Monday, 2 August 2021

Ethel Carnie (1886 - 1962) – British writer, poet and activist

It is always exciting to discover a hitherto unknown poet. With thanks to  Historian Debbie Cameron for this information and for additional information to Lizbet Tobin on Debbie’s Facebook Page Remembering British Women In WW1 – The Home Front and Overseas    

Ethel was born in Oswaldwhistle in Lancashire, UK, the birth being registered in Blackburn, Lancashire in the first quarter of 1886.  Her parents were David Carnie and his wife, Louisa Carnie, nee Entwisle.  Ethel had a brother, Rupert, who was born in 1888.  All the Carnie family members worked in Lancashire’s cotton industry.  Ethel began writing at an early age.  She was educated at Great Harwood British School from 1892 until 1899, where she showed promise in composition and teachers frequently read her essays aloud to the rest of the class.  Working in the mills from the age of eleven, Ethel  became a poet, journalist, children’s writer and novelist.  She was a prolific writer, publishing at least ten novels and writing and publishing poetry. 

By 1911, Ethel was living in Great Harwood, Lancashire with her mother  and described herself as a cotton cop winder and journalist.  In June 1915, Ethel married Alfred Holdsworth.

Although he shared his wife’s socialist and anti-war views and may have applied for exemption on conscientious grounds, Alfred enlisted in the East Lancashire Regiment and was posted to the Western Front in 1917. Ethel was a socialist, a pacifist and anti conscription. She carried a red flag to the railway station to see her husband off. Ten months later, in 1918, he was reported missing, presumed dead. Later that year, Alfred was discovered alive in a British hospital, having been transferred from a prisoner of war camp.

A poem by Ethel Carnie that Debbie Cameron found in magazine “The Woman Worker”, the magazine of the Federaton of Women Workers.

Ethel protested against the introduction of conscription in WWI, addressed 20,000 women during the Women’s Peace Crusade and chaired local meetings of the British Citizen Party.   After her marriage, Ethel used her married name when writing.

During the 1920s Ethel edited and produced “The Clear Light”, an anti-fascist journal, with her husband.  She recognised the threat of Mussolini in the early 1930s. 

Dr Kathleen Bell is one of the leading figures in the campaign to introduce the work of the long-forgotten writer to a new generation. She writes that:

“at its best, Holdsworth’s poetry illuminates the gap between working-class people’s desire for liberty, often evident in their imaginative capacity, and the constraints and suffering of their lives”.

Ethel’s novel “Helen of Four Gates” (1917) was filmed in 1920. Lizbet Tobin discovered that prints exist in the Cinémathèque Québécoise film archive [35mm positive], and in the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House film archive [16mm reduction positive] and that there is a clip available:

Published works by Ethel:

Rhymes from the Factory (Blackburn: Denham, 1907)

Songs of a Factory Girl (London: Headley Brothers, 1911)

The Lamp Girl, and other stories (London: Headley Brothers, 1913)

Miss Nobody (London: Methuen, 1913) (Reprinted with new Introduction: Kennedy & Boyd, 2013)

Voices of Womanhood (London: Headley Brothers, 1914)

Helen of Four Gates (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1917) (Reprinted with new Introduction: Kennedy & Boyd, 2016)

The Taming of Nan (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1919)

The Marriage of Elizabeth (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1920)

The House that Jill Built (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1920)

General Belinda (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1924) (Reprinted with new Introduction: Kennedy & Boyd, 2019)

This Slavery (London: Labour Publishing Company, 1925)

The Quest of the Golden Garter (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1927)

Eagles' Crag (London: Stanley Paul, 1928)

Barbara Dennison (London: Stanley Paul, 1929)


Roger Smalley Uclan Thesis

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Catherine Wells (1872 – 1927) - British writer and poet

With thanks to Henry Gott of Blackwells Rare Books in Oxford for suggesting I

research Catherine, to Julie Cauvin who confirmed that the Red Cross WW1

Record card is indeed for Catherine Wells, wife of H.G. Wells, and to David Gray

for additional information

Photograph of Catherine
from her Book

Catherine was born Amy Catherine Robbins in Islington, London, UK on 8th July 1872.   Her parents were Frederick and Maria Catherine Robbins.   Catherine, who was known as Jane, was a student of Herbert George ( H.G.) Wells during his time as a teacher.  They were married in St. Pancras, London in 1895 – she was his second wife.  Jane died on 6th October 1927, in Dunmow, at the age of 55.

After Catherine’s death in 1927, H.G. Wells had her poetry and short story collection published under the title “The Book of Catherine Wells”, which was published by Chatto & Windus in 1928.  Several of her poems relate to WW1:

“Spring 1915”

Spring, dear Spring,

Dear Beauty !

You come with soft feet

Bringing your old, immortal joys

That have given us in all our years

Delight so exquisite.

You spread your loveliness before us –

A tender veil!

As if in kindness you had hung a curtain

Thick fold upon thick fold unstintingly

To stop our hearing how a madman

Raves, in the next room.

It is n o good, dear beauty of the earth !

Tearing great rents athwart you

Come the screams of war.

(page 199)

“June 1916”

Last night I dreamed.

In the void of space

Stood three great Archangels with pitiless eyes

About an armoured monster in their midst;

A brutal shape that spat impotent fire

At their bright immortality.

‘He must be beaten our of life,’ they cried;

‘He is War.’

And as I looked came multitudes

Carrying their all, and heaped upon the brute

Each staggering load, blow after blow, until he lay

Writing beneath a monstrous heap of treasure

And brave bodies of men, and women’s tears

That ran down the heap of pearls.

And still the angels cried, ‘More yet ! more yet !

Not yet is there enough !’ Again

The people toiled with fast diminishing loads

Until they had no more to give.

It seemed enough, until a tiny chink

Showed in the heap.

‘One thing more,’ they cried, ‘and ye have done !’

‘We have no more,’ the people wept.  And then

The angels turned, and each his finger held

Straight aimed at me, and called in unison,

‘Thy son ! ‘

(page 200)

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, pages 199, 200 and 201). Catherine's poem "Red Cross Workroom; 1917" appears to tell us about her contribution to the war effort. 

WW1 Red Cross Record card for Mrs H.G. Wells - From Julie Cauvin:  “Catherine did a Red Cross course: From the Boston Review blog spot ‘...She had gone through a Red Cross course so as to be competent in domestic emergencies. She had a file of shop addresses where things needed could be bought. Her garden was a continually glowing success...’ The Wells family lived at Easton Glebe - Besides his home in London, Wells rented Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex, on the Easton Lodge estate, between 1910 and 1928.”  

On the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship Facebook page on 20 June 2021, David Gray says:

“Flicking through a volume written by H. G. Wells from Siegfried Sassoon’s library, I found a small, printed booklet being the Eulogy by Wells for his wife Catherine. I’m guessing Sassoon slipped it into the book after attending the service.”

  Sources:  Find my Past,

"The Book of Catherine Wells" - short stories and poems - published in 1928 after Catherine's death by Chatto and Windus, London, 1928

British Red Cross WW1 Record card for Mrs H.G. Wells

Monday, 5 July 2021

Matilda Betham-Edwards (1836 – 1919) – British poet, writer, novelist

Matilda was born on 4th March 1836 in Westerfield, Suffolk.  She was the fourth daughter of Edward Edwards, a farmer, (c. 1808–1864) and his wife Barbara (1806–1848), nee Betham, whose father, the Reverend William Betham, was an antiquary and cleric. 

Matilda’s aunt was the artist, poet and novelist Matilda Beetham (1776 – 1852).  Matilda later wrote about her aunt in her book “Six Life Studies of Famous Women” (1880).  Matilda was educated in Ipswich and as a governess-pupil at a school in London.   She studied French and German in France and Germany and went on to write travel books.  After the death of their father, Matilda and her sister managed the family’s farm.   

Matilda was friends with Charles Dickens and with Charles and Mary Lamb, who were friends of her Mother’s.

Catherine W. Reilly tells us that Matilda published a volume of poetry during the First World War – “War Poems” (Arrowsmith, Bristol, 1917) – 24 pages.  According to Reilly, a copy of that collection is held by Manchester Public Libraries.  Matilda also wrote an account of the German occupation of Alsace – “Hearts of Alsace” (1916).

“The Two Mothers” by Matilda Betham-Edwards

‘Poor woman, weeping as they pass,

Yon brave recruits, the nation’s pride,

You mourn some gallant boy, alas!

Like mine who lately fought and died?’

‘Kind stranger, not for soldier son,

Of shame, not grief my heart will break

Three stalwards have I, but not one

Doth risk his life for England’s sake!’

Published in the “Westminster Gazette” on 11th December 1914. 

“War Poems” was the last poetry collection Matilda had published. It was inspired by the events of the First World War and some of the poems focus on theAlsace region of France. Most of the poems in the collection are patriotic and encourage men to join the fight, as shown by this extract from “No Son of Mine”(1915): 

“From over-sea thy brethren hie, 

Great England’s sons, not these home-born, 

Whilst thou by thousands let’st them die 

Thyself, unharmed, the butt of scorn!”. 

Matilda died on 4th January 1919 in Hastings, Sussex. 


Find my Past

Hibberd, Dominic and Onions, John, Editors.- “The Winter of the World Poems of the First World War” (Constable & Robinson, London, 2007)

Reilly, Catherine W. “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, new York, 1978)

There is a Biography of Matilda Betham Edwards written by Professor Joan Rees and published in 2006.  

Booksellers Jonathan Frost Rare Books Ltd. have a copy of Matilda’s WW1 poetry collection listed in their July 2021 Catalogue

Monday, 28 June 2021

Henriette Tayler (1869 - 1951) – WW1 poet and nurse

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for finding this information for us  

Helen Agnes Henrietta Tayler was born in Chelsea, London, UK in 1869. Her parents were William James Tayler, Laird of Glenbarry, and his wife, Georgina Lucy, nee Duff.  Known to family and friends as Hetty, her siblings were an elder sister, Constance and a younger brother, Alistair.  The family lived in London but every summer they travelled up to William Tayler’s childhood home - Rothiemay House, near Huntly in Aberdeenshire.

Henriette served with the French Red Cross during WW1.  After the war, she served in Italy, nursing civilians and servicemen suffering from 'Spanish flu'. She wrote her story - “A Scottish Nurse at Work: Being a Record of what One Semi-trained Nurse Has Been Privileged to See and Do During Four and a Half Years of War”  In Hetty's own words: ‘We did all our work in eucalyptus masks and everything was disinfected, even our letters.”

Maggie Craig has written a new book about Scottish nurse Henrietta Tayler.

With thanks to Lizbet Tobin and Eric Webb for additional information.

Henriette'a poem

Sources:  Find my Past]-R&c[0]=AT1FmUfOmMqoSQfh_NqeokPVAfGfcSqH0KZivzVclMZ1y1Po2TyTV3HqszAE67RB52g54Rmt42sFsf6GHKaqVZGoPgZmUEK_qgS2O8Abclf9XJoBbNcj_OSp9Y8Jdt97X1gubrisPF2fDfFvIc6IrFMoneupr3XZCG35h-7e2Je8bWkaAptrMxSIMa3-0KfqzNBmb1Eb

Friday, 25 June 2021

Inez Quilter (1904 – 1978) – British schoolgirl WW1 poet

With thanks to John Seriot for reminding me I had not posted this, though Inez is included in Volume 2 of Female Poets of the First World War

Inez was born on 22nd January 1904.  Her parents were Sir William Eley Cuthbert Quilter, Second Baronet and MP for Sudbury, and his wife, Gwynedd Quilter, nee Douglas-Pennant.

Her paternal grandfather – Sir Cuthbert Quilter – was one of the founders of the “National Telephone Company” and his telephone number was “London One”. 

In April 1955, Inez married former Yorkshire and MCC cricketer Brigadier Raleigh Charles Joesph Chichester-Constable, who was awarded the DSO in both world wars.

Raleigh died in 1963 and Inez in 1978.

Inez wrote this poem when she was eleven years old and it was included in “The Blue Cross Code”, a WW1 anthology published by Jarrolds in 1917. 

‘Sall’: (In Aid of the Wounded Horse)

I’m none of yer London gentry,

Non o’ yer Hyde Park swells,

But I’m only a farmers plough horse

And I’se born among hills and fells.

Yer mus’n’t expect no graces

Fer yer won’t get ‘em from me,

I’se made as nature intended

An’ I’m jus’ plain Sall, d’ye see.

You’ve not seen me in the Row yet

An; yer won’t, if yer try so ‘ard,

I’m not a shoow ‘orse yer forget

But I’m Sall, plain Sall, and Sall goes ‘ard!


Find my Past, Free BMD, 

Cahterine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp. 2 and 259.

Monday, 7 June 2021

“What Time The Morning Stars Arise” by Jean Blewett commemorating RNAS Lt Reginald Warneford VC

On 7th June 1915, Flight Sub-Lt Reginald Warneford of the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS( was awarded a Victoria Cross for destroying a Zeppelin in mid-air by dropping bombs on it. One exploded, setting the Zeppelin on fire, overturning Warneford's plane and stopping its engine. He landed in German territory but managed to re-start the engine and returned safely to base.  Lt Warneford was also awarded the French Legion of Honour for his action.  

Sadly, Lt Warnford was killed the day he received his French medal – on 17th June 1915 – as his plane crashed while taking a journalist on a non-combat mission. Canadian poet Jean Blewett wrote a poem about Warneford’s exploit :

“What Time The Morning Stars Arise” 

by Jean Blewett published in “Canadian Poets”, edited by John William Garvin (McClelleland, Goodchild & Stewart,Toronto, 1919), pp. 195 - 196 

 ABOVE him spreads the purple sky,

  Beneath him spreads the ether sea,

And everywhere about him lie

  Dim ports of space, and mystery.

Ho, lonely Admiral of the Fleet !

  What of the night? What of the night?

'Methinks I hear,' he says, 'the beat

  Of great wings rising for the flight.'

Ho, Admiral neighbouring with the stars

  Above the old world's stress and din !

With Jupiter and lordly Mars–

  'Ah, yonder sweeps a Zeppelin!

'A bird with menace in its breath,

  A thing of peril, spoil and strife,

The little children done to death,

  The helpless old bereft of life.

'The moan of stricken motherhood,

  The cowardice beyond our ken,

The cruelty that fires the blood,

  And shocks the souls of honest men.

'These call for vengeance–mine the chase.'

  He guides his craft–elate and strong.

Up, up, through purple seas of space,

  While in his heart there grows a song.

'Ho, little ship of mine that soars

  Twixt earth and sky, be ours to-day

To free our harassed seas and shores

  Of yonder evil bird of prey !'

The gallant venture is his own,

  No friend to caution, pray, or aid,

But strong is he who fights alone,

  Of loss and failure unafraid.

He rises higher, higher still,

  Till poised above the startled foe–

It is a fight to stir and thrill

  And set the dullest breast aglow.

Old Britain hath her battles won

  On fields that are a nation's pride,

And oh the deeds of daring done

  Upon her waters deep and wide!

But warfare waged on solid land,

  Or on the sea, can scarce compare

With this engagement, fierce, yet grand,

  This duel to the death in air.

He wins ! he wins in sea of space !

  Why prate we now of other wars

Since he has won his name and place

  By deathless valour 'mong the stars?

No more that Zeppelin will mock,

  No more will sound her song of hate;

With bursting bomb, and fire, and shock,

  She hurtles downward to her fate.

A touch of rose in eastern skies,

  A little breeze that calls and sings,

Look yonder where our hero flies,

  Like homing bird on eager wings.

He sees the white mists softly curl,

  He sees the moon drift pale and wan,

Sees Venus climb the stairs of pearl

  To hold her court of Love at dawn.

Previous post about Jean Blewett (1872 – 1934)

Monday, 24 May 2021

Rose E. Sharland, nee Teague (1882 – 1956) – British poet, writer and journalist

With thanks to Canadian genealogist Annette Fulford for finding Rose for us and  helping with my research into Rose's life and times. 

Annette’s main field of research is First World War Brides, soldiers' dependents 1914-1921 and Canadian Immigration 

Rose Emily Teague was born in Upton-on-Severn, Worcestershire, UK on 11th September 1882.  Her parents were Charles Teague, a builder, and his wife Fanny, nee Lees.  Rose had a brother – Arthur Teague, b. 1871 – and a sister, Lilian Mary Teague, b. 1885.  

I have not been able to find out much about Rose, other than that she became a poet, writer and journalist.  In September 1906, she married Robert William Harold Sharland, a civil servant, and they went to live in Bristol.  Rose’s husband died on 15th February 1922.   The 1939 Census shows her still living in Bristol, a widow with the occupation of journalist.    

Rose died in Bristol in March 1956, leaving her assets to her sister, Lilian Mary Machin, nee Teague.

Rose had poems published in various newspapers and periodicals - The Daily Citizen, Daily Herald, Socialist Review, Clarion, Labour Leader, Justice, Bristol Observer and Malvern Gazette. Rose wrote an interesting article entitled “War and Romance” which was published in “The Folkestone, Hyde, Sandgate and Cheriton Herald”, on Saturday, 13th May 1916.

She also apparently wrote lyrics for songs or hymns, one of them being entitled the “May-Day Song Socialist Anthem”, which was set to music by J. Percival Jones (1908)

Rose E. Sharland had several collections of poetry published, the WW1 collection being “Maple Leaf Men : and other War Gleanings” by Rose E Sharland (J. W. Arrowsmith, Bristol, 1916).

“The Destroyer” 

ALL the sea lies spun in opal, pink and purple, blue and gold, 

Silver flashing in the sunshine, green within the crested fold. 

Little clouds chase one another on a sky of rarest blue, 

Amethystine in the water shado\v-ghosts are skimming through, 

Peaceful red sails dip and curtsey bowing to the freshening breeze, 

There the stalwart fishers gather harvesting the wealth of seas. 

Then across the water gliding, 

Like black Death the ocean riding, 

Low and seething through the waters with a boiling trail in tow, 

The Destroyer comes, defending 

With a vigil stern, unending, 

All the fair green-girdled country that her children cherish so. 

Black from stem to stern she hastens, and her white long tail of foam, 

Cleaves the sapphire of the waters circling round the shores of home, 

Black her guns, no flashing metals dancing in the summer sun, 

All is shrouded and in silence : desperate work is to be done. 

Dark forms on the decks assemble, men who form the living shield 

Twixt old England, home and beauty, and the foe on Flanders field. 

That is why those ships are gliding 

Like black Death the waters riding 

Through the dancing seas of England, never resting, never still ; 

Watching, waiting, tiring never, 

Splendid in their firm endeavour 

To protect the land they worship from all envy, hate and ill.

From: “Maple Leaf Men : and other War Gleanings” by Rose E Sharland (J. W. Arrowsmith, Bristol, 1916) pp. 41 – 42.

Other publications by Rose E. Sharland include:

Exmoor Lyrics and Other Verses, 1910

Voices of Dawn Over the Hills, 1912

Ballads of Old Bristol, 1914

Inside pages of "Ballads of Old Bristol"

The inside cover page of "Ballads of Old Bristol" has an illustration very reminiscent of an etching by Bristol artist Edward Sharland (1884 - 1967) but I have not been able to find out if there is a connection.

Illustration by Edward Sharland

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, British Newspaper Archive,