Miss Clara Smith

no-picture-square3Miss Clara Smith, 51, (1881-1964) was a proof reader and reviewer for Time and Tide, edited Lady Rhondda’s just-published autobiography and was contributing to the “New Fiction” column in Time and Tide around this time.[1] [2] [3] [4] Clara was a friend of Theodora Bosanquet from before the war, probably since school in 1898, and they wrote a novel together, Spectators, in 1916. [5] Further reading of Time and Tide would doubtless reveal more of her work and stories. The third of seven daughters of a Lancashire cotton spinner, she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and the University of London, and taught for a while before starting her career in the world of publishing. Fortunately she wasn’t listed as simply Miss Smith on the guest list…. that would have made her into a mystery guest! Steadily we have been able to piece together her life and career.[6] Papers at Girton, where her sister Margaret studied, may yield more information.


Anyone on this Time and Tide table would be fine.


Reactions from her fellow diners to Lady Rhondda’s autobiography which she proof read (and probably wrote parts of) would be of interest.


Clara was born on 9th June 1881, in Preston, Lancashire, the third of the seven daughters (Helen, Alice Mary, Ethel, Florence, Agnes and Margaret) of William Smith, a businessman (cotton spinner) and Alice Ann Tullis, daughter of a Scottish born building contractor.  She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College (1898-1903) and her first year coincided with the final year of Theodora Bosanquet (1896-1898). It is thus quite possible that it was at the school where they started their friendship. In 1904, the same year as she received her B.Sc. from the University of London (Division II), she was employed for short while at Cheltenham to teach science (January to July 1904), before going on to teach at Liverpool Girl’s College from September 1904. [7]

Her sister Ethel worked for a time as a rural postman during WW1, and Agnes (who also attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College) went to Japan to work for a while with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Her sister Margaret became a noted orientalist. Sibling rivalry was there from an early age: on 20 December 1920 the front page of The Preston Chronicle listed Alice Mary (age 10), Clara (9) and Edith (8) each winning 3s, for the respective 4th, 5th and 6th position in Moffat’s Grand Doll Dressing Competition!

In 1906 both Clara and Theodora Bosanquet attended a meeting of the British Association in York, as did some other Cheltenham alumnae and current science students – Theodora had also received her B.Sc. from the University of London).  In 1913 they both played a leading role in organising a Cheltenham alumnae event in London (a Guild Meeting dinner).[8]

A review in the Athanaeum of Clara and Theodora’s novel, Spectators, (Constable 6 shillings) wrote: “A volume of charming and sympathetic letters exchanged between a middle-aged brother and sister, dealing with the concerns of a young sister and her godmother.  Two or three letters from the latter are included, revealing a character in which snobbery and patriotism are wonderfully blended.  There is quite and Austenish flavour in the whimsicality and delicate satire shown by the writers.”[9]

A recent reviewer of Theodora’s work, Pamela Thurschwell, suggests that Clara and Theodora each wrote alternating sections of the book, each voicing the alternate letter writers.  She notes that Spectators came out soon after the death of Henry James, for whom Theodora had been working.  “Her diary entry for March 1, 1916, has her viewing James laid out in his coffin in the morning, but later that day correcting the proofs of Spectators: “My part of the book strikes meas dreadfully bad except in a few patches. Clara’s is all much better—which is just as well”.[10]

In 1920 they were both also noted by the College as holding responsible positions in the secretarial world, Clara being Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Colonies (at the time, Viscount Milner).[11]     

In 1928 we have the first record of Clara in the publishing world, as reader for the publisher Edward Arnold. Perhaps she was working on the company’s medical and scientific publications. Her sister Agnes at that time was also in London, teaching at the Garden City School, Hampstead.[12]

Clara was a book reviewer for T&T in the later 1920s/early 1930s.[13]. In the year before the dinner Clara was definitely busy proof-reading Lady Rhondda’s autobiography –in addition to normal Time and Tide duties.


From 1933 to 1939 Clara was living at 126 Elm Park Mansions, Chelsea, the 1939 census showing Clara Smith, journalist, single, born 9.6.1881, eight months younger than Theodora. She lived in the mansion block for the rest of her life (possibly moving to Wandsworth to be looked after before her death?).

puzzle-piece2-50More information on Clara’s later career would be welcome!  Though we may assume continuing to write for Time and Tide.

In June 1941 The Times reported her attendance at the Hampstead funeral of Mrs Hubert Stuart Moore (Miss Evelyn Underhill), (6 December 1875 – 15 June 1941), other attendees including T. S. Eliot, Mrs Geoffrey Faber and Mrs G.C. Bosanquet.[14] Clara had been the secretary of Evelyn Underhill, an English Anglo-Catholic writer and pacifist known for her numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, in particular Christian mysticism.[15] Was Clara into mysticism like Theodora? It is possible, but the main link would have been her sister Margaret, an orientalist, (1884–1970), who “was a scholar writing on early Christian and Muslim mysticism, ….. from an open-minded Christian perspective. The first westerner to chronicle the life of the Sufi mystic Rábi’a of Basra, Margaret compiled brief histories of other Sufi teachers and their doctrines, translating Arabic and Persian texts into English.[16]

Clara continued to work for T&T until her late seventies, and at the time of her death was Editor of the Crosby Hall Journal.[17]

Clara died, age 82, on 24th January 1964, at 16 Hendham Road, Upper Tooting, London SW17, probate to her sister Margaret, then living at 109 Elm Park Mansions but earlier at No. 11 (when Clara was at 126).  In 1956-58 Clara was also at 109, and living there still at the time of her death.


[1] Reference to a review by Clara Smith, New Fiction: Love and Consequences, of Expiation, by Elizabeth von Arnim, in Time and Tide, 8.3.1929, p 266, cited in Isobel Maddison, Elizabeth von Arnim: Beyond the German Garden, Routledge, 2016

[2] Angela V. John (2013), Turning the Tide, Cardigan, Parthian, pages 436 and 478

[3] Emma Liggins, Odd Women?: Spinsters, lesbians and widows in British women’s fiction, 1850s-1930s, Oxford University Press,16.5.2016 – Reference to Clara Smith, New Fiction, Time and Tide, 19.7.1930

[4] Clara Smith, New Fiction, Time and Tide, 11.7.1931

[5] Thank you to Catherine Clay for this information, quoting Lyall H Powers’ introduction to Henry James at Work, Theodora Bosanquet, with excerpts from her Diary and an account of her professional career.

[6] I am particularly indebted to Mrs. Rachel  Roberts, Archivist at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, for detailed information on Clara’s education and early career.

[7] Examination List, Cheltenham Ladies’ College magazine, Autumn 1904.

[8] The Cheltenham Ladies’ College magazine, Autumn 1913.

[9] As cited in the Cheltenham Ladies’ College magazine, Autumn 1916.

[10] Pamela Thurschwell, The Typist’s Remains: Theodora Bosanquet in Recent Fiction, The Henry James Review, Volume 32, Number 1, Winter 2011, pp.1-11, The Johns Hopkins University Press, citing (Bosanquet, Work 17, 90). Original Diaries. Theodora Bosanquet Papers. bMS Eng 1213.2. Houghton Library, Harvard U.

[11] The Cheltenham Ladies’ College magazine, Autumn 1920.

[12] The Cheltenham Ladies’ College magazine, Autumn 1928.

[13] Thank you to Cathy Clay for that little nugget.

[14] The Times, 20.6.1941, p7

[15] Wikipedia, accessed 20.8.2019 Evelyn Underhill

[16] Wikipedia, accessed 17.6.2020  Margaret Smith

[17] Chelsea News and General Advertiser, 31.1.1964, p5

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