[Great Britain]: 1897-1904. Black sheep over boards, with pink and gilt endpapers. Measuring 6 x 7.5 inches and comprised of 34 pages of handwritten poetry and original illustrations by a variety of contributors, mostly women. Documenting this young community's shifting tastes and growing awareness of a world more liberal than that of their mothers, this friendship book contains a fascinating array of poetry, landscapes, fashion drawings, and satirical cartoons. The owner, Constance Myra Padgett, appears to have departed the U.K. five years after this book concludes, with her name appearing on the passenger manifest for the September 1909 voyage (Liverpool to New York) of the White Star Line's ship The Arabic.
The community contributing to the present commonplace album was talented and witty; and across these seven years, their entries give insight to a changing world and a shifting concept of femininity. Early entries near the turn of the century often feature richly colored florals accompanied by poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Sir Walter Scott. Within those years also appear detailed landscapes that showcase ladylike sketching skills, and studies of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Yet a sea-change is occurring, and it is visible in these pages. As the century shifts, the Pre-Raphaelite portraits are replaced with deco-style fashion plates; and an influx of cheeky, satirical cartoons replaces the prim landscapes. A 1903 drawing depicts women refusing to go skate with "those curate chaps" because they're "hunting men, by George!" Another depicts a cat, Signor Purrski, wildly playing piano. Helena Laren declares in a poem from 1900, "The French have taste in all they do, which we are quite without" before moving into a bilingual joke about taste and feeling.
An exceptionally interesting and pleasing manuscript, with rich research possibilities including but not limited to genealogy and cross continental immigration, art, turn of the century satire, historical shifts in literary taste, women's education, and gender studies. (Item #3368)