Rain fell steadily throughout most of the day. Jackie drove us this afternoon to Ferndene Farm Shop to buy three bags of compost. It was evidence of the improvement in my left hand that I was able, for the first time not worried about getting it wet, to pick the bags off the pile outdoors and load them into the boot of the car.
Beginning his recent erudite blog post entitled Venice Inscribed (vi): Mr Ruskin and Mr Street, Jackie’s cousin Adrian Barlow writes:
‘On May Day each year I open a small book, bound in red calf and with the signature ‘John Ruskin’ embossed in gold on its cover. It belonged to my grandmother and was given to her on May 1st, 1912, while she was studying at Whitelands College in south London. The date is important. In 1912, my grandmother, about to leave Whitelands to start her career, had been one of the attendants at the College’s annual ‘Crowning of the Queen of the May’ ceremony: my book carries the inscription “This book is given to Vera Dove. Signed Alice, Queen of the May, 1912” A book plate on the inside cover explains that this ‘quaint old ceremony’ had been revived at the College in 1881 ‘at the request of John Ruskin “to give real and elevating pleasure to the young”.’ Ruskin himself, during his lifetime, had presented a cross each year to the Queen of the May, together with ‘many purple calf-bound copies of his books, to be distributed to her subjects’. Both ceremony and book giving continued after Ruskin’s death.
The book is Ruskin’s A Joy Forever.’
Vera is the grandmother shared by these two cousins. Adrian followed up this piece by sending me three photographs he thought would be of interest, and today I made prints of the two portraits of their grandmother for Jackie and her sisters.
This was a 21st birthday picture taken about 1912;
and this is what the well dressed young woman wore for what we think was the occasion of her engagement to Albert Rivett in 1917.
Three-quarters profile seems to have been the subject’s preferred pose. It certainly suits her.
In the e-mail to which Adrian attached these images he asks whether we think that Vera might be one of the two attendants leading the procession behind the May Queen and her train bearer in 1912. We know she was definitely an attendant that year because of the inscription in the Ruskin book.
In 1881 she was in mourning, so was provided with a white shawl for the event. I suppose that was acceptable.