[ Coulson Kernahan, English novelist, journalist and poet. ] Eleven Letters (nine in Autograph and two Typed) signed 'Coulson Kernahan', to the author C. S. Johns, mainly on literary connections, including Stephen Phillips and Philip Bourke Marston.

Coulson Kernahan [ John Coulson Kernahan ] (1858-1943), English novelist, journalist and poet [ Cecil Starr Johns; Philip Bourke Marston; Stephen Phillips ]
Publication details: 
Nine on letterhead of Frognal, Fairlight, Hastings. One on lettehead of Fawndene, West Hill, Hastings. 1927 (6), 1928 (2) and 1930 (1). Two undated.
SKU: 20566

For information on Kernahan, see his entry in the Oxford DNB. The eleven items are in fair condition, lightly aged and worn, and total seventeen pages in autograph and two pages typed. Most of the letters have the year added in pencil in another hand, of the other two letters without a year, one (from Fawndene) is dated 2 January [1927]; and the other (from Frognal) has no date at all [January 1928?]. Kernahan's handwriting is difficult to decipher, and the readings from the autograph letters are tentative. The following extracts give a taste of what is a gossipy, garrulous correspondence, with Kernahan keen to underline his acquaintance with leading literary and social figures. (In the undated letter, for example, he writes that he is 'sad about Hardy whom I knew […] And poor Jerome K Jerome'.) The correspondence is also of interest for Kernahan's comments on the poets Philip Bourke Marston (1850-1887, whose executor Kernahan was) and Stephen Phillips (1864-1915), and for his account of the dinner in honour of Sir James and Lady Roberts, on the occasion of their gifting Haworth Parsonage to the nation. The earliest letter, dated 2 January [1927], concerns a 'tribute' by Johns to Phillips, with Kernahan beginning: 'I believe you are the writer of the beautiful, and finely, fearlessly true (some of us are too nervous to speak God's truth, lest some little carper cries “!”) description in the Outlook of Stephen Phillips exquisitely beautiful rendering of poetry.' He asks permission to name Johns as the author, and discusses Phillips's work, concluding with a recollection of his last conversation with the poet, which concerned the progress of the war: 'Are we winning through? Or are we bound to win through Jack?” he asked “Is the news good to-day?” “We are winning dear old man – slowly. It is true and at terrible cost, I fear, but winning, winning, winning, [last three words with multiple underlinings] Stephen, to dead certainty.” I said. “Thank God!” he said with his heart <?>'. On 21 May 1927 he writes that Phillips was 'such a lovable man, as well as a sincere poet'. Later in the letter, after responding to commendation of his own work, he reports that the previous day he 'had tea with a friend [Sir James Roberts] who knew Charlotte Brontë & is the anonymous donor who has bought her old home & presented it to the Trustees'. He remarks that 'Many interesting people live in Hastings. Alas our friend Sir Rider Haggard died not long ago, but Lady Haggard comes to St Leonards. Mrs Andrew Haggard (her sister in law) & the Baroness d'Anethan (her sister) we have among our friends, for the former lives here'. On 28 May 1927 he anticipates with pleasure a meeting with the Johnses, continuing: 'Sir Henry Lunn (1859-1939, leading Methodist and founder of Lunn Poly] came up to see me today & to tell me of his many meetings in America whence he has just returned. He returns to the subject of Hastings social life, naming several individuals, before stating that he 'had the honour to HR.H (whom I had met previously) at Ore, & was sorry to see him tired <?> looking'. He is glad Johns is 'an admirer of de la Mare[.] He writes me that he is only just back from a nursing Home & still something of an invalid'. On 13 August 1938 he thanks him for offering to review his new book 'Five More Famous Living Poets', while sending a copy of his 'new book “The Garden of God”'. He reports that he has 'been to Yorkshire with our friends & neighbours Sir James & Lady Roberts [Sir James Roberts (1848-1935), industrialist] of Fairlight Hall & Strathallan Castle, Perth. They munificently purchased Charlotte Brontë's old home, Haworth Parsonage, & presented it to the Brontë Society – in effect to the nation. On my unworthy self devolved the task of moving the address of thanks […] The occurrence was historic, for Sir James saw & with Charlotte Brontë, when he was a lad at school in Haworth where he was born. I lunched with Mr Holland, grandson of Mrs Gaskell & met Captain Arthur Bramwell, & Mr & Mrs Bramwell, Colonel Sir Edward Brotherton, Bart, who raised at his own expense, a Battalion of the 15th Yorkshire Regiment, in the War presided, as he is President of the Brontë Society. I had tea with him after. There were some 3000 persons present – from Rhodesia, America & Australia. Lord Haldane was to have been there but is ill & an operation. He hopes you are well & that all goes well with you'. He concludes with the report that he and his wife have acquired 'a 5 Valve Portable Wireless'. In a typed letter of 12 May 1929 he describes himself as 'Philip Marston's friend and literary executor', and states that, as he is doing all he can 'to keep his memory green', he must thank Johns for his 'able and most interesting article on him. In a book of mine published by Hutchinson (Celebrities) I tell the story of his sad life at some length. His biographer Mr Churchill Osborne whom I used to meet sometimes long ago, was an equally good friend to yet another man of genius whose life was unhappy – Richard Jefferies.' In the second typed letter, 22 October 1927, he apologises for his late acknowledgement of 'the papers', before giving a good description of 'the rush […] of folk coming here, and asking us to go to see them': 'One day we motored over to see old friends, Sir William and Lady Watson, who are staying for a while in Sussex. Next day I lunched with Greville MacDonald, son of George MacDonald, and later he came here to see my wife. Another day I was asked to lunch at Rye with A. G. Bradley, son of the former Dean of Westminster (he succeeded Stanley in the Deanery) who is himself a distinguished author and scholar. His sister Margaret Woods wrote “A Village Tragedy”. After that I went to tea (also at Rye) with Irvine, grand nephew of W. M. Thackeray who has some clever drawings, pen and pencil, by his great relative. The next evening I met Robert Nicholls the poet, who is now at Winchelsea.' Also present are nine carbons of typed letters from Johns to Kernahan, dating from between 14 May 1927 and 28 May 1930, and totalling 11pp., 4to. They are all addressed from 14 Lodge Drive, Palmers Green, London N13. From Johns' side of the correspondence we learn that he writes articles for 'The Schoolmistress', including ones 'on our visit to you in the summer'. On 26 May 1927 he writes: 'Your reference to me as "a fellow craftsman" is a compliment I very much appreciate. My writing is "a second string" but it is one on which I play as frequently as bread-and-butter duties permit.' And on 7 June 1927 he explains: 'I am not a teacher as you quite justifiably suppose, but I am closely connected with the teaching profession. At the age of fourteen I began as an office boy at the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers, and I have been there ever since. The late Sir James Yoxall was my chief for thirty years. Perhaps you know, or at least knew of, him. He was a fine man, cultured to the finger-tips, and the author of several novels and two or three books on essay lines.'?>?>?>