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Vernon Lee 2019: An Anniversary Conference in Florence

Brilliantly organised by the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS), the University of University, and the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino, the Florence symposium “Vernon Lee: An Anniversary Conference” gathered 33 academics and scholars, among whom keynote speakers Christa Zorn and Carolyn Burdett, and many lovers of Lee’s work.

IMG_0646.JPG                                                       Christa Zorn    IMG_0590                                                                                                   Carolyn Burdett

No less than eleven panels of speakers dealt with the following topics: Art and Aesthetics, Writing, Style and Philosophy, Ecocriticism and the Genius Loci, History and Aesthetic Revivals, Place, War and WWI, Myth, Religion and the Supernatural, Vernon Lee and the Senses, Otherness, Pacifism and Sympathy, Dialogic Exchanges, Travel Writing and Affect, Violence and National Identity. To crown it all, a round table was organised to envision Vernon Lee Studies in the 21st century.

Here are a few pictures, testifying to the high level of engagement of all participants, and also to the remarkably friendly atmosphere prevailing all through the conference. This was indeed the major scientific event of the year for all Lee scholars. I thank Gilles Pasquet for capturing these moments, and I apologize for not being able to post pictures of all of you, dear speakers and participants (but you will find a list of all registered speakers at the end of this post).

IMG_0485.JPG                                                                      IMG_0462.JPGFrancesca Baldry                                       and                                       Kristin Mahoney

IMG_0512.JPG                                    IMG_0511.JPG

Sally Blackburn-Daniels                        and                         Shafquat Towheed

IMG_0566.JPG                                     IMG_0565.JPG

Michael Craske: ‘Sit up! Hearing the World or Listening for Ghosts: Lee’s Music and its Lovers



IMG_0599.JPG       IMG_0440.JPG   Sophie Geoffroy                                              and Federica Parretti

IMG_0460.JPG      Kitty Gurnos-Davies



IMG_0613.JPGEmma Liggins



Katharina Herold


Victoria Mills

IMG_0543.JPG    Alex Murray            IMG_0531.JPG

Ana Parejo Vadillo

IMG_0627.JPG       Patricia Pulham

IMG_0496.JPG      Liz Renes                        IMG_0592

Claudia Tobin and Katharina Herold

IMG_0596.JPG      Sole Alba Zollo

Below: Denis Denisoff, Carolyn Burdett, Christa Zorn, Kristin Mahoney, Federica Parretti, Sally Blackburn-Daniels, Patricia Pulham, Emma Liggins, Victoria Mills, Francesca Baldry, Liz Renez, Kitty Gurnos-Davies, Cristina Acidini, Elisa Bizzotto, Serena Cenni, Stefano Evangelista, and the talented Angeliki Papoulia.





IMG_0584                                         IMG_0582.JPG     IMG_0647IMG_0639.JPG







List (alphabetical order) of speakers:

Rachel Baldacchino: Otherness and the Essay in Vernon Lee’s Pacifist Work

Francesca Baldry & Kristin Mahoney: ‘Initiate Minds’: Vernon Lee, Harold Acton, and Decadent Affinity

Sarah Barnette: The Ethics of Vernon Lee’s Travel Writing: the Genius Loci Post-1900

Henry Bartholomew: ‘Face to Face with the Past’: Time, History, and the Ghost in Vernon Lee’sHauntings: Fantastic Stories

Sally Blackburn-Daniels: From Crystal Palace to the Grand Guignol: Vernon Lee and the Performance of War

Matthew Bradley: A Warm, Familiar Acquiescence: Vernon Lee, William James, and Religious Experience

Carolyn Burdett: Lee’s Motional Aesthetics

Marco Canani: The Ballet of the Nations: a modern morality, an intermedial mosaic

Mary Clai-Jones: To See the Forest for the Trees: Vernon Lee’s Environmental Activism

Michael Craske: Vernon Lee, Music, and Hearing

Dennis Denisoff: The Lizard of the Invisible Sunset: Eco-­Collective Memory in Lee’s Tower of Mirrors

Ana Alicia Garza: How should one read Vernon Lee?

Sophie Geoffroy: Recording the missing year: Vernon Lee’s lost 1919 notebooks; or from Satan the Waster to Proteus or the Future of Intelligence

Kitty Gurnos-Davies: ‘what can, or cannot, or must, or must not, be done, said, or thought by women’: the cultivation of aesthetic reading practices in Vernon Lee’s criticism

Katharina Herold: ‘Teutonic Romance’: Vernon Lee’s aesthetic Germany during and after World War I

Emma Liggins: ‘The Rapture of Old Houses:  Representations of Gothic Italy in Vernon Lee’s supernatural tales and place writing

Catherine Maxwell: Bringing the perfume out of everything’: Vernon Lee and Scent

Victoria Mills: Vernon Lee, ‘historic emotion’ and the aesthetics of ruins

Alex Murray: Vernon Lee’s Britain

Ana Parejo Vadillo: ‘Cultivate Garlic’: The Handling of War

Patricia Pulham: Haunting Palmerino: Vernon Lee in the Neo-Victorian Imagination

Liz Renes: Redefining Leonardo’s Queen: Vernon Lee, John Singer Sargent and Aesthetic Whiteness

Daria Ricchi: Kinesthetic Knowing. Italian Baroque Architectural Influence in Vernon Lee’s Aesthetic Theories’

Angelo Riccioni: ‘I feel I could write chapters about him’: Tracing Robert Louis Stevenson’s Influence on Vernon Lee’s Twentieth-Century Writings

Fraser Riddell: ‘No Thought Beyond the Moment and the Body’: Proprioception and Attention in Vernon Lee and Marion Milner

Helen Thaventhiran: ‘(Exit Pragmatist, exulting.)’: Vernon Lee in the margins of philosophy

Claudia Tobin: Inhaling Colour: Vernon Lee, Virginia Woolf and Chromatic Experience

Shafquat Towheed: At the limits of Pacifism? Vernon Lee, Gandhi, and India, 1930

Barbara Vrachnas: Mythology and Female Power in Vernon Lee’s Hauntings

Leonie Wanitzek: ‘The presence of that peace and goodwill’: Nostalgia, National Identity and the Genius Loci in Lee’s Pre-WWI Travel Writing

Yurie Watanabe: ‘Reaching Beyond Here and Now in The Handling of Words: The Pacifism of Vernon Lee’s Sympathy’

Sole Alba Zollo: Stance and engagement in Vernon Lee’s The Economic Dependence of Women: the writer-reader metaphorical dialogue

Christa Zorn: Vernon Lee and Irene Forbes-Mosse: Cosmopolitan Friendship at the Dawn of a New Europe beyond Borders.

Many thanks to all !

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Vernon Lee 2019: An Anniversary Conference, Florence, 30-31 May 2019


Dear Readers and Vernon Lee scholars,

we are just back from Florence, barely touching ground after the major Vernon Lee event of the year.

Generously housed at the British Institute and the Villa Il Palmerino, beautifully organised by Patricia Pulham, Serena Cenni, Stefano Evangelista and Sally Blackburn-Daniels, Vernon Lee 2019: an Anniversary Conference and with keynote speakers Carolyn Burdett and Christa Zorn, will be remembered as a milestone in the history of Vernon Lee scholarship.

On 29 May 2019, a study day and exhibition VERNON LEE AND THE THEATER OF PASSION: FLORENCE, ART, AND POLITICS took place at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Sala delle Adunanze – Palazzo dei Beccai, via Orsamichele 4, Firenze. This event inaugurated the Conference, with presentations of the most distinguished following speakers: Cristina Acidini, Serena Cenni , Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista, Maria Alberti, Patricia Pulham, Angeliki Papoulia and Federica Parretti.

This was followed by a marvellous exhibition of unique original photographs, manuscrips, posters, and letters by Vernon Lee, Ethel Smyth and others. This Iconographic Exhibition was curated by the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino with the advisory support of Francesca Baldry (NYU Florence) and of Sally Blackburn-Daniels (U. of Liverpool), in collaboration with Atelier degli Artigianelli.

Many thanks to Promoters and Archival Loans:
Gabinetto Scientifico Vieusseux, Firenze; Collezione Acton, Villa La Pietra, New York University Florence; Collezione Dazzi – Cini, San Marcello Pistoiese ; Collezione Brewster Archive – San Francesco di Paola, Firenze; Syracuse University in Florence; Collezione Karl-Heinz Kles vicepresidente della Fondazione Frans Masereel Saarbrücken, Germany ; Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino Firenze; Noufflard Archive.

Particular thanks to Jean-Michel Rabotin (Noufflard Archive) for lending us an impressive cast of  Vernon Lee’s hand!

An exhibition of Vernon Lee’s marginalia offered all participants an insight into her reading experience. Many thanks to Alyson Price, of the British Institute, for this!

To crown it all, The Ballet of the Nations premiered at Villa Il Palmerino May 31 2019, a hundred years after Vernon Lee’s return home after WWI.



Please click here for the programme.  More details and some pictures in my next Post!

Day 1 (30 May 2019)


Day 1:

British Institute of Florence, Palazzo Lanfredini, Lungarno Guicciardini 9

Welcome & Keynote 1:

Christa Zorn, ‘Vernon Lee and Irene Forbes-Mosse: Cosmopolitan Friendship at the Dawn of a New Europe beyond Borders’

(Ferragamo Room; Chair: Patricia Pulham)

Panel 1a: Art and Aesthetics (Ferragamo Room)

Chair: Victoria Mills (Birkbeck)


 Panel 1b: Writing, Style and Philosophy (Small Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Alex Murray (Queens University)


  Kitty Gurnos-Davies (University of Oxford), ‘“[W]hat can, or cannot, or must, or must not, be done, said, or thought by women”: The cultivation of aesthetic reading practices in Vernon Lee’s criticism’


Ana Alicia Garza (Independent Scholar), ‘How should one read Vernon Lee?’


Kristin Mahoney (Michigan State University) & Francesca Baldry (Collection Manager, Villa La Pietra), ‘“Initiate Minds”: Vernon Lee, Harold Acton, and Decadent Affinity’


Helen Thaventhiran (Robinson College, Cambridge), ‘Adversaria: Vernon Lee at the margins of philosophy’
Liz Renes (University of York), ‘Redefining Leonardo’s Queen: Vernon Lee, John Singer Sargent and Aesthetic Whiteness’ Angelo Riccioni (Parthenope University, Naples), ‘“I feel I could write chapters about him”: Tracing Robert Louis Stevenson’s Influence on Vernon Lee’s Twentieth-Century Writings’


Panel 2a: Ecocriticism and the Genius Loci (Ferragamo Room)

Chair: Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan)


Panel 2b: History and Aesthetic Revivals (Small Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Shafquat Towheed (The Open University)

  Dennis Denisoff (University of Tulsa), ‘The Lizard of the Invisible Sunset: Eco-Collective Memory in Lee’s Tower of Mirrors’


Marco Canani (Università degli Studi di Milano), ‘The Ballet of the Nations: A Modern Morality, an intermedial Mosaic’ Dennis
  Sarah Barnette (Independent Scholar), ‘The Ethics of Travel Writing: The Genius Loci Post-1900’ Sally Blackburn (University of Liverpool), ‘From Crystal Palace to the Grand Guignol : Vernon Lee and the performance of War’.



  Mary Clai Jones (Chadron State College), ‘To see the Forest for the Trees: Vernon Lee’s Environmental Activism’ Daria Ricchi (Oxford Brookes University), ‘Kinesthetic Knowing. Italian Baroque Architectural Influence in Vernon Lee’s Aesthetic Theories’


Panel 3a: Place, War and WW1

(Ferragamo Room)

Chair: Kristin Mahoney (Michigan State University)


Panel 3b: Myth, Religion and the Supernatural

(Small Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Sally Blackburn-Daniels (University of Liverpool)

  Ana Parejo Vadillo (Birkbeck College, University of London), ‘“Cultivate Garlic”: The Handling of War’ Matthew Bradley (University of Liverpool), ‘A Warm, Familiar Acquiescence: Vernon Lee, William James and Religious Experience’


  Alex Murray (Queen’s University, Belfast), ‘Vernon Lee’s Britain’ Henry Bartholomew (University of Exeter), ‘“Face to Face with the Past”: Time, History, and the Ghost in Vernon Lee’s Hauntings: Fantastic Stories
  Katharina Herold (Brasenose College, Oxford), ‘“Teutonic Romance”: Vernon Lee’s aesthetic Germany during and after WW1’


Barbara Vrachnas (Edinburgh Napier), ‘Mythology and Female Power in Vernon Lee’s Hauntings



Plenary Panel: Vernon Lee and the Senses

(Ferragamo Room; Elisa Bizzotto)

  Catherine Maxwell (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘“Bringing the perfume out of everything”: Vernon Lee and Scent’

Michael Craske (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Vernon Lee, Music, and Hearing’

Fraser Riddell (Trinity College, University of Oxford), ‘“No Thought Beyond the Moment and the Body”:
Proprioception and Attention in Vernon Lee and Marion Milner’




Day 2: 31 May 2019

Villa Il Palmerino, Via del Palmerino, 10, 50137 Firenze FI, Italy



 Keynote 2: Carolyn Burdett, ‘Being Moved: Bodies, Lines, Minds’ (Associazione; Chair: Stefano Evangelista)


Panel 4a: Otherness, Pacifism, and Sympathy (Associazione)

Chair: Ana Parejo Vadillo (Birkbeck College)

Panel 4b: Dialogic Exchanges


Chair: Katharina Herold (Brasenose College)

  Rachel Baldacchino (University of Malta), ‘Otherness and the Essay in Vernon Lee’s Pacifist Work’



Claudia Tobin (University of Cambridge), ‘Inhaling Colour: Vernon Lee, Virginia Woolf and Chromatic Experience’
  Yurie Watanabe (Durham University), ‘Reaching ‘Beyond Here and Now in The Handling of Words: The Pacifism of Vernon Lee’s Sympathy’ Sole Alba Zollo (University of Napoli, Federico II), ‘Stance and Engagement in Vernon Lee’s “The Economic Dependence of Women”: The Writer-Reader Metaphorical Dialogue’



Plenary Session: Sophie Geoffroy, ‘Vernon Lee’s Letters and Notebooks in the Digital Age’ (Associazione; Chair: Sally Blackburn-Daniels)





Panel 5a: Travel Writing and Affect (Associazione)

Chair: Mary Clai Jones (Chadron State College)


Panel 5b: Violence and National Identity (Salon)

Chair: Matthew Bradley (University of Liverpool)

  Victoria Mills (Birkbeck, University of London), ‘Vernon Lee, ‘historic emotion’ and the aesthetics of ruins’ Shafquat Towheed (The Open University), ‘At the limits of Pacifism? Vernon Lee, Gandhi, and India, 1930’
  Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University), ‘The Rapture of Old Houses: Representations of Gothic Italy in Vernon Lee’s Supernatural Tales and Place Writing’ Leonie Wanitzek (University of Oxford), ‘The presence of that peace and goodwill’: Nostalgia, National Identity and the Genius Loci in Lee’s Pre-WWI Travel Writing’
  Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey), ‘Haunting Palmerino: Vernon Lee in the Neo-Victorian Imagination’  


Film Showing & Round Table: Vernon Lee in the 21stC (Associazione) with Stefano Evangelista (Chair), Christa Zorn, Carolyn Burdett, Dennis Denisoff, Kristin Mahoney, Patricia Pulham, and Sally Blackburn-Daniels


 Wine Reception & Special Performance: Ballet of the Nations

(Villa Il Palmerino)














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Not to be missed! The Ballet of the Nations at Villa Il Palmerino

Vernon Lee’s Ballet of the Nations

to be performed at her home, May-June 2019!

Vernon Lee’s The Ballet of the Nations will be the first performance of Vernon Lee’s satire of the First World War. The Ballet will be performed in three locations around the Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, Vernon Lee’s home for over forty years.”

Le Ballet des Nations de Vernon Lee sera la première représentation de cette satire de la Première Guerre Mondiale. Le Ballet se déroulera en trois lieux différents autour de la Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, où Vernon Lee vécut pendant plus de quarante ans.

Pour tout savoir sur le projet de Federica Parretti et le soutenir, rendez-vous sur

To know everything about this splendid project by Federica Parretti, and to support it, please visit:

The project is also presented in a video filmed and realized by Sally Blackburn-Daniels.

Le projet est présenté dans la video filmée et réalisée par Sally Blackburn-Daniels, que vous trouverez, ainsi que davantage d’informations, à l’adresse:

More complete information at

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The Ballet of the Nations, Palmerino, May 2019

Dear Vernon Lee readers, chers lecteurs de Vernon Lee,

we are very glad to pass on to you the important announcement we have just received from the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino.

C’est avec plaisir que nous transmettons l’importante annonce que nous venons de recevoir de l’Associazione Culturale Il Pamerino.

“Vernon Lee’s The Ballet of the Nations will be the first theatrical performance of Vernon Lee’s satire of the First World War. The Ballet will be performed in three locations around the Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, Vernon Lee’s home for over forty years.”

Le Ballet des Nations de Vernon Lee sera la première représentation théâtrale de cette satire de la Première Guerre Mondiale. Le Ballet se déroulera en trois lieux différents autour de la Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, où Vernon Lee vécut pendant plus de quarante ans.”

The project is presented in a video filmed and realized by Sally Blackburn-Daniels.

Le projet est présenté dans la video filmée et réalisée par Sally Blackburn-Daniels, que vous trouverez, ainsi que davantage d’informations, à l’adresse:

More complete information at

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Armistice Day: Vernon Lee’s Letter to Mathilde Hecht, 17 November 1918

Dear Readers, chers lecteurs, chères lectrices

en ce jour de commémoration du centenaire de l’Armistice, qui mit fin à la sanglante Première Guerre Mondiale de 1914-1918, cette lettre inédite de Vernon Lee à Mathilde Hecht, recopiée par Berthe Noufflard, et datée du 17 novembre 1918, révèle à quel point la pacifiste fut marquée par cette guerre qui en annonçait d’autres. Non, la guerre qui venait de s’achever n’allait pas être la “der des der”.

Today’s celebration of the centenary of Armistice Day 1918 calls for the testimony below. This unpublished letter to Matilde Hecht, copied by Berthe Noufflard, and dated November 17, 1918, reveals how traumatised the pacifist Vernon Lee was. Indeed, the war that had just ended was not “the war to end all wars”.

Demeurons vigilants!

Let us never forget…

Sophie Geoffroy


Vernon Lee à Mathilde Hecht,

34 Royal Avenue, Chelsea [Londres]

le 17 Nov. XVIII

Bien chère Mathilde,

Si j’avais mis sur le papier les lettres que je vous ai écrit ces derniers temps, surtout cette dernière semaine, chaque poste vous en aurait apporté une, et quelquefois deux…

Peut-être devinez-vous leur contenu, de même qu’il me semble deviner ce qui se passe en vous.

Chère Mathilde, au moins la tuerie a cessé, et avec elle l’angoisse pire qu’elle. Les malheureuses gens retournent chez eux, pour y trouver… quoi ?

Et tous, il me semble, nous sommes un peu comme ceux-là : après l’incendie, nous sortons, croyant retrouver un peu du monde d’avant. Et ce n’est peut-être qu’à partir d’aujourd’hui que nous apercevrons toutes nos pertes, morales bien plus que matérielles, et les ruines fumantes qui peut-être tomberont pour nous ensevelir ; car la haine est restée et la misère combien plus grande !

Je ne veux pas mettre cette note dans votre joie. Car après les souffrances et les angoisses traversées, il ne doit y avoir en France qu’une folle joie ; Pardon alors d’avoir étalé mon pessimisme.

Et après tout, l’essentiel c’est que la tuerie cesse, et avec elle la tromperie, la peur qui est le pire menteur de tous ; la vie reprend, l’humble, stupide, saine vie d’avant ; et dans le travail petit à petit la haine s’oubliera.

Pourvu que l’intérêt des particuliers ne l’érige pas en religion où ces messieurs vivraient comme toujours de l’autel. Mais avec la paix est venue, ou viendra, la possibilité de parler, d’écrire et d’être écoutés ! Il y aura un immense déblayage moral et intellectuel à faire. Je voudrais avoir vingt-cinq ans au lieu de soixante-deux !

Pour l’instant je reste ici, où il y a de quoi vivre et je ne dirai pas se chauffer, mais ne pas mourir de froid, ce qui avec une colite chronique n’est pas un vain mot.

Les conditions de l’Italie sont beaucoup plus mauvaises ; sans compter que la misère actuelle y produira peut-être quelques désordres, une fois qu’ils auront couvé leurs victoires. Il est possible que je ne rentre chez moi, où, du reste ma maison est toujours habitée par des réfugiés vénitiens, qu’à la fin d’août. Il faudra alors que je vous revoie, chère, chère Mathilde.

Je reverrai Irène [Forbes-Mosse] probablement en traversant la Suisse ; je l’espère. Notre affection est restée intacte ; mais je ne crois pas qu’elle retourne jamais en Italie, ce qui m’obligera peut-être à vendre mes deux chères maisons et à finir mes jours ici le moins mal possible.

Donnez-moi de vos nouvelles. J’imagine Mary[Duclaux] dans la joie lyrique. De telles joies ne sont plus mon affaire : le monde me semble beaucoup trop compliqué pour s’y prêter.

Adieu bien chère ; rappelez-moi à vos enfants et à ceux de nos amis qui le voudront bien.



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“that peculiar unsymmetrical position” of Adam and Eve

Vernon Lee, radical feminist, “too dangerous for Henry James”, is with us today, on Women’s Day, with her article “She for God in him” and the announcement of a new book in The Telegraph (The Psychology of an Art Writer).

She for God in him

The Nation, September 4, 1915, p. 732-33.

The other day, in a certain Catholic chapel, I chanced upon a document which, during all these clamorous discussions of what women are or are not, suddenly let a flood of light upon my own inventoried experience, my almost automatic expectations concerning my sisters in Eve. It was a printed prayer tacked on a pillar, bilingual, unsigned, entitled “A Prayer to the Blessed Virgin for all those who love and suffer.” “Poor woman,” I said to myself, “how much she must have been through!” And then it occurred to me by what sign I knew not, and knew that everyone else would know just as unhesitatingly, that this wholly anonymous writer could by no possibility be a man. By the insistence, unrestrained, heart melting, on the sorrow of those who are not loved or who are loved no longer; the taking for granted that loving and being loved must be the permanent and paramount interest in life and the measure of life’s happiness. That constitutes, I fancy, the feminine note in literature, from Sappho to St. Catherine, and from Heloïse to the Brontës and Mrs. Browning.

This love which is thus treated not as an incident of life, but as life’s chief business, need by no means be love for a lover. In the reality of things it is quite as often love for a child, sometimes for a brother or a parent. Nowadays it is often for a friend, a teacher, or political leader. In former days it was often for Christ. But it is always love which can or could be reciprocated; it is love of a person (even if that person should be divine); it is not love for things or for ideas, whose only return is precisely whatever attracts one to them. This love is human love with human love’s lurking jealousy and fear of loss. However variously applied, its pattern is originally the love of Eve for Adam; and it bears the traces of that peculiar unsymmetrical position in which Adam and Eve have stood not only towards one another, but each towards God, or, if you prefer, towards everything in the universe except themselves:–

“For contemplation he and valor formed;

For softness she and sweet attractive grace.

He for God only; she for God in him.”

Milton has been fallen foul of by us modern people for an uncivil old retrograde. But that incident of the prayer “for all who love and suffer,” and my unhesitating attribution of its authorship to a woman, brings home to me that Milton was merely describing in theological language the present state of affairs. Only I differ from Milton in that this unsymmetrical position of the sexes strikes me as anything but paradisiac. Indeed, it alone would lead me to guess that Adam and Eve are makeshifts of that purblind and fumbling Chaos who knew what he was after, namely, his own greater glory and incidental philanthropical intentions. It was an oversight (and does not Bergson’s “Creative Evolution” pique itself on lack of mere reason?) to give all the valor and the contemplation to Adam, while endowing Eve with nothing but attractions entailing Adam’s constant attention. Since valor and contemplation, indeed less exalted capacities for business, take as much interest in themselves, and in other valor and contemplation  which can collaborate and compete with them, as they take interest in a person who, like Eve, is wholly destitute of anything similar. Whence the undoubted fact to which Eve (either as wife or a mother) awakes with surprise, and sometimes with pain, that men require not only helpmates, but that other and very different kind of mate, a fellow worker, a competitor, even a possible enemy; also, as Milton emphasized a little unduly, that men do occasionally want to contemplate their particular God. This Eve, having neither valor nor contemplation, is left out in the cold whenever Adam turns away from the charms which, by definition, are all she has to offer him. And when she sees nothing but the Divinity mirrored in her husband’s eyes, what she says is not always: “How splendid of you to be looking at God! Do please go on!” But rather: “O, Adam, dear, couldn’t you stop looking at God and just look for a wee moment at me?” Sometimes, indeed, finding that it is not the thing to say, she will train herself into extraordinary interest and pride in Adam’s contemplative exercitations; she will even jealously acquire a smattering of the idea or occupations which happen to be his particular God. If, as may happen, Adam is thick-skinned or fatuous, Eve’s improvised interest, her pleasure solely in what he does, and indifference and jealousy in what others do in the same field, will never rub him the wrong way, and he will merely grow more fatuous and thick-skinned in consequence. While if (which also happens) Adam is gifted with “feminine” insight and “feminine” horror of inflicting pain, a hundred customary acts of self-sacrifice, self-restraint, nay, even of deliberate dissimulation, keep her in the happy delusion that loving intrusion into the holy of holies is the very thing he wants most. “You know, dear Adam can’t do without me to talk everything over.”

That self-congratulating formula! The wife or mother from whose lips we hear it is perhaps genuinely unconscious that those subjects “he has to talk over with her” are her dreaded and hated rivals. But we, who happen to know it, wonder, amazed, which of the inseparable companions is deceiving the other; whether we are in the presence of a self-satisfied dupe, or of some half broken-hearted creature repeating the vital lie she cannot believe in. And thus we may fall to wondering whether these daughters of Milton’s Eve will ever learn that, as the mother is needed only by the helpless or ailing child, so the woman who lives for love is needed by the man only in those episodes when he, too, lives only for love. Will the time ever come when Eve will meet Adam not only as mother or wife, but accidentally, unintentionally, as one meets another creature interested in the same business, a possible rival, a conceivable comrade? Or will there always be that pathetic clinging when the man turns to view his work or the child grows up: “Don’t go. Don’t change!” — and the terrible need of that tragic prayer, “For all those who love and who suffer”?

And this brings me to yet another reason for suspecting that Eve must be the random work of the blundering ‘prentice Evolution, rather than (as Milton thought) the twin masterpiece of a Creator careful of his greater glory. The prayer in question was for consolation, or, failing that, for resignation. I cannot think of any instance in literature, and not many in real life, of a woman having prayed for renovation, hoped for such steady or catastrophic shuffling of personal trouble, such renewal of spiritual virginity and vigor as we see in Tolstoy’s heroes and in Rolland’s “Christophe.” Indeed, apart from any such exalted and almost mystical examples, where are the feminine counterparts of the mere masculine rank and file, taking as part of life to begin life once, twice, or thrice, with renovated hearts? Women would take no pride in such a renewal, as they take none, alas, in the forgetfulness of harrowing anniversaries. Rather they have learned to pride themselves on such constancy as is but a lingering decay, that of the lady who sat like Patience on a monument, letting concealment prey on her damask cheek. When they are consoled (the very word savors of innuendo!), the consolation is a new love which, moreover, is thought of as the really first, the only real one, and this time for good and all.

Such Eve-like concentration on purely personal affections means denying the great impersonal universe its claims on the soul’s passions. No woman, so far as I recollect, has written cosmic poetry in the sense of Goethe’s, Wordsworth’s, or Shelley’s. And to the female mystic the starry heavens have told not the glory of God, but the coming of the Bridegroom. And, putting poets and mystics aside, there is often in the mind of even high-minded women something personal and egoistic in their finest scruples and cruelest self-immolations. While, as to the others! There is about most feminine souls a shuttered, glazed-in quality, a warmth and closeness as of nurseries and sick rooms. Also the thought of death seems oftener present than that of things eternal, for it is the nature of mortal beings to die; and the love of Eve does not go forth to things impersonal and immortal.

This concentration of the feminine soul on personal affections occurs to me as its most undoubted and, oddly enough, its least deprecated inferiority. That this should be the case shows how completely both man and womankind have really acquiesced in the arrangement described by Milton, however much they fall foul of the description. It is quite possible there may be quite incurable bodily reasons for lack of what Milton called “contemplation” in the female soul. Or again, the pressure of certain sociological conditions may have lasted too long, left an inheritance of over personality on the sex, killed off without progeny all the individual Eves who wanted to see God face to face, and not in their male relations only. In either case, it is very likely that the Eve-like attitude and the results thereof I have been pointing out, may be the price for the race’s survival, and even its progress up to a certain point. Our history is full of such fearful, never liquidated debts. But because “and she for God in him” has been thus needed, and may even be inevitable, I see no reason for warping our judgement and spoiling our taste by going on insisting that it is beautiful. Beautiful is a quality we strive after, not one which is always furnished us gratis by everything which happens to exist and be needful and inevitable.

But I was forgetting: “Creative Evolution” has a dodge of botching up its occasional bungles by warping our judgement and taste in their favor. The “she-for-God-in-him” arrangement having been useful to the race at some time or other, required cultivation and consecration as holy. And thus we find it duly enshrined not only in immortal verse, but in prejudices and preferences, alas, a great deal more immortal still.




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Study Day and Worshop 2017 – Journée d’étude et séminaire technique

Du manuscrit à la base de données en ligne : travailler sur des sources primaires

Journée d’études et séminaire technique

Université de La Réunion

19 octobre 2017

 Une journée d’études et un séminaire technique sur le thème « travailler sur des sources primaires: du manuscrit à la base de données » organisés par Sophie Geoffroy (LCF & ITEM-CNRS) sont prévus à l’Université de La Réunion le 19 octobre 2017.

Cette manifestation scientifique prend place dans le cadre du programme INNOFAM (Innovation-Femmes-Progrès) / WIP (Women-Innovation-Progress) qui a pour objectif de contribuer à favoriser l’acquisition de nouvelles compétences et l’autonomisation des jeunes, en particulier les femmes, de la région océan Indien, en leur donnant accès à des méthodes de recherche, de diffusion des connaissances scientifiques et de valorisation de la recherche. Innovation, Transmission, Relève, telles sont les notions clefs de cette journée d’études et séminaire technique.

Nous invitons les chercheurs expérimentés à partager les méthodes autant que les résultats de leurs travaux scientifiques avec la future génération de chercheurs.

Nous avons choisi de nous attacher à la personnalité de « Vernon Lee » (Violet Paget, 1856-1935), femme cosmopolite, humaniste, pacifiste, visionnaire, éclectique, européenne avant l’heure, en avance dans de nombreux domaines de réflexion. Elle concentre l’énergie de nombreux chercheurs disséminés dans le monde

A la Réunion, le travail sur les sources primaires concernant Vernon Lee est particulièrement actif. La vocation naturelle de ce projet est donc de se tenir ici, lieu de lancement de The Sibyl, de l’IVLS, et du web-documentaire récent.

C’est pourquoi nous sommes heureux et fiers d’accueillir à l’Université de La Réunion cet événement, qui permettra à nos étudiant-e-s de rencontrer des spécialistes internationaux de Vernon Lee ainsi que des jeunes chercheurs du monde entier.

Nous invitons les contributions portant sur l’édition critique de sources primaires de Lee. Les communications seront centrées sur le processus entier d’élaboration d’une telle édition, du traitement de documents manuscrits inédits à l’édition critique (papier ou numérique) et à la base de données.

Un séminaire technique dirigé par le Dr. Shafquat Towheed (Open University, UK) fournira l’occasion de s’entraîner concrètement à l’utilisation de la base de données RED (Reading Experience Database). Les participante-s apprendront à identifier les références à l’histoire de la lecture à partir de sources imprimées, manuscrites ou numériques, et à les saisir dans la base. Il s’agira d’apprendre à utiliser les différentes rubriques, à vérifier les informations, et à nourrir la base en intégrant de nouvelles références.

A l’issue de cette manifestation se tiendra l’Assemblée Générale annuelle de l’association IVLS (International Vernon Lee Society). Les membres de l’IVLS sont attendus et recevront leur convocation sous peu.

Si vous souhaitez adhérer à l’IVLS, ou pour plus de renseignements :


From Holograph to Online Database: Working on Primary Sources

Study Day and Worskhop 

University of La Réunion (France)

October 19, 2017

 A study day and workshop organised by Sophie Geoffroy (LCF & ITEM-CNRS) are scheduled to take place at the University of La Réunion (France), October 19, 2017.

This study day and workshop are part of the program INNOFAM (Innovation–Femmes-Progrès) / WIP (Women-Innovation-Progress) aiming to empower young people, especially women, in the Indian Ocean area by upgrading their skills or training them to acquire new skills and by enhancing female role models.

To favour scientific innovation, experienced researchers are invited to share their research methods as well as their scholarly knowledge with the next generation of researchers.

The character, life and works of the cosmopolitan intellectual, pacifist, feminist, committed writer and visionary pro-Europe Violet Paget (« Vernon Lee », 1856-1935) will be chosen as a case in point, for her ability to analyse and to foresee future development in various domains.

Scholarly research about Vernon Lee has considerably developed in recent years, thanks to new findings and to the publication of primary sources, especially her correspondence.

Reunion island, where The Sibyl, Journal of Vernon Lee Studies and other important initiatives originated and developed (the IVLS ; the web-documentary) has been one of the most active Lee research centers in the world.

We shall proudly host this event, thus enabling our students to meet international specialists of Vernon Lee and young Lee scholars around the world.

We invite contributions dealing with the critical edition of Lee primary sources. Presentations will focus on the whole process from the treatment of holograph material to transcription, to critical edition (paper and digital) and database.

A training workshop directed by Dr. Shafquat Towheed (Open University, UK) will provide a ‘hands on’ training and guidance for future contributors to the Reading Experience Database. It will show how to identify records of reading evidence from printed, manuscript, and online resources, and how to enter this information into the database. It will train contributors to understand the different data fields, show them how to check information, and provide guidance about how to record a reading experience in the database. By doing so, it will equip researchers to use the Reading Experience Database as a repository of information about reading.

The annual general meeting of the International Vernon Lee Society will take place on that same day, after the workshop and seminar.

All IVLS members are welcome ! A regular call to attend the meeting is on its way to our members.

For more information about the IVLS, please click



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Web-documentaire exclusif!

Voici enfin notre web-documentaire (3h07’23”) en 10 chapitres et 19 épisodes :

A la découverte de Vernon Lee

 Auteure Sophie Geoffroy

Réal. Thomas Cordet et Gilles Pasquet

I. Préface 31’12’’

  1. L’origine de la recherche. Sophie Geoffroy, interview par Thomas Cordet, la Réunion. 10’07’’
  2. 2. La création de The Sibyl, Journal of Vernon Lee Studies. Sophie Geoffroy, interview par Thomas Cordet, la Réunion. 10’21’’

3. La création de l’International Vernon Lee Society. Sophie Geoffroy, interview par Thomas Cordet, la Réunion. 10’44’’

II.  Vernon Lee’s Papers 4’18’’

  1. Dr Anne Manuel, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Somerville College, Oxford, UK.
  2. Dr Patricia Burdick, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Colby College, Special Collections, Waterville, Maine, USA.

III. Vernon Lee et ses ami-e-s correspondant-e-s 10’35’’

  1. Vernon Lee et H.G. Wells. Amanda Gagel, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Chicago, USA. 2’38’’

2. Vernon Lee et Walter Pater. Stefano-Maria Evangelista, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Trinity College, Oxford, UK. 4’35’’

3. Vernon Lee et Gabriele d’Annunzio ; Vernon Lee et Mario Praz. Elisa Bizzotto, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Villa Il Palmerino, Florence. 03’22’’

 IV. Vernon Lee et son entourage 31’44’

Vernon Lee et ses cousins Abadam. 07’02’’:

Margaret Vaughan, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Carmarthen (Wales)

Jill Davies, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Carmarthen (Wales)

Vernon Lee et Irene Forbes-Mosse. Christa Zorn, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Chicago. 03’07’’

Vernon Lee et la famille Noufflard. Geneviève Noufflard, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Paris.

a. Les visites de Vernon Lee à la famille Noufflard. 04’43’’

b. Souvenirs de la première rencontre par Berthe Noufflard (lus par Geneviève Noufflard). 11’34’’

c. La découverte des films d’André Noufflard. Stefano Vincieri et Federica Parretti, interview par Sophie Geoffroy. Villa Il Palmerino, Florence, Italie. 05’18’’

 V. Vernon Lee et la Villa Il Palmerino 11’37’’

Margherita Ciacci, interview par Sophie Geoffroy. British Institute, Florence

Stefano Vincieri, Federica Parretti, Laura Terzani, interview par Sophie Geoffroy. Villa Il Palmerino, Florence.

 VI. Vernon Lee lectrice 8’16’’

Shafquat Towheed, interview par Florence Binard. Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université de La Réunion.

Alyson Price, interview par Sophie Geoffroy. British Institute, Florence.

 VII. Vernon Lee et la science 9’50’’

Shafquat Towheed, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Somerville College, Oxford.

 VIII. Vernon Lee et le féminisme 4’12’’

Margherita Ciacci, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, British Institute, Florence.

Anne Manuel, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Somerville College, Oxford.

 IX. Vernon Lee et la première guerre mondiale 05’00’’

Phyllis Mannocchi, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Waterville, Maine, USA.

Christa Zorn, interview par Sophie Geoffroy, Chicago, USA.

 X. Vernon Lee, une femme libre 1h10’39”

conférence-spectacle de Sophie Geoffroy et Mélanie Prochasson, la Réunion.

  1. Partie 1 : la fabrique d’une femme libre. 38’16’’
  1. Partie 2 : Vernon Lee, une femme libre, engagée pour la paix. 32’23’’
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Dear readers/ Chers lecteurs,

nous avons le plaisir de vous annoncer la parution du recueil d’articles consacrés à la pensée politique de femmes engagées du dix-neuvième siècle, comme Vernon Lee, aux éditions Michel Houdiard. Ce livre rassemble onze articles issus des deux colloques internationaux organisés à Paris en octobre 2013 et mars 2015 par Sophie Geoffroy (U. de La Réunion) et Michel Prum (U. Paris-Diderot-Sorbonne-Cité).

We are glad to announce the publication of the volume of articles dedicated to Vernon Lee’s and other nineteenth century women’s political theory. This book gathers the selected proceedings of the two international conferences organised in Paris in October 2013 and March 2015 by Pr. Sophie Geoffroy (U. of La Réunion) and Pr. Michel Prum (U. Paris-Diderot-Sorbonne-Cité).

Les femmes et la pensée politique : Vernon Lee et les cercles radicaux

Women and Political Theory : Vernon Lee and Radical Circles

Contents/ Table des matières

Introduction                                                                                                         Sophie Geoffroy

  • Vernon Lee e Gaetano Salvemini                                                          Stefano Vincieri
  • Vernon Lee and Gaetano Salvemini                                   transl. by Sophie Jorrand
  • Being in Borders: Vernon Lee, Empathy and Pacifist Resistance

                                                                                                                           Rachel Baldacchino

  • V. Lee and the Ford Sisters: varieties of socialism and trade unionism

                                                                                                                                      Marie Terrier

  • Vernon Lee and Ednah Dow Cheney: Aesthetics, Art, and Affect

                                                                                                                            Therese B. Dykeman

  • “War Work” and the Philosophy of Heroism: A. Mary F. Robinson Duclaux’s “Friendly Fire” with Marie Lenèru and Vernon Lee                                    Patricia Rigg
  • The Unique Correspondence of Vernon Lee and Irene Forbes-Mosse in World War I: Women’s Friendship Transcending Enemy Lines                                          Christa Zorn
  • Vernon Lee, Paul Desjardins, Daniel Halévy and Romain Rolland      Sophie Geoffroy
  • Vernon Lee and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: the Anglo-American alliance on the “Woman Question””                                          Gabriella di Martino and Sole Alba Zollo
  • A Tale of Two Americans, the History They Made, and a Comparison: Julia Ward Howe 1819-1910, Voltairine de Cleyre 1866-1912, and Vernon Lee 1856-1935

                                                                                                                             Therese B. Dykeman

  • Mary Duclaux                                                                                Jacqueline Bayard-Pierlot
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