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Friday, 26 November 2010

Dorothy Brett and D.H. Lawrence

In 1924 Dorothy Brett moved to Taos, New Mexico with D.H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda Lawrence, in 1924, where they lived with Mabel Dodge Luhan. Lawrence used Brett as a character in several of his short stories. In return, Brett painted several portraits of Lawrence and her memoir of their relationship, Lawrence and Brett: a Friendship, was published in 1933.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Edward Marsh and Mark Getler

For many years Edward Marsh was Mark Gertler's patron. However, the two men fell out over the First World War. Gertler wrote to on 17th August 1915: "I have come to the conclusion that we two are too fundamentally different to continue friends. Since the war, you have gone in one direction and I in another. All the time I have been stifling my feelings. Firstly because of your kindness to me and secondly I did not want to hurt you. I am I believe what you call a 'Passivist'. I don't know exactly what that means, but I just hate this war and should really loathe to help in it."

Edward Marsh, who had forgiven Mark Gertler for his pacifism, continued to buy his paintings even though he admitted he no longer liked or understood his work. In 1939 Gertler had his last exhibition. It was not a great success. Gertler wrote to Marsh: "I'm afraid I am depressed about my show - I've sold only one so far... it's very disheartening." Marsh replied that he no longer liked Gertler's paintings. Gertler tried to explain his situation: "Obviously a number of other people feel as you do about my recent work... I can never set out to please - my greatest spiritual pleasure in life is to paint just as I feel impelled to do at the time... But to set out to please would ruin my process." The following month Gertler committed suicide in his studio.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

John S. Currie and Dorothy Henry

In 1911 John S. Currie met Dorothy Henry, a tall, attractive seventeen-year-old who modelled dresses at a Regent Street department store. Currie's friend and patron, Michael Sadleir, remarked that she "was of flower-like loveliness, but lascivious and possessive to the last degrees. Her lure for men were irresistible, and Currie was of course utterly enslaved to her physical attraction, a fact of which she was well aware." Currie's wife discovered the affair in August 1911 and he abandoned her and his young son and set-up home with Dolly in Primrose Hill.

David Boyd Haycock, the author of A Crisis of Brilliance (2009) has argued: "They were indifferent to public opinion - an independence of mind that impressed the young Gertler. But it was a hopelessly doomed relationship. Dolly was poorly educated, unintelligent, and had no interest in art. She resented Currie's absorption in his work, and attempted to make herself the centre of his life." Haycock quotes a friend who later recalled that Dolly used the power of her beauty and sexuality "to goad him from abject desire to baffled fury and then, suddenly complaisant, to win him back again. This dangerous cruelty led to violent quarrels and blows."

In July 1912, Currie, Dora Henry and Mark Gertler went on holiday to Ostend. They had a good time but Gertler showed concern about Currie's behavior. He suggested that Currie's love of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche had left him immoral. Stanley Spencer strongly disliked Currie and said: "I cannot bear him." Adrian Allinson pointed out that Currie was insanely jealous of Dolly: "Violent jealously continually drove Currie to threats of murder... Dolly's beauty, and pity for her lot, aroused in more than one painter the desire to replace the Irishman, so that Currie's jealousy, originally groundless, in time created the conditions for its own justification."

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska introduced Currie to Edward Marsh, the great-grandson of Spencer Perceval,who was a major collector of modern art. He invited Currie to dinner at Gray's Inn. He brought Dolly Henry with him and Marsh described her as "an extremely pretty Irish girl with red hair". The following wrote to Rupert Brooke: "Currie came yesterday I have conceived a passion for both him and Gertler, they are decidedly two of the most interesting of les jeunes, and I can hardly wait till you come back to make their acquaintance." In August 1913 Marsh decided to spend an inheritance from an aunt on paintings by Currie, Mark Gertler and Stanley Spencer.

Gertler found Currie's behaviour increasing erratic and he told Dorothy Brett: "Friendships are terribly difficult to manage and I don't think they are worth the trouble. Henry is not intelligent at all - that's the trouble. Frankly I prefer to stand alone. I need no great friend at all. Ties are a terrible nuisance and hindrance to an artist." Currie was confused by Gertler's attitude and later told Edward Marsh, "Marsh's attitude to friends is rather curious - rather like mine to ladies... A strange and tormented lot we are."

Dolly Henry left Currie at the beginning of 1914. He gave a lecture on art at Leeds University soon afterwards. He told Michael Sadleir he was contemplating suicide. He explained that the main sources of his anguish was Dolly faithlessness, and his fear that his period of artistic genius had passed. Sadleir added: "His life was hell. But his love for her was intense."

In March 1914, Dolly agreed to return to Currie and they decided to move to Brittany. However, she returned after a few weeks. Currie explained to Edward Marsh what happened: "She had gone away friendly, but she was very much out of place here. Peasant life made her long for cafes and clubs in London. There are many good things in her, but all mv recent trouble in various ways might have been avoided had she better sense. The emotional and sexual horror and beauty of the whole damned thing - the months of torment and waste of energy, my loss of control, seems like a hell to me now."

Dolly Henry took a flat in Paultons Square, just off the King's Road. When Currie returned to London he heard rumours that Dolly had modelled for pornographic photographs and was spreading rumours about him in an attempt to ruin his career. Currie wrote to Dolly: "A very fury of remorse and love and sorrow is raging in me. I blame myself for everything. I am over-whelmed with self-disgust... As the days go on the feeling of all I have lost in you becomes so frightful I cannot breathe. I am looking for a place I can bury my heart and forget."

On 8th October 1914, Currie murdered Dolly Henry. The Times reported the following day. "A young woman, whose name is said to be Dorothy or Eileen Henry, was found fatally shot in a house in Chelsea... At a quarter to eight yesterday morning shots and screams were heard. The other occupants of the house ran upstairs and found the woman on the landing in her nightdress bleeding from wounds. In the bedroom a man partly dressed was discovered with wounds in the chest. He was taken to Chelsea infirmary, but the woman died before the arrival of a doctor." Currie died three days later. His final words were: "It was all so ugly".

Michael Sadleir later wrote: "Dolly drove Currie mad, and deprived the world of a genuine artist and a devoted worker. He was a man who, had circumstances been a little kinder, would have made a great reputation and lived a full an happy life."

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Gerald Brenan

Gerald Brenan's first book, the picaresque novel, Jack Robinson, was published in 1933. This was followed by The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War (1943), The Face of Spain (1950), The Literature of the Spanish People (1951) and South from Granada (1957). He then produced two volumes of autobiography: A Life of One's Own: Childhood and Youth (1962) and Personal Record: 1920-72 (1974).

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Death of Dora Carrington

In 1917, Dora Carrington set up home with Lytton Strachey at Mill House, Tidmarsh, in Berkshire. Julia Strachey was a regular visitor to the house. She later described the woman who was living with her uncle: "Carrington had large blue eyes, a thought unnaturally wide open, a thought unnaturally transparent, yet reflecting only the outside light and revealing nothing within, just as a glass door betrays nothing to the enquiring visitor but the light reflected off the sea."

In 1918 both Strachey and Carrington began an affair with Ralph Partridge. According to his biographer, Stanford Patrick Rosenbaum, they created: "A polygonal ménage that survived the various affairs of both without destroying the deep love that lasted the rest of their lives. Strachey's relation to Carrington was partly paternal; he gave her a literary education while she painted and managed the household. Ralph Partridge... became indispensable to both Strachey, who fell in love with him, and Carrington."

Frances Marshall was a close friend of Dora Carrington during this period: "Her love for Lytton was the focus of her adult life, but she was by no means indifferent to the charms of young men, or of young women either for that matter; she was full of life and loved fun, but nothing must interfere with her all-important relation to Lytton. So, though she responded to Ralph's adoration, she at first did her best to divert him from his desire to marry her. When in the end she agreed, it was partly because he was so unhappy, and partly because she saw that the great friendship between Ralph and Lytton might actually consolidate her own position."

Carrington married Ralph Partridge in 1921. She wrote to Lytton Strachey on her honeymoon: "So now I shall never tell you I do care again. It goes after today somewhere deep down inside me, and I'll not resurrect it to hurt either you or Ralph. Never again. He knows I'm not in love with him... I cried last night to think of a savage cynical fate which had made it impossible for my love ever to be used by you. You never knew, or never will know the very big and devastating love I had for you ... I shall be with you in two weeks, how lovely that will be. And this summer we shall all be very happy together."

In 1924 Partridge and Strachey bought Ham Spray House in Ham, Wiltshire, where a studio was made for Carrington and a library for Strachey. Julia Strachey, who visited her at Ham Spray House, recalls: "From a distance she (Carrington) looked a young creature, innocent and a little awkward, dressed in very odd frocks such as one would see in some quaint picture-book; but if one came closer and talked to her, one soon saw age scored around her eyes - and something, surely, a bit worse than that - a sort of illness, bodily or mental. She had darkly bruised, hallowed, almost battered sockets."

Lytton Strachey died of undiagnosed stomach cancer on 21st January 1932. His death made her suicidal. She wrote a passage from David Hume in her diary: "A man who retires from life does no harm to society. He only ceases to do good. I am not obliged to do a small good to society at the expense of a great harm to myself. Why then should I prolong a miserable existence... I believe that no man ever threw away life, while it was worth keeping."

Frances Marshall was with Ralph Partridge when he received a phone-call on 11th March 1932. "The telephone rang, waking us. It was Tom Francis, the gardener who came daily from Ham; he was suffering terribly from shock, but had the presence of mind to tell us exactly what had happened: Carrington had shot herself but was still alive. Ralph rang up the Hungerford doctor asking him to go out to Ham Spray immediately; then, stopping only to collect a trained nurse, and taking Bunny with us for support, we drove at breakneck speed down the Great West Road.... We found her propped on rugs on her bedroom floor; the doctor had not dared to move her, but she had touched him greatly by asking him to fortify himself with a glass of sherry. Very characteristically, she first told Ralph she longed to die, and then (seeing his agony of mind) that she would do her best to get well. She died that same afternoon."

Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary: "Glad to be alive and sorry for the dead: can't think why Carrington killed herself and put an end to all this." However, ten years later she followed her example and killed herself.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Nora Dacre Fox and Fascism

Nora Dacre Fox (Norah Elam) provides a good example of Women's Social and Political Union and British Union of Fascist membership. On the surface it might seem strange that there are close links with the WSPU and fascism. After all, the WSPU fought for equal rights for women whereas fascists believed that men were superior to women. However, several leaders of the WSPU also held senior positions in the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Emmeline Pankhurst and two of her daughters, Adela and Christabel, moved to the far right after the First World War. Adela actually joined the fascist party in Australia. The main reason for this is the WSPU was run as a dictatorship. Those who believed in a democratic organisation left to form the Women's Freedom League. In reality, the WSPU, was always a very small organisation. At its peak it only had 2,000 members and by 1914 it only had a small number of activists. On the other hand, the fully democratic, National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) had over 100,000 members. After women gained the vote, the NUWSS were active in the Labour and Liberal parties, the WSPU members tended to join the Conservative Party and the British Union of Fascists. Under the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst, the WSPU was an authoritarian organisation. It therefore attracted authoritarian personalities.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Charlotte Payne-Townshend

Charlotte Payne-Townshend met Beatrice Webb in 1895. Webb wrote: "A large graceful woman with masses of chocolate brown hair... She dresses well, in flowing white evening robes she approaches beauty. At moments she is plain."

Her mother was determined to find her a husband. Charlotte later commented: "Even in my earliest years I had determined I would never marry." She turned down Count Sponnek, Finch Hutton and Arthur Smith-Barry. Charlotte fell in love with Axel Munthe, but he never asked for her hand in marriage.

Beatrice and Sidney Webb persuaded Charlotte to donate £1,000 to the London School of Economics library and the endowment of a woman's scholarship. Charlotte also joined the Fabian Society. Beatrice later commented: "By temperament she is an anarchist, feeling any regulation or ruke intolerable, a tendency which has been exaggerated by her irresonsible wealth... She is a socialist and a radical, not because she understands the collectivist standpoint, but because she is by nature a rebel. She is fond of men and impatient of most women, bitterly resents her enforced celibacy but thinks she could not tolerate the matter-of-fact side of marriage. Sweet tempered, sympathetic and genuinely anxious to increase the world's enjoyment and diminish the world's pain."

According to Michael Holroyd, Webb developed a plan "to marry Charlotte off to" Graham Wallas, who worked at the London School of Economics. In January 1896 she invited Charlotte and Graham to their rented home in the village of Stratford St Andrew in Suffolk. However, Charlotte was bored by his company.

Beatrice Webb also invited George Bernard Shaw to stay and he took a strong liking to Charlotte. He wrote to Janet Achurch: "Instead of going to bed at ten, we go out and stroll about among the trees for a while. She, being also Irish, does not succumb to my arts as the unsuspecting and literal Englishwoman does; but we get on together all the better, repairing bicycles, talking philosophy and religion... or, when we are in a mischievous or sentimental humor, philandering shamelessly and outrageously." Beatrice wrote: "They were constant companions, pedaling round the country all day, sitting up late at night talking."

Shaw told Ellen Terry: "Kissing in the evening among the trees was very pleasant, but she knows the value of her unencumbered independence, having suffered a good deal from family bonds and conventionality before the death of her mother and the marriage of her sister left her free... The idea of tying herself up again by a marriage before she knows anything - before she has exploited her freedom and money power to the utmost."

When they returned to London she sent an affectionate letter to Shaw. He replied: "Don't fall in love: be your own, not mine or anyone else's.... From the moment that you can't do without me, you're lost... Never fear: if we want one another we shall find it out. All I know is that you made the autumn very happy, and that I shall always be fond of you for that."

Michael Holroyd has pointed out in his book, Bernard Shaw (1998): "Charlotte had an apprehension of sexual intercourse... Over the next eighteen months they seem to have found together a habit of careful sexual experience, reducing for her the risk of conception and preserving for him his subliminal illusions... Charlotte soon made herself almost indispensable to Shaw. She learnt to read his shorthand and to type, took dictation and helped him prepare his plays for the press."

Beatrice Webb recorded in her diary that Charlotte Payne-Townshend was clearly in love with George Bernard Shaw but she did not believe that he felt the same way: "I see no sign on his side of the growth of any genuine and steadfast affection." In July 1897 Charlotte proposed marriage. He rejected the idea because he was poor and she was rich and people might consider him a "fortune-hunter". He told Ellen Terry that the proposal was like an "earthquake" and "with shuddering horror and wildly asked the fare to Australia". Charlotte decided to leave Shaw and went to live in Italy.

In April 1898 Shaw had an accident. According to Shaw his left foot swelled up "to the size of a church bell". He wrote to Charlotte complaining that he was unable to walk. When she heard the news she travelled back to visit him at his home in Fitzroy Square. Soon after she arrived on 1st May she arranged for him to go into hospital. Shaw had an operation that scraped the necrosed bone clean.

Shaw's biographer, Stanley Weintraub, has pointed out: "In the conditions of non-care in which he lived at 29 Fitzroy Square with his mother (the Shaws had moved again on 5 March 1887), an unhealed foot injury required Shaw's hospitalization. On 1 June 1898, while on crutches and recuperating from surgery for necrosis of the bone, Shaw married his informal nurse, Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend, at the office of the registrar at 15 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. He was nearly forty-two; the bride, a wealthy Irishwoman born at Londonderry on 20 January 1857, thus a half-year younger than her husband, resided in some style at 10 Adelphi Terrace, London, overlooking the Embankment." George Bernard Shaw later told Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: "I thought I was dead, for it would not heal, and Charlotte had me at her mercy. I should never have married if I had thought I should get well."

George Bernard Shaw

Beatrice Webb wrote in her diary: "George Bernard Shaw is a marvellously smart witty fellow with a crank for not making money. I have never known a man use his pen in such a workmanlike fashion or acquire such a thoroughly technical knowledge of any subject upon which he gives an opinion. As to his character, I do not understand it. He has been for twelve years a devoted propagandist, hammering away at the ordinary routine of Fabian Executive work with as much persistence as Graham Wallas or Sidney (Webb). He is an excellent friend - at least to men - but beyond this I know nothing.... Adored by many women, he is a born philanderer. A vegetarian, fastidious but unconventional in his clothes, six foot in height with a lithe, broad-chested figure and laughing blue eyes. Above all a brilliant talker, and, therefore, a delightful companion."

Edith Nesbit was one of the many women who he tried to seduce. She wrote to a friend: "George Bernard Shaw... has a fund of dry Irish humour that is simply irresistible. He is a clever writer and speaker - is the grossest flatterer I ever met, is horribly untrustworthy as he repeats everything he hears, and does not always stick to the truth, and is very plain like a long corpse with dead white face - sandy sleek hair, and a loathsome small straggly beard, and yet is one of the most fascinating men I ever met."

Monday, 8 November 2010

Rosamund Grosvenor and Vita Sackville West

Rosamund Grasvenor was Vita Sackville West's first love. educated at Helen Wolff's school for girls, in Park Lane. Other pupils at the school were Violet Keppel and Vita Sackville-West. While at school she began an affair with Vita, who was 4 years her junior. Rosamund wrote to Vita: "Promise not to sit next to me tomorrow. It is not that I don't love you being near me, but that I cannot give my attention to the questions, I am - otherwise engrossed." Vita recorded in her diary "What a funny thing it is to love a person as I love Roddie (Rosamund)".

Later she wrote: "Oh, I dare say I realized vaguely that I had no business to sleep with Rosamund, and I should certainly never have allowed anyone to find it out". Vita admitted that the relationship was "almost entirely physical, as to be frank, she always bored me as a companion.

In January 1912 Harold Nicolson proposed to Vita. She refused him but under pressure from her mother, Victoria Sackville-West, Vita agreed to become engaged. As a result of the engagement, her mother gave her an allowance of £2,500 a year, of which the capital was to become hers on her mother's death.

Vita later wrote in her autobiography: "It did not seem wrong to be... engaged to Harold, and at the same time so much in love with Rosamund... Our relationship (with Harold Nicholson) was so fresh, so intellectual, so unphysical, that I never thought of him in that aspect at all.... Some were born to be lovers, others to be husbands, he belongs to the latter category."
In 1910 Rosamund went to stay with Vita Sackville-West in Monte Carlo. Vita later recalled that "Rosamund was... invited by mother, not by me; I would never have dreamt of asking anyone to stay with me; I would never have dreamt of asking anyone to stay with me; even Violet had never spent more than a week at Knole: I resented invasion. Still, as Rosamund came, once she was there, I naturally spent most of the day with her, and after I had got back to England, I suppose it was resumed. I don't remember very clearly, but the fact remains that by the middle of that summer we were inseparable, and moreover were living on terms of the greatest possible intimacy.... Oh, I dare say I realized vaguely that I had no business to sleep with Rosamund, and I should certainly never have allowed anyone to find it out, but my sense of guilt went no further than that."

Rosamund became jealous of Vita's relationships with Harold Nicholson, Violet Keppel and Muriel Clark-Kerr, the sister of Archibald Clark-Kerr. Rosamund wrote to Vita: "Oh my sweet you do know don't you. Nothing can ever make me love you less whatever happens, and I really think you have taken all my love already as there seems very little left." After one love-making session she wrote: "My sweet darling... I do miss you darling one and I want to feel your soft cool face coming out of that mass of pussy fur like I did last night."

According to Nigel Nicolson: "Her (Vita) mother's fastidiousness and her father's reluctance to discuss any intimate subject with her deepened her sexual isolation. With Rosamund she tumbled into love, and bed, with a sort of innocence. At first it meant little more to her than cuddling a favourite dog or rabbit, and later she regarded the affair as more naughty than perverted, and took great pains to conceal it from her parents and Harold, fearing that exposure would mean the banishment of Rosamund."

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West

Violet Keppel was educated by a French governess and at Helen Wolff's school for girls, in Park Lane. Other pupils at the school were Vita Sackville-West and Rosamund Grosvenor. Violet described Vita as "tall for her age, gawky, dressed in what appeared to be her mother's old clothes."

While at school Vita began an affair with Rosamund, who was 4 years her junior. She then turned her attention to Violet. They spent a great deal of time at Vita's house, Knole House, near Sevenoaks. They also went on holiday to Pisa, Milan, and Florence together in 1908. The love affair came to an end when Vita married Harold Nicholson in 1913.

Vita was briefly engaged to Lord Gerald Wellesley before he married Dorothy Ashton. She had a more serious attachment to Julian Grenfell, who was killed during the First World War. In April 1918 she resumed her affair with Vita Sackville-West. Vita later wrote: "She lay on the sofa, I sat plunged in the armchair; she took my hands, and parted my fingers to count the points as she told me why she loved me... She pulled me down until I kissed her - I had not done so for many years."

The lovers travelled around Europe and collaborated on a novel, Challenge (1923), that was published in America but banned in Britain. During this period her marriage came under great pressure but as T. J. Hochstrasser points out: "However, this crisis in fact proved eventually to be the catalyst for Nicolson and Sackville-West to restructure their marriage satisfactorily so that they could both pursue a series of relationships through which they could fulfil their essentially homosexual identity while retaining a secure basis of companionship and affection."
Violet came under pressure from her mother, Alice Keppel, to bring an end to her affair with Vita Sackville-West. Reluctantly she married Denys Robert Trefusis, an officer in the Royal Horse Guards, on 16th June 1919. She did so on the understanding that the marriage would remain unconsummated, and she was still resolved to live with Vita.

They resumed their affair just a few days after the wedding. The women moved to France in February 1920. However, Harold Nicholson followed them and eventually persuaded his wife to return to the family home. Violet rarely saw her husband, Denys Robert Trefusis, who died of tuberculosis in 1929.

Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf

While at school Vita Sackville West began an affair with Rosamund Grosvenor, who was 4 years her senior. She recorded in her diary "Oh, I dare say I realized vaguely that I had no business to sleep with Rosamund, and I should certainly never have allowed anyone to find it out".

Sackville-West also had a passionate affair with Violet Trefusis, daughter of Alice Keppel, mistress of King Edward VII. The lovers travelled around Europe and collaborated on a novel, Challenge (1923), that was published in America but banned in Britain. During this period her marriage came under great pressure but as T. J. Hochstrasser points out: "However, this crisis in fact proved eventually to be the catalyst for Nicolson and Sackville-West to restructure their marriage satisfactorily so that they could both pursue a series of relationships through which they could fulfil their essentially homosexual identity while retaining a secure basis of companionship and affection." Sackville-West's other lovers included the journalist Evelyn Irons and Hilda Matheson, head of the BBC talks department.

In the early 1920s Vita Sackville-West became romantically involved with Virginia Woolf. Vita's nephew, Quentin Bell, later recalled: "There may have been - on balance I think that there probably was - some caressing, some bedding together. But whatever may have occurred between them of this nature, I doubt very much whether it was of a kind to excite Virginia or to satisfy Vita. As far as Virginia's life is concerned the point is of no great importance; what was, to her, important was the extent to which she was emotionally involved, the degree to which she was in love. One cannot give a straight answer to such questions but, if the test of passions be blindness, then her affections were not very deeply engaged."

Mary Garman and Roy Campbell, met Vita Sackville-West in the village post office in May 1927. She invited them to dinner with her husband, Harold Nicolson. Other guests included Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf and Richard Aldington. Mary wrote to William Plomer about the dinner party: "Vita Nicolson appeared, and in her wake, Virginia Woolf, Richard Aldington and Leonard Woolf. They looked to me rather like intellectual wolves in sheep's clothing. Virginia's hand felt like the claw of a hawk. She has black eyes, light hair and a very pale face. He is weary and slightly distinguished. They are not very human." In September 1927 Vita began an affair with Mary Garman. Mary wrote: "You are sometimes like a mother to me. No one can imagine the tenderness of a lover suddenly descending to being maternal. It is a lovely moment when the mother's voice and hands turn into the lover's."

Later that month, Vita Sackville-West offered the Campbells the opportunity to live in a cottage in the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle. They accepted but later Roy Campbell objected when he discovered that his wife was having an affair with Vita: "It was then that we entered the most comically sordid and silly period of our lives. We were very stupid to relinquish our precarious independence in the tiny cottage for the professed hospitality of one of the Stately Homes of England, which proved to be something between a psychiatry clinic and a posh brothel."

When Campbell was in London he told C.S. Lewis of the affair he replied: "Fancy being cuckolded by a woman!" According to Cressida Connolly: "Roy was a proud man, and this remark so punctured his pride that he returned to Kent in a towering rage. A terrified Mary took refuge at Long Barn, where Dorothy Wellesley sat up all night with a shotgun across her knees." Campbell had a meeting with Vita Sackville-West about the affair. Afterwards he wrote: "I am tired of trying to hate you and I realize that there is no way in which I could harm you (as I would have liked to) without equally harming us all. I do not dislike any of your personal characteristics and I liked you very much before I knew anything. All this acrimony on my part is due rather to our respective positions in this tangle."

It was agreed that the affair would come to an end. However, Mary Garman found the situation very difficult and wrote to Vita: "Is the night never coming again when I can spend hours in your arms, when I can realise your big sort of protectiveness all round me, and be quite naked except for a covering of your rose leaf kisses?" When Roy Campbell went into hospital to have his appendix out, the relationship resumed.

Virginia Woolf was very jealous of the affair. She wrote to Vita: "I rang you up just now to find you were gone nutting in the woods with Mary Campbell... but not me - damn you." It is believed that Woolf's novel Orlando was influenced by the affair. In October 1927 Virginia wrote to Vita: "Suppose Orlando turns out to be about Vita; and its all about you and the lusts of your flesh and the lure of your mind (heart you have none, who go gallivanting down the lanes with Campbell) - suppose there's the kind of shimmer of reality which sometimes attaches to my people... Shall you mind?"

Vita Sackville-West replied that she thrilled and terrified "at the prospect of being projected into the shape of Orlando". She added: "What fun for you; what fun for me. You see, any vengeance that you want to take will be ready in your hand... You have my full permission." Orlando, was published in October 1928, with three pictures of Vita among its eight photographic illustrations. Dedicated to Vita, the novel, published in 1928, traces the history of the youthful, beautiful, and aristocratic Orlando, and explores the themes of sexual ambiguity.

After reading the book, Mary Garman wrote to Vita: "I hate the idea that you who are so hidden and secret and proud even with people you know best, should be suddenly presented so nakedly for anyone to read about... Vita darling you have been so much Orlando to me that how can I help absolutely understanding and loving the book... Through all the slight mockery which is always in the tone of Virginia's voice, and the analysis etc., Orlando is written by someone who loves you so obviously."

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Freewoman

On 23rd November, 1911, Dora Marsden, Grace Jardine and Mary Gawthorpe published the first edition of The Freewoman. The journal caused a storm when it advocated free love and encouraged women not to get married. The journal also included articles that suggested communal childcare and co-operative housekeeping.

Mary Humphrey Ward, the leader of Anti-Suffrage League argued that the journal represented "the dark and dangerous side of the Women's Movement". According to Ray Strachey, the leader of the National Union of Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), Millicent Fawcett, read the first edition and "thought it so objectionable and mischievous that she tore it up into small pieces". Whereas Maude Royden described it as a "nauseous publication". Edgar Ansell commented that it was "a disgusting publication... indecent, immoral and filthy."

Other feminists were much more supportive, Ada Nield Chew, argued that the was "meat and drink to the sincere student who is out to learn the truth, however unpalatable that truth may be." Benjamin Tucker commented that it was "the most important publication in existence". Floyd Dell, who worked for the Chicago Evening Post argued that before the arrival of The Freewoman: "I had to lie about the feminist movement. I lied loyally and hopefully, but I could not have held out much longer. Your paper proves that feminism has a future as well as a past." Guy Aldred pointed out: "I think your paper deserves to succeed. I will use my influence in the anarchist movement to this end." Others showed their support for the venture by writing without payment for the journal. This included Teresa Billington-Greig, Rebecca West, H. G. Wells, Edward Carpenter, Havelock Ellis, Stella Browne, C. H. Norman, Edmund Haynes, Catherine Gasquoine Hartley, Huntley Carter, Lily Gair Wilkinson and Rose Witcup.

Edwin Bjorkman, writing in the American Review of Reviews, was a great fan of the writing of Dora Marsden: "The writer of The Freewoman editorials has shot into the literary and philosophical firmament as a star of the first magnitude. Although practically unknown before the advent of The Freewoman ... she speaks always with the quietly authoritative air of the writer who has arrived. Her style has beauty as well as force and clarity."

Marsden also attacked the WSPU's strategy of employing militant tactics. She argued that the autocracy of Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst prevented independent thought and encouraged followers to become "bondwomen". Marsden went on to suggest "the paramount interest of the WSPU was neither the emancipation of women, nor the vote, but the increase in power of their own organisation." On 7th March, 1912, she wrote: "The Pankhurst party have lost their forthright desire for enfranchisement in their outbalancing desire to raise their own organisation to a position of dictatorship amongst all women's organisations.... The vote was only of secondary importance to the leaders... before every other consideration, political, social or moral comes the aggrandisement of the WSPU itself and the increase of power of their own organisation."

The most controversial aspect of the The Freewoman was its support for free-love. On 23rd November, 1911 Rebecca West wrote an article where she claimed: "Marriage had certain commercial advantages. By it the man secures the exclusive right to the woman's body and by it, the woman binds the man to support her during the rest of her life... a more disgraceful bargain was never struck."

On 28th December 1911, Dora Marsden began a five-part series on morality. Dora argued that in the past women had been encouraged to restrain their senses and passion for life while "dutifully keeping alive and reproducing the species". She criticised the suffrage movement for encouraging the image of "female purity" and the "chaste ideal". Dora suggested that this had to be broken if women were to be free to lead an independent life. She made it clear that she was not demanding sexual promiscuity for "to anyone who has ever got any meaning out of sexual passion the aggravated emphasis which is bestowed upon physical sexual intercourse is more absurd than wicked."

Dora Marsden went on to attack traditional marriage: "Monogamy was always based upon the intellectual apathy and insensitiveness of married women, who fulfilled their own ideal at the expense of the spinster and the prostitute." According to Marsden monogamy's four cornerstones were "men's hypocrisy, the spinster's dumb resignation, the prostitute's unsightly degradation and the married woman's monopoly." Marsden then added "indissoluble monogamy is blunderingly stupid, and reacts immorally, producing deceit, sensuality, vice, promiscuity and an unfair monopoly." Friends assumed that Marsden was writing about her relationships with Grace Jardine and Mary Gawthorpe.

Dora argued that it would be better if women had a series of monogamous relationships. Les Garner, the author of A Brave and Beautiful Spirit (1990) has argued: "How far her views were based on her own experience it is difficult to tell. Yet the notion of a passionate but not necessarily sexual relationship would perhaps adequately describe her friendship with Mary Gawthorpe, if not others too. Certainly, her argument would appeal to single women like herself who had sexual desires and feelings but were not allowed to express them - unless, of course, in marriage. Even then, sex, for women at least, was supposed to be reserved for procreation."

On 21st March 1912 Stella Browne wrote about her views on free-love in The Freewoman: "The sexual experience is the right of every human being not hopelessly afflicted in mind or body and should be entirely a matter of free choice and personal preference untainted by bargain or compulsion." According to her biographer, Lesley A. Hall: "Browne emphasized the need for women to speak about their own experiences. In both principle and practice Stella was a convinced believer in free love, known to have had various lovers, certainly some male, and possibly some female, though these cannot be reliably identified."

Charlotte Payne-Townshend Shaw, the wife of George Bernard Shaw, wrote to Dora Marsden "though there has been much I have not agreed with in the paper", The Freewoman was nevertheless a "valuable medium of self-expression for a clever set of young men and women".

However, Olive Schreiner disagreed and argued that the debates about sexuality were inappropriate and revolting in a publication of "the women's movement". Frank Watts wrote a letter to the journal that if women really wanted to discuss sex "then it must be admitted by sane observers that man in the past was exercising a sure instinct in keeping his spouse and girl children within the sheltered walls of ignorance."

Harry J. Birnstingl praised Marsden for raising the subject of homosexuality. He added: "It apparently has never occurred to them that numbers of these women find their ultimate destiny, as it were, among members of their own sex, working for the good of each other, forming romantic - nay passionate - attachments with each other? It is splendid that these women... should suddenly find their destiny in thus working together for the freedom of their own sex. It is one of the most wonderful things of the twentieth century."

The articles on sexuality created a great deal of controversy. However, they were very popular with the readers of the journal. In February 1912, Ethel Bradshaw, secretary of the Bristol branch of the Fabian Women's Group, suggested that readers formed Freewoman Discussion Circles. Soon afterwards they had their first meeting in London and other branches were set up in other towns and cities.

Some of the talks that took place in the Freewoman Discussion Circles included Edith Ellis (Some Problems of Eugenics), Rona Robinson (Abolition of Domestic Drudgery), C. H. Norman (The New Prostitution), Edmund Haynes (Divorce Reform), Huntley Carter (The Dances of the Stars) and Guy Aldred (Sex Oppression and the Way Out). Other active members included Grace Jardine, Stella Browne, Harry J. Birnstingl, Charlotte Payne-Townshend Shaw, Rebecca West, Havelock Ellis, Lily Gair Wilkinson, Françoise Lafitte-Cyon and Rose Witcup.

Harriet Shaw Weaver was one of those who joined the Freewoman Discussion Circle in London. The authors of Dear Miss Weaver (1970) pointed out: "It was a successful group, inaugurated at a meeting of more than eighty people. The numbers increased so fast that at its first meeting-room, at the Suffragette shop, was too small. So was its second, at the Eustace Miles vegetarian restaurant; and its final home was at the Chandos Hall. The programme for the session July to October 1912 included talks on Eugenics by Mrs Havelock Ellis and on Divorce Reform by E.S.P. Haynes. Other subjects were Sex Oppression and the Way Out, Celibacy, Prostitution, and the Abolition of Domestic Drudgery." Rebecca West recalled that at the meetings: "Everyone behaved beautifully - it's like being in Church, except Rona Robinson and myself. Barbara Low has spoken very seriously to me about it."

In July 1912, The Morning Post carried a letter from Lord Eustace Percy condemning The Freewoman as an immoral paper. Charles Granville replied that "The Freewoman's work was to clense the gutters of our national existence, gutters which, at present, are an offensive stench in the nostrils of God."

By the summer of 1912 Dora Marsden had become disillusioned with the parliamentary system and no longer considered it important to demand women's suffrage: "The politics of the community are a mere superstructure, built upon the economic base... even though Mr. George Lansbury were Prime Minister and every seat in the House occupied by Socialist deputies, the capitalist system being what it is they would be powerless to effect anything more than the slow paced reform of which the sole aim is to make men and masters settle down in a comfortable but unholy alliance... the capitalists own the states. A handful of private capitalists could make England, or any other country, bankrupt within a week."

This article brought a rebuke from H. G. Wells: That you do not know what you want in economic and social organization, that the wild cry for freedom which makes me so sympathetic with your paper, and which echoes through every column of it, is unsupported by the ghost of a shadow of an idea how to secure freedom. What is the good of writing that economic arrangements will have to be adjusted to the Soul of Man if you are not prepared with anything remotely resembling a suggestion of how the adjustment is to be affected?"

Mary Gawthorpe also criticised Dora Marsden for her what she called her "philosophical anarchism". She told her that she "was not really an anarchist at all" but one who believed in rank, with herself at the top. Mary added: "Intellectually you have signed on as a member of the coming aristocracy. Free individuals you would have us be, but you would have us in our ranks... I watch you from week to week governing your paper. You have your subordinates. You say to one go and she goes, to another come, and she comes."

Mary Gawthorpe had suffered severe internal injuries after being beaten up by stewards at a meeting. She was also imprisoned several times and hunger strikes and force-feeding badly damaged her health and in March 1912, she was unable to continue working as co-editor of The Freewoman. Marsden wrote in the journal that "we earnestly hope that the coming months will see her restored to health". Although Mary was ill, she had not resigned on health grounds, but because of what she claimed was "Dora's bullying" and her "philosophical anarchism".

Gawthorpe returned all Dora's letters and asked her not to write again: "The sight of your letters I am obliged to confess turns me white with emotion and I have acute heart attacks following on from that."

In the edition published on 18th June 1912, Ada Nield Chew created further controversy with an article on the role of women in marriage. She argued that the emancipation of women depended on their gaining economic independence and rejecting the idea that their natural lifelong vocation was domestic and maternal. Ada, a working-class woman with children, added that: "A married woman dependent on her husband earns her living by her sex... Why, in the name of reason and common sense, should we condemn a mother to be a life-long parasite because she has had one or more babies to care for?"

In September 1912, The Freewoman was banned by W. H. Smith because "the nature of certain articles which have been appearing lately are such as to render the paper unsuitable to be exposed on the bookstalls for general sale." Dora Marsden argued that this was not the only reason the journal was banned: "The animosity we rouse is not roused on the subject of sex discussion. It is aroused on the question of capitalism. The opposition in the capitalist press only broke out when we began to make it clear that the way out of the sex problem was through the door of the economic problem."

Charles Grenville wrote to Dora Marsden complaining that the journal was losing about £20 a week and told her he was thinking of withdrawing as the publisher of the magazine. Marsden replied: "You have put money into the paper. I have put in the whole of my brain, power and personality. Without your money I would not have started, without my brain the paper could not have lived and shown the signs of flourishing which it undoubtedly has."

When Edward Carpenter realised the journal was being brought to an end, he wrote to Dora Marsden: "The Freewoman did so well during its short career under your editorship, it was so broad-minded and courageous that its cessation has been real loss to the cause of free and rational discussion of human problems."

The last edition appeared on 10th October 1912. Dora Marsden told her readers: "The editorial work has not been easy. We have been hemmed in on every side by lack of funds. We have, moreover, been promoting a constructive creed, which had not only to be erected as we went along, we had also to deal with the controversy which this constructive creed left in its wake.... The entire campaign has been carried on indeed only at the cost of a total expenditure of energy, and we, therefore, do not hold it possible to continue the same amount of work, with diminished resources, if in addition, we have to bear the entire anxiety of securing such resources as are to be at our disposal."

Dora appealed to readers to help fund a new magazine. Teresa Billington-Greig and Charlotte Payne-Townshend Shaw both sent money. Lilian McErie also contributed: "No paper has given me keener pleasure than yours. Its fearlessness and fairness made all lovers and seekers after truth respect it and love it even while differing from many of the opinions expressed therein."
In February 1913 Dora Marsden met Harriet Shaw Weaver, who had just inherited a large sum of money from her father. As Les Garner, the author of A Brave and Beautiful Spirit, pointed out: "They were in many ways totally unsuited - on the one hand, the rebellious, radical intellectual and on the other, the quiet, modest, unassuming and orderly Weaver. Yet they took an immediate liking towards each other - Weaver impressed by Dora's intelligence and indeed, her beauty, and Dora by Harriet's keen but systematic approach to the re-launch of the paper. Dora had originally just wanted a chat but they ended up in effect having a business meeting while all the time establishing their mutual respect and admiration".

The New Freewoman was launched in June 1913. The journal, published fortnightly, was priced at 6d but readers were asked to pay £1 in advance for 18 months' copies. Dora Marsden wrote in the first edition: "The New Freewoman is not for the advancement of Women, but for the empowering of individuals - men and women.... Editorially, it will endeavour to lay bare the individual basis of all that is most significant in modern movements including feminism. It will continue The Freewoman's policy of ignoring in its discussion all existing taboos in the realms of morality and religion."

For more information on this subject see the following:

Dora Marsden

Grace Jardine

Mary Gawthorpe

Stella Browne

Harriet Shaw Weaver