Brian Wood on C. N. and A. M. Williamson - Slightly Foxed Issue 22

A Husband and Wife Team

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I call them ‘also published by’ lists. Everyone who collects secondhand books knows them; hopeful publishers used to put them at the end of a volume. There you can find the memoirs of long-forgotten statesmen and long-gone generals, books on matters once thought topical (Is the Kaiser Insane?), collections, inevitably, of essays by E. V. Lucas and, of course, novels.

Very few of the names mean anything nowadays. Edgar Wallace is still remembered, a few people still read W. W. Jacobs, but most are forgotten. How many have even heard of Harold Bindloss, Justus M. Forman or Sir Gilbert Parker? A feature of the time which you won’t find now is the married couple who collaborated in writing. Agnes and Egerton Castle, Alice and Claude Askew, C. N. and A. M. Williamson are quite forgotten; driftwood, as the more portentous of them might have written, on the banks of Time’s river.

The Williamsons were perhaps the most intriguing pair, for they had an interesting speciality: the romantic motor touring story. They were writing in the early years of the twentieth century, when the car, still a novelty, had become reliable enough to be a sort of magic carpet to those who had the money. A writer who knew a little about cars and who could plan both a route and a romance had the key to a new kind of novel. Between them the Williamsons had all the skills that were needed.

Alice Muriel Livingston was born in Poughkeepsie in New York State in 1869 and showed early promise as a popular writer – she sold her first story at the age of 15. She came to England and in 1893 met Charles Norris Williamson who was editor of the Northcliffe magazine Black and White. She started by selling him a story. Two years later they were married and living in a ‘queer old Surrey farm-house’.

When they met, Williamson was 34. He was the son of an Exeter clergyman and after studying engineering at London University he went into journalism, specializing in t

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About the contributor

Brian Wood was born in Birmingham and lives, happily married, in rural Shropshire, where he is addicted to books and archery. He was a teacher for 30 years, until he achieved early retirement. Some of his pupils still speak to him.

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