Local author spotlights little-known writers in Santa Barbara history
It took Steven Gilbar, a retired lawyer, a year to do the research for his 145-page self-published book, “The Poet and the Prince: Stories of Forgotten Santa Barbara Writers.”
“I loved every minute of it because of the extraordinary, often scandalous lives they lived and the interesting things they had to say about Santa Barbara,” he said.
In the introduction, he writes, “The point of this little volume is to bring to light some forgotten writers who played a part in creating Santa Barbara’s literary culture, one that continues to thrive today. They deserve to be remembered.”
Included are Josephine Walcott, Jarrett T. Richards, E.P. Roe, Walter Nordhoff, Yda Addis, Ernest T. Thayer, Guy Gilpatric, Roger Cowles, Gavin Arthur, Emily Tremaine and Patrick Mahony.
“Miss Walcott is the woman on the cover of the book. She is the poet and Col. William Welles Hollister is the prince because he was often referred to as The Shepherd King and The Pastoral Prince after he made a fortune in the 1850s by driving 10,000 sheep from Ohio to California intending to supply California miners with mutton,” said Mr. Gilbar. “He also had a reputation as a notorious womanizer despite his marriage to Annie.”
Miss Walcott and her teenage son put out the Santa Barbara Tribune, a four-page weekly paper comprised almost entirely of ads, comments and poetry she wrote using the pen names of Cordelia Havens and Eve Pearl.
“When and how Walcott and Hollister met is not known. He was almost 60 and she was in her mid-30s, each married with several children,” said Mr. Gilbar.
“The affair seems to have lasted a few years, and when her husband found out she was pregnant, he banished her to Berkeley, where she gave birth to a daughter, Queen Marion Walcott, in 1878.”
In his book, Mr. Gilbar writes, “In 1886, Hollister died . . . The reading of the will a week later created a sensation in Santa Barbara by publicly acknowledging his paternity of Queen Walcott by naming her one of his minor heirs. . . She continued to be listed in legal documents as having a minor’s interest in the Hollister estate but was never directly identified as a daughter of the Colonel’s.”
Few people know that the famous poem, “Casey at the Bat,” was written by Ernest Thayer, the only son of a wealthy New England textile manufacturer who graduated from Harvard, studied in Paris and lived in Santa Barbara from 1912 until his death in 1940.
Mr. Thayer wrote “Casey at the Bat” while working for the San Francisco Examiner under the pen name, Phin, for five dollars a column.
“He didn’t want anyone to know that he had written the poem, which he regarded as doggerel,” said Mr. Gilbar. “He refused to even discuss royalty payments for reprinting the poem. ‘All I ask is never to be reminded of it again,’ Thayer said. He and his wife, who were part of the monied Montecito life, lived in a bungalow on Hixon road, across the highway from the Miramar Hotel.”
When asked if he had a favorite among the writers, Mr. Gilbar answered, “Yda Addis, who was born Ida but changed her name to the Spanish version when she was in high school. She translated and published Mexican folk tales and wrote original fiction.
“A magazine of the day described her as ‘one of the best-known lady journalists and writers of the West’ and having ‘traveled much in Mexico, and led a very adventurous life.’ “
What Mr. Gilbar found particularly fascinating about her was that she was
married to Charles A. Storke for 10 years, and no one knew about it.
“The couple met when Yda came to Santa Barbara to work on a book of biographies of prominent local citizens, one of whom was Charles A. Storke, a local politician and widower,” according to Mr. Gilbar who writes in his book, “There is no mention in any biography of him being married to her. This erasure was the handiwork of his son, Thomas, who as the powerful publisher of the News-Press and short-term Senator, desired to sanitize his father’s reputation.”