Zora Neale Hurston and Dorothy West

Zora Neale Hurston is a writer we’ve long admired. We included a discussion of Hurston’s Jim Crow-era friendship with White author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in our book A Secret Sisterhood, and also featured a post about the pair on Something Rhymed back in 2014. Today we focus on Hurston again, to consider another of her important literary alliances. This time we take a look at her relationship with Dorothy West, a fellow member of the artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance …

Dorothy West (Wikipedia)

Dorothy West’s talents as a writer had brought her attention from an early age. Born into a comfortable, Black middle-class home in Boston, Massachusetts in 1907, by the time West reached her teens she was regularly publishing work in the Boston Globe and competing successfully for literary prizes. In 1926, her short story ‘The Typewriter’ came joint-second in a contest organised by Opportunity, the journal of the civil rights organisation, the National Urban League.

The entrant with whom West shared second-place would turn out to be the older, more established writer Zora Neale Hurston. West’s prize included a trip to New York and an invitation to the celebratory awards dinner, and so it wouldn’t be long before the two women would have the chance to meet in person.

Zora Neale Hurston (Wikipedia)

Although West would later recall that Hurston ‘always had a little feeling about me’ because of the gap in their ages, she remained certain of the older writer’s overriding affection. In fact, Hurston went out of her way to befriend West, inviting her to parties at Hurston’s apartment and introducing the younger woman to other leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance.

When West’s official time to leave the city was up, she opted instead to remain, boarding initially at the YWCA and then at Hurston’s own apartment while her new friend was away on a research trip. During this period, the pair – and West’s poet cousin Helene Johnson, who had come to New York with her – continued to keep in touch by post, sending letters and gifts.

As in the case of presents exchanged by Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, which provide insights into the nature of their creative alliance, so, too, the offerings passed between by Hurston and West illuminate their relationship. While Hurston was travelling the rural South, collecting African American folktales, West parcelled up copies of current popular books, allowing her friend to keep up with what was selling well in New York. Hurston, in turn, sent a box of pecans on the occasion of West’s first Thanksgiving in the metropolis and also – in a sign of the trust quickly established between them – segments of Hurston’s work-in-progress for safekeeping.

The friendship would continue into the 1930s, the decade in which Hurston would publish her most famous work, the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and West would establish a magazine Challenge, which championed the work of contemporary Black writers. Hurston, whose star was in the ascendant at that time, would open her home to West again on future occasions, the two even living together for a time in 1931.

Despite West’s dedication to her writing and her early successes, by the end of the 1930s she had become disillusioned with the New York literary establishment. Keen to focus on stories set within the milieu of the African American middle classes that she knew so well, she struggled to find a publisher for her novels, since they did not conform to many editors’ ideas of what ‘Black writing’ ought to be.

In 1943, she moved permanently to Martha’s Vineyard, off Cape Cod, where her parents had owned a holiday home. It was while living here, in 1948, that she would finally publish her best-known novel The Living is Easy, and then, after a gap of almost half a century, The Wedding in 1995, when West was in her eighties. Despite the long break between these two published works, West had continued to balance writing with caring commitments towards elderly relatives during her years out of the public eye. She published pieces in the Vineyard Gazette as well as working, without any particular hopes of commercial success, on her longer fiction.

After the resurrection of West’s writing in her old age, thanks in large part to the efforts of her Martha’s Vineyard neighbour, Doubleday editor and former First Lady Jackie Onassis, West received frequent invitations to be interviewed about her life. She now found herself regarded as a rare and significant surviving voice of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston, herself, had passed away in 1960.

Recalling the part that her late friend had played in that crucial early creative period in New York, West would reminisce about the closeness the two had once shared, remembering that Hurston had called her a ‘little sister’. The Richer, The Poorer, a collection of West’s essays and fiction, published in the same year as The Wedding, includes the ‘The Typewriter’ – the story that had brought Dorothy West to New York and marked the very  start of her literary friendship with Zora Neale Hurston.

Mentor or tormentor – Ali Thurm’s thoughts on female friendship in fiction

Back in February, before such gatherings had been put on hold in London owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the two of us enjoyed attending the launch of the debut novel by a former student of ours.  Ali Thurm’s book, One Scheme of Happiness, is an engrossing read about the close yet unsettling bond between two old school friends who reconnect in later life. We are so pleased to feature this guest post by Ali, in which she shares some thoughts on the subject of female friendship in fiction through the ages.

I’ve always been interested in how childhood friendships influence the choices we make as adults – those moments in childhood that stand out as turning points and that we remember for the rest of our lives. Some of us want a large group of friends and many hanker after a best friend, a soul mate. We want to know how to be a good friend and how to keep these friends, how to achieve a balance between pleasing our friends and being true to ourselves. And what to do if things go wrong, if this fine balance tips over into envy or destructive hatred? As a writer and keen reader, it feels natural to me to look to fiction for answers.

Image by Benjamin White (Creative Commons licence)

In the 19th century novel female friendship is often relatively straightforward: a friend is a good influence or not.

In Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontё, we see an example of how to be a good friend. When Jane goes to Lowood School, the older Helen Burns befriends her. Virtuous, and long-suffering, Helen shows Jane how to overcome the bullying and cruelty of the school through religion and stoicism. When Jane is forced to stand on a stool as a punishment Helen walks past her, inspiring the book’s heroine with the ‘strange light’ in her eyes. ‘It was as if a martyr, a hero, had praised a slave or victim, and imparted strength in the transit.’ This is a friendship in adversity that strengthens Jane’s character.

In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Lucy Steele befriends Elinor Dashwood. She is pretty and vivacious and at first Elinor enjoys her friendship; but Lucy is ‘a person who joined insincerity with ignorance’ and not averse to flattery and outright lying to further her marriage prospects. Austen treats her with wit and humour, but Lucy’s ‘little sharp eyes’ cause Elinor great emotional distress. She is a friend to be avoided.

Post Freud, the contemporary novel delves deep into psychology; female friendships endure and aren’t cast off with marriage or by other circumstances. They are complex and complicated. Now that women can choose to have it all, or none of it, friendships are fluid too. And not necessarily nice.

The friendship between Lila and Elena in Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, set in 1950’s Naples, is intense and often problematic. As the narrator Elena remarks, ‘Lila … immediately impressed me because she was very bad.’ Even when it is Lila who has thrown Elena’s doll into a dark cellar and Lila who constantly dares her to try more and more dangerous games, Elena is devoted to her. Having been dared by her friend to climb a dark staircase, Elena recalls that ‘Lila did something unexpected. She stopped to wait for me, and when I reached her she gave me her hand.’ After this one moment their friendship lasts for decades.

In Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye a middle-aged narrator, Elaine, looks back at childhood friendships – relationships in which her friends also became her torturers. Picturing herself back in those days, she says: ‘They are my friends, my girl friends, my best friends. I never had any before and I’m terrified of losing them. I want to please.’ Elaine never comes to terms with these negative feelings and how her childhood relationships led her to lose all self-respect. The novel focuses on these damaging early experiences and their resulting psychological trauma.

Like Cat’s Eye, my novel, One Scheme of Happiness, is driven by an adult re-evaluation of a friendship. My protagonist Helen has been influenced by caring for her acutely anxious mother, and by her own narrow reading of 19th century novels, Mansfield Park in particular. As a child she is so besotted by the glamorous Vicky that she does whatever Vicky tells her to do to retain her friendship, including  bullying other children. But when the bullying becomes sexual and turns on her, Helen drops Vicky and finds friendship with another quieter girl, Ann.  At the heart of the novel, is the shifting and game-playing between Helen and Vicky, which continues into adulthood.  Ultimately, Helen needs to find the balance between holding onto this relationship and preserving her own sanity. She will have to reappraise the life choices she’s made as a result of her complex and confusing childhood friendship.

For us, Helen’s changing feelings about her personal bond with Vicky are one of the most interesting characteristics of Ali’s novel. They are also a reminder that, despite how often the subject has been tackled in fiction over the centuries, there’s still a great deal to explore afresh in the subject of female friendship.

Ali Thurm’s first novel One Scheme of Happiness is published by Retreat West Books. You can find out more about Ali’s work at alithurm.com. She is also on Twitter @alithurm and Instagram @alithurm.

Muriel St. Clare Byrne and Dorothy L. Sayers

As fans of  The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women, we were delighted when its author Mo Moulton agreed to write a post for this blog. Long-time readers of Something Rhymed might recall us profiling Sayers’s literary bond with fellow crime author Agatha Christie back in 2015. Mo, though, focuses on the several-decades-long friendship between Sayers and Muriel St. Clare Byrne. It’s a piece that raises fascinating questions about criticism, collaboration and female friendship, and one that we’re sure our readers will enjoy.

‘Did they fight?’

That’s the question I always get when I speak about the Mutual Admiration Society, a writing group founded in 1912 at Somerville College, the University of Oxford, by a group of young women who remained friends and collaborators for life. The answer is yes, of course – if anyone has discovered the secret of decades-long, conflict-free intimacy, it wasn’t them, and it isn’t me. Even the name is a joke rather than a description: future detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, a founding member, said they should call themselves a mutual admiration society, before others did.

In fact, the MAS was free with sharp criticism. Sayers’s closest friend in the group was Muriel St. Clare Byrne, who would go on to be a playwright and a historian of Tudor England. Before that, she was editor of the student literary magazine, The Fritillary. Assessing Sayers’s entry to a poetry competition run by the magazine, Byrne wrote that it ‘has some very good lines in it, but has also too many serious lapses to justify the award of a prize’.

After university, Sayers and Byrne were in less frequent contact, as each struggled to find her own way as an independent woman in postwar London. By the late 1920s, however, they had become firm friends again, and Byrne and her partner Marjorie Barber won a cameo appearance as Harriet Vane’s best friends, Sylvia and Eiluned, in the 1929 Lord Peter Wimsey crime novel Strong Poison. (Eiluned, we learn, ‘scorns everything in trousers’, a classic euphemism if ever there was one.)

Strong Poison is based on one of Sayers’s own unhappy love affairs, and it introduces a romantic interest to the Wimsey novels in the person of Harriet Vane. Having created Vane, Sayers seemed unsure what to do with her, writing several more Wimsey novels that fail to advance the romantic plot. Her writerly impasse echoed her real-life dilemmas, which she and Byrne discussed in depth.

In 1933, they took a road trip together. Sayers introduced Byrne to her son, who had been born out of wedlock a decade earlier and was raised in some secrecy by her cousin in Oxford. They drove on through Somerset, and I imagine them in the car, rattling rapidly between high hedges, talking about whether Sayers should divorce her husband, and, probably, what Byrne should do about her own desire to incorporate another partner into her relationship with Barber. 

A year, and no doubt many conversations later, Byrne proposed: why not write a play together, set during the honeymoon of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane? The result was Busman’s Honeymoon, a comic detective play that nonetheless takes on serious questions about how to reinvent marriage to be egalitarian, honest, and liberating rather than constraining and degrading. Drafts of the play reveal the working process to have been frank and equal, too: Byrne and Sayers debate everything from individual word choices to the big questions of motive and emotional integrity.

Having committed to an on-stage honeymoon, Sayers needed to get her characters engaged to be married, which she did in the novel Gaudy Night. Written after Busman’s Honeymoon was completed, but before it was performed, Gaudy Night is probably Sayers’s most beloved novel, an homage to Somerville College as well as a love story. But Byrne was unconvinced by the version she read in draft, finding it slow-moving and unlikely to appeal to readers.

Is this, finally, the fight that folks want, the dramatic falling-out after collaboration? It is not. Sayers rebutted the criticism but took it in stride. In fact, she looked forward to seeing Byrne again soon so they could have ‘a good argufying evening’.

In the questions about fights, I hear an echo of the stereotypes about women and friendships: that women are competitive, they are jealous and catty, they don’t have real friendships. But, as Sayers and Byrne would go on to argue in a pair of linked essays, women are, after all, just human beings, who loved and fought like any other human beings.

Sayers dedicated the 1937 novel version of Busman’s Honeymoon to Byrne, Barber, and their mutual friend Helen Simpson. In her dedication, she dismisses the stereotypes and celebrates, instead, that ‘friendship of which the female sex is said to be incapable; let the lie stick i’ the wall!’

Sayers and Byrne debated and argued and disagreed, but that was a part of their friendship, which ultimately became a collaboration that transformed them both as writers and thinkers.

Mo Moulton is a historian and writer, and the author of The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women. You can find out more at momoulton.com. They are also on Twitter @hammock_tussock. (Photo credit: Holly Revell)

Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis

Especially in such challenging times, Emma and I want to wish all our readers well. We are so thankful for the online community that has grown with this blog since its beginning six years ago, and hope that posts like the one you are about to read will offer some inspiration and interest over the difficult months ahead.

In our co-authored book A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf, the two of us suggest that physical intimacy between female writers has tended to receive greater attention than their intellectual bonds. Here on Something Rhymed, we’ve therefore focused on the platonic friendships of female writers. Yet archaeologist and historian Rebecca Batley piqued our interest when she pitched a piece on famed lovers Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis. Rebecca explained to us that the relationship between these two aristocratic women was also founded on a mutual literary influence, which endured for a lifetime.

Violet Trefusis – This image is in the public domain.

Violet Trefusis is mostly known today for a slim volume of her published love letters addressed to Vita Sackville-West, aristocratic author of novels such as All Passion Spent (1931) and creator of the famed gardens at her ancestral home of Sissinghurst.

But this wild, lyrical and deeply passionate correspondence is as much a record of a longstanding literary alliance as a chronicle of a love affair. For like Sackville-West, Trefusis was an accomplished author – although her seven novels and two memoirs are now largely forgotten and out of print.

Trefusis and Sackville-West met as children in 1903 at a social gathering, their families moving in royal circles. Sackville-West was brought up in a home bestowed on her family by Elizabeth I. Trefusis’s mother – incidentally, the great grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall – was mistress to King Edward VII.

Their schoolgirl attachment was both passionate and literary from the start. Both had creative aspirations from a young age and bonded over their love of books. In their correspondence they frequently quote contemporary works of literature, and recommend authors to each other. To them beauty was God, and the pursuit and creation of it drove all their work.

It is utterly impossible to separate the women’s personal connection from their literary one. The two women were deeply in love and sustained a passionate affair for many years, culminating in an infamous elopement to France. Equally important, though, during this period both women began to write in earnest.

Sackville-West would publish poetry as early as 1909, words that Trefusis alternately inspired and advised upon. The letters between her and Sackville-West during this time are littered with advice, and writing tips are swapped back and forth with great frequency. In August 1918, Trefusis wrote that she discussed ‘these things only with you, my views on religion, Epicureanism, writing, ethics and so forth’. Sadly, her husband would later burn many of the letters from Sackville-West to her, so the extant correspondence does not present a complete picture.

By the 1920’s, however, Sackville-West  was working on her autobiography, which her son Nigel Nicolson would incorporate into his infamous Portrait of a Marriage after both his mother and Trefusis were dead. Here, Sackville-West’s words  chronicle her love affair with Trefusis and her decision to remain married to her husband, Harold Nicolson. In the words of Sackville-West’s son, the book is a remarkable recording of ‘the violence of her passion’ for Trefusis.

Vita Sackville-West – This image is in the public domain.

Trefusis’s most well remembered work is Broderie Anglaise which was written alongside and in response to Sackville-West’s Challenge, a novel that chronicles their love affair in fictional form. While the publication of Challenge was blocked, to Sackville-West’s frustration, by her mother, Trefusis’s Broderie Anglaise was well received at the time, but is today regrettably remembered only for its complex relationship with Sackville-West’s Challenge and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando – a novel that completed their real life ménage à trois.

In Orlando, Trefusis  is portrayed as Sasha, Sackville-West as Orlando. Trefusis had encouraged Sackville-West to explore her perceived androgyny and Woolf transferred this brilliantly into fiction at a time when she was embarking on her own love affair with Sackville-West and feeling cripplingly jealous of her lover’s longstanding passion for Trefusis.

Despite Woolf’s concerns, Sackville-West would not sacrifice her correspondence with Trefusis, with whom she continued to exchange affectionate letters long after their romantic affair had ended – both women using their correspondence as the touchstone of their lives and careers.

This ‘literary encounter’ undeniably developed around the singular relationship sustained by these two remarkable authors, who would time and again explore and dissect their personal relationship in their work.

These two women were, are and became far more than the sum of their romantic relationship, their lifelong literary alliance at turns inspiring and frustrating – both for them and for those who read them today.

 

Rebecca Batley is an archaeologist and historian.  She has been fascinated by the life and works of Violet Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis since stumbling across a book of their letters as a teenager. You can find out more about Rebecca at her blog TheTravellingHistorian. She is also on Twitter @TheTravellingH2.

A final note: Emily is now back from her period of maternity leave and will be taking over the running of Something Rhymed for the next few months while Emma concentrates on some personal writing projects. Emily is extremely grateful to Emma for holding the fort during her absence. As ever, if any of our readers has an idea for a post they’d like to write on female literary friendship, please get in touch via the Contact Us form. Do read the submission guidelines first, which are available here.

Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire

This month Something Rhymed eavesdrops on a conversation between poets Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire, who let us in on the friendship behind their jointly published poetry collection with Holland Park Press. The culmination of five years’ research and development, part-funded by Arts Council England, London Undercurrents explores the hidden histories of London’s unsung heroines north and south of the river.
Joolz Sparkes (left) and Hilaire (right) during a guerrilla poetry reading on the 19 bus route as part of International Women’s Day

Joolz: I remember when we met at the Spread the Word workshop, (which focussed on building confidence to read poetry to an audience), that I was impressed with the stillness of your stance when you read and the economy of your words. In comparison, I found it difficult to stay still and my poems seemed more wordy. I wish I’d known then that our differing styles, on and off the page, would complement each other so well. I would’ve got in touch with you sooner!

Hilaire: …I wondered why it took you so long to email me!

Joolz: I had imposter syndrome – you were a real writer, with books out, and I hadn’t been published yet.

Hilaire: But you’d been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize!  The poem you read at the workshop, about Uluru, really struck me. The percussive quality, the rhythm… but most impressively, it dared to address the racism at Australia’s heart. Something I, as a white Australian, had never had the courage to tackle in my writing. I really admire this about you – you don’t shy away from difficult issues.

Joolz: The political nature of your poem impressed me too, tackling the subject of refugees from the perspective of schoolgirls learning French.

Hilaire: Merci! When you got in touch and suggested we go to an open mic poetry event I was peri-menopausal. Too old, I thought, to make new friends. Thankfully I was wrong. Our friendship blossomed as we egged each other on to put into practice what we’d learnt at the workshop. You seemed a natural performer, dynamic and totally at ease with a microphone – unlike me. It was ages before I realised that, like me, you feel sick to the stomach before a reading.

Joolz: I used to be the front woman for a band, but there’s something more exposed about reading poetry – and I often want to run away beforehand! Performing together has been a wonderful way to combat nerves. Once we’re in the spotlight we fly! I think that’s because we feel passionately that we have something to say, and love to feel the human connection.

Hilaire: After about a year of giving each other writing prompts, it seemed a natural progression to do a project together. I’ve got fond memories of meeting on Saturdays to thrash out ideas over coffee and cake. It soon became clear that we share a passion for London and Feminism. Deciding to write about women in our different local areas suddenly clicked into place. Back then, I was already writing with my partner under a joint pseudonym, so I knew I wanted to write as ‘me’ for our book, rather than co-author poems.

Joolz: Which felt right to me too. I think we would have found it hard to co-author poems at the beginning of our writing friendship. We were so polite giving feedback in case we hurt each other’s feelings! It wasn’t until our mentor Jacqueline Saphra encouraged us to give proper feedback, that we started editing each other’s work in the way we would our own. Final approval stays firmly with the author of the poem though. Working on a collection together has taught me lots. I feel my writing has matured, and my critical eye has sharpened.

Mary Kinglsey Arrives Without a Husband’ (left), is by Joolz Sparkes, who says: It’s now commonplace for women in many parts of the world to travel alone, wheelie case in hand. But for explorer Mary Kingsley the act of solo travel was an effrontery to society. I was drawn to her complex and lively character – independent, humanitarian, and driven to move freely, unhampered.

‘Lady Cyclist’ (right), is by Hilaire, who says: As someone who’s found confidence and a sense of freedom through cycling, I was fascinated to discover that more than a century ago Victorian ladies had flocked to Battersea Park to practice what was then regarded as a rather risqué activity for women.

Hilaire: Me too. We’ve learnt so much about each other as people too, including who’s best at dealing with spreadsheets, and who has enough nerve to start conversations with event organisers and booksellers! Our working relationship is truly an equal partnership. I realised early on how important fairness is to you.

Joolz: …I really struggle with the unfairness of life! So I try to bring fairness into everything I do. You do too – in a quieter way. I’m definitely the louder one! The universe did the right thing when it pushed us together on that workshop.

Joolz Sparkes, a member of the collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, has featured at Ledbury Poetry Festival and was a TFL Poet in Residence at Leicester Square tube station. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, Cinnamon Press and Live Cannon pamphlet competitions. 

Hilaire grew up in Melbourne but has lived in London most of her adult life. Her novel Hearts on Ice was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2000, and in 2010 a selection of her poems featured in Triptych Poets: Issue One (Blemish Books, Australia).

Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire are co-authors of London Undercurrents published by Holland Park Press.

Betweenity, Friendship Across Miles and the Making of Mary Taylor’s Graphic Biography

Rae Joyce got in touch to tell us that she shared our fascination with Mary Taylor, the radical classmate who pushed Charlotte Brontë to earn her living by the pen. We were keen to learn more – not least since, like Taylor, Joyce is a Yorkshire woman living in New Zealand.

I drew Mary Taylor – in truth, she drew me to her.

109 port nicholson image ref As if a great planet fell out of the sky

In early 2016, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my partner batting around ideas for a project in which I could reconcile both of my hemispheres: Yorkshire and Aotearoa. As an English woman in New Zealand, I occupy a position of privilege that doesn’t sit comfortably with my working-class roots. I had always considered myself an underdog in the UK. But I’d recently finished co-editing Three Words, An Anthology of Aotearoa Women’s Comics (Beatnik), a book that sought to redress the erasure of women’s comics history in New Zealand, which forced me to acknowledge the link between comics and colonialism in Aotearoa. The book, and my essay included in it, was something of a stick to the wasps’ nest of the dominant culture of New Zealand comics. My partner, Māori poet Robert Sullivan, a former librarian, knew better than most what I was trying to achieve when he said, “Didn’t Charlotte Brontë have a friend who lived in New Zealand?”

I had read Jane Eyre in my teens and still had my copy. I put it in the laundry room where I had a small school desk and opened my laptop. Although I had a copy of Shirley, I hadn’t read it, so hadn’t yet encountered Rose and her family whose depictions Charlotte drew from Taylor and her family. But as I accumulated Brontë biographies and articles, an outline emerged of a woman I felt a strong pull to make out. Only one academic biography of Taylor had been published, and while I waited for a copy to arrive in the post, I began to draw.

For as long as I can remember, as well as writing, I have drawn and painted. I grew up in a small South Yorkshire mining town, until I didn’t. Which is to say, when the pits were closed, the pit head gear demolished and slag heaps overplanted the way kids scribble to hide their mistakes, I grew up on the edge of a ground-down town, cut off from all but a few houses by the new by-pass road that meant nobody had to drive through the place. At night, I would look out over the whips of birch at the brown-orange haze of streetlights above and the terraces silhouetted against them and wonder why the terrace I lived in was all on its own. Stories were my imaginative escape in lieu of the real thing.

It was a shift in circumstances that drove Taylor to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, as Wellington was known to Māori before Pākehā/Europeans arrived. After the death of her father, the family woollen mill passed to her eldest brother, and with it, her home. Taylor’s father had taught her never to marry for money, encouraging her in the belief that would underpin her writing: women must work. She differed from her best friend Charlotte in that she did not pay heed to social mores that considered work for women to be degrading – she referred to the working-classes as an example for the equality that could exist between the sexes. And by working and living independent of men, Taylor lived by her words. She set sail alone. But she maintained her friendship by letter.

Like Taylor, I travelled to New Zealand to improve my circumstances and to write. I have lived in Auckland almost as long as Taylor lived in Wellington, during which time I have corresponded with my best friend via letter. When my research for Taylor’s biography took me to New York in February 2017, I met my own Brontë in person for the first time.

Unlike the real Charlotte Brontë, Loredana Tiron-Pandit migrated, from Romania to Massachusetts. She is no coward. She is also the best supporter and encouragement a woman could have, and she never baulks from telling me what she thinks (Taylor would have loved her). She also helped me draft the copy of my graphic biography with text boxes that resemble torn fragments of Taylor and Brontë’s letters, because she is brilliant at all things ‘computer’ and I am a Luddite. (Taylor had a lot of sympathy for the Luddites. What an amiable bunch we four lasses would have made!).

As I pored over Taylor’s correspondence with Brontë I could not help but reflect on the letters – proper old fashioned paper letters – I had shared with Lori, how she was my first reader; how much I valued her honest opinion; how much I had come to rely on her and looked forward to her letters the way Taylor did – my driveway is no Mount Victoria, but I climb it with no less enthusiasm to check the mail box! My friendship with Lori was my first port of call for answering my questions of ‘How would Mary feel?’ Always at a distance, always waiting for a reply. And the satisfaction of handling the paper and reading the words in my friend’s own hand – Lori was never far from my thoughts as I shaped my book.144 gomersal brier hall image ref I can hardly explain to you the queer feeling of living...

And this is how my thoughts ran throughout the whole process of researching and drawing then inking the book; it wasn’t me finding out about Taylor, it was me and Lori talking to Charlotte and Mary. Sometimes I confused us. Sometimes I wanted to shake Taylor for her part in colonising Aotearoa. And once, in the Brontë Parsonage Library, I called Brontë a bitch. Taylor found the process messed with her head. Concerned for her health, she wrote to Brontë afraid she would slip into a state of “betweenity”. Body in New Zealand, head in Yorkshire.

I empathised.

Writing as Rae Joyce, Rachel J Fenton co-edited Three Words, An Anthology of Aotearoa Women’s Comics(Beatnik, 2016) and her participation in the NZ Book Council Graphic Novelist Exchange Residency in Association with the Publishers Association of NZ and the Taipei International Book Exhibition resulted in Island to Island, a Graphic Exchange between Taiwan and New Zealand(Dala/Upstart Press). Winner of the Auckland University of Technology Graphic Fiction Prize, Rachel is currently looking for a publisher for her graphic biography of Mary Taylor, Charlotte Brontë’s best friend, which she researched and drew with arts grant funding from Creative New Zealand.

Edited by Clêr Lewis.Clêr has an MA in creative writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is  working on her first novel.

If you too have an idea for a future Something Rhymed post, please do get in touch. You can find out more about what we are looking for here.

Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich

Regular readers may remember the piece on early twentieth century poets Charlotte Mew and May Sinclair written by our youngest contributor, Cambridge University student Jess Molyneux. We were thrilled when her course-mate Cecily Fasham got in touch to propose a piece on two authors whose work we first fell in love with during our own university years. What’s more, this pair lived centuries earlier than any of the writers we’ve yet to profile on Something Rhymed.    

Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich may have been illiterate, but these two medieval Christian mystics are a strikingly early example of literary female friendship.

With the help of scribes, both women wrote books which play crucial parts in literary history. Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love is the earliest surviving book by a woman written in English, and Margery Kempe’s untitled manuscript (known today simply as The Book of Margery Kempe) is considered the first English autobiography.

Fascinatingly, Kempe chronicles a meeting between the two – she stopped by in Norwich to see ‘Dame Jelyan’, and they spent ‘many days’ together in conversation.

Kempe and Julian shared some basic characteristics: both were female English writers; both Christian mystics who believed that they received visions directly from God; both from roughly the same late medieval epoch – they even both came to their spiritual awakenings following periods of serious illness.

They were, however, quite different.

Kempe was a wife and woman about town, mother to at least fourteen children before convincing her husband to become celibate, and decidedly public in her devotional brand, making long pilgrimages around England and all the way to Jerusalem; Julian was an anchoress – a type of religious hermit, living a reclusive spiritual life, walled-up with her cat in a cell attached to a church, with only a small window through which to receive food and speak to visitors. Julian’s renown was posthumous, her book unlikely to have been circulated during her life; Kempe was a medieval celebrity, drawing crowds and attention (sometimes negative – she was tried for heresy several times). Julian has always been known to scholars; Kempe’s autobiography is a recent discovery, contained in a single manuscript discovered in the cupboard of a Derbyshire mansion and identified in 1934 by American scholar of medieval history, Hope Emily Allen.

Julian’s Revelations records the visions she received from Christ following an illness in 1373, and is a highly regarded work of Christian mysticism, notable for its feminine perspective and delicate, evocative analogies, particularly the image of Christ as mother. Kempe’s Book is an account of her life and conversations with Christ. The two have long been associated; in the 1500s, someone wrote ‘Dame Ielyan’ (Julian) in the margin of the only extant manuscript of Kempe’s Book.

While Julian’s writing belongs to an accepted mystical tradition prevalent in the 14th century, Kempe’s style of devotion was counter-cultural. She was brash, loud and unapologetic; she shared with everyone the things God told her, however inflammatory, and frequently broke out into fits of crying, prompted by the Holy Spirit. This spectacular style of devotion won her popularity, but her audaciousness was divisive: she was often rebuked by male authority figures, called ‘a false strumpet’ and a liar by a priest in Leicester, several times accused of being possessed by the devil (rather than, as she claimed, the Holy Spirit), and put on trial for heresy. (She was acquitted.)

An accusation of diabolic inspiration brought Kempe to Julian of Norwich. She was looking for advice and Julian was skilled in ‘discernment’, divining between good and bad spirits. In Chapter 18 of her autobiography, Kempe writes, ‘sche was bodyn be owyr Lord for to gon to an ankres in the same cyte whych hyte Dame Jelyan’ (‘she was bidden by Our Lord to go to an Anchoress in the same city [Norwich], who was called Dame Julian’).

Julian had only encouragement to offer. She counselled Kempe to continue in what she was doing: being obedient to the will of God. Kempe’s tears, Julian said, were signs of God’s spirit working in her soul. ‘The mor despyte, schame, and repref that ye have in the world, the mor is yowr meryte in the sygth of God’ (‘The more despite, shame and reproof that you have in the world, the greater is your merit in the sight of God.’), Julian told her. This wisdom became central to Kempe’s devotion: each insult only increased her belief in her calling and determination to share the Gospel.

Julian and Kempe apparently spent some time together and formed a bond. ‘Mych was the dalyawns that the ankres and this creatur haddyn be comownyng in the lofe of owyr Lord Jhesu Crist many days that thei were togedyr’ (‘Much was the dalliance that the anchoress [Julian] and this creature [Kempe] had by commoning [conversing] in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ [during] the many days that they were together’), as Kempe put it. Talking to one another, in faithful sisterhood (Kempe records them calling one another ‘sister’), brought the two writers closer to God, to ‘dalliance’ (Kempe’s word for direct conversation with Christ).

This dalliance was the basis of their writing, suggesting a devotional, medieval version of female writers bouncing ideas off each other, finding inspiration in conversation. Their bond shows that literary friendship between women is nothing new; it’s a legacy that has been handed down to us through the centuries.

Cecily Fasham
Cecily Fasham

Cecily Fasham is an English student at Cambridge, and is perpetually excited about writing by women, from the 12th to the 21st century. She writes about whatever interesting stuff she meets on her blog, four walls & a pot of jam.

 

Edited by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, who runs the blog Such Friends, and is working on a book ‘Such Friends’: A Scrapbook Almanac of Writers’ Salons, 1897-1930. You can follow her on Twitter @SuchFriends.

 

If you have an idea for a future Something Rhymed post, please do get in touch. We’re interested in everything about female literary friendship from tenth-century Japanese diarists to contemporary graphic novelists. You can find out more details about submissions here.

 

 

 

 

Sheer Good Fortune

As regular readers of Something Rhymed may have guessed, Emily and I have been busy these past months working on other projects.

I’ve become Director of The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio, which offers mentoring by authors and agents to writers of fiction, narrative non-fiction and YA.

Emily has been holed away in the rare books rooms of various libraries, researching a transatlantic group of Victorian clairvoyants for her new book Out of the Shadows, which will be published by Counterpoint Press.

And we’ve both made significant changes in our personal lives too…

When Emily and I launched Something Rhymed back in 2014, we published a post on Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison – writers whose friendship combined from its inception the personal and professional, the celebratory and consolatory.

These legends of American letters grew close when they shared a bill at the Hay Festival in Wales during a time when both women were concerned about their mothers who were ill back home. In the decades since then, these ‘sister friends’ moved seamlessly between the public and private aspects of their friendship, paying tribute to each other’s literary accomplishments at huge official gatherings but also talking about family over dishes of Angelou’s fried chicken or wedges of Morrison’s carrot cake.

It was just such a combination of intimacy and admiration, celebration and consolation that prompted Angelou to help put on an event to honour her fellow author during a period when she knew that Morrison needed to be shown love and comfort following the death of her son.

The event was poignantly titled Sheer Good Fortune after the dedication Morrison had made to her boys at the beginning of her novel Sula: ‘It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you’. And now, in the wake of Morrison’s recent death, such a sentiment feels particularly resonant.

Back at the Hay Festival in 2014, Morrison announced from the stage they’d once shared the sad news that Angelou had died. Emily and I, sitting in the audience side by side, promised each other to follow their example by not only continuing to offer each other solace during dark times but also to celebrate each other privately and publicly, professionally and personally.

Over the years, Emily and I have been there for each other during bereavements and breakups as well as periods of professional and financial uncertainty. This only heightens the pleasure we’ve taken in the sheer good fortune each of us has experienced of late.

I will never forget the excitement in Emily’s voice when she called to let me know that she was expecting a baby. And then, not long afterwards, when we were in a tiny French restaurant in Earl’s Court marking both her pregnancy and her birthday, she shared her news that she and her long-term partner Jack had got engaged on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

A few months later, when I was delivering bourguignons, curries and Spanish stews to Emily’s flat in preparation for the weeks following the approaching birth, I told her about my partner Jonathan’s proposal to me and mine to him on a hillside overlooking a market town in Shropshire. Once I’d stocked up Emily’s freezer, we headed back to Earl’s Court, this time to one of our favourite coffee houses. There, we celebrated my engagement to Jonathan and Emily’s marriage to Jack and her pregnancy alongside a female friend we’ve  known since our days as young English teachers in rural Japan.

Wedding shoes – Emily & Jack getting married
The spot where Jonathan and Emma proposed to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily and I had dedicated our co-written book A Secret Sisterhood to Jack and Jonathan – a strange choice, perhaps, for a book on female literary friendship, but it felt fitting to us since our partners had always appreciated the importance of our own writing friendship, and had supported it at every turn. In our Acknowledgements, we thanked Jack and Jonathan for ‘keeping us well fed during long stints in our studies, and, most of all, never failing to be there when we emerged’.

No sooner did Emily and I emerge, however, than we each went back into hibernation – separately this time. Although we are no longer editing at a shared desk, sustained by Jack’s late-night dashes to the local kebab house or breakfasts with Jonathan at the greasy spoon, the four of us have found new ways to offer each other personal sustenance and professional support.

Emily and I have gone back to reading each other’s drafts, for instance, with a freshness and curiosity that was impossible when we’d already pored over the research materials side by side and laboured together over chapter plans.

And, when Jonathan and I set up The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio – a development scheme for writers of fiction and narrative non-fiction – Emily was one of the first people I asked to join our nationwide line-up of mentors. I know first-hand, of course, the quality of her feedback and the dedication she shows to other writers. Like me, Emily is originally from the north of England and we’ve both supported friends and family with access needs, so Emily shares our belief in making mentoring accessible across the country in person and via videocall, and she understands why we are committed to offering a free spot to someone of limited means. Like me, back when Emily was unpublished, she benefited from a period of mentoring by a more established author. Now that she is bringing out books on both sides of the Atlantic, she’s as keen as I am to offer other writers similar opportunities.

During a summer spent largely setting up The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio and continuing to work on my new novel, my friendship with Emily has offered me the most joyful of excuses to escape from my writing shed. During my first meetings with baby Lola, I have enjoyed rocking her to sleep in the nursery, pushing her pram through the park and chatting with Emily about everything from marriage to mentoring, motherhood to manuscripts. And, over the years to come, I’ll look forward to helping Emily teach her daughter what creative women have always known – that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Emily and Lola

Emily will be on maternity leave for the rest of this year, but I will continue to run Something Rhymed after its summer hiatus.  

We are looking for female writing friendships to feature on the site from October onwards. Please do take a look at our submission guidelines and get in touch if you’d like to pitch an idea.

It would also be lovely to hear from any of you who might be interested in the following literary projects I’ll be involved in over the coming months:

You can apply for all the mentoring and editing packages offered by The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio via its website, or direct any queries to studio@ruppinagency.com. The deadline for the selective scheme (including the free spot) is 5pm on Monday September 2nd but we accept ongoing applications for all other packages.  

Booking is now open for my one-day novel writing courses at the gorgeous Cambridge Writing Retreat. On Saturday October 19th, we’ll be asking what ‘Show Don’t Tell’ really means. And on Saturday November 23rd, Jonathan will join me in his role as literary agent to help writers work out what steps to take once the crucial first draft is complete.

And do save Saturday October 26th for the University of East Anglia’s Doris Lessing centenary celebration. I’m looking forward to sharing more stories about Lessing’s friendship with Muriel Spark during my conversation on stage with Rachel Cusk and Lara Feigel. This event also includes access to UEA’s Doris Lessing 100 exhibition, which contains archival material on display for the very first time.

 

 

For me she is not dead: playwright Julia Pascal on war correspondent Martha Gellhorn

In the lead-up to Julia Pascal’s new play Blueprint Medea, running at London’s Finborough Theatre from 21 May to 8 June, she lets us into the secret influence of Martha Gellhorn on its most powerful scene.

Some of you might remember that Pascal reviewed our book A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf for The Financial Times, calling it ‘an exceptional act of literary espionage’. We were delighted to receive this endorsement from a writer whose stage plays we had long admired for their daring representations of female friendship.

It is a particular pleasure, therefore, to welcome Pascal to Something Rhymed.

Who has been my most important female literary friend?

Martha Gellhorn, in later life.

Martha Gellhorn.

It was 1990. I was writing a drama about the Nuremberg Trials. Someone told me Martha Gellhorn had attended them. I knew of her fame as the most important female war journalist of her time but I had no idea that she had seen the architects and perpetrators of the ‘Final Solution’.

I called her, introduced myself and asked her to lunch. I don’t lunch, she told me, I drink.

She invited me to her Eton Square apartment. Everything was white. The sofa, the carpet, her sleek hairstyle.  She immediately harangued me about my wild curls. Can’t you do something with your hair?  We drank whisky. She smoked. She spoke about war, travelling, writing. And, of course, the man she hated being associated with, Ernest Hemingway. After a few meetings, she told me that Hemingway was a lousy lover.  She talked about marriage as a terrible idea. Don’t. You end up quarrelling about the gas bills.

Gellhorn would send me postcards in those days when letters were written and stamps were bought, and I saw her intermittently as I was conducting my own difficult love affair with a man in France.  Yes, we did marry. No, we did not quarrel about the gas bills.

But in other ways I followed her lead. What did she teach me? There were forty years between us. I saw a woman who was unafraid of offending. I saw a woman in her eighties still madly in love with the craft of writing even though her sight was limited by macular degeneration. I learned from others who knew her that she was both feared and admired, and I liked her say-it-as-it-is attitude.

Julia Pascal in the early 1990s, around the time when she first met Martha Gellhorn.

In my new play Blueprint Medea, there is an unexpected female friendship. Set today, Medea, a Kurdish soldier flees imprisonment in Turkey and arrives in Heathrow on a forged passport. She works illegally as a cleaner in a gym where she meets Jason-Mohammed, the son of an Iraqi taxi-driver.  They have a similar Muslim background but their cultures and philosophies are different.  Medea, a Kurdish Muslim, has become politicised by the PKK.  She is an atheist and a feminist. Jason believes himself to be a secular Londoner but, during the action of the play, is sucked back into conservative Middle Eastern values.

When his father forces him to marry his cousin Glauke, Jason is made to believe that Medea, as a Kurd, is the ‘wrong tribe’.  Euripides’ play Medea kills Glauke by sending her a poisoned wedding dress. In my version, Medea deflowers Glauke and, in doing so, suggests that she is freeing her from the strictures of Islamic patriarchy. By placing her finger in Glauke’s vagina is Medea committing violence or freeing Glauke from the Islamic marriage market?

Did meeting Gellhorn provoke me to write this unusual scene?

Gellhorn and I did once connect in the most visceral of ways. I was at her apartment once when I felt menstrual blood seeping through my skirt. I excused myself. But before I could finish cleaning myself up, Gellhorn was forcing me out of her bathroom. Making straight for the toilet, she fished out the tiny offending tampon. As I looked on from the hall, it struck me as extraordinary that the great war correspondent was touching the tampon that had just been inside me, that she was plunging her hand into the essence of my womb.

Her aggressive yet liberating act did not mark the end of our friendship. The last of her communiqués was Come over and tell me how your career is going.

I was busy with a production and did not reply. I did not realise this was her last postcard to me. I did not know that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was years after her death that I learned this command was her way of organising goodbyes to friends before her carefully planned suicide.

No longer would I go over to her white flat, taking with me packets of smoked salmon – there was never food in her apartment. No longer would I see her watch television and shout at the injustices of the world or hear about her snorkelling in Eilat with her brother. Until long after her death, I didn’t even know that, like me, she was Jewish. Why did she never mention that?

I was brave when I met Gellhorn: her influence has made me braver. This has led to a kind of wildness in my writing of female friendships. I like to think that Gellhorn would have enjoyed Blueprint Medea and the two huge female characters I have created. I wish she were still alive to be there on the first night.

She would tell me that women don’t behave that way. She was no feminist and female solidarity was not her world. And yet, because of our friendship, my impulse to write strong female characters has intensified.

For me she is not dead.

Julia Pascal is a playwright and theatre director. She was the first woman director at the National Theatre with her adaptation of Dorothy Parker’s prose and poems in the Platform Performance Men Seldom Make Passes. She has been produced in the UK and internationally and is published by Oberon Books. In 2016 she completed her PhD at the University of York. She is a Research Fellow at King’s College, London University. Currently she is researching a new play on a meeting between American philosopher Hannah Arendt and German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon in France 1940.

You can book tickets for Blueprint Medea via London’s Finborough Theatre, where it will be running from 21 May to 8 June. We’ve already got our tickets, so do say hello if you spot us there.

If you too have an idea for a future Something Rhymed post, please do get in touch. You can find out more about what we are looking for here.

 

 

 

The Authors’ Club of Louisville, Kentucky

Back in January, we published Jennifer Montgomery’s fascinating post on the friendship between Jean Webster, author of children’s classic Daddy-Long-Legs, and fellow New Woman, the poet Adelaide Crapsey. We mentioned then that Jennifer’s research into books for American girls had uncovered further literary friendships. Today we’re delighted to share her account of a female writing group founded in the late nineteenth-century.

When children’s book writer Annie Fellows Johnston wrote her autobiography, she looked back with special fondness on the writing group that she had helped found over twenty years earlier, in the 1890s:  the Louisville Authors’ Club. ‘The tie that bound us was a very strong one’, Johnston remembered, ‘and our friendship was deeply rooted’.

Annie_Fellows_Johnston,_head-and-shoulders_portrait,_facing_right_LCCN94510665
Annie Fellows Johnston [Public domain]
Indeed, Johnston’s autobiography offers evidence of that strong tie beyond her own memories:  Alice Hegan Rice, another member of the Authors’ Club, wrote a eulogistic introductory essay to the volume. ‘Behind the charming story-teller’, she wrote of Johnston, ‘is a woman of rare character and exalted vision’. And Rice’s own output testifies to the strength of the Authors’ Club bonds, as well. She dedicated her eighth novel ‘to the small band of Kentucky writers with whom it has been my happy fortune to make the literary pilgrimage’.

 

Alice_Hegan_Rice
Alice Hegan Rice [Pubic domain]
It was indeed a small club: ‘never more than seven or eight’, remembered Johnston. But over the two decades of the club’s existence, its fluctuating membership included some of the most popular authors of the early twentieth century.  Johnston’s Little Colonel series, later adapted into a Shirley Temple movie, drew favorable comparisons to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. After Alcott’s death, Rice noted that girls across America ‘acclaimed Annie Fellows Johnston their new and cherished leader’. Rice herself wrote the bestselling Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, which paid for a journey around the world in the company of fellow Authors’ Club members Fannie Caldwell (who was Rice’s aunt and became a best-selling author in her own right) and Ellen Semple. Rice was only sorry that she couldn’t bring more of the Authors’ Club with her: ‘the poignant part of pleasure is that we can’t share it with all those we love’, she wrote to one of the members left behind.

This success arose in part from the club’s serious approach to both the craft of writing and the business side of professional authorship. The members exchanged manuscripts for criticism in classic writers’ group fashion, but also discussed the literary markets and compared letters they received from editors and publishers. Pooling their knowledge offered them a unique grasp on the business side of literary success.

Ellen-Churchill-Semple
Ellen Semple [Public domain]
Sometimes the Authors’ Club collaborated even further. Rice once invited the whole club to her family’s cabin in the woods, where the members shared their stories on the prompt ‘The Well-Bred Young Lady in a Barber Shop at Midnight’. These stories later filled an entire issue of the magazine The Black Cat. Rice and Caldwell co-authored Caldwell’s first book, The Lady of the Decoration, an epistolary novel adapted from the letters she wrote home from her work at a kindergarten in Japan. Rice edited the letters to add a love story, indispensable for marketing purposes, and they published the book under a single pseudonym ‘Frances Little’. The book became a bestseller even though Rice’s involvement was secret.

When Caldwell later used the same pseudonym to write a sequel on her own, she dedicated the book to ‘My Fellow Wanderers through the Orient’, because the book drew on her adventures with Rice and Semple during their journey around the world. ‘The Century Co. writes that the advance orders for her [Caldwell’s] new book have been enormous. Aren’t you delighted for her?’ Semple wrote to yet another member.

Like Caldwell, Semple drew on her trip with Rice to write a book, but hers was a nonfiction book on geography. Although the Authors’ Club members united in their serious approach to their work, it spanned a variety of genres. The Club found room for Johnston’s children’s literature, Semple’s academic nonfiction, Rice’s romances, and Margaret Vandercook’s hastily written series books:  she churned out three or more novels a year like The Camp Fire Girls, The Ranch Girls, and The Red Cross Girls. Some libraries wouldn’t carry such books, but in the Authors’ Club they fit alongside Johnston’s critically acclaimed Little Colonel series. In her autobiography, Johnston proudly included Vandercook in a list of Authors’ Club members.

The Authors’ Club lasted over twenty years, but by the late 1910s it began to disperse. Johnston, one of the Club’s founding members, published her final novel in 1918, aged 55.  Caldwell, was also in her mid-fifties when she brought out her last book, and Vandercook followed suit in the early 1920s. While Semple, whose gender made it difficult for her to find a university post, finally found a permanent academic position at the age of 59 in 1922 – at Clark University in Massachusetts, far from Louisville.

The friendships between the members remained strong, but with fewer and fewer working writers among its members, the Authors’ Club drifted out of existence. By the time Annie wrote her autobiography in the late 1920s, the Authors’ Club was only a memory. But that memory, Annie wrote, ‘is one of my most cherished possessions’.

 

Jennifer Montgomery

By day, Jennifer Montgomery works in a library; by night, she writes novels and reads about nineteenth-century novelists.

Edited by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, who posts at Such Friends, and is currently working on a book, ‘Such Friends’: A Scrapbook Almanac of Writers’ Salons, 1897-1930.

If you too have an idea for a future Something Rhymed post, please do get in touch. You can find out more about what we are looking for here.