the Violet
The Haunted Woman in The Daily News
Header graphic for The Daily News from 1921

When David Lindsay finished his second novel, The Haunted Woman, in April 1921,[1] he first offered it to Methuen,[2] who’d published A Voyage to Arcturus, and when they declined, tried Hutchinson.[3] It seems, though, that someone at Methuen suggested The Daily News might be interested in serialising it.[4] The News’s literary editor Robert Lynd was the Reader who’d first recommended Methuen publish Arcturus, so there was obviously a connection between the two firms. (Lynd joined the News as assistant literary editor under R A Scott-James in 1908, and became literary editor in 1912, remaining with the paper, despite dwindling review-space, till nearly the end of his life.[5]) Lindsay, apparently, withdrew The Haunted Woman from Hutchinson, passed it to The Daily News, and had it accepted — on the condition he cut about 20,000 words.[6] Lindsay did so, and the serialisation began on 30th August 1921.[7]

The Daily News had been founded in 1846 by Charles Dickens, as a Liberal rival to the more right-wing Morning Chronicle and Times.[8] It failed to flourish under Dickens (who only remained as editor for 17 issues), but rallied throughout the 19th century to become one of the most popular papers of the day,[9] attracting writers such as H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw, G K Chesterton, and Arnold Bennett to write for it. In 1901 it was bought by the Quaker businessman and chocolatier George Cadbury, who used it to promote his campaigns against sweatshop labour and the Boer War, and towards the development of a national old-age pension scheme. His eldest son Edward (Managing Director of Cadbury’s since 1899) became the paper’s chairman in 1911.

The News began to include serialised novels after it expanded from 12 to 16 pages in October 1903.[10] Beginning with The Triumph of Love by Annie E Holdsworth, this policy seems to have run uninterrupted until 3rd July 1915 when, with the conclusion of Fate the Marplot by F Thicknesse-Woodington, there would be no more serials for five years (by which time the paper was down to 8 pages).

The 3rd of August 1921 saw the commencement of a “Great Holiday Detective Story”, The Red House Mystery by a writer mostly known at the time as a playwright and humorist for Punch magazine, A A Milne. The Haunted Woman followed Milne’s novel as a second “Holiday Serial Story”, after which the News seems to have printed no more serials that year.

Promoting The Haunted Woman

Newspaper photo of David Lindsay with his daughter Diana.
“Mr. Lindsay with his baby daughter.” from The Daily News, 29th August 1921, p. 5.

Before its first instalment, the News did its best to get readers excited about Lindsay’s novel. (Milne wrote an essay, “Writing a Detective Story: Why I did it”, to promote his serial;[11] sadly, there’s nothing equivalent from Lindsay.)

A small ad for The Haunted Woman appeared on page 5 of the News on 27th August. Proclaiming this new serial to be by the “author of ‘A Voyage to Arcturus’”, it continued:

The publication of this novel [i.e. Arcturus], which presented unique problems in a unique setting, directed much attention to the genius of the author, and the “Daily News” in securing ‘The Haunted Woman’ is able to give its readers a romance of a type that is as enthralling as it is original.

Mr. Lindsay is perhaps the first author to give us a living, palpitating love story in what may be described, for want of a better term, as the land of ghosts.

Two days later, there was a very short article about the upcoming serial,[12] accompanied by a small photo of Lindsay with his then-only daughter Diana (born in October 1919). Again, it’s basically a puff piece, but is interesting for how it presents The Haunted Woman to its first public:

As Mr. A. A. Milne’s story gave in its conception and its manner of telling something altogether new among mysteries of crime, so Mr. David Lindsay offers a narrative arresting and indeed engrossing in the presentation of a mystery of the human heart that in its own plane is probably unique.

The story is a story of life and love and tragedy, but perhaps never before has a novelist so convincingly woven his plot of threads both of the tangible and of the unseen.

It’s worth noting that the News had featured Lindsay in its pages before, when journalist, poet, and author R Ellis Roberts (1879–1953) reviewed A Voyage to Arcturus in the 13th October 1920 issue,[13] alongside two other “Adventures” (as the piece was headed), Adam of Dublin by Conal O’Riordan, and A Gift of the Dusk by R O Prowse. Roberts concluded that, in Arcturus:

Mr. Lindsay does succeed in producing an atmosphere violently removed from that of this earth; but all the while there is evident, now deeply, now faintly, an allegorical intention. Maskull at times is man, and all his adventures are the struggles of a man to gain a soul. I do not think Mr. Lindsay has written a successful book; his method is too turgid, and his symbolism runs away with him; but he is a powerful writer, and has the gift of retaining one’s interest in material more fantastic than anything previously used in modern imaginative literature.

(R Ellis Roberts would go on to write the biography A Portrait of Stella Benson (1939), and have a story, “The Other End”, reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 1951.)

An Illustration

To accompany the first instalment of The Haunted Woman, the paper commissioned an illustration for the front page from “a ‘Daily News’ artist” — though the illustrator, Dundee-born Alick P F Ritchie (1868-1938),[14] worked for a wide array of magazines, including Vanity Fair, The Sketch, The Bystander, and The Pall Mall Budget, as well as producing posters for the London Underground and sets of cigarette cards. He had published a humorous book of mixed-up animals, Y? or Zoo-all-awry, in 1912, and a small number of animated films[15] (one of which, “A Pencil and Alick P F Ritchie”, can be viewed at the BFI Online).

The illustration itself (which is unusual for Ritchie in not being in a cartoon style) depicts a rather generic 1920s young woman. Some details (such as Isbel’s fiddling with her necklace) tie up with Lindsay’s description of her, but it doesn’t really give any sense of the novel’s character.

Line drawing by Alick P F Ritchie of Isbel Loment from the novel The Haunted Woman.
“A ‘Daily News’ artist’s conception of Isbel Loment, heroine of Mr. David Lindsay’s weird romance of two worlds ‘The Haunted Woman.’” from The Daily News, 30th August 1921, p. 1. Art by Alick P F Ritchie.

The serial

What of the serial itself? Generally, The Daily News published a chapter a day, except for Sundays (when there was no Daily News). An instalment was skipped on Monday 19th September, when the paper announced there wasn’t enough space for the serial. Three times, a chapter overran into a second instalment, where the overrun might be accompanied by a second, shorter chapter. With one exception, all of the chapter titles are different from the book publication, and overrun chapters sometimes had different titles for their split portions.

Here is a comparison of the serialisation and book chapter titles, alongside the paper’s inconsistent chapter numbering (sometimes it was in Roman numerals, sometimes not):

Serial chapter title Book chapter title
30th Aug 1921 1 Marshall Breaks His Word Marshall Returns from America
31st Aug 1921 2 The Music of the Stairs The Visit to Runhill Court
1st Sep 1921 3 Preparation In the Upstairs Corridor
2nd Sep 1921 4 The Lost Rooms of Runhill The Legend of Ulf’s Tower
3rd Sep 1921 V Isbel Sees Herself Isbel Sees Herself
5th Sep 1921 V (Cont.) / VI Priday Sees a Change / A Slap in the Face Judge Appears on the Scene
6th Sep 1921 VII Isbel’s Diplomacy The Dinner-Party
7th Sep 1921 8 Your Friendship or Your House The Picnic
8th Sep 1921 IX The Scarf What Happened in the Second Room
9th Sep 1921 IX (Cont.)
10th Sep 1921 X Blanche Is Shocked Blanche Speaks Out
12th Sep 1921 11 Mrs Richborough on the Scene Isbel Visits Worthing
13th Sep 1921 XII The Hairpin Mrs Richborough’s Errand
14th Sep 1921 13 Blackmail The Lunch at the Metropole
15th Sep 1921 XIV A Third Behind the Veil In the Second Chamber Again
16th Sep 1921 XIV (Cont.) / XV Mrs Richborough Has a Shock / The Magic Minstrel The Music of Spring
17th Sep 1921 XVI The Gift The Musician Departs
19th Sep 1921
20th Sep 1921 XVII The Ring and The Envelope In the Twilight
21th Sep 1921 XVIII At the Worthing Hotel A Catastrophe
22th Sep 1921 XIX Glimpses The Flash of Day
23th Sep 1921 XX Mrs Richborough’s Legacy Marshall’s Journey

Bernard Sellin says the chapter titles were changed for the book publication because the serial titles were “considered too sensational”,[16] though there doesn’t seem a great deal of difference in tone between, say, “The Hairpin” (in the serial) and “Mrs Richborough’s Errand” (in the book); and, if anything, the book’s “A Catastrophe” is more sensational than the serial’s “At the Worthing Hotel”. (The serial chapter title “Your Friendship or Your House”, meanwhile, is a misrepresentation, as it’s actually “My Friendship for Your House” that Isbel is offering Judge. This is certainly a case of sensationalism.)

Title graphic for The Haunted Womans serial.
Title that appeared above each Daily News instalment of The Haunted Woman


The second to the fourteenth instalments were each preceded by a summary of the story so far, for new readers. At first, this was titled “Runhill Causes Trouble”; then “The Tragic House” for two instalments; and from then on “The Lost Rooms of Runhill”.

To give a flavour of the style, here’s the final summary, from 14th September, just before chapter 13, “Blackmail”:

It is the personality of Isbel Loment that first counts in this story of the lost rooms of the ancient manor house of Runhill Court, near Steyning. Isbel was twenty-five, and had a short, broad face, thick but sensitive, over-powdered features, full grey eyes—mostly bored, but sometimes subtly piercing. A girl of quiet but dominating personality, she had been offered marriage more than once by men much older than herself. She held strong and passionate views of love and of the relationship of husband and wife.

Isbel lived with her aunt, Mrs. Moor, her only relative. At present they were staying at a Brighton hotel, the Gondy. Mrs. Moor was looking out for a house; and Marshall Stokes, Isbel’s fiancé, introduced her to Runhill Court, having met the owner, Mr. Judge, on a trans-Atlantic trip.

There was something uncanny about the Court. Judge declared that he had again and again seen in the blank wall of the East Room (an attic under the roof), a flight of stairs appear which other people did not see. Moreover, he had gone up those stairs; but his memory of what happened till he found himself down again was blank.

Other like experiences were told Isbel—who alone learnt the weird story of Runhill.

The East Room was the oldest existing part of the house. It was known in legend as Ulf’s Tower. In Saxon days Ulf built his dwelling on land sacred to the trolls; and one fine day Ulf disappeared—and with him the top rooms of the tower vanished from the face of the earth. But century after century there had been people who claimed to have caught sight of the lost rooms.

With her temperament Isbel had the warning that the house would be dangerous to her; but it enthralled her. When she visited the place with Marshall, the girl (left by herself for a time in the ancient hall) saw a flight of dark, shining wooden stairs, which she had not observed before, and mounted them. In a room at the top she saw in a mirror herself changed, the features softened and made more alluring by a note of passion as yet asleep. Going down by another flight of stairs, as she entered the hall all memory of what had happened vanished. And there were no stairs!

Then she manoeuvred that with Marshall’s brother, Roger, and sister-in-law, Blanche, she visited Runhill again at Judge’s invitation. Again Isbel manoeuvred to be left alone, again she saw the stairs, and again mounted them. Then she remembered the circumstances of her former visit, and that she had been daunted by the closed doors in the room in which she found herself. Then one of the doors opened and Judge appeared. An intimate talk on their ripening friendship followed, and Isbel gave Judge a silk scarf from her neck. There was one door left that neither dared open. Then both descended the same stairs, and on the way Isbel turned. Judge had vanished. Her own memory of anything that might have happened since she mounted the stairs had gone. There was trouble with her friends because both she and Judge had been missing, and had only lame excuses. Her scarf had vanished—she knew not where; and that evening, very significantly, after telling her she had seen the scarf peeping from Judge’s pocket, Blanche begged her to close down the acquaintance with Judge. But Isbel was using all her arts to get the house; and had a private meeting arranged with Mr. Judge for next morning at Worthing.

Judge gave her back the scarf; how he had got it he knew not. Isbel suggested that up those mystic stairs, where both their memories ceased, she might have given him the scarf. Pressed by her, he confessed to a regard for her higher than for any living woman—he was not permitted to give that regard its true name.

They agreed that Judge should go again by himself, taking paper and pencil, so that on coming down the stairs he might have some record of what then became known to him.

Then Mrs. Richborough appeared—she was a smart, perhaps even a trifle flashy, widow, staying at Judge’s hotel. And Isbel returned to Brighton, having appointed to meet Judge, again without the knowledge of her friends, at Hove after his visit to Runhill.

But the appointment was kept by Mrs. Richborough, who brought an agitated letter from Judge enclosing a hairpin, identical with those Isbel wore, which he had found up the mystic stairs. It was arranged that Isbel and Mrs. Richborough should accompany Judge to Runhill.

Differences in the text

In the main, the text of the serial is the same as that of the book. (I compared it to a 1964 reissue of the Gollancz text, which is as close as I can get to the novel’s first edition.)

Inevitably, there are differences, though most are minor, including:

There are, though, a few interesting differences between the text which can’t be mistakes. These might be due to an editorial decision on the part of The Daily News, an editorial decision on the part of Methuen (or, later, Gollancz), or a change by Lindsay himself.

For instance, in chapter 1, when Marshall is describing Runhill Court, we get:

Serial: Fifteen acres of ground go with it, mostly timber.

Book: Two hundred acres of ground go with it, mostly timber.

This is surely a correction, as either Lindsay or someone else must have realised that the long tramp to the site of the picnic (and not through timber) implies that Runhill has much more than fifteen acres. (Liberty Island in New York, home of the Statue of Liberty, is just under 15 acres,[17] and the photo at Wikipedia gives a good idea of how quickly it might be traversed. For an example of a 200-acre estate, see the National Trust map of Attingham Park in Shrewsbury.)

In chapter 5, when Isbel confronts the three doors in the upper chambers, we get:

Serial: The fact was, there was something not quite comme il faut about them.

Book: The fact was, there was something not quite right about them.

Comme il faut”, meaning “as it should be”, is generally used to refer to correctness in manners or etiquette,[18] rather than being more generally “strange” or “right”, so perhaps it was changed for this reason.

In chapter 9, there’s this:

Serial: Isbel gave a breathless sigh, smoking on nervously.

Book: Isbel gave a noiseless sigh, smoking on nervously.

Which could be down to someone realising “breathless sigh” is an oxymoron.

There are a few one-word differences that might be edits, and might be errors — there must be some reason for them being there — but they don’t make a great deal of difference to the meaning of the text. There’s this, for instance, from chapter 10:

Serial: The house is a terrible pot-pourri of styles and centuries.

Book: The house is a veritable pot-pourri of styles and centuries.

Another, from chapter 14:

Serial: Whipped to action by the distant hailing, she at once lifted her eyes...

Book: Hurried to action by the distant hailing, she at once lifted her eyes...

And chapter 11:

Serial: Your house has more mysteries than you wot of, Mr. Judge.

Book: Your house has more mysteries than you are aware of, Mr. Judge.

The serialisation of chapter 14 has an additional word, which seems likely to have been in the original manuscript, though leaving it out doesn’t make a huge difference to the final meaning:

Serial: ...the electric buzzing had resolved itself into perfectly distinct musical vibrations. . . .

Book: ...the electric buzzing had resolved itself into perfectly distinct vibrations. . . .

But it’s in chapter 12 where the biggest (and only really major) difference occurs between the two texts. Isbel, expecting to meet Judge, is instead met by Mrs Richborough, who tries to persuade her to join her and Judge on a second trip to Runhill Court. When Isbel is reluctant, Mrs Richborough says she’ll go to the Hotel Gondy and ask Isbel’s aunt to accompany them instead, knowing full well this is the last thing Isbel wants. It’s at this point the two texts differ completely for several lines of dialogue:

Serial: [Isbel:] “Go, by all means, if you think it’s at all likely to answer the purpose. Only, please don’t bring my name into it—I particularly request that.”

“I hardly understand. . . . I can hardly help mentioning that we’ve been introduced and if Mrs Moor”—she paused almost maliciously on the name—“asks under what circumstances, of course I cannot refuse to answer. Naturally, I shan’t say anything about the letter, my dear, if it’s that that’s weighing on you.”

“Don’t you find it rather embarrassing sometimes to be so conscientiously honest?”

“Oh, no—I find it always pays.”

“You like things to pay, I expect?”

“I mean, polite fibs are extremely likely to be exposed some time or other, and as people don’t care two straws about us, why should we risk our reputation for truth on their account?”

“I begin to see. . . . The only thing that still puzzles me is why my humble society should be so much in request...”

Book: [Isbel:] “Go, by all means, if you think it’s at all likely to answer the purpose. Only, please don’t bring my name into it—I particularly request that.”

The widow shot her a malicious little glance.

“If it can possibly be avoided, my dear, it shall be. In any case, she shall hear nothing of the letter—I promise you that.”

“I begin to see!”

“I can hardly do more, can I? If we aren’t to be friends, you really can’t expect me to fib for you. Be reasonable!”

“No, I really suppose I can’t. . . . The only thing that still puzzles me is why my humble society should be so much in request...”

The serial version is more crude stylistically (with “hardly” repeated twice so close together, and “that that’s” a short while later), but also makes it a lot more explicit that Mrs Richborough is blackmailing Isbel. Perhaps this fit the more sensational feel of a serial? I wonder, though, if it was changed because someone noticed the inconsistency with Mrs Richborough’s claim, elsewhere, “I’ve never had anything to do with money, and I hate the very mention of it.”[19] She doesn’t need the money, so why make it a motive? It’s Judge she wants, so there’s no need for the crude emphasis on “pay” in the serial version.

The serial isn’t always the inferior text, though, and we can find a few moments where perhaps it more authentically represents Lindsay’s manuscript. For instance, in chapter 15:

Serial: Isbel, drawing back a little, rested her elbow on the window-sill and her face on her hand...

Book: Isbel, drawing back a little, rested her elbow on the window-sill and her face on her elbow...

Here, the serial text makes sense, whereas the book’s is a little ridiculous.

Later on in chapter 15, there are a two differences in one paragraph:

Serial: She suddenly threw both arms around his neck, clutching him tightly, but at the same time holding her face away in such a manner that it was the back of her hair only which brushed his cheek. . . . When she disengaged herself violently a few seconds later, her face was inflamed, and she was in tears. . . .

Book: She suddenly threw both arms around his neck, clutching him tightly, but at the same time turning away in such a manner that it was the back of her hair only which brushed his cheek. . . . When she disengaged herself violently a few seconds later, her face was hot, and she was in tears. . . .

Thinking about it closely, the book text makes more sense for the first change, but why swap “inflamed” for “hot”? It’s less vivid, but perhaps more direct.

Another puzzling difference is in chapter 18. Isbel is at her Brighton hotel, about to set out for Worthing a second time:

Serial: She passed out of the hotel, procured a taxi on the front, and within ten minutes was standing inside the booking-hall at Hove Station.

Book: At ten o’clock she left the hotel, procured a taxi on the front, and within a quarter of an hour was standing inside the booking-hall at Hove Station.

In the serial, the above paragraph is followed by a scene break; in the book, the above paragraph is preceded by a scene break. Again, there seems little reason for this change, unless it was decided you could never get to Hove Station from a Brighton hotel by taxi in ten minutes.

This final example of a textual difference comes from chapter 20, and perhaps points to a concession to The Daily News’s Quaker owner’s sensibilities:

Serial: Oh! . . . Isbel couldn’t be there.

Book: Oh, hell! Isbel couldn’t be there.

“Devil” is allowed to pass two sentences later, but “hell”, it seems, is too much.

Information box from The Daily News, showing its address.


On the 10th September (with chapter 10, “Blanche Is Shocked”, elsewhere in the paper), the News printed a back-page article entitled “TO BE CONTINUED: DO YOU READ SERIAL STORIES? LURE OF ‘THE HAUNTED WOMAN’.” Basically a humour-piece about a man trying not to admit to himself how much he’s been drawn in by a serial, when various events (leaving the paper at home, the kitten eating the vital page) get in the way of his reading the next instalment, it does nevertheless refer to Lindsay’s work, showing that the author (journalist, novelist, and short story writer A G Thornton (1886–1969)[20]) had read it:

...I could have sent the office-boy out for a back number, but why should I give way to a serial? Old man Ulf had built rooms; the staircase led to them. Isbel had gone up them. Well, let her. She could go up spook staircases in every instalment if she liked to make a hobby of going up spook staircases. I would have no more truck with this Lindsay and his preposterous woman. I would not read that day’s instalment, nor get a back number. A silly name she had, anyhow.

But as soon as he finds the next instalment, he can’t help reading it.

Far more interesting, though, is that this article elicited a reply from what seems to be a genuine reader, whose letter was printed on 13th September:

Sir,—Mr. Thornton is interested to know if other men are reading your serial story. I am a woman, but he may like to have my opinion on the matter.

I have not read a “serial” for years. When, however, the preliminary announcement appeared of Mr. Lindsay’s story the title attracted me at once. I read the first instalment, and henceforth I am a victim to the lure of “The Haunted Woman.” Every morning I find myself longing for my husband and daughter to leave the house for business so that I can have a few minutes alone to read what is happening to Isbel and the others.

One day last week the wrong paper was left. I went to the newsagent about it. He asked me what the fuss was. I said, “Don’t you understand that I am reading the serial.” He said at once, “It must be good if you read it.”

It is good! Yesterday morning after reading the day’s instalment I commenced to wonder, and all day I wondered, how did Isbel’s vieux rose pink scarf get into Judge’s pocket? It’s worrying me.

You can see by this that other readers have succumbed to the serial habit.


The only dampener being that the mystery of how Isbel’s scarf got into Judge’s pocket is not a mystery, as we readers witness her giving him the scarf before it’s noticed in his pocket. It’s only a mystery for the characters. It would be understandable if this reader started the serial late, but she says she was drawn to it by the initial announcements, so presumably read it from the start.

But it’s all a reminder that Lindsay’s novel was, for the better part of a month, a part of the ordinary life of the London of its day:

“Looting and Torture in India — Carefully Planned Plot To Paralyse Government — 400 REBELS KILLED IN FIGHT — Area of Moplah Insurrection Spreads Further South”

...reads the front-page headline in the issue containing The Haunted Woman’s first instalment. Elsewhere in the paper, there’s an appeal to help with victims of starvation and pestilence in Russia (“The most terrible devastation that has afflicted the world for centuries”, according to Lloyd George), and a report on the Pan-African Congress in Westminster, where a manifesto for the “Recognition of civilised men as civilised despite race and colour” was presented.[21] Other news pieces cover motor-car collisions, a crashed biplane, a court case for blackmail, political troubles in Ireland, political turmoil in Germany, a factory explosion, fights, drownings, bankruptcies, and a minor noble meeting with the Prince of Wales. There were adverts for the Norvic Shoe Company’s lady’s shoes; Bournville Chocolate (from Cadbury, of course); the Encyclopedia Britannica; savings bonds; stomach pills; skin cream; Beacon Cycling Oilskins; Bird’s Custard; Maypole Margarine; and the first issue of The Yellow Magazine, an all-fiction periodical. Book news included the upcoming publication of Yeats’s memoirs, The Trembling of the Veil, Marie Corelli’s The Secret Power, Lafcadio Hearn’s Karma, and a hitherto unpublished play by Oscar Wilde, For the Love of the King.[22]

It’s easy to think of the Daily Mail serialisation of The Haunted Woman as a bibliographic footnote, but thanks to it, Lindsay’s work was set before the largest readership he’d have in his lifetime. In 1921, The Daily News had a circulation of around 300,000,[23] something like 5% of the metropolitan newspaper-buying public.[24] Not all will have read the serial, or have stuck with it if they did, and there seems to be no reaction afterwards to indicate what people thought of the ending (there was nothing for Milne’s The Red House Mystery, either), but I found that, reading the novel as a serial in a popular newspaper, it somehow comes across as far more powerfully uncanny in the scenes where it touches on the “the land of ghosts”. It made me realise that Lindsay does not, unlike a more sensationalist writer, play up the strangeness of what happens to his characters — he even has them convincing themselves how ordinary it all feels — and this only makes the moment when they realise how strange it is all the more powerful. There’s also how Lindsay presents the love between Isbel and Judge in much more complex, and often quite unromantic, terms than normally found in the melodramas of the day (as, for instance, his brother wrote a decade before).

Thinking about it like this, it’s a pity none of his other novels received the serial treatment.

Scans of The Daily News issues containing Lindsay’s serial can be accessed in their entirety from the British Newspaper Archive (for a subscription).

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