Author Mary Wood’s family has a long connection to the “Friend”
Author Mary Wood tells of her family’s long association with the “Friend”, going back more than 120 years!
MY long association with the magazine began with my great-grandmother, Dora Langlois, having her serial “A Family Failing” published in “The People’s Friend” more than 120 years ago, on March 21, 1898.
It continued with my late mother, Dora Olley, who was a life-long subscriber, and who told me that when she was just a girl she used to sneak a read of the copy belonging to her own mother – my late grandmother, Suzelie.
I followed on in the footsteps of these female ancestors as I, too, read “The People’s Friend” from the age of eleven. I remember not being able to wait for Mum to finish reading the current issue so that I could catch up with the serials.
That continued until 1989 when my mother passed away. I remember missing reading it, but feeling unable to buy a copy because of the long connection it had with my mother, and because she would no longer be there for me to discuss the articles and serials with.
The association was to be picked up again when reading the magazine wasn’t to be the only way that I trod the ancestral path – 118 years after my great-grandmother’s story appeared, I was invited to feature in the magazine, too.
I was thrilled when I then learned from my niece, Suzanne Harris, who researches the family tree, and in particular the life and works of Dora Langlois, how my great-granny had contributed to the magazine all those years ago. I wanted to shout up to heaven to my mum, my granny and great-granny.
“Look, look at me! I, too, am part of the magazine that we all loved!”
My feature was in 2016 as part of the book recommendation series, teamed with my publishers, Pan Macmillan. A proud occasion for me and my family, and one that’s been repeated twice since. I look forward to being featured again this year, when my next book is published.
I do have quite a way to go to catch up with my great-grandmother, Dora Langlois. Though I have written more novels than the six she wrote, she also wrote plays, in which she and her husband – a man with the wonderful name of Hippolyte – starred.
This was as well as Dora writing articles and short stories for many publications and being a fearless campaigner.
Dora became well known for her exposure of many of the malpractices indulged in by unscrupulous theatrical managers, and she championed the less fortunately placed artists that she met, sending many letters to the editors of “The Stage” magazine.
I am privileged to own a copy of one of her six novels, “In The Shadow Of Pamenkh”, and was reassured to know that Suzanne had found another of her works, “The Child: A Mother’s Advice To Her Daughters”.
Though the content meant Dora was heavily criticised in her day, it is still studied in America and is included in “The Norton Anthology Of Children’s Literature”. I am proud to follow in the footsteps of this formidable lady.
On behalf of five generations of women in my family, I would like to congratulate all at “The People’s Friend” on your 150th birthday, and long may our family’s association with you continue. ■
The original page from 1898 featuring an author profile of Dora, complete with portrait drawing and an instalment of her serial, “A Family Failing”.
Dora Langlois pictured with her husband, Hippolyte.