Monday, 12 June 2017

Catherine Wells (1872 - 1927) - British

If you follow my weblogs you will know that I quite often receive information from people regarding new poets, etc. to research.  I am very grateful for such help with this project.  Today I had an e-mail from Henry Gott of Blackwells Rare Books in Oxford.

Henry said: “have just been cataloguing 'The Book of Catherine Wells', a collection of stories and poems by the wife of H.G. Wells; it includes a trio of war poems - 'Spring 1915', 'June 1916', and 'Red Cross Workroom; 1917'. These were new to me - it doesn't mention where they were first published, if indeed they were published prior to this volume.”

Catherine Wells (1872 – 1927) was the second wife of the writer Herbert George (H.G.) Wells (1866 – 1946).

Catherine was born Amy Catherine Robbins in Islington on 8th July 1872.   Her parents were Frederick and Maria Catherine Robbins.   Catherine, who was known as Jane, was a student of H.G. Wells.  They were married in St. Pancras, London in 1895.
After Catherine’s death in 1927, Wells had her poetry and short story collection published under the title “The Book of Catherine Wells” published by Chatto & Windus in 1928.

Catherine's poem "Red Cross Workroom; 1917" tells us about her contribution to the war effort:

Daily here my body sits, My fingers tearing bandage strips,
My drilled eyes watch the pattern fits,
My agile scissor cuts and snips,
But truant Brain leaps out at play
And flies to some pellucid day
And suddenly I seem to hear
A sea maid singing at my ear
And straight am with her on a strand
Of cockle shells and pearly sand.
Where rainbows crown the leaping surf
And green weed wraps the rocks with turf.
We wreathe her yellow hair with weed
And play with coriander seed
And coral beads and horns of pearl -
The while that here my body sits,
My fingers tearing bandage strips.

(From "The Book of Catherine Wells" - short stories and poems - published in 1928 after Catherine's death by Chatto and Windus, London, 1928, page 201).

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ianthe Bridgman JERROLD (1898 - 1977) - British

Ianthe was born in Kensington, London, UK in 1898.  Her parents were Walter Copeland Jarrold, a journalist and author, and his wife Clara Armstrong Jarrold, nee Bridgman, who was also a journalist and author.  Ianthe was one of six daughters – Daphne, b. 1899, Phyllis, b. 1899, Hebe, b. 1901, Althea, b/ 1902 and Florence, b. 1913.   Walter’s brother Cyril was a teacher of blind people.

In 1901, the family are listed as living in Kingston in Surrey.
Ianthe married George J. Menges in Paddington in 1927.   She was a very successful writer and travelled to America several times between 1947 and 1958.   She died in Kensington in 1977.

Ianthe had her first volume of poetry published when she was a schoolgirl during the First World War, under the title "The Road of Life and Other Poems" (Erskine Macdonald, London 1915) in the series Little Books of Georgian Verse.

Sources: Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) Find my Past, Free BMD and

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Nora C. Hotblack (1866 - 1949) - British

I was looking through Reilly's Bibliography of First World War English poetry when I noticed an entry HOTBLACK N. and had to find out more.
Nora Constance Hotblack was born Nora Constance Candler in Lee, Kent, UK in 1866.  She married Herbert Arthur Hotblack (1858 - 1899) in Lewisham, Kent in June 1885.
On the 1901 Census, Nora is listed as a Widow and Owner of a Brewery - Kidd and Hotblack in Brighton. Also listed are Norah N. Hotblack, b. 1890 and Frank A. Hotblack, b. 1896. A cousin of Nora - Mary E. Candler - was also living in the house in Cuckfield, Sussex. 
Nora wrote a volume of poems entitled "Stray thoughts", which was originally called "A few poems" and published by Stockwell in 1924.   Frank A. Hotblack, who served in the British Army during WW1, edited his mother's volume of poems.  Reilly mentioned that no copies of the first and second editions of the collection were traced.
If anyone has any further information please get in touch as I should like to add Nora to my List of Female Poets of the First World War. 
Sources: Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) p. 174.  Find my Past and Free BMD.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Eleanor Alexander (1857 - 1939) - Poet

Eleanor Jane Alexander was born in 1857 in County Tyrone, Ireland.  Her father was the Rev. William Alexander, an Anglican priest, who became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and her mother was the poet and hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander, nee Humphreys.  Eleanor’s father also wrote and published poetry.  Eleanor had two siblings – Cecil J.F., born in 1859, and Dorothea A., born in 1861.  Their mother died in 1895.

Eleanor never married and lived with her father in Devon when he retired. After the death of her father in 1924, the King granted Eleanor permission to live in rooms in Hampton Court Palace in honour of her father’s lifetime of service.  She died there on 3rd June 1939.  Eleanor’s body was returned to Londonderry for burial.  She had lived there for much of her life and her family were buried there.

Eleanor’s poems were included in seven WW1 poetry anthologies and were also published in “The Times”, “The Spectator” and the “Belfast Telegraph”.
The following lines, taken from Eleanor’s “Commemorative Ode”, were written by Eleanor in late June 1917 to mark the first anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.  She dedicated the poem to the memory of the 36th (Ulster) Division.  The poem was published in “The Belfast Telegraph”:

‘Heaven for a moment; heaven, then hell,

Into the sunshine yellow on the grass

With brows uplifted, stern-lipped, glad they pass

To shot and splitting shell.

Now in the open, now at last

For love of liberty in England’s name,

To prove the soul of Derry’s ancient fame,

The mettle of Belfast

Not tear-dimmed, downcast, follow higher

Proud eyes, the well-beloved that toil and strain

In battle-storm and death and bitter pain

Through enfilading fire.

On to the trenches burrowed deep –

What of the brave, the brave who fight and fall

On to that last line in the smoke’s grey pall,

To have, to hold, to keep.’

Find my Past and Catherine Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Update re Joyce Amphlett

Researcher/historian Phil Dawes found out more about Joyce Amphlett:
"As you know, Marian Joyce was the daughter of a wealthy farmer. She was educated at home in 1901 and 1911. The house in which the family lived in 1911 had 4 servants and 16 rooms.

Joyce married Harold Mence Gardner at Upton (Malvern) in 1920. Her sister married in 1921.

She became elusive after that. As her husband was a forestry student ( he too was the son of a wealthy local farmer) I thought they might have gone abroad and they did: to Kenya. Harold worked his way up the Colonial Civil Service ladder to become Conservator of Forests, Kenya by 1938.  He was also appointed to the legislative council in 1933.

Harold was already in Kenya as a young forestry officer when WWI broke out. He fought in the East Africa campaign but became ill from malaria and returned to forestry.

After the war he must have returned home often enough to meet up with local girl Joyce.

They were on holiday in the UK in 1939 at census time. Harold was staying with her parents - several servants were listed. Joyce was almost certainly there too but her record is 'officially closed' for some reason.

They were good Christians and helped to found and build St. Francis Church in Nairobi. This is explained on their remembrance plaque in that church.

When Harold died in 1979 the “Nairobi Standard” newspaper published a fairly lengthy biography. It mentions Joyce and their five surviving children and fifteen grandchildren.

Joyce died in 1985."

And Steve Millward has found a reference to one of their children - Charles Amphlett Gardner - being made a District Officer in Fort Hall, Kenya on 14th July 1959.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Query regarding Maud Anna Bell (?1861 - 1947?)

I received an interesting query recently about the WW1 poet Maud Anna Bell and wondered whether anyone could help:

“As Maud Anna Bell was working for the Serbian Relief Fund, I'm interested to know if Maud ever went to the Front through her work.

I also found the poem 'Crocuses at Nottingham' attributed to a Miss Jessie Bell in “The Times” from 1917, so was wondering what had happened there.”

During the course of my previous research about Maud Anna Bell, I noticed that Catherine W. Reilly mentions her In the WW1 poetry anthology “Scars upon my heart”, saying that Bell “campaigned actively for the Serbian Relief Fund".  I have not been able to find any further information as to whether Bell actually travelled to Serbia.

Maud Anna Bell is also included by Catherine W. Reilly in her “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978), on page 52, as having poems included in two WW1 anthologies:

“A Treasury of War Poetry:  British and American poems of the World War, 1914 – 1919” (Boston, Mass., Houghton Mifflin, 1919, edited by George Herbert Clarke


“A Treasury of War Poetry:  British and American poems of the World War, 1914 – 1919” (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1919) – in both these the title of the poem is “From a Trench”.

Immediately above the entry for Maud Anna Bell is an entry for a Maud Bell who published a WW1 collection of poems entitled “London songs and others (poems)” (Bristol, Horseshoe Publishing Company, 1924.   Could this be the same person?

Following up one lead regarding the Serbian Relief Fund, I began to look at The Church League for Women's Suffrage and came across this very well researched and written site which gives a great deal of information about some wonderfully inspirational women:

Details on the Church League for Women's Suffrage -

Maud's poem appeared in “The Times” as by "M. B. H." according to Carrie Ellen Holman's anthology, the “Day of Battle: Poems of the Great War” (Toronto, 1918), but it could have been misread.

Has anyone any further information about Maud Anna Bell please?

Thursday, 16 March 2017

An interesting MA thesis about women's poetry in WW1

While researching Maud Anna Bell. I came across this extremely interesting piece of research work about the poetic response of women to the First World War.  Written by Amy Helen Bell in December 1996 for an MA at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada I found this full of interesting points