My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
In a continued project to find out more about Lady Florence Dixie, a pioneer in British Ladies’ Football Club. Between the ages of 10 and 17, she wrote a series of poems that were collected into a book called “The Songs of a Child”.
The poems have been collated by an editor who gives their initials G.L.D (possibly her sister Gertrude Douglas, or her son George Douglas). Whoever the editor is, in their notes they tell the reader that as Florence’s childhood is not well known, these poems will reveal her character. This is despite Florence being well known as a traveller, a writer, a thinker and a philanthropist.
It is clear that an author called Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (who helped popularise the opening phrase “It was a dark and stormy night”) had a close and important relationship with Florence, and the collection begins with a poem he had written to her:
To Little Florrie Douglas – By Lytton
It was by Leman’s shores that first we met:
There first I saw that pensive, fair-haired child.
The water lapped the shingle crested beach,
And the young waves sung graceful melody.
The golden sunset flooded that fair scene,
And lit the stern old walls of dark Chillon
And trembled on that mass of auburn hair,
With all its wealth of wandering waving curls,
And lit the dreaming face, and earnest eyes,
And rosebud lips, until they seemed to be
Not of this world, but some fair vision, reft
From out the clouds. Ah me! I see her now,
I see the picture as it were again
And dream it in my worn-out mind once more.
The collection has a dedication:
Dedicated to George Earle Bulwer Lytton
When he found
A Lonely Misunderstood Child
And to whom he gave a
Peerless friendship and kindly sympathy
Which will never be forgotten.
When Florence heard the Lytton had died in January 1873, she wrote a poem called In Memoriam. This poem was written when she was 22, and it was the only one she did not use her pseudonym of ‘Darling’.
In Memoriam – By Florence Douglas
When all misunderstood midst haunts of men,
Thy pitying spirit came and hovered o’er
The lonely child, guiding her wandering pen
Along the rugged path oft trod before
By those whose muse has sought to right foul wrong
And sway the world by the sweet pow’r of Song.
I found it thee a kindred spirit, born
Of kindred thoughts and far away gold dreams,
In whose deep waters I had all forlorn
Struggled, until thy golden, glittering gleams,
Lit up the darkness in my weary brain
And taught me how to cling to hope again.
That world which had no pity for the child
In her great loneliness, will never know
How thy endearing sympathy beguiled
Her from Despair’s dark path, and made her sow
Once more those seeds whose matured plants may yet
Blossom and bear the fruits thou sought’st to get.
I will not say farewell. If life there be
Beyond the grave, thy Spirit will entwine
It’s kindly arms around me, leading me
Towards that Goal which shall and will be mine
Oh! peerless friend, the first I ever met,
Thy priceless friendship I shall ne’er forget.
Florence uses six line verses with an ABABCC rhyming structure, with each line consisting on ten syllables. It is clear from the poem that she had a difficult and troubled childhood, and that the meeting with Lytton gave her some direction in life. You could even say that Lytton was her hero growing up.
Florence’s father, Archibald Douglas (the 7th Marquis of Queensberry), died in a hunting accident that is thought to have been suicide when she was only three. She wrote a poem called “Father”, which the editor includes annotations so the reader knows who Florence is referring to.
Father – By “Darling”
Dear Father,* I hardly recall you,
When you died I was only three,
And yet sometimes I do fancy too
Your face in a vision I see.
Maybe it is only my fancy,
Yet methinks t’is not always so,
When your face with that of dear Francy**
Wells up from the far long ago.
I remember, yes, I remember
Dear Father the day you died,
No time can extinguish that ember
That smoulders ere on by my side.
I remember your kiss at parting
With I and my dear brother twin,
I remember the sad home coming
When they bore your dead body in.
I remember my Mother’s*** features
With suffering stamped and with woe,
They come back to me these sad pictures
Those scenes of a far long ago.
Dear Father, I treasure that mem’ry,
Though faint it wafts up from the past,
That vision which oftimes reveals thee
So true that it always must last.
*To Archibald, 7th Marquis of Queensberry, killed by the discharge of his gun while out shooting. He was in the Lifeguards and Comptroller of the Queen’s Household. He was best known as Viscount Drumlanrig, “The Bold and Gallant Drum.”
**Lord Francis Douglas, killed on the Matterhorn in the first great accident theron, aged 18 years.
***Caroline, Marchioness of Queensberry, better known in court circles as “The beautiful Lady Drumlanrig.” She was the youngest daughter of General, Sir William Robert Clayton, Bart., of Moorden Park, Surrey, and Harleyford, Bucks.
In this poem, Florence uses a ABAB rhyming structure. In each four line verses, the first and third lines have nine syllables, whilst the second and fourth have eight syllables. This really is a heartbreaking poem: that Florence’s only memory of her father is the day he died, and that she grateful to have such a memory. In the poem, she does mention her twin brother Lord James Douglas, and as you would suspect she wrote a poem about their relationship.
The Twins – By “Darling”
We two are twins, my dear brother and I,
And our hearts are cemented in one,
Together we share beneath the blue sky
Our pastimes, our pleasures, our fun.
Not always agreeing, children are wont
Very often to squabble and fight!
Yet, nevertheless, ’tis not that we don’t
Love each other with all our might
Just watch us at times when we can’t argue,
How we mope and how wretched we are!
Just keep your eyes open, soon you will see
That door is not closed very long I trow,
‘Ere with arms clasped around each other,
We tearfully kiss and make up our row,
Then forget the stupid bother.
“Darling,” he calls me, “Dearest,” I call him
These terms of endearment we christen
By loving assent in each others whim,
And one to the other listen.
Oh! love, so loyal, so firm and so true,
So untainted with self, I wonder
Will other love come between us and you
To tear your sweet tie asunder?
Yes, say will our childhood’s love survive
In that swiftly approaching future?
Ah! would that I could thro’ its surface dive,
And thus make of that question sure.
Better not, but rather bask in our love
Through the halcyon days of childhood,
Together, while yet we can we will rove
In the glades of our joyous mood.
The poem shows that Florence and James had a very close relationship, and explains where she got her pseudonym from.
In the next blog on Friday, I will look further at Florence’s poetry.