Monday, June 27, 2016

Synopsis of Cutting the Gordian Knot by Kevin Marsh

Author, Kevin Marsh has revealed the synopsis to his upcoming third book in his Torc Trilogy series, Cutting the Gordian Knot and I for one am so excited.

From the Author:
I am pleased to reveal the synopsis of the final book in The Torc Trilogy. 
I will be revealing the meaning behind the title in another blog soon. 
Please note; this book is not yet available for purchase.

Two months after their disastrous holiday, Orlagh and Jerry are at home in Ireland recovering from their terrifying ordeal.

The Belgae Torc is at last on display at the National Museum and Orlagh is under increasing pressure to divide her time between her work at the museum and heading up an archaeological dig in County Meath.  She is convinced that an ancient battle between Iron Age tribes took place here and is determined to prove her theory, but as archaeologists begin to unearth the truth, they are faced with some unexpected surprises.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Jack Harrington is making discoveries of his own and finds himself juggling personal and professional commitments.  His organisation is still recovering from recent events in the Mediterranean and is loathed to be drawn into another deadly conflict, but like it or not, there are unresolved issues that cannot be avoided.

The Phoenix Legion is about to implement the final phase of its master plan and this time Schiffer is convinced that nothing can stop him from realising his goal.

With the past merging with the present, the elements of a deadly conclusion are finally coming together.  Will history repeat itself or can another worldwide catastrophe be avoided?   

Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Julia Margaret Cameron's 'Fancy subjects' by Jeff Rosen

Julia Margaret Cameron's 'Fancy subjects' is the first study of Cameron's allegorical photographs and the first to examine the intellectual connections of this imagery to British culture and politics of the 1860s and 1870s. In these photographs, Cameron depicted passages from classical mythology, the Old and New Testament, and historical and contemporary literature. She costumed her friends, domestic help, and village children in dramatic poses, turning them into goddesses and nymphs, biblical kings and medieval knights; she photographed young women in the style of the Elgin marbles, making sculpture come alive, and re-imagined scenes depicted in the poetry of Byron and Tennyson. 

Cameron chose allegory as her primary artistic device because it allowed her to use popular iconography to convey a latent or secondary meaning. In her photographs, a primary meaning is first conveyed by the title of the image; then, social and political ideas that the artist implanted in the image begin to emerge, contributing to and commenting on the contemporary cultural, religious and political debates of the time. Cameron used the term 'fancy subjects' to embed these moral, intellectual and political narratives in her photographs. This book reconnects her to the prominent minds in her circle who influenced her thinking, including Benjamin Jowett, George Grote and Henry Taylor, and demonstrates her awareness and responsiveness to popular graphic art, including textiles and wall paper, book illustrations and engravings from period folios, cartoons from Punch and line drawings from the Illustrated London News, cabinet photographs and autotype prints.

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1784993174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784993177

The historical and the devotional were one to Mrs. Cameron. Thus in her work we find the embodiment of the ideas of Keble and Newman So it was that Mrs. Cameron's treatment of her friends, her servants, her acquaintances, her heroes, and those whom she snatched off the streets like any scout for a model agency had but one aim-to show their divine and superhuman aspect She clearly regarded her photographs as theophanies, manifestations of God in terms of living persons-both indexes and icons of the true, the good, and the beautiful. 

The Five Foolish Virgins by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864 
Albumen print from collodion wet-plate negative
V&A Museum

These two 'fancy subjects' The Five Foolish Virgins and Variant of Too Late! Too Late! are representations of different verses of Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson re-interpreted through the eye of Julia Margaret Cameron. They happen to be two of my favorite images. I can't help but wonder if the image of the foolish virgins was taken inside Mrs. Cameron's 'glass house'? I am looking at the roof above the girls to the left side it looks like glass panes sectioned off by wood possibly. I might be wrong but it would've given them great natural light for photographs. 
(Rejlander/JMC image not included in the book but 
I use it here as a possible example of the roof
of the glass house). 
The Idylls of the Village or The Idols of the Village (1863) 
Oscar Rejlander possible collaboration with Julia Margaret Cameron

Back to the allegory at hand. Mrs. Cameron portrayed the foolish virgins from the biblical Parable of the Ten Virgins which dates back to theologian Augustine of Hippo and became a staple in church sermons across the centuries. Eighteenth century evangelical George Whitfield preached the parable as a way of connecting everyday responsibility with moral obligation. Parable of the Ten Virgins tells the story of how ten virgins are waiting for a bridegroom as part of an Eastern marriage ceremony. It is their job to wait for the groom so they could bring him to the ceremony. However, while waiting for the groom to arrive, every one of the ten virgins falls asleep. He is so late that the sound of his footsteps awakens the virgins who groggily fumble about in the darkness. They try to light their oil lamps but discover they are out of oil. They take off in search of some and by the time they all return, it is too late too late!. For they find the gate locked; the service begins without them. 
Variant of Too Late! Too Late!  {Have we not Heard the Bridegroom is so Sweet}
  by Julia Margaret Cameron,  August 1874, Albumen Print
Estate of Vanessa Bell, 1998

One of my favorite stories in, 'Fancy subjects', is the day Julia Margaret Cameron listened to a sermon of Parable of the Ten Virgins by Anglican priest William Henry Brookfield one Sunday at her local church on Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight. Her dear friend, Anny Thackeray sets the scene:

"Mrs Cameron led her way into the gallery and took up her place in front exactly facing the pulpit. When Mr. Brookfield appeared climbing the pulpit stairs to deliver his sermon, his head was so near us that we could have almost touched it. Mrs. Cameron chose the moment to lean forward and kiss her hand to him repeatedly". 

During his sermon, Brookfield quoted from Tennyson's Guinevere and the song of the Little Novice as an example of a moral dilemma when 'repentance and the real wish for amendment have become impossible, and it becomes 'too late. The door is shut' as it pertains to the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

I have learned to view Mrs. Cameron's albumen prints in a completely different light thanks to author and art historian, Jeff Rosen. Personally, I tend to focus on the straight, non-thematical albumen prints of the friends of Julia Margaret Cameron instead of the allegory behind the photograph. 

One of the terrific highlights of 'Fancy subjects' is the in depth knowledge and research Jeff Rosen has done. He has gone through The Getty Museum's catalogue raisonné  of Cameron's works focusing on her allegorical subjective albumen prints with the aim of providing the reader with a religious, cultural, and historical background. It was wonderful reading the seven chapters of the book some focused on thematic storyline while others focused on poets and their works like Alfred Tennyson and his Idylls of the King being the most famous and recognizable. 

If you are not into allegory specifically, maybe you are curious about the personal life of photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)? Well, Jeff Rosen includes drawings, sketches and correspondence excerpts from her husband, Charles Hay Cameron. The mysterious and not well known final years of their personal lives (1875-1880) are discussed. Specifically, the travel from Ceylon to Isle of Wight and the career woes of her husband bring some information to view in a different way. You see them more as humanized, a married couple and parents of six children who also run coffee plantations.  

This is a comprehensive and densely written compendium but a must for all photography and poetry lovers.  I hope everyone will read it to enjoy the photographs and the stories behind them.  

Thank you to Oxford University Press in the U.S. for sending me a beautiful hardcover edition review copy that is proudly on my research shelf. 

Julia Margaret Cameron's 'Fancy subjects' is out now in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

You can pre-order your copy now, Amazon US

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book cover for Book Three in The Torc Trilogy by Kevin Marsh Revealed!

Book cover design © Kevin Marsh

Artwork by © Kevin Marsh

Artwork by © Kevin Marsh

Here we have more clues from the author, Kevin Marsh himself!  He has used his own drawings for the cover of his upcoming third book in The Torc Trilogy. I told you he was talented. Isn't this a gorgeous drawing and it makes a beautiful and fitting cover. Now, if only I knew what the story is. Come on, Kevin give us a blurb next please!  A hint of some details to the story perhaps...anything. 
I truly love the cover and the title hasn't escaped me either. Hm, a reference to the second book, The Gordian Knot..."Cutting the"  now what does that mean?  Are the characters cutting ties of some sort? Is it a Celtic reference?  Are they cutting stone?  Oh, I need patience. I must wait...but it is so difficult...

 Second novel in the trilogy, currently on sale now! 

Well, I hope you are getting as excited as I am. I hope I have whetted your appetite for more!...Stay tuned!  

Don't forget to visit the author's blog site for even more and follow his page, My novels and other things

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Upcoming U.S. Exhibition: Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will (September 9, 2016, through January 2, 2017)

Engraved portrait of Charlotte Brontë by James Charles Armytage, after a chalk drawing by George Richmond, 1857. 
The Morgan Library & Museum.

The very first Brontë novel I read was 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte. I was about twelve years old in grammar school searching the library room shelves when I saw a Gothic looking cover of a woman with raven hair pulled back in a bun with a black cloak tied over her shoulders covering a long white dress.  Smiling and intrigued, I reached for the small, worn, paperback.  I took it out and brought it home where I sat on my bed reading every day and night before and after school until I finished it. My mom was thrilled. To say she was a voracious reader would be an understatement. I overheard  a conversation once between herself and my grandma where my mom said something to the effect of, "I wonder when Kimberly will read books on her own without it being a school assignment?" 
Well, actually 'Jamaica Inn' by Daphne du Maurier was my first book I read on my own at the age of ten years old but Jane Eyre was the second!  

So, my Brontë passion began with Charlotte, progressed to Emily Bronte's, 'Wuthering Heights' which my mom adored. She took me to the movie theatre to watch the film version with Laurence Olivier every single time it hit the theatres!  It was fantastic; just sitting there next to my mom, during my teen years, watching her face light up as 'Larry' walked across the screen.  I get it now Mom. I get it! 
Anyway, I didn't get to Anne Bronte's novels until I was an adult. How moving they both were for me. 

The first time I went to the United Kingdom, it was July 1997 during the World Cup but that's a different story. Although, it introduced me to something called football and the team, 'Manchester United'.  I still love them!  My first trip included the Yorkshire Dales but not Haworth Parsonage Museum. I swore one day, I would return and trace the steps of each Bronte sister. I wanted to walk the moors and attempt to feel what they had.  I have not made it to Haworth yet but this coming September 2016 some of Charlotte Bronte's most treasured items will travel to New York City's Morgan Library and Museum.  

"From the time Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre was first published in 1847, readers have been drawn to the orphan protagonist who declared herself “a free human being with an independent will.” Like her most famous fictional creation, Brontë herself took bold steps throughout her life in pursuit of personal and professional fulfillment. This exhibition, presented on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of Brontë’s birth, traces her creative path from reluctant governess to published poet to commanding novelist. From her earliest literary works—written with a quill pen in a minuscule hand designed to mimic the printed page—to the manuscript of her explosive novel Jane Eyre, the exhibition presents an intimate portrait of one of England’s most compelling authors.

The exhibition is a historic collaboration between two of the world’s finest repositories of Brontëana. It brings together literary manuscripts, intimate letters, and rare printed books from the Morgan’s rich collection with personal artifacts, drawings, and photographs from the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England. Highlights include Brontë’s earliest surviving miniature manuscript, her portable writing desk and paint box, one of her own dresses, and a pair of her ankle boots. Also on view—for the first time in North America—will be a portion of the manuscript of Jane Eyre, from the collection of the British Library, open to the unforgettable scene in which Jane tells Rochester, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.”

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will is made possible by Fay and Geoffrey Elliott.
The catalogue is underwritten by the Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Research and Publications.

For further details, The Morgan Library

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Upcoming revelations in The Torc Trilogy by Kevin Marsh!

One of my favorite authors is Kevin Marsh from Whitstable, England. He is a natural born storyteller who knows how to weave beautiful Celtic stories as well as mysteries and thrillers. For now, let's focus on history, shall we!  Coming soon is the third book in The Torc Trilogy (cover reveal soon). For more information take a look at his blog and make sure to follow so you don't miss any updates, My novels and other things by Kevin Marsh

After I read his terrific thriller, The Witness I had to check out his other books, The Belgae Torc and The Gordian Knot. 

My copies, buy your own!

I just wanted to share the news that the third book in The Torc Trilogy should be revealed soon!  I have been waiting for this one since I read the first two. I wonder what the cover will look like? More Celtic symbols or maybe a painting from the author! Yes, he paints too! Check out his website, Kevin Marsh

You know how it is when you love an author's writing and novels so much, it just seems impossible to wait for DETAILS...

For those of you who can't get enough Celtic history, adventure stories, some saucy bits with humor here is some background on both novels just for you! 

England 50 BC – A Celtic symbol of power and wealth, a Torc wrought from white gold, a trophy for a king. 

Luain Mac Lanis, warrior turned metal smith, is commissioned to make a magnificent Torc, but he knows nothing of the curse surrounding the strange metal. The only way to lift the curse is to offer the Torc to the Gods in a sacrificial ceremony. 

Two thousand years later the Torc is listed on the inventory of a sunken ship. Dr Orlagh Gairne, a leading archaeologist, is sent to work with Jack Harrington and his crew of salvage experts. It’s Orlagh’s job to identify the Torc and ensure its safe delivery to the National Museum, but the operation is not as straightforward as expected. 

Aided by his team of mercenaries and an historical expert, Jack unearths a wave of hatred spreading across Europe. With the past weaving tightly with the present, they must infiltrate the terrorists’ lair in order to prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing (June 15, 2012) 
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908341823
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908341822
To purchase The Belgae Torc in the U.S., Amazon

To purchase The Belgae Torc in the U.K., Amazon UK

Twelve months has passed since the traumatic events that almost claimed her life and Dr Orlagh Gairne is looking forward to a well-earned holiday. With her partner, Jerry, they jet off for the Aegean coast where they plan to make the most of the Mediterranean sun and visit the ancient sites of Anatolia. The Phoenix Legion, still reeling from a humiliating defeat, have re-grouped and are now planning the next phase of their quest. They are in possession of the Belgae Torc, but this is not enough to ensure total power so they must rely on the druids and their connection with the spirit world. Whilst searching for treasure in the Sea of Azov, Jack Harrington and his team make an unexpected discovery and with the past merging with the present are unable to avoid being drawn in to another deadly battle. The Belgae Torc, Jack Harrington and The Phoenix Legion are far from her thoughts, but as Orlagh enjoys her holiday with the man she loves, these forces come together. Will she manage to avoid another conflict or will she become a victim of circumstances that are beyond her control? "People had died because of the Belgae Torc and somehow she felt responsible." From the author of The Belgae Torc.

  •  Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing (July 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782222650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782222651

Monday, June 13, 2016

Author Interview: In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland

Anne Brontë, the youngest and most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters, remains a bestselling author nearly two centuries after her death. The brilliance of her two novels and her poetry belies the quiet, truthful girl who often lived in the shadow of her more outgoing sisters. Yet her writing was the most revolutionary of all the Brontës, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. This revealing new biography opens Anne’s most private life to a new audience, and includes unpublished letters from Anne to the family to which she was governess as well as first publication of a controversial image that could be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters.

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (June 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750965258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750965255

'Holland has enormous affection for Anne Brontë, and his excellent book is filled with passion and pathos. Its triumph is that Anne is given voice and is no longer swamped by her siblings.' - Roger Lewis, The Mail On Sunday Anne Brontë, the youngest and most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters, remains a bestselling author nearly two centuries after her death. The brilliance of her two novels – Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – and her poetry belies the quiet, yet courageous girl who often lived in the shadows of her more celebrated sisters. Yet her writing was the most revolutionary of all the Brontës, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. This revealing new biography opens Anne’s most private life to a new audience and shows the true nature of her relationship with her sister Charlotte. 
Nick Holland is a best-selling author, professional copywriter and active member of The Brontë Society. 

I am thrilled to be able to welcome Author, Nick Holland to Victorian Musings, my little corner of all things Victorian related. After I finished reading, 'In Search of Anne Brontë', I emailed Nick, very excitedly, rambling on about how much I enjoyed his biography on Anne Bronte and her siblings. He graciously agreed to answer my long-winded questions. 

    What inspired you to write a biography featuring Anne Brontë? Why include her sisters?
I went to University in 1989, and the first book on the reading list was Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. As an 18 year old Yorkshire man, I hadn't expected to like it; after all, surely it was just a romance? How wrong I was. The first page had me hooked, and I read it within one day. That weekend I made my first visit to the Bronte Parsonage, and bought a biography of Emily and a picture of her. That was the start of my lifelong love affair with all things Bronte, but I soon discovered that Anne was being unfairly neglected. Her writing is just as vital as that of Emily and Charlotte, and whilst I loved Winifred Gerin's 1959 biography of Anne I longer for a fresh, new perspective. Eventually, the solution came to me: rather than wait for a new biography, I'd write it myself.
The Brontës were very much a family unit, if not always a perfectly harmonious unit, and so to convey Anne's story fully I had to look at her siblings as well. Also, most of the source material we have about Anne comes from Charlotte, so she is always in the shadows of any Anne biography.
      What is your writing process? Do you outline first or just write without one?
When I have previously written fiction I've used a very loose framework: in effect I know how it starts and how it will end, and one or two major incidents in between, but the middle changes and develops as I write. This was my first foray into non-fiction, however, and the process was very different. I carefully outlined each of the 19 chapters so that each one would mark a distinct era of, or event in, Anne's life. It was a much more methodical way of writing than I'm used to, but just as enjoyable. I will return to fiction one day, but I'm having too much fun with non-fiction now!
     I would love to know about your research process when writing a novel? Do you research each sister individually, or concentrate on location, the era itself, etc.?
The research process was the most enjoyable aspect of writing 'In Search Of Anne Bronte'; it wasn't a chore, but an opportunity to get closer to the writer I had so much respect for. I took a holistic approach to it, beginning with reading as much about Anne and her sisters as I could, as well as reading her novels and poetry again of course. I then wanted to walk in Anne's footsteps,  and visit all of the locations that she did. With Anne this wasn't an onerous task, as in her brief life she only once ventured outside of our mutual home county of Yorkshire. One highlight was visiting Roe Head School, the place where she was a pupil and Charlotte a teacher, now called the Holly Bank Trust and a school for people with severe disabilities. Walking into her old classroom, my guide said: 'this to you must be like me walking into Graceland'. Even more magical, of course, were my visits to the Bronte Parsonage library, and holding Anne's actual handwritten letters and poems.
In many ways, we live in a perfect age to write biographies. When Winifred Gerin, for example, wrote about Anne in the 1950s finding source material could be a long and laborious task, and a hit and miss one. Now, so much information is cataloged and available on the internet. Sat at home with a laptop I was able to read newspapers from the time of the Brontës and gain lots of background information, even details of what the weather was like on pivotal days for the family can be fascinating and is now readily available.
      I was interested to read the chapters including church and religious issues as it pertained to the sisters, their father, Rev. Patrick Brontë as well as other friends. Why include this aspect in your novel?
Religion played a big part in the life of the Brontës, and in Anne's life in particular. Although their father was a Church of England priest, his children reacted to religion in different ways. Branwell eschewed religion altogether, Emily developed her own mystical beliefs, and Anne drew great strength from her faith. This was a time of revolution in the charge with battle waging between the establishment Church of England, and new sects such as Methodists and Baptists. There were also a surfeit of Calvinists, people who believed that any sin would see a person doomed to help for ever, with no hope of forgiveness. This teaching deeply affected Anne, resulting in a mental and physical breakdown when she was a teenager. She was saved by her belief in 'universal salvation', a controversial doctrine at the time, and one that says a forgiving God will pardon everyone eventually. This faith would sustain Anne through all her darkest days, and features heavily in her novels and in her poetry.
She was the most religious of all the Brontës, and as I'm religious myself this aspect of her life particularly interested me. I'm a Catholic, however, so I wouldn't have found approval from Charlotte who was very vehemently anti-Catholic, as were many in early 19th Century England. 'The Professor' for example, is full of anti-Catholic diatribes such as: 'I long to live once more among Protestants'; they are more honest than Catholics; a Romish school is a building full of porous walls, a hollow floor, a false ceiling.' I don't think Anne would have been so intolerant.
       Has your opinion of the sisters changed since 'In Search of Anne Brontë' has been published? Have you learned anything about them that surprised you?
My opinion of Anne, and her sisters, hasn't changed but it has strengthened. Researching and then writing the book brought home to me how brave they all were. Losing their mother and two eldest sisters so early must have been a big blow to them, and yet they refused to give in and they also refused to conform with what society expected of them.
I was worried that people would think I was anti-Charlotte, because my book does deal frankly with the way that she belittled Anne while she was alive and damaged her reputation after her death. That's why I was careful to show how the early tragedies in her life resulted in the depression that always dogged her, and yet also fired her undoubted genius. I found her the most complex of the sisters, and didn't always approve of her treatment of Anne, but the research made me appreciate why she acted like she did.
      If you could spend the day with Anne Brontë where would you go and what would you do?
What a fantastic question! I do wish I could grab a time machine and travel back to the 1840s. Spending a day with Anne Bronte would be a dream come true for me of course; I'm sure she would like to walk the moors, pointing out the bluebells and other plants she loved so much, watching nature in all its forms, but I don't think I'd be able to keep up with her. 21st century life is, after all, much more sedentary - Anne and Emily would think nothing of walking 20 miles across the moors in a day.
Anne and I share a love of opera, so I would take her to a concert at the nearby town of Keighley. As an accomplished pianist, I'm sure she would enjoy it even more than I would. Alternatively, I'd be happy just to listen to her read her poetry as she walked around the rectangular Bronte dining table, as was her wont.
        What are you working on next?
I'm in talks with my publisher about writing a life of Emily Brontë, but one that will focus on 20 poems that represent moments in her life rather than a conventional biography. It will be a hard task, as Emily is a very enigmatic character, and little source material survives. I'm really looking forward to it however. That should be out in 2018, and before that I'm also thinking of writing a book about Hedy Lamarr - the 30s and 40s Hollywood star who also had a secret life as an inventor, and patented technology that led to wifi and Bluetooth today. It seems I'll always be writing about fascinating and mysterious women, but I'm more than happy with that!

If you would like to buy the book directly from the publishing company, The History Press

To purchase the book in the United States, Amazon   and or to purchase in the United Kingdom, Amazon UK

For more information about Nick Holland, please visit the author's website, Anne Brontë

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The correspondence of Julia Margaret Cameron and Julia Prinsep Stephen at The Berg Collection, New York Public Library

The New York Public Library taken from the northeast corner of 5th Ave. and 42nd Street, 1908, New York City.Gelatin Silver Print.

The famous New York Public Library or 42nd Street Library, NYC, 2016

New York City is my home. I was born here and I will probably be buried here. When it comes to the subject of research, The New York Public Library's Berg Collection houses one of the largest and most comprehensible collections in the United States. The application process just to do research there is one of the most thorough I have ever applied for. Not only must you fill out the application listing your professional details, personal details, you need a professional reference of someone who is familiar with your research project. There is a total number of material you can request comprising, manuscripts, correspondence, maps, photographs, books, etc. After you apply, there is a waiting process then you are notified via email as to whether or not you are approved. Needless to say, I was a worried wreck. My goal for my research project is to glean the most personalized familial understanding of Julia Margaret Cameron and those in her inner circle. 
Leslie Stephen by Julia Margaret Cameron,  late 1860s

Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson, formerly Mrs Duckworth)
by Julia Margaret Cameron, albumen print, 1867
The Berg Collection houses the Sir Leslie Stephen collection of papers. Sir Leslie Stephen (28 November 1832 – 22 February 1904) was an English literary editor, literary critic, essayist and biographer. He was also the husband of Julia Prinsep Stephen the niece of Julia Margaret Cameron. Together, during their marriage, they had four children:  Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf, Thoby Stephen and Adrian Stephen.  Within the collection of papers I requested two letters written by Julia Margaret Cameron; one to her sister, Mia Jackson (nee Pattle) mother of Julia Prinsep Stephen and another letter written to Julia Prinsep Duckworth one month before her marriage to Leslie Stephen. Also, I requested three letters Julia Prinsep Stephen wrote to three of her children: Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf and her son from her previous marriage to Herbert Duckworth, George Herbert Duckworth. Lastly, I requested two photos of Julia Prinsep Stephen taken by Julia Margaret Cameron.

 Berg Collection, Research Room, New York Public Library

I received the approval within 48 hours via email along with detailed instructions as to what was allowed inside the Berg Collection research room and what was not allowed inside. To anyone doing research, the requests are pretty standard. For instance, my name was added to a list of researchers on a day and time I chose to go. You have the entire day with your requested materials. I didn't think I would be nervous but as usual, I was! 

 I arrived a half an hour after the library opened. You must bring your photo identification and your library card. I stood outside the door, on the third floor and rang the bell. I looked through the glass window of the door and saw one young man seated at the table to the left and nobody else. After  a few minutes, a young man opened the door and I told him I had an appointment to do research today. I had my library card and my identification in my hand! Yes, I was eager!  The door closed behind us and the room was so quiet. He checked the list and told me to sit at the desk and fill out two forms which I did. I was then given a small card with my name and details on it good for one year of entrance to the Berg Collection, if I chose to do more research. I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't have to apply again, just email via the website and that's it!  Every item you requested is stored in the libraries computer. So, the librarian checks the requested list of materials then brings you to the card catalog- remember those!!   You must fill out small, individual forms per research item you requested including the call number, author, title, date found on the card catalogs under person's name you are researching. This takes much time but that's their process. Then, you give the small forms to the librarian who disappears to a room in the back and your materials are brought to your desk.  You can have them given to you one at a time or a stack at your desk. I had a stack, let's say. Your belongings are kept in a locker and they only give you writing paper and a pencil for notes. If you want photos taken you must fill out more forms and need more references beforehand to gain  approval. I didn't need that in this case. 

Here are the two photographs of Julia Prinsep Stephen by Julia Margaret Cameron. These are the only Cameron photographs housed at the New York Public Library at least for the time being. I can tell you that they are both very large in size on thick print paper. They were taken seven years apart 1867 and 1874 during two different phases of Julia Stephen's life. Each photograph was held within white mounted borders and wrapped in a huge paper folder. You could easily take the photo out of the border and hold it in your hands, which I did. The photograph on the right had the 'Colnaghi' name embossed in a circular ring at the bottom of it. Both photographs back in the 1960s were auctioned off and sent to Chicago as it said in an enclosed note kept inside the folder. Good to see them back within the library archives. 
One of Julia Margaret Cameron's letters showing her handwriting. 

In the Old Palace, Kandy, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) by Marianne North, 1880

Now, the first of Julia Margaret Cameron's letters was written on onion skin paper that was once white and crisp but now yellowed and stained by blackened ink.  There was no stationery embossed just thin paper reading atop:  Kalutara (Ceylon) Feb. 5, 1878.   The letter is addressed, my beloved Julia and Mrs. Cameron is replying to a letter her niece, Julia Prinsep Duckworth has written her. Now, at the time Julia Duckworth (soon to be Stephen) is widowed with children living with Leslie Stephen and his children who is also very recently widowed as well.  They are both lonely. Leslie is successful in his career but lonely and not sure how he will care for his young children when Julia is brought in to help his family in any way she can. She is a great comfort to him and he describes her as 'an angel'. Her beauty is not missed by him but he can see her recent sudden loss of her husband a few years before has left such a young woman guarded yet still oddly strong willed. Leslie and Julia have long talks and a friendship develops. He is unsure of her attraction but she is aware of his. She writes for advice to her Aunt Julia (Mrs. Cameron).  Julia Margaret Cameron's surviving letter, which is what I read, left me gobsmacked to say the least. There I sat in this third floor research room open mouthed, hand over mouth, reading the religious, spiritual, and intimate thoughts of an aunt to her saddened young niece.  It didn't matter that Cameron was a photographer living in what is now Sri Lanka, traveling between Ceylon and Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight with her family all the while maintaining a close circle of friends with some of the greatest painters and poets of the nineteenth-century.  

This photograph was taken on the veranda of Julia Margaret Cameron's home in Kalutara in 1877 by Julia Margaret Cameron. 
The woman painting is Marianne North who was visiting her  at the time. 

Bombay Pedlars on Mrs Cameron’s Verandah by Marianne North, c.1878.   

Back to the letter. Mrs. Cameron advises her niece to  follow her instincts and feelings for Leslie Stephen. Cameron believes with her entire heart and soul that Leslie Stephen is the perfect one for her niece. Cameron uses strong talk of believing in a higher power, in god to guide her as to know what to do next in her life. Cameron tells her that she has always known how Leslie Stephen's would be a kind and good man that would not only take care of her but would be the absolute man to balance her niece's independent will. They have been brought together by sad circumstances of death and loss of their spouses but together their union would be the union of twin souls who spiritually could heal their wounded hearts and bring them peace of mind and true happiness. Mrs. Cameron describes being able to spiritually see such depth of inner sadness  and turmoil going on inside her niece Julia Prinsep Duckworth. Mrs. Cameron does not use the word grief to mean to say that grief has brought them together. She is adamant on this. Instead, she makes clear that a sacred marriage and union between Leslie and Julia is what God wants and what Aunt Julia impresses upon younger Julia. Cameron provides examples of both their lives to support her strong belief of the two of them coming together as man and wife and making a life for them both. Mrs. Cameron says that her life with Leslie Stephen waits for her and will be there not out of a pity or sense of grief but because the angels and higher powers are willing it to be so. Cameron wants her niece to have a good life not one filled with anymore tragedy. For Mrs. Cameron knew almost on an intuitive level that you would find in a clairvoyant. It was an amazing letter and opened up such an understanding and a much broader sense of who Julia Margaret Cameron was day-to-day as wife, mother and aunt. Well, it appeared that six weeks after this letter on March 26, 1878 Leslie Stephen married Julia Prinsep (nee Duckworth). They had a happy and fulfilling life together and it appeared that good old Aunt Julia's instincts were right!  Good thing her niece listened. 
mother and daughter Julia Prinsep Stephen with her mother Maria Jackson (nee Pattle) 'Mia' sister of 
Julia Margaret Cameron. 1867, NPG

Now the second letter that Mrs. Cameron wrote was the next day on February 6, 1878, to her sister, Mia Jackson. She was at Kalutara (Ceylon) This was a four page letter on that same onion skin plain paper. In this letter Julia basically catches her sister up on the business going on between her family at the time including her sons and her husband, Charles Hay Cameron whom she always calls, 'Charles'. She mentions a memory of Leslie Stephen standing in the hall at her home in Freshwater and how later on her friend, Alfred Tennyson had a talk with Leslie about faith and religion.  You should have seen me holding the thin stained paper staring at Julia Margaret Cameron's handwritten Alfred Tennyson. The letter didn't really contain much family detail it was more of a letter where one sister tries to reassure another sister that their niece is making a good choice and it will work out.  

Lastly, the letters written by niece, Julia Prinsep Stephen were a joy to read. It was like pulling away the veil on a woman shrouded in secrecy and a life of which not very much has been detailed in her own words. Her correspondence survives but as far as I know she didn't leave diaries looking back on her life, so we must look to others to provide a portrait of Julia Prinsep Stephen. Her penmanship is small in size and neatly written across the page. Her letters were written on powder blue embossed stationery with only her home address atop the right side of the page.  It's strange but I never dreamt I would be able to read the letters of Julia Prinsep Stephen. Her daughter Virginia Woolf is one of my most favorite writers. I understand losing a mother very young in life, so Virginia's strong yet weakened facade coupled by mental instability fascinates and saddens me.  

I am not going to go in to full details of the context of the letters it was pretty basic mother to child notes. Things like remember to do this, take care of yourself when traveling, eat healthy, get outside and don't stay indoors too often it is not good for your soul. Things like this.  

The first letter was to her daughter, Vanessa Bell written on that blue stationery from 22 Hyde Park Gate, S.W. but undated. Her greeting is, "Dearest vessa"  and she signed it, "ma".  There was only one letter.

Julia Stephen with Vanessa, 1879

Next letter was written to her daughter, Virginia Woolf on that same blue paper from 22 Hyde Park Gate, S.W.  again undated and only one letter.  Her greeting is, "my darling ginia" and she signs off, "your loving old ma".  
Julia Stephen with baby Virginia (Virginia Woolf)
by H.H. Cameron, 1884

Interestingly enough, four letters by Julia Stephen written to her son George Herbert Duckworth remain. This was her son by her former marriage to Herbert Duckworth.  There are various letters written very lovingly in tone throughout his life, childhood, college years and later on.  By reading them it was plain to see that she was over protective of him but understandingly enough. She worried he would die suddenly as his father did.  She needn't have worried. He lived a long life 1868 to 1934. He was a public servant who later became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He married and had children as well. Sadly, he would be known for the sexual abuse of his half-sister, Virginia Woolf. 

In her letters the greeting was always the same, "my darling georgie" and she signed off, "your loving old ma".
Julia Duckworth with son George Herbert Duckworth, 1868

I know this is a very long post but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did researching and preparing it. I wanted to make sure to share everything with you.  

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