The Collected Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre by Edward Heron Allen (1998)
Edward Heron [sometimes hyphenated] Allen (1861- 1943) was a fascinating person: a member of the British intelligence service during World War I, one-time editor of Violin Times, practicing solicitor, lecturer on protozoology, and author of many books covering his many interests -- including hand reading, violin making, Persian literature, paleontology, marine biology, and Buddhism. He also wrote two novels, several volumes of poetry, and two collections of short stories under his own name. But there's the rub: He also wrote some marvelous stories while hiding under the pseudonym "Christopher Blayre," and may have written (or not) under other pen-names. It wasn't until two years before his death that it was sussed out that Heron Allen was the person behind the Blayre mask. Michael Ashley, in his article on Heron Allen in The St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers (1998), mentions that some have suggested that he was the person who also wrote as "Dryasdust" and "M. Y. Halidom" -- he wasn't, and Ashley did not support those claims; that author was later revealed to be Alexander Huth -- but (Ashley wrote) "it is very likely that he wrote more fiction than his bibliography covers and his full contribution to weird and science fiction remains to be assessed."
Heron Allen's place in weird fiction is nonetheless cemented by the seventeen stories he wrote as "Christopher Blayre," which were originally published in three (four? three-and-a-half?) volumes:
The Strange Papers of Dr. Blayre (1932, which itself was an expansion -- by four stories -- of the 1921 collection The Purple Sapphire and Other Posthumous Papers, Selected from the Unofficial Records of the University of Cosmopoli), The Cheetah Girl (1923), and Some Women of the University, Being a Last Selection from the Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre (1934). It could be that all seventeen stories were written in the same period and, for reasons that will become obvious, were published over a thirteen-year period.
Anyway, "Christopher Blayre" (we are told) is the registrar of the venerable University of Cosmopoli. Since the duties of the Registrar are minimal, Blayre has been collecting the written experiences of various faculty members -- thus, the "unofficial records." The stories themselves are fantastic in various ways: spores from space are found to have been the origin of human life; a beetle's bite precipitates lust; an incompetent doctor accidently kills the Wandering Jew; a library is haunted; an old estate is haunted by pairs of boots set out in a row; and so on. The stories would fit well into Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction's early years, alongside H. Nearing, Jr,'s stories of Professor Cleanth Penn Ransom. The University of Cosmopoli can also be a dangerous place to work since a disturbing number of professors who contributed to (or were subjects of) these various unofficial records met their separate dooms in various manners.
The publication history of these books is interesting. The first (Purple Sapphire) was published by Philip Allan. Excised from this collection was the novella The Cheetah Girl, which has part of its theme some pretty hefty (for the time) sexuality and lesbianism; the novella was presumably omitted to avoid persecution under Britain's obscenity laws. Allen later privately published the story. The collection was expanded in 1932 as part of Philip Allan's famous "Creeps" series, which was anonymously edited by Charles Birkin. The last four stories were also privately published by Heron Allen in 1934. The prize of that collection is another story (very eerie) with a strong lesbian theme; again, perhaps why the collection was privately published. The final story, "Passiflora Vindicta Wrammsbothame," about a passionate new breed of passion flower, has an Avram Davidsonish feel to it.
Tartarus Press, publishers of this complete edition, deserve kudos for bringing these stories back into print. My only gripe is that the stories are published with no introduction or background information; indeed, with no indication of original publication or from which volumes they arose. (Although Tartarus did order the stories roughly according to book publication, with the stories from Strange Papers first, followed by Cheetah Girl, and finishing with Some Women.)
Try some of the stories yourself. The link below will take you to the original eight tales in Purple Sapphire, as well as The Cheetah Girl: