Some European influences on the anti-war writings of Vernon Lee: E.D. Morel, Francis Delaisi and Marcel Sembat, by Angus Mitchell & Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin

Some European influences on the anti-war writings of Vernon Lee: E.D. Morel, Francis Delaisi and Marcel Sembat

Angus Mitchell & Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin

The later political writings of Vernon Lee have been unfairly neglected in many studies of the First World War.  She received a short but memorable mention in Helena Swanwick’s memoir I have been young, where she is described as “the caustic, the fastidious, the learned, the well-loved, and the very ‘difficult’…” (Swanwick 1935: 257). Despite this striking portrayal, Lee is surprisingly absent from Swanwick’s account of the Union of Democratic Control (U.D.C.), that organisation that opposed conscription, wartime censorship and military influences on government policy (Swanwick 1924). Other volumes dedicated to the history of the U.D.C. also manage to occlude the contribution of Lee in terms of her activism, her membership of the General Council, and her writings for the organisation’s paper.[1] Yet Lee’s interventions at this time are numerous and significant. In addition to the anti-war play The Ballet of the Nations, she published political articles in journals such as The Nation, New Statesman, Labour Leader, The U.D.C. and Atlantic Monthly. This vocal pacifism is not incongruous: as argued by Sally Blackburn-Daniels, Lee’s Victorian cosmopolitanism fluidly evolved into a committed anti-war stance (Blackburn-Daniels 2018). It is because of this political stance that she “earned a vital place within Britain’s distinguished radical tradition during World War I” (Mannocchi, n.d.).

In January 1925 Vernon Lee penned a brief obituary recollecting some of her encounters with the activist and politician, E.D. Morel: he was the most energetic figure involved in the U.D.C. (Lee, Unity, 12 January 1925).[2] Her comments are warm and empathetic. In her tribute, she celebrates Morel as an independent intellectual outsider, one who had also fought against the suffering and cruelty of war. Lee had collaborated closely with Morel during the First World War when they both served on the general committee of the U.D.C. She described him as a man with the countenance of a poet:

“with his curious mixture of very British with very French, Morel was not unlike Romain Rolland’s war-hero Clerambault, the sort of man who, on the Continent, would have been assassinated like Jaurès, Rathenau, and Matteotti. In our law-stickling England of the war years, he was merely put in a convict’s jacket for infringing unwittingly a regulation against sending pamphlets to neutral countries.” (Lee 1925)

Lee later dedicated The Ballet of the Nations to Romain Rolland, and her allusion to him in Morel’s obituary highlighted her regard for the latter. Rolland, a French internationalist and pacifist, was the first Professor of Music History at the Sorbonne. A dramatist, essayist, novelist, mystic and biographer, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915 for his anti-war collection Au-dessus de la mêlée or Above the Battle. Rolland moved to Switzerland, condemning the war and arguing for the commonality of European culture. It was to his address in Switzerland that Morel had despatched, through a mutual friend, copies of his pamphlet Tsardom’s Part in the War.[3]

Figure 1: E.D. Morel (1873-1924) Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., USA; “No known restrictions on publication.”

Imprisoned for six months in 1917 for his breach of the Defence of the Realm Act by distributing anti-war pamphlets to a neutral country, Morel’s health was permanently compromised because of his incarceration.  Following his release from prison in January 1918, he spent some days with Lee and the Ford family, their Quaker friends, at their home near Leeds: “We thought him enormously aged and broken,” Lee wrote (1925). Six years later, in his mid-fifties, Morel died from physical and mental exhaustion. Lee’s short obituary ended with this reflection:

“what Morel was martyred for, in body and mind, during the war years, were the opinions which French Socialists like Sembat and Delaisi had been publishing before the war came and verified their prophecies.” (Lee 1925)

As in this piece, throughout her anti-war writings, Lee critically deploys an international frame of reference. In this tribute to Morel, she highlights his transformative shift from colonial reformer to anti-war protester. Only a few years previously, he had been feted for his activist work in the colonial sphere and his decade-long campaign exposing the atrocities committed against the people of central Africa. However, his repositioning as a pacifist organiser resulted in Morel’s marginalisation within the British political establishment.

In May 1911, Morel had been honoured with a testimonial luncheon in London where he was roundly congratulated for his enormous vitality running the Congo Reform Association.[4]  Through this association, activists exposed and contested the outrages of King Leopold II’s rule in the Congo. However, the crisis in international relations prompted Morel to re-orientate his efforts towards averting the impending war. For some years, Morel had been collaborating closely with a group of European intellectuals in order to try and extend his Congo reform campaign into the rest of Europe. In 1908 and with the help of the historian and activist Alice Stopford Green, he helped to establish the Ligue Internationale pour la défense des Indigènes dans le Bassin Conventionel du Congo. Forty or so European intellectuals lent their names to this cause. Many of them openly identified as socialists, pacifists and anti-imperialists while several were members of the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, founded in 1898 to defend the innocence of Captain Dreyfus. Their professional backgrounds were varied: literary luminaries, academics, politicians, explorers and scientists, most of them sympathetic with progressive socialist reforms.

Prominent among the group was Marcel Sembat (Fig. 2) who had a reputation as an inspired and outspoken voice. Sembat was a close collaborator with the socialist leader Jean Jaurès (also mentioned by Lee in Morel’s obituary) and part of a radical socialist phalanx in the French Chambre des Députés. Sembat was one of a group of politicians and public intellectuals who questioned the secret diplomacy and propaganda of pre-war Europe. He feared the peoples of the major European powers were being driven blindly towards Armageddon. He published his views in Faites un Roi, Sinon Faites la Paix (translated by Lee as “Make up your mind between Despotism and Peace”), predicting war from several years out and making a fervent appeal for peace and a rapprochement between France and Germany. The work was rapidly reprinted. He condemned war as a betrayal of the fundamental principles of the French republic and depicted militarism as inimical to humanity. He was not alone in this view; in 1911 the economist and socialist-pacifist Francis Delaisi (1873-1947) published La Guerre qui Vient (1911), later translated and published in the US as The Inevitable War (1915). Delaisi advocated for a united anti-war response from the working classes. Lee read both Sembat and Delaisi, and she reflected upon their premises and arguments.

Figure 2: Marcel Sembat (1862-1922) by Pierre Petit, New York Public Library Digital Collections

Morel’s close co-operation with European intellectuals over Congo reform had also brought him into contact with the work of both Sembat and Delaisi.  The following year and having watched the Agadir Crisis bring the world to the brink of war, Morel published Morocco in Diplomacy (1912), which mapped the years of diplomatic entanglement leading up to the Agadir crisis. In 1913, Morel and his fellow organisers began to wind up the Congo Reform Association and, from that point, he channelled instead his energies into trying to prevent war. By this point, Lee was highlighting the dangerous crossroads that faced the European nation states.

In late July 1914, Jaurès was shot down in the street in Paris and a few days later the world was at war. Sembat entered the French wartime cabinet as Minister of Public Works. In England, however, Morel found no government position able to accommodate his radical anti-war position. Instead he began work on establishing the Union of Democratic Control, comprising a group of politicians and public intellectuals opposed to war. One of the first people Morel approached to join the General Committee of the U.D.C. was Vernon Lee and she duly accepted. He also approached Stopford Green who declined because of her increasing commitment to the cause of Irish independence. Lee and Stopford Green had connected initially in the salons of metropolitan London in the 1880s. This part of Lee’s story is included in the paper we have recently published on the intellectual exchange of Lee and Stopford Green (Ní Bheacháin & Mitchell 2020).

Informed by her own contact with the European intellectual Left, Lee had been writing against war since 1910. Initially, her articles were published in the Liberal press, but her views gradually became unpalatable to those looking to defend the decision to go to war. After the outbreak of war, her name appeared with increasing regularity in the Labour Leader.  On 15 October 1914, an entire front-page article signed V.L.” appeared under the headline: “Germany’s Fear of Russia: French Socialist Minister’s Explanation. A Notable Quotation from Marcel Sembat“.[5]  Here Lee gave an overview of Sembat’s argument that the diplomacy among European nations before the war was propelling it towards a violent confrontation and not towards peace. The future stability of Europe depended upon Germany defending its eastern borders from the threat of Russia; therefore, other European powers, including Britain, should support Germany. For the Germans, it was the Franco-Russian alliance of 1891-94 and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 that seemed like a betrayal of civilized countries in support of barbarism. From this perspective, Tsarist Russia, not Germany, was the long-term threat to Europe.

Two years later, Lee published a two-part study entitled “Two French ‘Unheeded Warnings'”: the first piece focussed on Sembat’s “Faites un Roi, Sinon Faites La Paix”, while the second discussed Delaisi’s “La Guerre Qui Vient”. The first article was published in the September 1916 issue of The U.D.C. (the monthly journal edited by Morel); in it, Lee argued that peace was an active choice rather than an arrangement between nations that could be taken for granted (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Title of Vernon Lee’s essay published in The U.D.C.

Lee noted how Sembat’s views had been moderated since he had joined the French cabinet; nevertheless, his arguments made before the war still applied. She once more appealed to the folly of French patriotism that sought revenge for defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and home rule for Alsace Lorraine. Two years into the war with unquantifiable suffering to France, Lee wondered:

“Was M. Sembat correct in his diagnosis and justified in his advice? None of us, and perhaps M. Sembat better than any other will be able to answer until this reeling and bloodshot present shall have been succeeded by a dispassionate future. We cannot judge these matters yet, but only, at best suspend our judgment and cultivate our powers of doubting; for we are all, whether burning for war or yearning for peace groping among deliberate lies, wilful mistakes, and worse still, among the dishonesty born of our anger, our hope, or our regret.” (Lee, September 1916, p. 128)                                                                                                                                                                     What is evident from these interventions is that Lee’s thinking was influenced by French intellectuals like Sembat, Delaisi and Rolland.  In her second piece for The U.D.C. in December 1916, Lee quotes extensively from Delaisi’s argument. Francis Delaisi (Fig. 4) was a complex and controversial figure, and what is interesting is how Vernon Lee is discussing the ideas and publications of these continental intellectuals who both engaged with and criticised each other in their analysis of the impending crisis. She presented these perspectives to the readership of platforms like that of The U.D.C., highlighting the diversity and complexity of opinion that existed abroad.

Figure 4: Francis Delaisi (1873-1947) [Creative Commons]

In her writings and her friendship with Morel, Lee was concerned with challenging official nationalist positions about the war.  Although her pacifism is generally assessed in terms of The Ballet of the Nations, Lee’s other anti-war writings reveal that her cosmopolitanism was informed by a deep love of Europe and by a sustained engagement with European intellectuals. In his cultural history of the Iron Curtain, Patrick Wright highlights this striking sentiment in his discussion of Lee’s piece on “Bach’s Christmas Music in England and in Germany” (Wright 389-90). In her paean to the power of music to heal, Lee concludes that the message of Bach’s composition is that “Enmity dies and is forgotten, being accidental, changeable, sterile, and against the grain of life. But peace and goodwill on earth is born for ever anew because it is born of the undying needs of our common humanity”. She reflects on the power of music to remind divided European peoples of their common bonds and to jolt them into recognising the artificial hatreds created by war:

“Never have we and they been closer together, more alike and akin than at this moment when War’s monstrous iron curtain, cut us off so utterly from one another.”

In her representation of national peoples united in suffering and in a common humanity, Lee hopes for reconciliation and peace.  The recent publication of the correspondence between Irene Forbes-Mosse and Lee reveals the latter’s emotional suffering during this period.  Lee’s pacifist politics were grounded in her personal sense of horror and loss as the cosmopolitanism of her childhood world was fractured and upended.  As is evident from her political writings and from her involvement in the U.D.C., Lee’s wartime thinking reveals diverse European influences and a deep emotional response to the traumatic consequences of international conflict and division.

[1] Swartz, The Union of Democratic Control, marginalizes Lee within his narrative and fails to reference her pamphlet Peace with Honour in his list of U.D.C. pamphlets. However, he does name her as a member of the organisation’s first General Council in 1914 (47) and she is still included as serving on the UDCGC in the 1917 list (224); also see Harris, Out of Control.

[2] Our thanks to Patricia Burdick at Colby College who most generously supplied copies of several of the Lee articles referenced in this article.

[3] For details on the arrest and conviction of Morel see Donald Mitchell, The politics of dissent: A biography of E.D. Morel (Bristol, 2014), pp. 132-144. Lee published an article in the U.D.C., 2:12, Oct. 1917 titled ‘Shall Prussia Restore the Tsar?’ – a reflection on the future risks for revolutionary Russia.

[4] See

[5] In a letter (18 September 1914) to Irene Forbes Mosse, Lee references Sembat’s book with the following comment: ‘The German position is rendered in a splendid, ingenious, generous manner.’ See (Sieberg and Zorn, 2014, 72).

Bibliography / Works Cited:

Blackburn-Daniels, Sally. “Separate in Interest, Unequal in Power: Cosmopolitanism and Pacifism in the Works of Vernon Lee.” Artisans de la paix et passeurs: Peacemakers and Bridgebuilders, edited by Sophie Geoffroy (Paris: Michel Houdiard Éditeur, 2018), pp. 215-227.

Delaisi, Francis. La Guerre qui Vient. Edition de la “Guerre Sociale”, 1911. Translated and published in the US as The Inevitable War. Small, Maynard & Co, 1915.

Harris, Sally. Out of Control: British Foreign Policy and the Union of Democratic Control, 1914-1918. The University of Hull Press, 1996.

Lee, Vernon. “Germany’s Fear of Russia: French Socialist Minister’s Explanation. A Notable Quotation from Marcel Sembat.” Labour Leader, 15 October 1914: 1-2.

Lee, Vernon. Peace with Honour (U.D.C. pamphlets).

Lee, Vernon. The Ballet of the Nations: A Present-Day Morality. Chatto and Windus, 1915.

Lee, Vernon. “Two French ‘Unheeded Warnings’: I – M. Sembat’s  “Faites un Roi, Sinon Faites la Paix”’, The U.D.C. 1:11, September 1916: 126-128.

Lee, Vernon. “Two French ‘Unheeded Warnings’: II – M. Delaisi’s  ‘La Guerre Qui Vient‘”, The U.D.C. 2:2, December 1916: 17-18.

Lee, Vernon. “Shall Prussia Restore the Tsar?” The U.D.C., 2:12, Oct. 1917.

Lee, Vernon. “From Vernon Lee.” Unity, 12 January 1925.

Mannocchi, Phyllis F., “The Development of Vernon Lee’s Politics”, The Sybil: A Journal of Vernon Lee Studies, /

Mitchell, Angus. “Peace to End Peace”. Dublin Review of Books, 111, May 2019.

Mitchell, Donald. The politics of dissent: A biography of E.D. Morel (Bristol, 2014).

Morel, E.D. Morocco in Diplomacy (1912).

Morel, E.D. Tsardom’s Part in the War ( ).

Ní Bheacháin, Caoilfhionn & Angus Mitchell, “Alice Stopford Green and Vernon Lee: Salon Culture and Intellectual Exchange”, Journal of Victorian Culture, 2020, Vol. 25, No. 1: 77-94.

Rolland, Romain. Au-dessus de la mêlée or Above the Battle.

Sieberg, Howard 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, ed. Howard Sieberg and (Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2014).

Sembat. Faites un Roi, Sinon Faites la Paix ( ).

Stopford Green, Alice. The Public Presentation to Mr E.D. Morel ( ).

Swanwick, Helena. Builders of Peace, being ten years’ history of the Union of Democratic Control. (London: The Swarthmore Press, 1924).

Swanwick, Helena. I have been young. (London, 1935).

Swartz, Marvin. The Union of Democratic Control in British Politics during the First World War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).

For details on the arrest and conviction of Morel see Donald Mitchell, The politics of dissent: A biography of E.D. Morel (Bristol, 2014), pp. 132-144.

Wright, Patrick. Iron Curtain: from Stage to Cold War (Oxford, 2007).

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Centenaire de Geneviève Noufflard (1920-2016)

Elle aurait eu 100 ans aujourd’hui.

Petit bout de femme intrépide et pleine d’énergie jusqu’à un âge très avancé, elle était la vieille dame la plus intimidante que j’aie jamais connue.

Franche et directe, en elle s’alliaient la rigueur scientifique de la collaboratrice du futur prix Nobel de médecine Jacques Monod, le courage de la Résistante aux côtés de son mentor et d’Albert Camus, la conscience aiguë de son devoir de mémoire envers ses parents –les peintres André et Berthe Noufflard–, ainsi qu’une vive intelligence et une culture hors du commun, et une dignité sourcilleuse particulièrement exigeante envers ses proches autant qu’envers elle-même, que tempérait un humour parfois redoutable qui masquait à grand peine le besoin de réconfort d’une grande dame solitaire révoltée par les infirmités de l’âge.

Mais la petite fille pétillait toujours dans son regard bleu de glace, cette petite fille que j’avais découverte dans les films de famille tournés par son père, André Noufflard, à partir de 1925. Très vite, le projet m’a été confié de réaliser un documentaire à partir de ces films.

C’est grâce à ces films, découverts au Pôle Image de Haute-Normandie (Rouen) par Stefano Vincieri et Federica Parretti, que j’avais appris à connaître celle qui signait alors ses lettres “Genouf” et exécutait révérences et cabrioles devant la caméra paternelle et l’invitée de marque, l’amie de la famille: Miss Paget.

Fresnay-le-Long, Berthe et André Noufflard et leurs deux filles: Geneviève et Henriette

Témoin exceptionnel, Geneviève Noufflard, qui avait connu et fréquenté Vernon Lee entre 1925 et 1935, dont la mémoire était infaillible et qui était animée par le désir plein de nostalgie de mieux connaître les personnes qui avaient peuplé sa jeunesse et aimé ses parents, devint une collaboratrice de recherche précieuse.

Film d’André Noufflard. Par ordre d’apparition: Geneviève Noufflard, Mme Langweil mère, Mary Duclaux, Mabel Robinson, Berthe Noufflard, Florence Halévy. Avec l’aimable permission de Geneviève Noufflard.

Très méthodique et ayant déjà effectué avec sa soeur Henriette Noufflard-Guy-Loë un remarquable travail pour l’ouvrage André Noufflard, Berthe Noufflard, leur vie, leur peinture (prix de l’Académie Charles Blanc en 1983), Geneviève Noufflard était soucieuse de compléter et de mettre à jour les fiches cartonnées et les carnets où elle consignait les données relatives aux oeuvres picturales de ses parents et aux films de son père.

Nous nous sommes rapprochées, grâce à Miss Paget et peut-être à la musique.

Grâce, à n’en pas douter, au dévouement du Dr Gilles Pasquet, dont la présence solide et attentionnée la rassurait, et qui partageait avec elle le goût de l’aventure. Il rendit possible l’escapade à Fresnay-le-Long où ensemble nous découvrîmes le corpus des lettres échangées entre Berthe Noufflard et Miss Paget (Vernon Lee) aujourd’hui en cours d’inventaire, qu’elle vint présenter avec nous quelques mois plus tard à l’Institut Français de Florence.

Complice d’aventure, collaboratrice de recherche et amie, Geneviève Noufflard participa aussi à la création de l’International Vernon Lee Society, dont elle fut membre d’honneur.

Sa mémoire et les documents auxquels Geneviève Noufflard nous a donné accès nous accompagnent et nous inspirent chaque jour. Nous sommes heureux et fiers d’avoir eu le privilège de la connaître et de la faire connaître, notamment par le webdocumentaire auquel elle a activement participé. Ces images sont librement accessibles sur Vimeo, sur notre chaîne Vernon Lee Online

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Carnet de recherche (Fr)

Chers amis lecteurs, chères amies lectrices,

Unis même à distance par la crise Covid19 qui nous a tous touchés, quel que soit l’endroit du monde où nous vivons, et plus ou moins impactés physiquement, psychologiquement ou socialement par la pandémie mondiale, nous sommes à présent entrés dans « le jour d’après »; mais en cette période d’ouverture partielle, la vigilance reste de mise. Chers, chères, prenez soin de vous, et prenez soin les uns des autres!

Durant le grand confinement, notre association, l’International Vernon Lee Society, a continué à vivre et à communiquer sur Twitter et Facebook grâce à Sally Blackburn-Daniels (Open University, UK), notre maîtresse ès réseaux sociaux, et je tiens à lui témoigner notre plus vive reconnaissance. Et en Italie, Federica Parretti, de l’Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino, nous a elle aussi montré qu’il était possible de partager des moments de pur bonheur printanier même au coeur des situations les plus angoissantes. Merci du fond du coeur pour ces partages admirables, courageux et nécessaires!

Nombreux sont les colloques, journées d’études, séminaires, conférences ou ateliers qui ont dû être annulés, reportés ou transformés en réunions virtuelles. De nouvelles pratiques de communication scientifique ont émergé, et l’importance des outils de recherche, archives, bibliothèques et autres bases de données en ligne est incontestable. La publication en ligne est devenue le moyen le plus largement utilisé pour faire circuler les connaissances, et les enrichir.

Les projets de recherche en Humanités Numériques s’en trouvent d’autant plus stimulés. C’est le cas du projet Holographical-Lee (HoL): Lettres, carnets et manuscrits de Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, 1856-1935), développé au sein de la plateforme d’édition de Manuscrits Modernes eMan (ITEM-CNRS-ENS), dont l’ouverture partielle est prévue en 2020-21.

HoL a fourni l’une des bases expérimentales pour le travail de Sally Blackburn-Daniels et ses collègues informaticiens du programme READ-IT à l’Open University (UK), Alessio Antonini and Francesca Benatti. Intitulé “Des Liens à Venir: Exercices de Style #2” (“On Links To Be: Exercises in Style #2”), le travail novateur de cette équipe pluridisciplinaire a été présenté le 14 Juillet 2020 au 31ème colloque international de ACM HyperText et a été récompensé par le prestigieux prix Douglas Engelbert.

La bibliographie s’est aussi enrichie de nouveaux articles et ouvrages:

Caoilfhionn Ni Bheachàin and Angus Mitchell, “Alice Stopford Green and Vernon Lee: Salon Culture and Intellectual Exchange,” Journal of Victorian Culture, 2020, Vol. 25, No. 1, 77-94. doi: 10.1093/jvcult/vcz053

Patricia Rigg, A. Mary F. Robinson 1857-1944: Victorian Aestheticist and Modern Woman of Letters, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2020 (sous presse).

Sophie Geoffroy (ed.), Amanda Gagel (assoc. ed.), Selected Letters of Vernon Lee 1856-1935, Volume II, New York & London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2020 (sous presse).

Nous vous remercions de bien vouloir nous envoyer vos informations bibliographiques afin de compléter ces annonces et la bibliographie présente sur ce site.

amitiés leeiennes

Sophie Geoffroy

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Research blog / Carnet de recherche 2020

Dear readers,

United in and by the Covid19 crisis, wherever we may be living, we have all been, and still are, more or less severely impacted, physically, psychologically or socially, by the pandemic. My dearest hope is that you and your families are safe and sound. But extreme prudence remains necessary. Please take care of yourself as well as of others!

During lockdown, our association, the International Vernon Lee Society, has been kept alive and thriving by our social network magician Sally Blackburn-Daniels (Open University UK), to whom I extend my warmest gratitude. And in Italy, Federica Parretti, of the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino, has also shown us that one can communicate and share moments of springtime bliss, even in times of deepest anxiety, which, I am sorry to confess, has been more than I have been able to do.

A number of scheduled conferences, study days, classes or training sessions have been cancelled, postponed or transformed into online virtual meetings. New communication practices have emerged and the importance of online research tools, libraries and databases has by now clearly been established. Publishing on the internet has become the most widely used way of circulating or accessing knowledge.

This has proved a major incentive to the development of some projects, like Holographical-Lee (HoL): Lettres, carnets et manuscrits de Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, 1856-1935), soon to be published, as part of the eMan platform (ITEM-CNRS-ENS).

Sally Blackburn-Daniels of the IVLS, along with her colleagues from the Open University READ-IT project Alessio Antonini and Francesca Benatti, have produced the paper “On Links To Be: Exercises in Style #2”. The paper bridges the perspective of scholarly editions and authorial technologies by providing a new perspective on marginalia: as links to the future works of authors and a semantic of marginalia informing the development of a new generation of reading/authoring tools, in collaboration with the Holographical-Lee (HoL) project. The team presented their paper at the 31st edition of the ACM HyperText conference (14 July 2020), and were awarded the Douglas Engelbert Best Paper Award.

Papers, articles and books about Vernon Lee have also been produced.

Caoilfhionn Ni Bheachàin and Angus Mitchell, “Alice Stopford Green and Vernon Lee: Salon Culture and Intellectual Exchange,” Journal of Victorian Culture, 2020, Vol. 25, No. 1, 77-94. doi: 10.1093/jvcult/vcz053

Patricia Rigg’s biography A. Mary F. Robinson 1857-1944: Victorian Aestheticist and Modern Woman of Letters, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, is in press.

Sophie Geoffroy (ed.), Amanda Gagel (assoc. ed.), Selected Letters of Vernon Lee 1856-1935, Volume II, New York & London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis, is in press.

Please help us update our bibliography by sending us information about your current research or publication activity.

SincereLEE yours

Sophie Geoffroy

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NEW VIDEO: Ana Parejo Vadillo, “Two Cosmopolitan Women Writers at the Turn of the Century”

Dear Readers,

The last episode of our 2020 mini-series on Vernon Lee has just been released !
ENJOY watching Ana Parejo Vadillo on “Two Cosmopolitan Women Writers at the Turn of the Century” here:

This interview is in 3 parts:
1. Mary Robinson and Vernon Lee

2. Salon Culture

3. Beyond the National

You may not have watched Patricia Pulham and Carolyn Burdett yet. The good news is that all our videos are accessible on Vernon Lee Online, our Vimeo Channel!

– Patricia Pulham, “Reading and Teaching Lee’s Fantastic Tales”

-Carolyn Burdett, “Vernon LEE and Art”
and “Experiencing & Performing Art with Vernon Lee”

We hope this will contribute to fostering more studies on Vernon Lee and her circle, and more generally, on women writers!

Gilles Pasquet

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NEW VIDEO! “Experiencing and Performing Art with Vernon Lee,” by Carolyn Burdett

Dear Members of the  IVLS,
Dear Followers of “The Sibyl”,
Dear Lovers of Villa Il Palmerino,
Dear Friends of Vernon, Mary,  Kit or Irene,
Dearest Friends,

Today’s episode of this week’s mini-series on Vernon Lee has just been released on our “Vernon Lee Online” Vimeo Channel!

After Patricia Pulham’s interview on “Reading and Teaching Lee’s Fantastic Tales”

After Carolyn Burdett’s interview on “Vernon LEE and Art”

Don’t miss “Experiencing & Performing Art with Vernon Lee” by Carolyn BURDETT

Our next publication is scheduled for Monday 27 January 2020 : “Two Cosmopolitan Women Writers at the Turn of the Century” (Ana PAREJO VADILLO),

We hope that these videos will be helpful for you in your own studies or your lectures. We encourage you to make them known for the benefit of Lee Studies.
Come and join us at the International Vernon Lee Society!

Best regards

Gilles Pasquet

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“Vernon Lee and Art”, by Carolyn Burdett, an Interview by Sophie Geoffroy, London, 15 October 2019

Dear Members of the  IVLS, Dear Followers of “The Sibyl”, Dear Lovers of Villa Il Palmerino, Dear Friends of Vernon, Mary,  Kit or Irene, Dearest Friends,

We carry on with the publication schedule of our new videos on the Vimeo Channel “Vernon Lee Online”. 

These are the interviews of Patricia PULHAM, Carolyn BURDETT and Ana PAREJO VADILLO by Sophie GEOFFROY. They were filmed in London on 14 and 15 October 2019.

– Since Tuesday 14 January 2020, you have had access to  “Reading and Teaching Lee’s Fantastic Tales” (Patricia PULHAM),

– TODAY, Monday 20 January 2020 please enjoy our second video : “Vernon LEE and Art” (Carolyn BURDETT),

– On Thursday 23 January 2020 : “Experiencing & Performing Art with Vernon Lee” (Carolyn BURDETT),

– On Monday 27 January 2020 : “Two Cosmopolitan Women Writers at the Turn of the Century” (Ana PAREJO VADILLO),

We hope that these movies will be helpful for you in your own studies or your lectures.

We encourage you to make them known for the benefit of Lee Studies.

Come and join us at the International Vernon Lee Society!

Best regards

Gilles Pasquet

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NEW Videos on our “Vernon Lee Online” !

Dear Followers of “The Sibyl”, Dear Members of the IVLS,

Dear Lovers of Villa Il Palmerino,

Dear Friends of Vernon, Mary,  Kit or Irene,

Dearest Friends,

I am writing to wish you a happy new year and to offer you 4 new videos to watch on our Vimeo Channel “Vernon Lee Online”. These are the interviews of Patricia PULHAM, Carolyn BURDETT and Ana PAREJO VADILLO by Sophie GEOFFROY. They were filmed in London on 14 and 15 October 2019.

Today, please enjoy “Reading and Teaching Lee’s Fantastic Tales” (Patricia PULHAM), 10’10”

-The other videos are scheduled as follows:

Monday 20 January 2020 : “Vernon LEE and Art” (Carolyn BURDETT), 16’44”

Thursday 23 January 2020 : “Experiencing & Performing Art with Vernon Lee” (Carolyn BURDETT), 8’12”

Monday 27 January 2020 : “Two Cosmopolitan Women Writers at the Turn of the Century” (Ana PAREJO VADILLO), 15’19”

We hope that these movies will be helpful for you in your own studies or your lectures. We encourage you to make them known for the benefit of Lee Studies.

Best regards

Gilles Pasquet

Treasurer of the IVLS

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Digital Vernon Lee in London


















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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

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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.





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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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