Sunday 24 April 2016

Daphne de Waal (1896 - 1971) - South African poet and writer

Daphne Charlotte Aimee de Waal was born on 11th February 1896 in Cape Town, South Africa.  Her father was Sir (Nicolaas) Frederick de Waal, originally from Rotterdam who became the first Administrator of Cape Province in 1910.  Dephne’s was Sara Catherina Marina du Toit.

Daphne travelled to England and when she returned to South Africa, she married Royden McIntosh Muir in 1923.   Royden, who was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1891, was a doctor.  He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and was a volunteer  Temporary Lieutenant with the Royal Army Medical Corps.  After qualifying, Royden became a ship’s doctor and travelled extensively.  During the First World War, he served with the RAMC in France and then joined a Hospital Ship, serving in the Dardanelles, India and East Africa.  After the war he studied to become an anaesthetist in London before moving to South Africa in 1921.

Daphne became blind apparently while undergoing an appendectomy in a Cape Town hospital.  It seems a doctor accidentally spilled some anaesthetic on her eyes which caused the burning of the corneas.   Using her married name of Mrs Daphne Muir, Daphne wrote and published five books while her sight was impaired.   She heard of the experimental work of Dr. Tudor Thomas from Cardiff, Wales who had successfully transplanted corneas onto rabbits and dogs in sight restoring experiments.   In September 1933, Daphne began treatment that culminated in a cornea transplant in April 1934.  After the procedure, in strong sunlight she had to wear sunglasses but otherwise her sight was restored to normal.  Daphne was the first person to have the sight of both eyes restored in a cornea transplant operation.   

In 1927, Daphne moved permanently to England, where she died in Stockbridge,  Hampshire in 1971.

Daphne occasionally used the pen name Daphne Muir

Daphne’s WW1 poetry collections were:

“Soldiers Immortal and Other Poems” published by Maskew Miller, Cape Town in 1917 and “Curious Beasts and Tragic Tales”, published in 1925 by Juta and Co., Cape Town.

The artist Mabel Hill (mother of the famous plastic surgeon Archie McIndoe) painted Daphne’s portrait in 1934.


Saturday 16 April 2016

Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925) - American poet and writer

Amy Lowell was born on 9th February 1874 in Brookline, Massachusetts into a wealthy Boston family at their ten acre estate ‘Sevenels’.  She was the youngest of five children.   Amy was tutored at home before attending private schools in Boston.  Her parents were of the opinion that it was not appropriate for a young lady to attend university but Amy did travel extensively and she also collected and read books.   Amy had access to her father’s library of over 7,000 books at ‘Sevenels’.

Inspired by the Italian actress Eleonora Duse who she saw while travelling in Europe, Amy began to study and write poetry in 1902.   She travelled to England where she spent some time during the First World War and where she met Ezra Pound, the Imagist poet whose work she admired.  “Free verse” was Amy’s preferred style and she frequently dispensed with line breaks in a system she called “polyphonic prose”.

While in London, Amy attended a poetry reading given by the poet Rupert Brooke* at the Poetry Bookshop, which opened in 1913 and was run by Harold Munro in Devonshire Road off Holborn.   Rupert’s voice was apparently rather soft and Amy, who was at the back, called out “Speak up!”

Some of Amy’s work was published in “Atlantic Monthly” and she also had volumes of her poetry published.  She was working on a biography of the poet John Keats when she died on 12th May 1926.   Amy was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Lead Soldiers

Tommy’s soldiers march to battle,

Trumpets flare and snare drums rattle.

How the horses sweat and prance!

Cannon drawn up in a line

Glitter in the dizzy shine

Of the morning sunlight.  Flags

Ripple colours in great jags.

Red blows out, then blue, then green,

Then all three – a wearing sheen

Of prismed patriotism.  March

Tommy’s soldiers, stiff and starch,

Boldly stepping to a rattle

Of the drums, they go to battle.

From Amy Lowell’s WW1 collection “Men, Women and Ghosts”, published by The Macmillan Company, New York, 1916

*British WW1 soldier poet Rupert Brooke joined the Royal Naval Division in WW1 and died on the way to Gallipoli in April 1915 - see

Sunday 10 April 2016

Book Review: ‘Songs of Lake Garda Poesie Ritrovate’ by Eleonora Padovani and Marco Faraoni poems of Anna Bunston de Bary

I searched for a long time for information about Anna Bunston de Bary, one of the poets on my list of Female Poets of the First World War, whose WW1 poetry collection, 'New Songs of Salisbury Plain', was published in 1917 by Bennet Brothers.  Anna’s collection 'New and Selected Lyrics' published by O'Connor in 1923 also contains some of her WW1 poetry.  My post about Anna precedes this review.  I am still hoping to find a photo of Anna - if anyone can help please get in touch.

Now, a new book, mainly in Italian, about Anna Bunston de Bary has recently been published with details of Anna's life and some of her poems:  'Anna Bunston de Bary Songs of Lake Garda Poesie Ritrovate' co-written and edited by Eleonora Padovani and Marco Faraoni with illustrations of scenes from the Italian lakes painted by Monaco di Baviera Michael Zeno Diemer' from the postcard collection of Renzo Trenti. Published by Raffaelli Editore, Milan. ISBN 978-88-6792-096-9.  

Eleonora, who contacted me some time ago asking about Anna, has extensively researched Anna Bunston de Bary's life and has also translated some of her poems into Italian with the original text being opposite the translation, forming a parallel text.  Included in the book are some of Anna's translations of Italian poems into English.  The book is truly delightful and a must read for anyone interested in Anna Bunston de Bary.  I am currently reading this book with great pleasure and cannot praise it highly enough.  Eleonora Padovani has taken a great deal of time and trouble in researching the life and work of Anna Bunston de Bary.
'Anna Bunston de Bary Songs of Lake Garda Poesie Ritrovate' by Eleonora Padovani and Marco Faraoni, published by Raffaelli Editore, Milan. ISBN 978-88-6792-096-9.

Anna Bunston de Bary (1869 - 1954) - British writer and poet

Anna Bunston was born in Alderbury, Wiltrshire, UK on 27th May 1869.  Her father, Thomas Bunston, was an Anglican clergyman and her mother was Isabella Bunston, nee Murray.   Her father was Curate of Warbleton church in Hailsham, Sussex and then Vicar of Arlington church in Hailsham, Sussex.

Anna became a schoolteacher and worked in Brighton, Sussex.  In June 1910, she married Richard Brome de Bary in Hailsham.  Richard was a clergyman and became private chaplain to Anthony Ashley Cooper, at St. Giles.  In 1911, Anna and Richard moved to Antrim, in Ulster, Ireland then returned to the UK where they lived in the village of Horton in Dorset and Anna worked as a writer.

Anna travelled extensively, visiting Spain, France, Holland, Italy; visiting Madrid, Toledo, Marsiglia, Angouleme, Amsterdam, Genova, Florence, Rome and the Garda Lake.  She spoke fluent Italian and German and translated poetry from both languages, as well as writing numerous books – some in collaboration with her husband.

Anna’s knowledge of foreign languages must have been impressive for during the Second World War, by then in her 70s she was invited to work for the War Office and was based in Liverpool.  

Richard died in 1948 and Anna died on 25th January 1954 in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Anna’s WW1 poetry collections were: “New Songs of Salisbury Plain” published by Bennet Brothers in 1917, “New and Selected Lyrics”, published by O’Connor in 1923 and “New and Selected Lyrics”, published by P. Mitre in 1947.

She also wrote a 'political' piece on the German attitude to war and death during WWI for “The Review”.

J.C. Squire included Anna’s poem “The Snowdrop” in his prestigious Anthology of Great Poems by Women through the Ages (Elizabethan to modern) published c. 1920 and Anna’s poems were published in various newspapers and literary magazines.

Anna’s book ‘Letters of a Schoolma’am’ published in 1913 about education in rural areas sounds way ahead of its time.

Anna’s novel 'The House in Horton Hollow' about French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars, published in 1925 was well received and reviewed by the press.  Other works by Anna include ‘Mingled Wine’ and ‘The Porch of Paradise’.

Sources:  Find my Past, British Newspaper Archive with additional information supplied by Phil Dawes.   With thanks to Eleonora Padovani who wrote to me some years ago about Anna.  A review of Eleonora's book about Anna's poetry will be posted here soon.   
I am still looking for a photograph of Anna if anyone can help?


With thanks to Phil Dawes for additional information. 

Saturday 2 April 2016

The Winifred Holtby Society

I am delighted to remind you all that Gill Fildes is as keen as I am to spread the word about WW1 poet Winifred Holtby and recently held an inaugural event for the Winifred Holtby Society.   I was unfortunately not able to attend but Gill sent me some of the photos taken at the event held in September 2015 at Hull History Centre, which included a visit to Rudstone, where Winifred is buried.

If you would like to join the Society, please contact Gill on for further information.

For a detailed report on the event in September 2015, please see 

‘Trains In France’ by Winifred Holtby

All through the night among the unseen hills

The trains,

The fire-eyed trains,

Call to each other their wild seeking cry,

And I,

Who thought I had forgotten all the War,

Remember how a night in Camiers,

When, through the darkness, as I wakeful lay,

I heard the trains,

The savage, shrieking trains,

Call to each other their fierce hunting-cry,

Ruthless, inevitable, as the beasts

After their prey.

Made for this end by their creators, they,

Whose business was to capture and devour

Flesh of our flesh, bone of our very bone,

Hour after hour,

Angry and impotent I lay alone

Hearing them hunt you down, my dear, and you,

Hearing them carry you away to die,

Trying to warn you of the beasts, the beasts !

Then, no, thought I ;

So foul a dream as this cannot be true,

And calmed myself, hearing their cry no more.

Till, from the silence, broke a trembling roar,

And I heard, far away,

The growling thunder of their joyless feasts –

The beasts had got you then, the beasts, the beasts –

And knew the nightmare true.