Category Archives: Ex Libris

The History of Mr Polly

cover imageThe History of Mr Polly is a comic novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1910.

The History of Mr. Polly has three parts. The first part (chapters 1–6) tells of his life up to age 20, when he marries his cousin and sets up a shop. The second part (chapters 7–8) tells of his  suicide attempt, after which he abandons his shop and his wife. The third part (chapters 9–10) and an epilogue sees him becoming a happy and settled assistant innkeeper.

Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had read some of The History of Mr Polly on 9 August 1918, while stationed at Choques, midway between Lillers and Béthune in Northern France.

The Author’s Craft

cover imageThe Author’s Craft is a short book written in 1914 by Enoch Arnold Bennett, author of another book previously mentioned by Arthur Linfoot, Anna of the Five Towns.

It is a short exposition on writing but doesn’t explore technique in the same depth as some modern writers’ guides do, rather concentrating on emotional aspects and the need for an author to express passion and beauty.

Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had “read through” this book and discussed it with a comrade, Harvey, while posted at Pleurs, south of Épernay on 27 June 1918.

The Passionate Friends

Cover Image

The Passionate Friends is a 1913 novel by H. G. Wells.

It takes the form of a letter to the his son by Stephen Stratton in which he sets out the story of his relationship with Lady Mary Christian, later Lady Mary Justin, with whom he had had a lifelong, on-again, off-again affair, although they had never married.

Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had ‘Commenced to read “The Passionate Friends”’ on 10 June 1918, shortly after arriving at Pierry, just south of Epernay.

Mr Britling Sees It Through

cover image

Mr. Britling Sees It Through is H.G. Wells‘ “masterpiece of the wartime experience in England”1. The novel was published in September 1916.

The book  tells the story of a writer, Mr. Britling, who lives  in the fictional village of Matching’s Easy, Essex. The novel is divided into three parts. Book the First, entitled “Matching’s Easy At Ease”; Book the Second, “Matching’s Easy at War”; and Book the Third, “The Testament of Matching’s Easy”.

This book appears to have had a lasting appeal to Arthur Linfoot; a copy remained at his home in Sunderland and was read during WW2 by ALL’s own offspring.

Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had started to read this book on 3 April 1918, while stationed near Bailleul in Northern France.


  1. According to David C. Smith, writing in “H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography”. 

Old St. Paul’s

Cover ImageOld St. Paul’s, also titled Old Saint Paul’s: A Tale of the Plague and the Fire, is a novel by William Harrison Ainsworth serially published in The Sunday Times from 3 January 1841 to 26 December 1841.

The story of Old St. Paul’s is spread over six books which range between April 1665 and September 1666, culminating in the Great Fire of London.

Arthur Linfoot noted that he had ‘spent [the] afternoon on French and reading “Old St Paul’s”’ (presumably not all of it) in his diary entry of 20 November 1917 while stationed at Wallon Cappell.

Emerson’s Essays

Cover ImageRalph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet.

He wrote two books of essays, a First Series, published in 1841, and a Second Series, published in 1844. A further book of essays, Representative Men, the printed form of a series of lectures given by Emerson, was published in 1850. Emerson’s essays have subsequently sometimes been published together in anthologies.

On 18 November 1917, while stationed at Wallon Cappell, Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had “read some of Emerson’s essays at night”. Clearly we cannot know which of Emerson’s essays Arthur Linfoot read on this day, or in what form.

Sinister Street

Cover ImageCompton Mackenzie (17 January 1883 – 30 November 1972) was an English born Scottish writer and lifelong Scottish nationalist. He was one of the co-founders in 1928 of the Scottish National Party but is possibly now more widely remembered as the author of his 1947 novel, Whisky Galore, which has been adapted as films twice, in 1949 and 2016.

Sinister Street is Compton Mackenzie’s novel published in  two volumes in 1913 and 1914. The work was published  in the UK as Sinister Street, volumes 1 and 2, and in the USA as two books, Youth’s Encounter and Sinister Street. It is a novel about growing up, and concerns two children, Michael Fane and his sister Stella, both born out of wedlock to rich parents. The book had several sequels, which continue until Michael Fane’s marriage.

Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had ‘finished reading “Sinister Street” volume I’ on 18 November 1917 while stationed at Wallon Cappell.

Stacpoole

The Blue LagoonOn 29 May 1917, Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had “read a bit of Stacpoole’s Wilderness”. He continued reading it on 30 May.

Stacpoole could be either Henry De Vere Stacpoole (1863 – 1951), a very popular and prolific Irish author best-known for his novel The Blue Lagoon (1908; adapted as films many times, most famously in 1980), or; HDVS’ eldest brother, William Henry Stacpoole (1846 – 1914), doctor of divinity, Dean of Kingstown1 school and also a published author.

No book entitled “Wilderness” appears in bibliographies of either Stacpoole although much of HDVS’ oeuvre (including The Blue Lagoon) takes wilderness as a theme, while WHS’ books are all science fiction. This may suggest that the book Arthur Linfoot was reading on this day was by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, although which of his books this was remains unclear.


  1. The Irish coastal town of Dún Laoghaire was known as Kingstown from 1821 to 1920.