There is one universal word which all babies instinctively sound in every language and that is 'mama'. It produces a bond the like of which there is no other.Women are hard-wired by Nature to nurture and raise. Along the human chain of generations we would wish that every infant has depended on this woman, found shelter within her arms, food within her breast and the confidence to experience life and all its wonders from her love.Whether we understand it or recognise it, it is women who have shaped the course and journey of humanity.It is true, that mothering, the maternal instinct, comes in all shapes and shades and sizes. Some women find it difficult and others easy. Society with its norms and ever-readiness to make all conform, places pressures and difficulties in the paths of many. Families may not all be harbours of milk and honey but in this volume we take a different view. Here we journey with our classic poets from Christina Georgina Rossetti and Thomas Hardy to Frances W Harper and Kipling, not only the ways, the wonders and the women who take on the responsibility to raise children no matter the problems or dangers to themselves, but also the difficulties and sometimes desperate tragedies that motherhood can involve. We hope these poems inspire every generation to reach out and better themselves and those around. This is our tribute to mothers everywhere.
Willa Sibert Cather was born on 7th December, 1873 on her grandmother's farm in the Back Creek Valley near Winchester, Virginia. After several years and moves the family eventually settled in Red Cloud, Nebraska and for the first time Cather could now attend school.In Red Cloud Cather had her earliest writings published in the local Red Cloud Chief newspaper. Her time in the mid-West created a vivid tranche of experiences for the young woman. It was still, for the most part, the frontier; a landscape of dramatic environment and weather, the vastness of the Nebraska prairie, as well as the many diverse cultures of the local families. Attending the University of Nebraska she published a well received essay on Thomas Carlyle in the Nebraska State Journal and thereafter became a regular contributor to its offerings. After being hired to write for the Home Monthly, in 1896, Cather moved to Pittsburgh. Within a year she became a telegraph editor and drama critic for the Pittsburgh Leader as well as contributing poetry and short fiction to The Library, another local publication. Her first collection of short stories, "The Troll Garden", was published in 1905 and contains several of her most famous including "A Wagner Matinee," "The Sculptor's Funeral," and "Paul's Case."As a writer Cather was now taking immense strides forward. By 1912 she had finished her first novel "Alexander's Bridge" which was serialized in McClure's to favourable reviews. Cather now began her Prairie Trilogy: "O Pioneers!" (1913), "The Song of the Lark" (1915), and "My Ántonia" (1918). All three were popular and critical successes nationwide.Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Cather continued to establish herself as a major American writer and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for her novel "One of Ours". A determinedly private person, Cather destroyed many old drafts, personal papers, and letters. Her will would also restrict the ability of scholars to quote from personal papers that remained. In 1932, Cather published her final collection of short stories, "Obscure Destinies" which contained the highly regarded "Neighbour Rosicky." She now began work on "Lucy Gayheart", a novel that was rather darker than those before it.With her career settled as one of America's greatest writers honours began to flow. In 1943 she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The following year, 1944, Cather received the gold medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. However time was about to settle scores with her. On April 24th, 1947, Willa Siebert Cather died of a cerebral haemorrhage at her home at 570 Park Avenue in Manhattan. She was 73.
Henry James was born 15th April 1843 in New York City.His youth was spent travelling with his family receiving what was an "extraordinarily haphazard and promiscuous" education as they journeyed through London, Paris, Geneva, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Newport, Rhode Island, according to the father's current interests and publishing ventures. James studied primarily with tutors and only briefly attended schools. Undoubtedly the quality of his writing has ensured his name is enshrined in the American literary tradition. James was a committed Anglophile and spent most of his adult life as an expatriate in Europe. Many of his novels juxtapose the Old World with the New World. Classics such as 'The Portrait of a Lady', 'Daisy Miller' and 'The Ambassadors', display the entanglement between American and European cultures and mentalities. They highlight the differences between the two worlds through following the experiences of American expatriates in Europe. A prolific author he was able to easily move across genres to create vivid and totally real worlds and situations and to offer sophisticated observations of human relations as well as realistic, social criticism.As a critic James was unafraid to venture into reviews and essays of those other literary giants around him. These together with his short stories and, of course, classic novels, make Henry James an author to be not only admired but read, and read often. In 1915 Henry James became a British citizen.On 28th February 1916, at the age of 72, Henry James died in Chelsea, London.He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911, 1912 and 1916. He never won.The Death of the Lion is a formidable short story with a sharply comic view of the literary "lionization" of an author by many who know little of his work. It is a situation Henry James himself was often in.
Elizabeth Stevenson was born in Chelsea in London on 29th September 1810. Both parents embedded their strong Unitarian beliefs into Elizabeth who rebelliously was often reluctant to display these religious convictions. The early death of Elizabeth's mother saw her sent away to be brought up by her maternal aunt in Knutsford, Cheshire. Her father now remarried but Elizabeth spent most of her childhood in Cheshire away from her father and his new family but was supportive towards her half-siblings. Elizabeth's aunt encouraged her education and particularly to read and express herself through writing. In 1828, her brother John, who worked in the merchant navy, disappeared on a journey to India. This disastrous loss depressed her father, and she went to his household to nurse him for the next year before he died. In 1832, she fell in love with William Gaskell, a Unitarian minister like her father, and married him. They settled in Manchester. This booming industrial city had a great impact on Elizabeth who felt the need to speak up for poor workers and their exploitation by large industrial companies. A collection of poems and short stories, 'Sketches among the Poor' appeared in 1837, co-authored by her husband. Her first major work, under a pseudonym, was 'Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life' published in 1848.During her career she worked continually with Charles Dickens and published much in his various magazines. With him she published 'Lizzie Leigh' in 1850 which dealt with the taboo subject of prostitution. She was an excellent writer and impressed her many Victorian literary peers. Much of her writing reflects her work as a social critic highlighting the exploitation of the working class and the situation of women in society. On 12th November 1865, Elizabeth Gaskell died in Holybourne, Hampshire, after suffering from a heart attack a month earlier.
Edgar Allan Poe, born Edgar Poe, was born in Boston Massachusetts on 19th January 1809 but orphaned at an early age. Taken in by the Allan family his education was cut short by lack of money and he went to the military academy, Westpoint, where he failed to become an officer. His early literary works were poetic but he quickly turned to prose. He worked for several magazines and journals till in January 1845 'The Raven' was published and became an instant classic. Thereafter followed the works for which he is so rightly famed as a master of the mysterious and the macabre. Poe died at the early age of 40 in 1849 in Baltimore Maryland.Poe was also an early proponent of the detective story and announced his entry to this genre with the classic short story 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'.
Edgar Allan Poe, born Edgar Poe, was born in Boston Massachusetts on 19th January 1809 but orphaned at an early age. Taken in by the Allan family his education was cut short by lack of money and he went to the military academy, Westpoint, where he failed to become an officer. His early literary works were poetic but he quickly turned to prose. He worked for several magazines and journals till in January 1845 'The Raven' was published and became an instant classic. Thereafter followed the works for which he is so rightly famed as a master of the mysterious and the macabre. Poe died at the early age of 40 in 1849 in Baltimore Maryland.Poe was also an early proponent of the detective story and announced his entry to this genre with the classic short story 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' and followed it with this sequel 'The Mystery of Marie Rogêt'.
Francis Marion Crawford, an only child, was born on 2nd August 1854 at Bagni di Lucca, Italy. He was a nephew to Julia Ward Howe, the American poet and writer of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic'. Crawford was educated at St Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire and then on to Cambridge University, the University of Heidelberg and the University of Rome. In 1879 he went to India, to study Sanskrit and then to edit The Indian Herald. In 1881 he returned to America to continue his Sanskrit studies at Harvard University.His family became increasingly concerned about his employment prospects. After an attempt at a singing career as a baritone was ruled out, he was encouraged to write. In December 1882 his first novel, 'Mr Isaacs', was published and was an immediate hit as was his second novel 'Dr Claudius' in 1883. In October 1884 he married Elizabeth Berdan and encouraged by his excellent start to a literary career they returned to Sant Agnello, Italy to make a permanent home, buying the Villa Renzi that then became Villa Crawford. In the late 1890s, Crawford began work on his historical works which would later include 'Corleone', in 1897, the first major treatment of the Mafia in literature. Crawford is also exceedingly popular and anthologized as a short story writer of bizarre and creepy tales. In 1908 came his classic 'The Screaming Skull'. Without doubt its unsettling nature is heightened as the reader/listener is drawn into to the story by its narrator. Everything is explained and plausible until, of course, it isn't.Francis Marion Crawford died at Sorrento on Good Friday 1909 at Villa Crawford of a heart attack.
Whilst writer Charles Dickens needs no introduction, his 'Haunted House' anthology might, not least because in his role as editor he introduces a formidable array of known and lesser-known literary talents. Dickens started a tradition of releasing stories each Christmas with 'A Christmas Carol' in 1843. 'The Haunted House' was his 1859 offering and, as the name suggests, is set in a large house which, as his introductory story explains, is desired by John the narrator, as a temporary country retreat for health reasons. He is made aware of the terror the house holds for the locals but undaunted, he and his sister, Patty, take residence without any servants, save for the deaf stable hand, who is untroubled by the ghostly goings on. John and Patty invite friends to visit and except Patty who keeps her own room, they all draw lots for which rooms they will stay in but agree not to share their experiences of their rooms until the twelfth night.On that night they all gather together to feast on their experiences and share them with each other. The Haunted House is a skillful portmanteau by Dickens, assembling the best literary talent of his age including Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Hesba Stretton, Adelaide Anne Proctor, George Augustus Sala and, of course, the literary leviathan himself to delight us, scare us and occasionally raise a laugh or two before the next moment of fear and dread come calling.
Whether we understand it or recognise it, it is women who have shaped the course and journey of humanity. We are all born from women and usually raised by women. Half the world's population is female but many of them are trodden down by misogyny, religious misinterpretation, failing systems of education and welfare and all manner of other ills that shame us all. In a world where, gender, colour, race and orientation are still stumbling blocks to inclusion, women's words are too often unheard and neglected.Whilst the world has moved measurably forward in recent decades, although not enough, some progress has been made. Our poets wrote at a time when their basic rights as human beings were restrictive and oppressive. Against the odds, they were able to write verse, which in varying degrees, moved the literary needle and perhaps influenced their society in positive ways.This volume pays tribute to 50 different women poets, some well-known whilst others undeservedly forgotten but all contributing a single poem which we hope might nudge listeners to discover more of their verse.
During the Victorian era the publishing of magazines and periodicals accelerated at a phenomenal rate. This really was mass market publishing to a hungry audience eager for literary sustenance. Many of our greatest authors contributed and expanded their reach whilst many fledging authors also found a ready source for their nascent works and careers.Amongst the very many was 'The Yellow Book'. Although titled as 'An Illustrated Quarterly' it was sold as a cloth-bound hardback and within were short stories, essays, poetry, illustrations and portraits. It was edited by the American author Henry Harland, who also contributed, and its art editor was no less that the formidable Aubrey Beardsley, the enfant terrible of illustration.Its yellow cover and name gave it an association with the risqué and erotic yellow covered works published in France. It was a visual shorthand for ideas that would push many boundaries of Society to more open interpretations. Being complete in each volume and slightly aloof it stayed away from serialised fiction and advertisements. Within each lavishly illustrated edition were literary offerings that included works by such luminaries as Henry James, H G Wells, W B Yeats, Edith Nesbit, George Gissing and many others from the ascetic and decadent movements of the time. The other notable inclusion was women both as contributors and amongst its editing staff, which was at odds with the then patriarchal gender norms. Although it only survived for 13 issues its reach and influence were second to none.
In this age of instant access to information it would be thought that anyone's past could be revealed. Alas for the Victorian author Arthur Moore, details are almost non-existent. Born on 14th January 1866 the only details that can be confirmed are that he wrote the short story 'Second Thoughts' and co-authored two works with Ernest Dowson. From there we only have the year of his death - 1934.However, his life aside 'Second Thoughts' is one of those short works, published in Volume 3 of the infamous Yellow Book in the late 1890's, that have given a certainty of his existence and merits attention based on the quality of this writing & invention.The story unfolds around a man returning home to England after almost twenty years away and finds things have changed that leave him both unsettled and unsure of how to move forward. Seeing, by chance, an old friend reawakens his curiosity .... and hopes.
Netta Syrett was born Janet Syrett on 17th March 1865 in Ramsgate, Kent, one of 13 children.She was initially educated at home by her mother before those responsibilities passed to a German Governess and then, aged 11, Netta went to the North London Collegiate School. From there she attended Hughes Hall, Cambridge and completed a three-year course for a full teaching certificate in only one year.She taught for two years at a Swansea school before moving to teach at the London Polytechnic School for Girls. Her friend and colleague, Mabel Beardsley, introduced her to her brother, Aubrey, the famed illustrator and the then art editor for the illustrated quarterly 'The Yellow Book', and its literary editor, the American Henry Harland, who then published 3 of her short stories. Her writing is also notable for its use of women characters who were less dependent on others and the society around them and were able to forge new independent paths.Her debut novel, 'Nobody's Fault' (1896) was the beginning of a long and prolific output. For the next several years her writing and teaching careers ran alongside each other. A highly critical review of her controversial, for those times, play 'The Finding of Nancy' suggesting it was an autobiography led to calls from overly moral parents for her to resign her teaching position. Netta now concentrated solely on her writing, only retiring in 1939.Netta Syrett died after a long illness in London on 15th December 1943.