Passages

Welcome to our series of films acknowledging the great female literary authors that grace the Women’s library at Compton Verney.

We will be presenting four texts over four weeks read by five dedicated women who are inspired by Compton Verney and the baroness Georgiana Verney who offered knowledge to those who scarcely had the opportunity to access it.

So sit back and read with us, the passages we find in the titles on these shelves and #ChooseToChallenge gender bias to promote equality and acknowledge women’s achievements.

Our fourth and final film in this series explores the first practical science book on Chemistry written for women, Mrs. Jane Haldimand’s ‘Conversations on Chemistry in Which the Elements of that Science are Familiarly Explained and Illustrated by Experiments’. In her introduction she explains how;

‘On attending for the first time experimental lectures, the author found it almost impossible to derive any clear or satisfactory information from the rapid demonstrations which are usually, and perhaps necessarily, crowded into popular courses of this kind. But frequent opportunities having afterwards occurred of conversing with a friend on the subject of chemistry, and of repeating a variety of experiments, she became better acquainted with the principles of that science, and began to feel highly interested in its pursuit.  As, however, there are but few women who have access to this mode of instruction; and as the author was not acquainted with any book that could prove a substitute for it, she thought that it might be useful for beginners, as well as satisfactory to herself, to trace the steps by which she had acquired her little stock of chemical knowledge, and to record, in the form of dialogue, those ideas which she had first derived from conversation.’

This film explores a conversation between two women experimenting to understand the heating and cooling of water.

Our third film in this series explores the first science fiction novel ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley written in 1818. As we come together to think about #EarthHour on the 27th March, Mary Shelley’s classic novel presents us with a man fuelled by the desire to understand all that is in heaven and earth. It’s a cautionary tale of man’s attempt to control nature, ultimately asking who is the real monster? The passage in this film explores Frankenstein’s discovery as a child of the great natural scientists and philosophers of his time and how his obsession with the gaps in their work fuelled the agony of his adult life’s experimentations. Read in our Georgian Chapel it refers to the statement that Frankenstein became ‘a disciple’ of science for good or ill. As we think about the collective damage we have caused to the earth and its natural habitats, we can reflect on the beauty and mystery that is the world we live in and the importance of respecting nature.

 

This film in the series explores the ancient Greek poetry of Sappho, just in time for Culture Central’s #SpringsCalling spring equinox event on the 20th March. Sappho was born on the Greek island of Lesbos more than two and a half thousand years ago. We know from references in Greek and Roman literature that her lyric poetry was highly regarded on a par with the works of Homer, but it has survived only in fragments. The verses explore individual identity and personal emotions – desire, jealousy, and love as well as spring and mortality. At about the time that Georgiana Verney was establishing her library at Compton Verney many more fragments came to light and it is no surprise that an enlightened woman like Georgiana included a volume of Sappho’s Lyric Poems on her shelves.

 

The first video in our series for IWD explores the poetry of Caroline Norton. Born in 1808, English “society beauty” Caroline Elizabeth Norton was an influential feminist, author and social reformer, who experienced great personal tragedy but also great literary and political accomplishment in her life. Caroline fought to extend women’s rights, and due to her campaigning, parliament passed The Custody of Infants Act, The Matrimonial Causes Act and the Married Women’s Property Act.

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