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Margaret Connolly (St. Andrews, Scotland)

'Dr Furnival and Mother like the same old books': Mary Haweis and the Experience of Reading Chaucer in the Nineteenth Century

'Dr Furnival and Mother like the same old books': Mary Haweis and the Experience of Reading Chaucer in the Nineteenth Century
The writer and illustrator, Mary Eliza Haweis (1848–98), was the daughter of the painter Thomas Musgrave Joy (1812–66), and wife to the preacher and author Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838–1901). She published a range of books, including a suffragistic novel and several manuals on domestic decor and home management. In addition she translated and adapted various works by Chaucer (mostly stories from the Canterbury Tales, but also some of the shorter poems), designing anthologies that were suitable for children and for adult non-scholarly readers. Haweis illustrated both her own books and those of her husband, and her works skilfully combined her varied interests in art, fashion, history, and literature. Her Chaucer volumes are a mixture of scholarship and popularization. Haweis believed that Chaucer's lines could be enjoyed by anyone who had 'moderate intelligence and an ear for musical rhythm', and she encouraged mothers to read Chaucer aloud (in the original Middle English) to their children. She provided her own modernized translations of Chaucer's verse and pre-Raphaelite illustrations of some key scenes from the tales, but her anthologies are furnished with the type of critical apparatus we would expect in contemporary scholarly editions. For accuracy she checked her text against F.J. Furnivall's Six-Text Edition, and she was familiar with Morris's work on grammar and Skeat's on metre. This essay explores Haweis's overall concerns as a writer, translator, and illustrator of Chaucer's texts, and analyses her views on translation, metre, and the practice of reading Middle English poetry. Her attempts to direct her readers (both children and adults), the success of her works, and her motivation in writing are also discussed.

In 1884 the presses of W.H. Allen and Co. issued Chaucer's Beads: A Birthday Book, Diary and Concordance of Chaucer's Proverbs or Soothsaws. Described by its author as "merely a small popular book" (Haweis 1887: x), this volume contains an extensive selection of aphorisms culled from the whole of Chaucer's works, including the Cuckoo and the Nightingale which at this date was believed to be part of the canon.

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The book is laid out with a facing page format: on the left-hand side of the double-page spread there is a slot for each day of the week which quotes the Chaucerian 'proverb' in the original Middle English, and which then gives both a gloss explaining its literal meaning and the modern equivalent; on the right-hand side is a blank slot for each day, so that the owner can fill in whatever information is desired. Black and red ink is used, so that the appearance of the page generally resembles that of a rubricated medieval manuscript; according to the author, the colours were specifically intended to recall Chaucer's own beads – the rosary with black beads on a red string dangling from his left hand – in the familiar manuscript portraits of him in the British Museum.1 This little book, a pleasing combination of the functional and the decorative, would suit childish hands, but might also appeal to older purchasers who had both the leisure to read and sufficient social obligations to require the organisational properties of a diary. These educated customers, lovers of literature with a certain level of disposable income, are most likely to have been, like its author, Mary Haweis, middle or upper-middle class women, wives and mothers, who were responsible for the running of households and families.

Mary Eliza Haweis (1848–98) was the elder daughter of Eliza Rohde Spratt and Thomas Musgrave Joy (1812–66), the genre and portrait painter who was commissioned by Queen Victoria to paint the prince of Wales and the princess royal, and whose other well-to-do subjects included Sir Charles Napier and the duke of Cambridge.2 In 1867 Mary married Hugh Reginald Haweis who was the incumbent at St. James, Westmoreland Street, in Marylebone. He was a popular preacher and lecturer who travelled extensively, and who also wrote prolifically about music and religion.3 After their marriage they lived in Marylebone, before moving in 1878 to the more fashionable district of St. John's Wood, and then in 1883 to Chelsea to a house in Cheyne Walk which had previously belonged to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Their first child, a son, was born in 1869, but lived for only a few months; three further children, two boys and a girl, were born during the 1870s and survived to adulthood.4

Mary Haweis claims to have prepared her first book, Chaucer for Children, published in 1877, primarily for 'my own little boy', a fact also recorded by the volume's dedication: 'Chiefly for the use and pleasure of my little Lionel for whom I felt the need of some book of the kind, I have arranged and illustrated this Chaucer Story-Book.'5 Haweis suggests that the experience of reading to her son was both educational and inspirational. She tells us that she noticed how quickly her child learned and understood fragments of early English poetry, and that she believed other children would respond in the same way if suitable reading material were available to them. She further believed that children would be helped in their understanding of English political history by a knowledge of the domestic life and manners of previous centuries. Accordingly Haweis subtitled the volume Chaucer for Children: A Golden Key, signalling that it contained the means to unlock the mysteries of the past.

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This emphasis on motherly observation and experience, and Haweis's direction of the preface 'To a Mother', constructs an audience for Chaucer for Children that is comprised of the very young and those responsible for their care, and circumscribes Haweis's field of authority as that of the home. Elsewhere in the preface, when describing her practice as a translator and modernizer, Haweis is careful not to set herself up as a rival to more eminent contemporaries:

... for my own rendering, I can only make the apology that when I commenced my work I did not know it would be impossible to procure suitable modernized versions by eminent poets. Finding that unattainable, I merely endeavoured to render the old version in modern English as closely as was compatible with sense, and the simplicity needful for a child's mind; and I do not in any degree pretend to have rendered it in poetry. (Haweis 1877: xi)

Her apologies and explanations also suggest that the resulting work might be rather simplistic and artless, a diluted, dreadfully simplified version of some of Chaucer's stories for the pre-school child – after all, Haweis's eldest child, Lionel, would have been only seven years old when the book appeared in print, and thus at least a year younger when his mother was reading to him and preparing the book. In fact, the volume is a surprisingly sophisticated product, both in terms of its treatment of text and in its ambitious programme of illustration.

The actual selection of texts is unremarkable, and very much in line with those typically chosen for Victorian children. Along with some extracts from the General Prologue Haweis included a number of the more courtly tales from the Canterbury Tales (the Knight's Tale, the Clerk's Tale, and the Franklin's Tale), as well as suitably amended versions of the Friar's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale. She also included some of the minor poems (the Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse; Two Rondeaux; Virelai; and the Balade of Good Counsel). The main narrative consists of a paraphrase of Chaucer's text in modern English prose, but surprisingly this is interspersed with gobbets of the original verse accompanied by facing translations in modern English verse. Haweis believed that translation into modern English caused the loss of the "beauty and natural swing of Chaucer's poetry" (Haweis 1877: xi), but she conceded that some modernization was necessary to help readers grasp the sense of the text. She nevertheless advocated reading the original text, proposing that "the mother should read to the child a fragment of Chaucer with the correct pronunciation of his day" (Haweis 1877: xii). In order for the mothers to be able to achieve this, she offers guidance in the preface on the subjects of pronunciation and metre, and on the vexed question of final 'e', even going so far as to include phonetic transcriptions for some short extracts from the General Prologue, following the format propounded by the contemporary phonetician Alexander J. Ellis.6

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In the preface Haweis is sweeping, even dismissive, about the difficulties of understanding Chaucer, which she says have been greatly overstated: "An occasional reference to a glossary is all that is requisite; and, with a little attention to a very simple general rule, anybody with moderate intelligence and an ear for musical rhythm can enjoy the lines" (Haweis 1877: x). However, despite this apparently rather unsympathetic attitude, Haweis went to great lengths to help her readers to understand the text, providing the kind of scholarly apparatus that would more usually be found in critical editions. The samples of Chaucer's original verse are supported by on-page glosses even though a modern English translation is also provided. There are footnotes which explain difficult terms and proper names, and endnotes (entitled 'Notes by the Way') which offer discussion about various historical issues and Chaucer's writing. In addition there is a substantial amount of contextualisation at the beginning of the book in the form of a sixteen-page introduction to 'Chaucer the Tale-Teller'. Haweis also calls attention to her scholarly methodology by including a list of 'principal authorities' (that is, a bibliography) at the end of the book, and embedding a careful statement of her editorial practice in the preface where she explains that her text is based on that of Richard Morris's revised edition of 1866, checked against his Clarendon Press edition and various others including Thomas Tyrwhitt, Walter Skeat and Robert Bell.7 In a footnote she notes that she has copied Morris's practice of relying on a 'best text' with occasional substitutions: "This method I have followed when I have ventured to change a word or sentence, in which case I have, I believe, invariably given my authority" (Haweis 1877: xii).

Haweis also correctly recognised the importance of pictures in a child's story book, warning that: "a child's mind, unaided by the eye, fails to realize half of what comes through the ear" (Haweis 1877 xii). Accordingly the illustrations that she devised for Chaucer for Children are lavish in both number and style. The volume has eight colour plates and twenty-nine woodcuts. The colour plates depict some general medieval scenes (a dinner 'in the olden time'; a lady crossing the street), and some of the events and characters from the tales (the pilgrims setting off; fair Emelye; Griselda's marriage; Griselda's bereavement; Dorigen and Aurelius; a rioter from the 'Pardoner's Tale'). These full-page illustrations are rich in circumstantial detail. For example, the sixth, showing Griselda sitting impassively as her child is taken from her, with the relevant couplet from The Clerk's Tale set beneath ("And as a lamb sche sitteth meeke and stille, / And let this cruel sergeant doon his wille", lines 538–9), reveals a richly decorated interior scene where the floor is made up of patterned tiles partly covered by a tasselled rug, and the walls are enlivened by painted panels and a tapestry which itself depicts a fragment of an interior scene.

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The dense and varied patterning of the background contrasts strikingly with the plain blocks of colour that make up the clothing of the sergeant, the child, and Griselda herself. Griselda's costume, though plain, is nevertheless rich: the various folds of her dress reveal its expensive lining, and she wears a handsome collar with a cross, and a decorated head-dress, beneath which her hair is braided with red ribbon. The picture is imbued with terror and pathos. The child's garment is suggestively blood-red, and the sense of imminent danger is heightened by the sergeant's scowling expression and drawn blade. The child stretches out its arms in an appeal to its mother who by contrast, lets her arms hang impassively by her sides, palms uppermost in a gesture of helplessness and inaction; at her feet is an abandoned toy, a wooden horse on wheels with reins and a string to pull it along.

In contrast to the full scenes provided by the colour plates are the diminutive individual images contained in the 'woodcuts' or black and white sketches. These are set into the text like miniatures to illustrate various topics. Thus a sketch of a trestle table is set alongside the discussion of medieval meals: "When Chaucer wanted his dinner or breakfast, he did not go to a big table like that you are used to: the table came to him. A couple of trestles or stands were brought to him, and a board laid across them, and over the board a cloth, and on the cloth were placed all the curious dishes they ate then ..." (Haweis 1877: 2). Other items or figures depicted are a tournament; head-dresses; maps of old and modern London; ladies' head-dresses; a shoe; John of Gaunt; a ship; a stylus; various of the Canterbury pilgrims (the knight, squire, yeoman, prioress, monk, friar, merchant, clerk, serjeant-of-law, franklin); a 'table dormant'; more of the pilgrims (physician, wife of Bath, parson, ploughman, summoner, pardoner, the host); and two pictures of knights in armour. One final image, that of Chaucer himself, in the form of a steel engraving, was included as a facing-page illustration in the discussion of 'Chaucer the Tale-Teller'.

The appendix to Chaucer for Children contains a series of discursive 'Notes on the Pictures' in which Haweis explains her choice of motifs and colour, and offers historical justifications for the particular details she depicts (Haweis 1877: 107–12). The latter are a mixture of the general and the specific; for example, in her notes on the frontispiece, depicting the assembled pilgrims, Haweis writes of the costumes that she gave to the Prioress and the Nun:

Prioresses and nuns are often depicted in violet, in the contemporary MSS; I therefore preferred that colour as more agreeable than black. Gloves such as the Nun's, were occasionally worn in the fourteenth century; the present example is taken from the effigy of William of Colchester, Abbot of Westminster, d. 1420. Gloves of fur, for winter wear, were common in the reign of Henry III. (Haweis 1877: 107)

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Similarly she records the specific source of her inspiration for the representation of Chaucer himself: 'Chaucer's portrait here was originally from the painting in the Harley MS. 4866'; but she also records the liberties that she has taken with this historical image:

I have no excuse to offer for changing the colour of Chaucer's gown from the grey or black in which Occleve always represented him to green, a very common colour at the time, except that it looked better in the picture, and we have no right to assume that Chaucer, even in his poorest days, had only one gown. (Haweis 1877: 107)

The notes bear witness to Haweis's extensive research at the British Museum; in addition to the Harley manuscript of the Regiment of Princes, she mentions consulting the following manuscripts: Royal 18 D.ii ('a fine MS' of Lydgate's Siege of Thebes) from which she took a general image of a medieval town; Royal 2 B.viii, for the image of the medieval dinner; Royal 20, for the portrait of John of Gaunt (mentioning also that she was familiar with other images of him); Royal 14.E.iv for the figure of the monk; and Sloane 1975 for the figure of the doctor. In the last two instances she notes that the images are not drawn from the correct period, being either too late or too early. More elliptical references occur passim: she bases the figure of the ploughman on 'figures in a very ancient Anglo-Saxon MS.'; the tournament in the Knight's Tale is based on 'a MS Froissart of the fifteenth century'; and there are many references to 'early manuscripts', 'various fourteenth-century manuscripts', 'numerous fourteenth century illustrations', and so on. Nor was her quest for visual authenticity confined to manuscript sources: for her representation of the parson she refers us to 'a brass of John Islyngton, vicar of Islington, in Norfolk, in 1393', and the dress of the serjeant at law is said to be copied from 'two effigies of Chief Justices of the King's Bench in the fourteenth century'.8 She also suggests that her childish readers might like to carry out their own verifications of medieval costume when visiting old churches or looking at old pictures (Haweis 1877: xii).

Drawing and painting, along with singing and playing music, were accomplishments which were expected of the nineteenth-century gentlewoman, and Haweis's competence in this regard is informally recorded in her daughter's novelistic memoir which states that "Mother is very clever ... and paints beautifully" (O. Haweis 1939: 15). Haweis came from an artistic background, and she had been taught to draw by her professional father. She had some early, if limited, success as an artist: she exhibited a picture in the 1866 summer show at the Royal Academy which subsequently sold for £15, and she also undertook two portrait commissions for which she earned £30. After her marriage, as was expected of the Victorian wife, her artistic skills were diverted into creating a comfortable, attractive home for her husband and herself.

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Her efforts to do up their first home in Marylebone involved painting the exterior in striking colours (red, black, moss green), and enhancing the interior with all the tricks and effects that she describes in her manuals on home decoration. She was very conscious of her artistic heritage and was thrilled to find herself living in Rossetti's former home. Her artistic style has many similarities with that of the Pre-Raphaelites, though she herself preferred the term 'Art-Protestant', and she shared with them a distaste for what she saw as needless ugliness in modern dress and fashions. She was also deeply concerned with historical authenticity, striving to ensure that her representations of domestic decor in Chaucer for Children were 'all accurate to the most minute detail of furniture and costume – quite correct', a fact recorded by her husband a prefatory note added to the posthumously published second edition of Chaucer for Schools (Haweis 1899: v).

It will be evident that the format of Chaucer for Children went far beyond the needs of the pre-school child, but the preface with its address 'To a Mother' shows that Haweis was also writing for an older reader, the educated middle class woman who very much resembled herself and who shared her experience as a parent responsible for the early years education of her children, both girls and boys. The attractive format of the book, with its old-fashioned typeface, lavish illustrations, and artistic cover, was designed to appeal not just to childish eyes but to this adult readership as well, not least because crucially it was these women who would actually buy the book. This was the audience that Haweis more squarely targeted with her next three publications, The Art of Beauty (1878), The Art of Dress (1879), and The Art of Decoration (1881). The Art of Beauty, with its fourfold division into 'Beauty and Dress', 'Beauty and Head-Dresses', 'Beauty and Surroundings', and 'A Garden of Girls', is mostly concerned with a woman's personal appearance, though this focus is not exclusive and the volume also contains advice about furniture. The Art of Dress, a volume produced to a smaller, cheaper format, covers a great deal of the same ground, and even repeats some of the illustrations from The Art of Beauty; its topics include warnings against 'Wasteful Dress', and advice on 'Cheap Dress' and 'How to Economise'. In general Haweis adopts a sensible tone, favouring nature over artifice, and warning against fashions that might be injurious to health.9

She advocates that dress should be in harmony with the wearer's natural proportions, and advises that it was a woman's moral duty – and one which was especially important for a wife and mother – to take an interest in her appearance: "Do then your best with the body; and next, do your best with its covering" (Haweis 1878: 201). In The Art of Decoration Haweis turned her attention fully to the topic of interior design, incorporating wider issues such as architecture.10 This volume is divided into 'The Search After Beauty', 'A Retrospect of Rooms', and 'General Applications'; in the latter section Haweis explains techniques such as stencilling, and suggests many practical ways by which the ingenious wife might improve her home.

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Throughout these books Haweis was able to combine her knowledge of history, art and literature with a natural interest in fashion and design. Occasionally this results in some surprising conjunctions. In The Art of Decoration, where there is much evidence of contemporary continental trends, Haweis's discussion of stained glass also includes reference to Chaucer's sumptuous bedroom dreamscape in the Book of the Duchess:

And sooth to seyn, my chambre was
Ful wel depeynted, and with glas
Were al the wyndowes wel yglased
Ful clere, and nat an hoole ycrased,
That to beholde hyt was gret joye.
For hooly al the story of Troye
Was in the glasynge ywroght thus,
Of Ector and of kyng Priamus ... (Book of the Duchess, lines 321–27).

These three books on decoration and design were issued by the same publisher, Chatto & Windus, who had produced Chaucer for Children. With the exception of The Art of Dress which is of a smaller format, all are comparatively large-sized volumes which run to many pages. Copious illustration is also a consistent feature of Haweis's early books on decor and of her first anthology of Chaucer's poetry. In the former volumes the impetus to include pictures may have stemmed partly from the subject mattter; fashions, styles, and decorative techniques are most readily explained in a visual manner, and some aspects, such as the discussion of the harmful physical effects of wearing stays, are most effectively clarified with diagrams. In Chaucer for Children, where the illustrative programme consists of colour plates and woodcuts rather than Haweis's more usual pen and ink sketches, the pictures are an indispensable element because Haweis was sensible of the appeal and role of images for young children. A disadvantage of these attractive features was that they made her books expensive. Chaucer for Children, like The Art of Beauty, was priced at 10s 6d, making it a substantial purchase, and one beyond the means of many readers. At this price books were individual investments to be treasured carefully and used for many years, which was clearly part of the intention behind household reference manuals such as The Art of Decoration in any case. The contents of Haweis's works held a latent appeal for a wider, more popular market, but if her books were to sell greater numbers of copies, they would have to be produced to a smaller, cheaper format which would keep them within the financial reach of their potential buyers.

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It is notable that most of Haweis's later volumes published during the 1880s were less extravagant products. This is equally true of the volumes which continue her interest in design and home management: Beautiful Houses (1882), Rus in Urbe: or Flowers that Thrive in London gardens and smoky towns (1886), and The Art of Housekeeping (1889), and those which are based on her knowledge of medieval literature: Chaucer for Schools (1881), and Tales from Chaucer (1887).11 These later anthologies of Chaucer's poetry economically recycle material from their predecessor, and are clear attempts to capitalize upon its success and reputation.12 The selection of texts in Chaucer for Schools extends that offered by Chaucer for Children. In what the publishers' describe as 'a copious and judicious selection', the 'Monk's Tale', the 'Nun's Priest Tale', and the 'Man of Law's Tale' replace those of the Friar and the Franklin; Gentillesse and Proverbs augment the list of minor poems, and various fragments from The Legend of Good Women and The Parliament of Fowls are also included.13 Chaucer for Schools lacks extravagant illustration and is intended as a textbook, but in many respects it is essentially Chaucer for Children repackaged for a slightly older audience. The text is again based on Morris's edition, and the format of the text is identical to that of the former volume with prose summaries interspersed with poetic extracts, supported by on-page glossing and a parallel modernized translation. In the foreword Haweis repeats many of her earlier points, such as the desirability of reading Chaucer aloud, though some of her comments about Chaucer's true Protestantism are new additions.14 What had been in the earlier volume the sixteen-page narrative of 'Chaucer the Tale-Teller' is here extended into a thirty-page introduction discussing Chaucer's life and times, which includes many topics (London, court life, politics etc) still covered by modern companions to Chaucer.15 The discussion of Chaucer's life and times reappears again in Tales from Chaucer (pp. 7–18), this time packaged with a different and wider selection of extracts which includes the General Prologue, and the tales of the Knight, Miller, Canon's Yeoman, Wife of Bath, Second Nun, Manciple, Squire, Physician, Prioress and Pardoner. In this final anthology Chaucer's poetry appears mostly in the form of modernized prose paraphrase, with the elaborate scholarly apparatus of the earlier volumes swept away, yet Haweis maintains her preoccupation with bringing Chaucer's original verse to a wider public by also including some selections of Middle English drawn from The Legend of Good Women, House of Fame, Troilus and Criseyde, Anelida and Arcite, the Balade sent to King Richard (Lak of Stedfastnesse), Gentillesse, the Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse, and the Balade of Good Counsel (Truth). For the first time in Haweis's anthologies some of Chaucer's bawdier tales make an appearance, though various omissions and alterations ensure that there is nothing too rude. A further difference is that in this selection not all of the paraphrases are by Haweis herself: the 'Knight's Tale' is attributed to 'J.B.V.P', the 'Canon's Yeoman's Tale' is by Charles Cowden Clark, and the version of the 'Prioress's Tale' is a verse rendition by Wordsworth.16

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These differences reflect the different, adult audience intended for this final volume which was published in the Routledge World Library series edited by Hugh Reginald Haweis, and which was essentially aimed at the educated working man, or 'persons of small leisure', as the editor's preface would have it. To this end, the diminutive volume was keenly priced at 6d for the cloth edition and only 3d for the paperback, comparing favourably with the price of Chaucer for Schools (2s 6d), and the expensive Chaucer for Children (10s 6d). Hugh Haweis piously hoped that, since the price was equivalent to that of a glass of beer, some male readers amongst his target classes (listed as steerage passengers on transatlantic steamers, grooms, valets, coachmen and cabmen, factory hands, commercial travellers, and shop assistants), might be prepared to substitute a glass of water once a week in order to build up an improving library.

Haweis presents a range of motivations for the creation of her various Chaucer anthologies, stating that she has a desire to educate, particularly children, to widen access to Chaucer's poetry, and to promote the reading of Middle English verse in its original format. Though doubtlessly sincere, these sentiments disguise the less lofty and more immediate purpose of her anthologies and other books, which was to make money. Over the decade in which she was an active publisher her books become less like objets d'art and more like marketable commodities; they become smaller, more pocket-sized, and are more economically priced to generate a larger volume of sales. Haweis's own rate of production also became more efficient: over twelve years she produced ten books, and she also published numerous articles in magazines such as Queen and Contemporary Review. Haweis wrote as a way of supplementing household income. In her parental home money had become a problem after her father's death, a situation perhaps reflected in her daughter's later comment: "Mother would not let us learn to draw as she didn't want us to become artists, she said there was no money-in-Art" (Olive Haweis 1939: 45). Although Mary quickly escaped this impecunious situation by marrying Hugh Reginald Haweis, throughout her marriage money was always in short supply. Her husband's income was modest. His position in Marylebone was a crown appointment, unsupported by a parish, so his stipend of £200 per annum was made up entirely of pew rents – a precarious situation which meant that he had to fill the church on Sundays in order to earn his salary. Hugh Reginald Haweis was a powerful preacher, and his varied interests in music, art, and spiritualism led him to create unconventional services which attracted large congregations. He gained a reputation as a flamboyant speaker, and received numerous invitations to preach elsewhere in England, the colonies, and America. However, his lecturing fees did not always cover his expenses, and like his wife he wrote books and articles for magazines and newspapers to supplement his income.17 His need for extra money was exacerbated by the fact that by the mid-1880s he was maintaining a mistress and later, an illegitimate child.

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Mary Haweis did not become aware of this second family until the 1890s, but the financial difficulties which beset their own household were all too apparent, and so it is not surprising that she should conclude that for a woman housekeeping entailed "much vigilance, much mental strain, much self-sacrifice" (Haweis 1889: 5).18 In her final household manual, The Art of Housekeeping: A Bridal Garland, published in 1889, Haweis writes for girls who are about to marry (including her own daughter), and who must then perforce take on this range of domestic responsibilities. This volume gives advice on choosing and equipping a house, managing domestic servants and dealing with beetles and other infestations. It is the most practical of her books, and also the one which, through its advice on economical budgeting and recycling 'lumber' reveals most clearly that her own domestic situation was far from financially comfortable. Further indications of her marital problems, and her views on the sexually invidious English divorce laws, may be inferred from her novel, A Flame of Fire (1897), where she sketches the unhappy marriage of Aglae Dorriforth and Henry Quekett. In the foreword (Haweis 1897: iv) Haweis explains: "I wrote this story to vindicate the helplessness of womankind; and to show how completely women, like slaves, with their vagaries and irresponsibility, are often but the natural product of their artificial surrounding ... how in fact (to reverse the old proverb) a wife is what her husband makes her."19

Although Haweis wrote her books primarily to make money, she remained interested in them as artistic and scholarly products. When she died in 1898 she was correcting the proofs of the second edition of Chaucer for Schools, into which otherwise unillustrated volume she inserted a frontispiece showing Hoccleve's portrait of Chaucer and a facsimile of an entry in the customs' records believed to be by Chaucer's own hand. Chaucer for Children and Chaucer for Schools both appeared in second editions and were generally well received. Reviews of the latter in educational journals such as the School Board Chronicle and the School Guardian were particularly favourable, often making the point that the book would be equally enjoyed by adult readers.20 Chaucer for Children even succeeded in achieving an unusual twin appeal as scholarly volume and stocking filler: an advertisement for it which faces the title-page of the first edition of Chaucer for Schools quotes from the Academy's review which states that "It must not only take a high place among the Christmas and New Year books of this season, but is also of permanent value as an introduction to the study of Chaucer..." This public achievement was not wholly matched by private success however. Mary Haweis ostensibly began writing for her 'little boy', her son Lionel, but it is her daughter's response, recorded in a fictionalized memoir, From Four to Fourteen, by a Victorian Child, which has endured.

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Hugolin Olive Haweis recalls hearing the stories of Chaucer and Hans Andersen, and remembers some individuals from her mother's circle of scholarly acquaintances: "Dr Furnival and Mother like the same old books" (O. Haweis 1939: 26, 70, 48). Although this last comment is not necessarily a critical one, the bio-fictional account depicts an unhappy childhood. Whilst the child praises her mother's ingenuity: "We were all astonished at Mother's cleverness. I never knew anyone as clever as Mother", recounting games that she could make up and play, and detailing her striking appearance: "how beautiful her clothes are and how her colours are always right and in good taste and Father is so proud of her when she is dressed for a party", she also indicates that this artistic taste could be a trial, leading her mother to bring back 'original' outfits from trips abroad which the child hates wearing. As the narrative progresses the child is more open about not liking her mother, leading to a final judgment which articulates a strong desire for conventionality and conformity: "I do wish Mother could be more like other mothers" (O. Haweis 1939: 65, 67, 127).21


Bell, Robert (1866): Chaucer's Poetical Works. Annotated English Poets, 24 vols, 1854–57; new ed. 29 vols.

Braswell, Mary Flowers (2005): 'The Chaucer Scholarship of Mary Eliza Haweis (1852–98)', in: Chaucer Review 39. 402–19.

Brown, Peter (2000): A Companion to Chaucer. Oxford: Blackwell.

Cunningham, Colin (2000): 'Hints on Household Taste and The Art of Decoration: authors, their audiences and gender in interior design', in: Women, Scholarship and Criticism: Gender and knowledge c. 1790–1900, edited by Joan Bellamy, Anne Laurence and Gill Perry Manchester: Manchester UP, 159–79.

De Selincourt, E., and H. Darbishire (1947): The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Ellis, Alexander John (1869–89): On Early English Pronunciation. 5 vols.

Furnivall, F.J. (1868): Six-Text Edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. London: Chaucer Society.

Gray, Douglas (2003): The Oxford Companion to Chaucer. Oxford: Oxford UP.

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Haweis, Hugh Reginald (1874): Pet or Pastimes and Penalties. London: W.Isbister and Co.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1878): The Art of Beauty. London: Chatto and Windus.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1881): The Art of Decoration. London: Chatto and Windus.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1879): The Art of Dress. London: Chatto and Windus.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1889): The Art of Housekeeping: A Bridal Garland. London: Sampson.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1882): Beautiful Houses: Being a Description of Certain Well-Known Artistic Houses. London.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1884): Chaucer's Beads: A Birthday Book, Diary and Concordance of Chaucer's Proverbs or Soothsaws. London: W.H. Allen and Co.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1882): Chaucer for Children: A Golden Key. London: Chatto and Windus, 1st ed. 1877.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1899): Chaucer for Schools. London: Chatto and Windus, 1st ed. 1881; 2nd ed.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1897): A Flame of Fire: A Novel. London.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1886): Rus in urbe: or, Flowers that thrive in London gardens and smoky towns. London.

Haweis, Mary Eliza (1887): Tales from Chaucer. London: Routledge.

Haweis, Olive (1939): From Four to Fourteen, by a Victorian Child. London.

Howe, Bea (1967): Arbiter of Elegance. London, Harvill Press.

Knight, William, ed. (1882): Wordsworth's Poetical Works, 11 vols. Edinburgh.

Morris, Richard, ed. (1866): 'The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: With Memoir by Sir Harris Nicolas', vols 1–6. in: The Aldine Edition of the British Poets. London: Bell and Daldy.

Morris, Richard, ed. (1872): Chaucer: The Prologue, The Knightes Tale, The Nonne Preestes Tale, from the Canterbury Tales. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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Richmond, Velma Bourgeois (2004): Chaucer as Children's Literature. North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

Schaffer, Talia (2000): The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England, Charlottesville and London: U Press of Virginia.

Tyrwhitt, Thomas (1775–78): The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer.

Skeat, Walter W. (1894–97): The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: Edited from Numerous Manuscripts. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


1 Haweis notes elsewhere her familiarity with the portrait of Chaucer (Haweis 1884: xi.) which occurs in Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes in MS British Library Harley 4866, f. 88r, see p. 7 below.

2 For Thomas Musgrave Joy (1812–1866) see DNB.

3 For Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838–1901) see DNB.

4 For Mary Eliza Haweis, née Joy, see DNB; see also the biography by Bea Howe (1967).

5 See her comment in (Haweis 1881: xiii).

6 (Haweis 1877: pp. xii-xiv) Haweis demonstrates her familiarity with Ellis's work, On Early English Pronunciation, 5 vols. (1869–89), by specific reference to its ''first three parts'' which had appeared by 1870. On Alexander John Ellis (1814–1890) see DNB.

7 She based Chaucer's Beads on Tyrwhitt's edition because it was the easiest in terms of spelling, but she noted that Furnivall's Six-Text Edition of the Canterbury Tales was far superior in interest (Furnivall 1868: x).

8 All these quotations taken from the Appendix to Haweis (1877: 107–12).

9 ''Mrs Haweis has good wholesome notions about the true and the beautiful'', quoted from Haweis (1878) in the Pall Mall Gazette, which was included at the front of Haweis (1879).

10 For a discussion of Haweis's achievements as an interior designer, see Cunningham 2000: 159–79, and Schaffer 2000.

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11 The more ephemeral Chaucer's Beads (1884) has only minimal elements of decoration, as discussed above.

12 The second edition of Chaucer for Children appeared in 1882.

13 A description of ''The Garden'' from The Parliament of Fowls; the passages from The Legend of Good Women are ''The Daisy'' and the ''Sea Fight'' from the legend of Cleopatra.

14 For a more extensive discussion of Haweis's Protestantization of Chaucer see Richmond 2004: 36–48.

15 Compare for example information offered by recent modern companions such as A Companion to Chaucer, ed. by Peter Brown (2000), and The Oxford Companion to Chaucer, ed. by Douglas Gray (2003).

16 The List of Contents also attributes the modernization of the Pardoner's Tale to ''J.P'', but the actual tale concludes with Haweis's own initials (''M.E.H.''); I have not been able to establish the identity of ''J.P.'' Mary Haweis may have accessed Wordsworth's modernization of the ''Prioress's Tale'' in William Knight's edition, Wordsworth's Poetical Works, published in 1882 (ii, 209–19); for a modern edition of the text see The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, ed. De Selincourt and H. Darbishire(1947: iv, 209-17).

17 Several of Hugh Reginald Haweis's books were illustrated by his wife. See, for example, H. R. Haweis (1874), a collection of ten moralising stories for children which included fifty black and white illustrations by Mary Haweis. In the later cheaper edition of Pet, published in the Routledge's World Library Series (1886), Hugh Haweis regretted the omission of ''the numerous illustrations by my wife, which embellished the first English and American versions, and which for many children constituted the great attraction of the book'' (H. R. Haweis 1874: 8).

18 In 1894, during one of her husband's absences abroad, Mary Haweis was confronted by his mistress, Emmeline Souter, and her six-year old illegitimate child. By 1897 the Haweis family's financial situtation had deteriorated to such an extent that they had to move to a smaller, less expensive house at 31 Devonshire Street, Marylebone.

19 Braswell (2005: 417, footnote 1) notes a single copy of A Flame of Fire at the British Library; there are also copies in the Bodleian Library, and in the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.

20 Extracts from such reviews are quoted at the front of the 2nd edition (1899).

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21 For another recently published account of Mary Haweis's scholarly achievements, see Braswell (2005), 402–19. Details of the main archival deposits relating to Mary Haweis, at the University of British Columbia Library, Vancouver (where her son Lionel was a staff member from 1918–1939), and Columbia University, New York, are given on p. 417, fn 8; some further material, relating to the Mrs Haweis Memorial Fund (Society for Promoting the Training of Women), is in the archive of Girton College, Cambridge ( See also the Alice Marshall Women's History Collection at Penn State Harrisburg Library, Special Collections and Archives (