Colloque international, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 13-14 Octobre 2022

Dear readers,

We are delighted to invite you to attend the international conference organised by Pr. Marc Rolland (ULCO) in Boulogne-sur-mer, where Violet Paget was born on October 14, 1856.

The annual General Meeting of the International Vernon Lee Society (IVLS) is scheduled on Day 1 of this event, October 13th. Don’t hesitate to join us!

Chers amis de Vernon Lee,

Nous sommes très heureux de vous inviter au colloque international organisé dans la ville natale de Violet Paget par le Professeur Marc Rolland de l’Université de Boulogne-sur-Mer.

L’Assemblée générale annuelle de l’International Vernon Lee Society (IVLS) est programmée le 13 Octobre. N’hésitez pas, rejoignez-nous!

Vernon Lee et le Fantastique

Boulogne sur Mer – Centre universitaire du Musée – Grande Rue.

13 octobre

9:00-10:00 : Assemblée générale annuelle de l’International Vernon Lee Society

10:00-10:15 : Discours d’ouverture du colloque

10:30 -11:15: KEYNOTE SPEAKER: SALLY BLACKBURN-DANIELS (Open University UK): “A Tale of Troubled and Troubling Women, or Vernon Lee’s Fantastic Fiction”

11:30-12:00 : CHARLOTTE ARNAUTOU (Université de Paris-Dauphine): “Rereading fantastic villainesses : Lecture croisée de ‘Amour Dure’de Vernon Lee et de My Cousin Rachel de Daphne du Maurier

12:15-13:30 Déjeuner

Après-Midi :

Visite du CHATEAU SAINT LEONARD, lieu de naissance de Violet Paget, avec MICHEL PARENTY (ULCO)

Dîner du colloque

14 Octobre

9:30-10:00 MARC ROLLAND (ULCO): “Medea de Carpi et Sybil Van Loon, femme fatale et art chez Vernon Lee et Marcel Brion”

10:15-10:45 HENRY BARTHOLOMEW (University of Plymouth) “Shape, Line, Colour : Decontextualizing Vernon Lee’s Hauntings, Fantastic Stories”

11:00 – 11:30 ALESSANDRO VALENTI (U. Udine): “Demarcating a Topography of Time and Desire in Vernon Lee’ Hauntings”

Déjeuner

14:00-14:30 BRONTE SCHILTZ (Manchester Metropolitan University): “Mysterious Influences, Vernon Lee, Karl Heinrich Ulrich and the Spectre of Sexology”

14:45-15:15 CLAIRE McKEOWN (Université de Lorraine): “The Sorcery of Moonlight and Sea Mist : fantastique et impressionnisme littéraire chez Vernon Lee”

15:30 – 16:00 : SOPHIE GEOFFROY (U. de la Réunion, Présidente de l’IVLS) (représentée par Sally Blackburn-Daniels): “Le Manuscrit de Oke of Okehurst : les humanités numériques appliquées à Vernon Lee”

16:45 – 17:00 : Clôture du colloque

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“Every individual has a value”

“And have you ever reflected that

the restrictions placed upon nearly all

women’s lives

— restrictions upon their

studying,

travelling,

nay, in many countries, even upon their

freely walking about in broad daylight

— are due mainly to the fact that a certain number of

male cads

are tolerated by society,

high and low?”

(Vernon Lee, Althea, 16-17)

Femmes, Vie, Liberté !

Soutien à toutes celles et ceux qui, en Iran, en Afghanistan, en Ukraine, et ailleurs dans le monde luttent contre la barbarie et l’obscurantisme et pour leur liberté, qui est notre liberté à toutes et à tous!

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“Newly graduated? Why you should be brave and attend an academic conference”

by Siobhan Smith

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the “Vernon Lee, Aesthetics and Empathy” conference at Churchill College, Cambridge. As a new graduate this was a daunting prospect, but I harbour lofty aspirations to continue onto PhD study and so decided to seize the opportunity. I didn’t regret it!

As it was an interdisciplinary conference, the discussions were incredibly varied and I found myself unexpectedly learning about serpentine curves, the effect of music on aesthetic experience and World War One propaganda. Not only did these insights broaden my wider knowledge, they also helped develop a more holistic and comprehensive appreciation of Vernon Lee. I was expecting to learn new things but some of the discoveries still took me by surprise. For instance, I didn’t know that Lee also wrote a book for children, The Prince of the Hundred Soups (1883), which I now plan to use to complement the module on Classic Children’s Literature that I am taking this trimester. 

Anna Shane and Jesse Prinz

I won’t lie, there were several moments in several papers when I was completely clueless, and I panicked. However, the feeling of imposter syndrome didn’t have the chance to linger for long because I quickly found myself caught up in the next conversation and was busy scribbling down ideas for my own research. Similarly, I was initially embarrassed in having to confess that; “No, I haven’t read that one” a lot but was relieved and reassured to hear the same reply to my questions about books that I’d read. It turns out that one of the joys of nineteenth-century literature is its abundance of obscure or lesser-known authors and texts.

Front (l) Eda Çaglar, (r) Scarlette-Electra LeBlanc, Second Row Thomas Petraschka & Simon Blackburn

I had expected to meet brilliantly impressive academics and was not disappointed – Professors from Cambridge and New York, and Assistant Professors from Venice and Germany were just the start. But I was also incredibly impressed by scholars currently outside of the academy. I had the privilege of meeting Eda Caglar who studied English Literature at Blacksea Technical University in Turkey. As part of the Erasmus student exchange programme, she spent the second year of her degree at the University of Chichester, where she was introduced to Lee. In June 2022, Eda produced the first ever Turkish translation of one of Lee’s stories – Amour Dure – and hopes to publish it along with more translations of her Haunting Collection. 

I also met Scarlette-Electra LeBlanc, who completed her English degree at Emmanuel College in Cambridge, her Master of Letters at St Andrews and is currently considering PhD options. Scarlette’s undergraduate dissertation looked at Changelings in Victorian Literature whilst her postgraduate dissertation focussed on Fallen Women and Motherhood. Scarlette and I immediately bonded over a shared interest in gothic literature and proceeded to discuss ideas, plans and book recommendations. Scarlette proved to be a font of knowledge and signposted me to the online seminar series ran by the Gothic Women Project. I felt a real sense of camaraderie in our discussions – if this was an insight into how female academics support and encourage each other then sign me up! The most unexpected person I met was Mary F. Burns, a historical fiction novelist from San Francisco. Mary was inspiring, not only because of her successful career, enthusiasm and warm affability, but also because of the impressive way in which she developed on Lee’s study of writing style and used punctuation to analyse the reader/writer relationship. In my follow up e-mail discussion with Mary, she talked about the “formidable walls of academia” which perfectly captured my own fears as a new graduate attempting to join the world of academia. Mary said:

“Although I have graduate degrees in literature and taught for a while, my main career has been in corporate communications. In the last two decades, I have pursued a long-held dream to write fiction, and now have nearly a dozen novels of historical and literary fiction published. But my university years, and memories of late-night conversations, always had me yearning to find that level of intellectual and collegial interaction that comes with having access to people who are passionate about reading, writing, talking and learning about themselves, ideas, and other people. So, armed with some knowledge of Vernon Lee (whom I made a major character in my novels), I ventured to breach the formidable walls of academia and come to the conference held in Cambridge—and I found there to be no walls or barriers to my entry at all, though I was only an “independent scholar” without credentials or affiliation! The people gathered at Churchill College were warm and welcoming, funny and kind, erudite and amazing in their reach and range of ideas and theories, their willingness to really listen and think about what everyone was saying, and their thoughtful support and encouragement to each other in trying out new ideas and directions. I found myself thinking, These are my people, at last!” 

Mary, Scarlette and Eda were an integral part of making my conference experience a positive one and so this is partly to thank them and partly to highlight that the real benefit of attending a conference is the incredible people that you will meet. I highly recommend any new graduate to ‘be brave’ and attend a conference, yes you will probably feel inspired and intimidated in equal measure, but when it’s finished the overriding feeling is one of being energised and you will be inspired to do more. 

Siobhan Smith has recently graduated from Teesside University with a First-Class Honours Degree in English Studies. She received the Professor Leni Oglesby Prize for Achievement and the Book Corner Prize for Best Performance. She has just started an MA in English Literature at Canterbury Christ Church University and is interested in cross-dressing within nineteenth-century literature, decadence and the New Woman.

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Vernon Lee, Aesthetics and Empathy: Conference Notes, Suzy Corrigan, Teesside University

As an undergraduate student, I was advised by my tutor to compile a book of every word I came across that I didn’t understand to help me to expand my academic vocabulary. The word, ‘interdisciplinary’ has now been added! It perfectly describes the conference I recently attended. ‘Vernon Lee, Aesthetics and Empathy’ was hosted by The International Vernon Lee Society (IVLS), organised by Dr Sally Blackburn-Daniels and Professor Derek Matravers, and set in the grounds of Churchill College, Cambridge.

My new word connected all the speakers who each brought a variety of specialisms, from English scholars, philosophers, language theorists, novelists, historiographers, to graduates of fine arts. They came from the USA, France, Germany, Italy and the UK. This eclectic mix of specialisms, knowledge, and studies served to highlight the broad scope of interests into the work and complex mind of the author, Vernon Lee. What an incredible combination.

Conference poster: Vernon Lee, Aesthetics and Empathy

The day’s proceedings started when Derek and Sally officially welcomed everyone to the conference. We began with keynote speaker, Professor Jesse Prinz, a distinguished Professor of philosophy, and Director of the Committee for Interdisciplinary (there is that word again), Science Studies at the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York. His paper, ‘Is Aesthetic Experience Embodied? Lessons from Vernon Lee,’ began with an overview of Vernon Lee’s theories of Empathy and her promotion of an embodied approach. He went on to outline comparisons between Lee and Kit’s theories of how they perceived art and how it is viewed and appreciated, highlighting their differences. 

Next to speak was Anna Shane whose paper, “‘In contact with a whole living, breathing thing”: Vernon Lee’s embodied historiography and collections’ discussed Lee’s short stories, Amour Dure (1887) and The Image (1896) (reprinted as The Doll in 1927) Anna suggested that the characters in Lee’s Gothic stories were far more likely to come into intimate, and even erotic contact with others through things, rather than bodies.  I enjoyed Anna’s paper and her fresh approach to Lee’s Gothic stories gave me food for thought. 

David Romand, a philosopher, historian of knowledge, language theorist, and currently an associate at Centre Gilles Gaston Granger, Aix-Marselle University, France. His paper, ‘Theodor Lipps’s Psychological Aesthetics and Its Impact on Vernon Lee’s Aesthetic Thought’ concentrated on the work of German philosopher Theodor Lipps who was known for his theory regarding aesthetics, and created the framework for the concept of Einfühlung (empathy) which Lee was deeply concerned with. David pointed out that Lee both admired and criticised Lipps as a matter of course in her personality. I found this paper particularly fascinating especially regarding the concept if aestheticism. 

Lunch followed. As I sat surrounded by doctors and professors, I had to pinch myself that this wasn’t a dream. Listening, learning, and absorbing their combined knowledge and understanding and their diverse research into Lee, whom I admire deeply, and just being able to share my undergraduate’s thoughts with them was extremely humbling.

Having briefly spoken to Katerina Harris over lunch I was looking forward to hearing her paper, ‘The Pace of Renaissance Art, Through Vernon Lee’s Eyes and Ears.’ Katerina is a recent graduate of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. On a personal level, Katerina was my favourite speaker of the day. Her paper was delivered from a point of view as an Art Historian which allowed the interdisciplinary concept to take a new turn. Katerina’s interest was originally in tombs and effigies and the sense of these bodies created by artists, appearing to fall into a deep sleep. Admitting she found Vernon Lee by accident, she spoke of the sense of rhythm and movement that Lee feels when she sees a work of art, that the rhythm and movement are what Lee brings to the piece of art. She posits that when Lee hears music, her body reacts to the sound, and the experience of music effects other senses, such as sight and smell. Katerina suggests that Lee thought that music was not just a part of looking at art, but a part of making art. That the relationship between music and art came before she created this theory, that Lee ultimately lets her body speak first.  I admit my own interest in Lee is through her use of music and therefore found this paper most relatable to my own research. Her observation that in Renaissance Italy, where mass was always sung in Latin, a language which the congregation didn’t understand, therefore it was merely the noise to them, which led Lee to capture the theory that music was the experience of viewing rather than story telling. This was a lightbulb moment for me. I would have loved to have spoken to Katerina about her paper in more depth, but unfortunately, she had to leave early. So, if you are reading this blog Katerina, may I say how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Professor of Philosophy at Lancaster University Alison Stone was next to speak next but was unable to attend. Derek Matravers kindly read her paper, ‘Vernon Lee’s Art-Philosophy: from Anti-Ruskinism to True Aestheticism.’. It provided a comprehensive study of Lee’s art-philosophy, and anti-Ruskinism ideology, differentiating between beauty and goodness, and asking whether art must be morally ‘good’ to be considered aesthetically ‘good.’ 

Afternoon tea followed and then it was the turn of author Mary F. Burns from San Francisco. Her paper, ‘Punctuation and the Writer/reader relationship: Adding to Vernon Lee’s Consideration of The Ambassadors.’ Mary’s talk discusses Lee’s book The Handling of Words and Other Studies in Literary Psychology (1923) in which she takes six authors, including Henry James, and chooses 500 words at random from their books. She then proceeds to critique them based on her understanding of what the writer/reader relationship is and how the handling of the words by the author has an effect on the reader.  Mary quotes Lee, “The degree of life in a writers style depends upon the amount of activity which he imposes upon his reader.” From the excerpt, Lee notes a total of 137 verbs, 71 adjectives, and 48 adverbs! Mary explains Lee’s theory, which suggests that the writer compels the reader to execute specific mental movements which evoke and rearrange past images and feelings. Mary further posits that the specific placement of punctuation can impose the writer’s mental attitude on the reader. What a delightful insight into an author’s delivery of prose and dialogue. Not only was Mary’s paper thoroughly engaging, entertaining and enlightening. She was a very gracious and endearing lady, who spoke to me, not as an undergraduate, but as a fellow academic who shared love of literature. Mary, if you are reading this blog, thank you for being so warm and engaging. I hope our paths cross again one day. 

That concluded the first day of speakers. What a wonderful day it was. What an interdisciplinary day! After a brief time to change and freshen up, we headed out for dinner and drinks. Again, as I did at lunch, I sat surrounded by incredible minds, who were interacting with each other, complimenting each other’s work and speaking about current issues. To be involved was a pleasure and an inspiration to me. 

Day two began with the second keynote speaker, Associate Professor Elisa Bizzotto of Iuav University of Venice, who delivered, ‘Vernon Lee and the Aesthetics of Folklore: An Archival and Transcultural Research.’ Elisa shared her incredible research illuminating new dimensions to Vernon Lee and focused on folklore and fairy tales. Elisa drew attention to Lee’s The Prince of the Hundred Soups, a story for children and then explained the possibility that Lee wrote Tuscan Fairy Tales, which were published in 1880 under an anonymous author. This naturally prompted discussion about why she would remain anonymous. 

Thomas Petraschka refuted the claim that Lee’s work on Aesthetics left German philosophers ‘unimpressed’ and demonstrated how she was well regarded both professionally and personally. He also provided a detailed insight into how Lee’s work was influence by Theordore Lipps and how her Beauty and Ugliness caused her to change some of her opinions, yet stand her ground on others.

Dr Sally Blackburn-Daniels explained how a ‘single author study’ can’t possibly be considered as too restricting when the author is as diverse and multi-faceted as Vernon Lee. Sally’s talk on Aesthetics and war explained how Lee’s Ballet of the Nations acted as a powerful allegory for the wastefulness of war and expressed the “fury of the moment” in reaction to World War One.

Scarlette-Electra LeBlanc discussed the figure of the powerful female aesthetic in Lee’s Oke of Okehurst and considered how the concept of ‘returning the male gaze’ relates to it. Scarlette explained how Lee created, and sustains, ghosts in her work by utilising the mechanisms of imagination and association, follow up questions considered how the artist/muse relationship is transformed to goddess/worshipper. 

Chunlin Men gave an amazing detailed talk on Aesthetic Abstractions and Decadent Political Economy Theories, and posited Lee as an interdisciplinary mix of literature and politics. Chunlin revealed Lee’s strong opinions and reactions to Karl Marx’s capitalist ideology by showing photographs of her personal annotations. 

As the organisers thanked everyone for attending; the conference was drawn to a close. An incredible experience for me as an undergraduate. It was truly inspiring and thought-provoking. Dr Sally Blackburn-Daniels generously gave me the opportunity to write this blog and I am extremely grateful to her. Had I been asked five years ago to attend a conference; I would have made some excuse to avoid it. Wrongly assuming that it would be stuffy and boring, when in fact it was a wonderful and inspiring experience. As I move ahead into my postgraduate studies, I am now determined to embrace the idea of interdisciplinary study in my future research, especially when it comes to the incredible and versatile Violet Paget!

Suzy Corrigan has recently graduated with a first in BA (hons) English Studies, during which Suzy received The Ede and Ravenscroft prize for Humanities, as well as the Jane Burke prize for best dissertation. Suzy’s dissertation focused on the use of music in fin-de-siècle literature, predominantly the work of Vernon Lee and her interest in the castrato singer. Suzy is moving onto her Master’s this autumn in English Literature, and she intends to develop this research into the inclusion of music as a metaphor and its ability to convey emotion and empathy, and as encoding for homoeroticism, The New Woman, and gender identities. As a mature student, Suzy recently returned to education after a career in performing arts, where her experience has provided her with an insight into the act of musical performance.  Looking ahead, Suzy’s aim is to apply for funding to undertake a PhD to further research the allegorical role of music in fin-de-siecle literature.  

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Vernon Lee, Aesthetics & Empathy: Conference in Cambridge, 12-13 September 2022

Dear Vernon Lee friends,

Don’t miss tomorrow’s important conference on Vernon Lee’s philosophy of art and empathy, organised by Derek Matravers and Sally Blackburn-Daniels!

Conference Programme

12th September

09:00     Tea and Coffee

09:30     Welcome

09:40     Jesse Prinz: ‘Is Aesthetic Experience Embodied? Lessons from Vernon Lee.’

11:00     Break

11:30     Anna Shane: ‘“In contact with a whole living, breathing thing”: Vernon Lee’s embodied historiography and collections.’

12.30     David Romand: ‘Theodor Lipps’s Psychological Aesthetics and its Impact on Vernon Lee’s Aesthetic Thought.’

1.30      Lunch

14:30     Katerina Harris: ‘The Pace of Renaissance Art, Through Vernon Lee’s Eyes and Ears.’

15:30     Alison Stone: ‘Vernon Lee’s Art-Philosophy: From Anti-Ruskinism to True Aestheticism.’

16:30     Break

17.00     Mary F. Burns: ‘Punctuation and the Writer/Reader Relationship: Adding to Vernon Lee’s Consideration of The Ambassadors.’

18.00     End

19:00     Conference Dinner at Côte (21-24 Bridge St, Cambridge, CB2 1UF). Pre-booking required.

13th September

09:00     Tea and Coffee

09:30     Elisa Bizzotto: ‘Vernon Lee and the Aesthetics of Folklore: An Archival and Transcultural

Research’

10.50     Break

11:15     Thomas Petraschka: ‘“I would like to acknowledge how much I have learned from Lipps’ relentless but not underserved criticism” – Vernon Lee and the German Aesthetics of Einfühlung.’

12.15     Sally-Blackburn Daniels: ‘’Vernon Lee, Aesthetics & War’

13.15     Lunch

14.00     Scarlette-Electra LeBlanc: ‘Conjuring Ghosts: the female aesthete in Vernon Lee’s “Oke of Okehurst”.’

15:00     Chunlin Men: ‘Vernon Lee, Aesthetic Abstraction, and Decadent Political Economy Theories.’

16:00     End of conference.

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A Summer with Vernon Lee : 28-31 August 2022 at Villa Il Palmerino

Dear friends and readers,

we are delighted to announce the series of events organised by the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino. Scheduled on August 28, 29, 30 and 31: IN VERNON LEE’S NAME will present a series of artistic and creative events that would no doubt have delighted her: screenings and projections, stories in images, round tables, performances, workshops, guided tours of the choreographed garden…

Save the date, and don’t forget to book your seat: even though there will be free admissions as the events are part of the Florentine Summer program and supported by the Pon Metro program of the Municipality of Florence and the European Union, it is essential to register because of the capacity for reserved places.

Oh, the lucky ones who will attend these fantastic events!

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An update on publications

Bibliography 2020-2022

The Sibyl and the International Vernon Lee Society have always worked at promoting and disseminating information about works, events and links about Vernon Lee and her circle. We are grateful to Sally for compiling the present bibliography, and for any additional information about work in progress or about any work we may have overlooked.

These references will be inserted in the Bibliography section. And they can also be found in the updated Bibliography of our database Holographical-Lee (HoL).

Articles

Baldacchino, Rachel. “Otherness and the Essay in the Pacifist Work of Vernon Lee”, in The Essay at the Limits: Poetics, Politics and Form, ed. Mario Aquilina (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021) pp. 125-136

Blackburn-Daniels, Sally. and Sophie Geoffroy. “‘Traces of the Exotic’ in Vernon Lee’s ‘Oke of Okehurst; or, The Phantom Lover’”, Women’s Writing, 28:4 (2021) 569-588.

Bozant Witcher, Heather. Collaborative writing in the long nineteenth century: sympathetic partnerships and artistic creation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Denisoff, Dennis. “The Lie of the Land: Decadence, Ecology, and Arboreal Communications”, Victorian Literature and Culture; 49:4 (2021 Winter) 621-641.

Denisoff, Dennis. Decadent ecology in British literature and art, 1860-1910: decay, desire, and the pagan revival (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Dytor, Frankie. “‘The Eyes of an Intellectual Vampire’: Michael Field, Vernon Lee and Female Masculinities in Late Victorian Aestheticism” Journal of Victorian Culture, 26: 4 (2021), 582-595.

Franseen, Kristin M. “The image of the Suffragette in Vernon Lee’s Music and its Lovers”, in Women’s Suffrage in Word, Image, Music, Stage and Screen (Routledge, 2021),

Friedman, Dustin. “‘Sinister Exile’: Dionysus and the Aesthetics of Race in Walter Pater and Vernon Lee”, Victorian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Social, Political, and Cultural Studies, 63:4 (Summer 2021) 537-560.

Gagel, Amanda. “Vernon Lee, Satan the Waster (1920) and Peace with Honour (1915), Amanda Gagel”, in Handbook of British Literature and Culture of the First World War, eds. Ralf Schneider and Jane Potter (Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, Inc.; 2021) pp. 349-369.

Herold, Katharina. “Allegories on the International Scene: Vernon Lee’s, Mina Loy’s, and Else Lasker-Schüler’s War Plays”, Feminist Modernist Studies, 4:2 (2021) 203-221.

Hobson, Suzanne. “The Ethics of Unbelief in Vernon Lee and William James”, in Unbelief in Interwar Literary Culture: Doubting Moderns (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), pp. 34-61.

Lam, Ka Yan. “‘I Had Painted Her Old and Vulgar’: Empathetic Aesthetic Contemplation and Female Agentive Haunting in Vernon Lee’s ‘Oke of Okehurst’”, Supernatural Studies, 7:1 (2021 Spring-Summer) 9-31.

Murphy, Ian. “Painted Portraits and Androgynous Apparitions in the Haunted-Portrait Narratives of Vernon Lee and E. Nesbit”, Women’s Writing, 28:4 (2021) 589-604.  

Ní Bheacháin, Caoilfhionn, and Angus Mitchell. “Alice Stopford Green and Vernon Lee: Salon Culture and Intellectual Exchange, Journal of Victorian Culture, 25: 1 (2020), 77-94.

Reader, Simon. Notework: Victorian Literature and Nonlinear Style (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2021).

Rigg, Patricia. “Eugene Lee-Hamilton’s Sonnets of the Wingless Hours: Baudelaire, Neurasthenia, and Poetic Recovery”. Victorian Studies 63.4 (2021): 491-513.

Tobin, Claudia. “Inhaling Colour: Vernon Lee and the Chromatic Body”, Studies in Walter Pater and Aestheticism, 6 (Autumn 2021), 107-136.

Winick, Mimi. “The Sophisticated Amateur: Vernon Lee versus the Vital Liars”, in The Critic as Amateur (Bloomsbury academic, 2020), pp. 151-178.

Articles published online

https://www.gardnermuseum.org/blog/isabellas-bookworm-friendship-vernon-lee

  • “Lost in time: the wicked voice of Vernon Lee”
  • “Mind’s Eye”

https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/minds-eye-63519/

  • “Vernon Lee”

https://lapietra.nyu.edu/vernon-lee/

  • “Lates with Lee”: British Association of Decadence Studies

https://bads.gold.ac.uk/bads-jeudis-2021

  • “The haunting stories of writer Vernon Lee”
  • “Vernon Lee and the Middleton Estate”
  • “Vernon Lee, Walter Pater, and the Revival of Medieval Theatre”

Vernon Lee, Walter Pater, and the Revival of Medieval Theatre — Staging decadence

Events

  • The Jeudis of the British Association for Decadence Studies (BADS) with the University of Surrey : “Women of the Yellow Book”, 31 March and 7 April 2022

31 March 2022: From Yellow Book Lives to Yellow Book Archives, by Jad Adamas and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. “This Jeudi featured two keynote talks. Jad Adams discussed the lives of some of the women writers of The Yellow Book, and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra shared some insights into the Yellow 90s Project, its origins, development, cultural value and contribution to decadence studies.” Press here for the recording

7 April 2022: The Yellow Book Community: Sisterhood and Collaboration. “This evening’s Jeudi brought together five speakers – Kate Krueger, Michelle Reynolds, Catia Rodrigues, Heather Marcovitch, and Sarah Parker – who have each spent time researching women who contributed to The Yellow Book. This roundtable focused on connections between Yellow Book women, and our speakers discussed partnerships, collaborations, sisterhood, conflict, and dialogues, to draw out the networks and communities that these women operated within.” Press here for the recording

Save the date

14-14 October 2022: Vernon Lee et le fantastique / Vernon Lee’s Fantastic Fiction. Université du Littoral – Côte d’Opale, Centre universitaire du Musée, Boulogne-sur-Mer. Pr Marc Rolland. With the IVLS

Vernon Lee, Aesthetics and Empathy (VLAE) Sally Blackburn-Daniels & Derek Matravers, Churchill College, Cambridge on the 12th and 13th September 2022. Keynote speakers: Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies at CUNY Graduate Centre. Elisa Bizzotto, Associate Professor of English Literature at Università Iuav di Venezia.

Forthcoming

  • Victorian Popular Fiction Association, 14th Annual Hybrid Conference, 12-15 July 2022
  • Aestheticism: Sensations and Ideas, International Walter Pater Society Conference, 14-16 July 2022, Iuav University of Venice-Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
  • Decadent Bodies, BADS, Goldsmiths, University of London, 28-29 July 2022

Keynote: Ana Parejo Vadillo (Birkbeck), ‘Red is the Colour of Life’

Plenary: Martin O’Brien (Queen Mary University of London), ‘Until the Last Breath is Breathed: Performing Queer Death’

Day 2: 11:00am

Panel I: Landscapes of decadence and desire: Vernon Lee               

Chair: Sally Blackburn-Daniels (Open University)

Anna Shane (University of Exeter), ‘The Pursuit of Love and Knowledge: Vernon Lee’s gothic stories and the queer knowledges of collecting’

Megan Girdwood (Durham University), ‘Motor Types: Vernon Lee and Kinaesthesia’

Louise Wenman-James (University of Surrey), ‘“They can touch us like living creatures”: Decadent Landscapes in Vernon Lee’s travel writing’

  • British Association of Victorian Studies 2022: University of Birmingham, 1-3 September 2022

https://bavs2022.com

  • Vernon Lee, Aesthetics and Empathy, Churchill College, Cambridge, 13-14 September 2022 https://fass.open.ac.uk/research/conferences/VLAE
  • Vernon Lee’s fantastic fiction / Vernon Lee et le fantastique, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 13-14 October 2022.
  • International Vernon Lee Society Annual Event and General Meeting, 14 October 2022.

Novels

Mary F. Burns, The Eleventh Commandment, A John Singer Sargent / Violet Paget Mystery, 2022.

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“La femme, lorsqu’elle sera la sœur véritable de l’homme, saura comme lui se développer par le bonheur, par tous les côtés de l’expérience humaine” (Vernon Lee)

Chères lectrices, chers lecteurs,

les Droits des Femmes sont à l’honneur aujourd’hui, 8 mars. Dans le monde entier, de Paris à Florence, de Kiev, à Kaboul, New York, Londres, Tripoli ou Beyrouth, Varsovie ou Dublin… on célèbre les femmes et leurs droits, droits acquis souvent de haute lutte, conservés grâce à la vigilance de toutes et tous, parfois fragiles, menacés et à (re)conquérir.

Dans les extraits ci-dessous de lettres de Vernon Lee (à paraître dans l’édition des Selected Letters of Vernon Lee aux éditions Routledge sous la direction de Sophie Geoffroy, avec Amanda Gagel), se dessine le portrait de 2 femmes fortes et reconnues pour leurs talents respectifs, ainsi qu’un autoportrait de l’épistolière elle-même:

“Je me rends compte de parler en ce moment de questions qui me seront toujours des énigmes ; je suis, paraît-il, un specimen, plus ou moins réussi de ce fameux troisième sexe auquel l’avenir offre tant de besogne et si peu de considération; et j’admets la possibilité d’un manque total de sentiment et de pudeur dans toutes mes notions, si abstraites sur ce que votre langue appelle amour. Là-dessus je déclare mon incompétence totale. Mais, j’ai des idées, très nettes et très bien fondées sur ce qui constitue l’âme essentielle de certains êtres, le besoin, la passion, faisant leur force ou leur tourment, d’être tout dans la vie d’un autre être, de devenir la clé de voûte qui porte tout.” (Vernon Lee à Augustine Bulteau, Florence, 29 janvier 1904)

Dans les lettres suivantes, Vernon Lee défend son amie, la grande compositrice britannique et ardente défenderesse des droits des femmes, Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), face aux critiques d’une autre amie, très proche: la femme de lettres, journaliste et salonnière Augustine Bulteau (1860-1922), “Toche” pour ses amis, qui publie sous différents pseudonymes (“Foemina”, “Jacque Vontade”, “Cleg”).

Augustine Bulteau, 1893, portrait par Fernand Khnopff
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858 – 1944) Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Vernon Lee

Ethel Smyth adaptera le roman de Vernon Lee Penelope Brandling en un opéra intitulé Les Naufrageurs (The Wreckers), sur un livret de Harry Brewster et créé en 1906, et qui fut son plus grand succès. C’est à Augustine Bulteau que Vernon Lee offrit le manuscrit, relié, de son roman. On doit aussi à Ethel Smyth l’hymne suffragiste The March of the Women (La Marche des Femmes) en 1910, sur des paroles de Cicely Hamilton.

  • Vernon Lee à Augustine Bulteau, Frimley, Angleterre, 20 août 1903:

“L’autre soir, chez la Ranee, Ethel s’est ouverte sur cela, j’ai compris tout ce qu’elle a enduré, souffert pour obtenir qu’on donnât son Wald à Londres; (…) On perd un peu de dignité apparente à devoir se faufiler, s’avancer à coups de coudes ; mais lutter pour son travail, pour ce qu’on croit pouvoir donner, au fond, c’est beau, beaucoup plus beau qu’avoir peur du contact comme moi ! (…) Instable, inconstante, irresponsable, sans discrétion ni tact, oui. Mais foncièrement a good sort. . . . Dans notre société toute masculine (la petite Anglaise désire plaire à ses frères, n’être pas dédaignée par eux, traitée de muff) une femme peut exercer une certaine séduction sans être ni jeune ni jolie. Le fait de bien monter à cheval (to go straight dans les grandes chasses), d’être très fort au golf, au hockey, au tennis même, de s’en aller à minuit en bicyclette sur des chemins glissants, constitue un prestige à nos yeux. (…) Au fond l’Anglais a le dédain de la femme féminine ; dans ce pays ici, où les hommes ont en partage la beauté et l’élégance, tout le monde aspire aux qualités masculines, et les aime. Vous, Toche, vous êtes un peu une Anglaise en cela ; et les Anglais vous aiment parce que, Dieu merci, vous n’êtes pas très femme ! (…) Sa fréquentation, qui me fait toujours plaisir au moment même, me laisse toujours un peu déprimée. J’avoue à ma honte que j’en veux à cette femme d’avoir plus d’ardeur, d’énergie, de générosité que moi, et surtout de se faire aimer davantage. À côté d’elle je me sens petite, molle, et de mauvaise foi, sans flamme ni puissance –un peu–pardonnez-moi la grossièreté de l’expression–un peu eunuque, comprenez-vous ?” (Vernon Lee, lettre à Augustine Bulteau, Frimley (Angleterre), 20 août 1903, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Manuscrits, Paris)

  • Vernon Lee à Augustine Bulteau, Milford-on-Sea, Angleterre, 28 août 1903:

“Vous ne voulez donc pas comprendre le fond de simplicité, de bonhomie, qu’il y a n dans le caractère anglais. Nous sommes des enfants –des enfants mâles, oui ; mais nous avons l’habitude de nous gifler comme des school boys (to spar) et de nous emparer de tout ce qui nous tombe sous la main –tabourets, coussins, livres, opinions, théories etc. pour nous livrer à ces bearfights qui nous entretiennent le sang en bon ordre –sans le fiel– le fiel de dénigrement, dont vous autres civilisés  semblez parfois souffrir. (…)

Très certainement elle (Ethel Smyth) est mon amie. Voilà dix ans qu’elle se montre avec moi loyale, fidèle, et même tendre. Ces derniers temps surtout elle a eu avec moi des façons de frère aîné qui m’ont beaucoup touchée. Et c’est la seule femme, ainsi que je vous l’ai dit à Rome qui me donne la sensation d’être de mon espèce ; nous avons des points de contact, des façons d’entendre la vie qui dépendent de ce que nous sommes des confrères, des camarades (…) il est certain que les amitiés très grandes entre femmes ne correspondent à rien que l’esprit masculin puisse concevoir sans mauvais soupçons.” (Vernon Lee, lettre à Augustine Bulteau, Milford-on-Sea (Angleterre), 28 août 1903, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Manuscrits, Paris)

Nos pensées en ces heures sombres vont à toutes celles, tous ceux qui luttent pour leur liberté, qui est aussi la nôtre. Etres humains de tous les pays, unissons-nous contre la guerre et la barbarie!

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Вільні Спірти розуміють один одного, об’єднуються через кордони / Free spirits understand each other, unite across borders (Vernon Lee July 18, 1934)

Dear readers, Шановні читачі,

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine left me literally speechless these days. History tests our humanist, pacifist, idealistic convictions by placing us in a situation analogous to that of our parents or grandparents who, in their lifetime, experienced the war, either fighting on the battlefield or witnessing events. How can one stand by and watch such a ruthless attack on peace, Putin’s war of occupation? What can we say or do to help our Ukrainian brothers and sisters under siege?

Like Vernon Lee perceptively wrote to her friend  Mathilde Hecht : “Our statesmen, in their vindictive panic, are preparing for the future wars … of revenge that will surpass all that we have seen! Never, under the pretext of punishing bad faith and inhumanity, have people been treated (…) with such bad faith and inhumanity; never has militarism and all that goes with it has never triumphed to this point.” (Vernon Lee, letter to Mathilde Hecht, February 8, 1921)

First, posting here a simple flag, without comment, 2 days ago, was a first testimony of our solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are valiantly resisting the oppressor and fighting to enforce their rights, and our rights too: the right of all peoples to self-determination. Then, I looked for a message to convey : The Sibyl must carry light in these dark times. Could Vernon Lee be a source of inspiration, a source of hope?

She too lived under the bombs, in a furnished apartment in London, during the First World War, and the terrible situation of the Ukrainian people under the bombs makes her testimony more actual than ever:

“I live with a «respirator» against chlorine bombs in my drawer and a bucket of sand in my fireplace! That’s where we are now! Notice that in the event that such a bomb shortens my days, my executor happens to be Mrs Forbes-Mosse with whom I am quarrelling just like with my local chauvinists here and who, I think, will not want to set foot in Italy ever again. Oh hatred, dear Mathilde, the stupid, stupid hatred!” (letter to Mathilde Hecht, June 16, 1915)

The letters exhanged between Vernon Lee and her close friend, Irene Forbes-Mosse, in the remarkable edition of Christa Zorn and Herward Sieberg, The Anglo-German Correspondence of Vernon Lee and Irene Forbes-Mosse during World War I ; Women Writers’ Friendship Transcending Enemy Lines, show not only the immediate disasters of a European war, but also the long lasting consequences of propaganda and of censorship. Let us pray for Free spirits to remain united across borders!

Let’s remember that Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) was marked by a cosmopolitan and nomadic childhood due to political upheavals in Europe from the French Revolution to the Franco-Prussian war and perhaps a certain transgenerational experience of exile. She confides in her French friend the painter Berthe Noufflard, who quotes her in her Journal:

« My grandfather had been a professor in Poland — my father had been raised there — and then worked there as an engineer — he had been involved in the construction of the Warsaw-Moscow railway. He never forgot the horror of the Russian and Prussian persecutions. He emigrated to France with Poles in 1849. –he was even part of the National Guard in Paris” (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 28 July 1934)

Her sensitivity to the cause of Poland and Finland resonates today in particular: “In London, during the war, I was approached, invited by young Polish patriots – Very charming — <forming a club>– kind to the highest degree — who asked me if the English radicals could not take an interest in the cause of Poland. … Finns too — an art critic I saw a lot then — There was nothing to be done. … And the Polish cause, the Finnish cause, were stories which our allies wouldn’t hear of.” (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 28/07/1934)

Let us not forget her friendship for the poet and diplomat Peter (“Peter”) Boutourline (Petr Dmitrievich Buturlin; 1859–1895), born in Florence, who left for Kiev, Tagantcha, in January 1885, to whom she dedicated “Oke of Okehurst; Or, The Phantom Lover and who appeared in other works of hers.

A weaver of ties, a tireless polemicist in favour of a more enlightened and just model of society, Vernon Lee strongly supported the fight against fascism and during the First World War made her Villa Il Palmerino an international asylum for refugees in the heart of Europe. Faced with the rise of fear before the Second World War she declared: «We should group everywhere those who are not afraid, who are not afraid to take risks» (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 20/07/1934) She was then 78 years old…

On the eve of her death, the last book she read was a geopolitical work by Jules Romains, Problèmes européens (Paris: Flammarion, 1933), which stated in particular: “It is banal to note that the justification of European nationalisms and antagonisms for ethnographic reasons is not serious.” (p. 21)

A viewpoint shared with Lee’s friend, Romain Rolland, who wrote to her in 1910:

“A country’s language has nothing to do with its nationality. We do not have the idea of claiming Geneva or Brussels because people speak French there (…) What matters alone (and more and more, in the course of history), is the will of a people, its moral attractions, the strength of common traditions, the personal character of its civilization.  (…) As long as I live, I will not cease to defend the rights of the oppressed and conquered peoples–and above all, those of our Europe who are great moral personalities, secular souls: Alsace, Poland, Finland, etc.” (Romain Rolland to Miss Paget, 3 July 1910, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Manuscrits)

Here is what Lee wrote:

“I believe that in the depths of my horror at participating in this war, despite all the good or bad reasons for doing so, there has always been the intuition that today … the international entanglement, the enormity of the human masses and the complexity of all our civilization, necessarily turns every war into an attack on the unknown – the means and the concomitant circumstances so monstrously exceed all prediction and all will.

Finally, I only hope for some peace, a viable regime, out of all the chaos of bad influences and abominable passions that the war unleashed, at least in our lifetime, dear Mathilde. ” (Vernon Lee, letter to Mathilde Hecht, 36 Fitz James Avenue, West Kensington, London W, 21 May 1919)

But hope endured. Vernon Lee fought against the war, she fought for peace, with all her might. How? by her open letters, and by her ART. One must read or reread the revolutionary pacifist text that she wrote during the war years, in exile in London far from her home in Florence: Satan the Waster, a philosophic war trilogy (1920), developped from her Ballet of the Nations: A Present-Day Morality (1915) dedicated to Romain Rolland and to “men of goodwill” and recently translated into Italian: Satana il Dilapidore. This avant-garde political fable boldly expresses Lee’s vision of the political situation in the West and her intellectual and personal commitment from the beginning of the 20th century to the interwar period (South Africa, France, Germany, Alsace, Italy, England, Ireland, India, Russia, Poland, Finland, etc.). It was masterfully represented at Villa Il Palmerino in 2019 (see here) on the advice of Sally Blackburn-Daniels (see here), directed by Angeliki Papoulia and produced by Federica Parretti.

Beyond her love for this geographical Europe which she crossed every year throughout her life, Vernon Lee called for a political Europe. She contributed to its construction, because she believed in dialogue and peace within a true Concert of Nations.

She too would have stood up for Ukraine.

STOP the Russian war in Ukraine!

Зупинити російську війну в Україні

References:

Herward Sieberg and Christa Zorn (eds.) The Anglo-German Correspondence of Vernon Lee and Irene Forbes-Mosse during World War I ; Women Writers’ Friendship Transcending Enemy Lines. With a Foreword by Phyllis Mannocchi. Lewiston/Lampeter : Edwin Mellen Press, 2014. 463 pages.

Blackburn-Daniels, S., (2020) “A Present-Day Morality for the Present Day”, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 2020(30). doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.2931

Gagel, Amanda, “Vernon Lee’s Satan the Waster: Pacifism and the Avant-Garde”, Brewminate, May 21, 2019 https://brewminate.com/vernon-lees-satan-the-waster-pacifism-and-the-avant-garde

Blackburn-Daniels, Sally & Sophie Geoffroy (2021) “Traces of the exotic” in Vernon Lee’s “Oke of Okehurst; Or, The Phantom Lover”, Women’s Writing, 28:4, 569-588, DOI: 10.1080/09699082.2021.1985294

Geoffroy, Sophie (ed.), Artisans de la paix et passeurs/Peacemakers and bridgebuilders, Paris: Michel Houdiard ed., 2018.

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« Les esprits libres se comprennent, s’unissent par-dessus les frontières » (Vernon Lee, 18 Juillet 1934)

Chers lecteurs,

l’invasion de l’Ukraine par la Russie et ses conséquences humaines m’ont laissée littéralement sans voix ces jours-ci. L’Histoire met à l’épreuve nos convictions humanistes, pacifistes, idéalistes en nous plaçant dans une situation analogue à celle de nos parents ou grands-parents qui, de près ou de loin, vécurent la guerre, combattirent sur le champ de bataille ou furent témoins des événements. Comment assister en simples spectateurs à cet attentat contre la paix qu’est une invasion, une guerre d’occupation? Que dire? Que faire?

“Nos hommes d’état, dans leur panique vindicative, préparent pour l’avenir des guerres non pas de revanche, mais de vengeance qui dépasseront tout ce que nous avons vu ! Jamais, sous prétexte de punir la mauvaise foi et l’inhumanité, on n’a traité des peuples (…) avec une mauvaise foi et une inhumanité pareilles ; jamais le militarisme et tout ce qui s’y rattache, n’a triomphé à ce point.” (Vernon Lee, lettre à Mathilde Hecht, 8 Février 1921)

D’abord, poster ici un simple drapeau, sans commentaire, hier, est un premier témoignage de notre solidarité avec le peuple ukrainien qui résiste vaillamment à l’oppresseur pour faire respecter ses droits: le droit de tous les peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes.

Puis, chercher un message à transmettre, pour que The Sibyl soit porteuse de lumière en ces temps obscurs. Vernon Lee peut-elle être une source d’inspiration pour le temps présent?

Elle aussi a vécu sous les bombes, dans un meublé à Londres, durant la première guerre mondiale, et la terrible situation des Ukrainiens sous les bombes nous la rend plus “actuelle”:

“Je vis avec un « respirateur » contre les bombes de chlorine dans mon tiroir et un seau de sable dans ma cheminée ! Voilà où nous en sommes venus ! Remarquez que pour le cas où pareille bombe abrège mes jours, mon exécuteur testamentaire se trouve être Mrs Forbes-Mosse avec qui je suis en train de me brouiller comme avec mes chauvins d’ici et qui jamais, je pense, ne voudra plus remettre les pieds en Italie. Oh la haine, chère Mathilde, la stupide, imbécile haine !” (lettre à Mathilde Hecht, 16 Juin 1915)

Rappelons que Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) est marquée par une enfance cosmopolite et nomade liée aux bouleversements politiques (le Siège de Paris pendant la guerre de 1870, puis la Commune de Paris) et peut-être par une certaine expérience transgénérationnelle de l’exil. Elle se confie à son amie française la peintre Berthe Noufflard, qui la cite dans son journal:

« Mon grand-père avait été professeur en Pologne –mon père y avait été élevé –et puis y avait travaillé comme ingénieur—Il avait participé à la construction du chemin-de-fer Varsovie-Moscou. Il en avait conservé l’horreur des persécutions russes et prussiennes –Il avait émigré en France avec des Polonais en 1849 –il avait même fait partie de la Garde Nationale à Paris » (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 28 juillet 1934)

Sa sensibilité à la cause de la Pologne et de la Finlande résonne aujourd’hui particulièrement:

« A Londres, pendant la guerre, j’ai été approchée, invitée par de jeunes patriotes polonais– Très charmants– <formant un club>– aimables au plus haut degré—qui me demandaient si les radicaux anglais ne pourraient pas s’intéresser à la cause de la Pologne. » (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 28/07/1934)

« Des Finlandais aussi –un critique d’art que je voyais beaucoup alors –Il n’y avait rien à faire » « Et la cause polonaise, la cause finlandaise, c’était des histoires avec quoi il ne fallait pas ennuyer nos alliés. » (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 28/07/1934)

N’oublions pas son amitié pour le poète et diplomate Peter (“Pierre”) Boutourline (Petr Dmitrievich Buturlin; 1859–1895), né à Florence, parti à Kiev, Tagantcha, en janvier 1885, à qui elle dédicace “Oke of Okehurst; Or, The Phantom Lover” et qui apparaît dans d’autres ouvrages.

Tisseuse de liens, infatigable polémiste en faveur d’un modèle de société plus éclairé et plus juste, Vernon Lee soutient ardemment la lutte contre le fascisme et fait pendant la première guerre mondiale de sa Villa Il Palmerino un asile international pour les réfugiés au cœur de l’Europe. Face à la montée de la peur avant la deuxième guerre mondiale elle déclare: « Il faudrait grouper, partout, ceux qui n’ont pas peur, qui ne craignent pas de prendre des risques » (Miss Paget, Journal de Berthe Noufflard, 20/07/1934) Elle a alors 78 ans…

Sa dernière lecture la veille de sa mort sera un ouvrage de géopolitique de Jules Romains, Problèmes européens (Paris: Flammarion, 1933), qui déclare notamment: “Il est banal de constater que la justification des nationalismes et des antagonismes européens par des raisons ethnographiques n’a rien de sérieux.” (p. 21)

De même, son ami Romain Rolland:

“La langue d’un pays n’a rien à voir avec sa nationalité. Nous n’avons pas l’idée de revendiquer Genève ou Bruxelles parce qu’on y parle français (…) Ce qui importe seul (et de plus en plus, au cours de l’histoire), c’est la volonté d’un peuple, ses attractions morales, la force des traditions communes, le caractère personnel de sa civilisation. (…) Tant que je vivrai, je ne cesserai de défendre les droits des peuples opprimés et conquis, –et avant tout, de ceux de notre Europe qui sont de grandes personnalités morales, des âmes séculaires : Alsace, Pologne, Finlande, etc.” (Romain Rolland à Miss Paget, 3 Juillet 1910, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Manuscrits)

Donnons-lui la parole pour finir:

“Je crois qu’au fond de l’horreur que m’a fait la participation à cette guerre, malgré toutes les raisons bonnes ou mauvaises pour l’avoir fait, il y a eu toujours l’intuition que de nos jours où tout se multiplie au-delà du concevable par l’enchevêtrement international, l’énormité des masses humaines et la complexité de toute notre civilisation, toute guerre devenait nécessairement un attentat à l’inconnu –les moyens et les circonstances concomitantes dépassent si monstrueusement toute prévision et toute volonté.

Enfin je n’espère plus qu’une paix quelconque, qu’un régime viable, sorti de tout ce chaos de mauvaises influences et d’abominables passions que la guerre a déchaînées, du moins de notre vivant, chère Mathilde. ” (Vernon Lee, lettre à Mathilde Hecht, 36 Fitz James Avenue, West Kensington, London W, 21 Mai 1919

Vernon Lee combattit la guerre, lutta pour la paix, de toutes ses forces. Comment? par ses lettres ouvertes, et par son ART. Il faut lire ou relire le texte pacifiste révolutionnaire qu’elle rédigea pendant les années de guerre, en exil à Londres loin de sa maison à Florence: Satan the Waster, a philosophic war trilogy (1920), developpement de son The Ballet of the Nations: A Present-Day Morality (1915) dédié à Romain Rolland et aux “hommes de bonne volonté” et récemment traduit en Italien: Satana il Dilapidore. Et magistralement représenté à la Villa Il Palmerino en 2019 (voir ici) sur les conseils de Sally Blackburn-Daniels (voir ici), mis en scène Angeliki Papoulia et produit par Federica Parretti.

Cette fable politique d’avant-garde exprime avec audace sa vision de la situation politique en occident et son engagement intellectuel et personnel dès le début du XXème siècle et jusque dans l’entre-deux-guerres (France, Allemagne, Alsace, Italie, Angleterre, Irlande, Inde, Russie, Pologne, Finlande…). Au-delà de son amour pour cette Europe géographique qu’elle traversa tous les ans tout au long de sa vie, Vernon Lee appelait de ses voeux une Europe politique. Elle contribua à sa construction, parce qu’elle croyait au dialogue et à la paix au sein d’un véritable Concert des Nations.

Mais avant toute chose, le bruit des bottes doit cesser. Nous disons NON à la guerre russe en Ukraine!

Bibliographie

Blackburn-Daniels, S., (2020) “A Present-Day Morality for the Present Day”, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 2020(30). doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.2931

Gagel, Amanda, “Vernon Lee’s Satan the Waster: Pacifism and the Avant-Garde”, Brewminate, May 21, 2019 https://brewminate.com/vernon-lees-satan-the-waster-pacifism-and-the-avant-garde

Blackburn-Daniels, Sally & Sophie Geoffroy (2021) “Traces of the exotic” in Vernon Lee’s “Oke of Okehurst; Or, The Phantom Lover”, Women’s Writing, 28:4, 569-588, DOI: 10.1080/09699082.2021.1985294

Geoffroy, Sophie (ed.), Artisans de la paix et passeurs/Peacemakers and bridgebuilders, Paris: Michel Houdiard ed., 2018.


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