Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Paul Creswick, an Edwardian Bernard Cornwell?

Was  Paul Creswick the Bernard Cornwell of his day?  He is best known for his retelling of the Robin Hood story in the late Victorian style of Scott's Ivanhoe and George A. Henty's historical adventures.   It was first published in 1902, and was later popular enough to be issued in a deluxe edition with illustrations by N. C. Wyeth in England and in the United States.  Already an established writer,  in 1900 his first story of King Alfred's fight against the Danes was published by Ernest Nister - In Aelfred's Days, a Story of Saga the Dane, to be followed by two further books chronicling the adventures of his hero, Saga.



Set at the same period, it is the reverse of Cornwell's The Last Kingdom, for Saga is really a Danish child saved from the battlefield as a Saxon, and adopted into their household by Alfred and his Queen Ealhswith. The story sweeps along, with pitched battles, treachery, secret passages, caves, and forest wolves, not to mention those cakes.   After fighting with Alfred against Guthrum and his Danes at Edington, and discovering his real birth, our hero returns to his own country to reclaim his heritage and avenge his father in book two, Under the Black Raven.  In the last of the trilogy, Saga, now ruler in his own land,  helps his ally King Alfred defeat their common enemy in Hasting the Pirate (or Hastein, who was driven from Kent at this time).




The illustrator T H. Robinson was brother of Charles and (William) Heath Robinson, all three of them artists.


Born in Kingston-on-Thames in 1866, Paul Creswick was no action man, but an insurance clerk living in Beckenham, Kent, with a wife and young son. His first book was published in 1895; by 1900 he was writing his best-selling historical adventure stories regularly, sometimes two in a year, while continuing his career with the Prudential Assurance Company.  He eventually became their Principal Clerk.
During  the First World War,  he was in charge of Kent's Voluntary Aid Detachments, and was County Senior Transport Officer. He was co-author in 1915 of Kent's Care for the Wounded. But all this, as well as his senior position at work, left him no time for fiction and he wrote only a few books afterwards.  He was awarded the OBE for his wartime services.  (see Beckenhamheritagegroup.co.uk).



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