Helen Waddell

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1889-1965 [Helen Jane; sometime called ‘the darling of Ulster’], b. 31 May 1889, Tokyo, dg. of Hugh Waddell, Presbyterian minister and orientalist; br. Samuel Waddell (Rutherford Mayne), and collateral descendent of Mayne Reid; family home at Cappoquin; returned to Belfast, 1900 [aetat. 10]; mother died of typhoid before return of father, who then married Martha Waddell, his cousin, and died in 1901, leaving 10 stepchildren to her care; ed. Victoria Colleges [School], TCD, BA and MA (MA thesis, ‘Milton, the Epicurist’); wrote bible stories for children while tending to her stepmother; entered Oxford 1919 (Ph.D. in Medieval French); Cassell Lecturer, St Hilda’s College, 1921; taught at Bedford Coll., Oxford, 1922; went free-lance; first female member RSoc. Literature [?1932];
 
received hon. degree from Durham; received hon. degrees from QUB and Columbia, 1934; lionised as England’s most distinguished woman in the 1930s; encouraged Patrick Kavanagh to write The Green Fool (1938); asst. ed. of The Nineteenth Century Journal, 1938; wrote patriotic poems and served as Air Raid warden in WWII London, her own house being bombed; translated articles for Free French writer “Jacques”, published as A French Soldier Speaks (Constable 1941); retired 1945; ‘Poetry in the Dark Ages’ was her W. P. Ker lecture at University of Glasgow, 28 Oct. 1947, a brilliant success; suffered from a progressive neurological disorder; died from pneumonia, 1965; published Wandering Scholars (1927), history and translations from Goliards;
 
issued Medieval Latin Lyrics (1929); trans. Abbé Prévost’s Histoire de Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1931); and Book of Medieval Latin for Schools (1931); translations from Latin, Beasts and Saints (1934), trans. of extracts from medieval lives; The Desert Fathers (1936); also, Stories from Holy Writ (1949), written for children 30 years earlier, and brought out by Otto Kyllmann of Constable; original member IAL, 1926; also Royal Society for Literature, first woman (1931); spent her last years living with her sister Meg at Kilmacrew House, near Banbridge; d. Mar 1965, bur., Magherally churchyard, [poss. Magheralin], Co. Down; there is a portrait in oil by Grace Henry. NCBE DIB DIW DIL OCEL KUN ATT DUB OCIL

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Works
Poetry
  • New York City: A Poem (Wales: Gregynog Press [G. & M. Davies] 1935), 11pp., ill. [woodcuts by Stefan Mrozewski; 350 copies of which 100 signed];
  • Lament for Damon [trans. of Milton’s Epithalamiom Damonis] (priv. 1943), 11pp.
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Fiction
  • Peter Abelard: A Novel (London: Constable 1933), 304pp.; Do. [pop. edn.] (1939); Do. [another edn.] (London: Constable 1940); Do. [another edn.] (NY: Henry Holt & Co. [1949]); Do. [another edn.] (Reprint Soc. 1950), 282pp.; Do. (London: Constable 1957, &c., to 1987), 211pp.
  • Stories from Holy Writ (London: Constable 1949) [stories written 30 years earlier];
  • The Princess Splendour and Other Stories (Longmans Young Books 1969).
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Drama
  • The Spoiled Buddha, play in two acts [prod. Ulster Theatre 1915] (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: T. Fisher Unwin 1919);
  • The Abbé Prévost: A Play [Raven Miscellany] (London: Constable 1933), [6], 57pp., ill. [front. engraved by Horace Walter Bray], 24cm. [edn. of 750], and Do. in USA as Manon Lescaut, trans. from the edn. of 1731 by Helen Waddell (NY: Dutton 1935; Conn: Hyperion Press Inc., 1978).
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Translations
  • Lyrics from the Chinese, by Shih Ching (London: Constable 1913), vii-xiv, 1-41 [42]pp., and num. edn. (1914, 1915, 1934, 1935, 1943, 1945, 1947,) [trans. of 600 b.c. poetry from Court of Soo]; and Do., set to music var. by Arthur Oldham (1951), Eva Ruth Spalding (1953), Alfred Nieman (1967), Roger Steptoe (1986), David Wynne (2001), and Carey Blyton (2002).
  • The Hollow Field, trans. from M. Aymé (London: Constable 1923);
  • Medieval Latin Lyrics: An Anthology with translations and biographical notes (London: Constable 1929), viii, 352pp. [edn. of 100]; Do. (London: Constable 1930 [2nd Edn.], 1931, 1932, 1933 [4th Edn. rev.], 1951, 1952; 5th Edn. 1948, 1958); Do., intro. by Dorothy Brock [3rd edn.] (London: Constable, 1968; also 1971, 1979 [12 imp.], &c.), x, 84pp.; and Do., as Medieval Latin Lyrics [facs. of 1948 edn], intro. by John Scattergood (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2008), 384pp.
  • The Wandering Scholars (London: Constable 1927), xxviii, 302pp.; Do. [another ed., rev. & enl.] (1932, edns. to 1938); Do. [7th edn.] (London: Constable 1942); ; Do. [7th rev. edn.] (London: Constable 1945); Do. [another edn.] (1949), and Do. [another edn.] (Penguin 1954) [DIL 1931];
  • trans. Abbé Prévost d’Exiles, The History of the Chevalier des Grieux and of Manon Lescaut (London: Constable 1931), and Do. [another edn.] (1950);
  • Beasts and Saints (London: Constable 1934) [trans. of extracts from medieval lives]; Do.[another edn.], ed. & intro. by Esther de Waal (London: Darton, Longman & Todd 1995), xxviii, 132pp., ill. [woodcuts by Robert Gibbings], 20cm. [bibl. pp.131-32];
  • Desert Fathers, translations from the Latin with an introduction by Helen Waddell [from Vitae Patrum ed. Heribert Rosweyde, 1628] (London: Constable 1936), viii, 302pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Fontana Library 1962), ix, 209pp.; Do. [new edn.] (London: Constable 1987), ix, 312pp.; Do. [rep. edn.], (Michigan UP 1957, 2001), 209pp.;
  • Poetry in the Dark Ages [W. P. Ker Lecture, University of Glasgow, 28 Oct. 1947] (Glasgow: Jackson 1948), and Do. (London: Constable 1958), 26pp.;
  • More Latin Lyrics from Virgil to Milton, translated by Helen Waddell; ed. and intro. by Dame Felicitas Corrigan (London: Gollancz 1976, 1980), 392pp., ill. 4pp. of pls.; facs., ports.].
    trans. Sedulius Scotus, Life of St. Brigit (Constable [q.d.]).
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Reprints
  • Felicitas Corrigan, ed. [& sel.], Between Two Eternities: A Helen Waddell Anthology (London: SPCK 1993), ix, 198pp.
  • David Burleigh, ed., Helen Waddell’s Writings from Japan (Dublin: IAP 2005), 184pp. [tales, 2-act plays and essays];
  • John Scattergood, intro., Medieval Latin Lyrics [1929] (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2008), 320pp.
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Miscellaneous
  • [Helen Waddell,] The Fairy Ring [ ...] illustrated [Fairy tales for standards I-III] (London: Edward Arnold [1921]), 10 pt., 18 cm.
  • Preface to W. Haughton Crowe, New Education for Old (Belfast: William Mullan & Son MCMXLIV [1954]), pp.9-11 (‘London, 1944’);
  • Aphrodite: A Mythical Journey in Eight Episodes, with etchings by Ann Brunskill & accompanying poems by William Blake [and others]; translations by Helen Waddell, Oliver Bernard & Peter Jay (London: World's End Press 1970) [ltd. edn. of 75 copies signed by the artist];
  • Intro. to by W. F. Marshall, Ballads & verses from Tyrone (Dublin: Talbot Press [1929]), 96pp.
  • Intro. to Rev. William Cole, The Blecheley Diary, 1765-67, edited from the original MS. in the British Museum by F. G. Stokes ([London:] Constable 1931), lx, 392pp.
  • Barbara Willard, Brother Ass and Brother Lion. A play (London: J. Garnet Miller 1951), 61pp. [based on the story “St. Jerome, the Lion and the Donkey” from Beasts and Saints by Helen J. Waddell].
  • David Holbrook, comp., Plucking the Rushes: An Anthology of Chinese Poetry[,] in Translations by Arthur Waley, Ezra Pound, Helen Waddell (London: Heinemann 1968), 118pp.
  • John W. Oliver, Arthur Melville Clark, Augustus Muir, eds., Last Vintage: essays and papers by George Saintsbury [with] personal portraits by David Nichol Smith, Dorothy Margaret Stuart, Helen Waddell (1950).
Musical
  • Before Sleep: Canon for Male Voices, by Gustav Holst & words by Helen Waddell from the Latin of Prudentius (London: Winthrop Rogers Editions 1932), 4pp. [score; accom. by organ or piano];
  • Eight Canons for Equal Voices, Gustav Holst [being] poems from Mediaeval Latin Lyrics, trans. by Helen Waddell (London: Faber & Faber [1965]), 21pp. [score; 26cm.; contains “If you love songs” (Alcuin); “Lovely Venus” (Codex Salmasianus); “The fields of sorrow” (Ausonius); “David's lament for Jonathan” (Abelard); “O strong of heart” (Boethius); “Truth of all truth” (MS of Benedictbeuern); “Evening on the Moselle” (Ausonius); “If 'twere the time of lilies” (Venantius Fortunatus)].
  • The Fields of Sorrow, by Harrison Birtwhistle, for 3 flutes, 3 English horns, 3 bass clarinets, 3 bassoons, horn, vibraphone, 2 pianos, 2 sopranos and mixed chorus (London: Universal Editions 1973), 19pp. [score];

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Criticism
  • Monica Blackett, The Mark of The Maker [Biography of Helen Waddell] (London: Constable 1973), 256pp., ill. [2 ports.];
  • Felicitas Corrigan, ‘Helen Waddell, Scholar and Author’, in George O’Brien and Peter Roebuck, eds., Nine Ulster Lives (Ulster Hist. Foundation 1992), pp.53-72;
  • Dame Felicitas Corrigan [OSB], Helen Waddell, A Biography (q.d);
  • Norman Vance, Helen Waddell: Presbyterian Medievalist [Robert Allen Memorial Lecture] (Belfast: Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland 1996), 20pp.;
  • Wolfgang Zach, ‘The Spoiled Buddha: Intercultural and Gynocentric Dimensions of an Irish Play’, in ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, 3 ([Sao Paolo] June 2001), pp.41-48.
  • David Burleigh, ed., Helen Waddell’s Literary Writings from Japan (Dublin: IAP 2005), 224pp.
  • Mark Phelan, ‘Beyond the Pale: Neglected Northern Irish Women Playwrights - Alice Milligan, Helen Waddell and Patricia O’Connor’, in Women in Irish Drama: A Century of Authorship and Representation, ed. Melissa Sihra (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2007), q.pp.
 
See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 5; Norman Vance on Helen Waddell in Alvin Jackson & David N. Livingstone, eds., Queen’s Thinkers: Essays on the Intellectual Heritage of a University (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2008), q.pp.

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Commentary
Mary Campbell [Books Ireland, April 1993]: her father went to Tokyo for the Scottish mission; when his wife died leaving him with ten children, he remarried a woman who proved possessive and kept Helen at home for ten years, so that she began her education at Queen’s and continued at Oxford in her late twenties. She proceeded to Oxford, where she won a scholarship to travel to France, and was a close friend of Enid Starkie there, her former school friend in Belfast. She worked as a reader for her publisher Constable, and had a long-term affair with Otto Kyllmann; she also had the talent that various academic gentlemen such as Saintsbury used send her money.

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References
Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979),, gives bio-data: b. 31 May; returned to Ulster, 1900; attended Victoria College and QUB, BA 1991, English MA, 1912; postponed further study at Oxford till 1919, caring for her stepmother; wrote children’s bible stories for Presbyterian weekly, and wartime propaganda for Manchester Guardian, &c.; taught Latin at Somerville, 1920-22; Ca[s]sell Lecturer at St Hilda’s, 1921; Susette Taylor Travelling Fellowship, 2 years; briefly lectured at Bedford, 1923; moved to London; lectures and BBC work; DLitt, Durham; IAL, 1932; joined Constable and Co. as literary advisor; unable to recognise her closest friends by 1955. The Wandering Scholars is a study of Europe’s ‘real’ Renaissance at Chartres, Orleans, Paris, in the 12th c., and its bye-product, Ordo Vagorum, the bohemian literati of the day. Medieval Latin Lyrics is a collection of literature from fall of Rome to the Cluniac Movt. Peter Abelard is criticised as a scholar’s work, failing to confront realities of the day.

Belfast Central Library holds Peter Abelard (1933, many rep. to 1976); Wandering Scholars (1927).

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Notes
Peter Abelard (1933), a novel in four books, ends ‘“Curiosa dolore plaga nostra curata est; et lapsus nostros laina ruina suscepit [ By whose grief our wound is healed; by whose ruin our fall was stayed]”. I wonder. Is that what men have asked of God?’ (p.304.)

Letter to The Times (q.d.): Helen Waddell wrote to The Times objecting to the denial of reprieve for six youths sentenced for killing a policeman, since House of Lords was not in session: ‘is the memory of a kindly Ulster policeman to become a thing of horror in men’s minds ... thanks to the savagery of his avengers?’, and was answered by Dorothy L. Sayers, ‘no Irish person ever understood the majesty of England and lost no [sic] chance to vilify it.’ (P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.17.)

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Patrick Kavanagh, on reaching London: ‘Miss Helen Waddell was in, and in to a stranded poet. she received me as the prodigal was received.’ (The Green Fool; both the foregoing cited in Kavanagh, op. cit., p.47.) See also Helen Waddell’s recollection: ‘I quickly ascertained that there was a fund of rural reminiscence [...] not yet tapped in his writing.’ (Quoted in Antoinette Gibbons, Patrick Kavanagh, Gill & Macmillan 2001, p.13; cited in Claire Callan, UG Diss, UCC 2003.)

Portraits: Helen Waddell by Grace Henry, lent Mrs Martin; see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition Cat. (Ulster Mus. 1965), Helen Waddell, Somerville Coll, Oxford, Lecturer St. Hilda’s Hall, 1922-23; Lectures at Bedford College, London.

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