Friday, May 10, 2013

The Man Who Lost Himself  -  1917
Henry De Vere Stacpoole
301 pages
genre  -  Adventure
my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

Victor Jones, of Philadelphia, has been in London now for 3 weeks.  It should have only taken one week to secure the contract for his fledging business, but a different company won the bid.  Victor has less than ten pounds in his pocket, he owes money to the hotel and he has no idea how he will pay for his return passage to the United States.

Victor sees "a very well dressed man of his own age and build" come into the bar at the hotel.  "This man's face seemed quite familiar to him, so much so that he started to rise and greet him.  The stranger, also, seemed for a second under the same obsession, but only for a second; he made a half pause and then passed on..." 

The two men are identical.  "The same...colour of hair, the same features, shape of head, ears and colour of eyes, the same serious expression of countenance."  What follows is a fantastic tale of mistaken identity, blackmail, daring escapes and a certain lovely lady.  The author did a wonderful job of inserting humor at certain points in the story for comic relief.

My favorite line in the book is:  "...he was presently rewarded with the sight of the present day disgrace of England.  Out of the bathing tent, and into the full sunlight, came a girl with nothing on, for skin tight blue stockinette is nothing in the eyes of Modesty; every elevation, every depression, every crease in her shameless anatomy exposed to a hundred pairs of eyes...'That girl in blue.  Don't any of them wear decent clothing?' (Victor asks the gentleman seated next to him.)...'The scraggy ones do,' replied the other..."

About the author  -

Henry De Vere Stacpoole was born 9 April, 1863 in Kingstown, Ireland.  His father was William C. Stacpoole, a teacher at Trinity College and headmaster of Kingstown school and Charlotte Augusta Mountjoy of Canada. Henry had chronic bronchitis as a child, so, in 1871 he, his mother and three sisters moved to Nice, France, for his health.

Henry attended Malvern College in London, studying literature and writing. He studied medicine next at St. George's Hospital, then University College and finally finishing his degree at St. Mary's Hospital.

A ship's doctor for more than forty years, Stacpoole was an expert on the South Pacific islands. His books frequently contained detailed descriptions of the natural life and civilizations with which he had become familiar on those islands.  His best known work is the 1908 romance novel The Blue Lagoon. He also wrote under the pseudonym Tyler De Saix.

Stacpoole married Margaret Robson on 17 December, 1907. The Stacpoole family moved to the Isle of Wight in the 1920s and lived there until his death. He was buried at Bonchurch in 1951.

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