Friday, 4 December 2015

Friday 4th December - Lady Cynthia Asquith

Today's muff is very classy indeed and corresponds to people we've talked about before.  Here we have Lady Cynthia Asquith by Edmund Dulac...
Lady Cynthia Asquith (1914) Edmund Dulac
Lady Cynthia was a writer, friend of D H Lawrence and secretary to J M Barrie. Her parents were Lord Elcho and Mary Wyndham, two members of the Souls, and her brothers were some of the many sons of the Souls who died in the First World War.  She married Herbert Asquith, son of the Prime Minister (whom you never wanted to sit next to at dinner, trust me), in 1910.  Herbert was a poet from the trenches during the War and I find his work interesting in the mix of knights and muddy death, both appalling and glorified.
Lady Cynthia Mary Evelyn Asquith (1912) Bassano Ltd
Lady Cynthia's literary work is remember in two ways.  She was a storyteller, writing some memorable and sometimes chilling stories (I am adding This Mortal Coil to my list to read because 'The Playfellow' short story sounds nice and disturbing).  She also wrote and published diaries, reminiscences and biographies of her friends and royalty.  She also edited collections of ghost stories, anthologies including very well-known writers whom she convinced to submit work to her projects.  Her work has fallen out of print but I definitely fancy reading her diaries from the First World War period too and it would be good if such a modern writer became popular again., especially if she dabbled in spooky tales.
The Entomologist's Dream (1909) Edmund Dulac
The artist Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) was no stranger to the strange either.  I particularly like this illustration from a story about an entomologist, driven mad by a quest to find a blood red butterfly to impress a woman with.  Born in Toulouse, he became a naturalised British citizen in 1912 and is probably best known for his fairytale illustrations rather than his portraits, but his career seems to have covered all sorts, including postage stamps...
Dulac's 1953 coronation stamp
His portrait of Cynthia Asquith gives the impression of an Edwardian modern woman, the patterning of her surroundings both luxurious and almost abstract, but her pose and costume telling you exactly what sort of woman she is.  She is dressed well and sat with relaxed confidence, but she looks pensive.  Compared with the formal photographic portrait of two years earlier, she looks more comfortable but more 'adult', more aware of what life has to hold.  It would be tempting to say she is considering what the next few years would have to offer, what will become not only of her husband and brothers but all of her generation and class, but instead I think she is emblematic of that change rather than aware of it.
In keeping with my Edwardian subject, I recommend The Hours Before by Robert Stephen Parry as my present selection today.  Published earlier this year, it follows a Belle Epoque woman through a momentous night of her life and how she arrived there.
My review is here, which has the links to buy it.  Again, it's a great read for a chilly evening and one of my favourite books of the year.  Enjoy!
Right, I'll see you tomorrow...


  1. Wow, the coronation stamp is beautiful.

  2. Isn't it? Under Mr Walker's influence I've got a bit nerdy about stamp design and they can be little works of perfect graphic design.


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