Miss Eleanor Farjeon

eleanorMiss Eleanor Farjeon, 52, (1881-1965) [1] was a socialist, pacifist, children’s writer, and is still associated with the hymn “Morning has Broken” and her collection “The Little Bookroom”. Under the pseudonym of “Chimaera” she contrubted her vers to Time and Tide. Her importance in this circle is underlined by the fact that Catherine Clay devotes a full chapter [2] to Eleanor’s work at Time and Tide. By now she was in a position where she “could find a publisher for whatever she cared to write”. She sounds just like some who would be a great dinner companion on an evening of celebration, away from the hurly burly – and if you had something on your mind she would probably help you relax.

SEATED BESIDE

Eleanor would have made an ideal companion for both the young Barbara Hayes as well as Harriet Ellis-Roberts. I don’t know whether or not she was one who saw eye to eye or not with Richard Ellis -Roberts, but this table of four would almost certainly be a friendly conversation and steering away from the tricky issues that hampered Richard’s tenure at Time and Tide. A chance to get away from the office I think.

WHAT’S ON HER MIND?

Wanting to hear people’s views, she strikes me as a good listener. Like Harriet Ide / Mrs Ellis-Roberts, she had an American grandmother.

ELEANOR’S STORY SO FAR

Eleanor Farjeon was born on 13th February 1881 at Buckingham Street, off the Strand (London) into a literary family and environment and house full of books. Her mother Margaret Jane Jefferson (1853-1935) was the daughter of Joseph Jefferson, a famous American actor and her father, Benjamin Leopold Farjeon (1838 -1903) was a prolific Victorian novelist of Jewish descent. When her father died in 1903, leaving no money, Eleanor, at 22, had to write for her living and emerge from her long “dreamy” childhood (she was educated privately).

Her “most memorable single work”, the romantic fantasy Martin Pippin in the Apple-Orchard (1921) was written after some years living alone in Sussex and “its reception, and particularly a perceptive notice by Rebecca West, established her as a writer”. That said, amongst her most important works were her children’s books, and today her award winning collection of short stories, The Little Bookroom (1955), is perhaps one of the most widely known. In 1920, she returned to London, spending the rest of her life in Hampstead. Amongst other work, in this decade she wrote a weekly verse feature for Time and Tide, under the pseudonym “Chimaera”, and the heading of “The Weekly Crowd”.

“By 1930 Eleanor Farjeon could find a publisher for whatever she cared to write” which meant at the time of the dinner, aged 52, she was very well established. In 1931 she wrote the lyrics for her famous hymn “Morning Has Broken”, made famous again forty years later by Cat Stevens (born Steven Demetre Georgiou, a thoughtful singer who has since turned to Islam, now under the name Yusuf Islam). Eleanor had a genius for friendship…… was a wise and practical adviser …. a good businesswoman, …. but also given to impulsive and extravagant gestures”. She was a member of PEN. The young 22 year old Barbara Hayes doubtless would have enjoyed her friendly company at the dinner.

Eleanor lived with George Chester Earle (1870–1949), a schoolmaster, from the age of forty (1920) until his death, and after this had a relationship with Denys Blakelock (1901–1970), an actor.

WHAT ELEANOR DID NEXT

Eleanor continued to write, including a sequel to her first Martin Pippin book, and published her most notable collection “The Little Bookroom” in 1955. The Children’s Book Circle today annually presents an Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished service to the world of British children’s books. But also “the poems she wrote under pseudonyms for socialist newspapers and journals reveal an undeservedly forgotten radical poet”.[2]

Eleanor died in her mews cottage at 20 Perrins Walk, Hampstead, London, on 5th June 1965. [3] [4]

BACK TO TABLE 11


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Farjeon

[2] Catherine Clay, Time and Tide, Edinburgh University Press, 2018, p42

[3] Passages in italicised quotes from John Bell, revised by Victoria Millar Farjeon, Eleanor (1881–1965), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 19 May 2011

[4] Thank you also to Catherine Clay for information

Can you tell us more?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s