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Archive for August, 2016

EnchantedCornwall
From Enchanted Cornwall — Cornish beach — to them this recalls Andrew Davies’s 2009 Sense and Sensibility

Dear friends and readers,

Since tomorrow I’m going to try to travel to Cornwall where I will spend a week with a beloved friend, I thought I’d orient myself by reading an overview of the place, and found myself again reading DuMaurier’s Enchanted Cornwall and Vanishing Cornwall. Though I’ve long loved a number of her books (basically the historical romances with female narrators, Rebecca, her biographies, life-writing, travel writing) my yearning to see Cornwall does not come from them, as what drew me were the atypical romance stories; it comes from the Poldark novels where the life experience, landscape, kinds of employment offered, society of Cornwall is central. Thus (with little trouble) I’ve picked photos from DuMaurier’s book which relate directly to the Poldark world:

cornishBeach

I remember Demelza frolicking on such a beach with her lover, Hugh Armitage (The Four Swans)

season1Part8Episode6
19677-78 Poldark: Part 8, Episode 8: Demelza (Angharad Rees) and Armitage (Brian Stirner) cavorting along the beach —

and DuMaurier tells a tale of haunted vicar living a desolate life after he alienated the few parishioners he had in Warleggan church:

WarlegganChurch — From Vanishing Cornwall — Warleggan church

I’ve read all sorts of books on Cornwall since my love of these Poldark novels began, from mining to Philip Marsden’s archeaological reveries, Rising Ground, Ella Westland: Cornwall: The Cultural Construction of Place, to Wilkie Collin’s ode to solitude and deep past in his Rambles beyond Railways); to smuggling, politics beginning in Elizabethan times, poetry (its authors include Thomas Hardy, John Betjeman’s Summoned by Bells), to women artists (Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes, Dame Laura Knight), corrupt politics in this patronage-run Duchy. If I were to go back to count in the books on Arthur and the legends surrounding his figure, and literature, I have conquered whole shelves. Bryychan Carey’s website will lead you to much from a modern abolitionist left point of view, plainly set out. So much from one corner of a country.

TruroCornwalllookingdownfromcliff
A photograph my friend took today, near Truro

DuMaurier’s lyrical prose carries so much information so lightly, one is in danger of not realizing how much is there. There is a film adaptation of Vanishing Cornwall (half an hour); it accompanies the movie, Daphne with Geraldine Somerville and Janet McTeer as the leading lovers) developed from her letters, memoirs, and Margaret Forster’s biography. Her stance is less subjective than Graham’s, legend, myth, than Graham does in his Poldark’s Cornwall, which dwells on his life, his career, the place of Cornwall in his fiction right now. Appropriate to Graham’s fiction so concerned with law, justice, in his travel book, we have a photo of Launceston jail gate today:

LauncestonGaol

The DuMaurier’s may be regarded as instances of l’ecriture-femme too: in Enchanted whole parts of her novels emerge from this or that landscape memory as well as the sea. I had forgotten how many of her novels are situated there, from the one I think her finest, The King’s General (set in the later 17th century, the heroine in a wheelchair almost from the beginning) to the later one, Outlander takes off from, Hungry Hill. Her historical novels are historical romances: at core they are gothic, erotic fantasies. Vanishing is circular in structure, at the core her retelling of legend is minimized so she can do justice to the geography, archaeaological history, various industry. There is a paragraph on the coming of pilchards every spring which owes a lot to Graham’s lyrical miracle in the third book of Ross Poldark (there used to be a podcast on-line from the BBC, now wiped away, alas). Legend blends into history; history becomes poetical writing. She is not much on politics, dwelling on the upper classes as they’d like to be seen (mostly the later 17th into later 18th century and again the 20th).

For now here a piece from Vanishing Ground read aloud, evocative.

As qualifiers:

A poem by Betjeman: Cornish Cliffs

Those moments, tasted once and never done,
Of long surf breaking in the mid-day sun.
A far-off blow-hole booming like a gun-

The seagulls plane and circle out of sight
Below this thirsty, thrift-encrusted height,
The veined sea-campion buds burst into white

And gorse turns tawny orange, seen beside
Pale drifts of primroses cascading wide
To where the slate falls sheer into the tide.

More than in gardened Surrey, nature spills
A wealth of heather, kidney-vetch and squills
Over these long-defended Cornish hills.

A gun-emplacement of the latest war
Looks older than the hill fort built before
Saxon or Norman headed for the shore.

And in the shadowless, unclouded glare
Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where
A misty sea-line meets the wash of air.

Nut-smell of gorse and honey-smell of ling
Waft out to sea the freshness of the spring
On sunny shallows, green and whispering.

The wideness which the lark-song gives the sky
Shrinks at the clang of sea-birds sailing by
Whose notes are tuned to days when seas are high.

From today’s calm, the lane’s enclosing green
Leads inland to a usual Cornish scene-
Slate cottages with sycamore between,

Small fields and tellymasts and wires and poles
With, as the everlasting ocean rolls,
Two chapels built for half a hundred souls.

Laura Knight paints the contemporary world’s hopes.

LKnightChinaClayPitDetail
Laura Knight’s rendition of a China Clay Pit (a detail, painting from early in the 20th century)

Ellen

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Friends,

My original intent on these series of blogs on women artists was to do justice to obscure women artists; what I’ve discovered is of those whose writings and art survive, they cannot be so obscure. Records are required; if not a resume, a “character” by someone (a recommendation). Without some factual anchors, their work is not usually saved, and not put in prominent enough places to be readily seen. It has no larger context to give it meaning and life . I have myself been reluctant to feature a woman artist where I have hardly any images. I do so tonight.

I began writing this woman artists blog for the sake of one image, a black-and-white reproduction of Torcross, Devonshire, by Ellen Gosse:

GooseTorcrossdevonshire
Torcross, Devonshire (1875-79)

I first came across Torcross, Devonshire in Deborah Cherry’s Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists. I fell in love with it and have never forgotten it despite its the faded, small, and black-and-white state. It has the immense strength of a large single image — the lake: the beauty of the water shines through. The grass is caught as rich and various and thick. An idyllic dream vision of the holiday place

When I was younger, before I went to graduate school, I was familiar with the belletristic literary criticism of her husband, Edmund Gosse; he did very well in his career at a time when it was not so easy to (as in New Grub Street); he has fallen out of favor since (nothing theoretic, no intense dense scholarship). I used to find his work gentle, ironic, pleasing, and insightful. He was among the early scholars of early modern and minor 17th century women writers (the first essays I read about Katherine Philips and Anne Finch were by him). I had since read his powerful taboo-breaking life-writing Father and Son, and it’s possible my familiarity with the name made me pay attention to this image. There isinformation to be gleaned about Ellen and her other family members in Ann Thwaite’s biography, Edmund Gosee, a literary landscape 1849-1928 (he was friends and associate with central literary figures of his day, a member of clubs, libraries), but no reproductions of Ellen’s landscapes.

But I am also writing it to situate Ellen Epps within an entrenched pattern among women artists: her father was a middling class professional, George Napoleon Epps, a member of a respected family of homeopathic doctors. Her sisters were painters like herself. What was happening by the later 19th century in the UK was among the artistic and intellectual of upper class Victorian families a kind of proliferation of women artists and writers, who not infrequently group themselves with other female relatives and pursue their vocation with and through them: sisters, aunts and nieces, writing, doing fine art, of and for one another, and promoting or selling it together, e.g, the Hayllarr group (Little Stackpole, Edith, Jessica, Kate, and Mary, described by Cherry; also written about by Pamela Gerrish Nunn in her Victorian Women Artists). Another group of these related women we don’t often think about this way are Julia Margaret Cameron, the famous art photographer, maternal aunt to the sisters, writer Virginia Woolf and artist Vanessa Bell, and Vanessa’s daughter, Angelica Garnett, writer, editor, artist.

Ellen was one of three sisters: Emily, who trained with the pre-Raphaelite, John Brett, whose husband died young; as a widow and before Ellen married, Emily and she took up housekeeping together; and Laura second wife of Lawrence Alma Tadema, and because of her attachment to her husband, and his art career, a productive painter:

Laura_Theresa_Alma-Tadema_-_The_Bible_Lesson
Laura Epps Alma-Tadema (1852-1909), The Seamstress

In my judgement Laura’s work is a feminine version of her husband’s: the quietly erotic sensuality of omitted; the period changed from faux-classical to early modern or chaste early 19th century. Her work fits into those women covered by Cherry in her Beyond the Frame: “Tactics and Allegories, 1866-1900.”

Like her sister, Ellen’s influence on her daughter, Sylvia, so Laura influenced her step-daughter, Anna Alma Tadema (1867-1943), the daughter of her husband’s first wife. The best of Anna’s are architectural; the lines of the houses exert a chastening effect on exotic patterning. For example, Anna’s (to me) deeply appealing tranquil corner view of Eton College Chapel:

anna_alma_tadema_Etoncollegechapel
The colors are soft brown, the stones in the street exquisitely carefully drawn

And reprinted frequently is Anna’s gorgeously over-decorated (if the paintings of it are accurate): Townsend House, the Drawing Room (1885), a sort of show-place (owned by her father):

Anna-Alma-Tadema-The-drawing-room-at-townshend-house-1885
I take Anna’s as well as her step-mother’s paintings to be women’s versions of Laurence Alma-Tadema’s strongly-controlled eroticism with their hard surfaces and women’s flesh: instead they substitute bejeweled exoticism and much drapery

****************************

Ellen had begun exhibiting her work in 1871. She was under considerable pressure from her aunt to marry, and Edmund Gosse was also her aunt’s choice. She had refused to think about marriage, and in 1874 was described thus:

Nellie’s determination of will, she having willed that she will not marry, but prosecute her art with all her might, for since she has no fortune, she wishes to be indebted to no one for a holiday, she wishes no one to be indebted to no fortune.” Gosse was told about Elinor’s refusal; she realizes, she wishes to be indebted to no one for a livelihood, but worker her way into a fortune

According to Ann Thwaite, Ellen was very much a “new woman” in her attitudes and behavior before she married Edmund — though not an activist at all. She attended lectures at Queen’s College in Harley Street; her holiday reading one year included Carlyle, Blake, the Spectators, translations of Heine, early Meredith, Ruskin. She had had serious ambitions as a painter. She traveled to the continent and visited art galleries (France and Italy) by 1875 (Thwaite 149-50).

But a year later she “suddenly capitulated and without terms … she was so anxious to think of me in the future rather than herself.” After their marriage in 1875 Edmund Gosse worked as a civil servant, while gaining a reputation as a literary critic and poet. According to Deborah Cherry,

“Ellen ran the household, kept their accounts (keenly aware of the need to collect payments outstanding for Gosse’s work and to secure remunerative commissions) and and looked after their three children, Philip, Tessa and Sylvia. When Ellen was was away from home – on holiday with the children, visiting his parents, or nursing Gosse’s father in his terminal illness – her husband wrote to her as follows:

Please let me know by return of post: —
1. Where are my white flannel trousers and shirts?
2. Have I a decent pair of tennis shoes?

He would confess his dependence on her: She was, he admitted, his general provider: ‘Whenever you are away, I become immediately conscious of my utter helplessness without you, and how essential to my daily comfort your strength and knowledge and experience really are.”It is so dreadfully fatiguing to have you away. You are so terribly indispensable. hands and brains and everything to your poor E.'”

It was a happy marriage, despite Gosse’s homosexual leanings (confessed to John Addington Symons among others apparently). It seems that many of Gosse’s friends were adverse to marriage; but not he. I take it he was bisexual. Beyond the money he made from his academic success (at the British Museum), she inherited a sizable sum from an uncle, James Epps, the cocoa manufacturer. It was a very Bloomsbury world as described by Katherine Fisher who wrote of Sylvia’s life:

[Sylvia] was the youngest of three children of the poet, critic and librarian of the House of Lords, Edmund Gosse (1849–1928) and his wife Ellen Gosse (née Epps). Her mother and two of her aunts had all studied painting. Ellen (known as Nellie) had been a pupil of the painter Ford Madox Brown (1821–1893), while Ellen’s younger sister Laura studied with and later married the painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912). While Sylvia was growing up there was a constant stream of distinguished visitors to the family house in Delamere Terrace, Paddington, and from 1901 in Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park, including writers Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling. Later, the list of social acquaintances included the artist Walter Sickert, who became Sylvia’s lifelong friend and colleague.

Tellingly Ellen produced her landscapes when away from home, on visits to others. The images I’ve seen beyond the one landscape exemplify the genre women favored: their own domesticity. Unlike writing women, they did not (hardly ever) used pseudonyms, and they painted their families, homes, children, the private sphere. Here is her richly colored depiction of “Hal in Townsend House:”

EllenEpps

Cherry:

“When circumstances permitted she worked hard, noting in her diary for 1887 that she had painted continuously for seven hours. She exhibited occasionally from 1878 to 1890 after which date she wrote travel pieces and nonsense verse, contributed art reviews to the Saturday Review, Century and Academy, children’s stories to St Nicholas and published articles in St James Gazette. In 1893 she wrote deprecatingly that she had been sent a copy of Art and Handicraft in the Woman’s Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago ‘as I happen to be a woman and was once a sort of artist’. She had exchanged her independence for marriage, children, a moderate output of paintings and a modest exhibition record;”

after her children grew older she became a regular minor journalist. Edmund praised her letters strongly; very amusing he said. He thought that she had it in her to write “a good novel one of these days.” She wrote children’s stories, art criticism, magazine articles on all sorts of topics, but not the great comic novel she was perhaps capable of (Thwaite, 213-14) . The only other image by her I have found is of her sister, Laura “entering the Dutch room at Townsend house:”

ellen-gosse-portrait-of-laura-lady-alma-tadema-probably-entering-the-dutch-room-at-townshend-house (Large)

***********************

A fourth woman with gifts from this clan was Ellen’s daughter, Sylvia (1881-1968). Here is the best picture by Sylvia I’ve seen.

Sylviagosse

Sylvia Gosse (1881-1968)
, The Semptress (1914)

It is influenced by Whistler, the schools of painters who painted working people which are found at the time in Normandy (Jules Bastien-Lepage) that came to center in Cornwall, and the break-up of images in impressionism.

Sylvia shows genius in her drawings too, e.g., “The Old Violinist.” She reminds me Elizabeth Forbes Armstrong in her admiration for Walter Sickert, and like Elizabeth was part of 1890s artistic groups. She resembles the women of Germaine Greer’s book, she dedicates herself to a fellow male mentor artist. Her brief biography is reminiscent of the fictionalized women artists & writers, whom Woolf writes of in her “The Mysterious Case of Miss V” and “The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn” (both in Memoirs of a Novelist).

“The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn and “Memoirs of a Novelist,” are gems, brief, of the type Diski so brilliantly imitates in her Apology for a Woman Writing, a novella, semi-biography of Marie de Gournay with Montaigne (a presence in the book) and her servant. In “Memoirs of a Novelist” our intrepid narrator trying to uncover lost lives, tries to research past what Miss Linsett, best friend of Miss Willatt, wrote of Miss Willatt in a biography. Go beyond the turgid unreal phrases and there are so few documents and most ignore any human reality suggested. Woolf shows that the way such biographies are written you end up knowing nothing about them person. Then slowly and with difficulty our narrator ferrets out what can be said for real of Miss Willatt. Alas, not much. That she was conventionally ugly, that her father made her life a misery until he died, that she was capable of deceiving Miss Linsett endlessly, a restless and disappointed woman who sought her happiness in her self and not others, and was never given a chance at an individual life.

Not true of Sylvia Gosse. Her public life appears to have fulfilled her. In the Burlington Magazine here and there an image of a painting or drawing by her appears. From Katherine Fisher, we glimpse Sylvia as living a quiet life, not exactly reclusive, but never becoming quite part of the Camden Town or London groups.

photo
A photograph of Ellen (here called Nellie) and Edmund Gosse in old age — they look like they are enjoying life together

I would be grateful for any information on other of Ellen Gosse’s landscapes.

Ellen

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John-MartLandscape,-Possibly-the-Isle-of-Wight-or-Richmond-Hill-xx-Yale-Center-for-British-Art
John Martin (1789-1854), Landscape possibly Isle of Wight or Richmond

Felicité passée
Qui ne peut revenir;
tourment de ma pensée
Que n’ai je en te perdant, perdu le souvenir

In these gloomy moods, she was quite unable to remain a moment in company — Smith cannot break away from obsessive memories of her life as a girl, code for before marriage Celestina

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve read yet another novel by Charlotte Smith: her fifth published narrative, Celestina (1791). I can’t say I took no interest whatsoever in the pivotal central heroine and supposed central consciousness of the book, Celestina, or Willoughby, her hero and their unfolding story. I kept read-skimming to near the book’s end to find out whose daughter Celestina is, and how she came to be mistakenly regarded as the illegitimate daughter of Mrs Willoughby, her foster-mother (benefactress is the term in the novel), and thereby Willoughby’s half-sister and ineligible to marry him. I was engaged by his long semi-fantasy journey at la St Preux in La Nouvelle Heloise amid the mountains of Switzerland, his deep absorption in wild solitudes as he traveled about to Southern France, Switzerland, into Naples to discover who she is, and where this rumor that has estranged them from one another forever came from.

sunset_on_the_coast_near_naples-JWrightofDerby (Large)
Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-97), Sunset on the coast near Naples

However, this journey was a detour from the book’s plot-design, and had no individual nuance, could easily have been attributed to some character invented for this journey, or better yet Smith herself as implied author, impersonal narrator. At the end of her life when she was dying, in pain from terminal ovarian cancer, and her husband had at last died, and she was getting the interest on her legacy, she dreamed of going to Switzerland, some cottage there. I imagine she thought of re-buying a library for herself once more.

And that’s part of the peculiarity of the pleasures of this novel. Its strong, compelling sections, passages are all those which have nothing to do with the central story. The most appealing engaging parts of the hovel are the several inset stories, of the “lamentable history” type told by a victim heroine: Jessy, much put-upon younger woman, harassed, exploited, seeks “service” where things do not get better; Mrs Elphinstone, the wife and then widow of yet another wildly extravagant, mercurially hot-tempered and intransigently stubborn husband, who (luckily we think) is drowned; Cathcart, Mrs E’s brother (who eventually marries Jessy, the lower middle class young man led astray by unrealizable ambitions in counterproductive jobs; Emily, their sister’s story, senselessly repressed, bullied, she flees with Vavasour, a handsome good-natured enough rake, who promised to marry her, does not but who loves and supports her even when she dies of consumption; of Lady Horatio Howard’s aristocratic life among corrupt circles she accepts (who stands in at moments for Smith’s beloved but probably prudentially conventional friend, Henrietta O’Neill); of Count de Bellegarde, a younger son of a reactionary punitive Italian Marquis, and his sister, Genevieve whose marriage beneath her her father refuses to forgive. Celestina travels as vigorously as any Radcliffe heroine, and I know I read the book for her sojourn in the Hebrides, which does not disappoint, and the inserted poetry in all the Scottish sections of the novel. I found the account of the early stages of the French revolution into Napoleonic era as played out in southern France, and Italy eye-opening as by a contemporary witness who thinks and reads. Did I say this is a long book?

I’ve come to the conclusion in this book Smith is a novelist in search of another form of novel, more than a different central story. She wanted another structure, another mode. As with her Letters of a Solitary Wanderer were the motifs and characters and themes and utterances anticipated those of Mary Shelley in her Frankenstein, I felt Smith was frustrated, hemmed in with these paradigmatic pathological familial romance-sex stories, semi-action adventure (Sophia Lee style, often with women at the center or feminized heroes), no matter how much more terrifying she managed to make them. Her next novel, Desmond, is epistolary. It’s a political treatise with its love story in the margins, and is balanced, symmetrical, satisfying, no tedium. But basically she changes content, reverses emphasis: the next three, Old Manor House, Emigrants (verse narrative), The Banished Man, are centered in inheritance, illegitimate and war, revolution, counter-revolution, stories of exile. Then the gothic Montalbert (about adultery, male violence, torrid climes, mother turning into daughter) and we read a story about debt, the prison system, some of it carried on by inset epistolary narrative, Marchmont. She does not take the generic leap she needed to.

Where the central narrative of Celestina comes most alive is in action-adventure moments of supreme suffering, but the problem is to get there we have to read distress upon distress and cannot forget the improbability of this. What she was seeking was some sudden frantic suffering, the sort of thing Outlander does weekly, as in the super-painful penultiamte episode where the sadistic homosexual Black Jack threatens to kill Claire until Jamie agrees to become his masochistic sex partner, and then smashes Jamie’s hand again and again.

Agonized
The ecstasy of the agony (Catrionia Balfe as Claire, Sam Heughan as Jamie)

Claire moans and groans, pushing her head against Jamie’s shoulder who tells her she must leave: he stands in for tortured prisoners today (in the perpetual war this earth’s colonialist capitalists and militarist dictatorships are waging against fanatic bands of excluded men and women mesmerized by a barbaric religion aka the war on terror) and what perhaps happens in prison systems like that of the US, China, Egypt (&c). So this film series knows what it’s doing and what it is conveying. We take this replacement as believable because done in the Lee mode, of historical romance with fantasy interwoven (what Diana Wallace in her Woman’s Historical Novel and Helen Hughes in her The Historical Romance describe). In her most powerful famous sonnets she is urging on herself such moments:

Swift fleet the billowy clouds along the sky,
Earth seems to shudder at the storm aghast;
While only beings as forlorn as I,
Court the chill horrors of the howling blast.

Even round yon crumbling walls, in search of food,
The ravenous Owl foregoes his evening flight,
And in his cave, within the deepest wood,
The Fox eludes the tempest of the night.

But to my heart congenial is the gloom
Which hides me from a World I wish to shun;
That scene where Ruin saps the mouldering tomb,
Suits with the sadness of a wretch undone.

Nor is the deepest shade, the keenest air,
Black as my fate, or cold as my despair.

The above is from Montalbert, the novel written in the wake of her beloved daughter, Augusta’s death. One of her sequences of poems is that of a mother grieving the loss of her daughter. Not enough has been written about these or Smith’s work in terms of a mother to a daughter.

But Smith is too conventional finally; too in her heart hopeful generally, not able to give up her progressive vision to move into the despair that would create an appropriate text.

I’m thinking that unlike Austen who could stay with conventional paradigms, not having a radical unearthing kind of vision, Smith needed to break them away. (Yes there is a sequence of double humiliation in a sort of assembly room dance that Austen could have had in mind in her S&S, but what is made intense height of shattering mortification in Austen, is a passing phase of your usual social suffering in Smith.) The feminocentric courtship novel was not for her (Emmeline). She writes in one of her self-reflexive critical comments that she cannot get herself to move to the supernatural (she is thinking of gothic fantasy) since she wants to stay true to the cause of the evil and harm she sees around her: natural, man-made, if by the end of her life she saw apparently not reformable. I was thinking today how Dickens’s great historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, is not (like Barnaby Rudge, a weak book), rooted in historical detail accurately dramatized but instead has these long chapters of deep imaginative flights of bleak, tragic, pessimistic imagery to convey the nightmare horrors the ancien regime could inflict on the powerless. Most of her stories are set in the present. Maybe she needed some weaving technique whereby she could embed her inset narratives as letters, memoirs, from an earlier period, a version of time-traveling through having her characters do research and find letters and documents instead of wandering as desperate exiles. Something more integrated too, distilled. Maybe a Booker Prize type post-colonial book. She was 200 years too early. She reached for it in the opening of The Banished Man (which I’ve begun, a conflagration amid war of a house), but then fell back again when her daughter died.

Something visionary in a prose story yet grounded in realism. This is iconoclastic for Smith scholars as (like them) I love how she follows Cowper, but the problem with her much admired Beachy Head is it is too exquisitely a jeweled imitation of him. She cannot like Wordsworth tell her life directly: it is unacceptable what she knew. In one of her late stories she has a heroine whose husband murders her son out of sexual jealousy over their daughter remember her last years with him before separation:

when, far from other motives than those of real affection, he once more approached me, mingling resentment and doubt even with his caresses, I would gladly have returned to my dungeon, or even have sought shelter in the grave, rather than have become, as I was however gradually compelled to do, the mere victim of his animal gratification (from “Edouarda,” Tales of Solitary Wanderer)

This getting close to the heart of the matter. Her surrogates are all of her older; she omits the time inbetween and she needed to write out of that. As I read and reread her poetry, this silent core is what she seeks to erupt from herself looking to the wild storms and solitude of landscapes outside the control of men, to bring her to it.

ON this lone island, whose unfruitful breast
Feeds but the summer-shepherd’s little flock
With scanty herbage from the half-clothed rock,
Where osprays, cormorants, and sea-mews rest;
Even in a scene so desolate and rude
I could with thee for months and years be blest;
And of thy tenderness and love possest,
Find all my world in this wild solitude!
When Summer suns these Northern seas illume,
With thee admire the light’s reflected charms,
And when drear Winter spreads his cheerless gloom,
Still find Elysium in thy shelt’ring arms:
For thou to me canst sovereign bliss impart,
Thy mind my empire–and my throne thy heart.
— Celestina in the Hebrides

The lines to pay attention to are the last three: she does not find refuge, an alternative either through her mind or (being this realist), now without a friend (the death of Henrietta O’Neill is never far from her mind) in an envisaged practical future.

Faultering and sad the unhappy Pilgrim roves,
Who, on the eve of bleak December’s night,
Divided far from all he fondly loves,
Journeys alone, along the giddy height
Of these steep cliffs, and as the Sun’s last ray
Fades in the West, sees, from the rocky verge,
Dark tempest scowling o’er the shortened day,
And hears, with ear appall’d, the impetuous surge
Beneath him thunder!—So, with heart oppress’d,
Alone, reluctant, desolate, and slow,
By Friendship’s cheering radiance now unblest,
Along Life’s rudest path I seem to go;
Nor see where yet the anxious heart may rest,
That, trembling at the past—recoils from future woe.
Celestina in the Hebrides

HebridesRobMiller
Rob Miller, Outer Hebrides

Ellen

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