“In this third volume, covering the years 1890-1896, the 429 assembled letters follow Violet Paget-Vernon Lee from the age of thirty-four, when she lives with her parents and half-brother, the poet and invalid Eugene Lee-Hamilton, at Villa Il Palmerino (Florence), to the ripe age of forty, when both her parents died and her brother recovered from his illness and decided to leave home.
As Lee copes with Eugene’s invalidism and her own physical and psychological ailments, we get a view of the practice and teaching of medicine and nursing in Europe in the late 1890s. Lee sponsors her friend’s Amy Turton’s convalescent home and nurses’ training. Mental sciences are at the forefront, from experimental psychology, psychiatry and neurology to neurophysiology; and in August 1892, Vernon Lee and Clementina Anstruther-Thomson attend the Psychological Congress in Paris, with speakers Hermann von Helmholtz, James Sully, Alexander Bain, Francis Galton, G. Stanley Hall, and Amboise-Auguste Liebeault. Lee came to consider herself as a psychologist as much as a philosopher of art and delved more deeply into experimental psychology; and with her partner Clementina Anstruther-Thomson she refined a theory of aesthetic empathy and inner mimicry. According to this theory, a viewer’s response to a work of art can be measured through his or her physiognomy, breathing, heartbeats and eye and muscular movements, thus providing a scientific basis for an innate appreciation of aesthetic value. They published a synthesis of their work: “Beauty and Ugliness” (The Contemporary Review, October-November 1897).
While travelling, Lee continues to write her travel essays (e.g. Genius Loci: Notes on Places, 1899) and her popular supernatural tales. She starts lecturing, emulating Eugénie Sellers’s British Museum lectures and her method for attribution and connoisseurship.
Her interest in socialism and political economy intensify as her circle widens beyond an aristocratic and society milieux to working-class districts, and her collection Althea (1894) shows her interest in ethics, moral duties and free-thinking. She indicts the proponents of art for art’s sake. Her discussions about contracts, copyright and royalties, pirated editions, and money matters are intertwined with educational ethics and a concern for the fair recognition of women’s higher education and careers. She becomes involved in the university extension program by giving her first lectures on ancient art and aesthetics in the East End and at Toynbee Hall, and her experience of lecturing in London, Cambridge, Oxford and Rome allows her to meet other intellectuals: Eugénie Sellers, Mrs Arthur Strong etc. and new audiences.
In 1894 the Affaire Dreyfus (1894–1906) begins, revealing the rise of anti-Semitism targeting many of Lee’s close friends, also defenders of Dreyfus, such as James Darmesteter. After he died, Darmesteter’s wife, Mary (Robinson) and Lee once again became close to one another.
By the time she turned forty, Vernon Lee experienced several emotional blows: her friend and mentor Walter Pater died on 30 July 1894. That same year, four months later, on 14 November 1894, her father died from complications related to asthma, Eugene Lee-Hamilton started to recover from chronic illness soon after his stepfather’s death. Eighteen months after her father’s death, Lee was hit again in the death of her mother on 8 March 1896. Feeling vulnerable, Lee made her will (1896), asking Eugene and Bella Duffy to act as executors— “clinging to” the Palmerino: “the only thing I care for in the world”.
In the present volume, she meets for the first time the Italian actress Eleonora Duse, also Lady Margaret Brooke, Ranee of Sarawak; G.B. Shaw; and the composer Ethel Smyth. In France she meets archaeologist, explorer and novelist Jane Henriette Dieulafoy; American painter Mary Cassatt; geographers Edouard Blanc (Marie-Thérèse Blanc’s son) and Jean Brunhes; philanthropist and feminist activist Gabrielle Alphen-Salvador; connoisseur and art collector Gustave Louis Dreyfus and his wife Henriette (suggests Olive Anstruther-Thomson as a tutor or “female lad” for their son, Carle Dreyfus who was to become curator at the Louvre). She also met art expert Albert Sancholle Henraux and his wife Maria del Carmen (Carlo Placci’s sister); illustrator Albert Lynch; painter and printmaker Paul-Albert Besnard; and the Empress Eugénie (Eugénie de Montijo), but also Paul Desjardins and his circle at the Union morale including Daniel Halévy,.
Lee’s Correspondents in this volume include her parents, Matilda and Henry Ferguson Paget; her half-brother poet Eugene Lee-Hamilton; Italian Countess Angelica (Pasolini) Rasponi, Percy William Bunting, French translator and critic Marie-Thérèse Blanc (“Th. Bentzon”), Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, Guido Biagi, Paul Desjardins, Enrico Nencioni, Conte Giovanni Gigliucci, Bernard Berenson, Mary Ward (Mrs Humphry Ward), William Blackwood, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Mary Darmesteter, Lady Susan Elizabeth (Mary) Constantine Jeune (later St Helier), Harry Brewster, Carlo Placci, Lady Charlotte Julia Blennerhassett, Gaetano Salvemini, Lady Louisa Wolseley, Richard Garnett, Ethel Gwendoline Moff at Vincent, Alice Foulon de Vaulx, Alys Pearsall Smith (Mrs Russell) and Hannah Whitall Smith (Mrs Pearsall Smith).” (Sophie Geoffroy, https://www.routledge.com/Selected-Letters-of-Vernon-Lee-18561935-1890-1896/Geoffroy-Gagel/p/book/9781848934979
Another great idea for a Christmas gift for our Italian friends: Elisa Bizzotto‘s translation of Vernon Lee’s first work of fiction: Ottilie, Un idillio settecentesco. This is the very first Italian translation of this very interesting text.
Ottilie: Un idillio settecentesco (Ottilie: An Eighteenth Century Idyl, 1883), prima opera di fiction della scrittrice angloitaliana Vernon Lee, si rifà alla tradizione del romanzo sentimentale per raccontare del rapporto di affetto e intesa intellettuale tra una sorella e il fratello al quale fa da madre dopo la morte dei genitori. Ambientato in Germania tra la fine del diciottesimo e l’inizio del diciannovesimo secolo, Ottilie è anche romanzo di formazione e riporta le vicende quotidiane del narratore in prima persona, il poeta Christoph, e della sorella Ottilie, ragazza e poi donna colta, sensibile e amante dell’arte, in una provincia bigotta e volgare tratteggiata con sottile ironia. Il contesto storico che fa da sfondo è presentato dall’io narrante attraverso le teorie di Rousseau sull’educazione prima, e l’ossianesimo e l’aspirazione al sublime poi, con rimandi alla letteratura tedesca preromantica e romantica a punteggiare il testo. Non mancano riferimenti alla vita musicale dell’epoca, oggetto di studi appassionati da parte di Vernon Lee, attraverso la descrizione di attività di corte, esecuzioni e strumenti che evidenziano i legami tra cultura tedesca e italiana.
we are delighted to announce 3 major events and 2 books, which, I am sure, will be of interest to any Vernon Lee scholar or student. Your feedbacks are always welcome!
TONIGHT’S EVENT: INAUGURATION OF Palace Women, Oltrarno and Beyond: Photography and Artisans, Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, 30 October-15 December 2023
Una mostra composita ispirata a figure femminili del passato e alle loro abitazioni raccontate attraverso diversi materiali e tecniche artistiche da un gruppo di giovanissimi o di artisti artigiani internazionali che operano a Firenze.
La mostra è parte di una rassegna iniziata a Settembre che si compone di conferenze visite guidate e tours nelle realtà fiorentine che raccolgono l’eredità di donne eccezionali ancora così importanti per la nostra storia.
Inoltre segnaliamo che il 2 Novembre presso la colonica del Palmerino si terrà un laboratorio di tecniche pittoriche per la realizzazione di un dipinto di un vaso di fiori tramite una tecnica elaborata dalla Bottega degli Angeli in concomitanza con la mostra su Federigo Angeli a Palazzo Medici Riccardi e inserito nel cartellone del Festival dell’Italia Gentile!
Il laboratorio è riservato a 10 gruppi famigliari ( un bambino e un genitore) ed è gratuito iscrizioni a email@example.com
A composite exhibition inspired by female figures of the past and their homes told through different materials and artistic techniques by a group of very young or international artisan artists working in Florence.
The exhibition is part of an exhibition that began in September which consists of conferences, guided visits and tours in the Florentine realities that collect the legacy of exceptional women who are still so important to our history.
Furthermore, we would like to point out that on November 2nd at the Palmerino farmhouse a pictorial techniques workshop will be held for the creation of a painting of a vase of flowers using a technique developed by the Bottega degli Angeli in conjunction with the exhibition on Federigo Angeli at Palazzo Medici Riccardi and included in the program of the Festival dell’Italia Gentile!
Federigo Angeli: The Florentine Renaissance in the 20th century – 7 October 2023-7 January 2024
Federigo Angeli, Il Rinascimento fiorentino nel XX secolo07 Oct – 07 Jan2024. The exhibition “Federigo Angeli -The Florentine Renaissance in the 20th century” will open to the public on Saturday 7 October, promoted by the Metropolitan City of Florence, organized thanks to the support and contributions of Banca Patrimoni Sella & C. and Sella Sgr, companies belonging to the Sella group, with MUS.E and the Il Palmerino Cultural Association aps and hosted in the Fabiani Rooms of Palazzo Medici Riccardi until 7 January 2024. Curated by Francesca Baldry and Daniela Magnetti. Organized by: Banca Patrimoni Sella & C., Sella Sgr, Associazione MUS.E, Associazione Il Palmerino. Location: Sale Fabiani
The exhibition – The exhibition project was born and developed around two matching paintings by Federigo Angeli entitled “Corteo di dama” and “Signore a Cavallo,” belonging to the collection of Sella Sgr on which the Artistic Direction of Banca Patrimoni Sella & C. carried out an important work of conservation, analysis, and correct attribution of the works, thanks also to the collaboration of various art historians, public bodies and private institutions. The documentary evidence from the archives at the Cultural Association, Il Palmerino proved to be particularly useful.
The exhibition committee entrusted with catalog insights and curatorship benefited from the collaboration of professionals and art historians from public and private institutions, in a synergy of experience and expertise capable of encouraging new perspectives of study: Cristina Acidini, Francesca Baldry, Daniela Magnetti, Roberta Masucci, Marco Moretti, Federica Parretti, Filippo Timo, and Valentina Zucchi.
The exhibition is an opportunity to learn more about the artist and the context in which his workshop operated. In Florence, in the period between the 19th and 20th centuries, a real cult for Renaissance art developed thanks to the strong presence in the city of the Anglo-American community. La Bottega of Federigo (1891), Alberto (1897) and Achille (1899) Angeli took on the dimension of a great artistic forge capable of satisfying the ambitious extravagances of patrons and clients: from the restoration of paintings to copies from antiquity, from weddings coffers to the tempera paintings, to the fresco decoration of entire villas in the United States, the French Riviera and Monte Carlo, helping to disseminate the taste for fourteenth and fifteenth-century painting abroad.
The works – The two paintings on canvas can be directly traced back to the Cappella dei Magi fresco cycle painted by Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-1497) between about 1459 and 1464, both in terms of the overall construction of the scene and of precise literal references: the steed in step and the rampant steed, the ornamented noblemen, the rocky backdrop on which the turreted cities stand out, the treatment of vegetation. Compared with Gozzoli’s precedent, however, Angeli’s workshop stands out for its innovations and contamination of sources. If in the richly decorated walls of the Medici-Riccardi Palace chapel female figures are either totally absent or relegated to the margins of the scene, in the two canvases signed Angeli, women appear as protagonists of the procession. Inspired by Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) from Cappella Tornabuoni in Santa Maria Novella, the woman on horseback echoes the profile of Giovanna Tornabuoni in the Birth of Maria, while the woman with a basket on her head holding the rabbit is a reference from the Birth of St. John the Baptist. Alongside the two large canvases, the exhibition places other evidence of the wide and varied artistic production of the Bottega Angeli, with displays of sketches, paintings and richly decorated furnishings that can tell the story of the family of artists’ inexhaustible search around the sources of inspiration from the Renaissance.
Federigo Angeli (1891-1952), a native of Castelfiorentino and the oldest of four children, began his apprenticeship at a very young age with his father, painter and decorator, Angiolo Angeli. In Florence, at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, he frequented the Libera Scuola di Nudo and was a pupil of the American artist Julius Rolshoven. Federigo’s artistic abilities and talent as a draughtsman were soon recognized and it was not long before he received awards and certificates of merit: he won the first prize for two consecutive years in the Scuola Pio Istituto De’ Bardi for ornamental and figure drawing, Together with his brothers Alberto and Achille, Federigo transformed his father’s workshop into a successful enterprise that contributed to the spread of Florentine taste throughout the world, exporting its style and reproductions of the major artistic works of the Renaissance.
In addition to the works in the Neo-Renaissance style, he cultivated a more personal artistic production which will be represented in exhibition with some portraits and a still-life.
During the period of the exhibition, the visitors have the exceptional opportunity to visit the painter’s house at Villa Il Palmerino and its garden: Saturdays of October 14th, November 18th, and December 9th . Visits only by appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXHIBITION: GLI EBREI, I MEDICI E IL GHETTO DI FIRENZE,
Palazzo Pitti | Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Sala del Fiorino e Sala della Musica 23 ottobre 2023 — 28 gennaio 2024
a cura di Piergabriele Mancuso, Alice S. Legé e Sefy Hendler
This is an important event, and we are very grateful to the curators, especially Alice S. Legé, for bringing to light the history of the ghetto. For Vernon Lee scholars and students, it offers the opportunity of seeing the letter Lee wrote to the Editor of the Times, dated December 15, 1898, to save the Historical Center of Florence from destruction. An Italian translation of the letter is held at the Archivio Storico Comunale di Firenze.
The “Centre”–including the old market-place, Vasari’s fish-market, several very important ancient churches, some beautiful and most interesting palaces of guilds and old families, and a unique ensemble of mediaeval streets and lanes–was not cleared or ventilated, or drained, or otherwise sanitated, but simply swept off the face of the earth, not a trace of it remaining in the group of commonplace and inappropriate streets, and the ostentatious and dreary arcaded square which arose on its site. Only a colossal inscription proclaimed to the scant passers-by and the solitary cabs that, after centuries of squalor, the “Centre” of Florence had been given over to new life! Many of us foreigners can remember this astounding self-mutilation of the town of Florence; and all who can must heartily agree with one of the greatest of German authorities on art, and, like him, stigmatize it as “scandalous.” (Vernon Lee to the Editor of the London Times, December 15, 1898, Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Ins. C cass. 57 nm. 4028-4056 e nm. 2011-2012 prezzi 2+29)
As Lee wrote to Clementina Anstruther Thomson, her engagement with this conservation work as a Member of the Society for the Protection of Old Florence was a fairly uphill work: “Now I have finished, I hope, with old Florence –over 4000 signatures already come in, including 20 French academicians! –” (Vernon Lee, letter to Clementina Anstruther Thomson, December 4, 1898, Vernon Lee Archive, Miller Library, Colby College).
Meet Harriet Chastel de Boinville, the mother of Violet’s mentor Cornelia Turner
The story of Harriet Chastel de Boinville’s heirloom is in itself a powerful incentive to read the book. It started for me with a letter from a reader I did not know, Bryan Chastel de Boinville, about Vernon Lee’s letter to Henrietta Jenkin, Lucca, June 18, 1875. Vernon Lee’s letter read:
“Alfred Turner sent me a few days ago the beautiful watch of Dr Burney which Madame d’Arblay left to Madame Chastel de Boinville –Mrs Turner had mentioned it in one of her letters to me –It is most precious to me, for Mrs Turner’s sake as much as Madame d’Arblay’s –I hope I may do something to deserve it some day-” Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume I, p. 199.
My reader marvelled: “Why, this is my ancestress’s watch you are talking about!”
Indeed, after Harriet’s death, on June 28, 1875, Giovanni Ruffini sent the watch to Vernon Lee with this note:
A vous enfant précoce, revenant de droit le souvenir de cette autre enfant précoce, qui fut Madame d’Arblay
To you, a precocious child, righly belongs this memento of the precocious child that was Madame d’Arblay.
(Qtd B. Corrigan, “Giovanni Ruffini’s Letters to Vernon Lee, 1875-1879,” English Miscellany 13 (1962): 179-240)
Now it was my turn to wonder.
How did Charles Burney’s gold watch end in Vernon Lee’s grateful hands, through Frances Burney d’Arblay, Harriet de Boinville, Cornelia Turner, Alfred Turner and finally Giovanni Ruffini? Many years later, when came the announcement that Barbara de Boinville had just published Harriet de Boinville’s biography, I was eager to find an answer to that mystery.
The reader discovers an amazing web of friends in this immensely readable biography that provides a wealth of information, through anecdotes, first-hand testimonies, letters and diaries, about Harriet Chastel de Boinville and her Circle. Vernon Lee scholars will particularly appreciate Chapter 26, “Cornelia Turner and Vernon Lee Continued the Literary Life, 1848-1875”. Cornelia Turner was Harriet Chastel de Boinville’s daughter, and Vernon Lee’s mentor.
“When they met, Cornelia was seventy-five; Violet, fourteen. . . . . Violet’s half-brother, Eugene Lee-Hamilton, introduced her to Cornelia and Ruffini. Eugene had met the couple in the summer of 1868 in Thun, Switzerland. A member of the staff of the British embassy, Lee-Hamilton was transferred to Paris in 1870 and on June 16th he took his sister to the rue de Vintimille, where Cornelia and Ruffini then lived. “Mrs Turner was oh so kind!” Violet wrote her father the next day and enthusiastically described the visit.”
Mrs Turner encouraged fourteen year old Violet to write, read her very first story, Les aventures d’une pièce de monnaie, comforted her after the editor of the journal La Famille (Lausagne), Vuillet, had cut her text, offering anecdotes about her friend Shelley’s writer’s block. (Vernon Lee’s letters to Mrs Turner are in Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume I).
Mrs Turner’s partner Giovanni Ruffini, was also “closely involved in young Violet’s literary progress. He urged her to read what the poet-dramatist-librettist Pietro Metastasio had written. Violet followed Ruffini’s advice. In 1871 she read what the renowned musicologist Dr. Charles Burney, Frances Burney d’Arblay’s father, had written long ago about Metastasio.” This is how Violet Paget started on, and then, with Mrs Turner’s and Ruffini’s encouragements, persevered in, completed and published her Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy in 1878. By the time it was published, Violet Paget had become Vernon Lee, as she announced to her mentor on April 6, 1875: “The name I have chosen as containing part of my brother’s [Eugene Lee-Hamilton] and my father’s [Henry Paget] and my own initials is H.P. Vernon Lee.”
Cornelia Turner also helped Eugene Lee-Hamilton to find publishers for his works. During the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, Eugene received a telegram from Alfred Turner worried about the fate of his brother and uncle hospitalized at the Maison de Santé in Ivry, following the bombing of Fort d’Ivry. He travelled by car from Versailles to Ivry, a journey of 6 to 7 o’clock, which allowed him to give reassuring news of A. Turner’s parents but also to make the bitter observation of the destruction of the villages by the Prussians during the Siege of Paris: “The destruction is indescribable.” About these letters, see our publication “C’est un monde qui s’écroule”: Eugene Lee-Hamilton et la Commune de Paris, lettres à sa famille (31 août 1870 – 9 juin 1871).
It is probably from them that Eugene Lee-Hamilton knew about the correspondence between Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron. Claire Clairmont was Byron’s young lover and the mother of his daughter Allegra. In March-May 1888, Henry James published The Aspern Papers sourced from his visit to Eugene of January, 12 1888.
“On 12 January one of Henry James’s Florentine circle, Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1845–1907), the half-paralysed poet stepbrother of Violet Paget (Vernon Lee, 1856–1935), had told him of Captain Edward Silsbee, ‘the Boston art-critic and Shelley-worshipper,’ and his richly frustrating encounter with the ancient Claire Clairmont, ‘Byron’s ci-devant mistress,’ whose papers he coveted. This became The Aspern Papers, which appeared in The Atlantic in 3 shortish parts (March–May 1888)” (Philip Horne [ed.], Henry James: A Life in Letters [London: Penguin Classics, 1999], p. 189). (Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume II, ftn 2, p. 478)
On October 24, 1888, in his letter to his sister, familiarly addressed as “Bags”, Eugene somewhat bitterly comments:
“Henry James has sent me (me) his new two volume novel – the Aspern Papers. Perhaps you may remember that I furnished him with the subject of it by telling him the story of old Silsby & Miss Clermont” (Eugene Lee-Hamilton to “Bags” (Vernon Lee), Florence, October 24, ). (Selected Letters of Vernon Lee, Volume II, p. 477)
“This is my birthday & I cannot let it pass without writing to you”
Vernon Lee to Matilda Paget, October 14, 1891. Vernon Lee Archive, Miller Library, Colby College
October 14 marks the date of Violet Paget’s birth in Boulogne sur Mer, and like every year, The Sibyl “cannot let it pass without writing to you”, dear readers.
But this year the current deluge of violence and hatred against innocent civilians took my breath away, and quite muted me.
The civilian population in Israel targeted by ruthless terrorists, and the civilian population of Gaza caught under the fire of Israel’s retaliation… and the reconciliation efforts and peaceful solutions painstakingly carried out, elaborated and agreed upon by the more moderate elements of society on both sides have now been shattered by extremists.
Then, in the wake of the bloodbath, here in France, our colleague, Dominique Bernard assassinated by an islamic fanatic right in his High School in Arras– for what? for being a History and Literature teacher?! This, exactly 3 years after another colleague, Samuel Paty, was savagely decapitated near his School in Conflans Sainte Honorine for teaching secularism and freedom of speech… What a terrible commemoration!
The attack level alert has been raised in France; and of course, so have endless controversies and divisions, fed by more or less well-informed or well-meaning (read my lips) social media reporting the opinions of more or less well-meaning politicians and self-appointed “experts”. As for us, we wish to express our heart-felt sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims.
Are we yet again going to live in Terror, for the sake of religious fanatics? What can men and women of good-will do? What would Vernon Lee say? In 1921, she wrote to her friend, the pianist Mathilde Hecht (née Oulman) who had suffered so much during the war:
If only people could see in their fellow man the other self of Buddhism, or at the very least, a vulnerable creature as capable of suffering and error as themselves!
(Vernon Lee, Letter to Mathilde Hecht, Decembre 30, 1921)
In this situation, Lee’s Satan the Waster and Ballet of the Nations sound more sinister, and more visionary than ever… but then she died 4 years before WWII, and her views might have been different, had she actually lived through Nazi barbarism…
Sabato 9 settembre 2023, si è tenuto il nostro decimo incontro annuale presso Villa Il Palmerino, a Firenze: casa di Vernon Lee, ora sede della nostra cara associazione gemella: l’Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino. Questo evento è stato un’esperienza indimenticabile, un’occasione per celebrare la cultura e l’amicizia. Le emozioni sono state palpabili nell’atmosfera dell’incantevole villa, trasudando passione e entusiasmo per il nostro lavoro condiviso. Siamo grati per questa meravigliosa giornata che ci ha riunito in questo luogo speciale, simbolo di bellezza e conoscenza.
Un ringraziamento speciale va a Mary F. Burns, per la sua incredibile generosità. Grazie a lei e ai suoi eccellenti romanzi polizieschi Sargent-Paget! -fasci affascinanti dei suoi bellissimi acquerelli legati insieme con nastri viola e rametti di lavanda sono stati gentilmente regalati ai partecipanti durante una fantastica cena di chiusura che è stato anche sponsorizzato da Maria.
L’atmosfera speciale ha contribuito alla qualità di tutti i documenti e conversazioni, e senza dubbio ha favorito un rinnovato interesse per il lavoro di Vernon Lee, alcuni dei quali piuttosto inaspettati e mai affrontati prima-così come nell’IVLS.
La relazione morale della società è stata presentata dal Presidente e approvata, così come la presentazione del tesoriere del bilancio per il 2023. Poi c’è stata l’elezione del Consiglio. Siamo lieti di annunciare che Sophie Geoffroy è stata rieletta alla presidenza dell’IVLS. Sarà assistita da un nuovo vicepresidente: Sally Blackburn-Daniels, insieme a Shafquat Towheed, VP e Michel Prum, VP. Giovani studiosi entrano come segretari: Suzy Corrigan e Frankie Dytor. Benvenuti tutti!
Dopo la splendida e deliziosa cena nei giardini della Villa –e la torta di compleanno viola! -il momento clou della manifestazione è stata la proiezione del bellissimo film sul Balletto delle Nazioni, basato sull’opera del 1915 di Vernon Lee e rappresentato a Firenze nel 2023. “Una strana alchimia” (Stefano Vincieri)!
Attendiamo con ansia il prossimo incontro, consapevoli che questo evento ha rafforzato ancora di più i legami tra noi e ha ispirato nuove idee e progetti per il futuro!
On Saturday 9 September 2023, our tenth annual meeting was held at Villa Il Palmerino in Florence: the home of Vernon Lee, now home to our beloved sister association: the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino. This event was an unforgettable experience, an occasion to celebrate culture and friendship. The emotions were palpable in the atmosphere of the enchanting villa, exuding passion and enthusiasm for our shared work. We are grateful for this wonderful day that brought us together in this special place, symbol of beauty and knowledge.
Special thanks are owed to Mary F. Burns, for her incredible generosity. Thanks to her –and her excellent Sargent-Paget detective novels!– charming bundles of her beautiful watercolours tied together with violet ribbons and lavender sprigs were graciously gifted to participants during a fantastic closing dinner that was also sponsored by Mary.
The special atmosphere contributed to the quality of all papers and conversations, and no doubt fostered renewed interest in Vernon Lee’s work –some of them rather unexpected and never tackled before– as well as in the IVLS.
The society’s moral report was presented by the President and approved, as well as the treasurer’s presentation of the financial statement for 2023. Then the election of the Board took place. We are delighted to announce that Sophie Geoffroy was re-elected as Chair of the IVLS. She will be assisted by a new Vice-president: Sally Blackburn-Daniels, together with Shafquat Towheed, VP and Michel Prum, VP. Younger scholars step in as Secretaries: Suzy Corrigan and Frankie Dytor. Welcome them all!
We look forward to the next meeting, aware that this event has strengthened even more the ties between us and has inspired new ideas and projects for the future!
After the splendid and delicious dinner in the gardens of the Villa –and the violet birthday cake!– the highlight of the event was the screening of the stunning film about the performance of The Ballet of the Nations, based on Vernon Lee’s 1915 play, in Florence in June 2023. Indeed, “a strange alchemy” (Stefano Vincieri).
Dear Readers of Vernon Lee and Friends of Il Palmerino,
we are delighted to announce the exclusive retrospective exhibition of works by Clementina Anstruther-Thomson, Vernon Lee, Federigo Angeli, Lola Costa, Thomas Watt Cafe and many others, curated by Pier-Antonio Gottardo, at the Colonica du Villa Il Palmerino in Florence: Viaggiatori Sentimentali (Sentimental Travellers).
From 30 May to 30 June, this retrospective by various authors of the last century will celebrate their vibrant expression of their attachment to the wonderful Tuscan landscape and people.
At the end of 2022 I received an incredibly exciting message via my ancestry.com account:
Hello, my name is David Devan, I live in Northeast New York, not too far from the Canadian border. I buy, sell, and sometimes just collect cool antiques when I find them here and there. I believe I own the only portrait of Amelia Sofia Adams (Macpherson) in existence. It has a print date of Dec 1795 and has her married name of Adams written on the bottom, rather than Macpherson in Dec of 1795, I’m assuming it was because she was already betrothed and was to be married next year, as history tells us (possibly even done as a wedding gift). The print date and her name appear to be handwritten. I found this in a local antique store for $14. I like solving such little mysteries when I can, so for $14 I thought it cool to own such an amazing antique piece of art. When I Found out her father was a privateer, a notable citizen of the colonies, she married an East India Company Slaver, and she had a Granddaughter who was an author (who wrote under the pen name, Vernon Lee) and one who was a suffragist… it all became even cooler. My goal is to someday convince Mount Pleasant in Philadelphia, her childhood home that her father built and eventually sold to Benedict Arnold, to hang this portrait in its halls. One of my goals is to get her image available on the best platforms possible so that generations of her family can enjoy her image. I feel that I owe this to her since I am (as far as I can tell) the only living person who knows what she looked like, and I bear the responsibility of sharing her image. On that note, you would make my day by adding Amelia Sophia’s pre-wedding portrait to your tree.
As the first of April is the one-hundred and ninety second anniversary of Amelia’s death, I wanted to share with you David’s incredible find, and a little more about Amelia’s life, and the life of Lee’s immediate ancestors.
I had opened the ancestry.com account in 2016 to map Vernon Lee’s heritage for my PhD thesis, after reading Peter Gunn’s biography of Lee. Gunn acknowledges Lee’s grandfather, Edward Hamlin Adams, was a rich man, coming from ‘an old colonial family’, ‘with extensive business interests in the West Indies, including a banking house in Jamaica’. I was curious as to what those interests might be.
During this process, I discovered that Lee’s grandmother (maternal) Amelia was born on October 22 1776 at Mount Pleasant, Philadelphia – as David explained – and died on April 1 1831 in Florence, Italy, where she is buried. She was the daughter of a privateer, who later suffered from ill health and was locked up in the family home.
Another cool fact about her that only requires a bit of math to figure out… She was conceived a colonist under the British Crown and born an American Girl… one of the very first American born citizens (by only three months).
Amelia’s beautiful portrait shows a young woman on the threshold of a new life with her husband Edward. As I looked at it, I wondered on what wall did it hang? Amelia was an American by birth, and she married Edward on January 5 1796 in Christ Church Philadelphia when she was twenty years old. Her death in Florence, Italy came after a stint living in South Wales. Her life between her Philadelphia family home, and her life in Wales and Italy was spent in the West Indies, where her first children, Mary, Edward, Sophia, and Caroline were born in Kingston, Jamaica. Vernon Lee’s mother, Matilda Adams (1816-1896) born at Holborn St Giles in the Fields, England, was their seventh (and last) child. Did it ever leave America – and travel to Jamaica, Wales or Italy, or did it remain with her family in Philadelphia? It would be wonderful to know.
I came across glimpses of Amelia in my earlier research, which looked the ancestry of both Amelia and Edward, focusing on the Jamaican & Barbados Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1879, census records, and the Caribbean Birth Death and Marriage Index information. Edward’s family had a brutal presence in the West Indies which stretched as far back as colonial plantation settlements in the 1640s. Whist there are no records showing Edward’s (Lee’s grandfather) ownership of such settlements, he undoubtedly benefitted extensively via inheritance and the family lived very comfortably. Furthermore, Edward was the trustee for the Hungerford Spooner Charlottenburg Estate in Jamaica, and a retired partner for the Kingston Merchant House in Jamaica alongside more ‘innocuous’ positions with the merchant trade, and employment as a lawyer and banker.
On Edward’s return to England after abolition he bought Middleton Hall in Carmarthenshire in 1824, with money marked by the forced labour of African slaves in the West Indies. Whilst Lee’s aristocratic lineage and her family’s lavish and indulgent lifestyle is something she obliquely returns to in her oeuvre as an antithesis to her own moral erectness, it is essential that we interrogate these links further.
Many thanks to David Devan for allowing us to share this image.
If we have missed your publication, apologies. Please do let us know about your work by getting in touch with Sally Blackburn-Daniels email@example.com. We’d be delighted to add your Lee related writing to our bibliography.
“Intelligence is especially preservative and sheltering. It is the natural purifier and tidier-up where Genius and Stupidity, disrupting and corrupting by turns, have played the deuce with our poor mortal heritage. And in the face of the millionfold sacrifices of self and others which Ideals and Heroisms have once again presented to our foolish admiration, I would go so far as to add that Intelligence is often more humane than Sentiment, and oftener still, more beneficent than what we call Virtue.
From the misapplications of our Science, the exaggerations and lunacies of our Genius, and the havoc wrought by our higher instincts, we therefore need to be saved, not by Reason which is always too long in getting under weigh, but by Intelligence, active, alacritous, and ubiquitous, afraid neither of being laughed at nor of laughing at others…” Vernon Lee, PROTEUS; or, The Future of Intelligence (1925)
In her time, Vernon Lee’s (1856-1935) life across borders and her virtually unlimited thinking across disciplines, as well as her tackling fields traditionally reserved to men, were seen as ‘intellectual amateurishness’. But her multi-disciplinarity and her ability to cross boundaries, place her in our days as a modern thinker and a precursor.
Proteus – named after the mythical shapeshifter – is the title given to Lee’s boundary crossing essay which forms a part of the extensive To-Day and To-Morrow series (Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1923-1932). Lee’s volume appeared in 1925, the fourteenth in a staggering one-hundred and ten volume set. This expansive series included works from notable writers and thinkers of the time, including J. B. S. Haldane (DAEDALUS; or, Science and the Future), Bertrand Russell (ICARUS; or, The Future of Science), Dora Russell (HYPATIA; or, Women and Knowledge), Sylvia E. Pankhurst (DELPHOS; The Future of International Language), S. Radhakrishnan (KALKI; or, The Future of Civilization), and Vera Brittain (HALCYON; or, The Future of Monogamy). The first substantial study of the series, Max Saunders’ Imagined Futures; Writing, Science, and Modernity in the To-Day and To-Morrow Book Series, 1923-1932 clarifies that:
“The rationale for the To-Day and To-Morrow series was to combine the popularization of expert knowledge for the general reader with predictions about the future… [the] aim for the series was to facilitate intelligent debate by producing a co-ordinated act of comprehensive futurology; a kind of Mass Speculation, or Mass Future Observation.” Max Saunders, Imagined Futures; Writing, Science, and Modernity in the To-Day and To-Morrow Book Series, 1923-1932(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), p. 5.
Lee’s essay reiterated the predictions and hopes of earlier volumes (revaluation of sexual morality, ovarian transplants, ‘facilitations for changing one’s sex’, the modification of the family unit, the alteration of ‘tenure and conception of property’, the abolition of ‘indissoluable marriage’, inheritance, and the family unit) and speculates upon the facility that enables, and facilitates, these speculations: intelligence. Lee’s Future Intelligence is capable of dealing with the ‘inconsiderable metamorphoses’ of reality and the world beyond the self because it is responsive, playful and engaged, whilst continuing to demonstrate empathy.
This conference aims to think about Lee’s life and works in ways that are responsive, playful, and multidisciplinary. Papers may demonstrate how Lee’s engagement within multiple disciplines resonated during the present moment and have the potential to shape future debates within a field or fields. We would particularly welcome discussions of:
Psychology, psychiatry, neurology, and mental health
Genetics, eugenics and evolutionary science
philosophy, ethics, and morality,
sociology and geography,
musicology and sound studies,
art and aesthetics,
dance, theatre, and performance,
environment and ecology,
race and colonialism,
sex and gender studies,
human and animal rights,
pacifism, anti-violence, anti-nationalism
physics, chemistry, and hard science
development and education
Lee’s interdisciplinary networks
Intelligence and empathy
We would also like to hear the ways in which Lee’s works predict tomorrow’s events and trends, and postulate or enable the development of healthy, sustainable futures. We also welcome submission of artworks, creative pieces, performances, and work in non-traditional formats.
The conference will be organised by Sally Blackburn-Daniels (Teesside University, UK), Shafquat Towheed (The Open University, UK), the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino, and the International Vernon Lee Society.
Papers (20 minutes) will be accepted in the following languages: English, Italian, and French.
We would be delighted to discuss proposals or to answer any questions you may have. Please submit abstracts (300 words) and short bio to the organising committee email firstname.lastname@example.org by April 8, 2023.
Your selection by the scientific committee will be notified to you by May 1, 2023, as well as detailed information about registration.
We hope this conference will be the start of a series of initiatives that will conclude in 2025 with the celebration of the anniversary of the publication of Proteus.
The conference is in partnership or association with:
“Literature is the universal confidant, the spiritual director of mankind" Vernon Lee
Portrait de Miss Paget par Berthe Noufflard, 1932
"L’avantage d’être écrivain, même sans lecteurs, c’est de pouvoir éviter tout malentendu et toute déloyauté en mettant sous les yeux des autres ce qu’on pense sous forme de livre." VL, Lettre à Berthe Noufflard 26 juillet 1925
Miss Paget, portrait photographique par André Noufflard
« Mais si seulement les gens voulaient reconnaître dans leurs semblables : des semblables, l’autre soi-même du Bouddhisme ou du moins une pauvre bête aussi capable de souffrance et d’erreur que soi-même ! » (Vernon Lee, Lettre à Mathilde Hecht, 30 décembre 1921)