Mabel Dearmer


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(1872–1915) married (1891) Percy Dearmer (1867–1936). The daughter of an army surgeon, she was educated at home and at Herkomer's School of Art, Bushey. In the memoir prefixed to Letters from a Field Hospital (1915), Stephen Gwynn speaks of a ‘lonely childhood’ and a ‘precocious and uneasy girlhood, fevered with ambition’, in which she advanced extreme socialist views in opposition to a conservative step-father. She married young a poor clergyman, a member of the Fabian Society, and to help pay the bills contributed stories and pictures to the Yellow Book. She also illustrated children's books, and wrote novels and plays for adults and children. The Spectator called The Noisy Years (1902) ‘A faithful and charming picture of childhood in the present day’. The Alien Sisters (1908), set largely in Cornwall, describes the marriage between far-from-spotless Sir Raymond Templeton and Elizabeth Grahame, a pure young woman whose girlhood has been spent ‘in preparation for the disillusion of marriage’. Sir Raymond fathers one daughter, Ruth, by his wife, and another, Rose, by his rapacious and embittered mistress, Rosalie de Winton, whom we first see attended by a leering elderly admirer, raining blows on her 3-year-old daughter (brutality topped only by her laughing account of the death of an over-affectionate dachshund). The Difficult Way (1905) also concerns a marriage entered into in all innocence. Other fiction includes The Orangery: A Comedy of Tears (1904), Brownjohn's (1906), and Gervase (1909). Dearmer's husband was a clergyman and hymnologist who wrote extensively on church music and ecclesiastical art. She died of enteric fever while working in a hospital in Serbia during the First World War.

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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