Aubrey Beardsley

Enoch Soames:
The Critical Heritage


The Calumny of Beerbohm
The Anxiety of Influence
New Light on Soames
Enoch’s Castle
In Praise of Christian Diabolism
Iconographia Fungosiana
Strange Growths
A Letter to the Editor
List of Illustrations
Le Diaboliste Catholique
Portrait Study of Enoch Soames
En Attendant
Crème de Menthe and Nicotine
A Man of Letters
Enoch Soames, Esq.
The Bad Homburg

Contact Us

The Arms of a PoetEnoch Soames - The Critical Heritage

A Letter to the Editor

From Carlos Alberto Cruz, C.
     El Alba, Deep Patagonia.
     27 May 1997.

Dear Sir,
     This is to spiritually join in the originous event that will be held in the Manuscript Saloon of the British Library Galleries on June 3rd 1997 to commemorate the life of the poet Enoch Soames. We are also sending you some notes to the paper: “An Investigation into the History and Present Locations of the Fungoids”. My notes, written in inexcusable Anglo-Patagonian, relate to a copy of Soames’s Fungoids, which is now in my possession. Allow me to relate the circumstances surrounding the Scott-McGuill-Kanwather copy of Soames’s masterpiece.
     During the late Victorian and Edwardian times a number of English men settled in Patagonia: most of them were shepherds who introduced the ovine cattle in the huge estancias (some of which are several times larger than Belgium); there were also retired whale sailors and a few adventurers who survived the hor- rible Southern Pole Expeditions, a dire event which had not only taken their frozen arms and hands, but, in some cases had even blinded their eyes and souls. These uneven Britons were unable to be outdoors for five or seven months each year, and therefore had to endure the largest, coldest, and most windy winter in the world by reading voraciously. Patagonian landowners had reputable booksellers who provided them with the latest books of the first quarter of this century.
     I have oft wandered from estancia to estancia, which can sometimes be more than a hundred miles apart, and have bought many books which are now of no use to their actual owners, who have lost the English language of their forefathers, and which I still cling on to, painfully aware of the Patagonian diction which infestates the style of my prose.
     Two years ago, in a shelf of Mrs. McGuill Kanwather, a lady of mixed blood, half-English half-Fuegian, and perhaps related to Jimmy Button or Fuegia Basket, the aborigines taken by FitzRoy and Darwin to England in 1835, I found my copy of the Fungoids. This copy was in the worst imaginable condition, watered all over and with its pages, originally printed in a strange, greyish stock paper, close to disintegration. The whole was practically unreadable, not to mention the parts.
     That day I had acquired from Mrs. McGuill Kanwather a lot of pristine copies of Wilde. When I saw the copy of Fungoids I thought it would not be difficult to get it for a small sum. Things turned out quite differently. Mrs. McGuill Kanwather at first flatly rejected to sell it. I had travelled five hundred miles, I was tired and demanded an explanation. The lady simply said “this is not a book, it is a relic.” I pressed her for a fuller explanation. “All right,” she said, “this awful book was given to me by my father as a token of esteem. Mr. McGuill helped recover Captain R. F. Scott’s body and belongings after his awful death, in his failed attempt to be the first man to reach the South Pole. You know the story: when Scott arrived at his destination, he found a letter written 33 days earlier by Amundsen, who beat everyone in the race to reach the bottom of the globe.” Scott’s body and those of Dr. E. A. Wilson and H. R. Bowers were recovered and buried eight months after their sad defeat and frost-infested death in March 1912. Mr. McGuill wanted to keep their Bible, but instead he received this poor book of poetry in awful condition. Nevertheless he kept it with pride tinged with some sadness for the fate of Captain Scott.
     I made in haste a nervous and huge offer to have the copy of the Fungoids, an irresistible offer that allowed me to own the only surviving copy of Soames’s poems. My chest swelled to the very brim with quiet pride. The copy bears a binding, half putrified on the top, of the greyish awful paper with traces of humidity and polar weather. But it was Soames’s masterpiece. What more could I seek?

enoch soames

     A month ago the Enoch Soames Society invited me to attend the centenary of the poet to be held in the British Museum on June 3rd 1997. I was delighted, nay I was chuffed to the very brim itself. I would be able to display my copy of the Fungoids to all the followers and bibliophiles of the poet attending the celebration. In late May I arrived in London with my book.
     In preparation for this most important meeting I visited my esteemed book dealer, he of the innocent face (like the face of Mr. Bean) and bought an inscribed copy of Mr. Beerbohm’s Seven Men and some topographical material relating to my native land. I was also able to search an “archive” of undistinguished but funny papers that I was not in search of. Relating to Soames, I asked for material about Wilde’s Salomé, my favourite subject. My distinguished bookseller was able to show me a fake manuscript of Salomé that had been bought from a pseudo-Pierre Louÿs in 1921 for a huge sum of gold pounds. This manuscript was found later to be a forgery, for “the paper on which part of the manuscript was written had a Blandford Bond Strathmore watermark. The manufacturers of this paper stated that this paper had not come on the market until January 1915 (long after Wilde’s death),” says the report given by an ancient partner of my bookseller’s firm.
     I was very much interested in this phoney and expensive case which had been enhanced by the recent discovery that this pseudo-Pierre Louÿs who had made the forgery and took the money was none other than the famous Dada activist, boxer, writer Arthur Cravan. This happened after his “resurrection” from his shipwreck off the coast of Mexico in which he, along with his Russian companion Mr. Trotsky, was not thought to have survived. Cravan has been now absolved of all guilt, and his forgeries recognised as poetical Dada boutades.
     After the meeting with my bookseller, I ran back, disturbed and nervous, to my little hotel near St. James’s Place. Infested with trepidation I opened the small little safe in my room where I keep the only remaining copy of the Fungoids. There it was. I looked at the paper carefully to see its watermark with the interest of the first man to peruse the Rosetta Stone. My worst fears were validated. My copy of the Fungoids was printed on paper bearing the Blandford Bond Strathmore watermark, the same used in the fake Salomé and which had come on the market, alas in 1915, three years after Captain Scott had been found dead in the South Pole of our globe. Questions, thousands of questions.
     I left London and came back to Patagonia. Sad and ashamed, I renamed my copy the Cravan-Scott copy. I will not show it to anybody, but it will stand for ever on my side table as a skull, my own personal Vanitas.
     Very respectfully yours,
                 Carlos Alberto Cruz C.


[1] See Hinda Rose.

[2] The forged Wilde manuscripts referred to by Sr. Cruz are in the possession of the London bookselling firm of Maggs Bros. Ltd. They relate to the extraordinary and successful forgery in 1921 of many Oscar Wilde manuscripts by a man passing himself oÏ as Pierre Lou s, friend of Wilde and dedicatee of the French edition of Salome. This man, who at some time sailed under the name of “Sebastian Hope” is believed by some to have been the great proto-Dadaist and boxer Arthur Cravan, whose supposed death at sea in the Gulf of Mexico was never accepted by his friends and family. The forgery was in the end unmasked by identifying the paper used as a type not manufactured until 1915. Ed.

Enoch Soames