Wednesday, January 20, 2021

495. The Complete Correspondence of Gordon Bottomley and Thomas Sturge Moore (1)

Last year, the Gordon Bottomley-Thomas Sturge Moore correspondence, edited by John Aplin, was published online by InteLex Past Masters in Charlottesville, Virginia. The platform contains scholarly editions in the field of the humanities, such as the complete works of Freud, Montaigne, Plato, Defoe, and the  Brothers Grimm.

InteLex Past Masters: Bottomley-Sturge Moore letters

The letters of Thomas Sturge Moore and Gordon Bottomley, nine hundred and eleven in number, comprise three separate volumes, preceded by an introduction and followed by an index. The lives of the two poets and playwrights (Sturge Moore was also an artist who mainly made woodcuts) are briefly and excellently presented in the introduction. Gordon Bottomley (1874-1948), who suffered from a tubercular illness, would eventually survive Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944). They exchanged letters between 1906 and 1944, but the edition runs to 1948. The 1944-1948 letters include those written by the widow Marie Sturge Moore; the last letter, a report of Bottomley's death, was written to her by Mary Fletcher - the Fletcher's were close friends of Bottomley. The correspondence also includes letters written by Bottomley's wife Emily, his 'occasional amanuensis', and letters from Marie Sturge Moore from the period when the two men did not write to each other. Sturge Moore's letters are kept in the British Library; those of Bottomley are part of the Sturge Moore papers held in Special Collections at Senate House, University of London. A mile apart.

The introduction includes a careful justification of the editorial principles and textual interventions. The editor John Aplin concludes his introduction, modestly, with: 

I cannot claim to have done more than make some of the essential archival materials available as a facility for new researchers, but in deciding to draw substantially upon the Bottomley papers in particular to inform the commentary underpinning the editorial notes, I have sought to provide the fullest possible biographical and critical context, conscious not only that this is the first publication to have examined these resources in any depth, but also that they are far too valuable to continue to be overlooked.

For aficionados of the work of Ricketts and Shannon, this edition is indispensable. Ricketts in particular played a huge role in the lives of both correspondents:

The fact that Ricketts was such a powerful force in the lives of both Moore and Bottomley, a constant point of reference in their exchanges, inevitably means that his is a looming presence throughout this correspondence. Neither man ever tires of discussing aspects of his work and personality, both of them articulating subtle perspectives of real insight, which means that their letters will continue to provide a rich resource for those seeking more information on the range of Ricketts’s output and his contemporary importance, not least as a designer for the theatre.

Navigating the Correspondence

In this blog, I concentrate on navigating the system: how does it work? The letters are numbered consecutively from 1 to 911 and divided into three sections. Each letter contains individually numbered annotations that follow immediately below the letter.

InteLex Past Masters: Bottomley-Sturge Moore letters: index (detail)

The index is helpfully comprehensive, with subject-by-subject headings referring to the letters (not pages). The lemma for Ricketts comprises two full pages of detailed references. Shannon occupies three quarter of a page. A check with a sample of references indicates that the index has been carefully compiled. Strange, by the way, to put Michael Field under M instead of F (which every library does), even though it is a pseudonym.

Numbers in the index are not clickable and do not take you directly to the relevant pages. It takes a while to find them via the table of contents, that chronologically lists the years of creation, but omits the numbers of the letters for each year. One has to guess in which year to look for a particular letter, or pick a year and then scroll forwards or backwards to the corresponding letter. A search for a particular letter is also possible via the somewhat primitive-looking dashboard.

InteLex Past Masters: Bottomley-Sturge Moore letters: search results

However, the search screen allows for a search in one go for the three parts together containing all the letters. In the list of results, all references are clickable: they take you directly to the page in question. That list can be presented in a new window (so you can always return to the results), or in the same window. It is also possible to search for a letter number, but then it is a bit of a puzzle to find out which reference is the one to the actual page; letter number 669 for instance yields 35 hits.

InteLex Past Masters: Bottomley-Sturge Moore letters: letter 669

It is possible to create PDFs of a single page and print them (this works best when using the single page view, otherwise the PDF will contain only the left-hand page of a spread).

So much for navigation. Next week we will continue with the epistolary narrative.

The Complete Correspondence of Gordon Bottomley and Thomas Sturge Moore.
ISBN: 978-1-57085-280-0
Language: English.
Link for quote on price: