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Saturday, September 05, 2015

Olive Moore

As with a lot of Bear Alley's most investigative posts, this one begins with an e-mail from my good pal John Herrington, who begins his latest with "I know you like a puzzle and this seems to be one."

Olive Moore was the author of three novels in the early 1930s who then 'disappeared'. Her works were collected in an omnibus edition in 1992, which was reviewed thus by Publishers Weekly:
English novelist Moore is utterly absent from conventional literary history: her work has never been anthologized, her name appears in virtually no literary "companions," and the years of her birth (c. 1905) and death (c. 1970) are not known for sure. Yet this volume--comprised of three short novels, a collection of notebook entries, and a selection of essays--showcases a writer of resounding eloquence and inspiring audacity.
    The first novel, the substantially autobiographical Celestial Seraglio, tumbles through the world of a French convent for both Catholic and English Protestant girls. Relationships develop, only to be smashed as adolescent enthusiasms turn from the lives of the saints to the confessional, to cynicism, and again to piety. Spleen recounts the ponderings of Ruth, a woman who has exiled herself to an Italian Mediterranean island following the birth of her deformed son. Her vision of (specifically European) social corruption and artistic vigor is heightened on the island, and when her husband dies, she returns alone to England strangely rejuvenated, ironically triumphant. In Fugue we once again find an Englishwoman abroad, this time in Alsace: Lavinia Reade is pregnant, unmarried, and losing her man. Love, friendship and independence are juggled before the macabre conclusion falls like a shroud. In her fiction, Moore's formal ambitions have a 1920s Modernist character; one is reminded of Virginia Woolf's dense, circular narratives, and in fact both writers lived in London's Bloomsbury.
    Moore's notebooks reveal this opinionated woman's personal, almost petulant side, which can scintillate as well as aggravate. Her ringing critical insights are too abbreviated, and casual thoughts are rendered too profoundly. But for all the salt one swallows, Moore's incisiveness gleams. She felt a devout responsibility to tell more than stories, yet she is far too sophisticated to sound pedagogic. Her authority springs from a prose that is, after all, delicious, delicate and bracing.
According to various references on the internet, Olive Moore was the pseudonym of a Constance Edith Vaughan; that she was apparently born in Herefordshire in circa 1904 and married the sculptor Sava Botzaris in the 1920s is all the information generally available.

The marriage between Sava Botzaritch (which is given as a variant spelling of his name) and one Constance B. Vaughan is one of only a couple of official records easily found. John bought a copy of the certificate, which revealed that on 24 December 1924, Sava Botzaritch, sculptor, married Constance Beaumont Vaughan, aged 21, a dancing instructor, and daughter of Charles Beaumont Vaughan, deceased.

According to a passenger record for a trip the two took to New York, Sava was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in around 1897, while his wife was born in Hereford, England, about five years later — his age was given as 31, hers as 26. Both are listed under the name Botzaritch. Three years earlier, in September 1926, Anastas Sava Botzaritch, a student of fine arts and sculptor of 34 Beak Street, Regent Street, London W, officially registered the name A. B. Sava as a "change of name", reverting to a family name: his father was Cavaliere Anastras Botzartich Sava, who had been court painter to King Peter I of Serbia.

Sava was actually born in 1894 and had been an interpreter during World War I, settling in London in 1922 where he worked as a caricaturist and portrait sculptor.

Returning to the marriage certificate. In 1900 Charles Beaumont Vaughan married Leah Miriam Freedberg in Yorkshire. Again, official records seem sparse. In the probate index there is an entry for Miriam Leah Beaumont-Vaughan a.k.a. Miriam Lewes who died in Bournemouth on 10 November 1964 (born c1884 according to her death registration under Miriam Lewes). Probate is given to Miriam Constance Beaumont-Vaughan, spinster.

Apart from this and the marriage, Miriam is also tricky to find. There is an entry in the Andrews
Newspaper cards relating to the above probate, which says 'she was an ex-actress and known as Miriam Lewes", though nothing was known of her origins. Several entries in The London Stage mention appearances by Miriam Lewes in various plays in the 1920s. And there is a Miriam Lewes(-)Vaughan, actress, born c1884, on passenger lists.

Their daughter, Miriam Constance Beaumont-Vaughan, was born in Hereford, the birth registered in the 1st quarter 1901; this ties in with the death record of a Constance Beaumont Vaughan, born 25 January 1901, who died in Cuckfield, Sussex, in 1979. She appears in the 1901 census as Mirian (sic) C B Vaughan (aged I month?), listed as a visitor at the household of Richard Davies, a grocer's assistant living at 31 Church Street, Hereford. There is no sign of her parents, but an actor named Leonard Thackeray can be found living in the same building alongside other boarders and lodgers.

Olive Moore's subsequent career is almost unknown. She was described as a dancing instructor when she married in 1924. Like her mother, she may have appeared on the stage: an Olive Moore is credited in the cast of Bruce Bairnsfather's musical Carry On, Sergeant at the New Oxford Theatre in 1925.

Her writing career possibly took dominance in the late 1920s and early 1930s, by which time she was known to the literary folk who circled Charles Lahr's Progressive Bookshop in Red Lion Street, London. Known to her friends as Connie Vaughan, she worked as a journalist for the Daily Sketch and living at 87 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury. She had separated from her husband by then; Alec Bristow, who knew her in the early 1930s, was unaware that she had married, although he knew of her relationship with Sava Botzaritch.

It was during this period that she published her three novels, the first described by its author as highly autobiographical; she also had an essay (Further Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine) published, the latter by Charles Lahr as a limited edition. In 1933, Moore claimed to be working on a novel entitled Amazon and Hero: The Drama of the Greek War for Independence, which was never published. Following the 1934 publication of a collection of aphorisms from her notebooks entitled The Apple is Bitten Again, she disappeared entirely from the literary scene.

In 1941, Anastras Botzartich Sava emigrated to Venezuela, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1947. There is some evidence that the two were divorced, as she was described as a spinster in probate records following the death of her mother in 1964. Nothing else is known about her life until her death in Cuckfield, Sussex, in 1979.

So it would appear that Olive Moore was actually the pen-name of Miriam Constance Beaumont-Vaughan, later Botzartich (1901-1979), rather than of Constance Edith Vaughan, who, incidentally, does appear to exist, which is almost certainly why there has been some misidentification.

Constance Edith Vaughan (1904-1986) was born in Hereford on 3 July 1904 but she appears in the 1911 census (as Edith Vaughan) along with her extensive family of seven siblings. She was the daughter of tailor maker Thomas Vaughan and his wife Maud, and later married Thomas B. Ingram in 1924. She lived in Hereford her whole life.

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