[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]. Kenneth Roberts, John H. Craige.
[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]
[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]
[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]
[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]
[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]
[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]

[Novelist Kenneth Roberts’ Correspondence With an Authority On Haitian History For His Novel Lydia Bailey.]

Philadelphia, Nassau, Bahamas, Kennebunkport, Maine: April 10, 1944–March 17, 1947. 5 letters 140mm x 215 to 215mm x 280, 11 pp. of typescript. 1 85 x 120mm b&w photo. 1 article from New Yorker, 1 p.

An engaging group of letters between the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Maine historical novelist and a former marine Captain stationed in Haiti turned author, concerning research for the former’s novel, Lydia Bailey.

Kenneth Lewis Roberts (1885–1957) of Kennebunk, Maine, was a renowned journalist and author of American historical fiction. His Lydia Bailey (1947), which these letters concern, is a novel set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries during the Haitian Revolution with action taking place in Haiti, France, and amongst the Barbary pirates. The book remained at the top of the list of The New York Times fiction best sellers of 1947 for twelve weeks, and in 1952 the novel was adapted into a Technicolor film by 20th Century Fox. John H. Craige was a former marine Captain who served in Haiti and would go on to write popular books on Haiti, including Black Bagdad (c. 1930s), which argued that the Hatians were inhumane and was apparently one of the first books to bring voodoo to the attention of the Western world. In this lively letter exchange Roberts writes to Craige in pursuit of information that pertains to his forthcoming novel.

Roberts’ initial letter, dated April 10, 1944, begins: "I come to you for the information because your books on Haiti are miles ahead of anything else that has been written on that island, and because I think you're in a peculiarly excellent position to clear up for me a segment of Hatian history that I seem wholly unable to clear up by myself." In particular he wishes Craige would tell him, among other things, "why [the fort] Crete-a-Pierrot should have been so valuable to Toussaint." More questions follow. Referring to the published literature on Haiti, he notes, "I don't think the military details in any of them are worth a damn, but there's nothing else to go on."

In a letter dated April 14, 1944, Craige responds positively to Roberts and even commends his earlier works: "I have read your Northwest Passage [1937], and it was a grand job." Craige also remarks that he would be "peculiarly interested in reading your Oliver Wiswell [1940]." He tells Roberts he is “interested in your efforts to fathom the fable of Crete-a-Pierrot, for fable I believe it to be." Before launching into a detailed exposition of Haitian history and the subject of Crete-a-Pierrot, Craige explains that he "spent nearly four years in Haiti, starting with a pretty good knowledge of French and a solid groundwork of history. I cultivated a sound drinking acquaintance with the history of the French peres, and with some of them, did a good deal of digging into the history of the land."

On April 26, 1944, Roberts writes Craige again: "I'm reluctant to bother you further, but you know more about Haiti than anybody in this or any other country, and I don't want to go wrong if I can help it." He attaches a copy of his reference books on Haitian history for Craige to scrutinize. Writing on April 27, 1944, Craige affirms the contents of Roberts’ last letter: "I think you've got something in the theory that LeClerc’s people were after Dessalines when they attacked Crete a Pierrot." After briefly remarking on Haitian "old castles," which "had a fascination for Haitian guerrilla chiefs,” Craige launches again into an excursus on Haiti and its revolution. In the final letter dated March 17, 1947, and penned from Nassau, Bahamas, Roberts writes to Craige just after Lydia Bailey has been published—confiding in him, "A lot of the critics don’t get it, and it pleases me more than I can tell you to have you and Francis Rennell Rodd [1895–1978] get it."

[with]

1 photo with affixed typescript reading, "Captain John H. Craige, with his officers of the Police Department of Port au Prince, Haiti."

[with]

A New Yorker article on Craige entitled, "A Gentlemen with Two Cauliflower Ears."

A lively exchange concerning Haitian history relating to the Maine author’s historical novel Lydia Bailey.

REFERENCES: Sommers, Jeffrey. Race, Reality, and Realpolitik (London: Lexington Books, 2016), p. 82 (regarding Craige’s views on the Haitian people).

CONDITION: Very good.

Item #4462

Price: $675.00

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