The SF Site Featured Review: Works by and about M.P. Shiel

Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Works of M.P. Shiel and related titles
JDS Books/Vainglory Press

Introduction Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Additional Material

The Works of M.P. Shiel
M.P. Shiel
Matthew Phipps Shiel (1865-1947), was born July 21, 1865, in Montserrat, West Indies. His father, a ship-owner, shopkeeper, and lay Methodist preacher had laid claim to the small rocky Leeward island of Redonda, of which his son was crowned king on his 15th birthday. Beginning to write at 11, Shiel was educated in Barbados, then London, England. Shiel spoke seven languages and served as an interpreter before trying his hand at medicine and teaching mathematics. Shiel was an active man, jogging six miles a day into his 70s and practicing mountaineering and yoga. Married twice, Shiel was "an eager womanizer" fathering several illegitimate children. Impressed at an early age by the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and given his knowledge of many languages, Shiel's poetic prose was idiosyncratically unique, being compared by some to improvisational jazz, by others to stylistic sound effects. Shiel has been accused by some of anti-Semitism, but others suggest he used the racist views of his time as a literary device to ultimately discredit racism an expound his own peculiar belief system. Towards the end of his life Shiel adopted an anti-Christian stance based on scientific knowledge over hope ("ignorance") and completed an analysis and retelling of the Gospel of Matthew. Several of his works toy with eugenics and the Nietzschean übermensch concept, though the latter under a communal rather than individualistic form, and not as something inherent in a race or creed, but rather a status achieved through learning. During his life Shiel wrote 25 novels and numerous short-stories, the best of which he produced between 1895 and 1905. These include Prince Zaleski (1895), Shapes of Fire (1896), Cold Steel (1899), Contraband of War (1899), The Purple Cloud (1901) and Lord of the Sea. Shiel died on February 17, 1947, at a hospital in Chichester.

ISFDB Bibliography
Biography/Bibliography
Biography/Bibliography-2
Kingdom of Redonda-1
Kingdom of Redonda-2
Bison Books ed. of The Purple Cloud
Shiel/Gawsworth related papers at the University of Iowa
JDS Books/Vainglory Press
A. Reynolds Morse Collection of M.P. Shiel
Shiel as a mystery writer
E-TEXT: 5 stories
E-TEXT: "Arthur Machen"
E-TEXT: "The Case of Euphemia Raphash", also here
E-TEXT: "A Torture by Hope" by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, translated by M.P. Shiel
E-TEXT: "L'Abri" by Malcolm M. Ferguson
E-TEXT: "Dweller in the Tomb of Mausolus: The Return of Prince Zaleski" by Philip Lister
E-TEXT: "Two Kings of Redonda: M.P. Shiel and John Gawsworth" by Jon Wynne-Tyson
BOOK REVIEW: The Purple Cloud: 1, 2 (in Japanese), 3 (in Italian), 4, 5, 6 (in French), 7

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Volume 3. The Shielography Updated. Part 2
This volume contains in a first part, biographical materials from various sources. Besides Arthur Ransome's narration of a 1906 visit to Shiel's squalid apartment in London, and Malcolm M. Ferguson's "L'Abri" about his visit to Shiel's rural home in 1944 all the biographical information tells one very little about what Shiel was like as a person, and Shiel's own "About Myself" is very sparse in such matters too. Even in Shiel's letters, presented elsewhere, there is a fairly business-like tone, certainly not one of emotion or personal introspection. Portions of his letters home to his family when first in England are presented in some places, but there excerpts serve much more to establish events than emotions. In a nutshell, while some postulate certain events or conditions to have led Shiel's writing where it went, there appears to be no extant information on what made M.P. Shiel, the person, tick.

A second portion of this volume updates the material presented in the original 1948 version to 1979. Here A. Reynolds Morse discusses Shiel's alledged anti-Semitism, his literary sources and the role of the "Overman" in his novels , amongst other subjects. Much more amusing is some 150 pages on Redonda, the small rocky West Indian island Shiel was crowned king of as a teenager (see author blurb). This includes its inclusion in a number of maps, a photolog of a pair of late 1970s expeditions to Redonda by a number of Shiel fans, royal edicts from Shiel's successor King Juan I (John Gawsworth) naming various friends of the author dukes and barons, various articles on the phosphate mining (guano) and flora and fauna of the island -- and even the National Hymn of Redonda. In a final portion, there is a discussion of Shiel's collaboration with adventure writer Louis Tracy on some detective novels, along with an bibliography of Tracy's works. Again, while this isn't quite as dry as Volume 2, this volume is for the real Shiel fan, not for the casual reader.

Table of Contents
Volume 3. The Shielography Updated. Part 2
Contents and Details Pages
7.Biographical Notes
A.
I. "About Myself" by M.P. Shiel
II. "The Inconsistency of a Novelist" by M.P. Shiel
III. Shiel on Gawsworth
B.
I-III. Biographical notes from First Edition
IV. The Last Decades
V. The Civil List Pension
VI. Some Gawsworth Notes
VII. The Montserrat Records
VIII. Some of Shiel's Residences
C. The Personal Library of M.P. Shiel
D. Edward Shanks Address at Shiel's Funeral
E. Bohemia in London (A Visit to Shiel, 1906)
F. Rowland: The Strange Mr. Shiel
G. M.P. Shiel by "Stet"
H. Introduction to 1948 Edition
 
417
417
427
429
431
431
445
452
456
457
459
464
169
473
478
479
481
8. The Shielography Update
1. A Glance at the Years 1948-1949
2. Qualifying a Bibliographer
3. Good Form in a Bibliography
4. The World, the Flesh and the Devil
5. The Jewish Problem
6.
A. The Overman Question and Other Influences
B. Eugene Sue and M.P. Shiel
A Stevensonian Question
D. Death of Sherlock Holmes
E. Shiel Sources
7. Style, Form and Categories
8. The Three Literary Eras of M.P. Shiel
9.
A. The Kingdom of Redonda
B. Redonda, Almadonda, Gawsworthian Shambles
10.
A. Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong
B. The Hipwell Case and Gawsworth's Demise
11. The Role of Louis Tracy
12. The Humanities Research Center
13. First Notes on "Jesus"
 
489
494
499
501
504
511
511
512
513
514
514
516
523
531
531
532
540
540
543
553
557
561
9. The Quest for Redonda (partial list of documents included)
A Brief History of Monserrat
Preface
Maps of Redonda and region
The Kings of Redonda
Expedition to Redonda, Nov. 1978
"The Realm of Redonda" by August Derleth, Arkham Sampler, 1971
"King of All the Seagulls" by F. Dubrez Fawcett, Men Only, Nov. 1960
"The Strange Realm of M.P. Shiel" by J. Maclaren-Ross, The London Magazine, Sept. 1964.
Materials related to the 1956 Smithsonian-Bredin Caribbean Expedition
"Botanical and other observations on Redonda, the West Indies" by Richard A. Howard, J. Arnold Arboretum 43(1):51-66
"Redonda and Its Phosphates" by Fred W. Morse, Popular Science Monthly, 46:78-87 (1894)
"The Redonda Phosphate" by C.H. Hitchcock. Proc. Geol. Soc. America 2:6-9 (1891)
National Hymn of Redonda
 
586
587
588
598
603
682
683
685
690
703
725
731
735
10. A New Appendix on Louis Tracy (1863-1928) 743
11. "The Works of Louis Tracy" by Norman V. Lamb and A. Reynolds Morse 777
12. Acknowledgements 849
INDEX of Vols. 2, 3 851

Introduction Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Additional Material

Copyright © 2002 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to editor@sfsite.com.
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide