University of Texas at Austin

John Metcalfe:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Metcalfe, (William) John, 1891-1965
Title John Metcalfe Collection
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.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-2808
Language: English.
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:

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchase, 1967 (R3288)
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 Katherine Mosley, 1991, updated by Hagan Barber, Jack Boettcher, 2012.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

(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.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

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.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Works, 1925-1965 (bulk, 1945-1962) (7 boxes)
The first series includes extracts from reviews of Metcalfe's books, lists of previous submissions to publishers, working notes, synopses of works, manuscripts and typescripts, and poetry. Synopses of works include Metcalfe's "stocks lists," or lists of titles and plots. The manuscripts and typescripts of Metcalfe's novels and short stories are arranged alphabetically by title, and any page proofs or working notes specific to a work are located under the title as well.
Duplicate typescripts of the short stories collected in The Feasting Dead and Other Stories (1954) are filed separately under their titles. Manuscripts of Enter, Cousin, published in England as My Cousin Geoffrey (1956), and Sea's Mischief (unpublished) are present. Notebooks and typescripts of an apparently unpublished work variantly titled The Pretty People, Ten Pretty People, and Far Be the Day make up a large portion of the Works series. Also of interest are an unfinished autobiography, This Emergent, and an unfinished draft of Metcalfe's last story, "The Nuisance," written a month before his death. Manuscripts and typescripts of some of Metcalfe's poetry are located at the end of the series. Included here are an autograph manuscript and two typed carbon copies of "Saint Joan," as well as the issue of The Poetry Review in which the poem appeared.
Series II. Notebooks, 1900-1952 (2 boxes)
The second series consists of mathematics, philosophy, and science notebooks kept by Metcalfe first as a student and later as a teacher. Also included are his training notebooks from his service in both World Wars. The notebooks are arranged in alphabetical order by the titles designated by Metcalfe.
Series III. Diaries, 1917-1964 (5 boxes)
The diaries document Metcalfe's life from 1917 until 1964 with few gaps. Metcalfe's diary entries consist of comments on his daily activities, including his progress on various works, and notes of correspondence sent and received. The diaries from 1957 and 1959 through 1962 also contain some entries by Evelyn Scott.
Series IV. Business and Legal Papers, 1930-1964 (bulk, 1954-1963, (2 boxes)
Business and legal papers consist mainly of correspondence and legal documents concerning Metcalfe's teaching career, his re-entry into the United States following his service in the Royal Air Force, and various financial matters. The management and sale of property Metcalfe owned in London, the Evelyn Scott Fund, bank accounts in New York and London, British and United States income tax records, and United States Social Security benefits, as well as British Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance benefits are represented here.
Series V. Family and Personal Correspondence, 1846-1965 (bulk, 1929-1933, 1963-1964), (1 box)
The fifth series comprises primarily correspondence among members of Metcalfe's family. It is arranged alphabetically by the writer of the letter. Metcalfe's paternal aunt, Mary B. Metcalfe, usually included letters from other family members in her frequent letters to Metcalfe and Evelyn Scott. Letters written by Metcalfe's father, author William Charles Metcalfe, are included here, as is one fragment of a letter written by Evelyn Scott. Of special note are letters written by John Metcalfe to John Gawsworth. All but two of these were written between March 1963 and July 1965, and they document Metcalfe's anguish and breakdown following Evelyn Scott's death in 1963.
Series VI. Photographs and Photograph Albums, 1906-1956 (bulk, 1906-1907), (3 print boxes)
Photographs and photograph albums make up the sixth series. The photo albums contain photographs taken by Metcalfe as a boy and portraits of family members. Loose photographs include studio photographs of Metcalfe taken in his later years.
Series VII. Scrapbooks 1920-1959 (bulk, 1930-1939), (8 print boxes)
Seven scrapbooks, dating from the 1920s through the 1950s, contain press notices, book reviews, short stories, and clippings on the occult and other subjects. Some of Metcalfe's short stories that are not otherwise represented in the collection, such as “Mildred” and “The Spanish Hat,” can be found here as newspaper and magazine clippings. Another scrapbook, dating from 1926-1930, contains pressed seaweed.
Series VIII. Miscellaneous, 1918-1960 (bulk, 1946-1953), (7 folders)
The eighth series includes printed and manuscript musical works; a 1951 memo book of addresses, figures, and foreign phrases; medical prescriptions for Metcalfe and Evelyn Scott; advertisements; and miscellaneous newspaper clippings. A postal receipts notebook from 1946-1947 indicates correspondence sent. Also present is a signed drawing by W. Stanton Foster, inscribed to Metcalfe and Evelyn Scott.

Related Material

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.

Separated Material

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.

Index Terms


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


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


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

Lecture notes
Sheet music

Folder List