Mrs R.A. Scott-James

Violet Scott James.png
Violet Scott-James[1]
Mrs R.A. Scott-James 48, (1885-1942), born in France,  was a Yorkshire Post and Manchester Guardian journalist, a literary critic, a critical reviewer of Lady Rhondda’s autobiography, “I cannot help feeling that she is hard on artists, and I include writer in that term”, a close friend of Winifred Holtby, the wife of journalist Rolfe Arnold Scott-James, a mother of three, and grandmother of military historian and writer Max Hastings. Fellow table guest Vera Brittain wrote “Intelligent, cultured, fastidious, she believed beyond all else in the value of artistic integrity and the contemplative life”.[2] [3] [4]

SEATED BESIDE

If the ideas posted for other table members make sense then she may have been seated beside one of the two Sarahs (an overseas guest at least) and one of the Heald sisters. But no strong suggestions on what really is a very interchangeable table of guests.

WHAT’S ON HER MIND?

As a friend of Winifred Holtby she is likely to be one of those concerned about Winifred’s health.

VIOLET’S STORY SO FAR

Violet Eleanor Scott-James née Brooks was born in France on 8th January 1885, the daughter of Selina Harriett Kelly, born in Weston-super-Mare, the daughter of the rector of Manppowder, Dorset, and Arthur Brooks, former army captain, son of Robert Brooks of Woodcote Park, Epson.[5] Arthur owned racehorses, lost money, was bankrupt in 1870, was in the 13th Hussars from 1858 to 1868, rose to the rank of Captain, then mortgaged and then sold his army commission to his brother.[6] As her grandson Max Hastings put it:

Her origins were somewhat smarter than those of her husband. She came from a West Country family which had squandered its money on hunting and high living.” And in reference to Violet’s father “Heaven knows what brought his daughter Violet together with Rolfe Scott-James”. Violet was “an almost uneducated but nonetheless highly cultured woman”… who “seems to have found her husband unexciting, for she indulged herself with affairs on the fringes of literary London”.

We do know however that she was educated at least at the National School in Bedford (possibly because an aunt lived there).

Rolf Scott.png
Rolfe Scott-James[7]
Violet married Rolfe Arnold Scott-James, journalist and literary critic, in his father’s church, St Stephens, Paddington on 26th October 1905. Rolfe is often cited as one of the first to use the word “modernism”. His sister, unbeknownst to him, emerged after the war as having been a “second Nurse Cavell”, having been assisting soldiers to hide in her Brussels flat.[8] They had three children: Violet Marie Livia, (1906-1956); Anne Eleanor, (1913 – 2009); and John R, (1915-1957). Anne married journalist Macdonald Hastings and was the mother of Max Hastings – writing in the genes.

On 15th December 1918 Violet wrote to the Editor of The Observer appealing for fifteen hundred people to host Dominion men soldiers on Christmas night, on behalf of the Y.M.C.A Hospitality League.[9] This would of course have been the first Christmas in peace time.

Violet was a close friend of Winifred Holtby, probably first making contact when Violet worked for the Yorkshire Post, and “contributed a witty ‘London Letter’ [10] and they became friends from 1926 onwards.[11] She was also one who early on appreciated Winifred’s work, saying “People don’t realise the importance of Winifred”.   Vera Brittain wrote of Violet in Testament of Friendship:“Intelligent, cultured, fastidious, she believed beyond all else in the value of artistic integrity and the contemplative life, and never, perhaps, wholly understood the vehement passion for reform which every example of conspicuous injustice produced in Winifred”.[12]

She was also a friend of Edward Garnett, chief reader of Jonathan Cape. Not surprisingly Violet was one of the press representatives attending the Six Point Group “White Press” luncheon on 24th January 1929, also attended by fellow table companions Edith Shackleton and Vera Brittain, as well as Winifred Holtby, Lady Rhondda, Rebecca West, Cicely Hamilton and Emilie Peacocke. In a letter to Robert Lynd she passes on another’s compliments about his wife Sylvia.[13]

At the Yorkshire Post Violet also served as the first women’s editor, later as “a dramatic critic, writing above the coy byline ‘VS-J’ – and also had a long liaison with the paper’s editor Arthur Mann.[14]

Violet reviewed Lady Rhondda’s book a week or so before the dinner and commented: “Lady Rhondda trusts and respects businessmen, but it is regrettable that she does not trust artists. ‘One is less likely to be swindled a businessman’ she concludes ‘than by a Civil Servant, artist, a writer, a politician, or a protected woman.’ I cannot help feeling that she is hard on artists, and I include writer in that term.”

WHAT VIOLET DID NEXT

In July 1933, shortly before the publication of Testament of Youth, Violet joined Winifred Holtby, Vera Brittain and Vera’s husband George Caitlin on a holiday to Hardelot-Plage, near Etaples where Vera had been nursing during the war. Violet and George left after a week to let Vera and Winifred continue together.[15]

We might profit from researching Violet’s writings more. We do know that on the death of Winifred Holtby in 1935, it was Violet who wrote the long, unsigned, obituary column in The Times.[16]

“A highly strung, intense woman who suffered constant ill-health”[17] Violet died at 57 of cancer on 28th December 1942. Rolfe remarried in 1947 to Paule Honorine Jeanne Lagarde, daughter of P.E.Lagarde, head of the French department at the London School of Economics.[18]

BACK TO TABLE 9


[1] Photo courtesy Max Hastings (grandson), from Max Hastings, Did you Really Shoot the Television? Harper Press 2010

[2] Vera Brittain, Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby, Macmillan and Co (1st publisher) now Hachette UK online access 5.2.2018

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolfe_Arnold_Scott-James

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Scott-James

[5] Outside the arrondissments of Paris, or even nowhere near Paris, as she does not show up in a search of the 20 arrondissements for 1885.

[6] The Brooks Family, Epsom and Ewell History Explorer http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/Brooks.html accessed 1.2.2019

[7]Photo courtesy Max Hastings (grandson), from Max Hastings, Did you Really Shoot the Television? Harper Press 2010

[8] The Guardian, 13.3.1931

[9] The Observer 15.12.1918 p3

[10] Max Hastings, Did you Really Shoot the Television?, Harper Press 2010 p76

[11] Mark Bostridge, Vera Brittain: A Life, Hachette UK, 2016, page 23?

[12] Vera Brittain, Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby, Macmillan and Co (1st publisher) now Hachette UK online access 5.2.2018

[13] Letter from Violet Scott-James to the Lynds. Accessed 5.2.2018 https://www.richardfordmanuscripts.co.uk/catalogue/15779

[14] Max Hastings, Did you Really Shoot the Television?, Harper Press 2010 p76

[15] Mark Bostridge, Vera Brittain: A Life, Hachette UK, 2016

[16] The Times, 30.9.1935, p20

[17] In the words of Max Hastings, Did you Really Shoot the Television?, Harper Press 2010 p76

[18] Max Hastings, Did you Really Shoot the Television?, Harper Press 2010 p159 and I.S. Scott-Kilvert 23.9.2004 revised Katherine Mullin 10.1.2013, R.A Scott-James,  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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