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August 26 , 2009

Cumner's Son and Other South Sea Folk (Complete)


In a Foreword to Donovan Pasha, published in 1902, I used the following words: "It is now twelve years since I began giving to the public tales of life in lands well known to me. The first of them were drawn from Australia and the islands of the southern Pacific, where I had lived and roamed in the middle and late eighties.... Those tales of the Far South were given out with some prodigality. They did not appear in book form, however; for at the time I was sending out these antipodean sketches I was also writing—far from the scenes where they were laid—a series of Canadian tales, many of which appeared in the 'Independent' of New York, in the 'National Observer', edited by Mr. Henley, and in the 'Illustrated London News'. On the suggestion of my friend Mr. Henley, the Canadian tales, Pierre and His People, were published first; with the result that the stories of the southern hemisphere were withheld from publication, though they have been privately printed and duly copyrighted. Some day I may send them forth, but meanwhile I am content to keep them in my care." These stories made the collection published eventually under the title of Cumner's Son, in 1910. They were thus kept for nearly twenty years without being given to the public in book form. In 1910 I decided, however, that they should go out and find their place with my readers. The first story in the book, Cumner's Son, which represents about four times the length of an ordinary short story, was published in Harper's Weekly, midway between 1890 and 1900. All the earlier stories belonged to 1890, 1891, 1892, and 1893. The first of these to be published was 'A Sable Spartan', 'An Amiable Revenge', 'A Vulgar Fraction', and 'How Pango Wango Was Annexed'. They were written before the Pierre series, and were instantly accepted by Mr. Frederick Greenwood, that great journalistic figure of whom the British public still takes note, and for whom it has an admiring memory, because of his rare gifts as an editor and publicist, and by a political section of the public, because Mr. Greenwood recommended to Disraeli the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. Seventeen years after publishing these stories I had occasion to write to Frederick Greenwood, and in my letter I said: "I can never forget that you gave me a leg up in my first struggle for recognition in the literary world." His reply was characteristic; it was in keeping with the modest, magnanimous nature of the man. He said: "I cannot remember that there was any day when you required a leg up." While still contributing to the 'Anti-Jacobin', which had a short life and not a very merry one, I turned my attention to a weekly called 'The Speaker', to which I have referred elsewhere, edited by Mr. Wemyss Reid, afterwards Sir Wemyss Reid, and in which Mr. Quiller-Couch was then writing a striking short story nearly every week. Up to that time I had only interviewed two editors. One was Mr. Kinloch-Cooke, now Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke, who at that time was editor of the 'English Illustrated Magazine', and a very good, courteous, and generous editor he was, and he had a very good magazine; the other was an editor whose name I do not care to mention, because his courtesy was not on the same expansive level as his vanity
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