Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — (Julia) Augusta Webster [née Davies], [pseud. Cecil Home] (1837–1894)

We ought to make out what we mean, and to teach definitely one system or the other; goodness for its own sake, or goodness for its extraneous rewards.

 Augusta Webster, “Virtue is its own Reward,”
The Examiner, 23 Feb 1878, p. 238.

Webster’s series of essays first appeared in the Examiner and were later published as a book,  A Housewife’s Opinions (1879). Dr. Patricia Rigg, author of Julia Augusta Webster: Victorian Aestheticism and the Woman Writer, and Professor, Department of English and Theatre, Acadia University, Canada, suggested the above quotation. In the essay, Webster takes a very practical approach to morality. She discusses the phrase “virtue is its own reward,” arguing that virtue, in fact, generally causes loss to the practitioner. She warns that systems of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are mutually exclusive and that choosing one course or the other is a better plan for educating our children. A similar concern was more recently expressed by Alfie Kohn, the author of Punished by Rewards (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993 / 1999).

Augusta Webster was an accomplished scholar, learning Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, and Latin. She pursued her passion for painting but was expelled from the South Kensington Art School in London for whistling. She published translations of Aeschylus and Euripides. Her first book of poetry, Blanche Lisle: and other poems (1860), was published under a pseudonym, Cecil Home, but later publications were done under her own name. She gained her greatest popularity with her dramatic monologues, in part inspired by Robert Browning. These monologues gave a voice to women and reflected her feminist interests.

There has been a renewal of interest in Webster in the last few years focusing on her roles as writer, professional critic, activist, and political figure. Her sonnet sequence, Mothers and Daughter (London: Macmillan and Co., 1895), published posthumously, has also gained attention recently among scholars. In the sonnets, Webster presents an unreserved tribute to motherhood, rescuing the experience of birth and motherhood from their typical use in the nineteenth century as metaphors for male creativity. William Michael Rossetti, English writer and critic, wrote the introduction, in which he comments:

Nothing certainly could be more genuine than these Sonnets. A Mother is expressing her love for a Daughter – her reminiscences, anxieties, and hopeful anticipations. The theme is as beautiful and natural one as any poetess could select…. It seems a little surprising that Mrs. Webster had not been forestalled – and to the best of my knowledge she never was forestalled – in such a treatment. But some of the poetesses have not been Mothers.

London: Macmillan And Co. and New York, 1895.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns two volumes of Webster’s poetry, A Woman Sold and Other Poems (London: Macmillan and Co., 1867) and A Book of Rhyme (London : Macmillan, 1881).

An advertisement in the back of A Woman Sold and Other Poems for Dramatic Studies, another volume of poetry by Webster, includes this quote from Contemporary Review: “Mrs. Webster’s dramatic and poetic poems are of no common order. Her special line is the subjective analysis of thought and feeling.” Another note of interest is that the Hathi Trust online edition of the book was a “Gift of Prof. J. R. Lowell of Cambridge,” to Harvard  University.

At least one volume of Augusta Webster’s work was owned by Robert Browning. A Book of Rhyme (1881), in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand bears the following inscription: “To Robert Browning from the Author A.W. July 1881.” The ABL owns a copy of the same edition that Robert Browning owned.

Melinda Creech

Notes and Queries: Does anyone know where to find the photograph alluded to on the engraving of Augusta Webster: “Photographed by Ferrando, Roma”?

I have not found a copy of the original photo, however, I have found a variant image of her — also credited to Ferrando.
It is in the article: “Le odierne poetesse inglesi.” That is, “Today’s English poets.” Pages 104-113.
The Webster image is on page 108.


Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Frances Ridley Havergal [pseuds. Sabrina, Zoide] (1836–1879)

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing,
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Frances Ridley Havergal, “Consecration Hymn,”
Loyal Responses; or, Daily Melodies for the King’s Minstrels,
London: James Nisbet & Co., 1878.

Dr. Krista Lysack, Assistant Professor of English, King’s University College at Western University, suggested this hymn as one of the most representative of Frances Ridley Havergal. In her article in Victorian Review, Volume 37, pp. 17-22, Lysack notes what a prolific writer Havergal was, composing over 850 pages of verse and over 75 hymns.

Frances Ridley Havergal began to write verse at the age of seven and committed her life to religious and philanthropic work. Her most widely known hymn is “Take My Life and Let It Be,” quoted above. She also wrote the words for “Like A River Glorious,” “I Gave My Life for Thee,” “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?,” many short devotional tracts, prose narratives designed for children, and a popular autobiography. The Armstrong Browning Library owns one of her books, The Ministry of Song (1880).

  Frances Ridley Havergal. The Ministry of Song.
London: James Nisbet & Co., 1880.

The harp was Frances Havergal’s personal emblem and was published on the cover of her first book, The Ministry of Song, in 1869. The edition featured above was published in 1880 and bears the inscription “FORTY-EIGHT THOUSAND” on the title page, indicating how many books had been published.

Frances Ridley Havergal died of peritonitis at the age of 42.

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Christina Rossetti. “The World” from The Goblin Market and Other Poems. Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862.

Dr. Antony H. Harrison, Distinguished Professor and Head, Department of English, North Carolina State University, and author of several books on Christina Rossetti, recommends this sonnet as one of his favorite. Rossetti uses the Petrachan sonnet, usually a device for expressing erotic love and seduction, to express the temptation of erotic sin in the world. She rejects the traditional role of the Petrachan sonnet along with the traditional role of erotic love.

Christina Georgina Rossetti was one of four children born to Italian parents who were exiled from Italy. Rossetti was educated at home by her mother and began composing before she could write. By the age of twelve, Rossetti had written and dated poetry in her notebooks, which was privately published by her grandfather. Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, and Christina sat for several of his paintings. Christina primarily wrote poetry and is best known for her symbolic religious works. Two of her poems, “Love Came Down at Christmas” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” were set to music and even today are popular Christmas carols.

The ABL has ten volumes written by Christina Rossetti and published during her lifetime. One of the books, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was part of Robert Browning’s library.The frontispiece and vignette title page were illustrated by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The ABL’s advance copy of this work was sent to Robert Browning by the Rossetti family and remained in his library until his death.

Christina Rossetti. Goblin Market and Other Poems.  Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862.

 The ABL also owns one letter from Christina Rossetti to Robert Browning. In this letter Christina asks Browning to dinner and sends her Mother’s compliments:  “May we hope that you will again help us to as pleasant an evening as we have not forgotten?”

Letter from Christina Rossetti to Robert Browning.
[21 December 1868].

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Lucy Larcom (1824–1893)

Home-life, when one always stays at home, is necessarily narrowing. That is one reason why so many women are petty and unthoughtful of any except their own family’s interests. We have hardly begun to live until we can take in the idea of the whole human family as the one to which we truly belong.

Lucy Larcom, A New England Girlhood (1846)

Lucy Larcom, a well-published poet in her lifetime, is best known today for her autobiography, A New England Girlhood. She was an advocate for women’s rights to economic independence, child labor laws, and abolition. The Armstrong Browning Library owns three of her books. An Idyl of Work (1875) contains her inscription to a highly regarded Quaker poet: “John G. Whittier from his friend Lucy Larcom, June 1895.” Landscape in American Poetry (c.1879) contains illustrations on wood from drawings by J. Appleton Brown (1844–1902), an American painter nicknamed “Apple Blossom Brown” because of his penchant for poetic and light-filled compositions with apple blossoms as the subject. Poems (1869) includes a portrait of the author from a magazine clipping. The Laurel Song Book: For Advanced Classes in Schools, Academies, Choral Societies, Etc. (1927) contain not only Lucy Larcom’s hymn, “Draw Thou, My Soul,” but also an excerpt from Robert Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” the first song in the book.

Larcom also anonymously edited three volumes of John Greenleaf Whittier’s work. The ABL owns editions of these three books: Child-Life: A Collection of Poems (1871), which contains poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, Child Life in Prose (1874), and Songs of Three Centuries (1876).

The ABL also owns a nineteenth-century autograph album and scrapbook, which was once the property of Elizabeth Whittier Pickard, niece of John Greenleaf Whittier.  It contains a letter, dated 20 October 1856, from Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning to J.G. Whittier, thanking him for his “book of manly and beautiful verse” (The Panorama and Other Poems (1856)). In addition the album also contains letters by Julia Ward Howe, J.T. Fields, Edward Everett, and an undated note by Whittier to his nephew, Greenleaf. Notes and autograph signatures by Phoebe Cary, U.S. Grant, Alice Cary, Emily Faithfull, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bayard Taylor, A. Bronson Alcott, Henry W. Longfellow, Daniel Webster, Celia Thaxter, William Cullen Bryant, Edward Everett, William Lloyd Garrison, Joaquin Miller, P.T. Barnum, Edward E. Hale, Oliver Wendell Holmes, George and Louis MacDonald, and many others are scattered throughout. The album also contains an autograph poem by Lucy Larcom, encouraging the owner of the album to hold her own name, Elizabeth, sacred.

Melinda Creech

Notes and Queries: In addition to the autograph album, The Armstrong Browning Library has four other letters by John Greenleaf Whittier and seventy-three books, many with interesting inscriptions.

Lucy Larcom’s poem to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard reads:

For the name thou bearest—
Tender love thou sharest.
Hold it sacred unto death
The dear name – Elizabeth.

Does the “tender love” and “dear name,” indicated by Lucy Larcom, that Pickard shared refer to Elizabeth Hussey Whittier, John Greenleaf Whittier’s sister?

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Jean Ingelow [pseud. Orris] (1820–1897)

Jean Ingelow
Lyrical and Other Poems
Selected From the Writings of Jean Ingelow (1886)
Courtesy of  the Armstrong Browning Library

Jean Ingelow published poetry, a novel which explored the relationship between evangelicals and the traditional Anglicans in the Church of England, and a series of fanciful, didactic stories for children. She is most remembered for her poetry, which is reminiscent of Wordsworth. Dr. Maura Ives, Associate Professor at Texas A & M University and Associate Director of The Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture, suggests that “Divided” is one of Ingelow’s most famous poems. The poem is a fascinating description of two lovers walking along hand in hand on opposite sides of a rivulet. They are separated as the rivulet increases to a stream, a river, and an estuary. The lovers call to each other to cross over, but neither does, and they remain divided.

Dr. Ives also reports that her personal favorite is a children’s story “Nineteen Hundred and Seventy Two” in Stories Told to a Child (1872).  She discusses the story in “Jean Ingelow in the Youth’s Magazine” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 102.2 (2008): 197-220. Dr. Ives’ research suggests that the story was first printed as “Nineteen Hundred and Fifty-Two” (February 1852) in Youth’s Magazine and signed “E. D.” It was reprinted as “Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Two” in The Little Wonder Horn (1872),  in Stories Told to a Child (1872), The Little Wonder Box (1887), and in Good Words for the Young (February 1872).

Ingelow became a bit of a maverick in writing this fantasy story for children. Most of the fantasy literature in the nineteenth century was written by men; women wrote realistic stories of home life and school days. The story, written in 1872, predicts what the world would look like in 1972. She uncannily gives a surprisingly accurate description of the “acoustigraph” twenty-five years before Edison’s invention in 1877.

“…he began to describe what was evidently some great invention in acoustics, which, he said (confusing his century with mine), ‘…you are going to find out very shortly…you know something of the beginnings of photography?’

“I replied that I did.

“‘Photography’ he remarked, ‘presents a visible image; cannot you imagine something analogous to it which might present an audible image? The difference is really that the whole of a photograph is always present to the eye, but the acoustigraph only in successive portions. The song was sung and the symphony played at first and it recorded them, and gave them out in one simultaneous, horrible crash; then when we had once got them fixed science soon managed, as it were, to sketch the image and now we can elongate it as much as we please.’

“‘This is very queer!’ I exclaimed. ‘Do you mean to tell me these notes and those voices are only the ghosts of sounds?’

“‘Not in any other sense,’ he answered, ‘than you might call a photograph a ghost of sight.’

ABL has one letter and six books by Ingelow, one of which, A Story of Doom and Other Poems, 1867, was in the Brownings’ library. The ABL also owns a letter from Jean Ingelow to Robert Browning [23 July [1867]] referring to A Story of Doom and Other Poems. The letter states “I send with this note a little volume of verses which I hope you will do me the favour to accept.”

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Marian Evans [pseud. George Eliot] (1819–1880)

My own experience and development deepen everyday my conviction that our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy.

Letter from George Eliot to Charles Bray
(15 November 1857)

Although, as a child, Marian Evans was not considered physically attractive, she was very intelligent and a voracious reader. Her father, recognizing her intelligence and her dim prospects for marriage, ensured that she had an excellent education, one not often offered to young women. By her thirties she was an editor for the Westminster Review, an English journal founded by Jeremy Bentham.

Evans became very interested in religion. She translated The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, Volume 2, by David Strauss in 1846,  The Essence of Christianity, by Ludwig Feuerbach in 1854, and Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics in 1856.

Having resolved to become a novelist, Evans’s last essay in the Westminster Review in 1856, “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” criticized the ridiculous plots of contemporary women novelists. Evans assumed a nom-de-plume, George Eliot, and three years later published her first novel, Adam Bede, which was a huge success in England. The popularity of Adam Bede led to Evans revealing that she was the author behind the name George Eliot. Other novels by this leading writer of the Victorian era include The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, and Middlemarch.

Evans lived a somewhat unorthodox life and considered herself married to George Henry Lewes, though he was officially married to Agnes Jervis. Despite her popularity in England, Eliot was not buried in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey due to her denial of Christianity and her unconventional relationship with Lewes.

The Armstrong Browning Library owns twenty-three books written by George Eliot during her lifetime, many first editions. The ABL also owns a copy of Essays and Leaves from a Notebook, by George Eliot, published shortly after her death. The preface is signed by Charles Lee Lewes, Henry Lewes’s eldest son, who curated his father’s library after his death in 1878.

Only one letter from George Eliot to Robert Browning [24 March 1864] is part of our collection at the ABL. In this letter Eliot encourages a visit from Browning after her return from Scotland, and notes that, “By that time I hope to be a less headachy wretch than I happen to be this week, and all pleasant things will be pleasanter to me.”

Letter from George Eliot to Robert Browning
[March 24, 1864]
Courtesy of the Armstrong Browning Library

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Theodosia Trollope [née Garrow] (1816–1865)

Theodosia Garrow
“She Is Not Dead, But Sleepeth”
The Keepsake (1846)

Theodosia Trollope published her first book of poetry in 1839, and, for a time, her reputation rivaled that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Walter Savage Landor, nineteenth century English writer and poet, praised her poetry in a letter to Robert Browning:  “This very year there is in the Book of Beauty a poem by my friend Theodosia Garrow, on Italy, far surpassing those of M. Angelo and Filicaia. Sappho is far less intense. Pindar is far less animated.”

Letter from Walter Savage Landor to Robert Browning
[10 November 1845]
Courtesy of  the Armstrong Browning Library

Theodosia Garrow moved to Florence with her family in 1844, and in 1848 married Thomas Adolphus Trollope, brother of Anthony Trollope, one of the most successful novelists of the Victorian era. Their home, The Villino Trollope, in the Piazza dell’ Indipendenza, became the focal point  of Anglo-Florentine society.

Like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Theodosia found herself exposed first hand to the Italian struggle for freedom against Austria. She is probably best remembered for a series of letters praising the efforts of the Risorgimento in Tuscany and denouncing its opponents, including the papacy. These letters, published as Social Aspects of the Italian Revolution (1861), were instrumental in turning British public opinion in favor of the liberation and unification of Italy.

The ABL has two letters written by EBB to Theodosia. One of the letters [?6 June 1859], beginning “Your indignation cannot exceed mine — The reputation for truth of English gentlemen seems about to perish,” precipitates a politically charged letter written on the same day by Theodosia to William Johnson Fox concerning her sympathy with the Italian cause after the outbreak of fighting in 1859.

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Theodosia Garrow
[?6 June 1859]]
Courtesy of the Armstrong Browning Library

Melinda Creech

Notes: Theodosia Garrow published a poem called “Bees” in the Book of Beauty in 1844, no  poems in 1845, “Paolina. Song” in 1846, and “The Cry of Romangna” (which is about Italy) in 1847. She also published “Sonnet – Petrarch to Laura” in The Keepsake for 1944, “Mabel’s Dove” in The Keepsake for 1845, “She is not Dead, but Sleepeth” (also about Italy) in The Keepsake for 1846, and “The Lethe-Draught” in The Keepsake for 1847.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Isabella Blagden (1816/17–1873)

Isabella Blagden
“To Georges Sand:
On Her Interview With Elizabeth Barrett Browning”
Poems (1873)

The poem above was inspired by the meeting of the nineteenth century poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and nineteenth century novelist, George Sand, in Paris in 1852. Both Blagden and Barrett Browning admired George Sand for her unconventional private life and the frank sexuality of her novels. Barrett Browning also wrote poems honoring George Sand. The following poems appeared in her two volumes of Poems, published in 1844.

THOU large-brained woman and large-hearted man,
Self-called George Sand! whose soul, amid the lions
Of thy tumultuous senses, moans defiance
And answers roar for roar, as spirits can!
I would some mild miraculous thunder ran
Above the applauded circus, in appliance
Of thine own nobler nature’s strength and science,
Drawing two pinions, white as wings of swan,
From thy strong shoulders, to amaze the place
With holier light! that thou to woman’s claim
And man’s, mightst join beside the angel’s grace
Of a pure genius sanctified from blame , —
Till child and maiden pressed to thine embrace,
To kiss upon thy lips a stainless fame.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“George Sand: A Desire”
Poems (1844)

TRUE genius, but true woman! dost deny
Thy woman’s nature with a manly scorn,
And break away the gauds and armlets worn
By weaker women in captivity?
Ah, vain denial! that revolted cry
Is sobbed in by a woman’s voice forlorn!—
Thy woman’s hair, my sister, all unshorn,
Floats back dishevelled strength in agony,
Disproving thy man’s name! and while before
The world thou burnest in a poet-fire,
We see thy woman-heart beat evermore
Through the large flame. Beat purer, heart, and higher,
Till God unsex thee on the spirit-shore;
To which alone unsexing, purely aspire.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“George Sand: A Recognition
Poems (1844)

Isabella Blagden was a dear friend of the Brownings and a central figure in the Anglo-Florentine community. Although originally little was known about Isa’s birthplace, parents, relatives, and early life, recent research by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, and Edward Hagan, published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol. 16,  has provided many details about her early life. The uncertainty over the year of her birth arises from different information given on her grave marker and death certificate. With Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s encouragement, Isa wrote five novels, Agnes Tremorne, being the most well known. The Armstrong Browning Library has an extensive archive of Isa Blagden’s writing, including three books, twelve manuscripts, and 124 letters written to or by her. Robert Browning’s letters to Isa Blagden were first collected in a volume edited by E. C. McAleer entitled Dearest Isa (1951). Most recently the letters were published in Florentine Friends: The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning to Isa Blagden, 1859-1861, edited by Philip Kelley and Sandra Donaldson (2009).

Isa almost always published under a pseudonym. Although she requested that her novel, Agnes Tremorne (1861), be published under the pseudonym Ivory Beryl, the publisher substituted her real name. The poem “Voices: Youth, Love and Death” in the Victoria Regia (1861) is the only one of her publications signed “Isa Blagden.” The manuscripts of  “A Roman Picture” below illustrate Isabella Blagden’s pseudonyms, “I.B.”  and “Ivory Beryl.”

Isabella Blagden
“A Roman Picture” (undated)

Isa Blagden died in the Villa Castellani, Piazza di Bellosguardo, Florence, on 20 January 1873 and was buried on 28 January near her friend, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in the Protestant Cemetery.

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron
and Her Children Charles and Henry (1859)
Photograph taken by Lewis Carroll

Therefore it is with effort I restrain the overflow of my heart and simply state that my first [camera and] lens was given to me by my cherished departed daughter and her husband, with the word, “It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.”

The gift from those I loved so tenderly added more and more impulse to my deeply seated love of the beautiful and from the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour, and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour…. I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me….

I turned my coal-house into my dark room, and a glazed fowl house I had given to my children became my glass house! The hens were liberated, I hope and believe not eaten. The profit of my boys upon new laid eggs was stopped, and all hands and hearts sympathised in my new labour, since the society of hens and chickens was soon changed for that of poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens, who all in turn have immortalized the humble little farm erection.

When I have had such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavored to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.

Julia Margaret Cameron
Annals of my Glass House (1874)

Julia Margaret Cameron was born in Calcutta, India. She met her husband, Charles Cameron, on a trip to southern Africa. After her husband’s retirement in 1848, the family moved from India back to England. She took up photography in 1863, at the age of 48, when she was living next door to Alfred Tennyson on the Isle of Wight. She produced photographs for only ten years, but her photographic subjects included Robert Browning, Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Abbott McNeil Whistler, and G. F. Watts. Most of her photographs have a soft, ethereal quality to them.

For the exhibition poster for Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face, I chose a quotation from an untitled, unfinished poem found in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pocket notebook, dated 1842-1844,  and a photograph taken by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1864. The contemporaneity of the poem and the photo echo the timelessness of the nineteenth century women’s voices featured in the exhibit.

The subject of the photograph was sixteen-year-old Ellen Terry, a young Shakespearean actress and close friend of Cameron. Ellen had become acquainted with George Frederick Watts, a famous Victorian painter, forty years her senior, when she sat for him for a painting. At the urging of friends, they were married in February 1864. The photo was probably taken during their honeymoon on the Isle of Wight. The couple separated within a year and were formally divorced in 1877.  At some later date Cameron titled the photo “Sadness.”

The ABL owns eight original photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, many with inscriptions. A letter from Robert Browning to Julia Margaret Cameron (24 July 1866) thanking her for her generous gift of photographs is also a part of the collection. Sarianna Browning, sister of Robert Browning in a letter to Joseph Milsand (27 December 1866), records another generous Christmas gift of twelve photographs from Mrs. Cameron.

Although Mrs. Cameron turned, quite successfully, to photography later in life, her first love was literature. She wrote an autobiography, translated German, and published poems and fiction. This poem was written shortly before she and her husband left England for Ceylon.

Julia Margaret Cameron
“On a Portrait”
Macmillan Magazine  (February 1876)

Melinda Creech


Notes and Queries: There is an engraving of Joseph Milsand by F. Johnson in Records of Tennyson, Ruskin, and Browning by Anne Thackeray Ritchie. The caption under the engraving reads: “Mr. Milsand / from a copyrighted photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron.” The Armstrong Browning Library has a large Joseph Milsand Collection. A letter from Joseph Milsand to Philbert Milsand (23 May [1874]) indicates that Joseph Milsand was to spend a day on Isle of Wight where Miss Thackeray would introduce him to Tennyson. Another letter from Joseph Milsand to Claire Milsand (11 Feb 1884) talks about Cameron’s beautiful photo of the tall, angel-like white lady which is displayed in his house. Does anyone know the whereabouts of either of the photographs, Milsand’s photographic portrait or the “angel-like white lady” photograph that he owned?

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face — Eliza Cook (1812–1889)

They [people who do not like poetry] are totally ignorant that Poetry is identified and incorporated in the primitive elements of all that makes God visible, and man glorious…. These people have no ear for music in a “babbling brook,” without the said brook turns a very profitable mill. They find no “sermons in stone,” beyond those preached by the walls of a Royal Exchange. They see nothing in a mob of ragged urchins loitering about the streets in a spring twilight, busy over a handful of buttercups and daisies, lugged with anxious care from Putney or Clapham—they see nothing but a tribe of tiresome children who deserve, and sometimes get, a box on the the ears for “being in the way.” They see nothing in the attachment between a poor man and his cur dog, but a crime worthy the imprisonment of one, and the hanging of the other.

Eliza Cook
“People Who Do Not Like Poetry”
in Eliza Cook’s Journal (1849)

In “People Who Do Not Like Poetry,” Eliza Cook not only deprecates those who do not appreciate poetry written on pages or lived out in the world around them, but she also admires the poor who, lacking a knowledge of the technical details of poetic verses, nevertheless, find the spirit of poetry all around them.

She was the youngest of eleven children. Although primarily self-educated, Eliza was heavily encouraged by her mother to pursue her gifts and began to compose poetry as a young child, publishing her first volume, Lays of a Wild Harp, when she was only seventeen. The volume was well-received, and she began submitting poetry to magazines. For almost a decade she published Eliza Cook’s Journal, a weekly periodical.

Despite Cook’s popular appeal, her poetry was not admired by some of her literary contemporaries. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in a letter to Mary Russell Mitford in 1845, stated that “Her [Cook’s] poetry, so called, I cannot admire—though, of course, she has a talent of putting verse together, of a respectable kind.” Likewise, Christina Rossetti told her brother he could call her “Eliza Cook” if he thought her verses mediocre.

Although her verses were not admired by either Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Christina Rossetti, at that time Cook was the most influential and widely read working-class author, editor, and essayist, according to Florence Boos in Working-Class Women Poets in Victorian Britain: An Anthology. Most popular among the working-class for her sentimental poetry, she ultimately used her strong voice to champion the causes of the underprivileged and to advocate political freedom for women. Boos notes that she wrote poetry about “factory conditions, concepts of ‘property,’ worker’s education, the dignity of manual labor, enclosure, church disestablishment, class distinctions, the wanton destruction of war, the griefs of emigration, … and the humane treatment of animals.”

The ABL owns five volumes of Eliza Cook’s poetry, several of which can be viewed at the Armstrong Browning Library – 19th Century Women Poets Collection  page of the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections site. In addition, the ABL owns a letter from Eliza Cook to William Johnson Fox, which discusses her successful effort to raise money to furnish the grave of Thomas Hood, a popular Brisitsh humorist and poet, with a marker.

The poem below, “Song of the Haymakers,” is described in “Of ‘Haymakers’ and ‘City Artisans’: The Chartist Poetics of Eliza Cook’s Songs of Labor” by Solveig C. Robinson as “the most striking of Cook’s songs of rural England and agricultural labor.”


Eliza Cook
“The Song of the Haymakers”
Poems: Second Series (1864)

Melinda Creech