This is a book about a recognized master of the short fiction form. Pensive Jester provides the only full-length study of the short story writer best known for the macabre tale The Monkey's Paw . Primarily dealing with W. W. Jacobs's literary life, this book investigates his startling obscurity after a thirty year stint as one of the leading lights of the Strand, an enormously popular British magazine during the first half of this century. His reclusive nature, bashful personality, and overall modesty discouraged publicity and interviewers, leaving large gaps in printed biographical and critical sketches. These omissions have been fleshed out by correspondence with family members and gleanings from contemporary periodicals, helping to present a much more complete picture of the talented author who has amused and terrified so many for so long. This book also contains detailed treatment of the turn-of-the-century literary phenomenon known as the New Humorists. Besides Jacobs, other members of this group included Barry Pain, Jerome K. Jerome, W. Pett Ridge, and Israel Zangwill. As writers who produced comic stories and sketches for the burgeoning popular periodicals of the period, these authors were widely and enthusiastically read by middle and lower class consumers while receiving condescending notice from fashionable literati. Students and scholars of late Victorian and early Edwardian literature, British humor, and turn-of-the-century publishing history will find this useful.
John D. Cloy is Bibliographer for the Humanities and Assistant Professor at J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi.