On the 27th April this poet is remembered in the Church of England’s calendar. In a very short summary of her life to be found in a guide to the saints of the Cof E I just read that she was a minor deity in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose elder sister became an Anglican Religious. And that her own claim to fame was that she wrote some religious poetry and a few sorrowful love poems, but above all that she wrote In the bleak mid-winter. Born in 1830 she died in 1894.
I know that the book I referred to had to be concise, but such a precis seems brutally brief. Not a lot better than the popular impression of her as a bit of a religious nut, who wrote poems dreary and trite, flirted with life, and didn’t get out much.
I wish I had more knowledge of her and her context, but I am positive that her mastery of verse, her deep friendships, and her active involvement in demanding charity work indicate that she was a less fragile personality with a much richer life than such simplifications, however necessary, would lead us to believe. She was a habitual visitor to nearby London Zoo, and while some would no doubt assume she was drawn in by her affinity for fellow creatures in confinement, I see instead an indication that she was able to delight in one of her day’s and ours most simple and direct pleasures.