The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 21, 2017

April 21, 1929

Lucy Clifford's Oxford Dictionary of National Biography summarizes her literary career:

Lucy Clifford's first publications were printed anonymously in The Quiver in the early 1870s. In tales such as "The Dingy House at Kensington", "Queen Madge", "Against Herself", and "The Troubles of Chatty and Molly" she tends to portray young, female protagonists who experience an emotionally painful intermezzo before they can marry the man of their dreams, their purity and goodness remaining unquestioned. After the death of her husband most of her books were published under the name Mrs W. K. Clifford. Her first relatively successful work, however, was a collection of children's verses, Children Busy, Children Glad, Children Naughty, Children Sad (1881) signed L. C., which was erroneously attributed by some to Lewis Carroll. Real fame came in 1885 with the anonymous publication of Mrs Keith's Crime. This novel is the harrowing, personal narrative of a young widow who first loses her eldest child and then has to...cope with the imminent death from tuberculosis of her small daughter. When the family doctor predicts that she herself will die first, she decides to kill the child so that she will not have to suffer a lonesome death. The novel paved the way for a writing career in which books such as Love Letters from a Worldly Woman (1891) and Aunt Anne (1892) seem to have been the highlights after 1885.

...The most enduring of her writings, however, have been two short stories, 'The New Mother' and 'Wooden Tony', which have been repeatedly included in anthologies of children's tales. 'The New Mother', especially, has drawn a good deal of critical comment because of the unexpected callousness of the mother towards her children and the horrifying aspect of the new mother herself. Lucy Clifford was also a sporadic contributor to a variety of journals. She wrote a great number of gossip items for The Athenaeum, and she was on the staff of The Standard for fourteen years...

This writing is how Lucy Clifford (August 2, 1846 to April 21, 1929) supported a family of two young daughters after her husband's unexpected death. She was helped in this by her sturdy connections in the literary world which included visitors to her salon such as

Leslie Stephen, Frederick Pollock, John Collier, Frederick Macmillan, and, for a while, the controversial 'Vernon Lee' (Violet Paget). At this time Henry James became one of Lucy Clifford's most prized friends, and their correspondence was extensive.

In another biography we learn that Virginia Woolf wrote about how tacky Clifford was because she had "a wooden black cat on the clock and little carved animals under it."

The world changed again for Clifford with the war and then (back to ODNB):

....Lucy Clifford's fame declined and she found it extremely hard to get her books published. She remained a feisty, enterprising woman until the very end of her life, even going to Spain to learn Spanish in 1920 when she was seventy-four years old .... The two Clifford daughters survived their mother. Little is known of Margaret (1877-1932), the younger of the two, but Ethel Clifford (1876-1959) was a poet and celebrated beauty in her youth. She became Lady Dilke in 1905 when she married Sir Fisher Dilke (1877-1944), Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke's nephew.

No comments: