21 August 2020

In Search of Margerie Scott

The Windsor Daily Star, 10 April 1951

Until this year, I'd never heard of Margerie Scott. Her name doesn't appear in The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, The Cambridge Companion to Canadian Literature, or the Enyclopedia of Canadian Literature. Three of her five novels were published by McClelland & Stewart – once "The Canadian Publisher" – but I'd never come across copies. My introduction came by way of an American, Scott Thompson of Furrowed Middlebrow, who mentioned her in this February post. "It's possible that Margerie Scott belongs on a Canadian women writers list," writes Mr Thompson.

Margerie Scott was born in 1897 at Leeds. If her publishers' author bios are correct, she received some part of her education in Belgium. Edith Margery Waite was her name at birth; "Scott" was added when she married Canadian Hubert Scott. According to the author, she lived in Canada ten years between the World Wars. During the second conflict, she served as chief billeting officer for the London borough of Chelsea. When the fighting stopped, she worked briefly for the Entertainments National Service Association before returning to Canada for another decade.

Throughout both Canadian stints, Windsor served as her home. She threw herself into society, volunteerism, and amateur theatre. Margerie Scott's name appears in nearly two hundred editions of the Border Cities Star and Windsor Daily Star, this from the 18 September 1956 edition of the latter being an example:

Scott also wrote theatre, film, and book reviews for the Star. My critique of Andre Langévin's Dust Over the City is at odds with hers.

The Windsor Daily Star
24 Sept 1955
I'm not sure we would have much agreed on things literary. In her lecture "The Short Story and Its Place in Modern Letters," covered in the Border Cities Star (22 September 1931), Margerie Scott described O. Henry and Rudyard Kipling as the greatest short story writers of the day. An Anderson, Fitzgerald, and Mansfield man, I take issue.

And then there's this:
Until recent years, the short story has been somewhat despised [emphasis mine]. The novel was the real work. But today, people are giving most of their time to perfecting the technique of the short story, which includes concise presentation of an idea, with an introduction, climax and completion.
More often than not, the Border City Star and Windsor Daily Star refer to Margery Scott as a short story writer. I've managed to track down twenty, most of which were published in long-dead magazines like Breezy Stories, Young Realistic Stories, Britannia and Eve, and The Canadian. One source records that she is the same E.M. Scott who  contributed "The Voyage to Kleptonia" to the October 1928 edition of Amazing Stories.

I don't quite doubt it.

Because her stories were never collected, I think of Margery Scott as a novelist. Life Begins for Father (1939), her debut, appears to have been written off; it received no mention in her subsequent books. In his surprisingly long 22 April 1939 Windsor Daily Star review, "Windsorite Resembles Dad in Novel," critic Angus Munro praises the novel as a "first class story of life in modern London."

My own first book dealt with people who inspired characters in Canadian literature, so you can understand my interest in this paragraph:

A Yorkshireman himself, Tom Waite emigrated to Canada in 1927, settling in Windsor. His profile in the January 1928 edition of Canadian Golfer is quite impressive.

There's more to be learned about Margery Scott. I've only started digging.

For now, the question remains: Does Margerie Scott belong on a Canadian women writers list?

I would say so. How about you?

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  1. Yes she does, and, ahem... O Henry is the bomb.

    1. Agreed... though it should be noted that O. Henry, whom she considered one of the great short story writers of 1931, was twenty-one years dead.

  2. Fascinating! When did she pass? Currently we are researching and publishing bios of people who died in the 1930s (Volume 16) and looking forward to stories of those who died in the 1940s (Volume 17).
    Suggestions of future biographies can be made through our Contact Us tool: http://www.biographi.ca/en/contact_us_general.php - there is no guarantee suggested individuals will be selected for inclusion, however.

    1. My mistake! Margerie Scott died in 1976. This fan of the DNC should have remembered that the 1970s is several volumes in the future.

  3. The FictionMags Index indicates there were two AMAZING STORIES sf items, that mentioned above and "What Happened to Professor Stockley?", (ss) Amazing Stories Dec 1931--I shall have to check those out...and what other examples I can find online...

    1. I read the beginnings of both, but nothing struck me as being typical Margerie Scott. On the other hand, neither caused me to think that they weren't written by the author. A subject of further research, I think.