Vivian Connell

Life
1905-1981; b. Cork; self-educated, by his own account; horse and hounds man; travelled in Europe; lived in Sussex and Sicily; settled in S. of France; first published fiction in Irish Statesman; wrote popular plays, Throng o’ Scarlet (1941), The 19th Hole of Europe (1943), etc.; his novels were The Peacock is a Gentleman (1941), The Squire of Shaftesbury Avenue ([1941]), and The Chinese Room ([1942?] 1943) - the first of his best-seller novels dealing with sexual freedom; also The Golden Sleep (1948), with a semi-autobiographical writer hero; there followed A Man of Parts (1950) and Hounds of Cloneen (1951), called sexual romp in fox-hunting Cobh, Co. Cork; also September in Quinze (1952). DIW IF OCIL

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Works
Plays
  • Throng o’ Scarlet (London: Constable 1941);
  • The 19th Hole of Europe (London: Secker & Warburg 1943), and etc.
Novels
  • The Peacock is a Gentleman (NY: Dial 1941);
  • The Squire of Shaftesbury Avenue (London: Constable [1941]);
  • The Chinese Room (NY: BC Hoffman, Dial [1942?] 1943); num. edns. incl. Do. [penguin Books 809] (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1951), 250pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Brown, Watson 1960), 188pp., and Do., trans. Les obsé´dés, adapté par C.Dourhis (Paris: Editions Colbert [1949]);
  • The Golden Sleep (NY: Dial 1948), and Do. (London: Secker & Warburg 1948), 308pp., and Do. (London: Brown, Watson 1964), 158pp.
  • A Man of Parts (NY: Fawcett 1950);
  • Corinna Lang, Goodbye (London: Hutchinson 1954), 224pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Brown, Watson 1963), 158pp.
  • Hounds of Cloneen (NY: Dial 1951), and Do. [another edn.] (London: Hutchinson 1951), 184pp.
  • September in Quinze (London: Hutchinson 1952);
  • Bachelors Anonymous [Ace Books, No. H159](London : Harborough Publishing Co. 1957), 155pp.;
  • The Naked Rich (London: Mayflower 1967), q.pp.
Note: longer records in the above listed in COPAC - online.

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Commentary
A. N. Jeffares, Anglo-Irish Literature ([1984]. p.241: ‘The literary qualities may be called in doubt ... but of their popular success there can be no doubt, The Chinese Room (1943) [an open treatment of sex] being the most typical and successful; also plays and stories, first appearing in the Irish Statesman.

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Daniel Stumpf, review of The Chinese Room, in Mystery File [online]: ‘[...] The Chinese Room starts out with a great premise for a murder mystery: Nicholas Bude is a wealthy London Banker with a wife in the country and a mistress in the city whose sterile life is disrupted when a servant’s daughter commits suicide. It develops that the dead girl was in the habit of writing anonymous threatening letters to herself, and while discussing this with a doctor helping the police. Bude gets into a heated argument about loneliness and lonely minds. He makes a bet with the doctor that anyone with a normal mind (himself, for instance) could send himself threatening letters without being driven to suicide, and the doctor dares him to prove it, which he agrees to do, in front of witnesses. Then he starts getting anonymous threatening letters. Is he writing them himself, without knowing it, is someone trying to drive him to suicide or setting him up for murder? ...] it’s a great start for a classic mystery- just improbable enough to sound bizarre without stretching it too far, but Vivian Connell abandons it for long stretches to talk about sex. [...] Chinese Room was filmed - ineptly, but with surprising fidelity - by Albert Zugsmith in 1968. ...] Quotes Amazon account of Barricade [Press] rep. edition of 2005: “First published in America in 1942, Dial recalled the original edition soon after publication. The Society for the Suppression of Vice demanded the censorship due to the sexual nature of a particular phrase. Citadel Press offered an edition in 1943 minus the offending phrase, and a bestseller emerged, eventually selling more than three million copies in its various editions.” Notes that Abebooks.com offers two copies of the Dial edition - one a reprint at $4.69 with postage, the other, described as a First Edition, at $4,998.00; both hardcover. [See Mystery File / blog &c.]

Bibl. details: The Chinese Room (Dial Press 1942; The Citadel Press 1943), both hardcover [Citadel Edn. shown); rep. (Bantam 454] (1948, & num. printings). [See Daniel Stumpf, at Mystery File / blog &c.]

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References
Robert Hogan, ed., A Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979)[DIL], gives details: b. Cork, travelled on Continent at age of 30, lived in Sussex and Sicily; settled South of France; first story published by AE in The Irish Statesman; plays include The Nineteenth Hole of Europe (1943). Fiction (novel), The Chinese Room (1943), with autobiographical note on jacket which recounts learning to read and write from his father, and an informal education in pubs and hurling fields; carried horn for several packs of hounds; claims his running experiences explaining his unflagging tenacity as a writer. Obviously autobiographical hero of The Gold Sleep (1948) finishes novel in 2 months flat; compared to Donn Byrne; Chinese Room called Lawrence euphemised; stereotypical characters; quotes ‘surging of genetic love that left his body now quivering like a seismograph and his soul riding out on midnight air.’ [Bibl as under Works, supra] Note: This is a long, damning, rather ugly notice characteristic of Hogan at his most aggressive [BS].

Bibl.: DIL bibl. varies from DIL text in dating The Chinese Room at 1942, poss. 1st edn.; Dict.of Irish Writers (Cleeve) dates Peacock is A Gentleman 1953 and adds Corinna Lang, Goodbye (1954), and The Naked Rich [n.d.].

 

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists The Hounds of Cloneen (1951), set in Cork; Clarke Brown, English gunnery subaltern, comes to Ireland and leaves his snob wife in favour of Irish horses, hounds, and hunting, while the M.F.H. gets rids of his English wife likewise. The M.F.H. gets tipsy and sits the housemaid on his knee. Very ‘mist does be on the bogs’ [Clarke].

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