‘Why Make a Long Story of it?’  The Publisher’s Writer’s Tale

‘A pilgrim in whose heart God had set eternity’[1]


Frederick Joseph Harvey Darton was born on 22 September 1878, eldest son of Joseph William Darton (1844-1916) of ‘Lacklands,’ Beckenham, Kent.[2]  He was educated at Sutton Valence Grammar School, Kent, Dover College and St John’s College, Oxford.  While at St John’s, he joined reading parties to Dorset and maintained a close association with the county from that time.


He was a prolific writer; Darton’s Sunday Pleasure Book (1898) appears among his earliest productions.  Tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims appeared in 1904 followed by (in 1905) Without Fear and Without Reproach.[3]   In the former, Harvey Darton remains true to Chaucer’s comical style of narration, asking frequently, ‘Why should I make a long story of it?’ Here he describes how the Knight cuts short the talkative Monk during their journey to Canterbury:


Sir Monk, no more.  Your tales annoy the company … Tell us something else, for if it had not been for the tinkling of the bells on your bridle, I should have fallen asleep long ago.[4]


Pilgrims All: Chaucer’s motley crew of characters on their way to Canterbury as depicted on the cover of Darton’s book.  The ornate artwork was carried out by Irish illustrator Hugh Thomson[5]

Harvey Darton contributed to journals and also published under pen-names.[6]  He wrote the introduction to a 1928 edition of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels[7] and to a 1930 edition of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the author of which, Rudolph Erich Raspe, is said to be buried in an unmarked grave at Killegy cemetery, Muckross.  In 1931, he published a critique of the work of Robert Graves (1895-1985), son of Alfred Perceval Graves, and grandson of Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe.[8]


Harvey Darton, editor of Chatterbox from 1901, was for twenty-one years a director of Messrs Wells Gardiner, Darton & Co Ltd.  He was sixth generation of a family of publishers established in the eighteenth century.[9]  During its history, the company published Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth,[10] and the Irish travels of Emily Taylor.[11]


Frederick Joseph Harvey Darton, a writer whose gift ‘could not be given unless the Creator Himself possessed it to give’


Harvey Darton married into the Irish families of politician and Judge John Bennett (c1720-1792) and Sheridan Le Fanu.  On 2 October 1906 at St Mary’s Church, Sutton Valence, he wed Emma Lucretia Bennett (1876-1925),[12] daughter of George Lovett Bennett (1846-1916), Head Master of Sutton Valence School, Maidstone,[13] and granddaughter of Edmund Bennett Esq of Dublin.


His wife’s parents were cousins, her mother being Emma Lucretia Sheridan Le Fanu (1846-1893), daughter of Irish novelist Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) whose brother was William Richard Le Fanu (1816-1894), author of Seventy Years of Irish Life (1893),[14] and her grandmother being Susannah Bennett (wife of Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu), fourth daughter of George Bennett Esq QC of Merrion Square, son of Judge John Bennett and Jane Lovett.[15]  Susannah (Bennett) Le Fanu left a young family when she died in ‘unclear circumstances’ on 28 April 1858.


Harvey Darton parted from Emma Lucretia Bennett; their marriage was annulled.[16]  In 1920 she married Laurence Henry Cary Shuttleworth, Assistant Master at Cheltenham College, son of Henry Carey Shuttleworth (1850-1900) Minor Canon of St Paul’s, and brother of Lt Kingsley Christopher Shuttleworth (1897-1917) who was Killed in Action on 19 November 1917 aged 20.  Laurence and Emma died on 24 June 1925, Emma from a ruptured cerebral artery, and Laurence from a gunshot to his head while overcome with grief.[17]


Harvey Darton died after a short illness at Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester on 26 July 1936, aged 57.  At the time of his death he was resident at the Red Lion public house, Cerne Abbas.  He was buried in Cerne Churchyard, Dorset.[18]


[1] ‘A pilgrim in whose heart God had set eternity; a gift which could not be given unless the Creator Himself possessed it to give’ (Quoted in his obituary, Western Gazette, 31 July 1936).

[2] The Darton family were for many generations Quakers (ref: obit 1936).

[3] Other early titles include The Merry Tales of the Wise Men of Gotham (1907), A Wonder Book of Old Romance (1907), Pilgrims' Tales from "Tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims" (1908), Old English Stories (1909) A Wonder Book of Beasts (1909).  He edited The Life and Times of Mrs Sherwood, published in 1910.

[4] Tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims, p114.  Harvey Darton concludes his retelling of The Canterbury Tales as follows (p365): ‘The Last of the Pilgrims.  Here the Merchant’s second story came to an end, and here, too, must end the tales told by these Canterbury pilgrims.  The great English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, died without having time to round off the pilgrimage completely, and though a few stories were afterwards written by other writers to fill up gaps, no one has ever since been able to finish the whole as Chaucer himself might perhaps have done if he had lived.  And, as we do not know when the pilgrims got back to the Tabard again, or what stories they told during the rest of their journey, we can never find out who had the fine supper promised by the Host.  Was it the honourable Knight, or the young Squire, or the gentle Prioress, or the merry rascal of a Pardoner, or any one you like of the others?  That you must guess for yourself, and perhaps when you have made up your mind, you will be able to fancy the winner supping happily at the Tabard with his friends, after their journey through Kent so long ago.’

[5] The artist died on 7 May 1920 aged 59.  Further reference, Hugh Thomson, His Art, His Letters, His Humour & His Charm (1931) by Marion Harry Alexander Spielmann & Walter Jerrold.

[6] ‘Bell and the Dragon’ appeared in the Fortnightly Review in 1909.  ‘In Praise of Great Men,’ which appeared in Cornhill Magazine in June 1923, was remarked on thus: ‘Based upon the internal evidence of our nursery legends offers quite a new view of those huge but simple autochthons of Cornwall who were so treacherously deluded and destroyed by Jack the Giant Killer and his like.’

My Father’s Son: A Faithful Record appeared under nom-de-plume W W Penn.  When: A Record of Transition (1929) appeared under the name of J L Pole.

[7] ‘To the young one of the most absorbing stories of adventure ever written; to the old an extraordinarily clever satire on the egoism of mankind; Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift will always be a popular book.  Messrs Wells Gardner now issue a 7s 6d edition of this classic.  The edition contains all the four voyages of Gulliver, and the text is only very slightly modified here and there to suit modern taste.  The introduction by Mr F J Harvey Darton gives the strange history of the book, while the title page is reproduced from that of the rare first edition of 1726’ (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 10 September 1928).

[8] From Surtees to Sassoon (1931).  ‘He [Graves] appears to be by nature (Irish-German nature) one of those square pegs who never find any but round holes.  In his very earliest poetry he showed that he was dissatisfied with traditional thought, and also with traditional verse structure.  His dissatisfaction was that of a rather scornful boy.  It had grown by 1929, into that of a rather embittered man, who, it may well be, felt himself not so lastingly appreciated as a fair amount of success had let him hope.  His latest published poems are experiments in ultra-modern technique, in the portmanteau word, and the half-deliberate obscurity of T S Eliot and Gertrude Stein.  When one digs into them for a root of meaning, it is found to be that of a small, petulant, and very personal emotions, not quite worth the general labour of discovery, but of interest to the psychologist.  To a reader without personal bias he appears never to have plumbed in his writings much real depth of his own.  He is too vivacious to be more than happy or angry on the spur of the moment which pricks him, but does not reach an artery of real ichor.  He writes often in the manner of the poets he was with from time to time.  He can be a quick and clever satirist.  He has a very nimble and acute fancy alike for the beautiful and the unpleasing.  He inspires interest and even affection in his readers as well as his friends; but he almost always leaves them expecting something better, which seldom comes.’

[9] Further reference, Darton & Harvey archive, University of Reading, Special Collections, Ref GB 6 RUL MS 2774.

[10] Early Lessons (1830), Tales from Maria Edgeworth (1903) reprinted from Parent’s Assistant; or, Stories for Children (1796).

[11] The Irish Tourist; or, The People and the Provinces of Ireland in 1837. 

[12] Description of wedding and images of bride and groom in Gentlewoman, 13 October 1906.

[13] George Lovett Bennett, son of Edmund Bennett Esq, married Emma Lucretia Le Fanu in St Stephen’s Church, Dublin on 8 January 1874.  His father, Edmund Bennett Esq, third son of George Bennett Esq QC (1777-1856), died from consumption at Florence on 30 May 1858.  This George Lovett Bennett should not to be confused with George Lovett Bennett (1844-1922) JP DL of Grange, Clareen, King’s County, son of John Bennett of Grange, grandson of George Bennett QC, and great grandson of Justice John Bennett of the King’s Bench, Ireland (the last named married to Jane Lovett, sister of Sir Jonathan Lovett).

[14] Joseph and William were the sons of Very Rev Thomas Philip Le Fanu LLD, Dean of Emly and Rector of Abington, Co Limerick.

[15] Susannah Bennett was married to Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu Esq by the Rev George Bennett in St Peter’s Church, Dublin on 18 December 1843.

[16] https://peoplepill.com/people/f-j-harvey-darton/   

[17] The verdict was suicide while of unsound mind.  Emma Lucretia Bennett (Darton) was born in Rugby in 1876.  The inquest into the death of her husband, who was aged 43, and details of her death was reported in the Gloucester Citizen, 26 June 1925 and the Western Daily Press, 26 June 1925.  In press reports of the incident, Emma was named as ‘Phyllis.’  Administration to engineer Maurice Edward Fuller Shuttleworth.

[18] Among the mourners at his funeral were C C Darton, brother; Miss Darton, sister; G C Darton, nephew; Mrs Wortley Williams, Mrs Lionel Harrison, Mrs Wilfrid Harrison, Rev J Graham Whittock, congregational church minister; Captain G Jensen, Mr H Donimey, Mrs W Markby, Miss Jones, Mr R Stone, Mr and Mrs Roper, Mr W Bown, Mrs Inkpen, Mrs Fry, Mr Noel Paul, and G T Green.  Further reference, ‘The literary giant of Cerne Abbas,’ Dorset Life Magazine, December 2014