Publication Date: 1936
Edition: 1st Edition.
London. 1936. Heinemann. 1st British Edition. Previous Owner's Inscription In Front & Some Foxing To The Top Edge, Otherwise Very Good.No Dustjacket. Selected by A. F. Tschiffely. 437 pages. hardcover. keywords: Latin America Travel. inventory # 15311. FROM THE PUBLISHER - Among first-rate British writers of the immediate past, the reputation of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham has dimmed more rapidly than that of any of his long-lived literary generation. Vaguely known to many as a friend of Conrad and W. H. Hudson, to a few admirers as the best writer in English on South America, his death last March evoked little more than the perfunctory tributes, compounded of respect and surprise, that seem to be reserved for literary figures who are generally thought to have been dead for years. But Cunninghame Graham was no mere Victorian period piece surviving to a cynical and indifferent age. Born in London in 1852, he was brought up by his Spanish grandmother and his Scotch father, lived through enough careers in his 84 years to make such celebrated literary men of action as Doughty or Wilfrid Blunt seem sedentary by comparison. Leaving school before he was 17, he sailed to South America, traded in cattle and mules, traveled across Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, learned to ride like a Gaucho and usually lived like one. At 27 he married a Chilean, ‘Gabriella, the daughter of Don Francisco Jose de la Balmondiere,’ took her on a honeymoon, part of which was a trip by wagon and horseback from San Antonio, Tex. to Mexico City. In 1879 this journey took 50 days and the travelers were in constant danger of Indian attacks. Cunninghame Graham taught fencing in Mexico City, returned to the cattle business in South America, learned when his father died in 1884 that debts on the estate amounted to more than £100,000. It took him ten years to pay everything off. Meanwhile he turned out well-phrased records of his adventures, was a Socialist member of Parliament, spent two months in jail for rioting, made a scornful speech which inspired Shaw in writing Arms and the Man, organized the Scottish Labour Party, built up close friendships with William Morris, Joseph Conrad, Hudson and Parnell. He disguised himself as a doctor, traveled to Morocco in 1897 in search of a forbidden city, was imprisoned, returned to Scotland to rebuild his estate, covered South America buying horses and cattle during the War, helped found the Scottish Nationalist Party at the age of 76. With all this he wrote some 30 books, publishing the first when he was 43. He had returned to Buenos Aires to see an edition of W. H. Hudson’s works through the press when he died of pneumonia on March 20, of this year. No conventional romancer of the simple life, least of all a melodramatic renouncer of civilized ways, Cunninghame Graham knew both the society he abandoned and satirized and the tough environment of which he wrote more warmly. His sketches of cosmopolitan circles in Madrid, Paris, London, Seville, Buenos Aires, reveal that he had an eye for social decay almost as keen as that of Proust, while his accounts of hard-working cattlemen, Spanish revolutionists. Venezuelan bandits, cruel Texans, worldly-wise Indians, are as modern in spirit as the least squeamish tales of contemporary hard-boiled novelists. Last week a collection of 47 of his sketches and stories gave U. S. readers a good cross-section of his work, since the selections ranged from his masterly Indian story, A Hegira, to his bitter tribute to Parnell, and included his de Maupassant-like tale of a New Orleans prostitute, his tropical anecdotes reminiscent of Conrad. Unlike most writers, Cunninghame Graham accurately characterized the mood of his own work: ‘I strove to write down that which I saw without periphrasis, sans flag-wagging, and with no megrim in my head of having been possessed by some great moral purpose. I fear I have no theory of Empires, destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race, spread of the Christian faith, Bookseller Inventory # 15311
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