Anonymously authored books or the use of nom de plume’s were of course not a new thing. Indeed Charles Dickens,Mark Twain,The Bronte sisters, George Orwell and in the present day – J K Rowling have all hidden their true identity by using pen names .
The first British canal voyage to be authored anonymously in 1861.
The reasons for using a nom de plume were and are many and varied but in the middle of the 19th century where female authors were concerned, its use concealed the fact that they were women, allowing them to adopt and express attitudes and deal with subjects which at that time were considered unfeminine.
V Cecil Cotes the author of this 1891 book was subsequently shown to be a woman.
Recent research by Canal book lovers and historians has revealed the true authors of some of these books. Thus the real author of ‘A Trip through the Caledonian Canal .1861 by ‘Bumps’ was a Mr Stockman who was a personal assistant to George Robert Stevenson of the famous engineering family and on whose boat the journey was accomplished.
In a masterly piece of detective work Canal author Hugh McKnight revealed the fact that V Cecil Cotes ‘A Trip on A Barge’ was in fact the female Canadian author Sara Jeannette Duncan. Hugh’s article can be found in the 8th July 2010 issue of ‘Canal Boat’ magazine.
Elsewhere the anonymous author of ‘The Waterway to London’ 1869 has been revealed as Alfred Taylor Schofield and the illustrator of the book as his brother.
Emma Leslie the author of ‘Tom The Boater –A tale of English canal life’ 1882 an early moral tale was actually Emma Boultwood a fact that I was unaware of until correspondence with a Canadian descendant of her family also revealed interesting facts about the authors private life which alas but not unsurprisingly didn’t quite match the high moral tone of her books.
Finally ,and to get back to the title of this blog, In the course of some research of my own I have discovered the true identity of Amos Reade the author of ‘Life in the Cut’ 1888 –the first full length canal novel.Yellowback edition 1889.First Edition 1888
Famous in the canal book collectors world as the first canal based novel and as almost uniquely being issued as a ‘Yellowback’ cheap edition destined for the Railway book stalls – Life in the Cut’ I have revealed elsewhere did in fact have a first edition issued a year prior to the yellowback. Further research has revealed the fact that Amos Reade was actually Ann Margaret Rowan.
Her father was an archdeacon and they hailed from Tralee in Eire where she was born in 1833. She was, it seems, typical of many of the middle class women of the time in being interested in ‘good works’ and in her particular case in relieving the destitution of the poor of Tralee. She was also thoroughly modern in her espousal of Women's suffrage. She was very well known as a contributor to magazines and newspapers - usually on historical subjects and she also wrote a couple of other novels. A staunch Conservative she was a member of the Primrose League Suffrage Association and it was on a Unionist demonstration in Dublin in 1913 that she died.
So another lady author who by publishing her books as a man was able to join the growing band of female Victorian authors who were able to position themselves as reformers in public without risking their feminine respectability.
As far as I can ascertain she lived all her life in Ireland and so it would be interesting to know why ‘Life in the Cut’ appears to be set on an English canal.