Wednesday, October 17, 2012

John Trevena's Sleeping Waters (1913)

It's a question that arises often in the course of republishing neglected old books. How does a text or author go from the heights of popularity to the realm of utter neglect and obscurity? Sometimes it's not hard to see why a particular work falls out of favor because of changing times and fashions, but sometimes an author's fall is so meteoric and so inexplicable as to be utterly baffling.

Take John Trevena (aka Ernest George Henham, 1870-1946), for example.  We're working on a 100th anniversary edition of his Sleeping Waters (1913), to be released in February 2013.  Trevena, of course, was a British novelist, writing primarily on regional subjects pertaining to Dartmoor.  But check out what two of America's major papers had to say about Sleeping Waters on its release in America in late 1914/early 1915:

“It would be difficult to find a novel more unusual or more original. That it is beautifully written, full of poetic passages, and contains many fascinating descriptions [...] will be regarded as a matter of course by those who have read any of [his] preceding books, and therefore know that John Trevena is unquestionably one of the most notable of living writers.” — New York Times, Jan. 10, 1915

“The construction of the book is very artistic and is difficult to accomplish, but apart from its structural merits ‘Sleeping Waters’ has high value. [...] Our admiration for this author has been expressed over and over again. There is grasp and reach and power in [his] books [...] and they are books that place their author among the foremost of the English novelists.” — Los Angeles Times, Feb. 21, 1915

"Unquestionably one of the most notable of living writers," "among the foremost of the English novelists". Big compliments.  And yet Sleeping Waters was never republished, and you will look in vain online for a secondhand copy at any price.  How did John Trevena end up in the dustbin of literary history?  And can our new edition help dig him out of it?

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