Back in 2016, when I was researching Writers, Lovers, Soldiers, Spies: A History of the Authors’ Club of London, 1891–2016 for the Club’s 125th anniversary, I was surprised that we didn’t have more correspondence from the early period. It turns out that the reason was that Algernon Rose, the Club’s Secretary from 1908 to 1934, took much of it home with him.
In February of last year, the Authors’ Club received an email from a member of the public who had inherited a collection of letters addressed to Rose, offering to donate them to our archive. Naturally, we accepted. Arriving at the Club one evening in March, I was handed a Jiffy bag at the porters’ lodge. I waited until I got home to open it; inside was an old cardboard stocking box from Green & Edwards department store in the Finchley Road, containing far more letters than I had anticipated.
The signatories included Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, J. M. Barrie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, John Galsworthy, Arnold Bennett, H. G. Wells and other notable writers of the period. Often candid and informal, they offer a fascinating glimpse of the personal and professional connections among writers in early 20th-century London.
Given the potential public interest in the letters, the Club has decided to publish a small book containing a full catalogue of the letters, with a narrative text by me explaining the circumstances of their composition and relating the extraordinary life and career of Algernon Rose, musician, author, journalist, world traveller and networker. The Foreword is by the eminent literary journalist and Authors’ Club President John Walsh.
Don’t miss the opportunity to own this piece of history – a handsomely printed and bound 76-page hardback with colour illustrations throughout, one of a numbered, limited edition of 200 copies – by contributing to our Kickstarter fund. We are already almost three-quarters of the way to raising the money needed to print the book..
Founded by Sir Walter Besant in 1891 to provide a congenial central London venue where authors could relax and socialise, the Authors’ Club was a home from home to many leading figures of English letters in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Its Presidents have included Thomas Hardy, J. M. Barrie and Compton Mackenzie, while Emile Zola, Mark Twain, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Veronica Wedgwood and T.S. Eliot were among the guest speakers to address the Club’s dinners.