Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Helen Savile Clarke and her daughters

Continuing the story of Henry Savile Clarke and his family ...

When Henry Savile Clarke died in 1893, his wife Helen Weatherill was 53 years old.  During the 1880s, she had developed an artistic career of her own.

By 1880, when Helen reached the age of forty, her family had become sadly diminished.

Helen Savile Clarke with one of her daughters
Her brother William had died at school in London when she was eleven.  Her younger sister Clara (after whom she named her eldest daughter) had been fatally injured in a fire caused by a candle igniting her clothing in the year before Helen married.

Her eldest brother George Jackson Weatherill had died in 1872, the year of her daughter Kitty’s birth; his conduct had brought his married life to an end when his wife divorced him and he seems to have died in Australia.  Her father died the following year, and her mother in late May 1880.

It seems that her younger sister Emma, who had never married, then came to London – she died at Helen’s house on 26 September, aged 38.  Her elder sister Anne Louise, whose first marriage had been to Henry Savile Clarke’s father, was to die in Guisborough in 1882. 

There was a younger brother, John Charles Weatherill, of whom little is remembered or known.  He seems to have encountered difficulties, as their mother had left to Helen the “Prize books” given to him by the Corporation of Plymouth and £5 to be given to him at Helen’s discretion.  Anne Louise’s Will, made in 1881, left £1,000 in trust for John Charles “for his personal enjoyment and not to become the property of his alienees or creditors”, so possibly he was a bankrupt. 

Three of Helen’s four close cousins in Guisborough (their mothers being sisters, and their fathers brothers) had died, and her cousin Kate was to die leaving three small children in 1884.  Only Helen’s eldest sister Margaret Elizabeth survived into the 20th century.

It must have seemed to Helen all the more important to follow and develop her own talents as an artist while she could.  Perhaps she took advice on her plans from her relatives, the artists Mary and Sarah Ellen Weatherill [cf blog post of 29 November 2012].  They were five or so years older than she, and they both studied in London.

In 1880 (we are told by a piece in the Chicago Daily Tribune of 30 July 1892 [1]) Helen had lessons in water colour painting from Peter Toft.

This was the well known Danish artist and adventurer Peter Petersen Toft  (or Toft), who lived in London from 1870 until his death in 1901.  (A couple of his works are available as posters nowadays, and a landscape of Sark is owned by Guernsey Museums.)

Helen then took a course of study at the Female School of Art in Bloomsbury.  She confined herself to landscapes done in water colour and pastels.  Most of her work in pastels was done in Brittany, but it is clear from the titles of her pieces that she painted a great deal in Suffolk.  

She and Henry seem to have been very fond of Southwold [2] in particular.  They seem often to have stayed there and on 26 August 1886 the Ipswich Journal noted that Helen had donated a picture of Walberswick Mill to the church bazaar in aid of the organ fund.

She became a member of the Society of Lady Artists (now the Society of Women Artists) , and her work was exhibited both there and at the Female Artists in Brussels.  

A search of the British Newspaper Archive for the 1880s produces several favourable notices of her work exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery. 

The Era on Saturday 26 May 1888 published a long piece on the first exhibition at the New Gallery.  The writer commented on “a clever sketch of The Skate’s Nose, Walberswick (180) by Mrs Savile Clarke”, but criticised at some length (in a happy example of changing tastes) Burne Jones’ The Rock of Doom  and The Doom Fulfilled:
In one picture we have a front view of Andromeda, in another a view of her back.  The lady is not very inviting on either side; certainly not worth risking your life with a dragon for. … Let us pass on to something real, something human, something of flesh and blood and life and wholesomeness and nature – say to Mrs Alma Tadema’s Well Employed [3]
We also catch glimpses of Helen through newspaper accounts of Society and theatrical events. 

On the first night of Henry Irving’s Macbeth in December 1888, when pressure for tickets was immense and the stalls were crammed, Mr and Mrs Savile Clarke are listed amongst those present – as are Mr and Mrs Oscar Wilde.  (At this point, Wilde was already famous for being famous and was largely known for his journalism and reviews).

In 1889 Helen and her daughter Clara were among the crowd of admirers – which again included Mr and Mrs Oscar Wilde – attending a reception at the home of the artist Mortimer Luddington Menpes and his wife Rosa at Osborne Lodge, Fulham. 

The Pall Mall Gazette enthused over the event on Tuesday 8 January 1889 under the heading, Sweetness and Light in Foggy Fulham – Mr and Mrs Menpes at home:
It was an agreeable change to step out of the fog into the reception rooms at Mr Menpes’.
No paper on the walls, but a luminous tint of canary yellow, hung with charming etchings, with pretty Japanese trifles strewn about the room.  But have we not already described the “Home of Taste,” and faithfully reported Mr Menpes; ideas upon the proper decoration of the house?  It now only remains to say that yesterday afternoon a great crowd of well-known ladies and gentlemen filled the yellow room, also another room done in apple-green, with maids, also in apple-green and white, in attendance. 
For two hours the crowd filed in and out, and loudly were the expressions of admiration addressed to the master and mistress of the house
Another grand function attended by Helen and Clara was reported admiringly in The Bury & Norwich Post on Tuesday 8 March 1887, in the column Recent County and Other Balls:
An excellent fancy dress ball was given by Mr and Mrs Samuel Montagu, MP, at their residence, 12 Kensington Palace-gardens.

The beautiful house was most brilliantly illuminated throughout with electric light, and the floral decorations were of a most superb character, consisting entirely of masses of natural flowers, many of which were superb orchids.  The extensive halls and corridors were also festooned with the same floral decoration.  The arrangement of the suite of ten rooms on the ground floor lent itself admirably to the perfect accommodation of nearly 400 guests. 
The dresses worn were of a most varied and elegant character, illustrating the costumes of almost every age and eleven nations … Mrs Savile Clarke looked the Greek matron to perfection in her admirable costume , and her daughter, Miss Clara Savile Clarke, was also dressed in a most becoming Greek dress.
Maggie Savile Clarke
 Clara was now 18 years old.  She was able to take her place in the magnificent entertainments on offer in metropolitan life, but she was, above all, an aspiring writer.

Clara was born on 13 January 1869 in Paddington.  She probably starting writing when she was very young – certainly, when she was 17, her father published some of her verses in the Court Circular [4].

Three years later, in December 1889, the Court Circular carried the “very sad Story of Cressider Burke”.  She had left light verse behind in favour of a “tale of love, treachery, child murder, and suicide”.  The reviewer in the Ipswich Journal found it on the whole “cleverly written”. 

Clara had two younger sisters, Maggie and Kitty.  

Maggie was born on 31 August 1870 and Kitty was some 18 months younger.

Kitty Savile Clarke
Photographs from the albums of their Guisborough relations show that they were both extremely pretty as small children and evidently looked very alike.

(The Guisborough families seem to have kept no photographs of Clara, which may or may not be significant.)

Now in their late teens, Maggie and Kitty both delighted in dance and in 1890 they attracted the notice of the press. 

An amateur production of an opera, expressly written and composed for the occasion by Robert Martin and Ernest Ford, was to be performed at the Opéra Comique in aid of the Mothers’ East End Home. 

“Fashionable London is agog with pleasurable anticipation” claimed the Pall Mall Gazette on Wednesday 4 June 1890.  “Six duchesses, six marchionesses, eight countesses, hosts of the “inferior nobility” with princes and princesses in reserve” had promised to be in the audience.  Royalty was to attend each performance, with Princess Louise there for the opening night.
“The Misses Savile Clarke, blonde fairies of seventeen and eighteen [they were actually nearly 20 and 18], will dance a slow valse à la Letty Lind.  They possess slim willowy figures and great grace and beauty; and though they have pirouetted much in private life, this is their first appearance beyond the Theatre Royal Back Drawing-room.”
Letty Lind was one of the actresses famous for “skirt dancing” [5], in which the performer used her long full skirts to create a graceful, fluid motion of floating fabric.

Maggie and Kitty’s dance was a great success, receiving some of the most enthusiastic encores of the evening – it “fairly brought down the house” according to the Graphic.

Their reputation evidently grew, and in March 1891, they appeared in the Guards’ Burlesque.  This was an annual event of the Brigade of Guards and was performed by officers and NCOs, usually with the aid of professional actresses. 

In 1891 the production was to be Robinson Crusoe, and this time amateur ladies were to be employed as dancers.  Described in the London Daily News as “agile and graceful” and “remarkably pretty”, Maggie and Kitty were a great hit.

The Era (a trade paper for the stage) on Saturday 4 April 1891 noted
“… Miss M Savile Clarke and Miss K Savile Clarke looked very pretty as Nancy Lee and Annie Rooney, and their pas de deux, though a trife stiff in some of the movements, was gracefully performed. …”
The less critical reviewer whose comments appeared in the Dover Express of the 10 April said
“Miss Maggie and Miss Kitty Savile-Clarke, who both looked remarkably beautiful, quite won the hearts of their audience by their delightful dancing to a valse measure  in the Viennese style, and also in a characteristic pas de trois, in which they were joined by Mr George Nugent …”
and the Graphic on 11 April said
“The dancing of the Misses Savile Clarke (who are, we believe, entirely self-taught) and of Mrs Crutchley would not have disgraced Miss Letty Lind or Miss Sylvia Grey.” 
Captain George Nugent remembered the girls in his account of the Guards’ Burlesque: 
“the two beautiful daughters of the late Mr. Savile-Clarke, the well-known journalist and author. They created a very great sensation, as they were beautiful dancers, and very fair to look upon; moreover, they were, when made up, exactly alike.”
The sisters’ similarity of beauty can be seen in a painting by Jacques-Emile Blanche.

The Leeds Art Gallery’s title is The Savile-Clarke Girls, but a French blog reveals the full title of the painting – The Savile-Clarke Girls ou Skirt Dance.  Then we understand their pose: the girls are dancing.

In June 1891 they appeared at an amateur entertainment at the house of Lady Alexander Gordon-Lennox.   A French comedietta and an original pantomime in one act were performed in aid of St Elizabeth’s Hospital, Great Ormonde Street.  The Pall Mall Gazette on Monday 29 June 1891 praised their fellow dancer, Mrs Crutchley, but was more moderate in its praise of Maggie and Kitty:
“Mrs Crutchley, in an incroyable costume of black and white satin, looked bewitching, and danced divinely.  The Miss Savile Clarkes looked charming too, in skirts of white Oriental cashmere, with turquoise velvet bodices and caps; but as dancers they still have much to learn from the Gaiety girls, who are obviously their models.”
Their beauty and youth were evidently the major part of their appeal.

Still, they must have derived a great deal of fun from the experience.  They even had an overseas appearance – in August 1891, they repeated their dance from the Guards’ Burlesque in Dieppe, at an amateur variety entertainment in aid of the poor of the town.

While Maggie and Kitty appeared on the amateur stage and enjoyed society life, Clara was writing her first book,  The Poet's Audience, and Delilah.  It was published by Cassell & Co in November 1891 at the price of 5 shillings .  It is, in fact, still in print.

These are two tales of romantic and sexual obsession.  Sinister characters of hypnotic, almost vampiric power, are perhaps a foretaste of things to come – a reminder that Du Maurier’s Trilby was to be published in 1894 and Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897.  For some reviewers, Clara’s work was too much of the modern, uncomfortable school:

Cheltenham Looker-On
, Saturday 23 January 1892
In vivid contrast to Rowland Grey’s tale, are the two stories contained in Miss Savile Clarke’s volumce The Poet’s Audience and Delilah.  Both are almost equally unpleasant, although for sheer sordid unsavouriness perhaps the latter takes precedent of the former.  The young authoress shows so much promise that it is a pity she should choose such intensely disagreeable subjects on which to expend her talents.
Skirt dancing continued in vogue that year, and Maggie and Kitty were still being mentioned in the press as having been amongst the first amateur stars:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 20 April 1892
Skirt dancing appears likely to be all the rage during the coming season.  The graceful performances of professional dancing girls such as Miss Kate Vaughan, Miss Letty Lind, and some of the Gaiety actresses have inspired aristocratic amateurs with a desire to learn the pretty accomplishment.  And a skirt dance now often takes the place of a song or a recitation at fashionable soirées.  Not content with appearing in private some of the high-born amateur skirt dancers have pirouetted on in public, always, of course, for a charity.  The skirt dancing of the beautiful Misses Savile Clarke and of Mrs Crutchley was the feature of the Guards’ burlesque last year.
As a result, classes for skirt dancing were now booming, as every young woman wished to learn the skill.  According to the newspaper report,
the gavotte is to be the most popular skirt-dance of the season, but the graceful old world minuet has come to the front again, and, while the young girl prefers the more lively Spanish waltz of fantastic step dances, which greatly depend for effect on the graceful manipulation of accordion-kilted silk skirts, the minuet and gavotte will win favour with the more sedate and stately who cling to the fashion of trained dresses.
Clara, meanwhile, continued to establish her place in the literary and theatrical world.

In July 1893, she collaborated with the actress Miss Eweretta Lawrence [6] in a dramatic and musical recital at the Prince of Wales’s Club, creating a duologue to be performed by Miss Lawrence and Mr Murray Carson entitled A Cruel AlternativeThe Era on 8 July 1893 noted that
Miss Savile Clarke is already known as the author of some very interesting short stories, but this is, we believe, her first appearance as a dramatist.
Clara’s second book, a collection of tales called The World’s Pleasures, appeared at the end of October 1893 [7].  She had a story in the Christmas number of the Sketch – the notice in the press spoke of “three well-written seasonable stories by Max Pemberton, Clara Savile-Clarke, and E Nesbit”.  Another story – a “gorgeous fairy tale” – appeared in the English Illustrated Magazine's Christmas edition, again alongside a story by E Nesbit.  She wrote a tale for the Christmas number of Woman and a story for the January edition of Sylvia.

So Clara had achieved a broad base of success.  Her work had appeared in the mainstream press, but it was also considered as modern and in tune with the developments, artistic and feminist, of the time.  The women’s magazines mentioned above had a foothold in both camps: Woman was a weekly penny magazine with the motto during the 1890s of 'Forward, but not too fast', while Sylvia’s Journal "merged aestheticism and New Woman articles with the standard features of a montly woman's magazine" [8].

She was identified as a “new writer” – the term "New Woman" had not yet gained currency – and some reviewers had found her work unpalatable in its realism and subject matter.  It is striking that while she depicts dysfunctional marriages and relationships, women do not necessarily appear as victims in her fiction – in fact, her interest seems most engaged in her portrayals of strong and dominant female characters.

But grief was near at hand.  In early October 1893 her father Henry died of tuberculosis – and by then her 23 year old sister Maggie was extremely ill with the same disease.

Maggie died in early 1894 at Nordrach, the famous tuberculosis sanatorium in the Black Forest.  Her death was noticed in the press:

Leamington Spa Courier, 24 February 1894
Amateur skirt-dancing has lost one of its most charming exponents in Miss Maggie Savile-Clarke, who has just died of consumption, at the age of twenty-two, following her father at a short interval to the grave.  
The late Mr H Savile-Clarke was a popular journalist who dabbled in playwriting, and wrote fluent verses for Punch and other periodicals, and he left a gifted family of daughters.  It is the second who has just gone.  
She was of a fragile type of beauty, and of a singularly sweet disposition.  At charity performances her dancing, along with that of her younger sister, Miss Kate Savile-Clarke, was a welcome feature, and her last and most notable appearance was as a skirt-dancer in the Guards burlesque at Chelsea Barracks, a very fashionable “function”.  The eldest of the three sisters, Miss Clara Savile-Clarke, has gained some distinction as a writer of stories and sketches in the periodicals of the day.
I have found no mention of Helen’s paintings being exhibited after 1890.  The anxieties of caring for her husband and then her daughter – it seems probable that they sought a cure outside the smoke of London, in visits to sanatoriums in the mountains or to the milder climate of southern Europe – must have taken all her energies.  She does not seem to have resumed work with a view to exhibition after their deaths.

Clara continued to write and to gain success:

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, Saturday 25 August 1894
The English Illustrated Magazine – The September number brings another volume to a close, and presents its readers with much of strong interest and of high literary merit.  
With the October number we are promised a new departure in magazine literature.  Henceforward the English Illustrated is to be “self-contained” – that is, there are to be no serial stories and no continued articles.  Every writer of importance will contribute to its pages […] Gilbert Parker, Anthony Hope, George Gissing, Violet Hunt, Dorothy Leighton, Marian Hepworth Dixon, and Clara Savile-Clarke will all be “boomed into fame” (we don’t like the American phrase) in the English Illustrated, the price of which, we may add, will remain at sixpence.
Clara had become identified with the “modern women” of the time:

London Daily News, Tuesday 13 November 1894
Seven Stories by Modern Women, with illustrations by well-known artists, fill the numerous pages of that massive publication, The Ladies’ Pictorial Christmas Number.  Very good stories they are too.  … the number opens with an exciting tale from the pen of Miss Marie Corelli, entitled The Silence of the Maharajah, and ends with a clever and pathetic little story entitled A Modern Mistake, by Miss Clara Savile-Clarke …
although some reviewers evidently thought the title was more a matter of marketing than anything else:

London Standard, Thursday 29 November 1894
The Lady’s Pictorial, with the laudable purpose of being “up to date”, contains, as to the great bulk of its Christmas Number, “seven stories by modern women.”  To allay any apprehension which this announcement might reasonably excite, we hasten add that the contributors are, in this case, such familiar and popular writers as Miss Marie Corelli … and Miss Clara Savile Clarke. …
I doubt that Clara will have welcomed the juxtaposition of her name with that of Marie Corelli.

In 1895 Clara was chosen by Oswald Crawfurd to contribute to Dialogues of the Day, an experimental volume of playlets:
 “Short plays of six or eight pages in length each, arranged to make pleasant reading, and dealing with incidents, personages, and topics of modern life”. 
Three playlets by Clara were included: Choosing a Ball Dress, A Point of Honour and A Human Sacrifice

Dialogues of the Day received mixed reviews, the Pall Mall Gazette noting on 16 September that
“The great majority of the dialogues deal in the stockest of stock types, and there is, we venture to think, an undue proportion in them of “literary” people who talk shop.  Mr Anthony Hope’s Day of Reckoning and Mr Crawfurd’s A Modern Lydia are the most amusing things in the book, and Miss Savile Clarke’s Choosing a Ball Dress the most delicately written dialogue …”
Helen Savile Clarke had always been an admirer of the aesthetic movement – as demonstrated by her presence, with Mr and Mrs Oscar Wilde, at Mortimer Menpes’ reception in 1889 – and she continued to be interested in new developments in the arts.

By the summer of 1895, Helen was taking a kind interest in her daughters’ friend Aubrey Beardsley.

He was the same age as Kitty and had suffered since childhood from tuberculosis, the disease from which Henry and Maggie had died.  In July 1895, Beardsley wrote to Helen to thank her for the gift of “that art muslin.  It suits me so well and will be so nice and cool in the hot weather” [9]

Kitty owned two Beardsley works: La dame aux camelias (published in the Yellow Book in 1894) and The Fat Woman (La Dame bien nourrie); both are now held by the Tate. 

In 1896 Clara was one of those chosen by Arthur Symons from his friends and associates to contribute to the controversial new periodical, The Savoy.  Founded by Symons and Aubrey Beardsley, it ran for only eight issues.  Writers such as W B Yeats and Joseph Conrad were amongst those whose work was featured.

Clara had two stories printed in The Savoy [10]A Mere Man in April 1896 and Elsa in October 1896.

From Aubrey Beardsley’s letters, we can see that in the early spring of 1896, Clara was in Paris and full of exuberant life. 

Beardsley wrote from Paris in February/March 1896 to The Savoy’s publisher Leonard Smithers.
“I see no one here at all” 
he writes at the beginning of the letter, later saying,
“I would gladly avoid (if it is possible) calling on Clara Savile Clarke.  I know she will expect me to wander all over Paris with her”. 
He wonders if Symons could not tell him something about her story (A Mere Man) and says “I’m very pleased her contribution is being put in”.  In the event, he did not illustrate this story.

A Mere Man, written when Clara was 26,  is probably her best work.  A strong story with a great deal of dramatic tension and psychological acuity, it has a good deal of incidental interest for the reader today.  The “pretty boys” who feature as incidental characters remind us of the trial of Oscar Wilde the previous year, and the shock value of the story is restored to us by our increased medical knowledge.  Clara’s stark depiction of a young Society wife developing an alcohol dependency throughout her pregnancy and “kissing her baby with a breath that was perfumed with brandy” is as shocking to a modern reader as it must have been in 1896.  

So, in March 1896 Clara was too energetic and healthy for the consumptive Beardsley, who died two years later.  But within months, she herself was to fall seriously ill.

I have found nothing to indicate how long Clara spent in Paris.  She had several pieces published in British magazines during the year.  In Chapman’s Magazine in May, one of her stories appears alongside work by Henry James and Violet Hunt:

Bristol Mercury, Wednesday 6 May 1896
Chapman’s Magazine of Fiction, which begins its second year this month, has been a very marked success.  We are glad to find that Mr Oswald Crawfurd was right in his belief that there was a distinct public for complete stories of the best quality …  
A Modern Ménage by Miss Clara Savile Clarke, is one of the pessimistic studies of loveless society marriages, but the girl with whom the husband flirts and the wife’s tame cat are genuinely in love with one another.  The discovery is dramatically managed, and apparently will tend to a reconciliation … 
Mr Henry James tells the tale of a lovers’ quarrel and a spirit’s visitation, but life is not long enough to get through a story at the rate he tells it.
The reviewer in the Sheffield Independent, Wednesday 6 May 1896, called Clara’s contribution “a worldly-minded dialogue, clever but uncomfortable.”

She had stories published in Cassell’s Magazine in June 1896 [11] and in December, and in the Sketch in November – but I have not, so far, found any trace of her work after that date.  The work that survives reminds us of the talent that was lost by her early death.

It is clear, from a letter written by Aubrey Beardsley to Leonard Smithers, that in 1897 Helen Savile Clarke and her daughter Kitty left their old home at 26 Alexander Street and moved to the grander surroundings of 59 Cadogan Square.  Helen had sold up most of her husband’s library two years earlier.  On 3 March 1897, Beardsley wrote
“… I have just got a letter from Kitty Savile Clarke who groans over the non-arrival of the book of fifty drawings; which non-arrival is explained I imagine by the simple fact that the Clarkes have given up their house in Alexandra Street (No 26) and are now in Cadogan Square (No 59).  I am writing to explain this to her. … ”
Clara may have been living with them, or perhaps she was still in Paris. 

In the event, Helen was to live in Cadogan Square for only nine months.  On 26 January 1896 she died there, probably of a stroke [12].  She was 57 years old.  The informant on the death certificate was Clara, who was present when her mother died.  She was then living at 15 Coulson Street, Chelsea.

The Booth's poverty maps  show that while their old home in Westbourne Gardens was classified as ‘middle class, well-to-do’, and Cadogan Square as ‘upper middle and upper classes – wealthy’, Coulson Street in 1898 was classified as ‘fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings’.  In 1891 it had been occupied by two households: one was a family with small children, plus a lodger and a general servant, the other, a dressmaker who occupied four of the house’s rooms.  Perhaps Clara was in lodgings there in 1896.  Possibly she preferred the artistic ambience of Chelsea to living in Knightsbridge with her mother.

Clara herself was already seriously affected by an illness described by the doctor on her death certificate as “multiple neuritis” (polyneuritis).  She will have suffered loss of sensation in feet and hands, painfulness of limbs, loss of strength and progressive paralysis.

The condition had been identified long ago, and since Roman times there had been an association with excessive consumption of alcohol, but alcohol was far from the only cause – as a disastrous period of misdiagnosis of alcoholic neuritis at the end of the 19th century showed. 

Concentrated mainly in Manchester where there was a high incidence of the condition, it was assumed by doctors to be alcoholic neuritis.  The sufferers were overwhelmingly from the lower classes – the ‘drinking class’ – and were all beer drinkers.  Consequently, the alternative possible causes (including vitamin deficiency and heavy metal poisoning) were not considered.  Only when the number of cases rose acutely was the problem investigated.  The cause was found to be arsenic, which had contaminated for some time the brewing sugar used by approximately 200 breweries across the North and Midlands [13].  As a result of the scientific detective work carried out by Manchester doctors in 1900, medical assumptions of the time were overturned and it was finally realised that alcoholic neuritis was a far, far rarer condition that many doctors had long thought.

In fact, multiple neuritis has many possible causes and we cannot begin to guess at the cause of Clara’s illness.  It can be the result of vitamin B deficiencies or be caused by serious bacterial or viral infections (eg typhoid), by metabolic diseases, cancer and autoimmune disease (eg Multiple Sclerosis).

Steadily Clara’s life will have become more difficult, painful and restricted.  No longer able to write or walk, in the last months her heart began to be affected.

And what was happening to her sister Kitty in the meantime?

Maggie’s decline into consumption and her death in 1894 must have been a very sad blow to Kitty, as the sisters were clearly close.  They must have spent so much of the early 1890s together, developing and practising their skirt dancing routines.

There are a couple of glimpses of them at the theatre together – “Among the audience I noticed the pretty Misses Savile Clarke” wrote the London correspondent to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in May 1891 in a theatre review.

The critic of the Glasgow Herald spotted them in the audience of the dress rehearsals of the comic opera The Vicar of Bray – “The Misses Savile Clark, whose dancing was the feature in last year’s Guard’s Burlesque, were evidently criticising the skirt-dancing”.

Now no longer defined as one of the Savile Clarke Sisters, Kitty was becoming an acknowledged beauty.  The Sketch carried her portrait in late March 1894, a few weeks after Maggie’s death.

She moved in Society circles and amongst the literary and artistic avant-garde.  She was a close friend of the writer Ada Leverson – “the wittiest woman in the world” according to her friend Oscar Wilde – who depicted Kitty as the beautiful Hyacinth in her delightful 1908 novel Love’s Shadow (which is still in print.) 

Kitty’s beauty was celebrated.  The novelist Violet Hunt mentions her bathing at Dieppe in The desirable alien at home in Germany (published in 1914):
“one lady, whom everybody else observed, not on account of her costume, which was normal, but on account of her beauty, which was abnormal – she was the late Miss Kitty Savile Clarke –wearing, day after day, for her morning dip, a black satin stiffly-boned corset over her red maillot, and looking like a well-designed poster as she sat hanging her legs over the sides of the boat to which she had swum.”
A month after their mother’s death, a notice appeared in the newspapers:

Morning Post, Monday 21 February 1898
A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly take place, between Cyril, second son of Mrs Hubert Martineau of 1 Hereford-gardens, Park Lane, and Kittie, youngest daughter of the late Mr and Mrs H Savile Clarke.  The wedding will take place very quietly, owing to the recent death of Mrs Savile Clarke.
Cyril Edgar Martineau was born in 1872, son of London solicitor Hubert Martineau and his wife Elizabeth.  According to newspaper reports of his second marriage, Cyril’s family were related to the celebrated writer Harriet Martineau.

Hubert and Elizabeth Martineau and their large family lived in style at 13 Cumberland Terrace, Regent’s Park – in 1881 the household included a butler, a footman, a cook, a housemaid and two nursemaids.

Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge – where he excelled in amateur dramatics as both actor and stage manager – Cyril became a stockbroker [14].  He was a handsome young man, six feet and two inches tall with dark hair and blue eyes [15] –  so handsome, in fact, that Captain George Nugent in his piece on the Guards’ Burlesque refers to him as ‘Venus’ Martineau.

Kitty had not only her wedding to plan, but she and Clara had to deal with their mother’s estate.  They took out Probate on 18 March; the value of Helen’s effects was put at £8,600-11s-8d.

Cyril and Kitty married two months later, on Wednesday 27 April 1898.  Their very quiet wedding was nevertheless fully reported in the Morning Post:

Morning Post, Thursday 28 April 1898
The marriage of Mr Cyril Martineau and Miss Kittie Savile Clarke took place yesterday at St George’s, Hanover-square.  The bride was given away by Lord Alwyne Compton, MP.  The Hon Malcolm Lyon, 2nd Life Guards, acted as best man.  
Among those present were the Marchioness of Ripon, the Marquess of Headfort, the Earl and Countess of Westmorland, Lady Alwyne Compton, Lady de Trafford, Lady Florence Astley, the Earl of Rosslyn, the Earl of Kintore, Lord Frederic Hamilton, the Hon Kenneth Campbell, the Hon Charles Wyndham, the Hon F Wallop, the Hon Francis and Mrs Egerton, Mr Charles Kerr and Mr Walter Kerr, Mr W G Elliott, Mr Lancelot Smith and Mr Walter Burns, and Mr Arthur Cohen, Major and Mrs Charles Crutchley, Mr Harry Melville, Mr Alfred Maunde-Thompson, and Mrs Hubert Martineau and the Misses Martineau.  The presents also included those from the Marquis Camden, the Countess of Carnarvon, the Earl of Lonsdale, the Earl of Durham and Lady Anne Lambton, Lady Angela Forbes, Lady Mary Sackville, Major and Lady Elena Wickham, Sir William Rose, Mr and Mrs Robert Vyner, Mr John Clarke, Mr Arthur Grenfell, Mr Newton Taylor, Captain Nugent, the Hon Claude Willoughby, the Hon Ferdinand Stanley, Mr and Mrs Charles Beddington, Mr and Mrs Theodore M’Kenna, Mr John Cavendish, and others.  
The bride was attired in a dress made entirely of chiffon and lace.  
Mr and Mrs Cyril Martineau left for Paris in the afternoon.
Clara, in failing health, seems to have disappeared entirely from public view.  A month later, she married. 

By May 1898, Clara was living at 41 Rossetti Garden Mansions, Flood Street, Chelsea.  These mansion flats had been built some thirty years earlier; they were named after Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who had lived nearby.  These were solidly comfortable dwellings for the well-to-do middle class, but they clearly attracted the artistic and literary.  The Middlesbrough-born novelist E W Hornung lived at 14 Rossetti Mansions in 1894, and the sculptor and suffragette Edith Elizabeth Downing lived at 40 Rossetti Mansions between 1893 and 1897.

Clara was married on 10 May 1898 at the parish church of Christ Church, Chelsea to a 36 year old electrician, Alexander Joseph Roblou. He had applied for the marriage licence the day before. 

Alexander (1863-1938) was a widower, whose wife Rosina had died four years earlier aged 30, leaving him with a young daughter.  They had lived at 32 Markham Street, occupying two unfurnished rooms on the first floor at a rent of 7 shillings a week [16]; Rosina had been a dressmaker.  Alexander had grown up in Pimlico; his father William had given his occupation as brass finisher and gas fitter in the 1871 census. 

The trade of electrician – Alexander describes himself as Electrical Engineer on the marriage certificate, and Electrician In Charge on Clara’s death certificate – was a new one.  The first house to be lit by electricity was Cragside in Northumberland (1880), but in 1898 electric lighting was still in its infancy.  Towns were beginning to be lit by electricity (Middlesbrough in 1898) and electric trams were coming into use, but domestic lighting was still generally by gas in towns and cities, with candles and oil lamps also in use – candles and oil lamps were almost exclusively in use in the countryside for many years afterwards. Electrical light fittings designed by the leading names in the Arts and Crafts Movement were however making it increasingly fashionable [17].

How had Clara met Alexander?  His address at the time of the marriage, according to the certificate, was 15 Coulson Street, where Clara had been living in January when her mother died.  Possibly they had been fellow-lodgers there.

How had Clara come to have such a very different marriage from her sister Kitty and from the background in which she had grown up, and what prompted Clara and Alexander to decide to marry at that time?  I have not been able to find out. 

The marriage was witnessed by Kate Powly and Berthe Marie Ayer.  Berthe was probably the Bertha Ayer, who in the 1901 Census was a governess at 4 & 5 Richmond Terrace, Westminster, in the household of William J Cavendish Bentinck and family.  Berthe, born in Neuchâtel in Switzerland, was then aged 29.  I cannot identify Kate Powly for certain, but she is possibly the Mrs Kate Powley, 47 year old widow and dressmaker, who was living at 25 Caversham Street, Chelsea at the time of the 1901 Census.  She was born in Whitechapel.

By the time of her marriage, Clara was very ill indeed.  She died of heart failure six weeks later, at home in Rossetti Mansions on 22 June 1898.  Her husband was with her at the end, and registered her death the same day [18].

Her sister Kitty, as “natural and lawful sister and only next of kin and Heiress at Law”, took out Letters of Administration to her estate.  Alexander had renounced his right to do so.  Clara left an estate of gross value £2,926-2s-10d – made up, one assumes, from the money she had inherited from her parents.  The net value of her personal estate was nil. 

Alexander, I believe, will have been entitled to a life interest in her estate (that is, to receive interest on the net value of the estate).  This must have made his life rather easier, and by the time of the 1911 census, he was an “electrician general” and had become an employer.  He was then lodging in his brother’s house in Pimlico.

Only Kitty remained.

At first she and Cyril lived at her mother’s old address, 59 Cadogan Square.  Perhaps she was still having to spend time sorting through her mother’s and sister’s effects.  By early spring 1901 they had moved to 12 Duke Street Mansions, and by the end of the year they were living at 32 Upper Berkeley Street.

We catch a few glimpses of her in the press.

In the summer of 1899, two portraits of Kitty were on exhibition at the Royal Academy.  Jacques-Emile Blanche, who had painted her and Maggie as The Savile Clarke Girls, had a portrait of Kitty exhibited at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition.  The Liverpool Mercury noted that
“His portrait this year, Mrs Cyril Martineau (1159), is an animated sketch, full of latent power, but obviously not carried far.” 
Kitty Savile Clarke
In February 1900, she was one of the society ladies to appear in costume in the Guards’ Tableaux and Masque at Her Majesty’s Theatre.  This was a charitable production on a grand scale to a huge audience,  in aid of  “the widows and orphans of her Majesty’s Household Troops”.

Kitty was one of the ladies in a tableau representing G H Boughton's picture A Painter’s Dream, and she appeared in the Masque as Prosperity wearing white, with a wreath of red, white, and blue flowers in her hair.

The fashion writers noticed her – in late April 1900 she was dressed in “brown cloth and sable” against the bitter winds [19], and a week later, when spring seemed finally to arrive “Mrs Cyril Martineau, in navy blue and a hat wreathed in roses, was quite out of mourning” [20].

Esmond Martineau, a.6 yrs 3 mths
By then, Kitty was pregnant. 

Esmond Savile Martineau was born on 2 December 1901.  Kitty died five days later.  She was buried on Wednesday 11 December 1901. 

Cyril Edgar Martineau remained a widower for several years.  At last, on 1 June 1907 he married the American beauty, Muriel Delano Robbins, in St Mary’s Church, Tuxedo Park , New York.  Her cousin, the future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of the ushers. 

Cyril and Muriel Martineau made their home in England; she was left a widow with three young children when he died in 1918. 

Kitty’s son Esmond Savile Martineau married in Shropshire in 1924 and had a family of his own.


[1]   With many thanks to Tony Nicholson for the piece in the Chicago Daily Tribune, 30 July 1892 re Helen’s artistic career.  I wonder – could it have been written by her husband, perhaps?

[2]  Henry Savile Clarke and Southwold:
The Ipswich Journal, Saturday 15 May 1886
Holiday Notes in East Anglia
Under the title of Holiday Notes in East Anglia, the Great Eastern Railway Company has just published a highly entertaining “selection of articles which have appeared in the public Press on the holiday resorts in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex” ... [includes] Mr H Savile Clarke’s now well-known Song of Southwold, comtributed to Punch in 1883 – a charming bit of holiday verse – is here found in company with the same pleasant and versatile writer’s stanzas on Walberswick Pier, which first appeared in the World
[3]  Mrs Alma Tadema’s Well Employed – I cannot find a reproduction of this online, but this link will give an idea of the genre

[4]  The first example of Clara’s printed work for which I have found reference was a “dainty bit of simple verse entitled A Letter from Town”, in the words of a report in the Ipswich Journal of 13 December 1886

[5]  Skirt dancing
Rupert Christiansen’s The Visitors (2001) describes Kate Vaughan and skirt dancing – an extract, published in the Daily Telegraph, can be found here

[6]  Eweretta Lawrence was a firm advocate of a national theatre and a national school for dramatic arts, cf this report in the Western Mail (Perth), of 29 August 1891 here

[7]  Clara’s book, The World’s Pleasures, is currently out of print and unavailable as an ebook

[8]  cf Dictionary of 19th century Journalism: in Great Britain and Ireland, ed Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor

[9]  Helen's gift of muslin to Aubrey Beardsley: cf the Letters of Aubrey Beardsley, ed by Henry Maas, John Duncan and W G Good (1970)
Helen is evidently confused with her daughter Clara on  p 93

[10]  Clara’s contributions to The Savoy: Clara is identified as the “new writer”, author of A Mere Man in Letters of Aubrey Beardsley ed by Maas, Duncan & Good, and by James G Nelson in Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the careers of Beardsley, Wilde, DowsonElsa, in the October edition, is stated to be a story “by the author of A Mere Man

[11]  "[Cassell’s] magazine has always been interesting … nowhere will there be found a better collection of crisp, readable short stories, by such writers as Mrs W K Clifford, Miss Savile-Clarke, and Mr D Christie Murray". [Bristol Mercury, 8 December 1896]

[12]  Helen Savile Clarke died of “Bulbar paralysis Syncope, certified by T Clark FRCS”

[13]  See http://www.breweryhistory.com/journal/archive/132/Death_in_a_beerglass.pdf
for the fascinating story of the scientific detective work carried out by the doctors involved in investigating the supposed alcoholic neuritis in Manchester

[14]  In the 1901 Census, Cyril Martineau describes his occupation as 'Stockjobber – Stock Exchange Agent'.  Elsewhere, he is described as stockbroker

[15]  Cyril Martineau is described as being 6 ft 2 ins with dark hair and blue eyes in the record of his sailing to New York in 1907 (with thanks to Tony Nicholson)

[16]  Details of lodgings in Markham Street occupied by Alexander and Rosina Roblou taken from the Chelsea Electoral Register 1892

[17]  For details of electric lighting, cf eg. here

[18]  Clara’s death certificate ascribes death to “Multiple Neuritis, Cardiac degeneration several months, Cardiac failure 4 hours (certified by J D F Mortimer MB)”.  Alexander’s surname is initially mispelt Roblon, but corrected to Roblou

[19]  Kitty dressed in “brown cloth and sables”: The Wrexham Advertiser, Saturday 21 April 1900

[20]  Kitty in navy blue: the Lichfield Mercury, Friday 26 April 1901

Update: 9 January 2017:  For an overview of Art Nouveau, why not have a look at the article What is Art Nouveau? on the new website Artsy?

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