Modernity in Suburbia: Michael Field’s Experimental Poetics

  • Ana Parejo Vadillo
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

‘Michael Field’ (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper) lived in the outskirts of London until 1899. Critics have interpreted this specific spatial characteristic as the poets’ wish to retreat from the public world. Angela Leighton, for example, argues that ‘[p]erhaps because of the essential freedom of their lives — a freedom particularly from the conventions and conclusions of heterosexual love — their poetry seems to belong indeed “out in the open air of nature,” and far from all the homes, far countries and graves of their predecessors.’2 Leighton’s comments summarise the view of critics, for whom Field’s retreat in ‘rural’ Reigate, where the poets lived between 1888 and 1899, explains their desire to live outside the parameters of patriarchy. I want to argue, however, that Field’s spatial positioning in Reigate (and later in Richmond, one of London’s richest suburbs, where they resided between 1899 and 1913), is essential to understanding Field’s aesthetics, and that their poetics cannot simply be classified as belonging to ‘the open air of nature’. In his important work on the growth of suburbia in London, Alan A. Jackson has demonstrated that as a result of the enormous expansion of London in the nineteenth century new suburbs, adjacent to and economically dependent on the city, were developed.3 Reigate, a residential village next to the metropolis, and Richmond, a newly developed suburb, were spaces whose complexity was dictated by the historical and economic origins of the phenomenon of suburbia.

Keywords

Mercury Transportation Income Mane Smoke 

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Notes

  1. 3.
    Alan A. Jackson, Semi-Detached London: Suburban Development, Life and Transport, 1900–1939 (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973).Google Scholar
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    For further bibliographical details see Mary Sturgeon, Michael Field (London: George G. Harrap, 1922), 14–17.Google Scholar
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    Morris moved to The Upper Hall at Hammersmith. The house was known as ‘The Retreat’, but Morris changed it to Kelmscott House after his other house. See J. W. Mackail, The Life of William Morris, Vol. 1, 1899; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, 1995), 371–2. George Meredith lived in Redhill, only three miles away from Reigate. In one of her letters to Meredith, Katharine Bradley wrote ‘we are not far away. We can almost hear the bleating of the same lamb’ (Michael Field, Works and Days, 73).Google Scholar
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© Ana Parejo Vadillo 2005

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  • Ana Parejo Vadillo

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