‘I am beginning to think Oxford has some merits’ (1952)

Shove (Fredegond)

Fredegond and Gerald Shove.

Published: Privately Printed [at the Cambridge University Press]

Date: 1952

FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 250 COPIES, frontispiece and 4 further photographic plates, a few faint foxspots,p. xvii, 46, 8vo, original quarter blue cloth with patterned paper sides, backstrip lettered in gilt and a little creased with slight lean to spine some wear to corners and leading edge of upper board, foxing to endpapers with contemporary gift inscription to flyleaf, good

An interesting copy of posthumously published memoir by a very minor Georgian poet with major connections: Fredegond Shove (née Maitland) was the wife of economist Gerald Shove, a cousin to Virginia Woolf (and published by her at the Hogarth Press), and the niece of Vaughan Williams (who set her poetry to music). This book was printed for her elder sister Ermengard Maitland, whose preface includes much unpublished poetry by Fredegond. The gift inscription is to ‘O.O’M. from M.O’M. With love. Christmas 1952’, whilst on the facing pastedown two much earlier letters from Fredegond to ‘Dear Owen’ have been inserted into a makeshift pocket, each on headed paper from 34 Norham Road, Oxford. One is dated 13th May ‘09, whilst the other only says ‘Fri.’ - but is conceivably from the following day as it addresses the return of a previous letter due to various mis-spellings. Both concern an invitation to tea at her Uncle’s (possibly Vaughan Williams). A process of deduction leads to the conclusion that the recipient of these letters, and of the book itself, was the diplomatist Owen O’Malley who was approaching the end of his studies at Oxford around that time: the possible axis for their acquaintance may be that their fathers were both, in fact, eminent graduates of Trinity College, Cambridge, and both involved in the law. Unlike O’Malley, Fredegond continued the Cambridge precedent, reading English at Newnham College, and seems to have found Oxford hard to adjust to - she writes to O’Malley that ‘I am beginning to think Oxford has some merits, do come and see how my conversion is getting on’. The gift inscription itself would seem to confirm this deduction, as it appears to be in the hand of O’Malley’s wife Mary, who wrote fiction under the name Ann Bridge. A pleasing and intriguing association copy.


Offered by Blackwell's Rare Books