The Spinster and the Prophet

The Spinster and the Prophet: H.G. Wells, Florence Deeks, and the Case of the Plagiarized Text – Kindle edition

This is the dramatic tale of Florence Amelia Deeks (1864 – 1959), who sued H.G. Wells for plagiarism.

Florence Deeks brother was George Samuel Deeks, husband of Helen Ethel Campbell.  (Helen Ethel was the younger sister of Maude Campbell / Granny Stone.)


In 1920, H. G. Wells published his best-selling The Outline of History. Several years earlier, Florence Deeks had sent a similar work to Wells’s North American publisher. Deeks’s The Web was a history of the world with an emphasis on the role that women played. Her book was rejected. Upon publication of Wells’s massive opus (1,324 pages), which he completed in 18 months, Deeks discovered similarities between the two texts. The books had matching structures, scope, and even contained identical factual errors. From accounts of their contrasting lives (Wells was a philanderer and social progressive, and Deeks was a feminist who never married), personal memoirs, and courtroom transcripts — where Deeks fought her case of plagiarism — McKillop weaves the story like a legal thriller. Over 25 photographs add to this forgotten chapter in literary history.

From Publishers Weekly

When, in 1920, Florence Deeks finally received her rejected manuscript a feminist history of the world from Macmillan after eight months, she couldn’t understand why it appeared in such bad condition, the pages worn, torn and dog-eared. Later that year, when she read H.G. Wells’s new book, The Outline of History, published by Macmillan, she felt a chill. There were so many similarities to her own work: shared themes, organization, word choice, even the same mistakes. Florence made a dramatic decision she would sue Wells and his publisher for plagiarism. Years later, after a series of failed appeals, this reserved, dignified Toronto woman tried to bring her case to the king of England. It is a compelling story, part mystery, part legal thriller, always sympathetic to the intrepid Deeks, a woman trying to get a fair hearing in a man’s world. McKillop’s narrative directly challenges earlier accounts of Deeks v. Wells, which were all too eager to paint the plaintiff as a frustrated, obsessed spinster. The result is a wonderfully complex portrait of the two protagonists: Deeks, a shy, earnest, lionhearted woman; Wells, a bold, sexually promiscuous literary giant. The author handles the dual story line brilliantly, weaving together two opposing characters into one altogether gripping tale of literary theft. Photos. (Oct. 1) Forecast: Short-listed for several Canadian prizes and warmly received in Britain, this should be widely reviewed here and will appeal to readers of literary history and of women’s history and, more broadly, to the kind of readers who flocked to The Professor and the Madman.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The Guardian

In The Spinster and the Prophet , Canadian historian A B McKillop combines these two themes. The phenomenon of the woman as an unacknowledged literary handmaid and the ethical issue of plagiarism join forces in a poignant and shocking story that aired publicly between 1930 and 1933. During this time, the Canadian Florence Deeks took on first H G Wells and his publishers, Macmillan, then the British privy council and the law lords. She finally attempted to petition King George V. In all these she failed. Legal and other costs came to around half a million dollars, paid by her brother and an unknown benefactor.




Thomas Stone’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty

Thomas Stone’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty

Stone -> Howell

Thomas Archibald Stone

In June of 2006 I received an interesting email from Michael Manulak, a student at the University of Toronto. Mr. Manulak said he saw this web site and was developing a detailed research paper on the negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1948-1949, in which our Thomas Archibald Stone “played an integral role in Washington from July- September 1948.” Mr. Manulak asked if I would put him in contact with family members who knew Mr. Stone which I was happy to do.

In December he forwarded a copy of his completed paper titled The Gentle Nudge: The Canadian Department of External Affairs and the North Atlantic Treaty, 1948-1949, with the following note:

You will note that there are several references to Thomas Stone throughout the paper describing his role within the context of the negotiations. You will also note that there is a small section describing him personally on pgs. 11-12. For this I relied extensively on your (Mr. Spencer Howell & Ellen Devine’s interviews) as well as some additional research. Although brief, I do believe it is the most extensive research on him to date. I am very grateful for your help with this.

I encourage you to read the entire paper (download a copy here), but here are two excerpts – the first from p.9:

The most active Canadians at the NAT talks were: Lester B. Pearson, Hume Wrong, Thomas A. Stone and Escott Reid.

Then from p.11

Thomas A. Stone, the Canadian Minister in Washington, served more extensively than any Canadian during the NAT negotiations. Having grown up in Chatham, ON, Stone was a close personal friend of Pearson’s from their childhood. In terms of his personality, Henderson describes Stone as having a “great good nature” and being “particularly benign”. Stone’s opinions were essentially internationalist, however, with a greater hint of pragmatism than Reid or Pearson. In Washington, Stone was particularly well-connected having started his career there as a Third Secretary in 1927. In the embassy in Washington, Stone was seen as indispensable to the point that Wrong sought to delay Stone’s departure from Washington in the summer of 1949 (for an Ambassadorship in Sweden). Stone, a great entertainer, played musically and, according to Pearson his parties were “famous on two continents”. These parties were a known forum for high level diplomacy. Stone maintained close personal relations with Acheson, Hickerson and Theodore Achilles and “very often saw them socially”. He had an especially close personal friendship with Achilles and, as a result, one can observe that nearly all conversations with Achilles are made through Stone.

Thanks to Mr. Manulak’s paper we now have a better understanding of Thomas Stone’s significant role in developing the agreement which forms the basis for the existence of NATO today.

A Discovery at Boone Hall Plantation

In 1935, Thomas Archibald Stone and his wife Ellen Ewing Noyes Stone purchased a much loved and beautiful southern plantation named Boone Hall. Lots of information is available on Boone Hall as it is now open to the public, thanks to the generosity of its current owners. (Boone Hall web site)

Last week I visited Boone Hall in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, for the first time. The Live Oaks planted hundreds of years ago that line the still unpaved driveway evoke feelings of a simpler time. The place is just peacefully beautiful.

The Discovery

To my delight, while looking at the exhibits in a small out-building now called the “Thomas A. Stone House”, I was able to make a little discovery of my own. A framed two page letter is on exhibit written by his mother Flora Maude Campbell Stone.   (page 1, page 2)


The Hickman Sea Sled

Hickman -> Davison -> Howell

In the 1800’s our Hickman’s are living in New Brunswick, Canada – they include ship builders and lawyers.

Allison CHURCH Bird wrote to sayWilliam Albert Hickman (nephew of our Alma Hickman) invented the Hickman Sea Sled — Scientific American Sept. 26, 1914 says: “A new type of vessel, which promises to revolutionize water craft and which takes the same place on the water that the automobile does on land.”

Mayor Davison from Nova Scotia

Davidson -> Davison -> Howell

A recent trip to Nova Scotia solved many mysteries (and created about as many new ones!) about the Davison’s and the Davison genealogy. A fascinating family including Edward Doran Davison (Sr.) 1819-1894 lumber scion of Bridgewater, and his son Edward Doran Davison, Jr. 1845 – 1902 who continued the lumber business with his brothers, and who was the second Mayor of Bridgewater, NS; following his brother Frank D. Davison who was the first Mayor of Bridgewater!