Christmas Whodunnit: New Sinclair Letter

Who is “Charles R”?

A new letter has come to light from May Sinclair to Wilfrid Meynell in which Sinclair says she says she is “very much afraid that poor Mr. Wells may be shot unless something is done”. The potential shooter she refers to as “Charles R”, or alternatively “Mr. Smith”. But who is Charles R?

The full text of the letter is as follows:

4 Edwardes Sq. Studios. W

Jan: 19: 1911

My dear Mr. Meynell

“Charles R”s latest is a libellous letter addressed to me + threatening Mr. H. G. Wells (whome he knows to be a friend of mine) so insanely + so dangerously that I have been obliged to write to Mr. Bernard Shaw in Mr. Wells’s interests (he being abroad) + tell him about it. I’ve asked him for the name +address of Mr. Wells’s solicitors +, unless he strongly dissuades me from this course (wh. my own solicitor approves), I shall send Mr. Smith’s letter to them to <deal with.>

I heard that he goes about with a revolver, but I didn’t believe it. Now – after his letter – I am very much afraid that poor Mr. Wells may be shot unless something is done.

I am requesting that my name may not not appear in the matter; for I do not want to be included in Charles R’s scheme of vengeance

The letter contained libellous references to Mr. Shaw Bernard Shaw himself – also to Mr. Belfort Bax! But that’s a detail.

I’m off to Cannes (Hotel Californie) on Saturday early.

With kindest regards

  1. sincerely yrs

May Sinclair



May Sinclair will have known Wilfrid Meynell through his wife Alice Meynell, who was in the Women Writers’ Suffrage League at the same time as Sinclair. Wilfrid Meynell and Sinclair also wrote for some of the same journals in the early 1910s.

Mr Ernest Belfort Bax was a socialist and men’s rights activist. Here is a letter exchange from Wilshires Magazine August-November 1902 between Bax and George Bernard Shaw.

But who is the man with the libellous letters and the revolver? If anyone can shed light on this mystery man, please get in touch!

We are very much indebted to Oliver Hawkins, the great grandson of Wilfrid Meynell, for sending us this fascinating letter.


Grant Success!

Opening up the Archive: May Sinclair Goes Digital

The May Sinclair Critical Editions team are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Award for the digital arm of our editions project. This funding will bring together the General Editors on the Edinburgh Editions of the Works of May Sinclair, the Commissioning Editor at Edinburgh University Press, and individual volume editors from the first tranche of editions together with the Digital Humanities team at the University of Pennsylvania, the Director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and several specialists in archival manuscript research and digital archival practice. The Kislak Center for Rare Books and Manuscripts will host a week-long series of workshops in July 2020 and we will collaboratively produce a digital genetic edition of one of May Sinclair’s short stories, and publish this online as an innovative, open access resource. Our aim here is to begin to open up the archive for scholars and interested readers who can’t get to Philadelphia to look at the manuscripts in person.

The May Sinclair Papers include workbooks, manuscript drafts, typescript drafts (sometimes more than one version), and marked up page proofs of more than half of her novels. Most of Sinclair’s published non-fiction also appears in the holdings at the Kislak Center, including not only holograph copies of the published works, but multiple drafts. There are fifty-two boxes of material relating to Sinclair, including forty-eight individual workbooks, in three of the boxes.

The genetic digital edition we will be working towards will include digitized scans of all drafts of one short story, from the original workbook notes (including the whole workbook, so interdisciplinary connections can be traced), through manuscript and typescript draft, to page proof and the first published version of each text. Users of the website will then be able to trace each idea from its initial inception, through to finished publication.

This good news follows on the heels of the announcement in March of the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grants: the Sinclair team won funds for research assistance for the project, and the process of hiring for this post has now begun.

CFP: Networking May Sinclair / Les réseaux littéraires de May Sinclair | Université de Nantes, 18th-19th June 2020

Keynote speaker: Professor Suzanne Raitt, College of William & Mary

This international conference explores the diversity of connections, inspirations and influences in the work of modernist writer, May Sinclair (1863-1946). It will be held at the University of Nantes (France) on Thursday 18th and Friday 19th June 2020.

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, May Sinclair was one of the most successful and widely known of British women novelists (Wilson, 2001). She produced over twenty novels and six collections of short stories and collaborated with many modernist writers and poets, including Ford Madox Ford, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, H.D. and Richard Aldington. Her life was also exceptionally rich. She took an active part in the women’s suffrage movement and published several pamphlets for women’s rights between 1908 and 1917. In the early 1910s, she got involved in medico-psychological research, and wrote half a dozen psychoanalytical research papers. In 1915, she spent two weeks near the Belgian front with an ambulance unit and her Journal of Impressions in Belgium was one of the first wartime women’s diaries published in Britain (Raitt 2000, 163). She was also the acclaimed author of two major philosophical essays on idealism (1917 and 1922) that led to her election to the Aristotelian Society. Last, she was an influential literary historian and literary critic and wrote several much-quoted articles and prefaces on the stream of consciousness, the Brontë sisters and imagist poetry.

Many reviewers and critics have shown that May Sinclair’s modernism was not so much a derivation of other contemporary aesthetics but was rather a product of her idiosyncratic articulation of her many research interests and experiences. In addition, “the interdisciplinarity of Sinclair’s output […] eludes straightforward categorisation and this has arguably contributed to the traditional critical neglect of her writing” (Bowler &amp; Drewery 2016, 1).

As May Sinclair is now “gaining critical legitimacy” (Raitt 2016, 23), this conference seeks to explore Sinclair’s texts and contexts and aims to shed light on her place in literary history and on her contribution to “the radical modernist challenge to traditional assumptions about what it means to be human” (Bowler & Drewery 2016, 14). Papers comparing Sinclair and other writers are thus particularly welcome; suggested topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • May Sinclair and her contemporaries: Thomas Hardy, Henry James, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford, Charlotte Mew, H. D., Richard Aldington, T S. Eliot,
    Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth
    Bowen, Mary Butts, Olive Moore etc.
  • May Sinclair and modernity/the modern/modernism
  • May Sinclair & WW1 writers
  • May Sinclair and Victorian and late nineteenth-century authors: the Brontë sisters,
    George Eliot, George Meredith etc.
  • May Sinclair and romantic poets: Shelley, Byron etc.
  • May Sinclair and philosophy: Henri Bergson, Bertrand Russell, Baruch Spinoza, T. H. Green, Arthur Schopenhauer, Samuel Butler, Francis Herbert Bradley etc.
  • May Sinclair and psychology: William James, Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, Pierre Janet, Melanie Klein, Ella Sharpe, Joan Riviere, Alfred Adler, Charles Myers etc.
  • May Sinclair and mysticism: Evelyn Underhill, the Society for Psychical Research, etc.
  • May Sinclair and first-wave feminism
  • Contemporary reception of May Sinclair
  • May Sinclair and her literary legacy
  • May Sinclair in translation
  • May Sinclair and music
  • May Sinclair and films or TV adaptations

Proposals no longer than 350 words, together with a 200-word biography, should be sent to the conference organisers before February 15th, 2020 [edit: the deadline was previously January 15th but has been extended].

Conference organisers:
Leslie de Bont, Université de Nantes
Isabelle Brasme, Université de Nîmes
Florence Marie, Université de Pau