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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Beatrice Kelston

The legwork for this little biographical sketch was done by my pal John Herrington who told me, "Finally,  thanks to the BBC, I have now identified Beatrice Kelston. I discovered that in the 1940s she had written plays for BBC Children's Hour, and they kindly supplied the address she wrote from in Tunbridge Wells."

By cross-referencing the address with the names of occupants in the phone book for the late 1940s , John discovered that the author's real name was Mrs A J Bluett-Duncan.

She was born Adelaide Janetta Brownjohn in East Lydford, Sussex, her birth registered 1st quarter 1876. She was the daughter of Simeon Dowell Brownjohn (1838-1904), a clerk in holy orders and rector of East Lydford (1870-88), and his wife. Adelaide was the youngest of eight children. The Rev. Brownjohn's wife, Eleanor Cassandra Frances (nee Hawkins), died on 23 January 1876, aged only 36.

Adelaide was probably educated privately (a governess was one of the occupants at the family's East Lydford home in 1881). She was 28 when her father died, on Christmas Day 1904, aged 66.

Using the name Beatrice Kelston, Adelaide took to the stage, performing as early as July 1897 in The Eider-Down Quilt at Her Majesty's Theatre, Blackpool, where a reviewer noted "Miss Beatrice Kelston shows a pleasant vivacity as Rosamond Denison." Later in the same year she performed in The Sorrows of Satan, based on Marie Corelli's novel, in which Kelston "was quite successful as the vivacious Anna Chesney." (Lincolnshire Free Press, 12 October 1897).

Other roles included Dolly Coke in The Liars (Royal Victoria Rooms, Bridlington, 1898), Alice Ponsonby in Our Cousins (Theatre Royal, Brighton, 1899), Hyacinth Woodward in The Tyranny of Tears (Truro, 1899), Faith Ives in The Dancing Girl (Grand Theatre, Croydon, 1900), Fourth Sister in Cyrano de Bergerac (Wyndham Theatre, London, 1900), and Anna Cristy in a revival of The Sorrows of Satan (St Leonards Pier Pavilion, 1900). She continued to play various roles in theatre productions until at least 1905. She was elected a member of the Actors' Association in 1899.

Her first book, a book of verse entitled The Garden of my Heart (1906), was described as "purely lyrical and love is her besetting theme." (Yorkshire Post, 6 November 1907).

On 29 January 1910, Adelaide—at the time living at 8 Cardigan Road, Richmond—was married to Duncan Campbell Bluett, a gentleman, at the local Church of St Matthias and became Mrs Bluett. The two were to be found living at Wood End, Prestwood, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, at the time of the 1911 census, in which Duncan was described as a painter (artist).

It is from around this period that we find Beatrice Kelston contributing to a variety of magazines, including Young's Magazine and Detective Story Magazine, and girls' annuals.

She published seven novels , notably Seekers Every One (1913) and All the Joneses (1917). One reviewer noted that "In Seekers Every One Miss Beatrice Kelston showed what she could do in fiction that may be called 'real' rather than 'realistic,' since 'realistic' has come to mean a mass of preferably squalid detail and the abandoning of all attempt at selection. In the present book [The Blows of Circumstances] there is the same sincerity and quietness of treatment, drama without melodrama, and attractiveness conveyed by making a personality apparent rather than by loading a person with attributes." The reviewer for Punch said of the same book, "Miss Kelston writes extremely well, if a trifle gloomily for my personal taste".

All the Joneses was described as wildly improbable tale, although "the characters are so well drawn with humour and truth of observation, that one accepts the extraordinary complications that pursue the bequests of the wealthy uncle. There is quite an echo of Dickens in the quaint exaggerations which are happily contrived, and so true in the main to human nature, that they make the characters all the more vivid and real ... the story furnishes an instance of the proverb anent the 'many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip,' and one surprise after another comes to quicken the reader's interest before the denouement, which is perhaps the greatest surprise of all." (Yorkshire Post, 6 February 1918).

Bertha in the Background was, according to The Argos, "a really entertaining story, combining wit and humour with ingeniousness in working out the story, and with good character drawing. And with it all, there goes a freshness and charm in the telling of the story that engages the reader's affection from the beginning ... Miss Kelston reveals a genius for deliberate farce."

Duncan Campbell Bluett—whose surname was also given as Bluett-Duncan—of 55c Nevern Square, Earls Court, died on 14 November 1933 at the Alhambra Palace Hotel, Granada, Spain.

Mrs Adela  Bluett-Duncan, as she became more commonly known, moved to Stonegate, East Sussex, where she was active as a producer and playwright and presided over the local Women's Institute during the Second World War.

After the war she lived at 108 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London. She died at Brompton Hospital, London S.W.3, on 17 June 1951.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
A Three-Cornered Duel. London, John Long, 1912.
Seekers Every One. London, John Long, 1913.
The Blows of Circumstances. London, John Long, 1915.
All the Joneses. London, John Long, 1917.
The Edge of To-day. London, John Long, 1918.
Bertha in the Background. London, John Long, 1920.

Verse
The Garden of My Heart. London, Elkin Mathews, 1906.

Plays
Love in a Mist (Eastbourne, Nov 1921; Pleasure Garden Theatre, Folkeston, 1923).
Harvest (performed Q Theatre, Nov 1926)
Indian Summer (adapted from All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West; performed Croydon Repertory Theatre, Sep 1933)
Hen Rules the Roost. 
A Debt of Honour (by Mrs Bluett Duncan) (fl.1940)
Lady Agatha's Frock (by Mrs Bluett Duncan) (fl.1943)
The Crystal Gazer (by Mrs Bluett Duncan) (fl.1944)
The Boy Friend (by Mrs Bluett Duncan) (fl.1946)

Radio Plays
Bull in a China Shop (BBC Children's Hour, 31 Jan 1945; 26 Aug 1947)
Hen Rules the Roost (BBC Children's Hour, 22 May 1945)
Dog With A Bad Name (BBC Children's Hour, 16 Nov 1945)
Cat With Nine Lives (BBC Children's Hour, 24 Jan 1947)

(* I previously wrote up Beatrice Kelston on 25 May 2010, at which time I failed to discover anything about her. I'm pleased to finally have the mystery of her career resolved.)

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