Sunday 30 March 2014

New to me - Violet Spender

I was very pleased to read in a Letter to the Editor in "The Times" on Saturday, 29th March 2014 of a poet called Violet Spender.  She is not on my list so I just had to try to find out more about her.

Violet was born Violet Hilda Schuster in England in 1890.  Violet’s father Ernest Joseph Schuster, came from a Jewish family who had converted to Christianity. Violet’s mother, Hilda Weber, was the daughter of Sir Herman Weber, a German Catholic whose mother was part Italian.   Herman came to England from Germany, became a renowned physician and friend of Prime Minister Gladstone and was knighted in 1899. He died on Armistice Day in 1918.   Herman married a Danish Lutheran and their daughter Hilda was Violet’s mother. Hilda was interested in art and literature and was committed to helping good causes.   In 1876, Hilda married Ernest Joseph Schuster, the son of a German-Jewish banker who had emigrated to England.

Violet was a very sensitive, artistic person and she suffered from ill health.  She was an accomplished poet and artist.   Her brother, Alfred, who was a Lieutenant in the 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, was killed during The First World War, which affected Violet deeply.  

Violet died after an operation in London on 4th December 1921 at the age of forty-four.  A collection of her poems was published in 1922 under the title “The Path to Caister and other poems” by Sidgwick and Jackson. 

LEEMING, David.- “Stephen Spender A Life in Modernisn”. (Henry Holt & Co. LLC, New York, 1999)

With thanks to "The Times" for publishing Annette Shelford's letter.

If anyone knows of other poets not yet on my list please get in touch - they all deserve to be heard.

Monday 10 March 2014

Rosaleen Graves (1894 - 1989) - British

Rosaleen is just one of the British women poets featured in Volume 2 of Female War Poets of the First World War. To find out more please see the website

I have written about Rosaleen Graves before but I can now bring you the finished wording that will go on the exhibition panel.  With many thanks to Sue of the wonderful website for suggesting I contact the British Red Cross, to the Red Cross for finding Rosaleen's WW1 service record and to Sally Ronchetti for the beautiful portrait of Rosaleen.

Rosaleen, sister of the WW1 soldier poet and writer Robert Graves, was born in Wimbledon on 7th March 1894.   Her father was Alfred Perceval Graves, the second son of The Rt. Rev. Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick (1846 – 1931).  Alfred was a school inspector originally from Taunton, Somerset, and her mother was Amalie (‘Amy’) Elizabeth Sophie (or Sophia) von Ranke (1857 – 1951), eldest daughter of Professor Heinrich von Ranke MD, of Munich.  Rosaleen’s grandmother was the daughter of Norwegian astronomer Ludwig Tiarks.   Rosaleen’s father was an Anglo-Irish poet, born in Dublin.  The Graves family home in Wimbledon was called "The Red Branch".

Rosaleen was a poet and musician. She joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment on 17th September 1915 and, after initial training in Chislehurst and London, she was sent to No. 54 General Hospital in Wimereux, France on 23rd November 1917.  Rosaleen served in France until 14th March 1919.

No. 54 Hospital in Wimereux was one of the Base Hospitals known as "London General Hospital" and was in operation from July 1917 until May 1919. 

You can find a comprehensive description of the Base Hospitals in France and elsewhere during the First World War, by following the link

Rosaleen's poem "The Smells of Home" - which awakened my curiosity and made me find out more about Rosaleen - was first published in "The Spectator" on 30th November 1918 and is included on page 269 of the WW1 Anthology "The Winter of the World Poems of the First World War", edited by Dominic Hibberd and John Onions, published by Constable and Robinson Ltd., London, 2007.

After the War, Rosaleen trained as a doctor and worked as a GP in Devon.  In the Spring of 1932, Rosaleen married James Francis Cooper at St. Martin’s in London.  The couple had three children.

Among her published works are “Night Sounds and other poems”, published by Basil Blackwell in Oxford in 1923, “Snapdragons Poems“ by Rosaleen Graves Cooper and “The Silver Mirror. Breton Folk Air", words translated from the Breton by A.P. Graves and arranged by R. Graves (1928).

Rosaleen died on 3rd August 1989 in Wimbledon, London,  England.


AND then he was seized by one who was stronger than he,
Seized and tamed and bound and forced to obey;
From the swinging choice of evil or good he was free;
Good was no longer; evil had vanished away
He left to another the gain or loss of the day.
Was he driven or drawn? What matter? He was content.
He yielded him, body and soul, to the whirl of War
As one yields to the high sea-wind, and is buffered, bent
To his will, when, shouting, he stamps in over the shore
Triumphant, driving all things like dust before.
Can aught but a rock stand firm, or question his might
Who tosses the leaves and clouds from a hand so strong?
The trees and grasses bow in awe of his might,
And men in the mountains, hearing his giant-song,
Yield, and are hurried—whirled—hounded along.
Thus he yielded to War, who was stronger than he—
No time to think—no time to ponder and weigh—
He was swept like a straw on the wind—and yet he knew himself free
Was it freedom or bondage, this? In truth, it were hard to say;
But, slave or king, he bowed his head to obey.
(Luke 11: 22)
From:  “Oxford Poetry 1921”, Edited by Alan Porter, Richard Hughes and Robert Graves. (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1921)

Source:  Wikipedia and the British Red Cross

Sally Ronchetti, who drew the portrait of Rosaleen in her Red Cross VAD uniform, is an artist and qualified nurse from Cornwall.  Sally works mainly in graphite portraiture but also paints in oils and acrylics from time to time.  She accepts commissions.  You can see more of Sally’s beautiful work on

Thursday 6 March 2014

A very inspirational letter

I hope no-one will mind me changing to the Second World War for one post.  I received a delightful letter this morning in response to the letter printed by "The Daily Mail" on 27th February 2014.

A lady called Sylvia Wild wrote to me,  telling me about a book she has written about her time in the ATS during WW2 - "Woman at the Front" published by Amberley Books.

It sounds extremely good and I thought you might be interested too, so here is the link:

Photo:  HRH Princess Elizabeth in the ATS during WW1 - Google Images
With many thanks to Sylvia for writing to me and to the Editor of the Daily Mail Letters Page for kindly forwarding the letter to me.

Monday 3 March 2014

Storm Jameson

I have to thank Michael of the Great War Forum for asking me about Storm Jameson who is on my list of Female Poets of the First World War.

Thanks too to David Walsh and Jennifer Birkett who both replied speedily to my queries.

From David Walsh:

"Storm was primarily a prose writer - her first novel was published in 1919,  After that, she turned out novels on almost an assembly line fashion, and any poetry may have been overlooked.

During WW1 Storm had members of her family serving in the front line. Her father was a Captain in the Mercantile Marine who was torpedoed by a U boat and became a POW in Germany.  Her brother was a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and died as a result of being shot down by hostile fire.  Both events deeply affected Storm at a time when she was trying to cope with a doomed marriage and bringing up a young child.

This is not to say that she did not take a stance on the war.  She did:  To quote from one web biography talking about a post war work:   

As Martin Ceadel, the author of Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945 (1980) has pointed out: "Her sense of outrage at the Great War in which so many of her contemporaries, including her brother, had been killed suddenly erupted into overt pacifism... Brooding upon the depressing consequences of the war, she felt an acute sense of guilt at having supported it, and turned her book into an outspoken anti-war polemic.... By the end she had gone so far as to declare herself a pacifist."

FWIW I attach a link to an essay I wrote about Storm which mainly concentrates on her 'local' life in the area where she came from and her political trajectory.   

Best to read Jennifer Birkett's biography of Storm Jameson, which gives information on her decision to become a founding member of the PPU and in so doing declare her all-out pacifism in the early 1930's.  However, it needs to be said that she later regretted this stance in the light of WW2.  There's plenty of these to be had in second hand form on the web.

Storm also wrote her autobiography 'Journey from the North' which is in 2 volumes."

From Jennifer Birkett:

"I only know of one poem by Storm Jameson, which was written, I think, in 1943 on the death of her sister, killed by a wartime bomb… it was published in the Times Literary Supplement in that year, and if you are interested you should be able to find a copy fairly easily in the online Times Literary Supplement Centenary archive.

Best wishes for your project,"

Jennifer Birkett at The University of Birmingham