The Splendid Outcast

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Of the eight tales in THE SPLENDID OUTCAST, three have been identified by the editor, English biographer Mary S. Lovell, as being almost certainly by Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly from east to west across the Atlantic and the author of WEST WITH THE NIGHT, a lyric autobiography written immediately before World War II and republished in the United States with great success in 1983. Another was written by Markham with the generous assistance of an editor friend, Stuart Cloete, while the remaining four were presumably written by Markham’s husband, Raoul Shumacher, from material supplied by Markham during their brief marriage at a time when she found herself unable to write.

All of the stories are exotic in setting and romantic in style and plot. The rivalry between two men evoked by a beautiful woman is the underlying subject of at least two of them. Others describe the bravery of Masai warriors challenged to fight a lion by hand, the reckless adventures of an intrepid woman pilot, and the inscrutable nobility of dumb animals. The Markham tales deal primarily with horses, a subject the author knew well, and may have been originally intended for the autobiography. They are graceful and brief, filled with the author’s characteristic admiration of courage and power. The other works, more conventional in tone, were clearly written for the popular magazines in which they were originally published. They have little individual distinction, but do provide interesting insights into the enigmatic personality of a woman whose glamorous achievements have fascinated a new generation of readers.