Tuesday 29 November 2016

Exciting News from the May Sinclair Society!

Exciting news regarding May Sinclair, who was one of the most important and famous writers at the time of WW1 on both sides of the Atlantic.  May helped to fund, and accompanied, Dr. Hector Munro’s Flying Ambulance Unit to France in September 1914.  She stayed to help out for six weeks before returning to Britain to write about her experiences.  May Sinclair was the first poet I researched for the exhibition of Female Poets of the First World War at the Wilfred Owen Story Museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.  May is also one of the poets featured in Volume 1 of Female Poets of the First World War, available from http://www.poshupnorth.com/2013/08/new-title-female-poets-of-first-world.html - also available as a download.

From: Dr Rebecca Bowler (Keele University), Dr Claire Drewery (Sheffield Hallam), and Suzanne Raitt (William & Mary College)
“We received some exciting news yesterday: our proposal for a series of critical editions of May Sinclair's works has been approved by Edinburgh University Press!

The Edinburgh Critical Editions of the Works of May Sinclair will publish Sinclair’s collected prose works: twenty-one novels, six short story collections (bundled in two volumes of ‘shorter fiction’), two volumes of philosophy, one biography (of the Brontë sisters) and one memoir (of the First World War). There will also be one volume of Sinclair’s collected non-fiction, including The Way of Sublimation. Non-fiction and fiction will appear side by side so that the dialogues between each can be explored. Rebecca Bowler, Claire Drewery and Suzanne Raitt are the General Editors.

May Sinclair was an innovative and influential Modernist writer, and these critical editions will, we hope, attract further scholarship on her writings and revive interest in Sinclair as an important modernist writer and public intellectual.

We will be in touch in the New Year with a call for expressions of interest from scholars who wish to edit individual volumes.”

Find out more about The May Sinclair Society - http://www.maysinclairsociety.com
And follow them on Facebook here - http://www.facebook.com/maysinclairsociety

The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK, CH41 6AE. Open Tuesday - Friday 11 am till 2 pm or by appointment o7903 337995.

Also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wilfredowenstory


Sunday 20 November 2016

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 – 1919) – American poet “The Poetess of Passion”

The Poetess of Passion

Ella Wheeler was born on 5th November 1850 in Johnstown, Wisconsin, USA.  Soon after her birth, the family moved to Madison.  Ella began writing poetry at an early age, and became known as "The Poetess of Passion".

You may have heard the line “Laugh and the world laughs with you” which is from Ella’s poem “Solitude”, first published in “The New York Sun” in 1898.   “Ella Wheeler Wilcox was probably the most widely read poet of the day”, selling 100,000 copies of her poetry collection entitled “One Hundred Poems” in the early years of the twentieth century (Hollis, 40). 

When planning his trip to America, Rupert Brooke suggested he might take a “message for the continent of America and for Ella Wheeler” (Hollis, 67).

Ella m arried Robert Wilcox of Meriden, Connecticut in 1884.  They travelled extensively throughout Europe and Asia.  Ella's husband died in 1916.

Ella travelled to France after America entered the First World War in order to read poetry to the American Troops - quite an unertaking for a woman of 67.  They were very pleased to see her and really appreciated her performances. Ella wrote poems for the troops while she was in France and published them in a volume entitled "Hello, Boys".

During her lifetime, Ella wrote and pulished more than 70 books, wrote thousands of poems and also wrote plays and magazine articles.

Ella died on 30th October 1919.  In spite of her fame, Ella Wheeler Wilcox is now one of the ‘forgotten’ poets of the First World War.

“War Mothers” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There is something in the sound of drum and fife
That stirs all the savage instincts into life.

In the old times of peace we went our ways,
Through proper days
Of little joys and tasks. Lonely at times,
When from the steeple sounded wedding chimes,
Telling to all the world some maid was wife—
But taking patiently our part in life
As it was portioned us by Church and State,
Believing it our fate.
     Our thoughts all chaste
Held yet a secret wish to love and mate
     Ere youth and virtue should go quite to waste.
But men we criticised for lack of strength,
And kept them at arm's length.
Then the war came—
The world was all aflame!
The men we had thought dull and void of power
Were heroes in an hour.
He who had seemed a slave to petty greed
Showed masterful in that great time of need.
He who had plotted for his neighbour's pelf,
Now for his fellows offers up himself.
And we were only women, forced by war
To sacrifice the things worth living for.

Something within us broke,
    Something within us woke,
        The wild cave-woman spoke.

When we heard the sound of drumming,
    As our soldiers went to camp,
    Heard them tramp, tramp, tramp;
As we watched to see them coming,
    And they looked at us and smiled
    (Yes, looked back at us and smiled),
As they filed along by hillock and by hollow,
    Then our hearts were so beguiled
    That, for many and many a day,
    We dreamed we heard them say,
'Oh, follow, follow, follow!'
    And the distant, rolling drum
    Called us 'Come, come, come!'
    Till our virtue seemed a thing to give away.

War had swept ten thousand years away from earth.
    We were primal once again.
    There were males, not modern men;
We were females meant to bring their sons to birth.
    And we could not wait for any formal rite,
    We could hear them calling to us, 'Come to-night;
For to-morrow, at the dawn,
We move on!'
    And the drum
    Bellowed, 'Come, come, come!'
And the fife
Whistled, 'Life, life, life!'

So they moved on and fought and bled and died;
Honoured and mourned, they are the nation's pride.
We fought our battles, too, but with the tide
Of our red blood, we gave the world new lives.
Because we were not wives
We are dishonoured. Is it noble, then,
To break God's laws only by killing men
To save one's country from destruction?
We took no man's life but gave our chastity,
And sinned the ancient sin
To plant young trees and fill felled forests in.

Oh, clergy of the land,
Bible in hand,
All reverently you stand,
    On holy thoughts intent
    While barren wives receive the sacrament!
Had you the open visions you could see
    Phantoms of infants murdered in the womb,
    Who never knew a cradle or a tomb,
Hovering about these wives accusingly.

Bestow the sacrament! Their sins are not well known—
Ours to the four winds of the earth are blown.

Source: "Poems of Purpose" (1919)

Ella features in Volume 1 of Female Poets of the First World War available from www.poshupnorth.com

Also available as a download.

Source:  “Now all Roads lead to France  The Last Years of Edward Thomas” by Matthew Hollis (Faber & Faber, London, 2012)

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Carolyn Wells (1862 - 1942) - American writer, poet and journalist

Carolyn was born on 18th June 1862 in Rahway, New Jersey, USA.   Her parents were William Edmund Wells and his wife Anna Wells nee Potter Woodruff.  Two of Carolyn's sisters died in childhood.

At the age of six, Carolyn contracted Scarlet Fever and as a result suffered a loss of hearing.  She nevertheless overcame the handicap and went on to graduate from school and was then taught at home by private tutors, studying the humanities and science.  Carolyn worked as a librarian at Rahway Library Association.  During her life-time, Carolyn wrote and had published over 170 books including detective stories, children's books, humour, parody and poetry.  Her work was published in "Punch" magazine and she also wrote for various newspapers and contributed to "The Yellow Book".   Her detective books were particularly popular.  In 1913, she published "The Technique of the Mystery Story".

In 1918, at the age of 55, Carolyn married 62-year old widower Hadwin Houghton who was heir to the Houghton-Mifflin publishing company.  The couple went to live in an apartment block in Manhatten where Hadwin died the following year.  Carolyn lived in New York until her death on 26th March 1942.

Carolyn's life-story "The Rest of my Life" was published in 1937.

With grateful thanks to Dr. Margaret Stetz, May and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities, Delaware University, USA for bringing Carolyn Wells to my attention and for suggesting I look at the following poem written by Carolyn and published in 1919:


I seem to wander in a world of books,
With titles such as, "'Neath the Trumpet's Blare",
And "Sammy Fire-Away!" and "Private Snooks", And "Hank, the Yank", and "Danny Do-and-Dare!" And though the war is over, Over There,
Yet must be published books already penned They pour from presses daily I declare
Of making many war books there's no end!
And, somehow I opine-the way it looks - That for an aftermath we must prepare:
Adventure yarns of wartime cranks and crooks, And lives of heroes who have done their share. True tales of noble deeds of courage rare;
Histories of events, as yet unkenned: Journals and diaries, and such small ware-
Of making many war books there's no end !
And there'll be messages from soldier spooks, Transmitted through a wily medium's care;
Telling of waving trees and limpid brooks
Where rove the souls who've climbed the Golden Stair: And poems "Lyric Lines To France, the Fair",
"Red Poppy Fields", "My Faithful Four Years' Friend", "Heroic Feet", "A Lock of Lemuel's Hair"-
Of making many war books there's no end ! L'Etoile:
Publisher, Printer, Editor, forbear !
Nor longer than you must, your lists extend :
Do let this gushing output stop somewhere Of making many war books there's no end !

First published in "The Bookman", January 1919, page 643


Dr. Margaret Stetz "The Transatlantic" and late Nineteenth-Century American Women's Humor" published in "Studies in American Humor", Volume 1, 2015, Pensylvania State University, PA.

"Encyclopedia of American Humorists" Edited by Stephen H. Gale, Routledge, Abingdon, Oxford, 1988

"Mysteries Unlocked Essays in Honour of Douglas G. Greene, edited by Curtis Evans, published by McFarland and Company, Jefferson, 2014

Wednesday 2 November 2016

May Sinclair Letter to the publisher John Lane

Exciting news from the May Sinclair Society about a letter discovered recently tucked away in one of May Sinclair's books. 

It seems that May was very much a part of the London literary scene during the time of the First World War.  "Theophilus Boll places her at a party Lane gave in 1914 to launch Wyndham Lewis’s Blast! (‘May Sinclair enjoyed herself hugely with Ivor Brown at the dinner that John Lane gave on July 15, 1914, at the Dieudonné Restaurant in Ryder Street, St. James, to set off the Blast!’). Ivor Brown said of this ‘I don’t know how far M.S. was impressed, but at that period she liked to go about and be in the midst of literary goings-on’."

Read more on the Society's website:

100th anniversary of the publishing of the poem "To the Vanguard" by Beatrix Brice Miller

Today, 2nd November 2016, marks the centenary of the publication of the poem "To the Vanguard" by British poet Beatrix Brice Miller in "The Times" newspaper.  Beatrix and her Mother went as Lady Helpers with the British Expeditionary Force in 1914.   Beatrix never forgot the first men to go to the continent in 1914 - The "Old Contemptibles" as they became known.   She campaigned tirelessly for memorials to them and held fund-raising events to make that possible.

Beatrix is one of the poets featured in Volume Two of "Female Poets of the First World War" which also includes other British women poets as well as sections about munitions workers and poetry written by schoolgirls at the time of WW1.  Also included is Phil Dawes' article about knitting in WW1.

You can purchase Volume Two of "Female Poets of the First World War" on-line now via http://www.poshupnorth.com/2016/09/female-poets-of-first-world-war-volume-2_27.html

With grateful thanks to everyone who supports this commemorative project and all those who helped in the collection of the poems in Volume 2, to Phil Dawes for his continued support and for the article on poetry and knitting in WW1, Roger Quinn for information about Janet Begbie (WW1 poet Harold Begbie's daughter), David Reynolds for information about Beatrix Brice Miller and to Paul Breeze who edits all my work.

Photo:  Dr. Margaret Stetz who is Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware, USA.