John Keble Bell
8 June 1875
|Died||5 March 1928 (aged 52)|
|Known for||Novelist, short story writer and playwright|
Keble Howard was the pen name of John Keble Bell (8 June 1875 – 29 March 1928). He was an English writer and journalist, who wrote a large number of novels, short stories, sketches and plays, mainly light comic pieces, often depicting suburban life. One contemporary literary commentator described Howard as "a highly successful novelist and a moderately successful playwright".
John Keble Bell was born in Basingstoke in 1875, the third of the twelve children of the Reverend George Edward Bell. Soon after his birth, his father was appointed Vicar of Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire and it was here that John grew up.
After attending King Alfred's School, Wantage he entered Worcester College, Oxford University, with the intention of becoming a clergyman. He however became disillusioned with the Church and, not attending his final year due to lack of funds, finally failed his degree. He then briefly worked as a schoolmaster before becoming a journalist. After short spells on the Bicester Advertiser and the Press Association, in 1899 he joined The Sketch, a weekly magazine covering high society, fashion and theatre, working first as assistant editor then, from 1902, as editor. In late 1904 he moved from The Sketch to the Daily Mail to act as dramatic critic, leaving in 1908 to concentrate on writing and the theatre. He however continued to contribute a weekly column to The Sketch under the heading Motley Notes, his final piece appearing on 14 March 1928, two weeks before his death.
He had been a published author of novels and short stories since 1901, with his first play in 1906. He wrote under the name 'Keble Howard', so as not to be confused with his brother, R. S. Warren Bell who also worked as a journalist and writer. He often used 'Keble Howard' for other business matters, but never formally changed his name. Howard was involved in the production of his plays, both in the West End and touring, and sometimes acted in them. In 1913 he established the Croydon Repertory Theatre which ran for two seasons until the outbreak of war.
In 1911 he married Florence Pearl Keats known professionally as Pearl Keats (1883–1962), an actress who appeared in a number of his productions.
During World War I Howard wrote a number of books and pamphlets in support of the war effort. Although over age, he volunteered for the armed forces, serving in administrative posts in England. In October 1915 he joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman, being invalided out four months later. In 1917 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and then the Royal Air Force, before being seconded to the newly formed Ministry of Information in 1918. Howard published his wartime reminiscences in 1919 under the title An Author in Wonderland.
Howard lived for most of his adult life in the south of England. Upon marriage in 1911, he moved from London to a house he named As You Like It in the Surrey village of Merstham, near Reigate and then to Hove in Sussex in about 1920. He died in a Bournemouth nursing home from heart failure on 29 March 1928 aged 52, the death described by The Sketch as "sudden and tragic". His wife did not remarry and died in 1962, they had no children.
In addition to the books below, mainly light comedy pieces, Keble Howard wrote a large number of short stories, sketches and poems, published both in magazines and as part of anthologies that included the work of other authors. Many of the books were illustrated by prominent illustrators of the day, including John Hassall and Frank Reynolds. During World War I he also produced a number of works in support of the war effort.
- The Chicot Papers (1901) Collection of pieces published previously in the Sketch
- Love and a Cottage (1903)
- The God in the Garden (1904)
- Love in June (1905)
- The Smiths of Surbiton (1906) Published in USA as The Smiths: a comedy without a plot
- The Whip Hand (1906)
- The Bachelor Girls (1907)
- Miss Charity (1908)
- The Smiths of Valley View (1909)
- Potted Brains (1909)
- The Cheerful Knave (1910)
- The Happy Vanners (1911)
- Chicot in America (1911) Howard's travels in Canada & USA
- One of the Family (1911)
- Lord London (1913) Based on career of Lord Northcliffe
- Merry-Andrew (1915)
- Forked Lightning (1916)
- Chin Music (1917)
- The Gay Life (1917)
- The Smiths in War-Time (1918)
- The Adorable Lad (1918)
- The Zeebrugge Affair (1918) Account of the Zeebrugge Raid
- The Comedy of It (1919)
- Take One at Night (1919)
- An Author in Wonderland (1919) Howard's wartime encounters
- The Peculiar Major (1919)
- Puck and Mr Purley (1920)
- The Purleys of Wimbledon (1922)
- King of the Castle (1922)
- The Fast Lady (1925)
- Chicot Calling (1925)
- The Chicot Club (1926)
- Paradise Island (1926)
- Lord Babs (1927)
- My Motley Life (1927) An autobiography
- The Fast Gentleman: A Tale of the Norfolk Broads (1928)
These included both full-length plays and shorter one act dramas intended to be performed as curtain raisers to other works. Between 1923 and 2000 a number were adapted for radio and broadcast by the BBC.
- Compromising Martha (1906)
- All Through Martha (1906) Combines all the 'Martha' plays
- Martha Plays the Fairy (1907)
- Charles, his Friend (1907)
- The Dramatist at Home (1909)
- Come Michaelmas (1909)
- The Girl Who Could Not Lie (1911)
- The Embarrassed Butler (1912)
- Dropping the Pilot (1913) Original title: The Whip Hand.
- The Cheerful Knave (1914)
- The Green Flag (1915) Original title: Forked Lightning.
- The Test Kiss (1918)
- Lazy Lubin (in America) (1920)
- Sweet William (1921)
- The Smiths of Surbiton (1922)
- Puss in the Corner (1923)
- An Order to View (1923)
- All in Train (1924)
- Lord Babs (1925)
Notes and References
- "Canada in Khaki, published 1917".
- Birmingham Daily Gazette. Friday 30 March 1928, page 6
- "The Nineteen Hundreds by Reginald Auberon, page 142. George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London. 1922".
- Kemp, Mitchell & Trotter (1997). Edwardian Fiction, an Oxford Companion. p. 197. ISBN 9780198117605.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 65–76. OCLC 963619742.
- Who Was Who 1916-1928. Bloomsbury. 2014. ISBN 9781408193365.
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 104–105. OCLC 963619742.
- "Cardiff University Special Collections". Retrieved 9 Jan 2018.
- The Sketch. Wednesday 21 March 1928, page 7
- The Sketch. Wednesday 14 March 1928, pp 39, 40. An announcement that Howard was unable to contribute appeared in The Sketch of 21 and 28 March 1928
- "For example, in 1915 he enlisted in the Royal Navy as Keble Howard. The National Archives: ADM 337/94/679".
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 293–311. OCLC 963619742.
- "Article on opening of Henley Memorial Hall shows Howard as an actor".
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 312–317. OCLC 963619742.
- "See Florence Pearl Keats on Ancestry.com".
- "For example The quality of Mercy, a pamphlet on treatment of British POWs in Germany". Retrieved 12 January 2018.
- "The National Archives: ADM 337/94/679".
- "The National Archives: WO 339/108169".
- The Royal Air Force List, April 1918
- "Internet Archive. Keble Howard. An Author in Wonderland".
- Cheltenham Chronicle. Saturday 31 March 1928, page 16
- The Sketch. Wednesday 11 April 1928, pp 39, 40
- Howard’s principal works are listed in Who Was Who 1916-28
- "List of Keble Howard's contributions to magazines".
- "For example, The passing of Victoria: the poets' tribute. Horace Marshall & Son, London 1901". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
- Including Love and a Cottage.
- Including The God in the Garden, Love in June and The Smiths of Surbiton.
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 158–161. OCLC 963619742.
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. The Smiths: a comedy without a plot. USA edition".
- "Internet Archive. Keble Howard. Miss Charity".
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. Lord London: a tale of achievement".
- "Internet Archive. Keble Howard. Merry-Andrew".
- "Internet Archive. Keble Howard. The Gay Life".
- "Internet Archive. Keble Howard. The Zeebrugge Affair".
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. The Peculiar Major, an almost incredible story".
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. The King of the Castle".
- "Published in German as Die Windsbraut (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek)". Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "BBC Genome Project, works by Keble Howard".
- "Online Books. Keble Howard. All through Martha: a comedy in 3 acts".
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. p. 216. OCLC 963619742.
- "Online Books. Keble Howard. Martha Plays the Fairy: a comedy in one act".
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. The Dramatist at Home: a duologue in one act".
- "Internet Archive. Keble Howard. Come Michaelmas".
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 280–282. OCLC 963619742.
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. The cheerful Knave: a comedy in 3 acts".
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. The Green Flag: a comedy in 3 acts".
- Keble Howard (1927). My Motley Life. London: Ernest Benn Ltd. pp. 287–288. OCLC 963619742.
- "HathiTrust digital library. Keble Howard. Sweet William: a comedy in 4 acts".
- "Biography on IMDb website".
- "Keble Howard Filmography on BFI website".
- "The God in the Garden on BFI website".
- "The God in the Garden on IMDb website".
- "Miss Charity on BFI website".
- "King of the Castle on BFI website".
- "Lord Babs on BFI website".
- "The Fast Lady on BFI website".
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