Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books:
Judith Lee (1912–16), by Richard Marsh.

I did not propose to sit still [...and] allow those three uncanny beings, undisturbed, to work their evil wills.
—Richard Marsh, "Conscience" (1913)
"He had me by the throat before I had
even realized that danger
threatened." Illustration from
"Mandragora" by Richard Marsh
Washington Herald 1 Mar. 1914
Judith Lee is a "teacher of the deaf and dumb"—in other words, she can read lips. This skill tends to embroil her in trouble. In "The Man Who Cut Off My Hair," Lee encounters jewel thieves; the reader might be annoyed that Lee is enraged by her unwanted haircut rather than the robbery of an elderly man. In "Conscience," Lee connects cryptic utterances with two murders and takes action to avoid further deaths. In "Matched," Lee looks into the case of a bride who has vanished. In "Auld Lang Syne" she thwarts a bombing. In "The Miracle," Lee prevents a prospective marriage based on fraud. In "Isolda," Lee steps in to flout a fraudulent fortuneteller. In "Uncle Jack" she bests an American con man. In "The Restaurant Napolitain," Lee confronts agents of the Mafia. In "Mandragora," she works to free an innocent man from prison.

Lee does not always act wisely (as in "The Restaurant Napolitain" when she faces the bad guy—alone—and tells him she knows he has murdered someone). In some respects, she may resemble Anna Katharine Green's Violet Strange (The Golden Slipper and Other Problems for Violet Strange, 1915).

Richard Marsh (aka Richard Bernard Heldmann, 1857–1915) is best known for The Beetle, which outsold Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897. His grandson was the horror writer Robert Aickman (1914–81). Few copies of Judith Lee: Some Pages from Her Life (1912) and The Adventures of Judith Lee (1916) exist in U.S. libraries, and the sole copy of The Adventures of Judith Lee on abebooks is priced at more than $1200. I am hoping that Valancourt Books, which has been reprinting Marsh's works, will eventually get to Judith Lee.

Via the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project I downloaded 10 of the Washington Herald versions of the Judith Lee stories that are collected in Judith Lee: Some Pages from Her Life (unfortunately, "Was It Luck or Chance?" was not entirely legible). As an aid to those who may wish to read these stories, I have uploaded the readable copies to my Web site; the links on the story titles in this blog post will take readers to them.

8 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks for the lovely review.

Duane Spurlock said...

Thanks for this great info! All I knew about Richard Marsh was THE BEETLE.

Stuart said...

Black Coat Press is preparing a complete Judith Lee collection to be published in early 2012.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Valancourt Books advises that it, too, is planning a Judith Lee collection.

Anonymous said...

Black Coat Press has just released "The Complete Adventures of Judith Lee", including "Judith Lee: Some Pages from Her Life" (1912, reprints 12 stories from "The Strand"), "The Adventures of Judith Lee" (a posthumous collection from 1916) and "The Barnes Mystery", a previously uncollected story from "The Strand" (also 1916). Hope you have fun reading it.
Jean-Daniel Brèque (editor of the book)

Ann M. Hale said...

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about Judith Lee and villainesses at the PCA/ACA conference in Washington D.C. I took a look at the Herald illustrations, and they are definitely by the paper's illustrator, although several emulate the original Strand images. The Herald illustrations are much less sensational (and less kinetic, in my opinion) than those by J.R. Skelton and W.R.S. Stott. Thank you for posting the links!

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Thanks, Ann! Don't know why I had San Francisco so stuck in my head when the Judith Lee stories were in the Washington Herald; I think the SF paper ran Orczy stories.

Alan Winterrowd said...

You can find many of these stories in the Strand Magazine from 1911 to 1913. Internet Archives has very readable scans of these issues, for those who want a free version.