Women on Nature

By Katharine Norbury

A wide-ranging and timely new perspective on writing about the natural world and our place within it

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Three Dorothys

Many of you have been complimentary of Holly Ovenden’s cover design for Women on Nature. When Jane Wellesley, the granddaughter of the poet Dorothy Wellesley, saw it she sent me this beautiful watercolour of snakes head fritillaries which her grandmother had painted. Fritillaries also appear in Vita Sackville-West’s poem, The Land, and is one of the many connections and synergies which have kept appearing throughout the researching of this book. The Land (an extract of which appears in the anthology) was dedicated to Wellesley, whose own poetry also appears in the present volume. Dorothy Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington, was regarded by the Irish poet W.B. Yeats as being one of the most talented poets of her generation. Even so, the last collection of her poetry was published in 1955, and it is a great joy to be able to share her work with a new readership. Thank you to Jane Wellesley for introducing me to Dorothy Wellesley’s poetry.

On 2nd January I heard a fascinating radio broadcast, The Hindu Bard, about the first woman and the first person who wasn’t British to win the Bardic chair at the 1914 Aberystwth Eisteddfod, while still a teenager. Entries to the Eisteddfod are anonymised, so it was only when the pseudonym of the winner was announced that the nineteen-year-old Dorothy Bonerjee rose, to great applause and excitement, to claim the honour. Again, I am delighted to be able to include one of Dorothy Bonarjee’s poems in Women on Nature, and thanks are due to both Andrew Whitehead, for making the documentary, and Sheela Bonarjee for permission to reproduce her aunt’s work. The link to The Hindu Bard is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct1d0z

Dorothy Pilley was a climber and mountaineer. Her memoir, Climbing Days, was first published in 1935. In 1928 Pilley made the celebrated first ascent of the north arête of The Dent Blanche, Switzerland, with Joseph & Antoine Georges and her husband, I.A. Richards. A few years ago I had the privilege of reviewing a new Climbing Days, by Pilley’s great, great nephew, Dan Richards, who had followed in her footsteps to climb The Dent Blanche. Dan subsequently lent me a copy of Pilley’s original Climbing Days and it is wonderful to be able to include her cracking and hair-raising account of climbing in Snowdonia in this volume. Thank you, Dan Richards, for introducing me to Dororthy Pilley's work.

The subscriber’s list for Women on Nature closes at midnight on Sunday, 24th January so this is the last week for having your name listed as a supporter, though the book will still be available to order on Unbound’s website after this date. Signed prints of Holly’s cover design will also be available to buy, and I attach the link here. https://unbound.com/books/women-on-nature/

With warm wishes, Kate

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Victoria Mier
 Victoria Mier says:

Thank you for this - and for sharing the exquisite watercolour. I love snakeshead fritillaries. So looking forward to the book!

posted 20th January 2021

Katharine Norbury
 Katharine Norbury says:

Thank you, Victoria!

posted 20th January 2021

Jude Henderson
 Jude Henderson says:

How fantastic, really delighted to see this. It feels as though you will have enough for another volume at this rate!

posted 20th January 2021

Orlagh O'Farrell
 Orlagh O'Farrell says:

This is going to be a book to treasure. Thanks for the fascinating background and lovely drawings!

posted 20th January 2021

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