Readers will no doubt recall that Sir John left the Manor for the bright(er) lights of the metropolis in 1810. After this, there was, sadly, a palpable decline of activity amongst the Pitshanger Poets. Many felt lost, without guidance, almost disturbed, not helped of course by the general turmoil of the time. (When are “times” not tumultuous, one has to say)! Let’s just say that productivity was not what it had been. Many of their number were apparently deeply disturbed by the publication of Percy Shelley’s pamphlet ” The Necessity of Atheism”, which had caused his expulsion from the University of Oxford in 1811, but who can say whether this was the true reason for the paucity of poetry emerging from the Manor at this time. In fact, the unseemly fracas which had accompanied Felix Mendelssohn’s first visit to these shores in 1829 (which has already been recorded here), was perhaps all too characteristic of the fractious mood of the poets during this limbo period.
Nature abhors a vacuum however, and whilst the men were twiddling their quills, the women of Ealing spotted an opportunity. Maybe they were spurred on by the fact that Jane Austen had self-published “Sense and Sensibility” in 1811, and that a twelve year old girl had recently discovered a fossil of an ichthyosaurus in Lyme Regis, both earth-shattering achievements way back when they were children. Anyway, two of their number, whose names have been sadly lost from our annals, decided they would make good use of the largely neglected Manor. There is some evidence that this was in the early 1830s, since we know that one of them had travelled to Leipzig around that time to hear Clara Schumann play in a concert. Here was a true “Wundermadchen” for sure - a girl who could defy her father and marry a depressive, unstable (if talented) man and then go on to be the major breadwinner. In 1834, Clara set one of Johann Peter Lyser’s poems to music, and that was that! Our two intrepid ladies determined to persuade her to come to Ealing. The fact that Herr Lyser also wrote under the pseudonym of Hilarius Paukenschlager, convinced them that Clara was the one!
Sadly though, even then, women were not very good at co-operating for their greater good. Our two founders had managed to persuade a number of their friends to abandon at least some of their domestic duties, and to meet regularly in the Manor in order to assemble a collection of poems which might tempt Clara to make the journey to Ealing. These gatherings, however, rapidly degenerated into quasi- committee meetings: ahead of their time maybe, but disastrous for this fledging group. After only two meetings and far too much squabbling and petty rivalry, they were forced to disband: apart from anything else, it had become obvious that their language had become almost the slave of committee-speak. Definitely not good for the muse.
Fortunately, there were no such linguistic problems at our workshop this week. Christine Shirley read first, with a poem inspired by the difficulties many of her close friends are experiencing at the moment. Helen Baker brought a poem about some of the hardships of the contemporary domestic situation. Martin Choules proclaimed No News from people who disappear into thin air to leave the narrator feeling bereft. Daphne Gloag described the arrow of time in a double sonnet, recalling the gingko trees of Hiroshima, defying obliteration. Finally, Peter Francis brought us a poem which is part of a series he is writing on migrants and the displaced.
Those early ladies of Ealing would have been proud maybe, for this week, the fair sex were in the majority. They would have to wait some time, however, for Clara Schumann to arrive in Ealing. She was to be too busy until she had had her children (eight in all), and her husband had passed away, leaving her free to resume her busy concert schedule without hindrance.
But that is for another time…