Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dornford Yates and C. W. Stamper

In 1913 Mills and Boon published a book called ‘What I Know’, by C. W. Stamper, the memoirs of a chauffeur/motor engineer to King Edward VII from 1905-10, with an acknowledgement in the foreword to Dornford Yates 'but for whose tireless assistance these memories might never have been published'.

Dornford Yates (real name Cecil William Mercer) was at this time still a practising barrister but he was short of work and had been writing stories for the Windsor Magazine, a popular monthly, since 1911. His first book in his own name however, a collection of these short stories, would not appear until 1914. After WW1 he went on to give up the bar, became a full-time writer and wrote a further thirty-three books.

Although no acknowledgement of ‘What I Know’ ever appeared in Dornford Yates’ other works it was presumed that he was the ghost-writer but there was never any certainty. In 1982 A. J. Smithers biography of Dornford Yates failed to mention the title at all although there was a note in the preface to the 2nd edition in 1985 that the existence of the book had since come to his notice. Yates himself never mentioned it in his quasi-autobiographies.

The full story of how the connection has been established, in Yates' own hand, can be seen at A Book for all Reasons

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