Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

"Guy Thorne": C. Ranger Gull: Edwardian Tabloid Novelist and His Unseemly Brotherhood

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

"Guy Thorne": C. Ranger Gull: Edwardian Tabloid Novelist and His Unseemly Brotherhood

Article excerpt

"Guy Thorne": C. Ranger Gull: Edwardian Tabloid Novelist and His Unseemly Brotherhood. By David Wilkinson. (High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2012, Pp. 335. £40.00, cloth.)

Some thirty years after first stumbling across a reference to late-Victorian and Edwardian writer C. Ranger Gull in Richard Aldington's autobiography, David Wilkinson set about producing the first full biography of Gull. Gull, who today is known primarily by his sometime nom de plume Guy Thorne, is best remembered as a popular or "tabloid" novelist who struck it big with his 1903 bestseller When It was Dark. Gull was born into a clerical family and briefly went up to Oxford, but left without taking a degree. He then immersed himself in London's theatrical and literary offerings, closely associating himself with the Decadent publisher Leonard Smithers. Gull also began a lifelong love affair with drink. After hitting rock bottom of the Decadent lifestyle, he eventually became a wealthy novelist, but died broke after having lost his fortune in mine speculations. His life, though colorful, roughly mirrored that of many other men of his age with a flair for art-for-art's sake. Why, then, devote considerable time and effort to reconstructing Gull's life? Wilkinson argues that despite having been only a "bit-part" player, Gull nevertheless sheds a great deal of light on the Edwardian literary scene (15). Moreover, exploring Gull's life produces new insights regarding his associates, better known figures such as Oscar Wilde, Reginald Bacchus, Aubrey Beardsley, and Havelock Ellis.

Wilkinson emphasizes Gull's close relationship with the pornographers Smithers and Bacchus prior to 1902 when Gull turned from his Wildean past to embrace high churchmanship and a greater degree of bourgeois respectability. He sees Gull's life as something of a paradox, if not an outright contradiction managed by means of multiple authorial identities. He argues that "Gull's life and work are a mass of contradictions between the ostensible libertarian of his private life and the man of faith and commitment portrayed in some of his publications" (21). However, given Gull's fin-de-siecle Decadent milieu, this seeming contradiction becomes sensible. As Wilkinson notes, many Decadents, like Gull, had ties to Roman Catholicism. …

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