Robert Keable, a chaplain to the SANLC during the First World War, was a popular novelist in the 1920s. Simon Keable-Elliott is posting regular articles about his life and times which build on his book Utterly Immoral.

The banning of Simon Called Peter in London

The banning of Simon Called Peter in London

November 08, 2022

In my book Utterly Immoral I discuss the attempts made to turn Robert Keable’s novel Simon Called Peter into a play. According to a press release in 1922 Robert travelled to Tahiti to allow him the peace and quiet needed to write a treatment of his novel for the theatre. I have not been able to find out what happened to this treatment, if it was ever completed, and anyway over in America William A Brady, the theatrical producer, was eager to get things moving. So Brady purchased the …

Robert Keable and Chelsea

Robert Keable and Chelsea

October 30, 2022

As I explain in my new book Utterly Immoral Robert Keable came to novel writing late. Having already written and published ten or more books of varying genre, he was over thirty when he wrote his first novel, and already three quarters of the way through his life. What is confusing is how autobiographical his novels are, and the problem for a biographer is to pick through what is fiction and what is reality. The first half of Peradventure is almost 100% autobiography, both he and the hero of th…

Robert Keable and the early days of the BBC

Robert Keable and the early days of the BBC

October 17, 2022

This year the BBC is celebrating their 100th anniversary. On November 14th, 1922, they began their first daily radio broadcasts. At the time Robert Keable was in Australia, on his way to Tahiti, so he would have to wait over a year before he could have a listen. A year later, at the same time as Robert was heading back to England, the Radio Times was launched. On his return to England Robert was commissioned to write two articles for the new magazine, for which he was paid £26.10s.0d, the…

Robert Keable and The Church Times

Robert Keable and The Church Times

October 06, 2022

The reviewer of Simon Called Peter, in The Church Times on May 6th, 1921, was about as rude as one can be about a new novel. The review was headed, in classic British understatement:

A Very Disagreeable Novel

The reviewer was not just angry they were disappointed. As they pointed out at the beginning of the piece:

For some years past we have watched the literary career of Mr Robert Keable with much sympathy and interest. His imaginative gift is a rare quality and he is a possessor besi…

Escape to Tahiti

Escape to Tahiti

October 04, 2022

Where would you go?

Is 2022 that different from 1922? Imagine you wanted to escape England today, where would you go? Of course, it all depends on why you wanted to escape. If it was to get away from the political and economic situation – and it feels as bad as it has ever been at the moment – America or New Zealand could be possibilities. But if it was to get away from the English-speaking world, from appalling reviews and vitriol for an unacclaimed book? Perhaps France or Spain…

Hall-Mills murders and Robert Keable

Hall-Mills murders and Robert Keable

September 30, 2022

One hundred years ago this month, the bodies of a man and woman were found in a field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, laid out, side-by-side, with their feet pointing towards an apple tree. The calling card of the man, Rev Edward Hall, was placed at his feet. Torn up love letters between him and the woman, Mrs Eleanor Mills, were scattered around them. Both had been shot in the head with a .32-caliber pistol, the priest once and the member of his choir three times.

For some the story of Hall-M…

Jolie Buck, the cursed ring and the Indian Mutiny

Jolie Buck, the cursed ring and the Indian Mutiny

September 21, 2022

When I first started researching the life of Jolie Buck – the inspiration for Julie in Simon Called Peter – for my book, Utterly Immoral, I was asked if I knew of the cursed ring that was said to have bought misfortune to all those who wore it. It was suggested to me that Jolie, who died young; her mother, who committed suicide; and her grandmother who also died young, could all have suffered from the curse. As far as I can tell the story of the curse began with the murder of five o…

The University Mission to Central Africa

The University Mission to Central Africa

September 02, 2022

In my book Utterly Immoral I write about Robert Keable’s time in Zanzibar before the First World War. Keable’s first job after he was ordained a priest was to join the Universities Mission to Central Africa. While at Cambridge, and as a curate in Bradford, Keable had worked hard to raise both the profile of, and money for, the mission. At the end of 1911, aged 24 he travelled out to Zanzibar having been appointed as a mission priest as well as a tutor and Vice Principal of St. Andre…

Reflections on South Pacific and Robert Keable

Reflections on South Pacific and Robert Keable

August 28, 2022

Last week I went to see the Chichester version of the musical South Pacific, currently playing at Sadler’s Wells. It was a fantastic performance which I hugely enjoyed. Afterwards  I realised there were some clear similarities between the plot of South Pacific and Robert Keable’s life. Watching the play made me think about the reaction of his family and friends to his behaviour in Tahiti.

South Pacific

South Pacific is centred on a love affair between Nellie Forbush &ndas…

Marie Prevost as Julie

Marie Prevost as Julie

August 19, 2022

I explain in my book Utterly Immoral why Robert Keable’s novel Simon Called Peter was never made into a Hollywood movie and how Warner Brothers bought the rights to the sequel Recompense. It was the director Harry Beaumont who decided to cast Marie Prevost as Julie in the silent movie.

Julie was the nurse in both Simon Called Peter and Recompense who has an on-off-on-off affair with the priest. The inspiration for the character was Robert Keable’s girlfriend, and later common-la…

Robert Keable and Slave, Serf, Citizen

Robert Keable and Slave, Serf, Citizen

August 12, 2022

Robert Keable, who I write about in my book Utterly Immoral, was not known as a campaigning or political writer. However, he did write a couple of essays very critical of the government of his day and I have no doubt if he had lived longer, he would have spent more time campaigning on issues he felt strongly about.

His most political essay Slave, Serf, Citizen – And The Way Back was published in Blackfriars magazine in December 1920 soon after Keable had given up the priesthood. The es…

Finding Robert Keable

Finding Robert Keable

August 05, 2022

Although Utterly Immoral is finally published in November 2022 I have been researching the life and times of Robert Keable for a number of years. Back in 2017 I wrote an article for Your Genealogy Today magazine explaining some of the research that I had done. Below is an edited version of the article.

Robert Keable

Robert Keable was a priest and notorious novelist. He was also my grandfather. His bestselling novel Simon Called Peter, written in 1921, was banned in Boston and mentioned in…

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