The Online Diaries of “Michael Field”
led by Marion Thain
The poets, dramatists, and diarists Katharine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) were not only aunt and niece, but also long-term partners who wrote collaboratively under the composite name “Michael Field.” “They” published prolifically—particularly collections of lyric poetry and historical verse-dramas—finding success with the early works in the 1880s, and winning new-found fame in recent times primarily with their poetry. However, perhaps their most fascinating document is the diary they co-wrote to record their lives and literary endeavors. Titled “Works and Days,” it primarily covers the years from 1888 to their deaths just prior to World War I. Intended for posthumous publication, their literary executor (Thomas Sturge Moore), published in 1933 a vastly expurgated volume of extracts. Currently housed in the archives of the British Library, and untranscribed, the full manuscript diary has been relatively inaccessible to anyone other than the dedicated scholar. Yet it contains much to intrigue researchers and general readers alike. In addition to their own aesthetic response to events both contemporaneous and historically-resonant, it offers a powerful historical documentation of the construction of a queer identity through the formation of their aesthetic paganism, their conversion to Catholicism, and, finally, through the pathos of Cooper’s death. It also tells the narrative of their close, if often tempestuous, relationships with John Ruskin, Robert Browning, and Bernhard Berenson; and their chronicle of the cultural life of fin-de-siecle London and Europe, detailing encounters with the leading literary and artistic figures of the period, including Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Walter Pater. The writing is powerful, caustic, and witty; and sometimes intensely moving.
Access the Development Site: Work in Progress, here: https://mf.dev.cdhsc.org.
When using this material, please add the VLLC site to your citation by adding the following text to the end of your standard reference note and/or bibliographical entry: “Accessed via the Michael Field Diary Archive, Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium (Center for Digital Humanities, University of South Carolina): https://mf.dev.cdhsc.org”
The VLLC has made available the scans of the Michael Field diaries in order to crowd-source the material for a collaborative open-access scholarly edition. You are invited to join the project by contributing your transcriptions and editorial notes (you keep any rights accruing from the work you contribute, while giving VLLC permission to use it within our online edition). You can find the guidelines here http://www.marionthain.org/events-and-projects/vllc-transcription-guidelines/. We look forward to hearing from you!