Edmund Spencer – Elizabethan Renaissance Poet

Edmund Spenser ‘The Faerie Queen: the Shepheards Calendar together with The Other Works of England's Arch-Poet, Edm. Spenser’ collected into one Volume, 1611. The general title with figurative woodcut borders with dedication to Queen Elizabeth I.
Edmund Spenser ‘The Faerie Queen: the Shepheards Calendar together with The Other Works of England’s Arch-Poet, Edm. Spenser’ collected into one Volume, 1611. The general title with figurative woodcut borders with dedication to Queen Elizabeth I.

I have long admired the work of the Elizabethan writer Edmund Spenser (1552/53 -1599) so I was delighted to see an early collection of his work, published in 1611, in Toovey’s last specialist sale of Antiquarian and Collectors’ books. . The single volume included ‘The Faerie Queen, ‘The Shepheards Calendar’ and other works.

Edmund Spenser attended Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1569. He studied the Classics in Latin and Greek as well as Italian and English literature. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1573 and a Master of Arts degree in 1576.

Spenser’s ‘The Shepheards Calendar’ published in 1579/1580 is often described as being the first work in the 16th century English literary Renaissance and is influenced by the Roman poet Virgil’s pastoral Bucolics.

‘The Shepheards Calendar’ is formed of twelve short poems each named after a month in the year and is beautifully illustrated with woodblock vignettes. The elegantly constructed verse gives expression to a series of conversations between simple shepherds. Paradoxically these conversations form satirical, sophisticated commentaries on the questions and ambitions of the day.

‘Aprill’ from ‘The Shepheards Calendar’

For example ‘Aprill’ speaks in praise of the shepherdess Elisa who Spenser uses to represent Elizabeth I. Edmund Spenser was a protestant and supporter of Elizabeth I. He gave voice to the importance of upholding and protecting the national and moral purity of the Elizabethan church. The good and bad shepherds act as metaphors for reformed and catholic clergy respectively.

Spenser’s poem ‘The Faerie Queene’ is considered to be one of the greatest in the English language. It is an allegorical work in praise of Elizabeth I who is represented by the Faerie Queene, Gloriana. The poem provides a celebration and critique of the Tudor dynasty employing frequent allusions to contemporary Elizabethan politics and events.

This epic poem is written in an archaic style and takes the form of a series of books. Each book follows the adventures of a particular knight who in turn represent the virtues of holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy. The first part was published in 1590 but Spenser never completed it.

Edmund Spenser’s work brings together the influences of the Elizabethan age he inhabited, his strong Christian faith, early myth, legends and folklore which resonate with literary enthusiasts today. This volume, in its later binding, realised £2400.

Toovey’s book specialists Charlie Howe and Nick Toovey are currently preparing their next specialist auction of books which will be held on Tuesday 13th August. Whether you are seeking to sell your books or building a collection they are always delighted to offer advice and share their passion for their subject with others. You can contact them by telephoning 01903 891955.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Clinton Lodge Gardens

The Rose Garden at Clinton Lodge Gardens

This week I am joining the Sussex Heritage Trust at Fletching to celebrate Clinton Lodge Gardens where we are the guests of the garden’s creator and owner, Lady Noel Collum.

As we gather on the terrace between the showers Lady Collum greets us framed by the lawns, architectural hornbeams and the parkland beyond. Lady Collum is delighted as the Chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, Dr John Godfrey, thanks her and quotes some lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Glory of the Garden:

“Our England is a garden that is full of stately views
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye…
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade…”

Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum
Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum

Lady Collum explains how the garden happened slowly drawing inspiration from the house with its Caroline stonework and George III brick extension. She says “I set out to connect the garden to the house. I really wanted it to be peaceful – being peaceful was absolutely essential. I read a lot about garden designers like Russell Page and my sense of proportion and composition was influenced by looking at paintings, especially of the period of the house, whilst I was with Christies.”

The house and the gardens are very at ease with themselves reflecting a gentle elegance and understated grandeur. The formal garden is made up of a series of garden rooms each complete in its own right. The paths gather and lead us revealing each garden in turn.

Lady Collum observes “You should always go through a supported garden with borders on both sides – double borders support you in that way.”

I comment on the playful sense of theatre in the garden and her remarkable planting with swathes of colour. She responds “Formality with exuberance – rather like at Sissinghurst! I control the colours more as I’ve got older as it’s more relaxing – I think it’s important not to find ‘clever’ shocking [contrasts in] palette. It’s also frightfully important that the plants are happy.”

We arrive in a walled garden filled with abundant, old varieties of scented roses, including Chapeau de Napolean, Empress Josephine, and Compte de Chambord. The roses grow tall and are reflected in William Pye’s remarkable water feature. Lady Collum says “If you’re walking with a nice companion it’s lovely not to have to bend to enjoy the scent.”

I remark on the softness, gentleness and movement which pervades the garden. It has a sensory quality. Lady Collum responds “I did want it to have movement, the fluttering of the lime leaves and a sympathetic texture – I like to be able to stroke the plants. It has taken time.”

Lady Collum’s disarming modesty, her genuine hospitality and delight in the reaction of her visitors make this a very special, peaceful place to be.

Clinton Lodge Gardens welcomes groups by appointment but is rarely open to the public. However, the garden is open this coming Monday, 24th June 2019, as part of the National Garden Scheme between 2pm and 5.30pm. To find out more about Clinton Lodge Gardens visit www.clintonlodgegardens.co.uk. And to learn more about the exceptional work of the Sussex Heritage Trust and how to get involved visit www.sussexheritagetrust.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

 

Maggi Hambling and Max Wall

Maggi Hambling., CBE, ‘Max Sitting (no.9)’, oil, signed and dated 1982

An important portrait by the leading British artist Maggi Hambling, from her famous Max Wall series of portraits, is to be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 19th June 2019.

Maggi Hambling was the artist in residence at the National Gallery in London during 1980 and 1981 as her work grew in confidence and power. It was during this time that she went to see Max Wall at the Garrick Theatre for the first time.

Max Wall’s public life as a clown and entertainer was in contrast to his often unhappy and disrupted private life.

In the summer of 1981 Max Wall played Vladimir in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ to much acclaim in the Royal Exchange production at the Round House. Hambling went to see him in the role on four or five occasions and began to work out a series of pictures based on his performance. As Max sat for her Maggi’s portraits of him became more intimate and insightful. Although they corresponded between October 1981 and Easter 1982 they remained apart.

In his absence, Hambling completed three of her most impressive paintings in the series. Among these is the picture illustrated, ‘Max Sitting (no.9)’. The painting is an act of recapitulation. Hambling gives expression to a painting of dreams, recalling a dream where a white owl bursts through a pane of glass in an isolated, lonely house. Max sits dreaming, his cigarette smoke hangs in the air as he waits on his muse represented by the owl’s arrival. The challenges of his life are signified by the cat’s shadow as the floor veers off in a nightmarish way. Her use of colour to create mood and atmosphere and the rendering of his features acts as though the portrait is a mirror into his soul. It gives voice to her concern for the individual human predicament.

Hambling would recall “At Easter 1982, Max reappeared and posed for drawings. After painting so long from my internal image of him, it was a traumatic experience to have him in front of me again, and to work from life.” Max thought it was marvellous that he should inspire Hambling in this way.

This powerful portrait would be reproduced on the cover of the exhibition catalogue for ‘Max Wall Pictures by Maggi Hambling’ at London’s National Portrait Gallery in 1983.

It was a measure of Hambling’s status as an artist when, in 1986, ‘Max Sitting (no.9)’ was hung alongside her fellow London Group artists, including Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Ron B. Kitaj at Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery in the ‘Artist and Model’ exhibition.

This important work will be auctioned at Toovey’s as part of their sale of fine paintings on Wednesday 19th June 2019 with a presale estimate of £10,000-£15,000. For more information telephone Nicholas Toovey on 01903 891955.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Festival of Plants at Sussex Prairie Garden

I arrive at the Sussex Prairie Garden to find the international garden designers Paul and Pauline McBride and their team preparing for this weekend’s Specialist Plant Fair with the Plant Fair Roadshow which takes place on Sunday 9th June between 12noon and 5pm.

They first opened the Sussex Prairie Garden to the public back in 2009 and ever since Paul and Pauline have worked to provide a platform to bridge garden enthusiasts to leading specialists. Pauline says “The Specialist Plant Weekend is a wonderful opportunity to find top nursery men and women from across the South East of England gathered in one place. It’s rare to be able to speak to experts in their fields about their plants and ask their advice about which plants might be best for you.”

Paul and Pauline’s winter has been spent travelling in Central America seeking fresh inspiration, tending the garden and re-planting the North Mound.

As we sit drinking tea and sampling the café’s wonderful food and cake on the terrace we look out over the emerging swathes of planting in this remarkable garden. Pauline remarks “It’s so wonderful to see it re-emerging again – a hundred shades of green.” Paul adds “And there’s lots of blues at the moment – Alliums and Baptisia from Australia. The garden comes on very quickly at this time of year. We have just enjoyed hosting a number of students from the School of Landscape Architecture at Blois in France. When they arrived a few weeks ago there was almost nothing here and look at it now.”

I comment on the poetry and rhythm of the planting in the garden. Pauline agrees and comments “We do like to repeat the same plants in a border to invite you into the sinuous pathways so you can inhabit the colour, texture and shapes in the planting. The garden is planted in the shape of an Ammonite – a form from nature where there is no beginning and no end – there is some kind of harmony in that.”

It brings to my mind these lines from T.S. Elliot’s poem ‘Little Gidding’ which resonate with Pauline:

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate…’

She responds “There is a circular sort of thing to the garden. We’re referencing the Sussex landscape that surrounds us – Chanctonbury ring over there in the distance and the sensuous undulations of the Downs.”

Sussex Prairie Garden designers and owners Paul and Pauline McBride

Alongside the specialist nurseries you must not miss out on Paul’s Pick of the Prairie with all the plants you might need to create your own prairie borders.

An afternoon of plant shopping and cake against the background of the beautiful Sussex Prairie Garden – what could be better – you must treat yourselves, I hope to see you there!

This festival of plants will be held this coming Sunday 9th June, 12noon to 5pm at Sussex Prairies, Morlands Farm, Wheatsheaf Road, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT. To find out more about the gardens and this event visit www.sussexprairies.co.uk or telephone 01273 495902.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

25th Anniversary of the First Women Priests

The Revd Kathryn Windslow, Rector of St Mary’s, Storrington, celebrating 25 years as a Priest in the Church of England
The Revd Kathryn Windslow, Rector of St Mary’s, Storrington, celebrating 25 years as a Priest in the Church of England

This week I am in the company of The Revd Kathryn Windslow. Twenty-five years ago she was amongst an extraordinary cohort of women who were the first to be able to answer God’s call to ministry after the Church of England finally allowed their ordination to the Priesthood.

In 1992 the Church of England General Synod finally approved the way for women to be ordained Priests although it was not until 1994 that the necessary legislation was passed by Parliament.

Kathryn grew up and came to faith at St Mark’s, Horsham, where her father served as a Churchwarden. I ask her when she first became aware of God’s calling, she answers “I was 16 when I first became aware of a calling to serve God and to serve people as a Priest – my family were as surprised as I was.”

“After I had finished school I took a degree in Theology at a Roman Catholic college to discern where God was calling me.” Kathryn would spend a year as a volunteer in Southampton then in 1984 she went forward for selection and started training as a Deaconess. The role of Deaconess was the only paid role for women in ministry at that time. She became a Deaconess in 1986 and in 1987 was ordained as a Deacon by the then Bishop of Horsham, Colin Docker, who had also confirmed her.

In 1989, still unable to be ordained as a Priest, Kathryn became only the fifth woman in charge of a Parish in the Diocese of Lincoln.

I ask Kathryn how it felt in 1992 when the news came that the Church of England’s General Synod had voted in favour of the ordination of women Priests. She replies “It felt like affirmation of my calling at last and my parishioners rejoiced with me – some came clutching Champagne bottles!”

Two years later, on the 22nd May 1994, Kathryn would find herself in a packed Lincoln Cathedral with family and friends. All had come to celebrate and bear witness to the first ordination of women to the Priesthood in the Diocese of Lincoln. The Bishop anointed Kathryn with holy oils and the Holy Spirit. As he prayed the ordination prayer over Kathryn her colleagues came forward to lay hands on her and to pray. Kathryn says “The weight of colleagues and their blessing was both supportive and overwhelming. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.” She left the Cathedral as an ordained Priest in the Church of England.

The next day she was able to celebrate her very first Eucharist. Kathryn recalls “Celebrating my first Communion was completely different and yet the same – it was just the right thing. It was the final fulfilment of my vocation.” She pauses to reflect and continues “It was wonderful to be amongst that vanguard of women as the church affirmed our calling to be Priests. There was a real sense of gratitude for the women who had gone before us and paved the way for our ministry.”

I ask Kathryn how priestly ministry continues to speak into her life, she responds “Being with people at the big moment in their lives, the death of a loved one, a wedding, welcoming a person into the church through baptism – it’s an immense privilege being invited into people’s lives. The theologian Austin Farrer describes Priests ‘as walking sacraments’, we make God visible to people in their lives.”

I describe how I witness women Priests enriching the church and our communities and how I celebrate and thank God for their work. Kathryn concludes “Women Priests rebalance and inform our understanding of God who made women and men in God’s image.”  I could not agree more.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.