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Henry De Vere Stacpoole


Henry De Vere Stacpoole (1863-1951), Irishman, ship's doctor and Victorian era author best known for his South Sea romance The Blue Lagoon (1908).


Henry De Vere Stacpoole was born 9 April, 1863 in Kingstown, Ireland, the son of William C. Stacpoole, doctor of divinity at Trinity College and headmaster of Kingstown school (who died before Henry was eight years old) and Canadian-born Charlotte Augusta Mountjoy Stacpoole.

Henry had chronic bronchitis which was misdiagnosed by his doctor as severe respiratory problems when he was a child, so, in 1871 he, his mother and three sisters moved to Nice in the south of France to the Hotel des Iles Britannique, in hopes that his health would improve. It was like paradise to young Henry, but not to last for very long. After some travelling, Henry was sent to Portarlington boarding school among rough and tumble boys who often treated the frail boy harshly and cruelly.

Henry was then off to Malvern College in London, a progressive city school which was much more enjoyable for him to attend and where he settled in to studying literature and writing. He studied medicine next at St. George's Hospital, then University College and finally finishing his degree at St. Mary's Hospital. He graduated L.S.A. in 1891. A number of years following he travelled extensively, as a ship's doctor on at least one voyage, probably a cable mending ship. Undoubtedly his days at sea were to provide much fodder for his future stories and characters.

Stacpoole's writing career began with the publication of The Intended (1894), a tragic novel about two look-alikes. His second novel is set in France during the Franco-Prussian war Pierrot (1896). Death, the Knight, and the Lady was published in 1897. Stacpoole spent the summer of 1898 in Somerset after taking over the country practice of an ailing doctor which resulted in his writing The Doctor (1899), declaring it to have been the best book he ever wrote. Stacpoole says "Public Indifference" (his term) killed any chance of success for The Rapin (1899), about an art student in Paris. He also translated Sappho and François Villon and wrote a biography on him.

Enjoying his pastoral life as country doctor, the world-weary Stacpoole imagined how it would be to come forth into the world and see things for the very first time, marvelling at nature's glory in thunderstorms, revel in a new-born baby, events that were commonplace to him now, and so he set to writing The Blue Lagoon which allowed him to live vicariously through it's characters. While he was influenced by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), there are also parallels to the biblical Adam and Eve.

When Stacpoole finished The Blue Lagoon, which was to be an immediate success upon release, he moved to Cumberland for a time to assist another country doctor. Anxiously anticipating their upcoming nuptials, from Eden Vue he wrote everyday to his fiancée Margaret Robson (Maggie as he called her). They were married on 17 December, 1907. Their honeymoon was spent at a friend's place in the country, Stebbing Park. It was at this time that Stacpoole happened upon Rose Cottage where he was to reside for many years before moving to the Isle of Wight in the 1920s. Many years later he was to dedicate a pond to the village of Bonchurch, Isle of Wight, in memory of the late Maggie.

The Man Who Lost Himself (1918) was a commercially successful comic novel about a down-and-out American impersonating his wealthy look-alike in England and also made into a film. Stacpoole saw his autobiography Men and Mice (1863-1942) published in 1942. The success of The Blue Lagoon saw it reprinted more than twenty times in twelve years. The story was adapted as a play and film versions were made in 1923, 1949, and 1980.

Henry de Vere Stacpoole died on 12 April, 1951 and is buried at the new parish churchyard, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight.

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2005. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

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