Stanislaus Joyce recalls that his brother had planned to submit a story to Tit-Bits:
In particular, Pierce found ‘A Reading-Room Romance’, the ‘Prize Tit-Bit’ written by ‘Mr. Philip Beaufoy, Playgoers’ Club, Strand, W.C.’, in the issue for 6 March 1897. Beaufoy is buttoned down as a published author, a writer of stories of Tit-bits, and a member of the Playgoers’ Club – just as James Joyce says. Whether Joyce despised Beaufoy’s writing style, or was simply envious of the winner of a prize for which he too had apparently entered, we shall probably never know.
‘Philip Beaufoy’ published The Dosing of Cuthbert, and other stories for boys for Thomas Nelson and Sons’ Red Star Series in 1927. It is presumably safe to assume that the ‘P. Beaufoy’ who (with others) published The Red Book of Boys’ Stories for Thomas Nelson, also in 1927, is the same author. These are two separate titles, the former of 127 and the latter of 95 pages.
As well as writing regularly for Tit-Bits, ‘Philip Beaufoy’ and ‘P. Beaufoy’ contributed stories and letters to other periodicals at the turn of the century, and his work was syndicated internationally. On 1 July 1895 The Theatre published "Feuilleton: a History told through the Post’ by ‘Philip Beaufoy", a melodramatic epistolary tale telling how a false lover was unmasked by watching her former exploits revealed on stage; the January 1900 issue of the Idler carried "A Transfusion of Blood" by ‘P. Beaufoy’, a melodramatic account of the temporary character change experienced by a ‘Poet’ after he received a transfusion of costermonger’s blood; a year later, in January 1901, Quiver presented "The Vulture’s Bid" by ‘P. Beaufoy’, a melodramatic tale telling how a brilliant journalist, working for a failing magazine, was saved from ruin by the guiding advice of his sweet wife Dollie. Beaufoy was strong on melodrama: the stories are gripping and of their time, often involving the leading character (male, upright, from or aspiring to the upper echelons of society, with literary leanings) rubbing noses with the grubby (but sometimes honest) ‘lower orders’.
‘Philip Beaufoy Barry’ became a more established author than ‘Philip Beaufoy’. Like Beaufoy, his oeuvre was unleashed in book form on the British public in 1927, starting with How to Succeed as a Writer: Twenty Methods of Earning Money by the Pen (Allen & Unwin), How to Succeed on the Stage: a Practical Handbook to the Actor's Profession (Allen & Unwin), The Secret Power: A Handbook to the Art of Living (Allen & Unwin), The Mystery of the Blue Diamond (this book published by Beaufoy’s publisher T. Nelson & Sons), and Twelve Monstrous Criminals from Nero to Rasputin, A.D. 37-A.D. 1916 (in Hutchinson’s True Crime series).
A mystery uncovered
The notice makes it clear that Philip Beaufoy and Philip Beaufoy Barry are the same person, and that both are pseudonyms of Philip Bergson. Bergson’s theatrical credentials are apparent from his membership of the Stage Guild and of the ‘O.P. Club’. The ‘O.P. Club’ was the ‘Old Playgoers’ Club’, one of London’s theatrical debating clubs. It was regarded as more fun than the stolid Playgoers’ Club, of which Bergson had formerly (and perhaps concurrently) been a member:
'The Playgoers' Club' meets at the Hotel Cecil, and generally has a somewhat heavy style of paper read, and little sparkle in the debate which follows the lecture. 'The Old Playgoers' Club', known as 'The O.P.', aims more at amusement.8
A brief history of Philip Bergson
Evidence of collaboration between father and son appears in an incomplete manuscript held by Northwestern University, Illinois: Firelight visions: for soprano or tenor in B [flat], by Michael Bergson and P. Beaufoy (dated towards the end of the nineteenth century). [Click here to see the extant page of the manuscript at Northwestern.]
Philip Bergson’s mother, Catherine (‘Kate’) Bergson, née Levison, was born in Islington of a Jewish father, Jacob Leslie Levison, a surgeon dentist trained in America and the author of several medical texts, and a mother (also Catherine) born in Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Philip was educated at the City of London School in the 1880s. Both George Newnes and Thomas Fisher Unwin, Bergson’s early publishers, were old boys of the school, though from the previous generation. Philip was clearly talented. In 1886, while in the Lower 4th Class, he was praised for his portrayal of Lady Macbeth and also Hamlet’s First Gravedigger in short theatrical performances on the annual Beaufoy Prize Day. At the same commemorative celebration he received prizes of ‘Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians’ and ‘Crutwell’s History of Roman Literature’.9
The City of London School’s Beaufoy Prize Day (and the Beaufoy Shakespeare Medal, awarded on the prize day), as well as Beaufoy Scholarships to the University of Cambridge, are named after Henry Beaufoy (1786-1851), a wealthy distiller whose benefactions to the school amounted to some £10,000. It seems at least possible that Philip looked to Henry Beaufoy when deciding on a nom de plume several years after leaving the school.
In the national census of 1891 Philip Bergson is shown, aged 19, as a ‘shorthand writer’ living with his parents and family at 92 Percy Road, Hammersmith, in London. Ten years later, in 1901, ‘Philip Bergson’ is still living ‘at home’ with his widowed mother and a younger brother and sister, at the same address, 92 Percy Road, but is listed as an author and journalist. By now he was contributing regularly to Tit-Bits and other periodicals, and was building a life as a journalist.
It is odd that his name does not appear as the author of a book, rather than a periodical or newspaper article, until 1927. It is possible that he was also working under another name, but then the legal notice in The Times might be expected to cover this too. Perhaps his career received an unexpected boost from his mention in Ulysses in 1922, but there is no evidence for this.
A melodramatic ending
At the time of the 1881 national census of England (Zaleq) Philip Bergson was living, aged 9, at 50 Alexandra Road, Willesden, Middlesex, with his parents Michael and Kate, his elder brother Joseph, his elder sister Rachel, and his younger brother John.
Ten years earlier Philip had not yet been born, and the family was living at 1 Ordnance Road, Marylebone. As well as Philip’s brother and sister Joseph and Rachel, there are two older children, Juliette (aged 13) and Henri (aged 11), both listed as having been born in France. Nearby another daughter, Mina (aged 15, born in Switzerland, and currently at the Slade School of Art), was living with Michael Bergson’s parents-in-law, the Levisons.
Those moderns who know the University of to-day as a place of exquisite culture — the former home of a famous mathematician like Condorcet — of a philosopher like Henri Bergson of our own era — can form small conception of its character.12
Philip’s eldest sister Mina is herself better known today as Moina Mathers, the wife of Samuel Mathers, one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, among whose prominent members we find William Butler Yeats and Annie Horniman, the major financial sponsor for the Matherses and of the Abbey Theatre.
Joyce may not have liked Philip Beaufoy’s tales, but perhaps he would have been quietly amused by the fortunes of Beaufoy’s elder brother and sister.
1 Stanislaus Joyce My Brother's Keeper. James Joyce's Early Years (Da Capo Press, 2003), pp. 91-2.
2 David Pierce Reading Joyce (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2008), p. 246.
3 David Pierce Joyce and Company (Continuum: London and New York, 2006), p. 42.
4 Kate Jackson ‘The Tit-Bits Phenomenon: George Newnes, New Journalism and the Periodical Texts’ in Victorian Periodicals Review Vol. 30, No. 3 (Fall, 1997), p. 211.
5 Kate Jackson (1997), p. 205.
6The Academy (17 March, 1900), p. 238/1
7 The Times (25 April, 1947), p. 1.
8 Lone Hand, Vol. 1, p. 224 (1907).
9 The City of London School Magazine (1886), pp. 175-8.
10 The Times (23 January, 1947), p.1.
11 Richard Ellmann, "Joyce's Library in 1920", appendix in The consciousness of Joyce (London: 1977), pp. 101 and 128.
12 Philip Beaufoy Barry, Sinners down the Centuries (London: 1929), p. 73.
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