old and well cared for garden with a fine old Cumberland Turf bowling green, a tennis court and six acres of fruit and vegetable ground.
Jack chose for himself a very large room at the top of the house with windows looking out over the garden, and in it established his library and study. How well I remember it and the quiet peace that was always to be found there!
It was in this house--"7l'-as we called it, that my brother began the long series of Saturday night dinners at which seldom less than 20 people would sit at his table--all sorts of folk--artists, actors, boxing men, athletes and of course, the "literary Lights" of the time - Antony Hope Hawkins, Quiller Couch, Pinero, A.E. W. Mason, St. John Ervine--oh! and lots of others-I have met them all at Jack's houses from time to time and have always been quite enthralled by the conversation and really brilliant wit of the people sitting around me--simple and quiet chap that I always was.
Jack had a prodigious and accurate memory and he seemed to have stored up in it a wide range of knowledge, from our history back. to Saxon times; the detailed history of the Roman Empire and the writings of the great thinkers of the era; and it seemed all that there is to know of the Aztec and Inca civilisations--and very much besides --to hear him, therefore, in a discussion with another great mind such as Quiller Couch, was an experience in itself. We others who were present used to sit enthralled and intensely interested, trusting only that they would not stop their talking.
Jack always kept a good cellar and a lavish table in those days and Blanche was a delightful and most charming "Chatalaine" with all the warmth and charm of the American woman added to her obviously English "polish" and education~--allhough she had lived most of her life in the United States she had no "accent" but was, I think, blessed with a delightful lisp being unable to pronounce the letter "R". To persuade her to recite "Around the rugged rocks" etc. as I often did, was a sure means of raising general laughter.
She was always beautifully dressed-she had a gift that way-but I never saw her use any 'make-up' of any sort.
I was always very fond of her and admired her and her ways, as I think most people did.
Are memories ever in chronological order I wonder? I fear that these of mine are not anyhow, for I have set them down more or less as they have come to mind, and must go back in "time" to put in some happenings which seem to me to be of interest. For instance :
In 1911 Jack bought his first motor car, a Singer with low slung body and drop bucket seats, and in this machine he and I or he and David Murray again wandered over the beautiful Kent and Sussex countryside to renew old memories and re-visit thee friends of earlier years that we so often saw when in the 1890's we rode bicycles for our trips. Those machines, the earliest of which were fitted with "cushion" tyres, solid rubber things about an inch thick which were the only tyres to be had before Dunlop patented the "air filled" which was advertised as "Ride on Air" and later became known as the "pneumatic" -- what a fortune my father lost when he fell out with Dunlop over politics and threw up his partnership with the inventor just a few months before the production of the very first "Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre".
Another interesting matter is the fact that these early cycles of ours were specially built for us by a clever cycle mechanic whom we knew well in those days, beautiful strong and sturdy things they were, hand made throughout with an excellent finish. We paid him, I well remember, twelve pounds each and they carried us smoothly for many, many miles. We little knew that our friend and cycle maker had a great and notable future before him and was to become world famous and a great public benefactor. He was a small man, very alive and alert who worked with his two assistants--only much harder than they did. His name was Morris! later to become Lord Nuffield!
When we were young together my brother began to collect old weapons-rapiers, small swords, old pistols and so forth, and his love for this hobby lasted through his whole life. His collection was very large in the end and occupied a lot of his spare time in the cleaning, polishing and repair which he loved to do himself with his expert hands. He found and bought some lovely things, especially rapiers and later on whole suits of armour which he refurbished and repaired most beautifully.
What the old things cost him I could never guess and he never said. I always imagined that he felt a trifle "guilty" about the money he spent on what some of his friends used to speak of to him as your "scrap iron"--and indeed that was just what some of it looked like before he had put a lot of time and work into doing them up. Jack was always very fair in his dealings with people and I remember being in what the owner called an "Antique Shop" but which was, in fact nothing but a 'junk' shop; my brother after rummaging through a heap of rusty sabers and old bayonets, turning to the shop keeper and holding out a long and very rusty sword said "What do you want for this one?" "A pound". said the man, but said Jack, "I think this is an Andrea Ferrara". "Dunno what it is but I got it with a lot of real nice stuff from a big house sale and one pound is my price and I shan't take less!" Jack gave the fellow two pounds and carried the Ferrara with him leaving the man muttering "one of them daft toffs-two pounds, now I ask yer--when I asked for one!"
An Andrea Ferrara the weapon proved to be when it was cleaned and a very lovely thing, made by the great Italian master in 1595, or thereabout.
During the years after 1910 when money was flowing in, Jack began adding largely to the Library which mother had cared for, whilst he was away in America. In the early years of his life he had got together a very large number of books on all sorts of subjects which interested him and now his collection grew apace.
In the old days we used to search the :'Barrows" in Farringdon Street and the various "markets" in London such as Petticoat Lane and I myself still have several valuable books in which I wrote at the time "Picked up with Jack in Farringdon Street for a half-penny" or 1d. or 2d. as the case may be.
I don't know the number of books his Library contained when he died, but it must have been very large and worth quite a lot of money.
But once more I have got away from my theme!
Many thanks to Stephen Cole, Pat Bryan and Geoff Perkins
and used here by kind permission of Dr. Gregory Stevens-Cox