Sunday, January 29, 2023

Further into Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and True Tilda

Today's rabbit hole is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and True Tilda in particular, because I've made two discoveries about the book.

The first is that it was published in 1909 as, and favourably reviewed as, an adult novel. The second is that a silent film was made of it in 1920.

Here, for instance, is the review in the Thursday 2 September 1909 edition of the Morning Post:

It is a charming book, this Iliad of the rough girl with the heart of a mother and the sagacity of the guttersnipe, and the frail little boy, nearly broken by his treatment at the orphanage, with his innate sense of refinement and hit poetical instinct - to say nothing of the wonderful mongrel, Adolphus, that prince of dogs. 
It will be read with rippling of clean laughter and an excitement that is none the less keen for being evoked by nothing more lurid then the triumph of Innocence over evil circumstances.

And here is the Liverpool Daily Post from the day before:

Mr. Quiller-Couch writes with such charm at all times, with such a true appreciation of the Stevenson manner, that it will seem to be an exaggeration if we sav that in this great book he has has excelled himself. For all that., such is our opinion. 
Let us give an instance. At the end, when the young boy is sleeping in his father’s house, there is a perfect scene. Most writers would have brought the father along the corridor see his sleeping son. So does Mr, Quillcr-Couch. Here is the scene, however, as handles it: - 
Noiselessly though Sir Miles had come, the boy was awake. Nor was it in his nature, being awake, to feign sleep. He looked up. blinking a little, but with no fear in his gentle eyes. 
His father had not counted on this. He felt an absurd bashfulness tying his tongue. At length he struggled to say - 
"Thought I’d make sure you wore comfortable. That's all." 
"Oh, yes - thank you. Comfortable and and - only just thinking a bit." 
Surely that precisely what would have happened on the first night of the son’s restoration, yet how many would have given us a sloppy, sentimental scene. 

The film was well reviewed too, though there were doubts over the casting of the 28-year-old Edna Flugarth to play the nine-year-old Tilda caused some adverse comment.

Arthur was played by Teddy Gordon Craig, who as Edward Carrick had an adult career in films as an art director. It lasted all the way to British films about the early Sixties pop scene: What a Crazy World (1963) and Every Day's a Holiday (1964).

And the film of True Tilda may still exist. Wikipedia has pages listing lost British films for 1915-19 and 1920-24, and it's not listed on either of them.

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