James Moody as a writer

Inger Sheil

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I've mentioned coming across a fragment of a short story by James Moody in his personal papers. Although the MS is undated, it would seem to be an early work dating from his years on the South American run, ca. 1904-1909. I've been working on finishing an article regarding his Conway years and came across the transcript again - I seem to recall saying that I'd post some of it here.

The story draws on his experiences in South American ports and the stories of "crimping" or "shanghaing" - as Moody explains it "Most people have heard of the word "shanghai", and vaguely know that it means to catch poor sailormen and pop them aboard an outward-bound vessel very much against their own free will, and many tales have been told about these poor fellows being drugged and smuggled aboard by night".


I've tried to reproduce the original spelling and punctuation - fortunately, his handwriting is generally very clear (although his supposedly "spiderlike" script is a running joke in his letters).

Here are some excerpts. Having been paid off a British ship and left in hospital during the outbreak of the Chilean/Peruvian war, our revocered hero, Brisco, looks forward to finding a good billet in the Peruvian navy. Instead, while temporary working with his "smart little boat" ferrying passengers, he meets a young lady who hires him to take her out to her father's ship.

quote:

Now if I had not had my ever alert suspicions [calmed] both by the gentle tones of her voice and innocent remarks, and the day being a calm sunny one I should have questioned her how they could proceed when men were so scarce. But we skimmed gently along and presently she pointed out a smart four masted schooner named the “George H Waback”, on approach which she stood up in her stern and waved a white handkerchief to the villainous looking rascal whom I took to be the mate. When we got alongside the accommodation latter and the surly ruffian had helped her up she called to me in a most bewitching way “Oh, Mr Fletters you must just come up and have a glass of wine and a morsel to eat as I’m sure you have missed your dinner time, besides I want Dad to pay you & thank you for rowing his “little treasure” safely back to him.”

No as I said before if there hadn’t been a beguiling little woman in the case and a clear fine sun shining pleasantly overhead as if there was no evil or underhand work going on in such a beautiful world I should have had my nerves sensing danger before now, especially when the “Dad” dropped from the same pretty lips which had just distinctly said he was not aboard. But with hardly any hesitation I made the boat’s painter fast and ran up the ladder to the deck.
Drugged and shanghaied, Brisco (rather a curiously passive character) at first bristles...then decides not to fight fate.

So we have the following scene:

quote:

One evening some days later during my trick at the wheel, and while the officer of the watch was forrad about some work, I saw a small figure steal up from the cabin companion way, and soon recognised a winning little face which I had not seen since that eventful moment when I received my first meal in this ship from her hands, but which I had thought more about than would perhaps be considered reasonable by men who do not believe in “love at first sight”. She stole softly aft and was beside me when she whispered “That is you Briscoe is it not?”

I answered in the affirmative with a thrill to think that she knew my name. “I want to ask you for forgiveness for the cruel thing I did in Callao” she continued “and am now going to tell you enough to shew you that I have real reasons for wanting to get a crew. This is my first voyage with my father, and though I love the ship and sea very much, shall be glad to get home again, because I think the mate has some influence over my father, and also he wants to marry me, which” (with a fierce little stamp of her foot) “I will never do” she turned away evidently thinking she had said too much to a stranger, though had she known it that stranger was willing and anxious to be her best friend, so I softly called her back and told her I freely forgave her enticing me aboard, and was only to glad to be there now that she had come on deck and would perhaps come to speak to me again at the wheel.
I've noted before that Moody's tone, particularly in writing the part of the heroine of the story, is far more sentimental than is usual in his ordinary correspondence. I suspect that Moody possibly considering the idea of submitting it for publication in one of the popular magazines at the time. Certainly he read these magazines - he refers to being given a stack of them when the Boadicea left New York, and mentions reading them in his bunk. The American characters suggest he might have had an American publication in mind. Whether he ever got so far as to complete or submit it to a magazine, I do not know.​
 
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Interesting stuff! Moody always struck me as a fellow who was interested in what went on around him and in other people and what makes them run and tick.

His family should try to publish what he wrote! Sounds like a good Adventure with Romance story to me. The Hero seems quite taken with the heroine! I wonder who Moody based her on?
 

Tad G. Fitch

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Interesting stuff Inger, thanks for posting this. This is one of those details about the officers or crewmembers and their personalities that we just don't see very often, and which really sheds some light on who they were as a person. Looking forward to seeing the article you're writing.

Hope you're doing well.

Kind regards,
Tad
 

Inger Sheil

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Thanks George. Yes, he was a good observer - a very lively narrator of incidents aboard ship, more so than perhaps these fictional excerpts suggest. I don't know if he based his heroine on anyone specific - she seems to be rather a generic type (I kept expecting him to say "there there, little girl" to her in the best fictional style of the era). What amused me was that Brisco, supposedly this tough-as-nails narrator, actually comes across as an easy going sort of a chap who gets riled up...and then fails to act.

Glad you enjoyed that, Tad - btw, I owe you a Moody related email about the revised timeline - I've been a bit busy since returning from New Zealand. The revised article is good stuff, particularly as it pertains to untangling the officers movements. I'll try to get a note to you in the near future.
 
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I really did not imagine Moody to be a writer, but those excerpts are actually quite good
happy.gif


And good luck with the article, Inger - I'm looking forward to reading it!
 
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quote:

What amused me was that Brisco, supposedly this tough-as-nails narrator, actually comes across as an easy going sort of a chap who gets riled up...and then fails to act.
That is interesting! I wonder if Brisco was based by Moody on himself or someone else. Your also right on the dot about the Heroine. Generic but I thought she was lively enough and maybe Moody had in mind for her to be a bit more peppery as the story progressed. Perhaps Moody was also saving a good fight for the Hero later in the story! Seems to me he still introducing his Characters and their relationships to each other and setting the scene. First time writers and a few writers in general can do this with just a few words and others take a chapter or two to accomplish this! Moody follows the basic rule which is write what you know! It is a pity he never got to develop his talent! He might of ended up as the English O. Henry or F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London.

Hello Tad
quote:

This is one of those details about the officers or crewmembers and their personalities that we just don't see very often, and which really sheds some light on who they were as a person.
I agree and echo that!

Hello Carla,
I love your sig!
happy.gif
 

Inger Sheil

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I've done Moody a disservice and introduced typos into the transcript!

"alongside the accommodation latter" should read "alongside the accomodation ladder"

"No as I said before" should be "Now as I said before"

Glad you liked it, Carla.

George, it's not a bad effort at all, particularly considering the age of the writer - he was probably then still in his teens. His characterisations are sketchy, but he's good at narrative and has some rather good descriptions. I always shudder at those passages from his first letter sent from New York describing the sound of canvas sails ripping in a storm.

I've long felt that, had he lived to be rescued in, say, Collapsible A, he could have written one of the most remarkable accounts of the night the Titanic sank. He would have been able to tell the story from the last watch and the crow's nest call all through the evacuation to the end. He had a lively, sometimes grim, sense of humour and was a good observer who liked to tell a story.
 
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Your typos weren't that bad, Inger! If you look over some of my old posts believe me there will be typos so don't feel to bad. Happens to us all! I've made so many I've incorporated them into my writing style!

Can't wait for the article on Moody! I too feel having read his story that he would of had quite an account to tell about the Titanic foundering if he had been among the saved!
 
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Courtney M. Hedberg

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Been quite a while since I've posted to this board, but just wanted to say thank you, Inger! Any time you give us insight into James is a wonderful thing!
 

Inger Sheil

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Always good to see the return of our long lost ET friends, Courtney! I'm glad you enjoyed that extract - I'll see if I can get my act together on the article soon.
 
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Anna Mcpherson

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Inger. I have seen by accident James moody's hand writing,it was very neat and proffessional and "poshie" i may add.(I don't own any pieces of James moody's handwriting papers,i saw a hand script on the internet posted by a proffessional historian)
I do believe why this is the case that people in that time period had better handwriting is because of how we(us)don't actually use "pen to paper" hand to pen" anymore.
As for Moody's story telling,it's thrilling to read about what this young lad was thinking.
 

kiki

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Hello, Anna! That bit where you mentioned a hand script thrills me! Can you provide me with a link, please? I so would like to have a look at Mr. Moody's handwriting!
 
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Anna Mcpherson

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Hallo,Kiki. I'm deeply sorry,i do not have the link at all.
I have search for it for a while now with no success,i'll still have a hunt for it though.
The OP Inger,he sounds like he knows a lot about Moody,and he has stated something about knowing and seeing James moody's hand writing.
For me,I am not an expert,i should not have posted what I did with out any links to prove myself. I am in the wrong.
Oh and yes me too,i was thrilled to,i guess Moody thrills you too?

All the best to you.
 

kiki

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Oh, I see. It's okay. Thanks for your reply, anyway!
happy.gif

And yes, Mr. Moody seems like a very interesting person, I would like to know more about him. He seems very smart, witty, talented and adventurous. And that story of his posted in this thread is a well-written piece! I am very interested in this side of Mr. Moody as well, cos I myself am fond of writing. I'd like to read other stories of his if there are any. And his letters as well.
happy.gif
Have you seen any of his letters?

Best regards.
 
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Anna Mcpherson

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I could not agree with you more. Moody appels/interests me very much so. I never knew that James moody was interested in being a writer until I saw this thread of ingers.
I have only seen one written by James Moody by accident when I was surfing the net (I forgot to write the web link) I can remember that I was so shocked in how well he writes and also how neat and poshie Moody's hand writing was.
If I ever come across this hand written piece by Moody,I will immedilatly post it here for you.
I see you have the same passion as James did have,"Writing" that's great.
Inger he has mention in his first posts that he has a lot to do with James Moody,it sounds like he would have owned some in his life,he might able to help you more than I can.
Keep on writing.it's a good thing.

All the best to you.
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Kiki and Anna - I've been a bit caught up with other matters in recent months, so my 98% complete Moody article hasn't been finished...I'll see if I can do that soon.

I have quite a few samples of Moody's handwriting - his handwriting is usually very clear (much more so than his mother's - her letters are among the hardest to decipher I've ever read), although he had a running joke about it looking like a spider scrawl. I'll see if I can scan and upload a sample here.
 
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Anna Mcpherson

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That would be great Inger if you could,I would love that and I'm sure KIKI would be thrilled also. Since we are on this topic of upload some samples,is it possible if you could show some photos of James moody's famliy(parents,Brothers and sister)?
You'res truly.