Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's in an inscription...?

The Poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben edited and with a memoir by Robert Bridges. (Henry Frowde for the Oxford University Press, London: 1911).
Dolben was a cousin of Bridges, a good-looking young man, a gifted poet and a sensitive religious soul with a bent towards the High Church and, indeed, towards the romantic appreciation of other young men. These are clearly the poems of a young man but Bridges was not wrong in noticing a real promise for the future. Unfortunately, this promise was never to be realised. Dolben drowned during a boating accident at the age of 19 having left an enduring impression behind him on many of his contemporaries.  In particular, meeting with Dolben was to be one of the enduring passionate memories of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
This copy bears the inscription “This book was the gift of my friend Robert Bridges. Ella Coltman. In memory of A. D. Coleridge who passed away Oct 29th, 1913.” with a little research and knowledge of where the book was acquired means that, unusually, I can trace the journey of this book all the way from Robert Bridges' hands, into my own. Arthur Duke Coleridge was best known as the father of the novelist and poet Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and his ownership inscription is also on the endpaper dated 1911. Ella Coltman was the third person in the marriage of the Victorian poet HenryNewbolt and his wife Margaret. It is said that when Newbolt proposed to his wife, she was already in love with her lesbian cousin Ella and would only agree to the marriage if Ella could be a part of the relationship. Thus, the man known as the epitome of Victorian uprightness, the man who wrote the celebrated lines “Play up! Play up! And play the game!” as a plea for wars to be fought with the same spirit as found on an English public-school playing field, became involved in a bisexual ménage à trois for the rest of his life. The book must have remained in Newbolt’s library and been inherited by his daughter who became Celia Furse. Jill Furse, Celia’s daughter, was an actress who married the artist Laurence Whistler. This copy of the book was bought from the Whistler family and owned briefly by another dealer before coming to me. I make that getting on for 10 owners in 100 years!


eArnie Painter said...

That's kind of an incredible story.

Anonymous said...

How very interesting this story is. Nicholas Coleridge reading it on an iPad in Moscow.

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