I wrote this story as a relaxation after a lecture tour. An American editor asked me, at that time, for a serial, and I thought this would be the very thing for him. I showed him the synopsis and he was delighted. The contract was signed....
I wrote this story as a relaxation after a lecture tour. An
American editor asked me, at that time, for a serial, and I thought
this would be the very thing for him. I showed him the synopsis
and he was delighted. The contract was signed. Then two months
later I sent him the completed story, and what was my amazement to
receive a very long cable from him saying that he was in despair,
that he could not possibly print it in his magazine because of its
"revolting character". He was a good honest man whom I greatly
liked, and I was quite staggered by his judgment! However, it was
sold to somebody else and duly appeared as a book. I discovered
that I was supposed to have written a treatise on sadism, and when
later Charles Laughton acted in the play that was made from the
book, people left the theatre at every performance, too deeply
horrified to endure it! This is what comes of attempting light
relaxation after a lecture tour!
I have always felt myself that Crispin, the villain of this highly-
coloured adventure, was too fantastic to be shocking. If I wanted
to write about the REAL Crispin, why, then there WOULD be something
to cry out about!
He was to me a kind of Jack the Giant-Killer Giant with the pathos
that attaches to everyone who is seven feet high or has three legs
or an eye in the middle of his forehead! Then he was also to me a
symbol, making this book one with Maradick at Forty, The Prelude to
Adventure, and Above the Dark Circus. It was because I felt this
that I linked the story to Maradick, and even had the audacity to
do over again the incident that had already figured in the earlier
book, the dance through the town.
And yet in my original preface I stated that there WAS nothing
symbolic about him. I meant that quite sincerely. I had written
it as the lightest and simplest of adventures.
I was also afraid of this symbolism of mine with which I was for
ever being twitted. These four books are not perhaps symbolic in
any real sense of the word. They are, I would rather say,
CANDLELIGHT books. By that I mean that the scenes are lit by
flickering, uncertain illumination which creates a shadow for
everything, BEHIND everything, and the shadow is more important
than the reality.
Not very long ago I saw Crispin at a theatre. I could not believe
my eyes. There he was, sitting not far away from me, red hair,
white face, pudgy body and all. I was fascinated and, in the
interval, I stood near him eager to hear what he would say. All
that he DID say was that his crop of potatoes was promising very
well, much better than LAST year. I was disappointed, but who
knows what sinister secret the potatoes covered?
It has been a very successful book in the popular sense and has
appeared at every possible price from seven and sixpence to
sixpence, but after it appeared and I was told of its horrible
atmosphere, I longed to write a REAL book on Crispin's life and
adventures--I offer the suggestion to someone more courageous than
The town in Maradick and The Red-Haired Man was a faint echo of St.
Ives as it used to be--not at all as it now is! The Dance is, of
course, at Helston and is still very vigorous, as I can personally
testify. If Crispin himself reads this little preface, perhaps he
will write to me?