Leonard Alfred George Strong (8 March 1896 – 17 August 1958) was a popular English novelist, critic, historian, and poet, and published under the name L. A. G. Strong. He served as a director of the publishers Methuen Ltd. from 1938 to 1958.
Poet and novelist, born at Compton Gifford, Devon, of Irish parents, and was proud of his Irish heritage. As a youth, he considered being a comedian and took lessons in singing. He was educated at Brighton College and earned a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford, as what was known as an Open Classical Scholar (studies in literature and the arts). There he came under the influence of W. B. Yeats, about whom Strong wrote fairly extensively; they met first in autumn 1919. Their friendship lasted for twenty years.
He taught at an Oxford preparatory school, before becoming a full-time writer in 1930. His first two volumes of poetry were Dublin Days (1921) and The Lowery Road (1923), and his career as a novelist was launched with Dewer Rides (1929, set on Dartmoor).
Later he formed a literary partnership with an Irish friend, John Francis Swaine (1880-1954), paying Swaine a percentage of royalties for five novels and numerous short stories, published between c.1930 and 1953, which were attributed to Strong. These included the Sea Wall (1933), The Bay (1944), and Trevannion (1948). Swaine’s short stories described the thoughts and experiences of an Irish character, Mr Mangan, a fictional version of Swaine himself. Strong wrote many works of non‐fiction and an autobiography of his early years, Green Memory (1961). He gained a wide interest in literature and wrote about many important contemporary authors, including James Joyce, William Faulkner, John Millington Synge, and John Masefield.
He worked as an Assistant Master at Summer Fields, a boys' boarding preparatory school on the outskirts of Oxford, from 1917 to 1919 and from 1920 to 1930, and as a Visiting Tutor at the Central School of Speech and Drama. One of his pupils was a son of Reginald McKenna. He was a director of the publishers Methuen Ltd. from 1938 until his death. For many years he was a governor of his old school, Brighton College. Strong's autobiography, Green Memory, published after his death, described his family (including a grandmother in Ireland), his earliest years, his school-days, and his friendships at Wadham College; among them were Yeats and George Moore.
Following his death, a memorial service was held for him at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 3 October 1958.
His cousin was the nurse Emily MacManus; he wrote the foreword for her autobiography, Fifty Years Of Nursing - Matron of Guy's (1956).
- John Francis Swaine reference authority the Oxford Companion to English Literature, Ninth Edition, General Editor Professor Dinah Birch. Swaine's papers and manuscripts are lodged with the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.
Strong was a versatile and prolific writer of more than 20 novels, as well as of short stories, plays, children's books, poems, biography, criticism, and film scripts.
His oeuvre includes mystery novels, featuring Detective-Inspector McKay of Scotland Yard, and horror fiction. Many of his adventure and romance novels were set in Scotland or the West of England. The classic short story "Breakdown", a tale about a married man who has the perfect plan to murder his mistress, and which has a twist ending, has been reprinted often; it was a favorite of Boris Karloff. (Unhappy marriages were an occasional theme in his fiction, in works such as Deliverance.) His supernatural stories were often reprinted, as well. Strong was interested in the paranormal, as his haunted house and other horror stories attest, and believed he had seen ghosts and witnessed psychic phenomena.
One of his earliest writings, A Defence of Ignorance, was the first book sold by Captain Louis Henry Cohn, the founder of House of Books, which specialized in first editions of contemporary writers. Cohn was a New York book collector who of necessity became a bookseller due to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and he had Strong's manuscript, a six-page essay, in his collection. Cohn published 200 signed copies of the title, priced at $2.00 each.
Some of Strong's poems were set to music by Arthur Bliss. His Selected Poems appeared in 1931 (first American edition in 1932), and The Body's Imperfection: Collected Poems in 1957. He also edited anthologies of poetry, sometimes in collaboration with Cecil Day-Lewis.
His 1932 novel The Brothers was filmed in 1947 by the Scottish director David MacDonald; it starred Patricia Roc. One reviewer commented, "In a break from tradition, the film substitutes the novel's unhappy ending with an even unhappier one." Strong collaborated on or contributed to such filmscripts as Haunted Honeymoon (1940; a Dorothy L. Sayers story about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane), Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (1948), and Happy Ever After (1954).
- Dublin Days. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1921.
- By Haunted Stream. New York: D. Appleton and company, 1924.
- The Lowery Road. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1923.
- Difficult Love. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1927.
- At Glenan Cross: A Sequence. Oxford : B. Blackwell, 1928.
- Northern Light. London: Victor Gollancz, 1930.
- Selected Verse. Hamish Hamilton, 1931.
- Call to The Swan. London: H. Hamilton, 1936.
- The Magnolia Tree: Verses. London: A.P. Tayler, 1953. ("Limited to 100 copies printed privately for the author.")
- The Body's Imperfection: The Collected Poems of L.A.G. Strong. London: Methuen, 1957.
- Dewer Rides. London: Victor Gollancz, 1929.
- The Jealous Ghost. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1930.
- The Garden. London: Victor Gollancz, 1931.
- The Brothers. London: Victor Gollancz, 1932.
- King Richard's Land: A Tale of the Peasants' Revolt. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1933.
- Sea Wall. London: Victor Gollancz, 1933.
- Corporal Tune. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1934.
- Fortnight South of Skye. New York, Loring and Mussey, 1935.
- Mr Sheridan's Umbrella. Illustrated by C. Walter Hodges. London: T. Nelson & son, 1935.
- The Seven Arms. London: Victor Gollancz ; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1935.
- The Last Enemy: A Study of Youth. London: Victor Gollancz, 1936.
- The Fifth of November. Illustrated by Jack Matthew. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., 1937. (novel about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot)
- Laughter in the West. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1937.
- The Swift Shadow. London: Victor Gollancz, 1937.
- The Open Sky. London: Victor Gollancz, 1939.
- They Went to the Island. Illustrated by Rowland Hilder. London: Dent, 1940.
- House in Disorder. London: Lutterworth Press, 1941.
- The Bay. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott company, 1942.
- Slocombe Dies. London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1942.
- The Unpractised Heart. London: Victor Gollancz, 1942.
- All Fall Down. London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1944. Also Garden City, New York: Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1944.
- The Director. London: Methuen, 1944. Reprinted: Oslo: J. Grundt Tanum, 1947. (translated to serve as English as a foreign or second language - Norwegian language)
- Othello's Occupation. London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1945. Published in the US under the title Murder Plays an Ugly Scene (see below)
- Murder Plays an Ugly Scene. Garden City, New York: Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1945.
- Trevannion. London: Methuen, 1948. (set in the seaside town of Dycer's Bay)
- Darling Tom and Other Stories. London: Methuen, 1952. ("Many of these stories have been broadcast.")
- Which I Never: A Police Diversion. London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1950. Also New York: MacMillan, 1952.
- The Hill of Howth. London: Methuen, 1953.
- Deliverance. London: Methuen, 1955.
- Light above the Lake. London: Methuen, 1958. (posthumous)
- Treason in the Egg: A Further Police Diversion. London: Collins, 1958.
Short story collectionsEdit
- Doyle's Rock and Other Stories. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1925.
- The English Captain and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931.
- Don Juan and the Wheelbarrow and Other Stories. London: Victor Gollancz, 1932.
- Tuesday Afternoon and Other Stories. London: Victor Gollancz, 1935.
- Odd Man In. Illustrated by Phoebe LeFroy. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1939.
- Sun on the Water and Other Stories. London: Victor Gollancz, 1940.
- Travellers: Thirty-one Selected Short Stories. London: Methuen, 1945. (James Tait Black Memorial Prize)
- The Buckross Ring and Other Stories of the Strange and Supernatural, edited and with an introduction by Richard Dalby. Leyburn, North Yorkshire, England: Tartarus Press, 2009. (hardcover, ISBN 978-1-905784-13-4)
Short stories (anthologized)Edit
- "Breakdown," in The Forum, September, 1929, pp. 139–145. Reprinted in: Creeps By Night: Chills and Thrills, edited by Dashiell Hammett. New York: The John Day Company, 1931; And the Darkness Falls, edited, with an introduction and notes, by Boris Karloff. Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1946; and elsewhere.
- The Big Man. With a frontispiece by Tirzah Garwood and a foreword by A. E. Coppard; being no. 6 of the Furnival books. London: W. Jackson, Ltd., 1931. Reprinted in: The Fireside Book of Romance, edited by Edward Wagenknecht. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company Publishers, 1948. (a short story "recounting the infatuation a British woman develops in a German resort hotel for a German guest")
- "Don Juan and the Wheelbarrow," in John o' London's Weekly, 11 July 1931; The Yale Review, March 1932. Reprinted in: The Best British Short Stories of 1932, edited by Edward J. O'Brien. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1932.
- "Harvest by the Sea, or Mr. Wacksparrow, Mr. Deebles and the Sea-Gull, a Story," in The Princess Elizabeth Gift Book, in aid of the Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, edited by Cynthia Asquith & Eileen Bigland. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1935.
- "A Gift from Christy Keogh," in The Queen's Book of the Red Cross. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939. Reprinted in: Argosy, vol. 3 No. 12 (New Series), January 1943.
- The Doll. Leeds, England: Salamander Press, 1946. (a tale of witchcraft)
- "Let Me Go: A Christmas Ghost Story," in The Strand Magazine, December 1946. Reprinted in: The Fireside Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Edward Wagenknecht. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1947; Great Irish Stories of the Supernatural, edited by Peter Haining. London: Souvenir Press, 1992 (ISBN 0-285-63107-1); and elsewhere.
- "Danse Macabre," in The Strand Magazine, December 1949. Reprinted in: A Book of Modern Ghosts, compiled by Lady Cynthia Asquith. New York, Scribner, 1953; Great Irish Tales of Horror: A Treasury of Fear, edited by Peter Haining. Souvenir Press, 1995; and elsewhere.
- "The House That Wouldn't Keep Still," in The Third Ghost Book, edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith. London: James Barrie, 1955.
- "The Return," reprinted in: A Gallery of Ghosts: An Anthology of Reported Experience, compiled by Andrew MacKenzie. London: Arthur Barker, 1972.
- "The Buckross Ring," reprinted in: 12 Gothic Tales, selected and introduced by Richard Dalby. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
- The Absentee. London: Methuen, 1939. (one-act play; "a powerful drama of village life, three times broadcast on the National programme" - blurb by Methuen)
- Trial and Error. London: Methuen, 1939. (one-act play)
- A Defence of Ignorance. New York: House of Books, 1932.
- Common Sense about Poetry. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1932.
- A Letter to W. B. Yeats. Published by L. & V. Woolf at Hogarth Press, London, 1932.
- Life in English Literature: Being, an Introduction for Beginners. With Monica Redlich. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1934.
- The Hansom Cab and The Pigeons. London: Printed at the Golden Cockerel Press, 1935. (about George V)
- "The Novel: Assurances and Perplexities," in The Author, Playwright and Composer, Vol. 45, no. 4 (Summer 1935), pp. 112–15.
- What is Joyce Doing with the Novel? G. Newnes, 1936. (6 pages) Originally published as "James Joyce and the New Fiction," in American Mercury, No. 140, August, 1935, pp. 433–434.
- Common Sense about Drama. London: T. Nelson & Sons, 1937.
- The Man Who Asked Questions: The Story of Socrates. London: T. Nelson & Sons, 1937.
- The Minstrel Boy: A Portrait of Tom Moore. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.
- "W. B. Yeats - Ireland's Grand Old Man," in The Living Age, January, 1939, pp. 438–440.
- English Literature Course. London: London School of Journalism, [194-? or 195-?]. 6 volumes.
- John McCormack: The Story of a Singer. New York: The Macmillan company, 1941.
- John Millington Synge. London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1941.
- English for Pleasure. Introduction by Mary Somerville. London: Methuen, 1941.
- Authorship. London: R. Ross & co., 1944.
- An Informal English Grammar. 2nd ed. London: Methuen, 1944.
- A Tongue in Your Head. London, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1945. ("About a year ago, the Incorporated Association of Teachers of Speech and Drama ... asked Mr. L. A. G. Strong if he would write a book which would show clearly ... problems relating to the everyday use of our mother speech."—Foreword.)
- James Joyce and Vocal Music. Oxford, 1946.
- The Art of the Story. London, 1947.
- Maud Cherrill. London, Parrish, 1949.
- The Sacred River: An Approach to James Joyce. New York: Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1951. * John Masefield. England, 1952.
- Personal Remarks. New York: Liveright Pub. Corp., 1953.
- The Writer's Trade. London: Methuen, 1953.
- Instructions to Young Writers. London: Museum Press; distributed by Sportshelf, New Rochelle, N.Y., 1958.
- "Three Ghosts and Stephen Dedalus." in Penguin New Writings Edition NW22 Penguin, 1944
- Green Memory. London: Methuen, 1961. (posthumous)
- Henry of Agincourt. Illustrated by Jack Matthew. London: T. Nelson & Sons, 1937.
- Shake Hands and Come out Fighting. London: Chapman and Hall, 1938. (about Boxing)
- English Domestic Life During the last 200 Years: an Anthology. London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1942.
- Light Through the Cloud. London: Friends Book Centre, 1946. (about The Retreat)
- Sixteen Portraits of People Whose Houses have been Preserved by the National Trust. Contributed by Walter Allen and others. Illustrated by Joan Hassall. London: Published for the National Trust by Naldrett Press, 1951.
- The Story of Sugar. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1954.
- Dr. Quicksilver, 1660-1742: The Life and Times of Thomas Dover, M. D. London: Melrose, 1955.
- Flying Angel: The Story of the Missions to Seamen. London: Methuen, 1956.
- The Rolling Road: The Story of Travel on the Roads of Britain and the Development of Public Passenger Transport. London: Hutchinson, 1956.
Kirkus Reviews asserted in 1935, "L. A. G. Strong can be counted on for a nostalgic picture of the call of the wild, and spins a good yarn as well." Garrett Mattingly, in The Saturday Review, praises Strong's "clean, muscular prose" and the "astonishing variety of mood and incident" in a review of The Seven Arms, saying that he "treats material which has become familiar, almost conventional, in the literature of the Celtic renascence with a freshness and power which makes it seem completely new and completely his own. ... He has been possessed by his material, and he has, in turn, completely possessed and mastered it." (The review includes a photograph of Strong.)
Strong enjoyed describing countrysides. He often dramatized the beginning and flourishing (and at times tragic ending) of romance between young people. For these reasons, among others, his fiction writing was sometimes considered sentimental. This was a quality popular among readers, though not always among those critics who embraced Modernist attitudes, which could be contemptuous of popular literature and which was a forceful influence at the time. For example, a reviewer of an early novel, The Jealous Ghost (1930), the "story of an American who goes to visit for the first time his English cousins in the West Highland house where his ancestors had lived," judges that Strong's "feeling for 'the land' seems to be that of a tourist whose sensibilities are fluttered by views and sunsets," but who also concluded that in his talent "lies the possibility of a delicate comedy akin to that of Jane Austen or Henry James." Mattingly shows hostility to sentimentalism twice in his review of The Seven Arms (as his own writing can wax sentimental, perhaps he slightly protests too much, given the romantic qualities he admires), declaring of the heroine, "the splendor of her legend is a romantic figure out of a romantic time but a figure too robust for sentimental tenderness, too vital to be the focus of nostalgic revery" and adding that she is drawn "with sympathy and understanding but without sentimentality or exaggeration." Richard Cordell, reviewing The Open Sky, likewise calls it "an exciting, unsentimental adventure."
However, a critic who did care for this quality in Strong's fiction wrote of the 1931 collection The English Captain and Other Stories that "there is nothing ingenious or fanciful in his writing—which means that the emotion is always preferred before the form, not the form before the emotion; and that, I fear, is uncommon enough in the short stories of today. There is one piece in particular—Mr. Kennedy in Charge—which contains the virtues of all the rest; delicate perception of character, tenderness, vigour, and a sublimation of brute pain. It is a stupendous piece of imaginative writing."
Reviewing The Buckross Ring and Other Stories of the Strange and Supernatural, Mario Guslandi writes, "at his best, Strong has an uncanny ability to create gentle, vivid and fascinating stories bound to leave the reader enchanted." Ian McMillan of the Yorkshire Post called the stories "odd and genuinely chilling."
- Strong, L. A. G. (September 1929). "Breakdown (full text)". The Forum. 82 (3): 139–145. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Haining, Peter (1997). Great Irish Tales of Horror: A Treasury of Fear. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. p. 69. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "The Buckross Ring". Tartarus Press. 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Seymour, Percy (2003). The Third Level of Reality: A Unified Theory of the Paranormal. New York: Paraview. p. 149. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Strong, L. A. G. "Foreword." The Psychic Sense, by Phoebe D. Payne and Laurence J. Bendit. London: Faber and Faber, 1944.
- Woolmer, J. Howard (November 1985). "The Crown Octavos and Their Authors". Columbia Library Columns. New York: Butler Library, Columbia University. 35 (1): 15–16. ISSN 0010-1966.
- "The Brothers". Movie Review Query Engine. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "Books of Special Interest: Dewer Rides". Saturday Review. New York: 695. 1 February 1930. ISSN 0036-4983.
...an ample novel of Dartmoor life... a thorough, carefully documented study of character...divided into different parts by a tendency towards violence and an opposed attachment to his ideals...
- "Fortnight South of Skye". Kirkus Reviews. 1935. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
A poor title for a good outdoor story of fishing and adventure on the coast of northern Scotland. ... Two boys spend their vacation together, with a Scot of the old school, and play their part in solving the mystery of the French trawler.
- Mattingly, Garrett (12 October 1935). "Robust Romance". Saturday Review. ISSN 0036-4983. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
He writes of a peninsula in the western Highlands called, from the long sea lochs which indent it, the Seven Arms, where, amidst an isolated Gaelic speaking people who have preserved almost unchanged the manners and traditions of their ancient past lived, at the beginning of the last century, a heroine who might have come straight out of the ancient epics of Gael.
- "Fiction: Recent Books: Nov. 1, 1937". Time. 1 November 1937. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
The third book in three weeks (others: Common Sense About Drama, The Minstrel Boy) from prolific Author Strong. A rugged romance, laid in the English Dartmoor country 50 years back, in which an earthy farm beauty, her rough-&-ready mother, her good, bad and indifferent suitors, a devil in a tree strive to outdo the violence of the landscape.
- Cordell, Richard A. (8 July 1939). "Return to Life". Saturday Review. New York: 6. ISSN 0036-4983. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
...uses the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland as a setting... [The] 'hero,' an exhausted dilettante who has given up both authorship and the practice of medicine, is suffering from a mental breakdown...
- "Slocombe Dies [dust jacket]". Collins. 1942. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
...Strong's first venture into the field of crime fiction... The question that intrigues him about the mysterious happenings in a West Country village is not how the murder was done but how it came to be committed at all.
- "Murder Plays an Ugly Scene". Kirkus Reviews. 1945. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
Detective-Inspector Ellis McKay confronted by the killing of the head of a dramatic school...
- C., B. (23 January 1949). "Reviews in Brief". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
Trevannion is...almost a fallen angel. The kind of man who was once affluent and respected... An 'insurance' man...A 'gypsy' soothsayer...A crook. But into his life comes another crook... Trevannion...falls in love (at 60) with a girl of 18 and is almost redeemed... Mr. Strong...has a wealth of character, wit and humanity.
- "Which I Never". Kirkus Reviews. 19 February 1951. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
...the leakage of secret information provokes a probe of Nosworthy, a suspect publisher, Holland, an actor and ex-commando, and Finch, a surly historian...
- Dodd, Craig. "Andrew MacKenzie - A Gallery Of Ghosts". Vault of Evil. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
...many illustrious names among the contributors: L. A. G. "Breakdown" Strong...
- "The Jealous Ghost". The Bookman. New York: 83–84. March 1931.
- "The English Captain". The Bookman. New York: 77. September 1931.
- Guslandi, Mario (2009). "The Buckross Ring". SF Site. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- McMillan, Ian (1 May 2009). "Discover the Darker Side of the Dales". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 27 August 2012.