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BRITAIN IN PICTURES
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TI;?II ~.li~ll?~llll II
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8 PLATES IN COLOUR
WILLIAM COLLINS OF LONDON
11- mm.- "TI L ~ :G M- W-,-l.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PLATES IN COLOUR
MARY SIDNEY, COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE
Oil painting by Paul van Somer, c. 6xo '
SARAH JENNINGS, DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH
Oil painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller
LADY HESTER STANHOPE IN ORIENTAL DRESS
Pencil and water colour sketch by Sir David Wilkie, 1841
Water colour by George Richmond
GRACE DARLING AND HER FATHER SAVING THE SHIPWRECKED CREW
SEPTEMBER 8TH, 1838
Water colour by William Bell Scott
SOil painting (replica) by F. d'A. Durade, 1849
SOil painting by G. F. Watts, 1864
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI WITH HER MOTHER
Chalk drawing by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1877
BLACK 4& WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS
Pencil drawing by William Blake
Reproduced from Drawings and Engrarings
of Will/iao Blake. The Srudio, London
Bi .0ou1r,, .f thI Trust,,i .f tht. Tali Gallrr) London
Pen and ink and black chalk drawing by
B ..i)Urf' of ti, Tlt stec< if ti, Brlsh ,tiuvearm
QL'EEN ELIZ/lETH IN THF HINTING FIELD
Woodcut from G. Turberv\llk's Book of
BLENHEIM PALACE. THE SEAT OF THE
Engraving by Fourdrinier after Maurer
Oil paining arrbuted to Charles Jervas
B1 .ourtei. Ifi ,e nonaL al Gllo q Ir.iand. outblsn
Mlezzotini by Gainsborough Dupont after
Oil pointing by Sir Thomas Lawrence
D) .ouiif, rl 'I .idrrunJIO nGailrt. Londn
MARY \OLLsTONECRAFT GODWIN
Oil painting by John Opte
i1 ..oi ,,'; s 1 ,'or c ,a,ioual Platrtt callien London
DOVE CO1TSAGE, IRASMLRE
Water colour c. 1805
Bi onui or it, r i .c., Tluo i e C.,)tra and Ihe
Oxlef. I'ntreros P,.rs
LADY HLsTER ST4NHuPE IN HER sALOON
Lithograph b) Day and Haghe
From C. L. Meryon's \lewoiri of /he Lady
Hester Stanbope, 1845
LADY HESTER STANHOPE'S RESIDENCE
AT DIOJUN ON MOUNT LEBANON
Lithograph b\ Day and Haghe
From C. L. Mecron's .\leworri f', tb Lady
Heit,r Sltaihope, 1845
JANE WELSH CARLYLE
Miniature on iror by Samuel Lawrence
B ,.our .,t t'. ari..,Inal P.n'ai ,lu,,.r , London
Pen and ink drawing by C. B. Birch
S. ,uo ti.i ot r, .\zrsioal P..n.a Gade't,, Le.n.on
Detail from the water colour by Henry
Perlee Parker, it88
Bt sourtesi ci.i ,Vtar.ntal Portrartiallen.LLondon
7 HAWORTH CHURCH AND PARSONAGE, 35
THE HOME OF THE BRONTES
Engraving from Mrs. GaskeUl's Life of
Charlolte Bronte, 1857
ANN AND EMILY BRONTE 36
S Detail from the oil painting by Patrick
Branwell Bronre, c. 1835
By icurrne of rt. a.\'ional Portisti Galletr, London
ro FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE 19
Detail from the pencil drawing by
Sir Georgt Schart, 1857
b~t ourrrt oi r .i X\lonal Poftras Gallefr, London
3 FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE AT SCUTARI 3q
Engraving after the painting by Jerry Barrett
15 GERTRL'DE BELL AT AN ORIENTAL PARTY 45
Caricature by Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond
Reproduced from The Letters of Gertrude Be/,
BR c.,ue L rit tS, .ru i ana Enestl Benn. Lid
VIRGINIA WOOLF 47
C, Charcoal drawing by Francis Dodd
BLI uurlrJto col lhe 4tr..1
TA ILPI ECES
QUEEN ANNE 24
From a contemporary medal reproduced in
23 Thomas Lediard' The Lia r john, Duke of
STELLA"; COTTAGE, MOOR PARK, SURREY 16
6 \X oodcur
Hi .ant.l i'ti.k, I' rtra ao .tlbli Muselum, London
1SIDONIAN RECOLLECTIONS' 2
Detail from the oil painting by George Romney
GRASMERE L AKE AND VILLAGE 25
Engraving from Thomas Rose's
IWeaFimoriand, er., x832
SILHOUETTE OF ELIZABETH GURNEY AT 29
30 THE A,.E OF EIGHTEEN
From .\emoer ofthe Life of E,'i'abeth Fry. 1847
BUYl FROM I' %ITH A GOLDEN CURL' 43
31 Illustration by D. G. Rossetti to Christina
Rossetti's Gob/li .Market
By courtesy of Macmillan & Co., Ltd.
34 ASSEMBLING A CARAVAN LiNDER THE 46
WALLS OF BAGDAD
Engraving from J. S. Buckingham's Travels
in .-lsrna, AlMdia & Persia, eir., 1830
Pencil drawing by W illiam Blake
T HE distinguishing quality of the English is character, not intellect ;
and in cases of genius it is always character and rarely pure
intellect that gives the genius its peculiar salt and savour of
personal life," to use a phrase of Swinburne's. Foreigners have declared that
the English are more conventional than the people of any other nation. The
present writer holds the exact opposite to be the truth, at any rate as far as
social intercourse is concerned. It is true that on the continent sexual freedom
was more openly admitted than in England, but expressions of opinion in
social life were, and are, barred on the continent, whereas in England indi-
viduality of outlook is tolerated. The stupid treat it with an amused and
semi-contemptuous tolerance, and when they indulge in an outbreak of artist-
baiting this is more due to the dislike of the pigmy for the giant than to any
hatred for character.
This individuality is present as much in the women as in the men. In the
place of the peculiar physical energy of the Latin women, we find a flowering
of character as remarkable in early times as now.
There was a time in England, as everywhere else, when women were
regarded as a subject race. But that phase is over in Englarid: for the
character of the English is peculiarly straight and not liable to unnatural
deviations: a sense of justice is inherent in'it, and a sense of moderation.
This strong national character of which I have spoken is as much a growth
of the soil in that most rare of creatures, the woman of genius, as in the woman
of integrity whose daily life is a fulfilment of her whole being, but who has not
creative genius. Where that genius is present in a woman of England it is
a genius of temper, using the word in the sense in which we speak of steel
having a fine temper. It is a genius of fire and passion, as in Emily Bronte,
Sarah Siddons, and that strange woman Elizabeth Tudor, who was as much
born to be Queen of England as Emily Bronte was born to write Wuthering
Heights. The English feminine genius is not one of a luscious glowing warmth,
or of sexual seductiveness. In everyday life the English woman is a creature
of a broad humanity, tolerant, and with a wide, calm patience and loyalty which
is as strong as those great trees which are among the beauties of England.
Elizabeth Tudor's greatness, though she had much of the subtlety of an Italian
of the Renaissance, was an English greatness, with an English fire and an
This strength and fire has had an effect of another kind-a puritan
disregard for some of the more superficial plesaures of life and aspects of
domestic comfort . warm fires, and the comforts of beds and chairs we have
understood always-but the cooking of vegetables Each vegetable as much
an island as our beloved England, but set, not in silver seas, but in the salt sea
S. .each meal the kind which might have been served up by avenging angels
at dinner parties in the Cities of the Plain . deserts of sand, pillars of salt,
wine made from Dead Sea fruit . But those meals are now almost things of
the past and, until the war put a stop to such activities, Englishwomen had
begun to prove that they could cook as well as organise a meal. The English-
woman's clothes, too, have improved out of all knowledge . no longer are
our hats, as in Victorian days, a kind of Pageant of Empire, whereon the
products of all the colonies battle for precedence.
I would have liked to have given more instances of the flowering of
character to which I have referred : to have paid tribute, for instance, to
Catherine Blake, the most wonderful wife who has ever comforted and
supported a man of genius. I would have liked to have written of those
unrecorded women of whom Catherine Blake is typical, of those women
who have never found fame, but whose daily example has helped to civilise
our race : the ordinary women in their hundreds of thousands, beings whose
warmth of heart and love of country and family, whose unswerving loyalty
and gallantry, and gay, not dour, sense of duty, are among the glories of Britain.
This was not possible, so I have chosen a few women among many
thousands in whom that quintessence of character expressed itself, sometimes
in the acts of their daily life, sometimes in creative work of another kind.
MARY SIDNEY, COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE, 1561-1621
Oil painting by Paul van Somer
SARAH JENNINGS, DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH J660- 744
Oil painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller
Pen and ink and black chalk drawing by Nicholas Hilliard
ELIZABETH TUDOR : 1533-1603
THIS strange contradiction of a woman whose life, seen from one aspect,
was barren, seen from another, infinitely fertile, was consistent only
in her greatness. That high courage of the lion, and the lion's heart,
the lion's rages, contrasted with the subtle mind ; that pride of the peacock
which is the glory of God," coupled with the knowledge that it was the Queen,
and not the woman, that was loved-the love of her people, given and received,
together with her heartbreaking and heartbroken loneliness-that ugly face
so full of fire, so full of intellectual power and wisdom and vanity, and the
exquisite and sensitive hands, that life of duty and magnificence, and that
humble and heartbroken death. How can all these be reconciled, one with
It was said that she had no heart, though she was at the same time
insatiably amorous Yet her godson, Sir John Harrington, said that he had
never seen her weep as she wept when Mary, Queen of Scots, went to her death.
She danced high and disposedly "; but in her heart was sorrow and
bitterness. '' I know," she declared to the Deputation which visited her to
ask for Mary's death, what it is to be a sovereign, what to have good
neighbours and sometimes meet evil willers. I have found reason in trust,
seen great benefits little regarded."
QUEEN ELIZABETH IN THE HUNTING FIELD
Woodcut from G. Turberville's Book f Venrie, 1572
Sir Christopher Hatton, who knew her well, said once, "the Queen did
fish for men's souls, and had so sweet a bait that no one could escape from
her network." Harrington declared also, when she smiles, it has a pure
sunshine that everyone did choose to bask in if they could; but anon came
a storm from a sudden gathering of clouds, and the thunder fell in wondrous
manner on all."
She was a woman born to inspire others: she fired men's souls. It is no
wonder that Shakespeare lived in the days when she reigned, and that hers
was perhaps the greatest age our country has known.
MARY SIDNEY: COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE 1561-1621
IN the year 1580, a young man, banished from the Court for his open
disapproval of Queen Elizabeth's projected marriage with the Duc
d'Anjou, walked with his still younger sister in the woods near Wilton,
planning a work which still brings back to us a wrecked world-the Arcadia.
Sir Philip Sidney and his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, were of an equal
beauty. She was a beautiful ladie," wrote John Aubrey, and had an
excellent witt . She had a pretty sharp-oval face. Her haire was of a
reddish yellow . Sir Philip Sidney was not only of an excellent witt, but
extremely beautiful; he much rese-nbled his sister, but his haire was not red,
but a little inclining, viz. : a darke amber colour."
The devotion of this brother and sister resembles that of a later and
greater poet, William Wordsworth, and his sister. Together they worked at
translating the Psalms of David-a translation praised by Donne in a poem-
and after Sidney's death his sister, in her loneliness, edited that work which
her brother had written for her pleasure. I say lonely because her marriage,
although it was wrecked by no storms, cannot have been one of any great
companionship. Her husband, to whom she was married when she was sixteen,
was a generation older than herself and had already been married twice.
Lady Pembroke's life was like that of certain great ladiesof the Renaissance.
" In her time," wrote John Aubrey, '" Wilton House was like a College, there
were so many learned and ingenious persons. She was the greatest patronesse
of witt and learning of any lady in her time. She was a great chemist and
spent yearly a great deal in that study. She gave an honourable pension to ...
Boston,... who did undoe himself by studying the philosopher's stone, and she
would have kept him but he would have all the gold to himself."
The tributes to this.patroness of learning were many. Spenser's The
Ruines of Time is dedicated to the lady whose brother was one of the poet's
most intimate friends; and in Aslrophel, Spenser comments tenderly on her
likeness to that beloved brother. In Colin Clout's Come Home Againe she
appears as Urania, sister to Astrophel. Like other learned ladies of her day,
she spent much time in translating, Petrarch's Trionfo della Morta being one
of the works she rendered into English. Only two original poems are ascribed
to her, and those with no certainty.
And what of her personal life ? She found, I suppose, happiness in helping
the great men of her time, and others less great. She had the memories of her
heroic brother and of those happy sunny days at Wilton before his early death.
There was the long worry about her eldest son and his scandalous love affair
with Mary Fitton: a scandal resulting first in his being sent to prison as a
punishment by Queen Elizabeth, and then in his banishment to Wilton.
There was domestic life, and the search for the Philosopher's Stone. There
were the beauties of Wilton. But for the rest, who knows ?
SARAH JENNINGS: DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH 1660-1744
HE first Duchess of Marlborough led a life which was, morally speaking,
as much one of camps, of alarums, excursions, ups and downs, and
battles won and lost, as was the life of her husband the great General.
Sarah Jennings appears at this distance of time like a gigantic figurehead,
or the banner round which a battle raged (perhaps more figure-head than
banner, owing to a certain stiffness). First she was the centre of one of the
rival camps at the court of King William and Queen Mary; then the figure-head
attacked by all the intriguers of the court of Anne.
She had a soldierly courage and honesty, a character incapable of lying
or of condescending to use tact, which appeared to her as a minor form of lying.
With this unbending character she had a violent temper which she made no
effort to control; and this, said Lord Wolseley, prevented her from calmly
discussing any subject, for she could not brook contradiction."
Was it this incapacity for lying, this violent temper and imperiousness
which brought about the breach with the Queen whom she had served so
faithfully and loved so devotedly ? When that breach came it was thirty-seven
years or more since the time when a lymphatic, pasty-faced child-Princess
had driven in a coach to Water End House, at Sandridge in Hertfordshire, and
had made friends with a hot-tempered, determined, quick-moving, pretty child
named Sarah Jennings. Sarah had a sister at court and often visited her, so
the friendship grew, and some years later, when the Duke of York married for
the second time, the sixteen-year-old Sarah was already a member of Princess
At the Duke's wedding Sarah met for the second time the man who was
to be her husband, young Colonel John Churchill, then aged twenty-six.
All his life, although he declared that he would rather undertake the whole of
his campaigns again than intervene in his Duchess's quarrels, she remained to
him his dearest soul," and his truest happiness was with her. For then, he
declared, nothing can make me unhappy, for I have not the desire of being
richer, nor any further ambitions than that of ending my days quietly with you,
when the war shall happily be ended."
This love sustained her during her trials at Court and during the time when
King William and Queen Mary tried to get her dismissed from Princess Anne's
entourage. But Anne was then as loyal to Sarah as was Sarah to her. The
friendship continued until Anne became Queen.
Then, gradually, the break came. Perhaps the determined will that had
been so great'a standby when Anne was Princess became irksome. Sarah
would never allow the Queen to hesitate. Lord, Madam," she would say,
flouncing into the Presence, it must be so I" Sarah's poor relation, sly,
silent, creeping Abigail Hill (by now secretly married to Mr. Masham-the
Queen, unknown to Sarah, having attended the wedding), the woman who
BLENHEIM PALACE, THE SEAT OF THE MARLBOROUGH FAMILY
Engraving by Fourdrinicr after Maurer
owed her position at Court, whose family owed their livelihood, to Lady
Marlborough, was restful in comparison. She flattered, she did not contradict-
and she seized every opportunity to blacken her cousin and benefactress in
the Queen's eyes.
Soon Lady Marlborough noticed a difference in the Queen's behaviour,
but it was long before she could believe that the difference was to be lasting.
Her own straightforwardness and loyalty made it seem impossible to her. But
the change had come, and when at last the breach was open the Queen would
give her faithful servant and friend no explanation. You desired no answer,
and you shall have none," was her only reply to Sarah's question : a reply
repeated again and again in the dreadful interview that ended the friendship.
Nothing, excepting her agonised grief over the death of her sixteen-year-old son
and the later anguish when her husband died, can have caused the Duchess of
Marlborough so much pain. I have always thought," said she, "that the
greatest happiness was to love and value somebody extremely, that returned it,
and to see them often."
This was the belief of the simple, rather naive creature whose whole nature
was a network of contradictions : every act and trait being at variance with
every other act and trait. She had this tenderness, together with a violence
that caused her to hurl keys, gloves and other missiles at the heads of persons
who offended her. She was accused of meanness, but she gave away 3o,ooo
in her lifetime. Prithee don't talk to me about books," she would say,
" the only books I know are men and cards I But she reverenced Swift and,
in her old age, was the devoted friend of Pope, who would sigh, "Oh, what
a girl you are I "
When she was very old, long after everyone she loved had died, she still
retained her curiosity about life. Sometimes, at her evening parties, she would
cover her head with her handkerchief and pretend to be asleep. But the old
spirit was still there and would spring to the attack if she heard the name of
someone whom she distrusted: as when some guest mentioned the name of
Mr. Fox, of whom she disapproved because he exerted an influence over John
Spencer. "' Is that the Fox that stole my goose ? enquired the ancient voice
from under the handkerchief.
One by one the lights were put out in the house of the woman who had
played so great a part in the social history of her age. But still she remained.
She was eighty-four when the last light of all was extinguished and she was at
Oil painting attributed to Charles Jervas
ESTHER JOHNSON; 1681-1728
ESTHER JOHNSON, known to fame asthe "Stella" of Jonathan Swift's
Journal and Letters, was the child of the younger son of a good family
in Nottinghamshire and a lady who was the friend and companion of
Sir William Temple's sister, Lady Gifford-but many believe that Sir William
Temple himself was her lather. After her husband's death Mrs. Johnson and her
child went to live at Moor Park, and it was there that Stella first met Swift,
she being then eight years old and he thirty. He spent his spare time in teach-
ing her, and she responded with a devotion that lasted till the end of her life.
When, in 1700, Swift settled in the parsonage at Laracoor, in Ireland, he
persuaded Esther, then aged nineteen, to live in that small town with, as
companion, the good, fussy, kindly, unintelligent, talkative Rebecca Dingley.
Esther's life was one of utter absorption and of a silence like that of death.
She'lived for her love, and she died for it. She bore all slanders and all con-
jectures about that love during her lifetime, and she died without breaking
her silence. She, who must never be alone with the man to whom she devoted
her life, was obliged also to bear that the letters Snd'journals he addressed to
her were addressed, as well, to a third person, Rebecca Dingley.
What did she endure when, after the death of Esther Vanhomrigh (whom
Swift called Vanessa, and who came into his life when Stella was nearing
middle-age), Swift's letters to Vanessa were published ? We do not know,
although it is possible to guess. That noble silence remained ; her lips were
unstirred by the grief, the hatred she must have felt.
With all the softness of temper that became a lady," wrote the man
to whom she had devoted her life, she had the personal courage of a hero."
ELIZABETH LINLEY: MRS. RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN
ELIZABETH LINLEY, beautiful as a dark rose, with an innocent youth-
ful loveliness, was famous as a singer even when she was a child. The
daughter of Thomas Linley, of Bath, her early life might have been
lived in an opera by Mozart : the elopement of the two youthful lovers-
Elizabeth, aged eighteen, and the twenty-six-year-old Sheridan (that innocent
elopement was a flight from the pursuit of an elderly married rake, Captain
Matthews, and the chivalrous young lover was taking his love to a convent
in France)-the marriage, the two duels in which Sheridan fought the treacher-
ous and lying Matthews (Sheridan nearly met his death in the second)-the
reconciliation with the parents-Sheridan's struggle for recognition as a
How sad that the dust of the world should have drifted down upon this
youthful beauty, that Sheridan should have been unfaithful, and Elizabeth
estranged from him. Yet in those last days when she was dying, in the white
bow-windowed house overlooking the strawberry beds, her lover came back
to her with something of the old tenderness.
Mezzotint by Gainsborough Dupont after Thomas Gainsborough
SARAH SIDDONS: 1765-1831
HIS great artist, whose genius was creative in its fiery and constructive
essence, as well as interpretative, was asked by John Brown, thepainter,
if she thought a part should be acted above the truth of nature.
No, Sir," she replied, but undoubtedly up to nature in its highest colours."
Because," wrote her biographer, Mrs. Clement Parsons, Mrs. Siddons
was simple, she was able to give each of her impersonations an extraordinary
unity of design, and this we may take to be the root-quality of every new
triumph she made. The points of the character were subordinated to the whole,
and every action and gesture was related to one single mainspring of passion."
Her physical genius was such that she could appear a giantess; and a fellow
actor, Gage Bartley, described her entering a great archway which she really
seemed to fill." She had the walk which affects you like seeing a whole
procession," and Fanny Kemble said that, as Constance, she took the earth
not for a shelter, not for a grave, or for a resting-place, but for a throne."
When motionless she had sometimes the narrow grandeur of an Egyptian
statue, sometimes the sublimity of Michael Angelo's A'iglt, or his Dav
Her face was seldom tinged with any colour, even in the whirlwind of
passion," wrote John Wilson. That passion was such that she appeared like
some gigantic force of nature, tidal wave, whirlwind, pillar of flame. Her eyes
were extraordinary, and the power of her gaze," said Samuel Russell, made
the person on \hom it was levelled almost blink and drop their eyes. When
she was acting, her e\es could be seen to sparkle and glare at an incredible
distance Another spectator declared that he had never seen so mournful
a countenance, combined with so much beauty. Her voice, though grand, was
melancholy, her air, though superb, was melancholy, her very smile was
She was alien to comedy, and Colman said that as a comedian she was
a frisking Gog." But who," as another contemporary enquired, would
have wished to see Sir Isaac Newton auditing the accounts of the Mint or
a fandago danced by the Empress of Russia? "
Her private life had the same grand simplicity as her life as an artist.
She married, at eighteen, the only man she ever loved, and to whom she bore
The child of a strolling actor manager, Roger Kemble, she acted at an
early age, and her husband was a member of her father's company. At first
the courtship was not approved, and after Mr. Siddons had asked her to elope
with him-this she refused to do-he was dismissed from the company and she
went into the service of Lady Mary Greatheed; we do not know in what
capacity. She seems to have awed her mistress, to whom she read Milton.
She also "spouted in the servants' hall."
Oil painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence
After two years she left, and in 1773 married William Siddons, to whom
her father was now reconciled ; she with her husband joined her father's circuit.
Her genius did not gain its full triumph until 1784, when she appeared at
Drury Lane, although she had acted there with Garrick in 1776.
Her domestic life was calm until the dreadful tragedy which resulted from
the love of her daughters Sally and Maria for Thomas Lawrence. Her husband
had '" that coldness and reserve," as she told a friend at the time of the tragedy,
" that want of an agreeing mind (my misfortune, though not his fault), that has
always check'd my tongue and chilled my heart, in every occasion of importance,
thro' our lives." Yet when, in 1804, he drifted away to live at Bath because
his rheumatism necessitated it, she paid him lengthy visits, and mourned him
when he died. She was in private life as calm as on the stage she was all fire,
all whirlwind, or slow tidal wave.
~~ ~ ~
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT GODWIN
Oil painting by John Opie
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT: MRS. GODWIN 1759-1797
M ARY WOLLSTON EC RAFT had, as she claimed in A Vindication of
the Rights of Women, "no fear of the devil before mine eyes." A
woman of high ideals, this child of a wretched marriage, this ex-
governess who had seen the inadequacy of the education given to women, faced
the world and sometimes the devil, too. She battled to gain for women the
acknowledged right to wider opportunities, a freer and less hypocritical sex life,
a nobler education, fitting them to transcend petty occupations and aims,
and the right for those women who worked, to earn a decent living wage.
These claims were made at a time when women had sunk into the position of
a subject race, with different and lower aims than those of men; a race to the
members of which a decent wage, or an individual outlook or behaviour, was
In the age when A Vindication of the Rights of Women and the earlier
Thoughts on the Education of,Daughters appeared, looseness of morals was
tolerated, but not freedom in morality. The tawdry, gimcrack Lady Hamilton
was accepted: Mary Wollstonecraft was called "a philosophical sloven."
But it was an age, too, when the social philosophy of Rousseau and the
democratic example of America had awakened man's longing for liberty.
Women, wrote Mary Wollstonecraft, would no longer degrade their
characters with littleness, if they were led to respect themselves, if political
and moral subjects were opened to them; and I will venture to affirm that
this is the only way to make them properly attentive to their domestic duties."
To Mary Wolstonecraft, independence was the main source of happiness,
Every obligation we receive from our fellow-creatures is a new shackle, takes
from our native freedom, and debases the mind "; and this she claimed at
a time when independence was held to be unnatural to women. As for sexual
morality: For what purpose were the passions implanted ? That man by
struggling with them might attain a degree of knowledge denied to the brutes."
.4 Vindication of the Rights of Women' is a strange book, with its noble
reasoning that is in such contrast to its style and language. These latter bear
a strong resemblance to the style and language of Irene Iddesleigh. The life of
Mary Wollstonecraft was equally full of contradictions.
Her passions were strong and easily aroused ; and while she could not
bring to them the clear-sightedness which made her book remarkable, she did
bring to them the same bad, sloppy and uncontrolled style. In her pursuit of
the unwilling Fuseli, in her affair only a few months afterwards with Gilbert
Imlay (the father of her child Fanny), and in her subsequent pursuit of that
fugitive from her embraces, this woman of a truly noble soul and high courage
presented the appearance of a dowdy Dido waiting on the shore for an unwary
return. The pursuit and flight were, in all cases, of a terrific speed and
insistence, and even at this distance of time we feel almost smothered by
the resultant dust.
Yet the anguish of her betrayed love for Imlay, culminating in her terrible
attempted suicide, fills us with pity. (Actually, she tried to kill herself twice.)
She, who so loved truth in the abstract, could not bear that truth which meant
pain : the courage that was so great and high, failed and became lowered when
she knew that her theories had crumbled in her own life. She, who so loved life
that she had said, I cannot bear to think of being no more-of losing myself
-nay, it appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist," endured such
agony at the thought of Imlay's faithlessness that she tried to drown herself.
We can almost see her walking, as she did, in the cold rain for an hour in order
that her clothes would be so heavy with rain that she would sink more easily,
then throwing herself in the river, only to be dragged back to life again.
We are thankful that at last she found happiness with William Godwin,
author of The Rights of Alan-but only for a little while : a long happiness
was not for this fated creature. Mrs. Godwin died in giving birth to the child
who was afterwards to become the second wife of Shelley.
DOVE COTTAGE, GRASMERE
Water colour, c. 180o
DOROTHY WORDSWORTH: 1771-1855
HE whole life of this exquisite creature was so attuned to the beauties
and sorrows around her that she made," in the words of her friend
de Quincey, all that one could tell her reverberate to one's own
feelings by the manifest impression that it made on hers. The pulses of light
are not more quick or more inevitable in their flow and undulation than were
the answering and echoing movements of her sympathising attention."
She lives for us in those words, and in those written by another and more
deeply loved friend, Coleridge. She is a woman indeed In mind and heart ;
for the person is such, that if you expected to see a pretty woman, you would
think her rather ordinary; if you expected to see an ordinary person, you
would think her pretty . Her information various. Her eye watchful in
minutest observation of nature, and her taste a perfect electrometer. It bends,
protrudes, and draws in, at subtlest beauties, and most recordable faults."
She was a household goddess, and under her care and by the light of her
love the whole world seemed like home to the great man to whom she devoted
her life. She lived by the warmth of that fire which was, above all, lit for
William Wordsworth, but which warmed, too, Mary, William's wife,
Mary's sister, Sara Hutchinson, and William's and her friend, Coleridge.
She thought of herself but rarely, though there is an amusing childish
; ~f 'l:;iii ,,~i;e
touch of vanity in the letter, written in her sixteenth year, when she was living
with her grandfather and grandmother, who made her feel like a stranger."
. ."So you have got high-heeled shoes. I do not think of having them
yet awhile, I am so very little and wish to appear as girlish as possible."
(The letter was addressed to a friend of her own age.) I wear my hair about
my face frizzed at the bottom and turned at the ends. How have you yours ?
I have tied my black hat under the chin; as it looked shabby in the former
'Her one longing was to keep house for William, and in 1795 this was made
possible by a legacy to William of 9oo. This was but a small sum, but William
hoped to earn more by writing, and the brother and sister set up house
How happy and peaceful was that life, with the exception of the fleeting
sadness about Annette, William's first love, whom he had intended to marry
and who bore him a child, and the heavier, blacker cloud of their anxiety about
Coleridge, and their final break with him.
In 1794 Dorothy met Sara Hutchinson, then aged eighteen, whose sister
was to become William's wife, and their friendship began. In September, 1795,
Coleridge first came into their lives, though their intimate friendship did not
begin until 1797.
We see Dorothy and the peaceful life at Grasmere, to which they moved
in 1799, mirrored even more clearly in her Journal than in her friends' re-
collections of her. August 31, 8Ioo. At Ii o'clock Coleridge came, when
I was walking in the still clear moonshine in the garden. . William was gone
to bed. . We sate and chatted till half-past three, Wmn. in his dressing gown.
C. read us a part of Christabel. Talked much about the mountains."
But in 18oi the long sadness about Coleridge began. His married life
was wretched, and he loved Sara Hutchinson. His letters became increasingly
gloomy. Dorothy wrote in her Journal in December, We broke the seal of
C's letter and I had light enough to see that he was not ill. I put it in my
pocket, but at the top of White Moss I took it in my bosom, a safer place for it."
The sadness darkened, but it was not until the autumn of 1804 that grief
and illness drove Coleridge abroad. And when he returned an alien spirit
inhabited his body. They looked, already, at a stranger. Coleridge, although
they did not know this at the time, had already fallen hopelessly a prey to
opium and to brandy.
But at home, in Dove Cottage, the peace, excepting for the terrible financial
worries and the irritation and, in Dorothy's case, anger caused by the reviewers'
treatment of William's poems, remained unbroken. There were, too, new
inhabitants of that country paradise. In 18oi William married the woman
who was already Dorothy's sister in heart : Dorothy became her help, her
co-worker; nurse to her children.
She was, indeed, the friend and nurse of all around her. Coleridge came
to stay for many months, bringing with him that terrible secret that was soon
-- .^f --, ^ :*'.
B.) ourwLe of thf Ficwilltam Museun, Cambridge
LADY HESTER STANHOPE IN ORIENTAL DRESS
Pencil and water colour sketch by Sir David Wilkie, 1841
ELIZABETH FRY 1780-1845
Water colour by George Richmond
to be hidden from no one. Dorothy struggled with that illness, as she struggled
with poverty and other troubles; but the friendship ended after many
vicissitudes and the end was like a death. William, in his anxiety to shield
Coleridge, had warned a friend, with whom Coleridge was intending to make
a temporary home, about that grievous illness. What he said was repeated,
and it was the death-blow to Coleridge's trust and to his love for his friends.
Dorothy was heartbroken, but she supported William in this as she
supported him in everything from their childhood to those sad days when
the mind which had been so quick and so lovely failed, and she became like
"a very clever tyrannical spoilt child," though she still had intervals of
mildness," and was overcome by the old affections."
One of these intervals came when the brother to whom she made the world
a home, lay dying in April, 185o. Her love for him had brought her soul, for
a fading while, back to her body.
LADY HESTER STANHOPE IN HER SALOON AT DJOUN
Lithograph by Day and Haghe
From C. L. Meryon's .Mferoirr of the Lady Hester Stabhope, 1845
LADY HESTER STANHOPE: 1776-1839
HIS strange, fiery, impetuous, affectionate creature, who had something
of the nature of a meteor, something of the breed and swiftness of a
race-horse, seems unreal to us because of the unbelievable yet true
romance of her life.
The daughter of the Earl of Stanhope, the niece of Pitt, in whose house
she lived from 1803 until his death in 18o6, she glittered angrily for a while
in the society of London, then, having seen its true worth, left it for ever to
become Queen of the Desert.
She had been engaged to Sir John Moore, and after his death in battle,
in 1804, her grief was embittered by her feeling that injustice was done to his
memory. She retired to the Welsh mountains, then left England on February 1o,
18zo, taking with her a Doctor Meryon, her maid and a footman. She never
returned to England, but, after fantastic adventures, found a resting-place at
Djoun, on the top of Mount Lebanon.
On the way there she braved the plague, crossed the desert and faced
hostile tribes. Once, hearing that her presence was a danger to the tribe with
which she was travelling, she rode out alone into the desert to meet Bedouin
horsemen. As they galloped towards her, brandishing their spears, she waited
LADY HESTER STANHOPE'S RESIDENCE AT DJOUN, ON MOUNT LEBANON
Lithograph by Day and Haghe
From C. L. Meryon's \lemoirs of the Lady Heser Stanhope, 1845
till they were quite near, then, standing up in her stirrups, raised "theYashmak
that veiled the terrors of her countenance, waved her arms slowly and disdain-
fully, and cried Avaunt !' The horsemen recoiled from her glance, but no.t
in terror, the threatening yells changed to shouts of joy and admiration."
These men were, in fact, a friendly tribe testing her bravery.
But before this her progress had been that of a queen, and she had written
from Damascus that she was the oracle of the place, and the darling of all the
troops, who seem to think I am a deity because I can ride, and because I bear
arms; and the fanatics all bow before me because the Dervishes think me
a wonder and have given me a piece of Mahomet's tomb." On June the 3oth,
1813, she wrbte, I have been crowned Queen of the Desert, under the
triumphal arch at Palmyra. . If I please, I can now go to Mecca alone. I
have nothing to fear. I shall soon have as many names as Apollo. I am the
sun, the star, the pearl, the lion, the light of Heaven, and the Queen."
In her oriental dress she lived on Mount Lebanon, studying astrology
and the occult sciences and dreaming of the Messiah who, she believed, was
yet to be born.
I despised humanity when I was young," she told Lamartine
when he visited her; "I won't hear it spoken of now. All thdt men can do
for other men is fruitless; forms and methods are indifferent to me. God
and virtue are the foundation of all."
ELIZABETH FRY: 1780-1845
HIS noble life was divided between a great work for humanity and
a warm and human domesticity-for the latter did. not suffer because
of the former. Elizabeth Fry bore sixteen children, and those children
were cared for by a wise and loving mother.
The daughter of John Gurney, banker, of Norwich, she enjoyed, as a girl,
dancing and riding in a scarlet habit. She said, I own I do love grand
company "; but at the age of fifteen she visited the House of Correction for
Women in Norwich, and asked herself, If this is the world, where is God ?"
At eighteen she adopted the Quaker habit and devoted herself to teaching
poor children. In I8oo she married Joseph Fry, a banker, and moving to
London became a visitor at a school and workhouse in Islington. But her
true work began in 18r3, when she visited, for the first time, Newgate, in
company with Sir Fowell Buxton's sister. To this man-created hell, in which
God riust have appeared to the prisoners in the guise of a devil, this great soul
brought the comfort of her warm humanity. Of that hell it is not possible to
write in the small space at my command : I would only remind my readers
that twenty years after this time a destitute child of nine was condemned to
death for stealing four pennyworth of children's paints. Eventually, after
considerable delay, the sentence was commuted-to what ? Transportation to
Botany Bay, I presume. This fact alone may bring home to us the sights which
faced Elizabeth Fry every day.of her life. She was indomitable. In 1817 she
founded a school in the prison, under a governess selected from among the
prisoners. The state of the prisoners was brought before the House of Commons
by her brother-in-law, Sir Fowell Buxton, and Mrs. Fry gave evidence. She
formed a committee for the assistance of the prisoners, and soon visitors to
the prison saw no more an assemblage of abandoned and shameless creatures,
half naked and half drunk, rather demanding than requesting charity. The
prison no longer resounded with obscenity and imprecations and licentious
songs." This hell upon earth," wrote a visitor, exhibited the appearance of
an industrious manufactory, or well-regulated family."
The prisoners so loIed her that when they embarked for transportation
they went without mutiny, for love of her.
During all this time she had her share of sorrow: a child died: her
beloved home, owing to the failure of a business house with which her husband
was connected, had to be given up. But, said she, the Kingdom of God was
spreading and "its blessed and peaceful influence increasing?"
By now Mrs. Fry had succeeded in getting matrons installed in most of
the women's prisons (before, men had been in charge) ; she instituted com-
mittees throughout England and corresponded frequently with prison visitors
in Germany, France, Russia and Berlin. Such was her influence in Russia that
when, in 1827, the Czar visited the debtors' room of a prison and three old men
fell upon their knees asking for mercy, he said to them, Rise, all your debts
are paid," though these amounted to a large sum. In Copenhagen, Mrs. Fry
spoke personally to the King and Queen about slavery, the state of the prisons,
and the persecution of certain sects. In Holland she did likewise. Owing to
her intervention the chains were struck off the prisoners in Hanover, and she
was instrumental in stopping the persecution of Lutherans in Russia. So
deeply was she loved that her journeys resembled royal progresses, great
crowds assembling knd clamouring to touch her hand.
Nor were these works on behalf of the prisoners her only activities. She
spoke at meetings advocating the abolition of slavery; she founded a Home for
nurses who would attend the poor free of charge; she founded, too, the
National Guardian Institution for Servants, which enquired equally into the
characters of employers and employees, and which provided pensions and a
home for old age. Owing to her efforts a series of Libraries for Coastguard
Stations was inaugurated.
In 1842 her old friend the King of Prussia, then visiting England, lunched
with Mrs. Fry, and on the following day visited Newgate with her and her
brother Samuel. Mrs. Fry, we are told, prayed very touchingly, the King,
and the prisoners kneeling around her, all equally in tears."
Such was the life of this woman who said of prayer: It is always in my
heart. Even in sleep I think the heart is lifted up." And who, when she was
dying, whispered, Love, all love, my heart is filed with love to everyone."
JANE WELSH CARLYLE
Miniature on iory by Samuel Lau rence
JANE WELSH CARLYLE: 1801-1866
HE life of this charming, restless, selfish, obstinate creature, in whose
veins flowed the blood of John Knox and of "a gang of gypsies,"
the woman who wrote "I would rather remain in hell-the hell I make
for myself with my restless digging-than accept this drowsy placidity," may be
said to have been devoured by the circumstances in which she lived as much as
by the greater being to whom she was bound. But that life was not dedicated
nobly as were the lives of Esther Johnson and Dorothy Wordsworth; it was
eaten and absorbed against her will. She loved, but she wished to love in a way
that was more useful to her than to the object of that love.
There were, it is now supposed, tragic and deep-rooted reasons of a
physical nature underlying all her unhappiness. But her sufferings were due
in part also to the fact that the man whose innate love for her was so tender
and on such a great scale, kept that love within his soul, or recorded it by his
pen and but rarely expressed it in the small daily ways that would have meant
far more to her. Neither could understand the certain necessities of the other.
Jane could not understand that Carlyle must be alone during his working hours.
nor could she understand the need of the exhausted man for silence. Carlyle
could not understand Jane's vanity and her need for flattery. He could
understand, but often forgot, that natures are weak.
Jane Welsh, as a girl, was surrounded by admirers not only of her
undeniable beauty but of her supposed talents. Mrs. Carlyle would have been
a writer had it not been for Carlyle," exclaimed later admirers; but in reality
her gifts were those of a young woman of intelligence and of shrewdness, but
Pen and ink drawing by C. B. Birch
of no creative ability. Gay and charming, she had always-ruled her world.
Then she married a man in the light of whose genius her own small charming
gifts were of no more importance than the flame of a candle in daylight; a man,
too, whose selfishness was as great as it was unconscious,
Henceforth she had two tasks in life. The first, was thinking about herself
and this duty, self-imposed, was congenial to her though not to Carlyle.
The second was thinking about Carlyle, and this task, imposed by Carlyle,
seemed to her less agreeable. She could not believe that she was ever at fault.
And she could, and did, complain about Carlyle to her friends. Life at the
Craig (an early home) was undoubtedly bleak; a life of poverty and hard,
tiring domestic tasks, and of unceasing worry. Then the pair came to London
and the great man's fame blazed into increasing splendour. But life for Jane
was not really changed. Dogs barked, young persons played the piano and
murdered Carlyle's unborn work, Carlyle walked about the house with his
fingers in his ears. It was obvious that in order to protect him from the noise
his room must be changed. It was. And as soon as it was changed, fresh dogs
incompetent pianists and ceaseless whistles became clamorous. Jane was
blind and dizzy and sick from those headaches which had begun already to
undermine her health, but plasterers, whitewashers and bricklayers must be
interviewed, and must hammer. Carlyle walked in and out of his wife's room
grumbling, or was silent for hours. Carlyle had bilious attacks, crossing Jane's
headaches, and cutting them in two: Ah me he wrote in his diary, If
I were only a little healthier "
A friend urged Carlyle to bring his blooming Eve out of his blasted
Paradise." But in the blasted Paradise she remained and, in her shabby
clothes, watched the innocent Carlyle being pursued by fashionably dressed
great ladies. And above all these troubles loomed the influence of Lady
Harriet Baring (whose husband afterwards became Lord Ashburton)-the
woman of whom Carlyle wrote that she had the soul of a Captainness."
She had, and Mrs. Carlyle was to find the truth of the assertion. Lady
Harriet preferred the society of men," but she was kind to the great man's
shabby little wife. Certain and assured in position and in soul, she ignored
even the most open resentment.
Carlyle was in constant attendance upon her. She was consulted about,
and managed, everything. No attention must be paid, she decided, to Mrs.
Carlyle's headaches: but she must be forced to lead a healthier life.
In 1855 she died, to Carlyle's great sorrow. Her work," he wrote,
call it grand and noble endurance of want of work, is all done."
Mrs. Carlyle, who had never been called upon to show a grand endurance
of want of work, was unsympathetic. She had grown harder, and was, too,
backed up in her feeling of injury by the flatterers whom she had admitted, in
her loneliness, to intimacy ; and above all, by a hysterical young woman, Miss
Geraldine Jewsbury, with whom she had formed a disagreeable friendship.
In r863, following a terrible accident, the seriousness of which must be
kept from Carlyle lest it should worry him, Jane's ever-increasing illness became
a universal disease of the nerves, bringing, as her husband wrote, such a
deluge of unutterable, unavoidable pain as I had never seen .or dreamt of."
Narcotics had no effect. Yet she was able, from time to time, to go out. It
was on one of these rare excursions that the coachman, turning round for an
order, saw that Jane Carlyle had died : alone, as she had lived.
Weak little darling," wrote the heart-broken man who had loved her,
" thy sleep is now unbroken ... And nobody more in this world will wake
for my wakefulness."
And we remember that tragic letter written to her in 1858. My poor
little Jeanie, my poor ever-true life-partner. We have had a sore life-pilgrimage
together, much bad road . .little like what I could have wished for thee ...
oh, forgive me for what I have thoughtlessly done and omitted . far, far at
all times from the poor purpose of my mind."
... . ......
GRACE DARLING AND HER FATHER SAVING THE SHIPWRECKED CREW
SEPTEMBER 8TH. 1838
Water colour by William Bell Scott
Oil painting 'replica i by F. d'A. Durade, 1849
GRACE DARLING: 1815-1842
O N September the 7th, 1838, at the height of the Scottish season, the
Forfarshire, the greatest steamship known to the seas of North
Britain, in this year that saw the beginning of transit by steam, left
Hull for Dundee loaded with rich tourists returning from their holidays, and
merchants and their wives. She left Hull in good weather, but before next
morning was in the midst of the worst storm known on that coast for a
At four o'clock on the morning of the 8th, Grace, the twenty-two-year-old
daughter of William Darling, keeper of the Longstone Light on one of the wild
and savage Fare Islands off the coast of Northumberland, climbed the
lantern stair of the lighthouse after the night's watch.
Her father and grandfather had both been lighthouse keepers. Her mother
came of an ancient knightly family who had held great estates in the 14th
century, and a member of which had been Constable of Bamburgh in 1323.
All Grace's life had been spent among these savage surroundings. The only
flowers she knew were those grown on the sheltering ledge of a cliff, whose soil
was the droppings made by sea-birds. Such land," wrote her biographer,
Constance Smedley, as gave her footing amidst the waste of waves, partook of
the turbulent forces that for ever surged about it." For this was the land
that had been ravaged by Vikings, the savage country where early Christianity
had warred against the forces of black magic. In winter, when meat was
difficult to come by, teal, widgeon and wild duck replaced it : poultry could not
be kept because of the hurricane-like winds, so sea-birds' eggs were eaten and
the down from eider-ducks was collected for pillows, mattresses and covers.
As for their home (the rooms qf the lighthouse were circular), in one room
bunks were built in round the walls. In another room were two shelves of
stuffed sea-birds and Mrs. Darling's spinning wheel. And for occupation
there was sewing and knitting for Grace's parents and eight brothers and
sisters, and there were books; books of Divinity, Baxter, Hervey, and Milton's
Paradise Lost, with books of geography and travels, and many maps.
Now, looking out of her window, Grace saw an enormous black hulk on the
Harker's Rock. but owing to the Darkness," as her father wrote to Trinity
House, she could not observe any person on the wreck." Yet there might be
people clinging to that wreck, and it seemed to Grace the natural thing to
take the cobble and to row over those impossible seas to their aid. Her father
knew that it was absolutely hopeless to take the cobble out in that gale and
over those submerged shoals and sunken rocks. It took three men to row
that cobble in ordinary rough weather. Grace's brothers were on the mainland
and she, the only available help for her father, was a young girl of five feet two,
with small wrists. But Grace said if her father would not go she would go
alone. And they went,-Grace in her gown of green and white muslin, with
Detail from the water colour by Henry Perlee Parker, i838
a small cape ; her father in his seaman's clothes. How they reached the rock
will remain a mystery, but reach it they did, to be confronted with the desperate
and terrified survivors of that frightful wreck fighting for the boat and safety.
It had seemed impossible that the cobble should return, but it did return.
It had seemed beyond hope that any survivors from the actual wreck could
be rescued, but they were. Grace Darling and her father had fought their
battle against the sea and had won.
To the last day of her life Grace Darling could not see that she had done
anything extraordinary. She was the daughter and granddaughter of
lighthouse keepers. Her father had saved hundreds of lives before this wreck.
But she became the pride of the nation.
Many portraits were made of her; she was pestered to give locks of her
hair; eulogies and gifts were showered upon her. She was given a silver-gilt
watch, she was given a small annuity. But she had been promised a dress of real
silkandthis never reached her: and all her life she had longed for arealsilkdress.
The peace of those happy days in the Lighthouse was gone. She was only
twenty-seven when she died. The grateful nation said her death was due to
exposure during that terrible dawn. But her family knew different. Grace
was worn out ; the wild creature had been worried into her grave by starers.
HAWORTH CHURCH AND PARSONAGE! THE HOME OF THE BRONTES
Engraving from Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charhltt Bronse, 1857
EMILY BRONTE: 1818-1848
THE life of this woman of genius is like that of the wind and the rain,
knowing no incidents and but few landmarks. There was the Crow
Hill Flood, when she was six, which brought before her eyes the vision
of Judgment Day. Charlotte wrote of Anne that the pillar of a cloud glided
constantly before her eyes; she even waited at the foot of a secret Sinai,
listening in her heart to the voice of a trumpet sounding long and waxing
louder." But this was even more true of Emily. Then there was the night
when poor, wasted, disappointed Branwe!l, dying of consumption, set his bed
on fire and Emily extinguished it and quieted his fears.
These were incidents, but apart from these that wild life was lived in the
heart and the mind. The publication of Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
(a publication paid for out of their own pockets) and the infinitely more
important appearance of VWuthering Heights in 1847, these were the events of her
Comfortable people were disturbed by the taciturnity of this young nobody.
A Miss Bronte was here long ago," was the reply to enquiries about a
nineteen-year-old teacher who came to Law Hill, Southouram. An engineer
working in the district could only see that the three Miss Brontes were
distrait and distant, large of nose, small of figure, red of hair, prominent of
spectacles; showing great intellectual ability, but with eyes constantly cast
down, very silent, painfully retiring."
As for Emily's visit to Monsieur Heger's Pensionnat in Brussels, it cannot
be said that she was a social success. The girls giggled at her queer clothes.
Mrs. Jenkins, the chaplain's wife, stopped asking her to the house on Sundays,
the girl was so odd, so silent. The daughters of a Dr. Wheelwright would have
liked to go about with Charlotte, if only dull Emily could have been left behind.
She returned home, baked the bread, walked on the moors with her dog,
and in the evenings was enveloped in the dusty, voluminous conversation of
good old Mr. Bronti.
Then, soon after Branwell's death, the family knew that she, too, was
dying. They would have liked to come a little nearer at that hour, but did not
know how. They loved her, but nobody had ever understood her. How should
they ? She was not a creature of this warm human life, her home was not
built with hands.
ANN AND EMILY BRONTE
Detail from rhe oil painting by Patrick Branwcll Bronce, c. 1835
GEORGE ELIOT: MARY ANN EVANS 1819-1880
QUEER three-cornered girl, sallow and dark (to quote the mother's
description of this disconcerting offspring, Mary Ann Evans, when
aged thirteen, appeared so mature that she was mistaken for a
twenty-five-year-old acquaintance, and a fellow school girl said that it was-
impossible to imagine she could ever have been a baby.
A homeless creature, longing for spiritual contacts, her life and work
were woven on the same pattern: a certain heaviness and inelasticity together
with a true nobility of outlook. These were her main characteristics, with
that life-long search for something that would link together the wonderful
impressions of this mysterious life, and give her soul a sense of home in it."
She had moments of inconsistency. In youth she renounced the intention
of attending an Oratorio because she could not decide on the propriety or
lawfulness of such exhibitions of talent ; she could not believe that a
pleasure that involves the devotion of all the time and powers of an immortal
being to the acquirement of an expertness in so useless (at least in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred) an accomplishment, can be quite fine or elevating in
its tendency." Yet, two years after this pronouncement, she visited the
Birmingham Festival, where the audience was considerably disturbed by her loud
sobbing. The amusements and interests of her early years could not be described
as light, or wanting in seriousness. Her first friends were a Mr. Bray, a wealthy
manufacturer of ribbon, interested in phrenology, and the author of The
Education of the Feelings and The Philosophy of Necessity, and Mrs. Bray,
the author of a work on Kindness to Animals. This friendship resulted in
Miss Evans becoming highly-strung," and in her being beset by religious
doubts. In 1843, however, she attended a public ball for the first and last
time," accorBing to her biographer, Miss Haldane; who added : Perhaps
because partners were scarce and the results disappointing."
In 1851, after her father's death, her rather restricted social life broadened
with her departure from Coventry to London, where for some time she lived
in the boarding-house kept in the Strand by Chapman, the Editor of the
Westminster Review, and his wife. Mary Ann Evans helped Chapman in
certain literary matters and their friendship led to trouble with Mrs. Chapman,
but after a time this seems to have been smoothed over. It was at the
Chapman's house that she met Herbert Spencer, who was then thirty-one,
a year younger than Miss Evans.
It seems certain that at one time she fixed her affections upon Mr. Spencer,
but he, though he remained her devoted friend, was unable to summon up any
amorous feeling for her because las he was careful to explain in later life)
she was morbidly intellectual, a small brain in a state of intense activity.
And besides, her nose was too long." However, he confessed that he invariably
found himself by her side at parties, and he undoubtedly conducted her to
oratorios, conversaziones and other gaieties. Eventually this friendship led
to Miss Evans making the acquaintance of George Henry Lewes, the literary
editor of The Leader and the author of a Biographical History of Philosophy.
Lewes had been deserted, years before, by a faithless wife who had left him
with three children to look after, but divorce was, for some reason, impossible.
This plain little man, deeply pitted with smallpox, was to Mary Ann Evans
the dearest of all beings, and in 1854 she left England for Weimar with the
man whom she regarded as her husband to the day when death took him from
her. If there is one relation of my life," she wrote later in a letter to a
friend, "which has been properly serious it is my relation to Mr. Lewes."
His sons (the eldest was nearly eighteen), called her Mother." Let us all,"
she wrote to him, father and mother and sons, help one another with love."
And, indeed, their family life was one of constant devotion and a calm
Sand certain happiness. In the midst of this happiness Mary Ann Evans
found fame: she, whose first novel, published when she was nearly forty,
was praised by Dickens and Thackeray, could not believe in the splendour of
the new world opening before her. And how apt were, in most cases, the
criticisms aroused by her works! It is true that Adam Bede was forbidden
reading for young girls, but Scenes from Clerical Life called forth from Mrs.
Carlyle the remark that Mr. Eliot (whose identity was then unknown) must
be a man of middle age, with a wife from whom he has got these beautiful
feminine touches in the book-a good many children and a dog! Not a
clergyman, but brother or first cousin to a clergyman."
In later years the woman who, because of her irregular union, would
never invite another woman to her house unless that invitation were sought:
she who, when Lewes was commanded to the Court of Weimar, must be left
behind, was so regarded that she dined at Mr. (Lord) Goschens, with a
picked party, to meet the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany, Dean Stanley,
etc." Queen Victoria sent to make enquiries when she was ill. There were
parties in the large house near Godalming where the couple spent their declining
years, and although, as an eyewitness wrote, it was rather an ordeal for
most women to be called on to speak in a company so critical in nature, the
hostess saw them through with the kindest expression on her face."
In 1878, to her unspeakable grief, Lewes died. Eighteen months after-
wards the lonely woman married J. W. Cross, the devoted friend of herself
and of Lewes. She had at least this affection to lean upon ; but not for very
long, for on December the 22nd, 188o, she, too, died, and her loneliness without
the long and faithful love of her life was at an end.
I find it difficult to read her works at this time. But it must be said that
she covered homeliness, the common road, the working day, with a dusty gold.
And it is possible to love a woman who could write, after the French Revolution
of z848: I would consent to have a year clipt off my life for the sake of
witnessing such a scene as that of the men of the barricades bowing to the
image of Christ who first taught fraternity to men."
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE AT SCUTARI IN 1856
Engraving after the painting by Jerry Barrett
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: 1820-1910
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, daughter of a rich father, was born to a life
of unbraced comfort and uselessness. But she had the temper of fine
steel and a noble contempt for angels without hands." Throughout
her life she fought relentlessly against stupidity, smugness and self-righteous-
ness on behalf of the unfortunate, the poor, the forsaken.
Hers," wrote Sydney Godolphin Osborne, who visited her in the Crimea,
" was a post requiring the courage of a Cardigan, the tact and diplomacy of
a Palmerston, the endurance of a Howard, the cheerful philanthropy of a
Mrs. Fry. Miss Nightingale fills that post."
She had," he said, an utter disregard of contagion. I have known her
spend hours over men dying of cholera or fever."
This was the woman who, having trained as a nurse, three years previously,
against her family's wishes, set out for the Crimea in October, 1854, at the head
of thirty-eight members of her profession.
At Scutari she found a hospital whose conditions were more appalling than
those of the worst slums in Europe ; built above open sewers, whence the foul
air drifted into the wards, and with little or no bedding, surgical appliances,
medical necessities, or possibility for invalid cookery. The vermin," wrote
Miss Nightingale to Sydney Herbert (January 4, 1855), might, if they had but
Detail from the pencil drawing by Sir George Scharf, 1897
unity of purpose, carry off the four miles of beds on their backs, and march
with them into the War Office, Horse Guards, S.W." Cholera and other fevers
Florence Nightingale, on her feet for twenty hours out of the twenty-four,
left, as she and her nurses were left, without rations for ten days, and for the
resf of the time "without food, necessarily," could yet say, "In the midst of
this appalling Horror (we are steeped up to our necks in blood) there is good,
and I can only say, like St. Peter,' It is good for us to be here,' though I doubt
if St. Peter had been here he would have said so."
Hundreds of letters reached her from the mothers of the dying men she
succoured. In order that you may know him," wrote one mother, he is
a straight, nice, clean-looking, light-complexioned youth." Died in hospital,
in good frame of mind," was Florence Nightingale's docket for her reply.
Her task in the Crimea done, she returned quietly to England, avoiding
the crowds that would have welcomed her. In England other tasks awaited her.
She was instrumental in bringing about the reform of nursing in Workhouses;
this, with the East London Society for Providing Sick Nurses for the Poor, the
Government Department for Public Health, Civil and Military Hospitals for
India, are only a few of the reforms and institutions we owe to her. Indeed,
what does not the modern state of nursing owe to that fiery and great soul, so
controlled and heroic, to that cold and lucid, constructive will ?
Oil painting by G. F. Watts, 1864
of ct. rsy ty nrrror.ru r rrlun. ciq.
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI WITH HER MOTHER
Chalk draw ing by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1877
Her life was saddened by the death, in I86I, of her friend and co-worker,
Sydney Herbert. The work which was her glory and his pride continued.
Honoured and beloved, when she was a very old woman, losing her sight and
memory, the Order of Merit and the Freedom of the City of London were
bestowed upon her. Too kind," she murmured. Her 8oth birthday was
celebrated throughout the world by kings and nurses and those whom she
had benefited. When she died, at the age of ninety, the offer made of a burial
in the Abbey was refused. The heroine of the Scutari Hospital was buried
simply, as she had lived, borne to her grave by six soldiers of the Army she had
served so faithfully.
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI: 1830-1894
WHEN Christina Rossetti was three years old her father described her
in a letter as walking all alone in the garden, like a little butterfly
among the flowers."
This should have been the life of this exquisite poet, who was not born
to walk in the colder shade: the lovely dust on the wings of the butterfly was
the only dust she should have known.
Christina Rossetti's interest in the life of the church weighed too heavily
upon her poetry, which should have moved lightly and quickly always, a
creature of nature, not red in tooth and claw, but running sweetly across the
sunlight and summer shade like a bird. Poverty was too dull and dark a weight,
ill-health cast a winter shadow. Above all, the church numbed her spirit, for
she had saintly habits and a saintly outlook, but she had not the irradiation
and fire of the saints: her religion cast a cold clay upon her. Goblin Market,
perhaps the most perfect poem written by a woman in the English language,
this is the work of her nature,-not the slow, dim, clay-cold verses of her religious
life. At the Convent Threshold has passion of a sort, but it is a wry passion
The sweetness and charm which are the blood and sap of her poetry
flowed long before she had come to ripeness. In the verses written when she
was between fifteen and sixteen and printed by her grandfather, Polidari, at
his private press, there is the sweetness of
Roses, lilies, jessamine
And the ivy ran.between
Like a thought in happy hours."
And those hours were many, though poverty was always present. When her
father, a refugee from his native Italy, began to lose his eyesight and could no
longer continue his work at King's College, her mother went out to work.
Her elder sister Maria, aged seventeen, became a resident governess, but was
so unhappy separated from her family that she soon returned to them, and
gave daily lessons instead. Gabriel, studying painting, could earn no money.
But William, that saintly and sweet character whose whole life was given to
his family, to providing for their needs and bearing their worries-William,
who scarcely allowed himself the right to individual happiness-began, at the
age of fifteen, to shoulder his life's burden and entered the Inland Revenue
office as a clerk.
In youth, Christina had the calm and thoughtful beauty of a Lippo Lippi
Madonna. She often sat as model for her brother Gabriel, and she was also the
model for the figure of Christ in Holman Hunt's Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. But she was shy and diffident, and her silences seem to have
When she was sixteen Christina fell in love with a friend of her brother,
a young painter of inferior talent, James Collinson, the son of a bookseller at
Mansfield. But this rather unattractive young man soon became a Roman
Catholic, and Christina, to her grief, felt herself obliged to break off her
The peaceful family life must have been disturbed when, in 1849, Gabriel
fell violently in love with Elizabeth Siddal. This radiant but unhappy creature,
of an unearthly beauty, made no attempt to be on terms of friendship with
Gabriel's family. Christina was accused by Gabriel of not appreciating
Elizabeth, whose superior smile and pretentions as both poet and painter,
coupled by the fact that the pretentions were upheld by Gabriel's friends, must
have been trying to Christina. In addition, Elizabeth was now Gabriel's model
and he no longer needed Christina. The moment came when Gabriel asked
his friends not to invite Christina when he and Elizabeth were to be of the party.
Yet when Elizabeth took her tragic way out of life, and Gabriel's long
descent to the depths began, it was to Christina, as well as to his mother, that
Gabriel turned for comfort.
In 186o Christina met, for the first time, Charles Cayley whom she loved
to the end of her life, but whom she would not marry because Cayley's poverty
would have been an additional burden upon the already overladen William
(although that unselfish being was eager to shoulder it). There were, in
addition, religious reasons which made the marriage impossible. But this
gentle, sweet-natured, unsuccessful, shabby, vague creature lived in the heart
of Christina Rossetti long after that dreadful day in December, 1883, when
he was found dead from heart disease, in his rooms.
186o and 1862-these were, perhaps, the happiest years of Christina's life,
for in 1862 Goblin Market was published and, in spite of Ruskin's gloomy
prognostications, had a certain amount of success.
But her life was soon to be overcast. When she was about forty she was
attacked by Bright's Disease, which ruined her beauty as well as her health.
In 1874 William married Lucy, the daughter of Madox Brown, and although
Christina and her mother remained for a while in the family home, that
arrangement soon came to an end. Mrs. Williani Rossetti, who was an agnostic,
was irritated by Christina's church-going and religious conversations, she had
no patience with that great artist's nervousness-for was she not, too, an
artist ? Had she not studied painting, and written a Life of Mary Woll-
stonecraft ? Why must more allowances be made for Christina and her
crotchets than for her own ?
Old Mrs. Rossetti and Christina, to William's grief, removed to Torrington
Square, where they were joined by Mrs. Rossetti's sisters. Here they remained
until one by one the old ladies faded away. Maria had died long since, and
Gabriel. Only William and Christina were left-the great poet and the beloved
and faithful brother who had been the life-long staff on which she leant, and
who was to survive her.
w V W Y -
ELLEN TERRY: 1848-1928
HIS exquisite being, golden and warm, about whose art there was
nothing supernatural, declared: "If it is the mark of the artist to love
art before everything, to renounce everything for its sake, to think
all the sweet human things well lost if only he may attain something, do some
good, great art, then I was never an artist. I have beeh happiest in my work
when I was working for someone else."
What were the highlights of that life which was so radiant for all its
sorrows, its cares ? What were the secrets of that art which was a quintessence
of her powers of living ? It was as natural to her as the perfume is to a flower,
and yet was the result of thought as well as of instinct. For behind that beauti-
ful, slightly irregular face was an acute brain. She was a shrewd judge of
acting and of people.
What, then, were those highlights ? That evening when an eight-year-old
child, the daughter of parents who were both actors, played Mamillius in Charles
Kean's production of A Winter's Tale and was applauded by Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert: the day of her marriage to Mr. Watts, the great painter,
who told his sixteen-year-old bride not to cry because it would make her nose
red: the days that followed in Mr. Watts's beautiful house, where he was
visited by Swinburne, and by Tennyson (who was always kind to her), by
Gladstone and Disraeli,--and the beautiful ladies who ruled the household
and Mr. Watts told the child-wife she was not to talk : the day of sadness and
humiliation whenshe knew that, through no fault of hers, the marriage was ended.
These were her memories, with the sadness and joy of her life with Edward
William Godwin (the architect and initiator of an aesthetic movement in
theatrical designs), the life of cooking, washing the two children born to them,
to which she devoted herself and for which she cut herself off from her family
and the stage. Then came her return to the stage, driven by poverty, then the
bitter grief of her parting from Godwin. She married, twice in after years,
but those marriages could not mean the same to her as the dear companionship
for which she had renounced so much. They meant to her safety, a recon-
ciliation with her family, a home for her children.
When she was very old, and lived in her memories, was it of these years
and moments of the past that she thought, or of the time when, as Portia,
she swept London like a fire, and everybody, as she said, was in love with her ?
Did she think of her triumphs as leading lady to Irving, of her affection
for him (and her occasional irritation), of her friendship with Mr. Bernard Shaw,
the friendship of two people talking across a distance? Or was it of the hard
work that she thought, of the infinite study, with nothing left to chance?
For it was not only chance that gave her that flavour, that radiance, that
perfume-though she owed to her own nature her secret of swift and animal-like
movement, her stillness that was like that of a flowering bough, and her
honeyed sweetness. She was the child of instinct and of intellect.
From Tr.bizond to Trtpolie
She roll the Piaha~ flut
And tell them wh*t to tdxi-kof thir
-Antd what t+ ttihink or that
GERTRUDE BELL AT AN ORIENTAL PARTY
Caricaure by Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond
GERTRUDE BELL: 1868-1926
"f T was rather interesting," Miss Bell told her father, Sir Hugh Bell,
I after her attempt to climb the Finsteraarhorn in 190o, "to see the way
Sa mountain behaves in a snowstorm, and how avalanches are born, and
all the wonderful and terrible things that happen in high places."
That passage is the keynote of this extraordinary life of magnificent
adventure and achievement. She did indeed see the wonderful and terrible
things that happen in high places.
The granddaughter of Sir Isaac Lothian Bell, Bart., F.R.S., scientist,
colliery owner and ironmaster, she had the scientist's curiosity and the business
man's practicality. Scholar, historian, archaeologist, writer on art, mountaineer,
explorer, gardener, naturalist, and distinguished servant of state, that boundless
curiosity and strong commonsense were exerted in all these walks and flights
of life. She was, by reason of her faith, courage and integrity, the spiritual
sister of such men as Captain Oates and Colonel Lawrence.
The information amassed during her expedition to Hayil early in 1914
(this was but one of her numerous explorations) was of inestimable value to
Britain during the last war, when Hayil was on the enemy side. In November,
1915, she was called to Cairo at the urgent request of Dr. Hogarth, who was in
collaboration with Lawrence, because of her vast knowledge of the Northern
When," wrote Lady Bell in the epilogue to her edition of her step-
daughter's Letters, the crowning sequel came to those days of desert
adventure, when she saw her dream of the Arab resurgence turn to reality,
she was at the throbbing centre of the events which led to the chaotic leap
into history of the Kingdom of Iraq, with an Arab prince on the throne."
From Bagdad, in 1918, she had written to her father, I had a warm feeling
of being part of it all, and so I am, you know, just as much as I am part of
English surroundings. It is a curious sense to have two native lands, and
to be wound into this one as that by long links of association."
Charcoal drawing by Francis Dodd
VIRGINIA WOOLF: d. 1941
A SHORT while ago this exquisite being, with the sensibility of Dorothy
Wordsworth and the talent of Jane Austen, was still with us. She
was allied to many things in nature; she had the profundity of a
deep well of water. But when she was talking, and listening to the talk of
others, you felt she was like a happy child chasing butterflies over the fields
of an undying summer. Only there was no cruelty; she would catch the lovely
creatures for a moment, see the colours on their wings, and then set them free
again, their beauty undimmed.
There was no happiness that you could not imagine her sharing, nor could
you ever guess that there was a shadow in the world. Brave and shining,
darkness could have no part in her.
s~n~. '=1,Pr.l..~.f .lf~-I
~ t- : : I-:
After her tragic death a friend wrote of her that she had an unearthly.
beauty." I would have said an unworldly beauty," for part of her delight-
fulness lay in the fact that she enjoyed earthly things. Her beauty was great
and she had the kind of unconscious elegance of some tall thin bird, with its
long legs and delicate feet, and wondering turn of the head. With this she
had a charm which had occasionally an innocently mischievous character,
like that of a child.
In conversation with her, everything became exciting. She made thoughts
fly to and fro more quickly. She had a swift and flashing sympathy like that
which- Dorothy Wordsworth must have possessed, her luminous mind lightened
and heightened all subjects. Equally enchanting as talker and listener, she
encouraged the conversation of her friends, she teased them gently, clapping
her hands with pleasure and excitement when they scored some point. She
was never tired of questioning; but questions were never wearisome when she
asked them, for they led somewhere and often made the answerer see a new
Such was her personality : and her workand her character were indivisible.
Hers was a work more of radiance than of fire. It had no quality of danger
in it. The beings in her novels and in that enchanting work, The Common
Reader, are living creatures: we meet them as we meet our acquaintances,
they talk with us, laugh with us. I do not think that they tell us the secrets
of their hearts. But then, many charming beings are unravaged by passions,
undevastated by fires in the heart. They do not live dangerously, the great
adventures are not theirs. But the flying happiness of the hour, the light on
the wings of the bird, the dew on the morning world: these she seemed to hold
in her long and beautiful hands, and as she touched them for a moment they
became more real to us and it seemed that they must be unfading.
. . . . . .
orned Dad. Returned
...... .. ... ..
S. V4 la, Al
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