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DONOVAN OF WHITEHALL

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Full Name: Hugh Donovan
Nationality: British
Organization: British Foreign Office
Occupation Agent

Creator: William Le Queux
Time Span: 1916 - 1917

ABOUT THE SERIES

Hugh Donovan is an agent with the British King's Foreign Service.

By the strictest interpretation of the job description, Donovan would be considered a courier in the employ of the British Crown. The history of this job goes back to the 12th Century. From the time the Foreign Office was created, around 1780, those working this job would be under its control though apparently in 1824 management was handed to the Home Office and a special group called the Foreign Service Messengers Department.

When at home, which we are told is sadly infrequent, Donovan enjoys lounging in his "old brown velveteen coat, much rubbed at the elbows", smoking his interesting "exquisite" Russian cigarettes. He is described as a "gay, devil-may-care cosmopolitan who knew the world from Dover to Delhi, or from Hammerfest to Hammersmith, better than any living man". In those apartment rooms, he has the services of a valet named Bettinson, a devoted and friendly man who looked "more like a race-course tout than a gentleman's servant". Bettinson is very much in on the work that Donovan does and is called upon now and then to lend a simple hand.

By the time we first meet him, he has been an operative for quite some time and was very much in the know about the inner workings of not only the intelligence communities of Europe but also the nature of his employers. "As an official of the correct-dealing, but much-maligned Foreign Office, he was able to discriminate between the truth of the progress of our arms and the picturesque fictions as given to the Press in accordance with the War Office and Admiralty instructions". That statement is particularly telling in two parts, the first being that the Foreign Office might be badly talked about but was invariably "correct-dealing", and the second being that intel given to the Press by the military was routinely both colorful and inaccurate.

Giving him persistent reason for concluding his important missions all over Europe and northern Africa is his relationship with his lover and friend, the lovely Mabel Metcalfe, daughter of a former British ambassador to Berlin. While he is not able to confide in her the exact nature of his all-too-frequent missions, she does know that he is an agent and that his work is extremely dangerous and important.

Donovan is much fond of disguises, simple changes in wardrobe and posture and demeanor allowing him to blend into the most common of places as a beggar or a tradesman. He is also well disposed in methods of forgery to provide himself with foreign identities as needed, each looking completely authentic. Speaking many languages with ease as a native, Donovan is capable of passing himself off as many different nationalities. Speaking one foreign language with the dialect of another foreign language, such as talking German as though by a Dutchman, is impressive, indeed.

Good Lines:
Said by Donovan when concocting a crazy plan, "The game is certainly worth the candle."

BOOKS

Number of Books:1
First Appearance:1917
Last Appearance:1917

1 Donovan of Whitehall Donovan of Whitehall
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1917

Collection of 9 short stories concerning the actions of Hugh Donovan, subtitled "A Record of the daring exploits of the Hon. Hugh Donovan, King's Foreign Service Messenger.
The stories are:
The Coral Crown
The Hundred Sous
The Mysterious Mission
The Princess Feo
The Secret Dispatch
The Secret of the Wilhelmstrasse
The Two Mistletoe Berries
Within Four Walls
The Yellow Tube

NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:9
First Appearance:1916
Last Appearance:1916

       The stories mentioned below were all published in the pages of The Royal Magazine, a Pearson publication, in successive months from May to December of 1916 and, as the last story in the group indicated they would be, later collected into one volume and published as a book. The magazine comment put the title of the volume as Donovan of Downing Street but the only name I have found was Donovan of Whitehall.
     One listing of the contents of the book I found online has another story in the collection: The Secret Dispatch. Though I have not seen the actual book and studied its contents, I feel confident about its actual existence. As mentioned above, the last story printed in The Royal Magazine mentioned the upcoming collection. It is not likely that any subsequent story would have been printed. More telling is the fact that in the preface to the magazine story that I have found, printed in May, 1916, it is stated "another splendid story of "Donovan of Downing Street", letting me know there was something beforehand. I could be wrong.

1 The Secret Dispatch The Secret Dispatch
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

Likely first printed in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #210, April 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
[plot unknown]

2 Within Four Walls Within Four Walls
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First printed in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #211, May 1916 and reprinted in the magazine called The Armchair Detective in the Winter of 1981. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
A couple years before WWI, a German inventor came up with a revolutionary way of steering airplanes. The Germans did not want it because it was not appropriate for their style of planes at the time. He took it to the English and they likewise turned it down. Now years later it is coveted by the RAF but he was deep back in Austria-Hungary. Donovan's job was to find him and get his plans.
Click here to read the story.

3 The Hundred Sous The Hundred Sous
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First published in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #212, June 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
Hugh Donovan has important work to be done clandestinely in Turkey and it involves four simple but critical French five-franc coins.
Click here to read the story.

4 The Mysterious Mission The Mysterious Mission
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First published in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #213, July 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
The mission for Hugh Donovan is a mystery that a good number of people are determined to solve. It will involve a daring trip into German territory in the guise of a German naval officer to safeguard stolen English naval plans.
Click here to read the story.

5 The Coral Crown The Coral Crown
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First published in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #214, August 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
The question asked by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was whether "she will ever divulge the secret". Donovan was certain she would and is given carte blanche to get it to happen. The she was Countess Erna Eberhorst and the secret had to do with the secret intentions of the Austrian government. The method chosen by Donavan used some very dangerous blackmail deep inside enemy territory.
Click here to read the story.

6 The Secret of the Wilhelmstrasse The Secret of the Wilhelmstrasse
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First published in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #215, September 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
The task for Hugh Donovan is seemingly impossible - find and disable a very troublesome German U-boat. His solution, deadly and effective, starts with a box of cigars!
Click here to read the story.

7 The Yellow Tube The Yellow Tube
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First published in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #216, October 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
"Hugh Donovan pits his brains against those of a woman. How he outwits her and her confederate - both spies of the German Government - forms the basis for [this] thrilling adventure." The game for Donovan was a clever one, one he had to undertake unofficially as his methods would never be sanctioned. It dealt with the woman's seduction of an old friend of Donovan, rising in the ranks of the Royal Navy.
Click here to read the story.

8 The Princess Feo The Princess Feo
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First printed in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #217, November 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
It is vital that Britain learn what the plans of Germany relating to their activity in the Netherlands are so Hugh Donovan heads across the Channel to find them out. To do so he will need help which will come from the intrepid Princess Feo.
Click here to read the story.

9 The Two Mistletoe Berries The Two Mistletoe Berries
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1916

First printed in the UK magazine called The Royal Magazine #218, December 1916. Collected in Donovan of Whitehall.
"[In] the following story, [Donovan] penetrated into Belgrade and obtained information of enormous value to the Allies." The mistletoe berries in the title are used to created a particularly nasty concoction which is the tool needed by Donovan to learn exactly what the Austrians were up with in Serbia.
Click here to read the story.

MY COMMENTS

In the many decades since he plied his trade, the name of William Le Queux has taken on a very bad rap for being jingoistic, which is certainly true, and for being trite and unworthy of reading, which I definitely do not agree with.

For nothing else, read these adventures by him for the feel and flavor of the times. He wrote so much and was such a huge seller that it seems certain people would not have put their very hard to come by money down on the newsstand counter if they were not enjoying them.

And enjoy them is something I also did. Jingoism and all.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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