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, 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.
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 ! ‘
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.
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 https://vad.redcross.org.uk/Card?sname=wells&page=8&id=221468&forwards=true&fbclid=IwAR2MvZfMovV5XhtROsixFr8WdLWpPQMPGnq8RTXEhFbhCmwMwaK2Pu1a3Oc