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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Mildred Violet Woodgate

Credit for solving this little mystery must go to my mate John Herrington, who recently asked me whether I knew anything about an author named Oliver Barton. Barton was reputedly born in Dublin in 1886 and wrote a few novels for boys as well as contributing to boys' magazines. A very brief entry in the 1935 Author's and Writer's Who's Who claimed that Barton's interests were psychology and criminology and that he was educated and lived in London.

However, no trace of Oliver Barton could be found at the address given: 68 South Eaton Place, W.1.

Instead, this was the home address of Mildred Violet Woodgate and her sister Sibyl Grace Woodgate throughout the 1930s. Mildred was indeed born in South Dublin on 26 January 1886; her elder sister Sibyl was born 5 March 1884.

She was the daughter of Arthur George Kennedy Woodgate (1845-1929), born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and employed as a clerk in the Foreign Office, eventually rising to the position of H.M. Inspector of Factories for the Home Office. Arthur was married in around 1881 to Sylvia Charlotte Elizabeth Barton (1858-1916), the niece of Lord Plunket, Archbishop of Dublin, and they had three children: Sibyl Grace Charlotte Woodgate (1884-1971), Mildred Violet Woodgate and Henry Plunket Woodgate (1888-1955).

Mildred attended Francis Holland School for Girls in London but also spent part of her early life in Northampton where her father was based.

Worked for some years in the British Foreign Office in London, then as a librarian at Bede Library, London. She later worked with youths at Wormwood Scrubbs Prison for fifteen years.

She is known to have contributed articles to Everybody's, Lady and Irish Ecclesiastical Record. The AWWW entry notes that "Oliver Barton" contributed to boys' magazines... but I have an idea that these might have been contributions to some of Amalgamated Press's comics as I have a note that an author named Barton (no Christian name) appeared in the pages of Merry & Bright, Butterfly and Favourite Comic, although these contributions may have appeared anonymously. Under her own name she also contributed stories to The Sketch.

A review of her The City of Death (Dundee Courier, 20 November 1934) says "Mexico is familiary to the author of this story of adventure culminating in an Aztec city and the recovery of ancient treasure. Old boys as much as young ones will enjoy its virile drama and appreciate its instruction in the life and scenery of a country that still retains mystery." The story revolves around an expedition by three friends into the Mexican interior and the discovery of a lost tribe, by whom the three are almost sacrificed leading one reviewer to describe the book as "somewhat grim in parts but should please the boy who likes a blood-curdling yarn."

Pauline's Lady was a mystery novel set in the Victorian era featuring four murders that would "have challenged M. E. Braddon's popular sensations. It has the same rich elaboration of details of time, place and incident, the same motley of interesting characters and the same brooding atmosphere of tragedy, relieved by the social refinement and wistful pathos of its principal portraits. There is nothing old-fashioned about it and its quick vitality will delight moderns" (Dundee Courier, 24 December 1931).

The Two Houses on the Cliff was a similar crime-thriller with romantic overtones, about a Civil Servant named Lawson meeting a strange couple—a Dr and Mrs Medge—whilst on holiday. The latter is soon found murdered and the girl with whom Lawson is in love disappears soon after.

Most of her post-war books were religious biographies.

Mildred died in Honiton, Devon, in 1978, aged 92.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
The Children of Danecourt Park. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1924.
The Secret of the Sapphire Ring. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1930; abridged, London, Mellifont Press, 1946.
The Two Houses on the Cliff. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1931; abridged, London, Mellifont Press, 1945.
Pauline's Lady. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1931; as The Mystery of Pauline's Lady, London, Mellifont Press, 1945.
The Silver Mirror. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1935; abridged, London, Mellifont Press, 1945.
The Cross of Twigs. London, Mellifont Press, 1945.

Novels as Oliver Barton
The Eye of the Peacock. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1928.
The City of Death. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1934.
The Ring of Fate. London, Epworth Press, 1939.

Non-fiction
The World of a Child, with a preface by Laurence Housman. London, Heath, Cranton & Co., 1913.
Pere Lacordaire, Leader of Youth. London, Sands & Co., 1939.
Louise de Marillac: The First Sister of Charity. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1942; as St. Louise de Marillac, Foundress of the Sisters of Charity, New York, Herder, 1942.
Madame Elizabeth of France. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1943.
Jacqueline Pascal, and Her Brother. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1944.
The Abbe Edgeworth, 1745-1807. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1945; New York, Longmans, Green & Co., 1946.
Madame Swetchine, 1782-1857. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1948.
Charles de Condren. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1949; New York, Newman, 1950.
Father Benson, Founder of the Cowley Fathers. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1953.
Father Congreve of Cowley. London, S.P.C.K., 1956.
Saint Vincent de Paul. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1958; New York, Newman, 1960.
Saint Francis de Sales. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1961; as Francis de Sales, New York, Newman, 1961.
Junipero Serra. Apostle of California, 1713-1784. Dublin, Browne & Nolan, 1966; New York, Newman, 1966.
St Bernadette of Lourdes. Langley, Ballykeeran, St. Paul Publications, 1966.
St. Dominic. Illustrations by the Benedictine Nuns of Cockfosters. Langley, Ballykeeran, St. Paul Publications, 1967.
St Joan of Arc. Slough, St Paul Publications, 1968.
St. Columba. Illustrations by the Benedictine Nuns of Cockfosters. Langley, Ballykeeran, St. Paul Publications, 1969.
Thomas More: A Man for All Seaasons. Illustrations by the Benedictine Nuns of Cockfosters. Slough, St. Paul Publications, 1969.
Thomas Becket, 1118-1170. Slough, St Paul Publications, 1971.

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