Monday, 10 November 2008

Blog update

Having re-discovered the Story Papers Index ( i have now added the correct publication dates to all issues so far.
Also the large majority of my collection of UJ's all come from the same source, one collector who has added bits of brown paper to the inside front covers with a list of names. I didn't know what those names meant until i bought a volume of assorted 1904 issues from the same collection much later on - they are the names of the illustrators! However the volume of the first 25 issues doesn't list which illustrator did which issue, so i can't match them up. I have however added an illustrator slot for issues where i can.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Issue 6, Vol. 1 - 1st June 1894

Issue 6, Vol. 1

Published: 01/06/94
Price: ½d
Author(s): Captain Vernon Derwent
Illustrator(s): Unknown
Main Story: Fighting For The Flag – A Tale of the Famous Ashantee War (Captain Vernon Derwent)
Cyril Hastings, a young man who was found as a boy abandoned in a marsh and taken in by a Squire West, asks the squire if he may marry his daughter, Dorothy. This whips the squire into fury, as these are very class-conscious times, and he demands that Cyril leaves his house and never returns. This upsets Dorothy, who is in love with Cyril, but pleases an unscrupulous Captain Ferney, who wants Dorothy’s hand for himself (and, more likely, the large sum that will come with her when the squire dies). The Captain escorts Cyril from the house, and they quarrel all the way. Eventually they resolve on a duel with pistols, and agree to meet at the boat-house in the mansion grounds in an hour.
An hour later, Cyril walks to the boat-house, but another man has got there before him, Tom Sell, a deserting soldier desperate to be rid of his tell-tale uniform. He sees Cyril coming and conceals himself in the shadows, ready with a lump of wood. As Cyril enters he is knocked senseless and his clothes are swapped with Tom’s. Tom starts to wonder if he has killed Cyril, so throws him into the fast-flowing river to be on the safe side, and makes to leave the scene. As he does, Captain Ferney appears behind him – and the captain is Tom’s own commanding officer! Mistaking Tom for Cyril, he says “So I find you shirking from your engagement!” Tom, believing he is caught, turns and fires the revolver he has taken from Cyril, almost killing the captain. Tom then runs from the scene, leaving the smoking weapon behind him.
The sound of the shot alerts those at the mansion, and they rush to the scene, having half-expected a duel to take place. However the captain has not even drawn his weapon, and the pistol which a servant saw Cyril taking is laying on the grass, smoking. The party all draw the obvious conclusion of attempted murder, though Dorothy does not believe it and remains by the captain’s side, waiting to hear his version of events as soon as he is well enough. However as the captain did not see his attacker's face, he simply says that Cyril shot him, which causes Dorothy further upset. The captain then says he must contact the police and put then on Cyril’s track, Dorothy is worried by this, and agrees to marry the captain if it will buy his silence. The captain agrees. However before the wedding can take place he is called upon to travel to Africa to help in the war against the King of Ashantee.
Meanwhile, Tom Sell has discovered the name of Cyril Hastings in the stolen clothes, and adopts this name whilst in London. However he is soon arrested for theft and gives that name, so going to prison under the name of Cyril Hastings. This fact makes it into the papers which causes the Captain more satisfaction, as he now expects no obstacle to his marrying Dorothy.
The real Cyril, meanwhile, is not dead but has in fact been revived by the sudden plunge into the cold river. He floats a considerable distance before struggling to the bank and climbing out. In his confused state he barely notices his clothes are different, and his only desire is to get back to the hall and re-challenge Captain Ferney. However at that moment he is waylaid by some Military Policemen who, in the darkness, believe he is Tom Sell. In an ensuing fight the wound given to him by Tom Sell is re-opened and he collapses from blood loss.
Cyril wakes up in a military hospital, where he attempts to convince the Sergeant, Hodge, that he is not Tom Sell. However the combination of uniform and similar measurements, as well as a similar face, convinces the soldiers that he is Tom Sell and is merely confused after sustaining his head wound. The Sergeant says normally Cyril could be shot for his desertion, on top of numerous other charges built up by the real Tom Sell, but as the regiment is travelling to Ashantee they need every man they can get. After a lengthy argument Cyril discovers his commanding officer is Captain Ferney! However the Captain, realising the advantage of having absolute power over Cyril, refuses to reveal his true identity.
Cyril is punished for the desertion by being confined to the cells for part of the voyage to Ashantee. Once out he rapidly turns the name of Tom Sell from being one associated with laziness, alcholism and other vices into one associated with bravery and heroism. And by the time the ship reaches Africa “Tom Sell” is a favourite with all on board… except the one other who knows his real identity, of course!
Having been ashore for some time, Cyril is told to lead a small patrol into the jungle to hunt out a group of Fantees, another tribe who are mostly friendly to the British, but whose king wishes to join the king of Ashantee in rebellion. Cyril takes two Kossoes, native hunters, into the jungle with him, and these lead him unerringly to the camp of some rebellious Fantees. Boldly Cyril walks amongst them, relying on “being white” to be enough to awe these natives into swearing loyalty to Britain once more. There follows a short fight in which Cyril is reminded that “numbers tell, even though they be black ones”.
Cyril is held bound up for a while in the enemy camp, though he is able to engage the chief in a conversation. The chief is overconfident in the abilities of the king of Ashantee, and asks Cyril to join their side. Cyril says he would be able to decide more easily if he wasn’t tied up. In the midst of pretending to swear loyalty to the rebellious King Kalkalli, the camp is raided by British soldiers led by Captain Ferney! Seeing Cyril in amongst the enemy is enough excuse for the captain to order Cyril to be hung as a traitor. As Cyril is left hanging from a tree, the soldiers move away. The sympathetic Sergeant Hodge is one of the last to leave, and feeling sorry for “Tom Sell”, takes careful aim and shoots the rope holding him up.
As the captain returns to the regiment, glad to be rid of Cyril once and for all, he finds that the army are marching on the rebel city of Coomassie. Twice they engage the enemy at small villages, capturing them with ease. Meanwhile the king of the Ashantee resorts to all sorts of soothsayers, idols and spells to try and drive the British back, without any effect. Eventually the troops force their way down a narrow path and into an Ashantee camp near a town called Amoaful. The fierce battle produces two genuine heroes, the first is Captain Ferney, desperate to get the war “over with” and return to Britain. The other has a grimed face, torn uniform and seems travel-weary, but charges around the battlefield fighting like a tiger, saving lives and destroying the enemy in all directions. Eventually Coomassie is captured and the Ashantee king flees with the rest of his army. Sergeant Hodge believes that the unknown brave man who fought alongside them in the battle, and saved the Colonel’s life several times, was the spirit of Tom Sell. Captain Ferney walks in and warns the sergeant not to encourage a belief in “idle fancies”, but leaves, worried that Cyril Hastings may still live.
Later that night, the rank and file soldiers are awakened by a huge fire in the city, a fine house which had been occupied by the officers is on fire! Once again Tom Sell appears in the midst of the troops and plunges into the burning house to rescue the occupants. Captain Ferney, on an upper floor, resolves that both of them shall go to their death, and they fight amongst the flames before finally the entire house collapses around them.
Back at Merecliff hall, Dorothy is awaiting the return of the victorious troops and, she expects, captain ferney with them. A lawyer enters, representing the estate of the late Sir Percy Hastings, a rich and eccentric man who has died recently. It turns out Cyril is his son! Squire West, who had turned Cyril out, is now filled with regret. But on the other hand he is still confused that Cyril (who is really Tom Sell) could have turned to crime. The lawyer wishes for the Squire and Dorothy to see “Cyril”, who refuses to see them, just to make sure of his identity. The two agree, and discuss Dorothy’s engagement to Captain Ferney when the news arrives – the captain is dead! Despite being pulled from a burning building by a brave soldier called Tom Sell, he died of his wounds a few days later. Dorothy has to feign upset, but in reality is rather relieved.
Tom Sell leaves prison and is conducted to the lawyer's office. Smart enough to know that if he plays his cards right a large amount of money will come his way, in the guise of Cyril Hastings. When it is suggested he visits Dorothy and the Squire he finds numerous reasons to put the visit off. Eventually his excuses run out, and Dorothy and the Squire must travel down to London. There a surprise is sprung on the Squire, Dorothy saying she has met Cyril and still wishes to wed him. But this time it is the real Cyril, the heroic soldier who has just returned from Ashantee, now to a wealthy life and a comission as an officer. With everything explained the Squire allows Dorothy to marry Cyril, whilst he has an interview with Tom Sell, who still claims to be Cyril. This interview goes rather uncomfortably for the latter, who is rather glad to be taken back to prison, this time for fraud. Meanwhile Cyril returns to the manor with Dorothy and the Squire and recounts his adventures in Ashantee during a happy party.

Other Stories:
The Red Queen's Warning (anon)
Ironeta, the queen of the Pequot tribe of Red Indians in South America, has a dream from the "great spirit" telling her tribe not to go into battle with the "pale men" who have entered thier land. Her brother, Eagleheart, refuses and does battle with the British. The entire tribe but Ironeta are wiped out, she then commits suicide when the British soldiers approach.

The main story is the UJ's first "proper" war story, and the extra thread of mistaken identity and seperated lovers makes it even more interesting. An exciting and fascinating story, and one i remembered well as i was re-skimming it to write this review. The attitudes to class and race contained in it are very old-fashioned though, bloodthirsty scenes of battle in which the "savages" are wiped out with ease are the order of the day, in both the main story and the short one included at the end of the book (which is less than one page in length).
The editorial announces a "scheme", in which readers are encouraged to get thier pens out and go through this UJ, and the previous issues, and write what they think about them in the margins, "less of this", "more adventures" etc. And then send them in to the editor so that he can judge which kinds of stories are liked best, and have an idea of what elements to include in them. He offers a book as the prize for the most neatly-marked copy, though does not mention what the book actually is, other than "it will afford many week's pleasant reading".
Following this, there is a lenghty answer to a reader who wishes to throw up his office job and go farming in America or the Colonies. The editor generally advises against this, but says if his correspondent does wish to leave for the empire, to try South America rather than the USA. He follows up with some incedental comparisons of the USA compared to Britain, which makes fascinating reading in modern times, to think that the average American earned less than half the average Briton. America is also described as having a population that will "shortly double" Britain's. I think nowaways they have at least 4 times as many people. Britain is also said to have the largest tonnage of shipping in the world, whilst the USA has almost the smallest. A more up-to-date sounding statistic is that Americans go bankrupt more often than Brits. So some things never change, eh? [/half arsed attempt at Have I Got News For You?].
The editorial also mentions numerous engineering projects around the world in which Britain has a share, such as great canals and railways. The editor also proudly announces that the UJ is a paper which "a man can take home to his sister". Weather she'd want to read it is another matter.