Iris aged about eleven although it is hard to believe from her dress and shoes that this is only 1914 – the photograph looks far more modern. Laing, who is the subject of this week’s Persephone Post, was born in 1872 and studied drawing in Cambridge. In 1899 she and her husband moved to Bury Knowle House in Headington, Oxford and she took up photography. She built a dark room and started using the Autochrome colour process when it became available in 1907. These are her daughters Janet and Iris in c. 1914.


William Havell (1782-1857) drew Sandycombe Lodge, then an engraving was made by WB Cooke and later still the engraving was coloured in. The original engraving can be seen on the Tate site here. Of course the surroundings are completely different now, but the garden is going to be restored, the house is now very much as it was, and we look forward to having a Persephone outing one day to view this excellent revival of a neglected masterpiece.


‘The Windmill and Lock and Sandycombe and Yorkshire sketchbooks include significant material relating to the genesis of Sandycombe Lodge, Turner’s small, self-designed house at Twickenham, then in the countryside to the west of London.
The artist had previously rented homes on the Thames up-river from London, at Isleworth and Hammersmith. He regarded the Thames west of London with a reverence founded on its associations with favourite poets such as James Thomson and Alexander Pope; he often sketched and painted the Thames in its modern aspect and also as an inspiration for classical compositions. Another of his heroes, Sir Joshua Reynolds, the President of the Royal Academy, had lived on Richmond Hill, with its famous view west across the Thames meadows to Twickenham and beyond as shown in Turner’s ambitious and evocative painting England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday.’ (From the Tate website here.)



This was the kitchen, now restored with a range (presumably sourced from eBay e.g. this one) and a table and a dresser with blue and white china, all as they would have been in Turner’s day.

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Sandycombe Lodge in 1970. The most spectacular thing the builders have done in recent months is return the two wings on either side to how they were originally: they have demolished the second floors and turned them into single story wings with beautiful sloping tiled roofs. Turner designed the house as a ‘lodge’. There was the drawing room (with the balcony on the garden), the kitchen in the basement (with the curved window) and the bedroom upstairs (with one very small dressing room at the side).  One single story wing was a library and the other a small sitting room. And that was it. So visitors to the newly-restored house will be amazed by how small it was. But for Turner the most important thing was the garden and the view towards the Thames. Our ancestors needed much less space than us. For one thing they had fewer things. And for another they simply lived more minimally. The perils of living in a consumer society…

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Inspired by the marvellous film about Turner (we sell it in the shop) Persephone Books has supported the restoration of the 1814 house, Sandycombe Lodge, Turner built for himself in what was then the countryside near Richmond and is now a suburban street (nearest station St Margaret’s). Last month, as the restoration nears completion, we had a visit. This is the house before work started, just after the death of the admirable Professor Livermore who, with his wife Ann, owned it from 1947- 2010 and bequeathed it to Turner’s House Trust.


And in this photograph  Dorothy Canfield Fisher is probably 70. We at Persephone Books love and revere her, and her work, and shall be reprinting another of her novels in the near future. But a kind reader from Minnesota wrote and told us that she is being punished retrospectively for not anticipating C21st political correctness, here. In fact you could not have had a kinder, more compassionate, more tolerant and good person than Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It is terrifying to think that what one writes in all innocence in 1937 or 2017 might be deemed critical or unkind or intolerant in a hundred years. But that is the way of the world and the great Dorothy Canfield Fisher would have been wise and understanding about it.


Even on third or fourth viewing the 1925 film of The Home-Maker (which we showed in the shop yesterday afternoon) was superb. Dorothy Canfield Fisher herself was stunned by its subtlety and insight: and it must be quite rare for an author to love the film of their book.


This is a heartrendingly wonderful  photograph – the young girl’s beauty has been overlaid  with the beauty of the older woman who has too much going on in her life (and in Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s case has endured WW1 at first hand in France). She is maybe 40. She is exactly how a woman of 40 should look… She was at the height of her writing career and about to write The Home-Maker.

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