Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

Portraits and Speculations

Background to Portraits and Speculations

In mid-1911 Ransome met Charles Granville, a “remarkable man… whose escapades influenced ther fortunes of many besides myself.” Granville was an ambitious but mysterious personality, who had set himself up as the publisher Stephen Swift and begun to attract writers to his list. He proposed an arrangement to Ransome whereby he would take the rights to all Ransome’s books, past, present and future, in exchange for paying Ransome a steady income on account of royalties.

This was an attractive offer and, in March 1912, Secker and Ransome reached agreements with his existing publishers to reclaim his rights for Edgar Allan Poe, The Hoofmarks of the Fawn and Oscar Wilde (from Martin Secker) and Bohemia in London (from Chapman and Hall). He then transferred these to Stephen Swift.

By October, 1912, Ransome had completed the text for Portraits and Speculations, the first of the books of essays he was due to write for Stephen Swift. Swift’s autumn list advertised both this and another title, The Philosophy of the Grotesque, that Ransome had not yet completed. It was then that “suddenly, unexpectedly, a new blow fell“, when Granville fled the country with his secretary to escape a charge of bigamy. His firm was liquidated, leaving Ransome “in danger of losing every asset I had.” Showing considerable fortitude, Ransome managed to regain control of Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe and Portraits and Speculations almost immediately, and his other works after only a short delay.

Friends rallied to Ransome’s side, with Macmillan, Ransome’s father’s publisher, taking over Portraits and Speculations.


Portraits and Speculations contains 11 essays: Art for Life’s Sake; Aloysius Bertrand; A Romantic of 1830; Alphonse Daudet; The Retrospection of Frances Coppee; Friedrich Nietssche; Walter Pater; Remy de Gourmont; The Poetry of Yone Noguchi and Kinetic and Potential Speech.

First publication

Published by Macmillan & Co in January, 1913.


  • Out of Print

Ransome's drawing of a hand holding a candle, our literary criticism logoRansome's drawing of a pestle and mortar, our essay collections logo, used for Portraits and Speculations

Just as I had put every egg into one basket, the bottom of that basket had fallen out


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