Edith Nesbit was an unconventional woman, a late Victorian writer, a socialist, a sometime-poet. In 1880, at the height of Victorianism in England, Nesbit married Hubert Bland when she was 7 months pregnant.

Their stormy marriage lasted 35 years until his death in 1914, and was punctuated with painful betrayals. Bland was described by his contemporaries as “an infamous libertine”. He was engaged to another woman when he married Nesbit, with whom he had a child.

Hubert Bland

The couple had four children together, but early on in their marriage, Nesbit miscarried and her best friend Alice Hoatson came to help out until Edith recovered. Though her husband’s indiscretions were known to her, Nesbit suffered a terrible shock when she discovered Hubert and Alice were having an affair, and Alice was pregnant.

Hurt and outraged, Edith demanded Alice leave. Incredibly, Hubert rebuked her for wanting to put Alice out, and instead convinced her to adopt the baby and to allow her former friend to stay on as their housekeeper. And Bland was not quite done: thirteen years later, he and Alice had a second baby together. Again Edith adopted the baby.

In 1905, Nesbit published a book of poetry called The Rainbow and the Rose. It contained a poem called APPEAL that was probably inspired by her husband. Nesbit is known for her novels, not her poetry, but this short poem is very good. It perfectly captures a tormented mind, trapped in an insane life.

 

APPEAL

By Edith Nesbit

Daphnis dearest, wherefore weave me
Webs of lies lest truth should grieve me?
I could pardon much, believe me:
Dower me, Daphnis, or bereave me,
Kiss me, kill me, love me, leave me,-
Damn me, dear, but don’t deceive me!

BARTER

Sara Teasdale
Sarah Teasdale (1884 – 1933)

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things;
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell;
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And, for the Spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Give all you have for loveliness;
Buy it, and never count the cost!
For one white, singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost;
And for a breath of ecstasy,
Give all you have been, or could be.

 

Adela Florence Nicolson (née Cory) is a British poet who wrote under the pseudonym Laurence Hope.

Adela Florence Nicolson (Laurence Hope)
Adela Florence Nicolson (Laurence Hope)

Details of her life are scant. At age 16, she left England to live with her father in India, where she remained for the rest of her life. She married a fellow Englishman few years later, who was many years older than her, and they had a son together. Adela, whom friends called Violet, and her husband became immersed in the Indian culture. This culture featured prominently into her poetry.

Laurence Hope’s book of poems The Garden of Kama was published in 1901. Stars of the Desert followed in 1903. The sudden and unexpected death of her husband, who was much older than she, threw the poet into a severe depression and she self-administered a fatal dose of poison in 1904. She was 39 years old.

In 1922, Laurence Hope’s son published a book of his mother’s poetry entitled Selected Poems. Few people read her poetry today. In her day though, her works were famous; her Edwardian and Victorian contemporaries were fascinated by the strange imagery her writing evoked.

The poem copied here was originally published in The Garden of Kama in 1901. Enjoy!

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