Project Outline: Through Help For Writers I was asked to run a promotional campaign for a book edited by George Dalrymple.
Date: August 2016 – September 2016
Work completed: George wanted the focus to be on Henry, since it was him who wrote the book and so the campaign had to reflect this. It was important to get the right message across and inform people of his journey, and how it is reflected in his satirical, semi-fictional style of writing.
Henry Woodiss was the simple English gamekeeper whose affair with his boss’s wife thrust him into one of the most sensational scandals of the 1920s. He was vilified in the Press, a common man who had seduced a lady. She was Edith, the wife of a severely disabled war veteran, Sir Conngsby Coninsby-Clarke.
Many years later, Woodiss wrote his account of these events. He tells how Lady Edith, who had artistic pretensions, ordered him to pose naked in the woods, sketched him, then shamelessly exploited her social position to seduce him.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Woodiss, enlisted in a local infantry regiment. Before he was twenty-one he had been grievously wounded twice, decorated for distinguished conduct and ordered to take a commission. Late in the war, Sir Con was posted to Woodiss’s battalion. Within two days of going into the line, Sir Con was on his way home. He would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
On leaving the army Woodiss became Con’s gamekeeper. After their affair came to light, Woodiss suffered his first painful encounters with Edith’s relatives, notably her grandmother, the eccentric Dowager Lady Topbottom, and he endured a humiliating interview with her father, whose insults Woodiss never forgave.
Despite this traumatic start, the couple developed a loving relationship. After her divorce, Edith married Woodiss. They settled in a house, provided by her family, in an obscure northern town. This was Birstall, in the former Heavy Woollen District of the West Riding. Edith’s passion for Woodiss did not diminish, and the couple enjoyed a loving and contented life until her untimely death. Shortly after Edith died, war broke out and Woodiss, a Territorial Army officer, was called up. The war seemed a welcome distraction, but it was not long before he was again seriously injured and, to his dismay, discharged from the army.
His story is presented in fictionalised form, as a comic novel, satirical, raunchy and bitterly satirical. He lampoons everybody – not least himself, whom he depicts as a buffoon, at the mercy of religious zealots and a succession of predatory women.
Henry Woodiss is both the author and hero of this work.
It’s not certain why Woodiss wrote his story as comic fiction: on the one hand he wanted to ‘put the record straight’, but on the other he seemed not to want people to know who the author was. He wrote in a straight forward manner, as if telling a serious story, but he presented everything as a joke.
Woodiss had provided a title for his book, but had not included an author’s name. George Dalrymple took the view that since Woodiss wrote the book, it should be his name that appears on it.
Woodiss is Willing is raunchy, satirical and mocks everybody, not least himself, a hapless clown, in the middle of a farce.