A Mad Tea-Party

I’m back at 37, Mapesbury Road, from where I last posted on 28/5/18. This time, though, I arrive at Brondesbury Station and leave Shoot Up Hill earlier, rounding the corner of Exeter Mansions on my way.

Josh Cohen is Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths, in addition to practising as a psychoanalyst, and the workshop he offers this afternoon does not disappoint. For a couple of hours I’m happy to suspend contemplation of the post that’s been on my mind since Thursday, 9th May (paragraph 10 of my post).

Now, back to the blog….

Professor Peter Faulkner is an Honorary University Fellow in Exeter University’s Centre for Victorian Studies, and a long-standing member of the William Morris Society. In 2001 it was his sad task to write the obituary for Nicholas Salmon, who had died at the early age of 44.

I have shoehorned in this detail out of simple personal nostalgia, and to direct you to a piece by Salmon which is full of fascinating connections for those with an interest in the Victorians. It was published in the Journal of the William Morris Society (1997), and can be found under the title “MacDonald, Morris and “The Retreat” “.

On page 5 of this 7 page article, we read:

“In 1875, MacDonald, in order to provide accommodation for his large family, took over River Villa, a small house adjoining The Retreat. This enabled Jane and Anne Cobden to join the household, thus establishing another link with Morris for Anne was later to marry Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson who bound Morris’s much thumbed copy of Das Kapital and founded the Doves Bindery close to Kelmscott House at 15 Upper Mall.”.

(I posted on George MacDonald on 24/2/18.)

Anne Cobden was not the only one of the five daughters of Richard Cobden, radical Liberal politician, to retain his name on marriage. Each daughter became prominent in her sphere and inherited her father’s political interest.

Annie married Thomas, a barrister, in 1882. The couple held progressive political opinions and moved in the social circle of William Morris and Jane Burdon. It appears that Thomas, without employment, had taken to ruminating, and Anne suggested that he take up bookbinding. Thomas himself first coined the term “Arts and Crafts”. When he and Emery Walker agreed to found the Doves Press, Anne put up the capital of £1600.

The Doves Bindery bound an address written on white vellum in purple and green ink, for presentation to Emmeline Pankhurst by Anne and Thomas on her release from prison in January 1909. Anne had supported the cause of women’s suffrage from an early age. She received a two month prison sentence in October 1906 after organising a protest meeting in the lobby of the House of Commons.

Her imprisonment in Holloway made headlines and sent a frisson through the Liberal establishment. The Times published a letter from her friend George Bernard Shaw that said: “one of the nicest women in England is suffering from the coarsest indignity”. During her time in prison, 1st-23rd November, Anne kept a diary. The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies celebrated her release with a banquet at the Savoy Hotel on 11th December.

Then, in 1907, she joined Charlotte Despard in the breakaway Women’s Freedom League. Anne continued to campaign for women’s causes until her death at 15, Upper Mall on 2nd November 1926, and supported Despard when she stood as Labour candidate for North Battersea in the 1918 General Election.

A contributing factor in the falling out by 1906 between Cobden-Sanderson and Walker was Cobden-Sanderson’s obsessive level of interest. Later, he would be welcomed in his own right, alongside his wife’s speaking tour of America, as an “Arts and Crafts” celebrity. Thomas had reneged on his agreement with Walker that, should their partnership end, Walker would be entitled to a copy of the Doves Type. Following her husband’s death in 1922, Anne paid Emery Walker a large sum in compensation for his loss.

Professor Cohen discusses the unique authorial voice, and the way in which the psychotic process can be contained, in analysis and in writing, by a coolness which is not excited into chaos. He illustrates his point by quoting from Chapter Seven of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”:

“This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.

“At any rate I’ll never go there again!” said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. “It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!”.”.

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