By I. Waveney Girvan


Together with authentic bibliographical annotations




girvan front  

The book and its background


Critical reception


Book cover


Waveney Girvan and The West Country Writers Association



The Alcuin Press, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, 1931

Limited edition, 420 copies, 10s 6d

(‘Another Hand’ was of course HW himself.)









The Henry Williamson Literary Estate's archive copy bears these two interesting inscriptions;



girvan title



girvan inscription



Another copy in the Literary Archive bears the inscription:


To Mother from Harry, Christmas 1931.


Perhaps you will be able, by the style & general benevolence, to decide what paragraphs are by "another hand", & who that "hand" is.   HW.





The book and its background:


The son of a military doctor, Ian Waveney Girvan was born in 1908, and spent some of his early life in the West Country where his father was stationed. He trained as an accountant but did not find this congenial and, apparently with some private means, wanted to be involved in the book world. His letters indicate that he was not a very happy man.


Waveney Girvan first wrote to HW in March 1930 on the headed notepaper of ‘The Liverpool First Edition Club’ (of which he was Honorary Treasurer), noting that he had a collection of all HW’s first editions and showing great appreciation for his work with interesting comments.


Girvan then wrote an article about HW’s books for the Bookman, and HW must have encouraged him to turn this into an actual book. On 16 June 1930 a letter records:


Thank you for your pc. I started on the bibliography on Saturday night and continued last night. It is not a job to take on lightly – every comma has its importance and there seem to be so many schools of thought in this science. . . . On Saturday I managed to finish The Beautiful Years to my satisfaction.


On HW’s return from America in spring of 1931 he wrote to say that the bibliography was finished.


The critical foreword gave me great trouble and naturally I am still not satisfied. However, it is in shape and I can do no better.


He also states that he is planning to call at the Alcuin Press at Chipping Campden as ‘Mr. Fairclough’ is a friend and seems anxious to print the book. He made a visit to HW at the end of April 1931, when HW’s additions to the book were no doubt made: and a photograph taken to mark the occasion.



girvan photo
HW, Windles, and Waveney Girvan, with a celebratory beer



(In October 1964, after Waveney Girvan's death, HW wrote to the West Country Writers Association, of which Girvan was a founder and chairman, with a tribute, from which this is an extract:


I met Waveney Girvan in the valley of the Bray in the early thirties. He had proposed a visit to us at Shallowford, a thatched house beside that river, to ask me if he might publish a bibliography of my writings. I have a photograph of him sitting beside my son on a timber waggon in the shallows of another river, the Barle, by Dulverton. We had gone there to buy fish from the trout farm to put into my beat on the Bray.  We are hatless, and sitting with my eldest son, then a small boy. The water ripples in the May sunshine, around the great wheels of the timber waggon. We are holding up pint pots of beer, toasting the photographer . . .)


A letter dated 1 July 1931 states that the work has been sent off to the press, but there is no further mention of it. It would have been published probably in November 1931; notice of its forthcoming appearance had already appeared in the Liverpool Post and Mercury's gossip column on 17 October 1931, their information, of course, courtesy of Waveney Girvan:



girvan cutting



It is a charming if somewhat idiosyncratic work, appearing at what was still a very early stage of the author’s career; but very useful for checking the details of HW’s books written before this time, particularly noting the various revised new editions. Note that Girvan writes that HW was born in 1897 – which error HW had plenty of opportunity to correct; evidently he was not so minded! The critical introduction contains some interesting comments, and HW does not appear to have interfered with it. HW’s own comments seem to be limited to sharp remarks within the book descriptions, which are amusing to read now – but no doubt annoyed those on the receiving end at the time – including the reviewer from The London Mercury as the review below shows!






Critical reception:



The London Mercury, 1 March 1932:



girvan mercury



Liverpool Post and Mercury, 2 December 1931; from a long column headed ‘On the Table’, by ‘The Book Taster:



girvan liverpool post



This is the paragraph about Mr Caradoc Evans referred to above:



girvan caradoc



Interestingly, in 2016 Clearwater Books, specialist dealer in the published works of Henry Williamson, came across the copy of The Lone Swallows that HW had inscribed for Evans, and has supplied us with a photograph of the inscription:



girvan caradoc2



The last word appears to be 'Starving' – relating to the owl perhaps; or maybe as in 'starving' for a review!


We will meet Waveney Girvan again in due course, as after the Second World War he became the central figure of the West Country Writers Association.






Book cover:


The book was bound in cloth-backed boards; the publishers thoughtfully provided a replacement label for the spine, tipped in on the last page:



girvan cover






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