W. W. Jacobs, 1863-1943

Portrait

Biographical note

William Wymark Jacobs was an English author of short stories and novels. He is now best remembered for his macabre tales "The Monkey's Paw" (published 1902) and "The Toll House" (in the collection of short stories The Lady of the Barge). However the majority of his output was humorous in tone. His first collection of stories, Many Cargoes, achieved great popular success on its publication in 1896. Many Cargoes was followed by the novel The Skipper's Wooing in 1897, and another collection of short stories, Sea Urchins [1898] set the seal on his popularity. Among his other titles are Captains All, Sailors' Knots, and Night Watches. The title of the last reflects the popularity of perhaps his most enduring character: the night-watchman on the wharf in Wapping, recounting the preposterous adventures of his acquaintances Ginger Dick, Sam Small, and Peter Russett. These three characters, pockets full after a long voyage, would take lodgings together determined to enjoy a long spell ashore; but the crafty inhabitants of dockland London would soon relieve them of their funds, assisted by the sailors' own fecklessness and credulity. Jacobs showed a delicacy of touch in his use of the coarse vernacular of the East End of London.

The stories which made up Many Cargoes had a varied previous serial publication, while those in Sea Urchins were, for the most part, published in Jerome K. Jerome's Idler. From October 1898 Jacobs' stories were being published in the The Strand an arrangement which lasted almost to his death, and provided him with financial security.

Works

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