It is rare to encounter a published author from the relatively recent past for which almost no biographical information can be found online. I have found such a person, in the form of a philosophy scholar by the curious and intriguing name of “St. George William Joseph Stock.”
Right off the bat, so many questions. Who gets named “Saint,” or did he give himself that moniker? When was he born, and when did he die? Where did he live? Trying to suss out the life of this enigmatic “Saint George” is maddening. Maddeningly fun.
[Update: Thanks to comments below from Lance Foster and Prof. David Marans for pointing out that “St. George” is a given name meant to evoke protection by the Patron Saint of England.]
Taking stock of St. George William Joseph
Four of Stock’s books are available as free ebooks from Google Play (and elsewhere): Attempts At Truth (1882), Deductive Logic (1888), Selections From The Septuagint: According To The Text Of Swete (1905) and Stoicism (1908). These might not sound like the most exciting reads, but could something saucier be in the offing?
Yes! I found a book on Amazon called The Romance of Chastisement; or, Revelations of the School and Bedroom, by “An Expert.” The pseudonym, “An Expert,” was later identified as one “St. George H. Stock.” St. George “H.” Stock? Where did the “H”come from? Can this be the same “St. George Stock,” and if not, just how many “St. George Stock”s are there floating around in the mists of lost time and forgotten history? [UPDATE 2015: The “H” mystery has been (mostly) solved — see my comment from May 21, 2015, below.]
The Romance of Chastisement
What? A logical Saint is writing bodice-ripping romances? Oh, please let this be so (and let’s have a biopic)…
The Romance of Chastisement; or, Revelations of the School and Bedroom is arguably the most sophisticated, most literary, and most amusing mid-Victorian fictional text focusing on flagellation. A collection of short stories and verse sparkling with sexual suggestion and wit, it was first published by John Camden Hotten in 1871 in a volume bearing the false imprint date 1870. It was reprinted by Edward Avery in 1888. An earlier book with the same title was issued by William Dugdale in 1866. This work had a different sub-heading: Revelations of Miss Darcy. The Victorian bibliographer Henry Spencer Ashbee suggests that both books were written by the same author, whom he reveals to have been St. George H. Stock. Formerly a lieutenant in the 2nd or Queen’s Royal Regiment, Stock issued his work originally in episodes from Dublin. Hotten purchased 200 sets from him and bound them into a single volume. St. George H. Stock also wrote the four short flagellant works that constitute Rosy Tales! (1874) and contributed to The Whippingham Papers (1888 ), which are also available from Birchgrove Press.
Rosy Tales! Whippingham Papers. Could it be that a young St. George Stock, having already achieved personal sainthood, but still going by the middle initial “H” (Herbert? Hector? Haldric? Probably Henry…), penned a smutty whip-smart book about flagellation, only to feel guilty as he grew older? For which he punished himself by flogging many books and articles about arcane corners of philosophy? This is purely speculative, mind you, but what else do I have to go on? The man’s a cipher.
Stock stock is running low
Other than a bunch of sites that carry the Stock ebooks, Google has nothing on this guy. I even tried the U.K. National Archives, but found no entry for Mr. Stock. Google Books has a book, The Apology of Plato, from “pre-1923,” which includes an introduction by one “St. George Storck.” Looks like the “storck” has brought us another Stock baby. Can’t this lowly Saint get any respect?
Good old St. George Stock has even made the leap to Apple Books, but you still can’t find any information about who he is. Maybe I’ll have to read his Attempts At Truth to get to the truth about his identity. Perhaps our Saint has divulged his truth there, in code!
Somebody please answer this question: Who was St. George William Joseph Stock? If there are any philosophers or classical scholars out there with knowledge of this vanished Victorian scholar, this missing Saint, please post it in the Comments of this blog. Perhaps together we can solve this mystery, and return St. George William Joseph Stock to the historical record, with or without his whip. But preferably with.
Just think: this entire journey down the rabbit hole to Stockville, and all the great reader comments piling up below, only occurred because my eye was drawn to a book whose author was named “Saint.” If his name was just “George William Joseph Stock” I would have glossed right over him.
I guess names are important. Who knew? Well, St. George Stock for one.