Wednesday, July 29, 2015

209. A First Visit from Ricketts and Shannon

The diaries of Katharine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) have not yet been published in their entirety, but they will be, 'soon', as The Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium assures on its website.

'Michael Field' (1891)
Bradley and Cooper published poems and plays under the pseudonym 'Michael Field'. Katharine was called 'Michael' and Edith 'Henry'. They were lovers and in Ricketts and Shannon they recognized a similar relationship. They were introduced to each other in January 1894, and on 22 May of that year Ricketts and Shannon paid them a visit in Reigate.

The account of this visit was not published in the heavily edited extracts from the journals in the posthumously published Works and Days (1933), edited by T. Sturge Moore, nor in a more recent anthology Michael Field, the Poet (2009), edited by Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo. A passage was quoted in Emma Donoghue's 1998 biographical sketch We Are Michael Field, and the complete entry was published in Ivor C. Treby's anthology Binary Star. Leaves from the Journal and Letters of Michael Field, 1846-1914 (2006). Treby (1933-2012), whose archive is available in the Bodleian Library, did much to make Michael Field's poems and diary notes accessible to a larger public, and although his editing method involved too many abbreviations and confusing cross references, we cannot be thankful enough for his dedication to the work of Michael Field.

It is from Binary Star (page 130) that I quote Michael Field on the first visit of Ricketts and Shannon. The entry is written by 'Henry', the younger half of Michael Field: Emma Cooper:

They bring their Vale Edition of Hero & Leander but will not have the parcel opened as long as they stay. ..(Ricketts) is an ardent lover of Shannon, his elder by a year - loving him as my Love loves me - following him about with rippling banter & eyes that deprecate the Beloved's wilfulness.. Shannon is called also "Hazelwood" & his second name manages to sum him up. ..I suspect he does not show the pagan fun in him, any more than I do, except in deep intimacy.. We persuade them to stay for our evening meal, & a walk around the garden is proposed.. Ricketts knows a great deal about flowers - Shannon asks the name of the buttercup every spring.. In the study we talk about art - Beardsley & Rothenstein (By the way, Beardsley, who gesticulates now & leads conversation is the only man who sits on Rothenstein with success).. At evening meal Shannon specialises in salmon, Ricketts in gooseberries & cream.. we bid our guests goodbye with a sense we have walked into friendship as deep as mowing grass.. These 2 men live & work together & find rest & joy in each other's love just as we do.. yet Ricketts lovingly teases Shannon because he works in a separate room - "I call Shannon sulky" he laughs.. (Michael) is happy in another's company - sometimes (as with "Dockie") the other takes it to mean more - & afterward is disappointed - no fear of this with Ricketts!'