The Dining Club, 1890

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The husbands were left to fend for themselves for the evening. Some wandered off happily to college dinners, thinking about important matters to be discussed. Others were having solitary suppers in their studies, books piled up around them. Their wives had arranged the suppers, given instructions to cooks and servants, written letters and lists for the following day, and dressed for the evening.

Caroline Jebb glanced at her reflection and approved. Her black velvet dress set off her auburn hair and her creamy complexion seemed to glow. She could still pass for much younger than fifty, she thought. When she went to say goodbye to Richard in his study, he looked up from his papers and sighed.

‘Must you go?’

‘I must. You could still have dinner in college if you wanted to.’

‘Too much work to do here. Don’t be late, Carrisima.’

Outside, Melbourne waited by the carriage. He had squeezed into his navy blue coat and put on his top hat for the occasion. As he drove her to the Darwins’ house he told her some fascinating news about the cook’s marital problems until Maud climbed into the carriage, apologizing and explaining about children’s toothaches. Caroline shook her head impatiently.

‘Did you read the article I sent you, Maud? About this evening’s topic?’

‘Yes, well, most of it, you know. George had another bad head, so I had to sit with him, and he doesn’t like me to read. He says I rustle the pages too much.’

This was too vexing. If only Maud would follow her advice she would do quite well, Caroline thought. She was still a pretty girl, though since having children she had allowed her waist to thicken and it made her look positively matronly. She was wearing something in the new style from London, but Caroline suspected she had just come from the garden. Maud caught her look.

‘It’s real nice of Mrs Creighton to invite me, though of course, I should never have got a look-in if it hadn’t been for you, Aunt Cara.’

Caroline frowned.

‘Try not to say ‘real nice’ or ‘look-in’ when you meet Mrs Creighton, Maud, remember. That sort of language should stay in Philadelphia. Come to think of it, it might be best if you said as little as possible.’

The carriage swung into a wide driveway. The Creightons’ home was one of the newer Cambridge houses, rather square and featureless, but Louise had spent money on landscaping the garden, Caroline noted with approval. The maid showed them into a hall which had a new blue carpet on a freshly polished rosewood floor. As Louise came out to greet them, Caroline looked up to see a row of children in white nightgowns peering down at them, faces pressed against the banisters. One child said wonderingly,

‘Mama, mama! What are all these ladies doing here?’

Louise shooed them off to bed before ushering Caroline and Maud into the drawing room, explaining that she had asked the maid to prepare a fruit punch.

‘Mrs Lyttelton and I decided to have no champagne at our dinners, so that our minds are sharp for the discussion at hand,’ she explained, handing them each a glass.

The other women arrived in twos and threes, some walking, others by private carriage or rented hansom cab. A gong was sounded and they were shown into the dining room. Caroline surveyed the table. Dark-haired Ellen Darwin was whispering to her sister-in-law Ida. Louise had seated them together because Ida was good at putting Ellen at her ease. Fanny Prothero was sitting on the other side and saying little, as usual, but it was not Caroline’s job to draw anyone out this evening, thank goodness. Mary Marshall was on her left. Good, Mary always had something interesting to say. She was talking to Eleanor Sidgwick who looked flushed, her eyes shining. She loved these discussions and could not wait to address the group. Eliza von Hügel was looking gracious and spiritual, with her huge crucifix around her neck.

At the end of the table Kathleen Lyttelton shuffled a heap of papers in a business-like way. Dear me, Caroline thought, I hope she doesn’t speak for too long. Louise rang a small bell.

‘Welcome, ladies. May I introduce the topic for this evening? It is a subject which affects us all, and on which everyone here will have very different views. It is, of course, the marriage question.’

Ann Kennedy Smith

Coda: In August 1888 Mona Caird published an essay called ‘Marriage’ in the Westminster Review, stating that marriage as it existed in Victorian Britain was ‘a vexatious failure’. The Daily Telegraph took up the debate, asking its readers ‘Is Marriage A Failure?’. In the following two months over 27,000 readers replied, for and against. ‘The marriage question’, as it became known, continued to be debated in Britain throughout the 1890s. I think it is likely that Caroline Jebb and her friends would have discussed it.

Sources: Carolyn Christensen Nelson, A New Woman Reader: fiction, articles and drama of the 1890s (Letchworth: Turpin, 2001) pp.184-224.

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Marrying Maud

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Portrait of Maud by Cecilia Beaux, 1889. pastel on paper, 19×13.5in.

‘Maud is not a girl to surprise anyone into matrimony. I wonder why?’ wrote the American Caroline Jebb, 43, to her sister Ellen Dupuy in Philadelphia. Maud was Ellen’s sensible 22-year old daughter, tall with golden brown hair and dark blue eyes. She was visiting her Aunt Cara (as she called Caroline) in Cambridge in the summer of 1883. It was her first trip to England and she loved everything about the university town in May: the picnics and afternoon teas, the boat races and games of lawn tennis, trips to London for shopping, dinner parties and the cultivated conversations of the college fellows. Caroline was keen to give her niece a taste for culture, so gave her poetry books by Browning and Tennyson to read, took her to a Greek play and to see paintings at the Royal Academy. But most of all, she wanted Maud to marry well.

She had already tried and failed with Maud’s older sister Nellie, who had come to Cambridge the year before and refused a proposal of marriage from George Darwin, the second son of Charles Darwin and a professor of astronomy at Cambridge. Caroline and her husband Richard Claverhouse Jebb were close friends of his and she was very sorry to see him disappointed. ‘George Darwin is so kind and nice, so really generous in big things, so companionable and amusing’, she told Nellie, ‘that if only you had been five years older, I think you might have liked him.’ George Darwin was 38, tall but slight in stature, and years of poor health had left him prone to exhaustion after any sort of exercise. Bookish and serious-minded, he was ill at ease in most women’s company apart from Caroline’s.

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George Darwin, about 1880, unknown photographer.

Fond as she was of her dear George, Caroline had a very different sort of man in mind for Maud. She told her sister that Henry Martyn Taylor, a barrister, had much to offer, being ‘very manly, a good shot, Alpine climber, tennis player, has an income of, I fancy, about £2,000 a year… I fancy he could settle at least £10,000 on his wife to secure her future.’ Caroline wanted her American niece to be practical in her choice of husband. Despite their aristocratic-sounding name, the Philadelphia Dupuys were not well off, and Maud was only able to afford the trip to England with the help of her businessman brother, Herbert. She told him that she liked her Aunt Cara’s friend George. ‘I can see how nice he is as a brother and a friend…but somehow the romantic view of lover is left out of his disposition.’ Sensible as she was, Maud knew her own mind and wanted to marry for love. Caroline was no fortune-hunter either, for all her interest in finding her niece a good match. Years earlier she herself had turned down a proposal by Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railway magnate and richest man in America, and married Cambridge classical scholar instead.

When the wealthy, manly Henry proposed in September 1883, Maud politely refused and set off to spend the winter travelling around Europe with another aunt. By December they were in Rome, and Caroline was still hoping that her niece would reconsider Henry’s offer: ‘after six months of married life, Maud would be devoted to a man like Mr Taylor, and quite happy and settled in her life.’ Would she ever have a better offer? Caroline was not sure. In February Maud and her aunt left Rome and travelled to Castellamare, where they found a note waiting for them. It was from George Darwin, who happened to be passing through Italy, he said, on his way home from a trip to Tunisia. Might he call on them? It was all Caroline’s doing of course. Back in Cambridge she had come to realize that George liked her niece very much, but Maud did not see this kindly, reserved older man in a romantic light. So Caroline told him to go to Italy to find her.

Maud and George spent the next two weeks in each other’s company. Away from Cambridge he lost much of his English awkwardness and reserve. He spoke Italian fluently, was an energetic walker and enthusiastic about everything. ‘G.D. picked violets and crocuses for me, and we walked and walked and talked and talked’, Maud wrote to her sister, describing how, after one long walk, George hailed a passing donkey cart to give them a lift back to their hotel. ‘It was so funny!’, Maud told her sister, describing how he and the driver jumped out when they went up hills. ‘To think of a Professor in Cambridge running by the side of a donkey cart… And me in the cart too!’. In Florence George proposed and Maud accepted happily. Caroline was delighted to hear the news, with one reservation. ‘He must call me Cara, not Aunt’, she told her niece sternly. ‘I can’t stand that from a man so near my own age.’

A couple of weeks later another worry occurred to Caroline, and she wrote to George directly. The Darwin family ‘might think this was a match of my making’, she warned him, ‘And it wasn’t a bit, mind that! You were both a thousand miles away from any influence of mine and words can’t say how thankful I am. If there is a suspicion of my being a matchmaker, I utterly and entirely repudiate it…’

 Ann Kennedy Smith.

Please reference as follows: Ann Kennedy Smith, ‘Marrying Maud’ https://akennedysmith.wordpress.com/(Accessed: day/month/year)

Sources: Gwen Raverat’s account of her mother’s first visit to Cambridge in ‘Prelude’, the first chapter of Period Piece (Faber and Faber, 1952) is simply unsurpassable, as are her beautiful illustrations. Maud’s words are taken from Frances Spalding’s elegant biography Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family, and Affections (Harvill Press, 2001, pp. 38 and 40). All quotations from Caroline’s letters are taken from With Dearest Love to All: The Life and Letters of Lady Jebb by Mary Jane Bobbitt (Faber and Faber, 1960).

The other Mary Ward

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Newnham Hall students in 1878, Newnham College Archives PH/10/1 (Mary is fourth from left in back row, wearing a white shawl)

Mary Ward (née Martin) was born in Armagh, Northern Ireland on 6 June 1851, the third of a growing family of twelve children. Her father, a Congregationalist minister, found it hard to make ends meet, but Mary’s brothers were able to go to school thanks to scholarships for the sons of the clergy. This must have struck Mary as unjust, but she got a good education from her mother who taught her and her younger siblings and calmly ‘piloted the family ship’ (Lawson Dodd, 39) with a volume of Dante propped up against the mixing bowl and a baby on her lap.

The family moved to England, and when she was 15 Mary left home. She spent a year as a pupil-teacher in Hampstead, and from 16 worked full-time as a governess, teaching and supporting herself while her older brothers studied at Cambridge. But Henry and James did not forget their bright and hardworking sister. Lectures for women had begun at Cambridge, and her brother Henry Newell Martin, by then working as a biologist with Thomas Huxley, promised to support Mary’s studies there if she won the entrance scholarship. She did, and in 1876, ‘a delicately pretty woman of 25, but looking much younger’ (Lawson Dodd, 40), Mary became a student at Newnham Hall, later College.

Her fragile appearance belied her passionately political character. Her ‘quick Irish speech bubbled out when she was excited,’ her daughter observed years later. ‘Life was full of the urge of things to fight for’ (Lawson Dodd, 41). While a student at Newnham, Mary fought for women to have access to university education on equal terms to men, and to take Cambridge’s final examinations as a right, not a courtesy. She was the first woman to gain a first-class honours in moral sciences, albeit unofficially, as women would not be awarded Cambridge degrees for many years to come. But she and Newnham were able to celebrate when in 1881 the University Senate voted by 366 votes to 32 to open its examinations to women. Mary was appointed resident lecturer, and continued to teach and support women students at Newnham after she married and had children. She was a member of the Cambridge Ladies Dining Society 1890-1914.

(If her name sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because of her namesake, Mary Augusta Ward (née Arnold) who was born in Hobart, Tasmania, coincidentally also in June 1851. After moving to England she married an Oxford don and, as Mrs Humphry Ward, became England’s highest-earning novelist after her novel Robert Elsmere was published in 1888. She was also a social reformer who helped to organize the first women’s lectures at Oxford and later began the ‘play centres for children’ movement to enable working-class mothers to go out to work, a legacy that continues in the valuable work of the Mary Ward Centre in London today. But if the ‘Oxford’ Mary Ward, once so famous, is remembered at all today, it is less for her considerable achievements than as (whisper it) a traitor to her sex. In 1908 she became the leading spokesperson for the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League and ‘the person who impeded women getting the vote for seven long years’, as the critic John Sutherland wrote in his article about her, ‘The suffragettes’ unlikeliest enemy’.)

Coincidentally, it was around this time that the (considerably less famous) Cambridge Mary Ward took up arms on behalf of women’s suffrage. She became Honorary Secretary for the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association, galvanising the movement with lively meetings held at her house, and in 1908 (as Mrs James Ward) she published her play Man and Woman: The Question of the Day. It was very popular with suffrage societies for the next few years, with the main character, Helen, converting a female anti-suffragist to the cause by telling her ‘Women may let politics alone, politics don’t let them alone’. Although the Cambridge Mary Ward disagreed with the militant tactics of the suffragettes, in 1913 she resigned her membership of the Liberal Party in protest against the government’s treatment of suffragist prisoners.

Still frail in appearance, and beginning to fail in health, Mary never lost her urge to fight for women’s rights. In July 1913, at the age of 62, she was one of the leaders of the group who marched from Cambridge to London as part of the huge countrywide pilgrimage of pro-women’s suffrage supporters, including many men. She also never lost her Irish accent, her self-deprecating humour, and her interest in others: ‘”now tell me”, she would begin, with shining blue eyes; and then she would listen, appreciatively, relishing all the details, and recounting her own experiences with gusto, all the more gaily if they were disastrous’ (Lawson Dodd, 46).

Ann Kennedy Smith

Please reference as follows: Ann Kennedy Smith, ‘The other Mary Ward’ https://akennedysmith.wordpress.com/(Accessed: day/month/year)

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Mary Ward in Newnham College Roll Newsletter, January 1934, frontispiece

Sources: H.M. Lawson Dodd and others, ‘Mrs James Ward (Mary Jane Martin) Newnham Hall 1876-1879’ Newnham College Roll Newsletter, January 1934, pp. 38-47; ‘Ward, Mrs Mary (1851-1933) in E. Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (1999); ‘A Petticoat Pilgrimage’ Cambridge Daily News (21 July 1913); Cambridgeshire Archives CWSA Papers 1884 –1919. With thanks to Newnham College for permission to use the photographs of Mary Ward.

The Cambridge Psychics

In January 1882, 135 years ago, the idea began for the Society for Psychical Research. One of the founder members, Eleanor Sidgwick (née Balfour, see portrait below) was a member of the Ladies Dining Society (1890-1914). She and her husband Henry Sidgwick (see photograph below) contributed significantly to women’s education in Cambridge. This is a guest blog by the writer Jane Dismore

‘It was a dark and stormy night….’ This famous opening to a Victorian novel is today considered purple prose and often used humorously to start a spine-chilling story. Its author was the acclaimed and hugely popular novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873), a friend of Charles Dickens, and the book was Paul Clifford (1830). The novel was not in fact a chiller, although the author’s literary career would come to include science fiction and occult fiction, for Bulwer Lytton was a respected occultist. His interest began when he was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge (where he also won the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for English Verse), and he became known for his passion for predictions using a crystal ball, and for the casting of horoscopes. In 1854 Bulwer Lytton was visited by Eliphas Levi, a French occult author and magician, who considered him to be one of the principal exponents of occult studies in Britain. At around that time there began a huge increase in the practice of spiritualism and a resulting explosion of paranormal claims throughout the Western world and in all parts of society. Now mediums made their first appearance, claiming contact with the dead. At the same time science-based naturalistic explanations increasingly challenged the old religious world view. Lively debate raged, which pondered whether these alleged phenomena could be fully accounted for in naturalistic terms or whether they pointed to aspects of consciousness which were not yet known to science.

Bulwer Lytton did not live long enough to see where the debate led but he surely would have been gratified to see that it was taken seriously, and at his alma mater, too. Exactly 135 years ago, in January 1882, a conference was held in London to consider the viability of setting up an organisation to carry out formal scientific research into alleged paranormal phenomena. In February the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded, the first organisation to conduct scholarly research into human experiences that challenge contemporary scientific models. Its first President was Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), Professor of Moral Philosophy at Trinity College and a man of great standing in intellectual circles. His chief associates in the early stages were Frederic Myers, a classical scholar with wide-ranging interests, and Edmund Gurney, who would develop a pioneering interest in hypnotism and psychological automatisms.

Prominent early members of the SPR included the Balfour brothers: Arthur (Britain’s Prime Minister from 1902-1905), who had been Sidgwick’s pupil at Trinity; and Gerald, a Trinity Classics scholar and later MP and President of the Board of Trade. In 1884 their sister Eleanor, a mathematician, joined the SPR. With Arthur she had been a member of a group set up before the SPR to investigate spiritualism claims. Through the group she met Henry Sidgwick, whom she married in 1876; along with the paranormal, they shared a passion for women’s education. Henry had helped found Newnham College in 1871, of which Eleanor served as Vice Principal, then Principal, and between them they succeeded in enabling women to sit University examinations, although lost their fight to allow them to take degrees. All three Balfours served as President of the SPR: Arthur in 1893; Gerald 1906-1907; and Eleanor 1908-1909 and again later. Another sister, Evelyn, married the Nobel Prize winner (for physics), John William Strutt, Lord Rayleigh. He was another graduate of Trinity and became President of the SPR in 1919.

Shortly after its creation the SPR created a methodological and administrative framework, including a scholarly journal in which psychical research could be reported and debated worldwide, to which the Sidgwicks and the Balfours made significant contributions. In July 1882 another Balfour sibling, Francis, was killed while climbing Mont Blanc. He was 30 and regarded as a brilliant biologist, a successor to Darwin. Francis appears in psychical research literature as a communicator in an important case investigated by the SPR, ‘The Palm Sunday Case’, which focussed on Arthur Balfour and his dead lover.

Gerald Balfour’s wife, Elizabeth, was a granddaughter of Edward Bulwer Lytton. Evidence of Bulwer Lytton’s interest in the occult can be seen in the gothic and sometimes unsettling features of his home, Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, still occupied by his descendants. Eleanor Sidgwick’s active involvement in the SPR continued into the 1930s, long after Henry’s death in 1900. The SPR continues to be active today, promoting and supporting the main areas of psychical research.

© Jane Dismore, January 2017 (Please reference as follows: Jane Dismore ‘The Cambridge Psychics’ https://akennedysmith.wordpress.com/(Accessed: day/month/year)

The author is a freelance writer and biographer. Details of her work can be found at www.janedismore.com . She was briefly a member of the SPR while at Cambridge. More information on Eleanor Sidgwick can be found here.

The Gift

japanese-fan‘My Christmas is a bright one enough, and I have great hopes of a happy New Year.’

The letter Caroline Jebb wrote to her sister on 25 December 1874 was cheerful, but her first Christmas in Cambridge was a pretty miserable one. She missed her family back in west Philadelphia, and the happy chaos of exchanging gifts with her young nieces and nephews. When she sailed to England the previous summer to marry the Classics scholar Richard Jebb, it had seemed at first, she told her sister, ‘just like the novels we read of English life’. Now she was living far from her friends and family in a remote university town, sharing a cold house with a man who was either out at his lectures or in his study working so hard that she rarely saw him.

There were other problems with the marriage. In America, Caroline was used to being in charge of her own finances, living on her U.S. Civil War widow’s pension and a small inheritance, and budgeting carefully. When she moved to England to marry Richard, she was put under pressure by his family to hand over her money to him, in accordance with English law at the time. Richard told her that he was interested in her, not her money, but in any case Caroline was determined to hold on to her financial independence. At the beginning of December she even refused to ask her husband for a loan to buy the winter clothes she badly needed.

‘I never like to mix up my money and Dick’s in any way and I don’t like to borrow from him just now while his balance at the bank is so low. His fellowship comes in some time this month and then if all the bills are once paid I shall see my way clear.’

A week later Richard’s fellowship – the term’s payment for his university teaching – came in, but so did his bills, and Caroline was shocked to discover how much he owed. Richard loved clothes and took pride in his appearance, but paid little attention to how much he could afford. ‘Fancy fourteen pounds for your hair-dresser, twenty to your boot-maker, twenty-seven to your flower-merchant, as many more to your hat-man, &c, just for your little bills,’ she wrote to her sister. Richard loved clothes and fashion, and did not mind borrowing beyond his means. Caroline did, very much.  ‘Think of fifty pounds for piano hire, and the same for cigars, and double that for books!’ In total, the bills came to £500, five times as much as Richard had estimated in their marriage settlement the previous August, and much more than he earned for his lectures.

Caroline’s way of punishing him was to refuse to allow him to spend money on her. On Christmas Day they exchanged politely restrained gifts: she presented him with a gold pencil for his waistcoat pocket, and he gave her a butter dish. She would not permit anything more. But on Boxing Day, Caroline’s birthday, Richard managed to find a way around the financial embargo and presented her with an enormous Japanese black satin fan. Caroline could not resist. ‘These fans are all the fashion in London, nobody carries anything else,’ she told her sister. The craze for all things Japanese, known as japonisme, had spread from Paris to England. A few months later, in May 1875, Arthur Liberty would open his department store on Regent Street selling ornaments, fabric and rare objects from Japan and the East. Richard’s gift of a Japanese fan shows how far he was ahead of mainstream fashion, and how even though they were both ‘as poor as church mice’ that Christmas, he knew that she would love it. More importantly, he promised to hand over control of all money matters to her, which for Caroline was the best gift she could have wished for.

Ann Kennedy Smith

Please reference as follows: Ann Kennedy Smith, ‘The Gift’ https://akennedysmith.wordpress.com/(Accessed: day/month/year)

Sources: Lady Caroline Lane Reynolds Slemmer Jebb Papers at the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; Mary Reed Bobbitt With Dearest Love to All: The Life and Letters of Lady Jebb (Faber & Faber, 1960); ‘The Victorian vision of China and Japan’ at the Victorian & Albert Museum here. Mimi Matthews has written blogs on  Victorian gifts here and Japanese fashion here. Lesley Downer’s novel The Shogun’s Queen examines the darker aspects of the 19th century’s ‘opening of Japan’ here.

Kathleen and Virginia

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‘I don’t in the least want Mrs L.’s candid criticism; I want her cheque!’

So wrote the 22-year old Virginia Stephen in November 1904 about an essay she had just sent to the Guardian, a weekly clerical journal for governesses, maiden ladies and high-church parsons. It was not the ideal vehicle for Virginia’s strong views, but she badly wanted to be published and to be paid for her writing. ‘Mrs L.’ was Kathleen Lyttelton, pictured left, the 47-year old editor of the Guardian‘s women’s pages. Although her name is little known today, we should pay tribute to her as the woman who set Virginia Woolf on her published writing career.

Kathleen, formally known as Mrs Arthur Lyttelton, was a social reformer, writer, suffrage campaigner and one of the founder members of the Cambridge Ladies Dining Society. She was a practical person with a mission to help the female sex. In 1884 she co-founded the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association (C.W.S.A.) and served on its executive from 1885–1890. In 1888, encouraged by her friend Millicent Fawcett, she joined the executive committee of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage to work for suffrage at a national level.  A committed Anglican with high ideals, she felt compelled to engage in the struggle for women’s franchise and to help the poor, women in trouble and women workers, and to use her writing as a means of educating them. In 1901 she published her views in her book Women and their Work, intended as a manual for women at a time when society was changing. In February 1903, her husband Arthur, then Bishop of Southampton, died prematurely, and Kathleen was forced to move, but she was determined to continue with her writing career. She joined The Guardian as editor in June 1904 after the paper amalgamated with The Churchwoman, a journal she is likely to have written for beforehand.

1904 had been a traumatic year for Virginia. Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, died from cancer in February, and she had her second serious nervous breakdown followed by a slow and painful recovery between April and October. In the autumn she and her siblings, Vanessa, Thoby, and Adrian moved to 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury. Bills needed to be paid, and Virginia’s close older friend and mentor Violet Dickinson encouraged her to try to publish her work as a way of making money and, more importantly, establishing herself as a writer.

It was Violet who suggested that Virginia send an essay to Kathleen Lyttelton. Violet knew the Lyttelton family well through her clerical connections, and had already introduced Virginia to Margaret, Kathleen’s daughter. Virginia had not warmed to Margaret, and was doubtful that her mother would like her writing. ‘I dont in the least expect Mrs Lyttelton to take that article’, she told Violet on 11 November 1904. She was right in one sense. Her essay on Manorbier was never published and has since been lost, but Kathleen offered something better: she invited  Virginia to contribute 1,500 words on any subject she liked, a remarkably generous offer to such a young and unknown writer. ‘Mrs Lyttelton must be a very sensible woman’ Virginia wrote gratefully to Violet on 14 November, ‘she is very generous to allow me any subject… D’you think Mrs Lyttelton will let me write fairly often?’ She did. In December 1904 The Guardian published Virginia’s review of W.D. Howell’s novel The Son of Royal Langbrith, and an essay ‘Haworth, November 1904’, written after her visit to the Brontë parsonage in November that year, in which she wrote: ‘Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth…They fit like a snail to its shell.’

In January 1905 Virginia told Violet how well she was getting on with ‘My Editress’. ‘Mrs Lyttelton has just been – she is a delightful big sensible woman. I wish she would pet me! I think she has possibilities that way!’ Her friendship with Kathleen’s daughter Margaret, even though they were the same age, was much less cordial, as Virginia wrote a month later: ‘We had Margaret L. yesterday, who did her best to talk, but she is a rather stiff and starched young woman.’ (Curiously, the editors of Virginia Woolf’s Letters and Essays, along with subsequent Woolf biographers, have merged the Lyttelton mother and daughter’s identities, wrongly referring to Margaret as the editor of the Guardian‘s women’s supplement.)

Although Virginia liked and respected Kathleen, she was understandably frustrated when she wielded her editor’s red pen too heavily. ‘I could wish that she had a finer literary taste sometimes’ Virginia complained to Violet in December 1905, ‘she sticks her broad thumb into the middle of my sentences and improves the moral tone. If I could get enough work elsewhere I dont think I should bother about the Guardian.’ There was worse to come. Kathleen insisted on reducing the word count of her review of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl so much that she made it ‘worthless’ in Virginia’s eyes.

Unlike the Brontës and Haworth, Virginia and the Guardian never did fit like a snail to its shell, and she would find a more natural home for her essays at the Times Literary Supplement. But she continued to write regularly for the Guardian for two years, earning an estimated £17, 10 s.0d, a respectable sum. Whatever might be said about her over-zealous editorial cuts, Mrs L.’s cheque – and her acceptance of the young Virginia Woolf as a writer – reveals Kathleen Lyttelton to have been an editor of some distinction.

Carolyn Ferguson and Ann Kennedy Smith (Please reference as follows: Carolyn Ferguson and Ann Kennedy Smith, ‘Kathleen and Virginia’ (November 25, 2016) https://akennedysmith.wordpress.com/(Accessed: day/month/year)

Sources: All quotations from letters are from The Letters of Virginia Woolf eds. Nigel Nicolson & Joanne Trautmann, Volume 1 (The Hogarth Press, London, 1975). The essay ‘Haworth, November 1904’ is included in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, ed. Andrew Mc Neillie Volume 1, 1904-1912 (The Hogarth Press, London), and his estimate of her earnings is on p. xviii. See also James King, Virginia Woolf (Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1994); Hermione Lee Virginia Woolf (Vintage, 1997); Frances Spalding Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision (National Portrait Gallery, 2014). With thanks to Andrew Wallis for his generous assistance, and his permission to reproduce the photograph of Kathleen Lyttelton.

 

Caroline’s War (Part 2)

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.00360

From January until April 1861 Lieutenant Adam Slemmer and his garrison defended Fort Pickens in Florida against repeated attempts by the Southern militia to seize it. They had a pretty miserable time of it. The dilapidated old fort, on tiny Santa Rosa Island in the Gulf of Mexico, was infested with rattlesnakes and vipers and food supplies were limited. When the long awaited federal reinforcements arrived, many of the men were suffering from scurvy.

The first shots of the American Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour 600 miles away, which was seized by Confederate forces after a fierce battle in April 1861. Thanks to Adam and his men, Fort Pickens was one of the few Southern forts retained by the North throughout the Civil War, and was an important naval base during the blockade of the Southern states.

Back in Washington, Caroline Slemmer was disappointed to discover after the siege that her husband had not been promoted, especially since less experienced men were being given commissions in the hastily formed new military regiments. On 10 May 1861 she wrote to President Abraham Lincoln directly about it, and was given an appointment to see him.

Accompanied by her two brothers-in-law, Caroline went along to the arranged interview. The president was busy working at his writing table, and they found it difficult to get his attention. So she did something very simple and very effective. She moved closer, put her hand lightly on his shoulder, and gently spoke to him about her husband’s bravery at Fort Pickens. Lincoln looked up, placed his hand on hers for a moment, and listened.

Adam Slemmer was made a Major soon afterwards. In the Abraham Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress there is a list in Lincoln’s handwriting of the names of the officers he wished to promote in July 1861. After the name Lieutenant Slemmer, Lincoln has scribbled a note: ‘his pretty wife says a Major or First Captain.’ Caroline had managed to charm the most important man in the land.

Sources: Lady Caroline Lane Slemmer Reynolds Jebb Papers at the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton MA; Mary Reed Bobbitt With Dearest Love to All: The Life and Letters of Lady Jebb (London: Faber, 1960); Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece: The Cambridge Childhood of Darwin’s Granddaughter (London: Faber 1960). The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress for July 1861 can be found here.

Please reference as follows: Ann Kennedy Smith, ‘Caroline’s War (Part 2)’ https://akennedysmith.wordpress.com/(Accessed: day/month/year)