|'A Five O'Clock Tea' (1893).|
Ignored in her lifetime, he paid for her fun
And enjoyed all the fuss. When she died he was done.
He sold up the house and retired from the scene
Where nobody noticed that he’d ever been.
His memoirs unwritten (though once he began ‘em)
He lives on a hundred and fifty per annum
And once in the day totters out for a stroll
To purchase the Times, two eggs and a roll.
Up to now he has paid for his pleasures and needs
With books he had saved and that everyone reads,
Signed copies presented by authors to Gloria
In the reign of King Edward and good Queen Victoria.
They brought in fair prices but came to an end,Roger D. Sell accurately describes it as "a poem about the fickleness, bitchiness and transience of metropolitan literary circles." All of which are qualities the imagination, however unfairly, immediately transfers onto the literary hostess herself.
Then Jukes was reduced to one book-loving friend [...]
|Louise Chandler Moulton|
Few American women were more widely known as writers, and none was so conspicuous and active as a literary hostess, both at home and in England, as Louise Chandler Moulton. Living in each city for half the year, she presided over notable weekly salons in Boston and London for several decades. She knew everyone, from Longfellow and Emerson to Ezra Pound. Her poems, travel sketches, and literary letters, were widely admired. Her own verse was superficially like Dickinson's in being highly personal, brief, and frequently concerned with unfulfilled love and the transience of life. In its graceful, faded diction and utterly conventional pressed-rose melancholy, her verse was eminently suited to popular taste.The life of the literary hostess, and author, as Moulton lived it, illustrates how a life of letters in the 1890s needn't be a solitary life at all. Their writers groups were fine salons in major cities, organized by women.
Some of these women have also been characterized as the "Grand Dames" of the 1890s, rich women, who served as patrons of the arts, like Annie Horniman and Lady Ottoline Morrell.
|Lady Ottoline Morrell (1912)|
|Lady Jane Francesca Agnes Wilde a.k.a. 'Speranza.'|
Speranza's salons were said to be crammed full of famous people from the time her sons were children. She entertained celebrities and writers by candlelight, and liked to keep the atmosphere dark because it encourage "bawdy talk."
Speranza is another one of those literary hostesses, who was an incredibly successful author in her own right. At one point in her life, she was considered Ireland's National Poetess.
I once called Hall Caine's wife, Mary, an unlikely archivist, but the truth seems to be that the women of London's literary circle in the 1890s were the keeper of records, and the organizers of events, as much, if not more than, their male counterparts. Perhaps, for some, it was because they needed these literary connections to get their work published, but so did the male writers. That's why so many attended their parties and salons.
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