The Soldier and Death is a Russian folk tale by Arthur Ransome.
Arthur Michell Ransome (18 January 1884 – 3 June 1967) was an English author and journalist. He is best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons series of children's books about the school-holiday adventures of children, mostly in the Lake District and the Norfolk Broads. Many of the books involve sailing; fishing and camping are other common subjects. The books remain popular and "Swallows and Amazons" is the basis for a tourist industry around Windermere and Coniston Water, the two lakes Ransome adapted as his fictional North Country lake.
He also wrote about the literary life of London, and about Russia before, during, and after the revolutions of 1917.
Some of Ransome's early works were The Nature Books for Children a series of children's books commissioned by publisher Anthony Treherne. Only three of the six planned volumes were published before the publisher went bankrupt.
In his first important book, Bohemia in London (1907), Ransome introduced the history of London's bohemian literary and artistic communities and some of its current representatives. A curiosity in 1903 about a visiting Japanese poet, Yone Noguchi, led to an ongoing friendship with Japanese painter (and Chelsea neighbor) Yoshio Markino, who in turn introduced him to the bohemian circle of Pamela Colman Smith.
Ransome married Ivy Constance Walker in 1909 and they had one daughter, Tabitha. It was not a happy marriage: Ransome found his wife's demands to spend less time on writing and more with her and their daughter a great strain and, as Ransome's biographer Hugh Brogan notes, "...it was impossible to be a good husband to Ivy". They divorced in 1924.
Among his other books, one on Oscar Wilde embroiled him in a libel suit with Lord Alfred Douglas His wife Ivy attended the trial, sitting in the public gallery as Ransome would not let her sit beside him. Her apparent enjoyment of the public notoriety the case attracted added to the stress on their marriage. The publisher Daniel Macmillan dined with Arthur and Ivy every day during the trial so that Ivy could not quarrel with Arthur. Ransome won the suit, but suppressed the contentious text from subsequent editions of the Wilde biography. Adding to Ransome's "wretched" thirteen months waiting for the case to come to trial was the action of his publisher, Charles Granville. Wilde had been prepared under the guidance of publisher Martin Secker, but Granville had promised better returns and Secker agreed to release the rights. In exchange for a promise of a guaranteed income Ransome handed Wilde over to Granville. The work was well received and successful, running to eight editions, but Ransome saw little in return; in 1912 Granville was charged with embezzlement and fled the country, leaving Ransome to struggle even to register himself as a creditor of Granville's ruined company. Furthermore, his neglect of his health—he suffered from piles from sitting too long in wet boats, and a stomach ulcer—had been exacerbated by the pressure of defending the legal action.
In 1913 Ransome left his wife and daughter and went to Russia to study Russian folklore. In 1916, Ransome published Old Peter's Russian Tales, a collection of 21 folktales from Russia. After the start of World War I in 1914, he became a foreign correspondent and covered the war on the Eastern Front for a radical newspaper, the Daily News. He also covered the Russian revolutions of 1917, developed some sympathy for the Bolshevik cause and became personally close to a number of its leaders, including Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. He met the woman who would become his second wife, Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina, who at that time worked as Trotsky's personal secretary.
Ransome provided some information to British officials and the British Secret Intelligence Service, which gave him the code name S76 in their files. In October 1919 Ransome met Rex Leeper of the Foreign Office's Political Intelligence Department, who threatened to reveal this unless Ransome privately submitted his articles and public speaking engagements for approval. Ransome's response was "indignant". The British Security Service, kept watch on him because of his opposition to the Allied intervention against the Russian Revolution. On one of his visits to the United Kingdom, the authorities searched and interviewed him and threatened him with arrest.
In October 1919, as Ransome was returning to Moscow on behalf of The Manchester Guardian, the Estonian foreign minister Ants Piip entrusted him to deliver a secret armistice proposal to the Bolsheviks. At that time the Estonians were fighting their War of Independence alongside the White movement of counter-revolutionary forces. After crossing the battle lines on foot, Ransome passed the message.
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