'Guy Thorne' : C Ranger Gull

Published 1 April 2012

Hardbound: 15.9 x 23.5 cm.,
335 pp.

ISBN 978 1 904201 20 5
£40.00 / $65.00

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'Guy Thorne': C. Ranger Gull
Edwardian Tabloid Novelist and His Unseemly Brotherhood

by David Wilkinson

Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull [1875-1923] has proved to be an emblematic ’Nineties decadent whose early works were published anonymously and banned from the circulating libraries. Compton Mackenzie tells us that those early novels created a scandal that compared with the ‘four letter school’ of the 1960s. In 1906 his books were removed from the shelves at Oxford University. He was not above pulling the odd scam. The publisher Grant Richards decided he was ‘an odd, attractive and rather unprincipled little chap.’ He was an alcoholic and a gambler who placed himself perilously close to Oscar Wilde. Two companies in which he was involved went into liquidation. Through his friendships he became embroiled in the sub rosa world of late Victorian pornography. In 1899 he conspired to give refuge to the guilty party in the Dreyfus Affaire that strained diplomatic relations between France and Germany. In 1902 he left London in a cloud and created a new identity after being caught misbehaving himself on the beach at Portscatho. Legend has it that in walking the moors of West Cornwall, he was never far from liquid refreshment. In apparent contradiction, he was an award winning crack-shot and Vice-President of the Wildfowlers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland. He made a fortune as a writer and, as a Mine Adventurer, lost the lot. Aside from his own mark on the reading public of the first quarter of the Twentieth Century, Gull merits attention for the light he sheds on those whose lives he impinged upon. Biographers of major figures of the time have failed to pick up on the singular positions occupied by such bit-part players and their roles in popular Edwardian fiction. John Betjeman’s reflected verdict was that he was a ‘real bad egg’ and while envying his sales figures, D. H. Lawrence decided succinctly that C. Ranger Gull was a scamp.

David Wilkinson has divided his life between architecture and bookselling but at heart he is a collector.  He put together a major archive relating to the author Richard Aldington who lived in the same Berkshire cottage in the 1920s.  Since 1993 he has run a specialised art bookshop in St. Ives.  He has contributed to books on both Aldington and the art of West Cornwall.  His output includes: the Introduction to Roads to Glory by Richard Aldington (London: Imperial War Museum. 1992); the essay ‘“Dying at the Word of Command”: The Last Days of Richard Aldington’s War’ in Richard Aldington: Essays in Honour of the Centenary of his Birth, (Universite Paul Valery, Region Languedoc-Roussillon, 1992); the Introduction to Britain’s Art Colony by The Sea by Denys Val Baker (2000) and his essay on ‘St. Ives: The Legendary Quality of Light’ was published in Painting at The Edge: British Coastal Art Colonies 1880-1930 (2005) – both by Sansom & Company.  He wrote and published Guido Morris: Fine Printer: The Last Chapter (Book Gallery Monograph No. 4. St. Ives, Cornwall, 1995) and another essay ‘Guido Morris and Grace Hocken: The Creative Heyday of The Latin Press’ was published in Matrix 25 (Leominster: Whittington Press. 2005). He lives his life surrounded by books. He has recently taken up bookbinding but still finds time for a daily cappuccino. He is a Trustee of the Little Parc Owles Trust, the birthplace of abstract art in St. Ives.  This, his first major book, saves his ignominious reputation as a generously quoted footnote in the history of 20th Century art and literature.

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