"Village Chronicle and Village Album": the Hand-Written Periodicals and Creative Expressions of the Clark Family's Literary Society in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Anna Vaughan Kett

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

This paper takes us to the village of Street, in Somerset, during the mid-nineteenth century and the world of the Quaker Clark family of shoemaking fame. Less well-known is the private milieu of the family’s home-centred entertainments; one such activity was the family’s literary Society, which was founded in 1846 by Eleanor Stephens Clark, the wife of footwear pioneer, James. Literary societies were well-known in Quaker culture, for even in progressive families, mainstream periodicals were not always deemed suitable for family reading, and thus literary groups flourished and members generated their own reading matter to reflect Quaker values.
Whilst Eleanor, the “Editor-in-Chief” chaired the monthly meetings, her nephew John Aubrey Clark was the “scribe” who wrote up and illustrated proceedings and collated them in bound volumes, to be disseminated, just like a printed periodical, among the extended family for reading and discussion; a borrowing system was put in place, so albums were continually in circulation. Known first as “Village Chronicle”, then “Village Album”, and still running today, volumes of this hand-written periodical survive in the company archive in Street.
Overall, the hand-written periodicals offer fascinating insights into the diverse nature of creative writing in the Clark family. The characters of its founders shines through; John Aubrey, working under the pen name “Adam the Gardener” had a preference for picturesque subjects, reflecting current vogues in the decorative arts for neo-medieval, foliage-entwined lettering. He was also in possession of a wicked sense of humour in mocking the locale and its residents. Eleanor, working under the pen name “Little Eva” was passionate and heartfelt, and the subject matter she tackled was extremely diverse.
Using the list of poetic submissions by Eleanor as the focus, this paper will show the breadth of her experience she narrates within this private-sphere periodical. For example one poem “The Sewing Machine” expresses the misery of women’s work; leisure is the theme in “Four Days in the Highlands”; Christian duty in “Tract Distribution, an Incident in the American War”; and the pleasure she took in the wonders of nature are evident in “Lines on a Bunch of Snowdrops” and “Violets on Christmas Day”. Eleanor’s list also includes serious writing, for example an essay entitled “Cotton” explains the barbarities of plantation life and cruelty to the enslaved. This fits with her many activities as an anti-slavery activist, who was passionately dedicated to avoiding goods made by slave-labour.
Thus this paper discusses the core themes of this conference, as set among the Quaker Clarks; work – leisure – duty – pleasure.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2019
EventAnnual Conference for the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals - University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Jul 201927 Jul 2019

Conference

ConferenceAnnual Conference for the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityBrighton
Period25/07/1927/07/19

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