Wednesday, September 8, 2021

On Christopher Morley (Haunted Bookshop Author & Baker Street Irregulars Founding Member)

lo-fi & lovely

On Christopher Morley: 
(Haunted Bookshop Author & 
Baker Street Irregulars Founding Member)

 ::: BIO :::

Christopher Morley (May 5, 1890 - March 28, 1957) was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (just west of Philly) to a Frank Morley, Haverford College mathematics professor. Also, to a Lilian Janet Bird, violinist--as well as the parent who most likely nurtured lil Christopher's love for literature, poetry, and The Arts in general. A good Right-brained Mama. She was probably intolerable. Her baby boy would, in an appropriate amount of time, become a journalist, novelist, essayist, & poet. A man of letters, as they say. A quadruple-threat!

In the in-between of all this existed, of course, life. Such as, in 1900, the whole kit, kaboodle, & family moved to Baltimore. Six years later, Christopher entered into his father's Haverford College, then graduated as its valedictorian in 1910. Next up, academically, came three years as a Rhodes scholar at New College, Oxford, where his focus of study was Modern History. In 1913, with his Oxford studies completed, he took up residence in New York City. He began to write, or to be a writer, I imagine because even then History degrees were useless.

We now drag the timeline together at the realization of what he did become, as listed in that opening paragraph of that of what he would become. Or something. Dunno. I just like the occasional center-aligned italicized paragraph. It pleases me.

He and Helen Booth Fairchild were lawfully wed on June 14, 1914. Together, they would eventually have four children. They first lived in Hempstead, & then Queens Village. Then came a move to Philadelphia, PA. Finally, the Roving Morleys came to settle at long last in a Roslyn Estates, New York house they dubbed "Green Escape," this in 1920. I like naming houses; reeks of fucking class. And Sherlockiana. I christened my previous place of occupancy "The Shithole." Haven't named my current spot yet.

1936's addition of "The Knothole" to their property, a cabin in which he wrote for the next & last almost two decades of his life, is pretty much the dream of every writer--beyond the other dream of actually having your words published. For pay. Unfortunately and only tenuously related to a recently previous sentiment, Morley suffered a series of strokes in '51. This forced him into an early retirement of sorts. He retired from his retirement in '57 and has been buried since that time in the Roslyn Cemetery in Nassau County, New York.

[Insert image of Christopher Morley, pipe smoker, smoking a pipe.]


Ever a (perhaps the) Sherlock Holmes enthusiast (later Sherlockian) Morley was a founding member of the Baker Street Irregulars. The Baker Street Irregulars (BSI) began its life as a branching-out of his already existent somewhat informal group, "The Three Hours for Lunch Club," in which he met with other luminaries and such to blab about art & literature.

A bit in re the BSI: established in 1934 it is a nonprofit organization with, as of this writing, some invite-only 300 members worldwide. As an editorial entity, the BSI Press publishes The Baker Street Journal, self-billed as an "irregular quarterly of Sherlockiana." This, since 1946. Essentially, Morley almost single-handedly ushered in fandom, as we know it today. In this particular instance, we should take that last bit as a 'good thing.'

& he also wrote the preface "In Memoriam Sherlock Holmes" for the standard omnibus edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. From that introduction, this:
"The whole Sherlock Holmes saga is triumphant illustration of art's supremacy over life. Perhaps no fiction character ever created has become so charmingly real to his readers. It is not that we take our blessed Sherlock too seriously; if we really want the painful oddities of criminology lets us go to Bataille or Roughead. But Holmes is pure anesthesia. We read these stories again and again; perhaps most of all for the little introductory interiors which give a glimpse of 221B Baker Street.

"The fact that Holmes had earlier lodgings in Montague Street (alongside the British Museum) is forgotten. That was before Watson, and we must have Watson too. Rashly, in the later years, Holmes twice undertook to write stories for himself. The have not quite the same magic. No, we are epicures. We must begin in Baker Street; and best of all, if possible, let it be a stormy winter morning when Holmes routs Watson out of bed in haste. The doctor wakes to see that tall, ascetic figure by the bedside with a candle.

"Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!""


Morley penned one of my favorite books, The Haunted Bookshop (ALTHOUGH WHY HE KILLED THE DOG REMAINS BEYOND ME) as a 1919 follow-up to his two-years-earlier Parnassus on Wheels. In this Corncob Tobacco Pipe-centric tale, we are privy to the further adventures of Used (& traveling) Bookseller, Roger Mifflin. In its pages, The Corncob Club meets regularly and I'd imagine it to be much like The Three Hours for Lunch Club of my previous mention. 

The two aforementioned book(s) also began the bibliomystery sub-genre of literature. "Mystery fiction has many subgenres: hard-boiled, cozy, police procedural, etc. One particular subgenre of interest to lovers of books is that of the bibliomystery. As the name suggests, bibliomysteries are mysteries which deal in some significant way with books and the world associated with books." -

I digress.

Cornell & Diehl some good whiles back released its 'Haunted Bookshop' Rob Runowski blend of Burley and Virginia plus pinch of Perique homage. Pretty much a classic now, and all I have left of my own tin is the tin. I'd like some more, please. You may read my full review of that tobacco offering via the COMPANION READING link list below. thx 

In a lesser ham-fisted nod to Morley--in fact I'm not certain it is at all--exists the Seattle Pipe Club Plum Pudding. This one, a Balkan blend offering that everyone seems to like a lot more than I do. I connect it to Morely's Plum Pudding, of Divers Ingredients, Discreetly Blended & Seasoned, that a 1921 collection of humorous essays. The funny thing about funny essays is how often they aren't.

Alas, I have not read that one yet and am maybe dragging my feet in doing-so & for no good reason. Or at least not one I'll have to digress (again) away from here. I feel I've bent your eyes(?) long enough. If you're hellbent on more bending, see the next, far more lazily self-serving segment below...


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