Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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John Metcalfe:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Metcalfe, (William) John, 1891-1965
Title John Metcalfe Collection 1846-1965
Dates: 1846-1965
Extent 17 document boxes (7.14 linear feet), 3 photograph albums, 1 oversize folder (osf), 2 oversize boxes (osb)
Abstract: This collection of science fiction writer John Metcalfe consists mainly of manuscripts, notebooks, diaries, legal documents, correspondence, photographs, and scrapbooks, reflecting his interests and family as well as his literary career.
RLIN Record # TXRC92-A1
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-2808
Language English.
Access Access Open for research. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days notice for access in the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material: reference@hrc.utexas.edu



Acquisition Acquisition Purchase, 1967 (R3288)
Provenance Provenance The John Metcalfe papers, along with papers of William Charles Metcalfe and Evelyn Scott, were purchased by the Ransom Center in 1966.
Processed by Processed by Katherine Mosley, 1991, updated by Hagan Barber, Jack Boettcher, 2012.
Repository :

Harry Ransom Center University of Texas at Austin


(William) John "Jack" Metcalfe, born in Heacham, Norfolk, England, on October 6, 1891, was a teacher, short story writer, and novelist recognized primarily for his works of science fiction. His father, William Charles Metcalfe, wrote sea stories for boys and during John Metcalfe's childhood served as a superintendent of orphanages in Canada, England, and Scotland.
John Metcalfe graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of London in 1913. From 1913 until 1914 he taught in Paris. After World War I began in 1914, he joined the Royal Naval Division; he was invalided out in 1915 and enlisted again in 1917, this time in the Royal Naval Air Service. He obtained a commission in 1918 and served with the 29th Group, Royal Air Force, as an armament officer.
After the war, Metcalfe became Assistant Master at Highgate Junior School in London and began writing. In 1925, his first book, The Smoking Leg and Other Stories, was published, and he subsequently abandoned his teaching career and began writing full-time.
In 1928, Spring Darkness was published, and Metcalfe emigrated to the United States. While serving as a barge captain on the East River, he began writing Arm's Length. On March 17, 1930, Metcalfe married the American novelist Evelyn Scott (1893-1963). They spent the next few years travelling extensively. In 1939 Metcalfe joined the British Royal Air Force as a squadron leader.
Following his service in World War II, Metcalfe taught at Cranborne Chase School in Dorset and then at Davie's Tutorial School in Hampstead before returning to the United States. After a 1953 writing fellowship at the Huntington Hartford Foundation in California, Metcalfe moved to New York City. In 1954 he worked at Searing Tutoring in New York, and in 1954 and 1955 he taught at St. Bernard's School. He was employed by the National Reading Foundation from 1955 to 1956 and also did some private tutoring. From 1955 to 1958 he taught at the Haithcock School in Greenwich, Connecticut, and in 1959 he began working for the Tutoring School of New York.
Evelyn Scott died in August 1963, after suffering from heart disease, a lung tumor, and mental health problems in her later years. Metcalfe suffered a breakdown after her death and was hospitalized in the Central Islip State Hospital of New York in August, 1964. After his release in October 1964, he returned to England, where he died on July 31, 1965, as the result of a fall.
Metcalfe's work is noted for its bizarre and grim elements. He is recognized for his skill at characterization and his ability to convey atmosphere and create a sense of scene. Although Metcalfe is best remembered as an author of science fiction and macabre stories, he also wrote several novels and some poetry.
Some of John Metcalfe's principal works include The Smoking Leg and Other Stories (1925); Spring Darkness (in America, Mrs. Condover, 1928); Arm's Length (1930); Judas (1931); Foster-Girl (in America, Sally: The Story of a Foster Girl, 1936); All Friends are Strangers (1948); The Feasting Dead (1954); and My Cousin Geoffrey (1956). Metcalfe also contributed short stories to various magazines and anthologies.
Sources of information about Metcalfe include: Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong, "In Memorian: John Metcalfe," by John Gawsworth,( The Antigonism Review, v. 1, no. 2, Summer 1970); E.F. Bleiler, Checklist of Science Fiction; Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature 1; Supernatural Fiction Writers; Twentieth Century Authors; Supplement to Twentieth Century Authors; and Who's Who in Horror and Fantasy Fiction.

The John Metcalfe collection consists of manuscripts, notebooks, diaries, legal documents, correspondence, photographs, and scrapbooks dating from 1846 to 1965. The material is arranged in eight series: Works, Notebooks, Diaries, Business and Legal Papers, Family Correspondence, Photographs and Photograph Albums, Scrapbooks, and Miscellaneous.
The John Metcalfe papers provide information on all stages of Metcalfe's life. His childhood years are represented by his unfinished autobiography, family letters, including letters he wrote as a boy, and a notebook he kept at age nine. Manuscripts of works written at different points in his life reflect his development as an author. Metcalfe's short stories and short story ideas are particularly well-represented in this collection. Metcalfe's revision process can be traced through his corrections and variant versions of manuscripts. Although Metcalfe's published novels are not well represented here in manuscript form, his personal copies of his books contain corrections (see the List of Associated Materials).
The papers also document some of Metcalfe's interests and activities. For example, notebooks from childhood on, newspaper clippings of scientific discoveries, and items such as a scrapbook of pressed seaweed reflect his lifelong enthusiasm for science. Faced by poverty and illness in his later years, Metcalfe became concerned with issues of the aging, as shown by clippings about social security, youth serum, etc. Valuable information about the final years of Metcalfe's life can be found in his letters to John Gawsworth.
Information about Metcalfe's father, William Charles Metcalfe, and his wife, Evelyn Scott, who were also writers, can be found in Metcalfe's papers as well.
A list of all correspondents found in the John Metcalfe collection is located at the end of this inventory.

Manuscripts relating to John Metcalfe can also be found in the HRC's Evelyn Scott, W.C. Metcalfe, August Derleth, and Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong (John Gawsworth) collections.

Books received with the Metcalfe Collection have been withdrawn and cataloged for the Ransom Center book collection.
From John Metcalfe's personal library (many have autograph corrections): All Friends Are Strangers. London: Nicholson & Watson, 1948. 2 copies. Arm's Length. London: Constable, [1930]. 3 copies. Arm's Length. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930. Brenner's Boy. London: White Owl Press, 1932. Foster-Girl. London: Constable, [1936]. 1 proof copy, 1 copy of published book. Judas: And Other Stories. London: Constable, 1931. 3 copies. Mrs. Condover. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1928. [American editionof Spring Darkness] Sally: The Story of a Foster-Girl. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1936. [American edition of Foster-Girl] The Smoking Leg and Other Stories. London: Jarrolds, Limited, 1925. 2 copies. The Smoking Leg and Other Stories. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1926. 3 copies. Spring Darkness. London: Constable, 1928. 4 copies.
  • 18 Textbooks, primarily in mathematics
  • 45 Scientific works, subject and reference works, fiction, and poetry books
  • Bible given to Metcalfe at his christening
  • Book given to Metcalfe as a prize award in 1907
  • Book given to Metcalfe by an aunt in 1900
  • From John Gawsworth's personal library: All Friends Are Strangers. London: Nicholson & Watson, 1948. Brenner's Boy. London: White Owl Press, 1932. The Feasting Dead. Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1954. Judas: And Other Stories. London: Constable, 1931. My Cousin Geoffrey. London: Macdonald, 1956. Sally: The Story of a Foster-Girl. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1936. The Smoking Leg and Other Stories. London: Jarrolds, Limited, 1925. Spring Darkness. London: Constable, 1928. Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery, and Horror, ed. by Dorothy Sayers. London: V. Gollancz, Ltd., Third Series, 1934, Second Series, 1937, 2 vols. Over the Edge, ed. by August Derleth. Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1964. Poetry Review. vol. XLII, no. 3. London: Rolls Royce Publishing Co., 1951. The Sleeping and the Dead. Chicago: Pellegrine & Cudahy, 1947.
    By William Charles Metcalfe (John Metcalfe's copies of his father's books, received by inheritance): Aboveboard: A Tale of Adventure on the Sea. 4th ed. London: J. Nisbet, 1890. All Hands on Deck! London: Blackie, undated All Hands on Deck! London: Blackie, 1900. Billows & Bergs. London, New York: F. Warne, 1902. Blown Out to Sea. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1908. Dick Trawle, Second Mate. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1908. 2 copies. Fetters of Gold. London: A. H. Stockwell, 1902. Frank and Fearless: Or, Adventures Amongst Cannibals. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1907. Frank Weatherall: Or, Life in the Merchant Marine: A Sea Story for Youth. London: J. Nisbet, 1886. Grit and Pluck: Or, the Young Commander. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1906. 2 copies. Honours Divided: Or, Rescued from Rogues' Island: A Story of the China Seas. New edition. London: J. F. Shaw, undated Junk Ahoy! A Tale of the China Seas. London: Jarrold, 1912. 2 copies. The Mystery of the Albatross. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1911. Nailing the Colours: Or, The Light That Shines. London: Jarrold, 1895. Ocean Chums. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1911. On the Face of the Deep; Or, The Birdborne Missive. London: Jarrold, 1897. Pigtails and Pirates; A Tale of the Sea. London: Blackie, 1908. 2 copies. Steady Your Helm! Or, Stowed Away. London: J. Nisbet, 1892. Undaunted: A Story of the Solomon Islands. New edition. London: J. F. Shaw, 1895. The Voyage of the Stormy Petrel. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1905. 2 copies, 1 with ALS from author to brother Jack. Watch and Watch: Or, "The Decoyed". 2nd edition. London: J. Nisbet, 1897. Young Salts. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: E. S. Gorham, 1912. 2 copies.

    Correspondents

    Bogan, Louise, 1897-1970
    Brindley, Robert
    Burnett, Whit, 1899-
    Crispin, Edmund, 1921-1978
    De Silver, Margaret
    Gawsworth, John, 1912-1970
    McIntosh, Mavis (Elizabeth McKee)
    Metcalfe, Annie
    Metcalfe, Fannie
    Metcalfe, Jessie Clay
    Metcalfe, John Bell
    Metcalfe, Mary B.
    Metcalfe, William Charles
    Pearson, Norman Holmes, 1909-1975
    Preston, B.P.H. (Patrick)
    Scott, Evelyn, 1893-
    Wilson, Angus

    Organizations

    Curtis Brown Ltd.
    Faber and Faber, Ltd., Publishers, London
    Great Britain. Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
    Great Britain. War Office
    MacDonald & Co.
    MacMillan & Co.
    Match & Co., Ltd.
    Messrs. T.F. Peacock, Fisher, Chavasse & O'Meara
    Penguin (firm)
    Peters (A.D.) Agency
    Prentice-Hall, Inc.
    Romeike & Curtice, Limited
    United States. Department of State
    United States. Foreign Service
    United States. Immigration and Naturalization
    United States. Social Security Administration
    Westminster Bank

    Subjects

    Authors, English
    Science Fiction
    Munitions--20th century
    Social Security
    World War, 1939-1945--Supplies
    Botany--Laboratory manuals
    Biology--Study and teaching
    Mathematics--Study and teaching
    Mathematics--Problems, exercises, etc.

    Document Types

    Diaries
    Flora
    Lecture notes
    Photographs
    Scrapbooks
    Sheet music