A customer/friend of ours enjoyed reading Viola Bayley stories so much, she wanted to discover more about this author. There follows an article that she wrote put together from a variety of sources, and that is followed by the bibliographic details of the many short stories that Viola wrote for children as well as the many full length books that she is well known for.
Viola Bayley by Julie Makin
Viola Clare Wingfield Powles was born on the 8th January 1911 in Rye to Isabel Grace Wingfield and Lewis Charles Powles. Viola and her elder sister Veronica, with their parents and nanny, lived at rother Cliff, a large gabled house situated just off Rye Hill on the outskirts of rye, overlooking the town and Romney Marsh. Lewis Powles (1860 - 1942) was a landscape and portrait painter who started his painting career late in life. It was a fairly typical middle-class background although, on an artist's small income, it must have been hard, at times, to keep up 'appearances' on the rigid code of the day.
Viola and her sister Veronica were educated, first at home by their mother who had studied the Montessori method of teaching, and by a succession of French tutors. Their first school was in a house opposite the Ypres tower, then Saltcote Place, a nearby manor house which had become a boarding school. Saltcote Place had approximately twenty children and was run by three eccentric sisters. viola spent four happy nyears there before moving to board at effingham House, Bexhill, which she left 'without any regrets'. Viola had always loved dancing and acting and had attended dancing classes with her sister from an early age. She acted in several local productions with some moderately rapturous reviews in the local press. After leaving Effingham House at sixteen and taking her school certificate with the help of a local tutor, she was to 'go on the stage'.
As the Powles sisters were to young to live alone in London, Rother Cliff was let for a year whilst whilst they lived with their parents in a rented house in Hampstead, close to the Behnke Drama School for Viola and Westfield College for Veronica, who had won a scholarship. In 1933, aged 21, Viola Powles had finished drama school, only to go down with suspected TB and to be told that the stage was most unsuitable as a career. She had qualified as an elocution teacher and had taught spasmodically at various schools. Rye held little appeal for her as it seemed full of the elderly, with a non-existent social life for young people. With this in mind, she thankfully accepted an invitation to join her cousin Winifred, married to Sir Donald Boyd, a high-court judge of the Indian Civil Service, to spend a winter season with them.
A month after she arrived in India and, romantically, just four days after they had met, Viola became engaged to Vernon Thomas Bayley, a 'tall, dark and handsome' young policeman. As Vernon had just returned from long home leave and was unable to ask for further leave, it was decided that Viola should return to Rye to wait for Vernon to be granted special short leave for their wedding. They were were married on 6th October 1934 at St Michael's Church, Playden, Rye and started their married life in India, in Hangu, where Vernon had been seconded to the Frontier Constabulary.
The Bayleys lived in India for twelve years, although Viola returned to England for the birth of two of their children in 1935 and 1937-8. During the early war years Viola volunteered to work in the cipher offices for the RAF in Delhi and, as she could type, worked on the machines, which she found infinitely prefereable to poring over code-books. Later on in the war, at Government House in Lahore, she became the private secretary to the Governor's wife and found the work intensely interesting and very varied. Vernon & Viola Bayley left India with their three children, Jocelyn, Nicholas and Rosamund, in the winter of 1945-46 during the last years of British Rule.
Lewis & Isabel Powles had died during the war and left Rother Cliff to Viola. Returning to England, to a house that had been occupied by troops before lying empty for a year, was a daunting prospect. The garden was waist-high in brambles and thistles, with rambler roses over the window and holes for gun emplacements in what had been the front lawn. The house was in disrepair, with banisters broken off for firewood, doors kicked to pieces and graffiti everywhere. The Bayleys worked hard repairing the damage, enjoying a wonderful sense of achievement as the house and garden gradually returned to a semblance of its former self.
Vernon was then however recalled to the Foreign Office and informed that future postings could be to any European embassy. Nanny came to look after young rosamund, and a new stage of the Bayley's life began. They travelled to destinations such as Paris, Stockholm, the Lebanon, Turkey & Cyprus - with the house in Rye and the London flat waiting for them on their return. It was also to be a rich source of material for the emerging author.
Whilst in India Viola had written stories for young children published in 'The wings of the Morning'(1936), The Ways of Wonderland (1938) and The Kings Wig and other Stories (1945), plus three adult one-act plays published in Miniature Dramas Vols I-III. In the early 1950's she began to write short stories and books for older children. Her earliest works illustrate different writing styles and genres, but all her nstories have well drawn characters with bonds of family, friendship, loyalty and affection. Her nstories reflect the adventure and excitement of her own travel and experiences, have a definite sense of place and an eye for detail, and capture a genuine interest in people's cultures and surroundings.
In 1951 Viola wrote The Dark Lantern, a mystery thriller for older readers, set on the Dorset coast. The book set very favourable reviews and established her as 'an excellent story teller, with an entirely convincing background of reality...' and began a collaboration with the publishers J M Dent and Sons, who were to publish all further Viola Bayley books, excepting White Holiday, which was published by Collins (1953). It is not know why this book alone of Viola Bayley's was published by Collins, but as it fits more into the Girls Annual mystery/romance genre with an old fashioned appeal, it may have been commissioned by them, or sent, as at this time she had begun writing similar short stories for the Collins annuals.
Also in 1953, Storm on the Marsh was published, another a mystery thriller, with a different background. Rother Cliff, with its semi-isolated position and imposing views over Rye and Romney Marsh, was the inspiration and setting for this exiting story involving the Halland family, their mysterious housekeeper and Camber castle it's environs. The four halland children were said to be modelled, in part, on Viola Bayley's own children, especially buster, based on her youngest son Julian, with his 'cheerful untidy self' and 'grazes to bandage' and 'whose appetite had never known defeat except in the throes of severe measles'.
Viola's writing career was taking off. Noel Streatfeild, writing in Collins Young Elizabethan, was effusive with praise for 'an author new to me who writes so well it should not be long before she is in the most favourite class'. In 1955 J M Dent reprinted Storm on the Marsh as part of its Literature of Yesterday and today series of textbooks for secondary schools. These books have the original unabridged texts and illustrations, followed by several pages of questions and exercises for study and discussion. The Dark lantern, Paris adventure, Kashmir Adventure & Shadow on the Wall were also reprinted in this series.
All of this author's books are stand alone stories, but some of her books feature the same characters to form mini series, such as the four Marriott books and the two Wycliffe family stories. Paris Adventure (Dent 1954) introduces the Marriott family, wheareas the Wycliffe family & Miss Carmichael are introduced by The Lebanon Adventure (Dent 1955). These 2 adventure stories were the first of fifteen suspense & mystery thrillers, each set in a different country and given a series title of 'Adventure' by the publisher, J M Dent.
Published at a similar time, were April Gold (Dent, 1954)and Little Mallows (Dent, 1955) = gentle, charming stories, set in and around a country vicarage. Both have delightful characters and storylines, but are very different to the author's mystery thrillers, illustrating her great versatility of writing style. Alternatively Shadow on the Wall (Dent 1958) situated in the Lake District, and Mission on the Moor (Dent 1960) located in Dartmoor, are related in the first person, giving the stories a more intimate feel with tighter, more centred storylines. These are adventure stories once more.
After the death of her husband, in 1966, Viola Bayley continued to live at Rother Cliff, She continued writing, completing a further 5 adventure books by 1972, which took her children through their education. This completed, her incentive for writing started to wane. In retirement she moved to a house in the centre of Rye, on the corner of West Street and Mermaid street, opposite Lamb House, where she worked for a time as a volunteer. In the early 1980's a visit to South Africa inspired a further book - Shadows on the cape (J M Dent, 1985) but sadly, it did not sell as well as her previous stories. It is though, a very interesting story, with all the hallmarks of a Viola Bayley adventure, with her usual well drawn characters and descriptive settings - but times change in what children choose to read.
For a short time Viola Bayley lived in a retirement flat in Rye before moving to Surrey, near
her daughter, where she died in January 1997. She is remembered as 'one of the best authors in her field' by the Times Literary Supplement and all who have read her books.
Very early years Viola Bayley nd
Memories of India Viola Bayley, 1975
With thanks to Julian & Sue Bayley.
Viola Bayley's Published works for Children - Listed below is every known edition of Viola Bayley’s published works plus some foreign translations
Early Years (Article) Publishing History Not Known ND
Memories of India Privately Published 1975
A quiet tea party - Miniature Dramas I - Macdonald
Before the play - Miniature Dramas II - Macdonald
Battle of the Wits - Miniature Dramas III - Macdonald 1949
The Wings of the Morning (1936) Nisbet
The Ways of Wonderland (1938) Nisbet
The Kings Wig and other stories (1945) Bombay Press
April Gold: - 1st edition - Dent 1954
- Pennant edition Dent 1965
Little Mallows - 1st edition Dent 1955
The Dark Lantern - 1st edition Dent 1951
- reprint Dent 1959
- ed. Literature of Yesterday & today Dent c1955 - Pennant ed. Dent 1965
White Holiday - 1st edition Collins 1953
- Seagull edition Collins 1953/1955
- Children's Press 1956/57
Storm on the Marsh - 1st edition Dent - 1953
- reprint Dent - 1955
- Literature of Yesterday & today ed Dent - 1955
Shadow on the Wall - 1st edition Dent - 1958
- Literature of Yesterday & Today ed Dent - c1960
Mission on the Moor - 1st edition Dent -1960
Shadows on the Cape - 1st edition Dent - 1985
Paris Adventure - 1st edition Dent - 1954
- reprint Dent - 1961
- Pennant edition Dent - 1962
- Literature of Yesterday & today ed Dent - 1956/61
Lebanon Adventure - 1st edition Dent - 1955
reprint - Dent 1958
Kashmir Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1956
- reprint Dent 1958
- Literature of Yesterday & today ed. Dent c1961
Corsican Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1957
- Pennant edition Dent
Turkish Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1957
*Swedish Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1959
*London Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1962
Italian Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1964
Scottish Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1965
Childrens Book Club (CBC)ed 1966
Welsh Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1966
Book Club CBC 1968
Austrian Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1968
reprint Dent 1972
Jersey Adventure - 1st edition Dent - 1969
Book Club ed. CBC
Pennant edition Dent 1969
reprint Dent 1971
Adriatic Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1970
Book Club CBC 1971
Caribbean Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1971
Paperback edition Dolphin/Dent - 1976
Greek Adventure - 1st edition Dent 1972
Die Schwarze Laterne (The Black Lantern)
Abenteuer in Wales (Welsh Adventure)
Abenteuer in Griechenland (Greek Adventure)
Abenteuer auf Jersey (Jersey Adventure)
Karibisches Abenteuer (Caribbean Adventure)
Abenteuer in Libanon (Lebanon Adventure)
Abenteuer in Paris (Paris Adventure)
Schatten uber Penderwick (Shadow over Penderwick ie Shadow on the Wall)
Abenteuer in Italien (Italian Adventure)
Abenteuer in Kaschmir (Kashmir Adventure)
Abenteuer in Schottland (Scottish Adventure)
So Tuchtig wie Tissie (As Efficient as Tissie ie Little Mallows)
Aventure aux Caraibes (Caribbean Adventure)
Une Ombre sur le mur (Shadow on the Wall)
Au-dessus du gouffre - Histoires d’aventure pour Filles (Above the Abyss - Adventure Stories for Girls)
Het Raadsel van het Heidehuis (The Riddle of the Heath House ie possibly Storm on the Marsh or Mission on the Moor??)
De Schaduw op de Muur (Shadow on the Wall)
Aventyr I Paris (Paris Adventure)
It is difficult to produce an accurate list of every appearance of Viola Bayley’s short stories as many were reprinted several times in different Collins’ annuals. Listed below is every known short story.
Above the Torrent Stirring Stories for Girls Odhams 1960
Anne Finds Her Feet Location unknown
Barbeque, The Collins Girls’ Annual Collins 1961
Chance in a Million, A Source unknown
Christmas for Cathy Collins Girls’ Annual Collins 1954
Crackerjack Book for Girls Collins 1959
The Cliffhanger Patrol Location unknown
The coaching of Kay Collins Girls Annual Collins 1959
Into the Blue Mystery and Adventure Stories Odhams 1962
The Latchkey Girls story Omnibus Collins nd
Monsieur Baudet Collins Girls' annual Collins 1960
Peril at Whitton Point Girl Guides Annual Thames 1959
The Silver Ball source unknown
The Story of Claude Source unknown
Tangle in turkey Around the world adventure
stories for girls Odhams 1968
Ten-Fifteen Collins Girls Annuals Collins 1956
Crackerjack Book for girls Collins 1959
The third Pancake Collins girls annual Collins 1957
Turn of the Tide Collins girls Annual Collins 1954
Girls Own Book Collins nd
Walls of Snow Collins Girls Annual Collins 1953
Splendid Book for girls Collins 1956
Crackerjack book for girls Collins 1959