This small painted landscape screen is one of the most beautiful things we have ever had in the store, front and back. It is signed by Hester Maitland Radford(1887-?). What we find in the record about her is that she was the daughter of two distinguished figures of the Fabian and William Morris circles in England. A rather lovely woodcut by her of her mother adorns a collection of her mother’s poetry. This painting seems to us very evocative of the Northern California coastal landscape but we acknowledge the greater probability of it’s being a British scene, lacking further biographical information about this highly gifted and extremely retiring painter. It is a powerful work, sophisticated and completely original, while wearing its influences (Japanese screen painting, the Arts and Crafts Movement, the New English Arts Club, and the later Camden Town Group) proudly.
It’s worth reading the biographical information about her family I have appended. A picture emerges…
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Hester’s mother, Caroline Maitland (1858 – 1920) was an English poet and writer. She married in 1883 Ernest Radford, and wrote as Dollie Radford. They had three children. Hester’s brother, Dr. Maitland Radford (1885-1944), while a medical student (and young poet), entered the charmed circle of Rupert Brooke and the young Virginia Woolf, becoming a medical officer in both wars. Her sister Margaret Maitland Radford was also a poet. Her mother’s friends included Eleanor Marx, whom she knew through a Shakespeare reading group attended by Karl Marx, and Amy Levy. Her mother’s papers are housed at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA. Hester’s father, Ernest Radford (1857–1919) was an English poet, critic and socialist. He was a follower of William Morris, and one of the organizers in the Arts and Crafts Movement; he acted as secretary to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. He was also one of the Rhymers’ Club group of poets of the 1890s, contributing to the two anthologies they produced.
Born into such a family, and growing up in such brilliant artistic and intellectual worlds, it would not have been unusual for a shy person of sufficient means to have pursued her own talents, no matter how considerable, privately, achieving a perhaps wished-for and wholly undeserved obscurity.
32. Archive of Dollie and Ernest Radford
This extensive archive gives an important insight into the lives of Ernest (1857-1919) and Caroline (Dollie) Radford (1858-1920). They were poets and writers active in the literary, artistic and socialist circles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and came to be regarded as leading figures in the late-Victorian world of literature and art. Their interests extended beyond their personal world to embrace a wider social responsibility. They were involved in the founding of art and literary groups, including the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and the Rhymer’s Club, as well as in political and charitable societies such as the Socialist League and the Fabian Society.
The Radfords’ wide circle of contacts and friends included William Morris, Walter Crane, H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw (who set one of Dollie’s poems to music), Eleanor Marx, Ford Madox Ford, Amy Levy, and several of the leading writers, artists and social reformers of their day. Through their friend Ernest Rhys, poet and editor of Everyman’s Library, the Radfords met D. H. Lawrence in 1909.
The couple had first met in 1881 in the Reading Room of the British Library where Dollie was helping Eleanor Marx in the editing of the works of her father, Karl. Ernest was invited to Shakespeare readings at the Marxs’ home and it was there that their romance flourished. They married in 1883. In the same year Dollie’s poems were first published in the radical magazine Progress. She was later to be published in The Yellow Book, The Athenaeum and The Nation.
The offer also includes an original print of The Triumph of Labour from Walter Crane’s woodcut and an embroidery designed by D. H. Lawrence and worked on linen by Frieda Lawrence. The embroidery depicts Dionysus in the boat which steered of its own accord, with dolphins, vines and grapes. This was a wedding gift to the Radfords’ son, Maitland. When in 1917 the Lawrences were expelled from Cornwall as suspected spies they took refuge with the Radfords and Dollie was the basis of the character, Hattie Redburn, in Lawrence’s 1923 novel, Kangaroo.
The Panel considered that the archive met the third criterion, that it was in acceptable condition and that it was fairly valued. It has been permanently allocated to the British Library in accordance with the condition of the offeror.
Above Ernest (top left), Dollie Radford (right) and their children, Maitland, Margaret and Hester.
Finally, brother and sister, as adults, make a charming appearance among the eminent names in the painter William Rothenstein’s memoirs of his life in Hampstead:
Hampstead 'VSJJ^ had not been long at Oak Hill Park when H. G. days ^V Wells came to live at Church Row. The Wells's proved admirable neighbours. In the two Wells boys our three children found resourceful playmates. Both H. G. and Mrs Wells were as hospitable to people as they were to ideas. Room was always found at their table for visitors, and table- talk was free, adventurous and gay; indeed Wells was the j oiliest host imaginable. We started, too, a 'Sunday Tramps' of our own. Friends would come up to Hampstead, some breakfasting with the Wells's, others with us, when we would take tram or train to some place outside London and walk all day. John Galsworthy, E. S. P. Haynes, Hugh Walpole, Hester and Maitland Radford, were the most constant tramps. I found Wells difficult to draw; his features were round and rather commonplace I thought, and didn't show his genius.