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.

May 7, 2017

May 7, 1937

Charlotte Fell-Smith (January 2, 1851 to May 7, 1937) was a historian whose work was published in the leading Victorian periodicals and as well consisted of books like:

Steven Crisp and his correspondents, 1657-1692 : being a synopsis of the letters in the "Colchester Collection"
Mary Rich. Countess of Warwick, 1625-1678: her family and friends

In the latter biography we read of the subject:

Mary Rich's figure now wrapped in mystery as a cloistered devotee of solitude, now emerging into the full glare of a vicious and decadent court flits before the gaze of everyone who studies the social history of the later seventeenth century. One writer after another has alluded in general terms to her great reputation for piety ; but, until the appearance in the ' Dictionary of National Biography ' of my own very meagre article, little was known accurately as to her birth, marriage, death, character, relations, writings, and influence.

The Countess's  friends included Arthur Wilson, whom Fell-Smith quotes:

There is nothing upon the stage of the world acted by publick justice, comes so cross to my temper as putting so many witches to death. About this time in Essex, there being a great many arraigned, I was at Chensford... at the trial and execution of eighteen women.But could see nothing in the evidence which did persuade me to think them other than poor melancholy, envious, mischievous, ill-disposed, ill-dieted, atrabilious constitutions, whose fancies working by gross fumes and vapours, might make the imagination ready to take any impression, and they themselves by the strength of fancy, may think they bring such things to pass which many times, unhappily they wish for and rejoice in when done, out of the malevolent humour which is in them : which passes with them as if they had really acted it. And if there be an opinion in the people that such a body is a witch, their own fears (coming where they are) resulting from such dreadful apprehensions, do make every shadow an apparition ; and every rat or cat an imp or spirit, which make so many tales and stories in the world, which have no shadow of truth.

The fact our 19th century historian has chosen to recall Wilson's statements on witches in Essex in the 17th century, points up an unstudied undercurrent in Victorian times: a touching fascination with the superficial side of spirituality. From William Godwin's
Lives of the Necromancers (1834) to Fell-Smith's John Dee (1527-1608) (1909) a certain concern is evidenced.

Our information is mainly from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Which tells us Charlotte Fell-Smith was the most prolific of female contributors to the Dictionary of National Biography. She did not marry. We are informed that Fell-Smith's biography of Dee "set the trend for more sympathetic consideration of his career and remained the standard published account of Dee's life for over fifty years."

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