About the Author

Gwendolyn Davies

Gwendolyn Davies is an emerita professor of English and dean of graduate studies at the University of New Brunswick. She has published or edited six books and over sixty articles and book chapters on pre-1940 Atlantic literature and on the history of the book in Canada. Books include Studies in Maritime Literary History and a scholarly edition of Thomas McCulloch’s The Mephibosheth Stepsure Letters.

Books by this Author
Argimou

Argimou

A Legend of the Micmac
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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A Detached Pirate

A Detached Pirate

The Romance of Gay Vandeleur
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Excerpt

Introduction When A Detached Pirate was published by Greening & Company, London, in 1900, divorce was still pretty unconventional in everyday society. It carried with it the whiff of showgirls, the indulgent rich, and a disregard for British propriety. Thus, the decision of author Susan Morrow Jones (who wrote under the pseudonym "Helen Milecete") to focus on a divorced woman's narrative in A Detached Pirate: The Romance of Gay Vandeleur was audacious, doubly so because she situated much of her story in her native city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. But Morrow Jones knew the context about which she was writing. Originally a British military town — still a city of old mercantile money, and a place redolent with history going back to the mid-eighteenth century — Halifax was no stranger to the flux and flow of ships passing in the night. When A Detached Pirate's Gay Vandeleur attends church on Sunday where "a pale young priest, with big dark eyes and red lips like a cupid, sang 'Vespers for the Dead'" — and then subsequently dines surreptitiously at a military dinner with her ex-husband — she captures the vexed intersection of puritanism and cosmopolitanism that characterized the city in which Morrow Jones had grown up. Susan Morrow was the daughter of Robert Morrow and Helen Stairs, both from established, prominent and affluent families in Nova Scotia. It is the ambition of young women in A Detached Pirate to marry into houses "with money" on Halifax's Northwest Arm, and this, indeed, is where Susan Morrow and her literarily-inclined sister, Helen, grew up. The advertisement announcing the sale of their childhood home, Bircham, in the Halifax Morning Chronicle on April 5, 1906, describes the house as "A VERY CHARMING RESIDENCE standing in its own grounds of about 12 acres on the shores of the beautiful North West Arm . . . fine for boating, bathing and sea-fishing." With mature trees, flower gardens, a stable and coach-house, Bircham had, in addition to the usual residential accoutrements, a billiard room, two drawing rooms, a nursery, a library, six bedrooms on the second floor and six bedrooms on the third floor. It and other houses in the neighbourhood undoubtedly inspired The Towers, the fictional mansion filled with "flowery" wallpapers and situated on the Northwest Arm, where Gay Vandeleur joins a weekend party and where, on a night that is "cold, but clear and still," she toboggans down a hill in a torch-lit course to the sea. Gay is disturbed by the cynicism of the wealthy at that weekend party, for it is obvious that marrying for money, not love, is the model to which Mrs. Goldsmith and other women aspire. And the house — with "no books, no cushions, no sofas, no coffee after dinner" — is a cold manifestation of life. Gay seeks more. Susan Morrow also sought more, as did her first cousins who grew up around her on the Northwest Arm at Fairfield and Bloomingdale (now the Waegwoltic Club). The Bloomingdale cousins, in particular, shared the literary and artistic interests of Susan and Helen. First cousin Alice Jones was to become one of Canada's leading international travel writers in the 1880s and 1890s and a novelist published in London, Boston and Toronto. Alice's sister, Frances (Jones) Bannerman, was to become an internationally recognized artist who exhibited at the Salon in Paris and the Royal Society in London (her painting, "In the Conservatory," is said to be of Helen). And their brother, Dr. Guy Carleton Jones, educated in Scotland, Nova Scotia, and London, was made Head of the Canadian Medical Service overseas in World War I. First cousins, Guy Carleton Jones and Susan Jones ("Susie"), married at St. Stephen's Church in Halifax on October 30, 1889. The early years of Susan Morrow Jones's marriage were spent in Halifax where her husband served variously as lecturer in the Halifax Medical College, Quarantine Medical Officer for the Port of Halifax, and Second in Command of the 10th Canadian Field Hospital in South Africa during the Boer War. In 1906, following the death of Jones's father, Alfred Gilpin Jones, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, Susan and her husband moved to Ottawa where he was appointed honorary surgeon to the Governor General and became Director-General, Canadian Medical Services. After first living in Cochrane Lodge in Rockcliffe Park, they then moved into Birkenfels, a romantic limestone Scottish-styled cottage customarily "leased to a succession of ranking Canadian military officers." Their social circle included the elite of Ottawa (the Rideau Club, the Ottawa Hunt Club). Already, in 1903, Susan had been described in a newspaper article as "bright, vivacious, and good-looking, an expert horsewoman, a lover of dogs and all outdoor sports, and a favourite in the most exclusive social circles." Now, in Ottawa, as in Halifax, she mingled with the fashionable world that was to inform novels such as A Detached Pirate and The Career of Mrs. Osborne

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Divisions of the Heart

Divisions of the Heart

Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Memory and Place
edition:Paperback
tagged : women
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Fiction Treasures by Maritime Writers

Fiction Treasures by Maritime Writers

Best-selling novelists of Canada's Maritime provinces 1860-1950
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
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A Privateer's Fortune

A Privateer's Fortune

by Alice Jones
series edited by Gwendolyn Davies
introduction by Dan Conlin
edition:Paperback
tagged : historical
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Beautiful Joe

Beautiful Joe

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Quietly My Captain Waits

Quietly My Captain Waits

by Evelyn Eaton
series edited by Gwendolyn Davies
introduction and notes by Barry Moody
edition:Paperback
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The Night Hawk

The Night Hawk

by Alice Jones
series edited by Gwendolyn Davies
introduction and notes by Greg Marquis
edition:Paperback
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