GASK, Arthur (1869-1951, dentist and crime novelist)
Four letters (quarto, 7 pages autograph, 2 pages typed) by Arthur Gask to his friend Dr Edward Angas Johnson. Two letters are dated 1938 (3 pages), the others are dated 1947
London-born Arthur Gask married a fellow-dentist's daughter in August 1898; they were to have four children. 'He divorced his wife on 19 July 1909 and on 13 September that year married the children's nursemaid Marion' at a London registry office. Gask emigrated to Adelaide in 1920, accompanied by Marion, their two sons, and a daughter of his first marriage. 'He set up practice in rooms on North Terrace where he was among the first in the city to carry out extractions with gas.... [Tall], slim and moustached, he was suave and successful, and enjoyed telling his captive patients 'off-colour' jokes. He was amiable, but eccentric, and made kleptomaniac raids on his local pharmacist. Although he was an agnostic, Gask liked to discuss religion. While waiting for his patients, he began writing crime fiction'. This potted biography should give some inkling that the letters may not be entirely routine. All of them are very personal - books, family, health, sex, drugs, suicide - with the early ones particularly bleak. We leave the details to the lucky purchaser ... Edward Angas Johnson (1873-1951) was an Adelaide medical practitioner, prominent in public health circles; his grandmother was a daughter of George Fife Angas. 'His hobby was collecting curios and historical relics, especially those relating to South Australian history. This remarkable collection and his library were distributed to public institutions before his death' (all biographical details from the Australian Dictionary of Biography). The letters are inserted in a copy of the autobiography of John Bland-Sutton, 'The Story of a Surgeon' (London, 1930), along with letters from other prominent medical friends, namely Frederic Wood Jones, Alan Lendon and Andrew Abbie (all of them critical of Bland-Sutton).