16 December 2020
By Jessica Gregory, Curatorial Support Officer for Modern Manuscripts, 1601 – 1950. The papers of Emilia Francis Dilke (Née Strong, formerly Pattison) can be found at Add MS 43903-43908. The correspondence of Emilia Francis Dilke and Gertrude Tuckwell are found at Add MS 49610-49612. The British Library’s exhibition, Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, explores the history of women’s rights activism and is open now.
Emila Francis (Née Strong), Lady Dilke by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, 1887.
(NPG 5288, © National Portrait Gallery, London)
For too long, the achievements of women of the past have been lost; many who have made significant contributions to various fields find themselves remembered only in relation to the men in their lives. Tracing their own histories through archival collections can be a difficult task: within their husband’s papers, their legacies are already framed by the names they inherit and the proximity to power which was granted by them. Retelling the achievements of women from the past often requires us to reconstruct and draw together their lives through their disparate archival legacies, so often mapped according to their inherited names.
One such case is that of Emilia Francis Strong. She would become an essayist, author, art historian and women’s rights activist, but despite her varied intellectual output, there is a surprising lack of primary material preserved. The British Library holds some of her papers within her second husband’s archive: The Charles Dilke Papers. There are also a few items of correspondence within the collections of other powerful men too, but she has — to adapt Woolf’s famous phrase — no Archive of her Own.
Strong’s marriage to Dilke and her social class ensured that her name was preserved in history, but her varied intellectual pursuits have been overshadowed by her husband’s sex-scandal, which even now would have tabloid editors licking their lips. (And which, regrettably, I have to go into in order to contextualise her life).
Sir Charles Dilke and Emilia Dilke,1894, By W. & D. Downey, published by Cassel and Company, Ltd. (NPG x8701. © National Portrait Gallery, London)
Charles was a Liberal MP with a radical agenda, but the discovery of his extramarital relations with his brother’s mother-in-law, followed by his brother’s sister-in-law, Virginia Crawford, was just scratching the surface of his misdeeds. When Mr. Crawford’s divorce trial made the headlines, the judge found Virginia Crawford guilty of adultery, but — paradoxically — found Charles Dilke innocent of the same crime. On top of this, Dilke found himself pursued by an investigative journalist with a grudge, and was soon forced to enter a case in an effort to clear his name, which catastrophically backfired when his heavily mutilated liaison diaries were paraded in court. The torn and self-censored diaries seemed to prove Charles Dilke’s adultery and he became a figure of ridicule for his desperate attempts to cover up his indiscretions. Emilia had defended Charles at the trial, but the damage was done. His reputation crumbled and his love-life was the talk of the town for many years to come.
Engagement Book of Sir Charles Dilke, 1888,
Add MS 49402
Emilia’s legacy — like her life — is framed by this relationship. The situation would not be much improved by remembering her as ‘Emilia Pattison, wife of Mark Pattison’, either; her first marriage was so famously unhappy that she and her husband are said to be the real-life inspiration for the unhappy couple of Mr. Casaubon and Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot’s, Middlemarch.
A letter to Emilia Pattison from her friend, author George Eliot, 1870. Add MS 43907. British Library.
However, apart from her two marriages, Emilia sought to establish a name for herself through her own actions and writings. She studied at the South Kensington Art School in London. After her studies, she began contributing essays to the periodicals, such as The Saturday Review. She studied and wrote on Art and became arts editor of The Academy journal. Married to Mark Pattison at this point, she signed her articles E. F. S. Pattison, adding the ‘S’ to signify her maiden name: Strong — to reflect an element of her independence from her husband. Emilia published on the subject of French Art and gained a reputation as a respectable historian and critic in her own right.
She was also interested in social reform and particularly in improving working conditions for women. She was a prominent figure in the Women’s Trade Union League, founded in 1874 and became its president in 1886. She wrote on the subject of women’s rights at work. In the book Women’s Work, she explores the idea that women are a feature of the modern workplace and that their low wages are damaging not just to women, but to men — who were having their wages undercut — too. She outlines her argument for a raise of women’s wages to be in line with those of men as follows:
It is only too clear that economic independence of women is very, very far from being accomplished…Even though a woman’s work may be as good and as rapid as a man’s, we have seen that her scale of payment is frequently inferior to his…it would seem, therefore, clearly to be in the interest of workman to promote legislation and such methods of organisation as will afford to women the same vantageground [sic] as men
Emilia examined many aspects of women’s work in her essays and opinion pieces, outlining issues of inequality and advocating for health reforms in various sectors — even speaking at the Trade Unions’ Congress. She advocated for women’s trade unionism and would continue to publish on this subject — as well as Fine Art — for the rest of her life. Emilia was also friends with Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst and supported their campaigns for women’s suffrage.
Header for an Article published in the North American Review, 1891.
Even more than this, Emelia also wrote fiction, publishing two volumes of short stories, called, The Shrine of Death and Other Stories (1886) and The Shrine of Love and Other Stories (1891). The preface to The Shrine of Love seems to reaffirm the importance of working for reform through life:
Nothing has troubled me more than the weight of retribution which often falls on those who revolt against any point of prevailing order.
Fly-page image from The Shrine of Death and Other Stories, 1886.
Hers are strange, allegorical tales, sometimes with a supernatural element, and a strong focus on morality and fate. They did not prove popular at the time, but these stories have recently been consolidated and republished for a new audience.
Considering this complex and varied legacy, it is a reductive to think of Emilia Dilke as simply the wife of MP Charles Dilke. Her many writing talents should have ensured her a more pronounced legacy than the one she currently holds. Compared to other women of the era, Emilia Dilke was privileged enough to be published and this has preserved many of her thoughts for the long-term. There is no doubt her work on women’s rights was an influence on other women, including her niece Gertrude Tuckwell, who advocated for women’s rights and women’s suffrage, becoming one of the first female magistrates in the UK. However, the lack of available archival material reflects a system of collecting that was very much centered on prominent men.
Gertrude Tuckwell, Emilia Dilke’s niece, women’s rights advocate and suffragist. Wikicommons.
The centuries of male dominance in society are reflected in the contents of historic archive collections. The exclusion of women from professional careers means that essential institutional records are primarily authored by men on the actions of men. Therefore, women of the past with intellectual careers and contributions to various fields, often find themselves excluded from many historical records. Without admittance into the professional sphere their work has often been side-lined as that of personal ‘interests’ or ‘hobbies’, and therefore, historically not deemed worthy of formal preservation. This may help explain the disparity between Charles Dilke’s archival collections and Emilia’s.
As well as this, the ability to trace individuals is also more complex for some than it is for others. Barring titles, ranks and self-administered change, the majority of male names will remain the same throughout life, whereas women’s names often change through marriage. Archivists make efforts to discover women’s maiden names so that they can link individuals’ relative outputs together and to help establish a full biography of a person, but sometimes these names are never found. Emilia went by many names during her life, she had her married names, but also preferred to call herself Francis over Emilia at times. As well as this, she would sometimes include her maiden name in signatures and sometimes prefer to author articles with differing initials. Given this abundance of known names, one might see how articles of her authorship may not be linked together.
A combination of structural bias and incidental loss has inhibited the collection of women’s archives for generations, but there is change in the air. Archival institutions now make efforts to correct imbalances in their archival collections. The efforts to brings the many untold lives of women back into history was a major feature of second-wave feminism. As well as this, the internet has provided a means of connecting and tying women’s narratives together, enabling the writing of fuller biographies and giving more credence to their achievements.
The legacy of Emilia Francis Dilke has certainly benefitted from these changes, and many of her works have even been digitised and so can be accessed by a wider range of scholars. Likewise, contemporary women have made efforts to recover Emilia Dilke’s legacy, with Professor Hilary Fraser writing her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, and Dr. Kali Israel writing a contemporary feminist biography of Emilia Dilke that explores her accomplishments on her own terms. But such work has had to be accomplished without a comprehensive archival legacy for Emilia’s life and work. Given all this, one can see how easily other women have been lost to history, especially without the privilege of access to publishing that Emilia enjoyed. So many legacies have been reduced to a few scraps of paper and given our current advances in the field of archives, it is essential that we make an effort today to ensure that female archival legacies are fuller, broader, and most importantly, present in the future.
- Women’s Work…With a Preface by Lady Dilke, by A. A. Brooke. (London: Methuen & Co, 1894)
- The Shrine of Death, and other stories. L.P., By Emilia Francis Strong Dilke. (London: Routledge and sons, 1886)
- The Shrine of Love, and other stories. L.P., By Emilia Francis Strong Dilke. (London: Routledge and sons, 1891)
- Names and Stories: Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture. By Kali Israel. (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1999).
16 December 2014
Jane Austen, whose 239th birthday is today, has another anniversary this month – at the very end of December 1817, after her death, her novel Northanger Abbey was published.
Northanger Abbey is a joyously playful satire on the gothic novel of the 1790s, and was written in around 1798-9, when Austen was in her early 20s. It was the first of her novels to be submitted for publication, and was bought by a London publisher for the princely sum of £10 in 1803 – but for unknown reasons lay unpublished until 1816, when Austen’s brother bought it back for her. She made a few revisions, changing the heroine’s name from Susan to Catherine Morland, and also the title (which had been ‘Susan’) perhaps to tie it more firmly to the gothic tradition it pastiches.
In the first half of the book, set in fashionable Bath, Catherine meets with a new friend, Isabella Thorp, a flighty young woman. When Catherine opines that she wishes she could spend her whole life in reading Ann Radcliffe’s hugely popular and influential Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Isabella replies that she has “made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you… Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries.”
For some time in the 19th century, it was generally believed that Austen may have made up these titles, so preposterous did they sound to later, non-Gothic readers. However, later scholarship revealed that the novels did all exist, and they are on display together for the first time in Terror and Wonder. You can read more about the seven horrid novels on the British Library European Studies blog here.
The second half of Northanger Abbey features Catherine’s visit to the Abbey itself, the home of her friend Eleanor Tilney and her brother Henry. On the journey Henry teases Catherine about what she expects the house to be like (as it is called an Abbey, Catherine has of course imagined a full-on Radcliffian dark, brooding, mazelike building stuffed with secrets): "And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as 'what one reads about' may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?" Henry then proceeds to distil various key plotlines from the complete work of Ann Radcliffe into a single, very entertaining narrative at what is to happen at the Abbey during Catherine’s visit. His intention is to entertain, but Catherine is both frightened and immediately expects the worst – or, the most exciting – to happen.
Austen draws the line between the gothic novels of the 1790s (usually set centuries in the past, in continental Europe) and England in the 1790s when Henry reminds Catherine that she should “Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians…. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them?” By the end of the novel, Catherine has at last learned not to take novels (or herself) so seriously.
Another theme of the novel which, perhaps strangely, links to our exhibition Terror and Wonder, is that of consumerism. Isabella Thorp, when she recommends the seven horrid novels to Catherine, admits that she hasn’t read them herself but has in turn been given the list by Miss Andrews. Isabella’s interest seems to be more that she keeps up with the fashion and is able to make these recommendations than in her own enjoyment of novel-reading. Amongst many other references to the consumer culture of the 1790s (whose lace trimmings are nicer, whether a muslin will wash well) one stands out – the fact that Northanger Abbey itself has a Rumford fireplace. Designed by Count Rumford in the mid- 1790s, this new style of fireplace increased the heat to a room by narrowing the vent. On display in Terror and Wonder is a parody of an advertisement for a Rumford, in which a young lady reading the scandalous gothic novel The Monk by Matthew Lewis, has a lovely time by her RumPford fire. Scandalous indeed.
Terror and Wonder is on till the 20th January, and you can buy tickets here
Read more about our Jane Austen collections here
Final image courtesy of British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings, 1935,0522.7.12
22 May 2014
Portrait photographs of Charles Dickens, 1861
You may already know that the majority of the British Library’s most treasured holdings are stored below ground in our deep basements, only to be looked at when they are beckoned above by curious readers. The Library’s new online learning resource Discovering Literature liberates some of our most precious holdings from the depths; allowing them to be seen in high definition, at anytime, anywhere, [and most importantly] whilst drinking a cup of tea!
Discovering Literature and Charles Dickens were made for each other. Dickens was a huge character and a prolific writer. It can be a dizzying experience to try and wade through all that has been written by or about him. Discovering Literature allows us to learn more about Dickens the individual while at the same time intricately weaving him into the 19th century world he inhabited.
The site features the manuscripts of some of his works, articles about him by leading Dickens scholars and also topical pieces about some of the issues that interested him, such as crime, poverty and the supernatural. All these scholarly additions are supported by high quality images of collection items, allowing access to primary source materials that bring Dickens to life. The site also features plenty of ephemeral items that help to contextualise and make real the issues that permeated his works, such as the newspaper advertisements for Warren’s Blacking Factory.
Advertisement for Warren's Blacking Warehouse
They are interesting to look at of themselves, but once you realise that they are advertising the boot polish manufacturers where Dickens worked as a 12 year old boy they become so much more pertinent – you begin to realise where the author’s concern for child labour and the plight of the poor comes from. The same goes for the Diet Table from a workhouse report, laying out the daily rations to be administered to the inmates:
Reports of the Sub-Committee appointed by the Committee of Management, of the Parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, for the revision of their workhouse, etc. (1831)
Closer inspection reveals that the daily diet consisted of meagre rations with gruel for breakfast and very little in the way of nutrition. This report, and others like it from the time, emphasise that there were to be no second helpings in any circumstances. The punishing regime of the workhouse in Oliver Twist is revealed as the norm and not a literary exaggeration.
The beauty of being able to view these otherwise rather plain and innocuous seeming objects alongside literary works, manuscripts and personal correspondence enables us to unlock the secrets they contain and reveals them to be so much more than they first appear.
Preface to the Present Edition of Oliver Twist (1850)
As the preface to the cheap edition of Oliver Twist exposes it is so easy to make the mistake that the places and issues that Dickens writes about are largely made-up (Dickens is responding to a magistrate who has claimed that Jacobs Island is a fictional location – they were real slums in Rotherhithe). Items such as these are a stark reminder that these kind of things really happened to people.
These documents serve to show just how much Dickens was influenced by the world around him. They also confirm that many of our perceptions of 19th century Britain have been greatly influenced by what he wrote, making it even more important to separate truth from fiction.
Finally, I wanted to highlight the photographs taken of Dickens in 1861 [shown above]. A couple of them show the author with a slight smirk on his face (a rare thing for a Victorian photograph in general). They remind us that Dickens was a real person too, and not just some mythical author from the 19th century…
15 May 2014
Today is the launch of our amazing new resource, Discovering Literature!
Discovering Literature features some of our greatest literary treasures through original manuscripts, first editions, and letters and other documents like newspaper cuttings that help to place the work in an historical context. Our aim was to bring the literature to life and to give people an insight into how some of these incredibly iconic works were created.
William Blake - draft of 'The Tyger' in his notebook
Library staff have been working with teachers, university professors and other experts for months to develop the resource, and it features detailed explanations and essays about the various authors, works and themes. There are also some documentary films, made on location at places like the Bronte Parsonage, Haworth, and the Dickens Museum.
The website currently covers the Romantic and Victorian era but we'll be expanding it in the future to cover the whole of English literature from Beowulf to the present day. One of our aims is to get young people inspired by the UK’s literary heritage, at home and at school, and many of its selected texts support the UK curricula for GCSE, A Level and undergraduate teaching of English Literature. But we're also hoping that there'll be something for everyone to be interested in on the site.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Manuscripts of Jane Eyre, the preface to Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, an early draft of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and the poetry of Shelley, Wordsworth and Keats
- An 1809 dictionary of criminal slang including words found in the works of Charles Dickens, for example ‘twist’ - meaning ‘hanged’ – from Oliver Twist
- Papers of Jane Austen, including her notes detailing other people’s opinions of her work, including one peer describing Pride and Prejudice as ‘downright nonsense‘
- William Blake’s notebook, including drafts of his iconic poems ‘London’, ‘The Tyger’ and ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ and many of his drawings
- The largest collection of Brontë childhood writings, including miniature notebooks detailing their fantasy worlds of Gondol and Angria, diary entries and letters describing their family life
- A lock of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s hair
Over the next few weeks we'll be featuring some of the amazing items you can find on Discovering Literature, and telling you about them in a bit more detail.
12 March 2013
Before anything else a little genealogy.
In 1650, at Chetwode in Buckinghamshire, a boy was born and christened Knightly Chetwood. Knightly grew up to become the Dean of Gloucester and could count John Dryden as a close friend. He died in 1720.
In 1679, in Dublin, a boy was born and christened Knightley Chetwode. Knightley (nephew of the above Knightly) grew up to become “a nosy, abrasive squire” and, for a time, could count Jonathan Swift as a friend. He died in 1752.
It’s worth identifying these two men from the outset as their uniquely similar names, relatively close dates and literary friendships have succeeded in confusing countless historians and scholars over the centuries, who have all probably asked the question, ‘Seriously, how many early eighteenth-century Knightly/Knightley Chetwood/Chetwodes can there have been?’
Take, as an example, the description of an unrecorded printed poem from the Bonhams catalogue of 1-2 April 2008 (the John & Monica Lawson sale). The poem is described in the catalogue as being “in ten verses by Knightly Chetwood, Dean of Gloucester and a close friend of both Swift and Dryden”. The poem is in fact by Knightley, the Irish squire, close friend of Swift only.
I’m pleased to say that the poem – Advice to a young lady – has recently made its way into the British Library collections (shelfmark C.194.b.385). As the only known printed work in Chetwode’s name it’s clearly an important item but what makes it doubly so is its connection with Jonathan Swift.
(At this point we can leave the Dean of Gloucester behind – his story is well-documented in the ODNB – and focus on his nephew)
Knightley Chetwode was married to Hester Brooking, half-sister of James Stopford, another of Swift's close friends. With Hester came substantial land and a house which Knightley renamed Wood Brooke (now known as Woodbrook), an amalgamation of the couple’s family names. In 1714, he struck up a relationship with Swift, one that was to last eighteen years. Their friendship seems to be have been genuine on both sides: Swift visited Woodbrook on a number of occasions and took a keen interest in the house, grounds and Knightley’s DIY projects. Swift even had the honour of having a field named after him and the 'Dean’s Field' retained the name well into the twentieth century.
Knightley, a Tory and a Jacobite, seems to have had a knack for rubbing people up the wrong way. Following a period of exile on the Continent (ca. 1715-21) he is known to have been challenged to a duel, been threatened with prosecution for high treason and found himself in financial hot water. In 1725 he separated from his wife and in 1731 his relationship with Swift also petered out. In an article on the Chetwood family, Walter G. Strickland writes that
the Dean had never been entirely in sympathy with Chetwood’s character, and with advancing years and physical weakness and disease had grown gloomy and irritable and less inclined to bear with Chetwood’s exuberant and not very tactful letters
Apparently Swift also had issues with Knightley’s persistent use of perfumed paper! And so, in May 1731, Swift wrote his final letter to Knightley, including the damning statement, “your whole scheme of thinking, conversing, and living differs in every point”.
Their eighteen years of friendship has done nothing for Knightley’s reputation in the eyes of successive Swift biographers, who have all sided with Swift’s final sentiments. The section dealing with Knightley in Irvin Ehrenpreis’s 1983 biography is peppered with unkind adjectives: graceless, friendless, nosy, abrasive, disgusting, morbidly suspicious, self-indulgent, boring, clinging, prickly, aggressive, spoiled.
But there is no denying that there was a real friendship between the two men, begun around the time that Knightley penned his one-remaining piece of literature; a friendship that allowed Knightley to seek out the thoughts of Swift on his modest poem. In a now-lost letter, written in November 1714, Swift writes,
I look [sic] over the inclosed some time ago, and again just now; it contains many good things, and wants many alterations. I have made one or two, and pointed at others, but an author can only sett his own things right.
(An endorsement by Knightley identifies the work that Swift is critiquing: “This was my advice to a young lady”)
One can easily imagine Knightley latching on to the “many good things” in Swift’s critique, and who could blame him? Few people can claim to have been friends with one of English literature’s greatest figures; fewer still can claim to have had good things said about their poetic endeavours.
Finally, after almost 300 years, a chance for Knightley Chetwode to shine.
Ehrenpreis, Irvin. Swift: the man, his works, and the age (London: Methuen, 1983).
Hill, George Birkbeck. Unpublished letters of Dean Swift (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1899).
Strickland, Walter G. "The Chetwoods of Woodbrook in the Queen's County." Journal of the Archæological Society of the County of Kildare and Surrounding Districts. Vol. IX (1918-21): 205-26.
13 December 2012
Today’s blog post is somewhat delayed … by a little over six months. One thing and another prevented me from posting this in the spring but I’ve been spurred into writing it for a couple of reasons: firstly because I’ve recently been taking a closer look at some of the British Library’s unique Shakespeare material; and, secondly, because 2012 has clearly been the year of literary bicentenaries and I have to get in before it ends.
Dickens, Lear and Browning have perhaps sapped everyone’s enthusiasm for 200 year anniversaries, but I was a little surprised when 25 May passed and no one had mentioned Edmond Malone. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places but the least I expected was a nod in his direction on Twitter.
Malone, that eminent man of letters, died on 25 May 1812. He was the last of the great 18th-century Shakespeare editors; in fact, his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography records him as the greatest of them all, leaving Messrs. Steevens, Johnson, Theobald, Pope, Rowe and Capell in his dust.
The British Library holds a good number of Malone-related books and manuscripts but the item that caught my eye is a copy of the Edward Capell-edited Mr William Shakespeare his comedies, histories, and tragedies (London, 1768 – shelfmark C.60.g.10). It’s a fairly common edition but what sets this copy apart is the fact that it was once owned by Malone. In fact, it may well be the copy that he refers to in his Second appendix of 1783, when he writes that ‘I had lately to look into his [Capell’s] volumes'.
Annotated throughout, but particularly in the introduction, it’s a great example of the one-upmanship, jealousy and general bickering that wasn’t uncommon among the big Shakespeare guns of the 18th century (in William Shakespeare: the critical heritage (vol. 6, 1995), Brian Vickers describes it as ‘full of virulent abuse’). Malone wasn’t shy in criticising his fellow Shakespeareans – he publicly derided Capell’s work – but as can be seen from the following examples he reserved his most biting comments for his private jottings.
I wonder if the four exclamation marks indicate the pleasure Malone took in making this correction, for he and Capell had history with this play. In 1779 Malone purchased a 1607 edition of The Taming of a Shrew (now in the Beinecke, Malone 152), a purchase that Capell begged Malone to give to him, even offering three earlier Shakespeare quartos in exchange. Malone refused, writing on the back of the title-page, ‘Mr Capel for 30 years searched for one in vain'.
In this instance hindsight hasn’t really worked out in Malone’s favour.
So, when were these uncomplimentary musings jotted down? At a point when both men were at the top of their games? In jealous response to a scholarly triumph by Capell? Amazingly, just a few months after Capell’s death in 1781. Malone’s introductory notes, dated 20 June 1781, mention his rival’s death, together with another set of four exclamation marks which seemingly ridicule the pace of the recently-deceased man's work:
Actually, perhaps it was a good idea for me to delay this post. It's not exactly the most celebratory portrayal of Malone!!!!
25 October 2012
We are delighted to announce two recent acquisitions in Printed Literary Sources.
We have acquired a new work by the artist Linda Landers at the Spoon Print Press. This beautiful artist’s book is a setting of William Blake’s poem ‘The Shepherd’ from Songs of Innocence. The book contains print and watercolours and is one of an edition of five signed and dated by the artist. This work complements our existing holdings by Linda Landers and will be available shortly in the reading rooms. For more information about Linda Landers please see her website at http://www.lindalanders.co.uk/. For more details about the Library’s collection of artists’ books please see our website at http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/artarchperf/art/finepressesartistsbooksandbookarts/finepresses.html
We have also acquired a rare illustrated children’s book, The Sandman’s Hour by Nellie Elliot. Published around 1948 this is one of two known books by this author. The other Grandmamma, and other Irish Stories is also held by the Library at shelfmark 012640.m.42.
The Sandman’s Hour was published by At The Sign of Three Candles Press the Dublin press run by Colm Ó Lochlainn. Not much is known about the author but information is available on the internet about the illustrator Karl Uhlemann at http://hitone.wordpress.com/category/designers/karl-uhlemann/ and for information about Colm Ó Lochlainn please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colm_%C3%93_Lochlainn and http://hitone.wordpress.com/category/publishers/sign-of-the-three-candles/
For more information about the Library’s children’s literature collections please see the following link http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/literature/chillit/childlit.html
17 September 2012
As Writing Britain enters its last couple of weeks, I wanted to tell you about one of the more surprising exhibits in the exhibition. In the Rural Dreams section is a pocket book containing a reworking of a poem by a woman called Katherine Philips.
Philips was born in London in 1632 but on her marriage at the age of 16 she moved to Wales and lived in Cardigan until her death in 1664. First appearing in print in 1651, she developed a renown for writing poems about friendship and for having a group of close associates all of whom used assumed names drawn from a classical tradition (Philips was known as Orinda). Her husband James Philips was a supporter of parliament and held a prominent role in Welsh politics, but Katherine is believed to have harboured royalist sympathies.
© British Library Board. Shelfmark C.79.a.30
You may well be wondering what all this has to do with the British landscape.
© British Library Board. Shelfmark C.79.a.30
How sacred and how innocentThis couplet sums up an idyllic pastoral retreat from the evils of town, which perhaps was written from Katherine’s own experience of leaving London for the Welsh countryside.
A country life appears,
How free from tumult, discontent,
From flattery and fears.
I’m particularly fond of the poem because it includes the lines
Happy in friendship and in health,
On roots, not beasts, they fed.
A seventeenth century rallying call for vegetarians! Or so I like to think.
© British Library Board. Shelfmark C.79.a.30
Generally the poem speaks of the virtues of the simple life and of the British countryside as a retreat. It’s displayed in Writing Britain as an early example of the use of the pastoral tradition in English literature – a genre that came from classical literature and promoted the countryside as an often unrealistically perfect place. Although some later writers embraced this tradition – in the same section of the exhibition you can see a first edition of AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh – others questioned it, which is why we’re also displaying Thomas Hardy’s proof copy of Far from the Madding Crowd, in which the countryside is anything from ‘free from tumult [and] discontent’.Back to Katherine Philips and that pocket book I mentioned.
© British Library Board. Shelfmark: Egerton MS 1527
The significance of this object is extremely compelling once you know the back story. It belonged to James Scott, who was the 1st Duke of Monmouth and illegitimate son of Charles II – and the pretender to the throne during the Monmouth Rebellion of June-July 1685.
There is a note in the front of the pocket book written by James II to say that the book was found on the Duke’s person when he was captured after the Battle of Sedgemoor. According to our catalogue entry it contains:
medical and general recipes; charms; prayers; events in English history; English and French songs, with music; routes in Holland; addresses of various persons; values of Dutch and English coins, etc.
Among all these things is a reworked (or possibly written from memory) version of Katherine Philips’ ‘A Country Life’, evidently written out because it was meaningful for him and worthy of rereading in quiet moments.
The final couplet of the original poem reads:
In this retired integrity,
Free from both war and noise,
I live not by necessity,
But wholly by my choice.
I can’t help but find irony in the significance this poem obviously held for Scott, given that his attempt to seize power was far removed from the simple life Katherine Philips described. Sometimes retreating to a country idyll far from the perils of court really was a safer bet.
English and Drama blog recent posts
- What’s in a Name? The Archival Legacy of Emilia Francis Strong/Pattison/Dilke
- Jane Austen and the ‘very horrid’ Northanger Abbey
- Something to smile about: Charles Dickens on Discovering Literature
- Discovering Literature - British Library literary treasures go digital
- The other Knightley Chetwode
- Blockheads and coxcombs: a belated bicentenary mention for Edmond Malone
- Two recent acquisitions
- A country life - a poem, the pastoral and the pretender
- Happy Yorkshire Day