The Edwardian Lady
Edith Blackwell Holden (1871-1920) was a British artist and art
teacher, known in her time as an illustrator of children's books. Much influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, she specialized in painting animals and plants. Holden was made famous by the posthumous publication, in 1977,
of her "Nature Notes for 1906" under the title The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.She was living in Kineton
Green Road, Olton, Solihull in 1905-6 when she recorded the notes The collection of seasonal observations,
poetry, and pictures of birds, plants, and insects, which was never even considered for publication when it was composed,
has the nostalgic charm of a vanished world seven decades later. It was a best seller.
Edith's mother, a Unitarian, was Emma Wearing, a former governess who wrote two religious books, Ursula's Childhood
and Beatrice of St. Mawse
, published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge
. Her father, also a Unitarian, was Arthur Holden, owner of a factory in Birmingham and a philanthropist. Edith's middle name
honoured the pioneer woman physician, Elizabeth Blackwell, also a Unitarian and the Holdens' cousin. The Holden family attended
the Birmingham Labour Church.
During the 1906-09 school years Edith Holden taught at the Solihull School for Girls. She fashioned her "Nature Notes
for 1906" as a model for her students' work. Then, like her younger sisters, Holden became an illustrator. She illustrated
four volumes, 1907-10, of The Animal's Friend, a magazine of the National Council for Animals' Welfare, and a number
of children's books, including The Three Goats Gruff. Her paintings were often exhibited from 1890-1907 by the Royal
Birmingham Society of Artists, and by the Royal Academy of Arts in 1907 and 1917.
In 1911 Edith Holden married Ernest Smith, a sculptor who became principal assistant to Countess Feodora Gleichen. At
the Countess's studio in St. James Palace the Smiths associated with leading artists like Sir George Frampton, sculptor of
the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and royal visitors such as King Faisal of Arabia. Meanwhile, Edith continued
her career as an illustrator.
This much is known about the nine years of her married life, until her death.
On Tuesday, 16th March 1920, she was found drowned in a backwater of the River Thames, near Kew Gardens Walk.On
the prior Monday morning Edith had complained to Ernest of a headache, but this was not uncommon and the matter had not
been dwelt on. The main subject at breakfast had been the impending visit of some friends for Easter, to which Edith was looking
forward. Ernest left for the studio at St. James's Palace and Edith said that she would probably go down to the rivr later
to see the University crews practising.
When Ernest returned home that evening his wife was out but the table had been laid for the evening meal, and Ernest
assumed that she was with friends. It was not until the next morning that he learned the truth. Her body had been found at
six o' clock on the Tuesday morning. The inquest established that she had tried to reach a branch of chestnut buds. The bough
was out of reach and with the aid of her umbrella Edith had tried to break it off, fallen forward into the river and drowned.
The only biography of Holden is Ina Taylor's The Edwardian Lady: The Story
of Edith Holden (1980). Following the publication of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady in 1977, a children's
book, The Hedgehog Feast, with watercolours by Edith Holden and a text by her great-niece Rowena Stott, was released
the following year. Holden also illustrated Daily Bread (1910) by Margaret Gatty, Woodland Whisperings (1911)
by Margaret Rankin, and a series of undated children's books published by Henry Frowde/Hodder & Stoughton-Animals Around
Us, Birds, Beasts and Fishes, The Three Goats Gruff, and Mrs Strang's Annual for Children.
the Wikipedia entry
the author of
this is Ina's website,
and very nice too
from the past and the present.
photographs of the area
where Edith Holden was born