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Ruth Mabel Arthur Huggins
Born Ruth Mabel Arthur
(1905-05-26)26 May 1905
Died 6 March 1979(1979-03-06) (aged 73)
Pen name Ruth M. Arthur
Occupation
  • writer
  • teacher
Nationality Scottish
Alma mater Froebel Training College
Period 1932–1979
Genre
Spouse
Frederick Newey Huggins (m. 1932)
Children 6

Ruth Mabel Arthur Huggins, sometimes misspelt as Higgins (26 May 1905 – 6 March 1979) was a Scottish teacher and author whose books were published under her maiden name as Ruth M. Arthur. She mainly wrote for children and young adults in English.

Early life

Ruth Mabel Arthur was born to Allan Arthur and Ruth M. Johnston on 26 May 1905 in Lanark, Glasgow, Scotland. She spent her childhood in the countryside outside of Glasgow, she attended St. Columba's School in Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire.

Once she turned 18, she enrolled in Froebel Training College in Roehampton, London. While studying at Froebel, she had several short stories published. Three years later, in 1926, she graduated as a certified kindergarten teacher. After graduation, she moved back to Glasgow, where she taught kindergarten at Laurel Bank School for three years. In 1930, she moved to Loughton, Essex, England, where she taught at a local secondary school until 1932.

Literary career

Early works

In 1932, Arthur got engaged to the solicitor Frederick Newey Huggins. As her children grew older, Arthur started to write for the age group they were currently in. In 1957, Arthur started to write books for 7-8 year olds. As her youngest child had grown past that age group, Arthur switched her writing to follow suit. Arthur states:

"I followed my youngest daughter as she grew up. When she grew out of the children's book stage, so did I."

During this period, she wrote four books in the Carolina and Roberto series: Carolina's holiday, and other stories, Carolina's Golden Bird and other stories, Carolina and Roberto, and Carolina and the Sea-horse, and other stories, as well as two others: The Daisy Cow, and other stories of the Channel Islands and A Cottage for Rosemary.

Young Adult fiction

Starting with Dragon Summer in 1962, Arthur switched to writing for young adults. These books, which occupied the intersection between fantasy and gothic romance, were her most popular works. They often included wartime historical backdrops, time slips, and haunted objects.

"Well-constructed and readable.. they provide a useful stepping-stone to the adult fiction of Daphne de Maurier, Mary Stewart and other writers of this kind."

In addition to Dragon Summer, Arthur's other time-slip titles include A Candle in Her Room, Requiem for a Princess, and On the Wasteland. Her ghost stories include The Autumn People/The Autumn Ghosts, and Miss Ghost. The Saracen Lamp revolves around an old object, as does A Candle in Her Room and Requiem for a Princess. After Candlemas/Candlemas mystery is another of her romantic-gothic novels for teenage girls, along with Dragon Summer and Portrait of Margarita. Her other books for young adults include The Whistling Boy, My daughter, Nicola, The Little Dark Thorn, and An Old Magic.

Style

In her most popular books, the ones for young adults, Arthur tended to use the first-person narrative a great deal, relaying events from the viewpoint of the focal character or protagonist as they interact with the world around them. For example, in The Whistling Boy, "[t]he nature and feeling of the characters are explained rather than revealed." A Candle in Her Room has three generations of girls and women in the same family as narrators.

The settings of her books for young adults often have historical backgrounds and are places that Arthur was intimately familiar with. For example, The Saracen Lamp was set in an old house that she was familiar with in the Cotswolds.

Many of her stories for young adults shared similar themes and intertwined history, time, and old objects.

"Ruth Arthur makes constant use of old objects. The list of Arthur's books includes The Saracen Lamp, Requiem for a Princess, using an old carving, and A Candle for her Room using an old doll."

Arthur spends a lot of time on researching historical subjects, usually spending about a year on the first draft. The two main types of books in this series are the timeslip books, which "typically feature a teenage girl on the verge of adolescence, a crisis dramatically resolved through her absorption in an earlier, exemplary life-situation;" and her ghost stories, "in which the process is reversed: Ghosts visit girls in trouble and offer solutions".

Rose Michael notes, "..it was Ruth M Arthur’s tales that affected me the most. Her stories, where a preteen girl trips into another (historic) world where a character is experiencing a similar but more extreme situation, are so convincing that I couldn’t sleep with them in my room."

Awards

Requiem for a Princess was included as a Library of Congress Children's Literature Center Book, in the category of 'Stories for Older Boys and Girls', 1967. It is the story of a young girl named Willow who discovers she is adopted, and how she comes to terms with her situation via dreams involving an earlier inhabitant of her home, named Isabel.

Works

  • 1932 – Friendly Stories, etc.
  • 1936 – The Crooked Brownie
  • 1938 – Pumpkin Pie
  • 1938 – Mother Goose Stories, etc.
  • 1942 – The Crooked Brownie in Town
  • 1942 – The Crooked Brownie at the Seaside
  • 1949 – Cowslip Mollie
  • 1957 – Carolina's holiday, and other stories
  • 1958 – Carolina's Golden Bird and other stories
  • 1958 – The Daisy Cow, and other stories of the Channel Islands
  • 1960 – A Cottage for Rosemary
  • 1961 – Carolina and Roberto
  • 1962 – Dragon Summer
  • 1964 – Carolina and the Sea-horse, and other stories
  • 1965 – My daughter, Nicola
  • 1966 – A Candle in Her Room
  • 1967 – Requiem for a Princess
  • 1968 – Portrait of Margarita
  • 1969 – The Whistling Boy
  • 1970 – The Saracen Lamp
  • 1971 – The Little Dark Thorn
  • 1973 – The Autumn People, published again in 1976 as The Autumn Ghosts
  • 1974 – After Candlemas, published again in 1976 as Candlemas mystery
  • 1975 – On the Wasteland
  • 1977 – An Old Magic
  • 1979 – Miss Ghost

According to the author's information in The Autumn People, Arthur's titles published in the United States include Dragon Summer, My Daughter, Nicola, A Candle in Her Room, Requiem for a Princess, Portrait of Margarita, The Whistling Boy, The Saracen Lamp and The Little Dark Thorn as of that printing, which was in 1973.

Translations

Arthur's books have been translated into German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Danish, and Japanese.

Danish

  • En fremmed (The Little Dark Thorn)

German

  • Kleiner dunkler Dorn (The Little Dark Thorn)
  • Wer bist du, Pietro? (Portrait of Margarita)

Norwegian

  • Slik var Margarita (Portrait of Margarita)
  • Møte med Isabella (Requiem for a Princess)

Portuguese

  • O Retrato de Margarida (Requiem for a Princess)

Japanese

  • Purinsesu e no chinkonka (プリンセスへの鎮魂歌) (Requiem for a Princess)
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