Wednesday, November 16, 2022

589. The Name of the Ricketts Circle

In an earlier blog post, I quoted a letter in French from John Gray to the critic Félix Fénéon, dated 16 April 1891. (See blog 94, A French Correspondence). In it, Gray used the French term the 'Valistes' for the circles around Ricketts and Shannon and their magazine The Dial of which he was a contributor. There seems to be no record of Ricketts and Shannon using this French term or an English equivalent of it. However, Oscar Wilde, according to William Rothenstein, once called them 'Valeists' (Men and Memories. Recollections of William Rothenstein 1872-1900. London, 1931, p. 312).

Oscar Wilde also used a name based - not on their address but - on the name of their magazine. In a letter to Charles Ricketts, undated but Autumn 1889, Wilde calls them 'the Dialists' (The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. London, 2000, p. 412).

Ricketts and Shannon used a variety of nicknames though, and especially in their dealings with the writing duo Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper) the epithets flourished. Ricketts was called the Fairy-Man, Fay, or The Painter and their house was called The Palace. Michael Field received letters addressed to The Poets.

'The Palace': Lansdowne House,
Lansdowne Road, Holland Park

Ricketts's & Shannon's home
(from May 1902 to May 1923)

The diaries of the two female authors reveal that there were other names in circulation. Michael Field used the term Dial gang in an entry from 19 December 1901:

Next year will be to us of “the Dial gang” a tumultuous year – river-beds exposed & lands flooded – great upheavals.

[Michael Field, Journal, 19 December 1901: British Library, BL Add MS 46790, f 171v].

Earlier, Ricketts and Shannon declared themselves a duo in one name, admittedly in a telegram and thus probably to make the message short (and not too expensive), but still. I know of no other example of this far-reaching unity as a duo expressed in one name. For them, this was rare.

The telegram was sent after both Shannon and Ricketts received a poem from Michael Field and disputed each other's poems:

In the afternoon this telegram. Battle raging over respective poems. Casualties later. Ricknon.
[Michael Field, Journal, 5 January 1900: British Library BL Add MS 46789, f 2v.]

This merging of the names Ricketts and Shannon into Ricknon seems unique.