Contemporaneously, there's a social fascination with women from the past whose contributions to cultural achievements have been neglected. This preoccupation with trailblazing literary foremothers is likely to continue, challenging and replacing the long tradition of canonical patriarchal domination with chronologies that include women writers. Women’s writing in all genres is blooming and my hope is that this blog will contribute to the current and continued reassessment of forgotten women of our county's - and by extension - country’s past.
In the Pages I've integrated material from my old website South West Women Writers; although at this stage it is in no way definitive you'll find a little background information about some of the women who wrote in Devon as well as lists of some of their texts, with links to other sources.
Photo: Exeter castle in Rougemont Gardens Exeter where EM Delafield drafted her early novels
.'... we're walking & looking with Julie Sampson much as on other memorable occasions one's joined Llewellyn Powys around Somerset & Dorset, Iain Sinclair in the footsteps of John Clare, David Caddy as he cycles after Edward Thomas, Simon Armitage singing for his supper along the Pennine Way, even Joanna Kavenna all around Scottish & Northern European climes seeking Ultima Thule …Julie Sampson's terrain is a Devon suffused, as she says, with 'spirit of place', and as one might suspect such perspective or vibration isn't handed out on a plate...Her subjects are women writers of the county, variously neglected but enthusiastically redeemed. My favourites here may well be 20th Century figures Beatrice Chase, Frances Bellerby and Mrs Willcocks, but Julie Sampson endows her 16th & 19th Century characters, such as Anne Dowriche and Anna Bray, with similar contemporaneity. I commend Julie Sampson's project and hope it finds speedy publication.' Kris Hemensley
'Julie has made herself an expert on women poets of Devon. She combines sound scholarship with her own direct experience and observations. Thus she can interest the general reader in a subject which might seem rather specialised or esoteric. Julie Sampson is also a fine poet in her own right, author of the collection Tessitura (Shearsman Books, 2013). I believe that her love and knowledge of Devon and of literature, and her abilities as a writer, make her the right person to write this book.' James Turner'Threaded by tracks and ‘snaky lanes’ of Devon, luxuriating in ‘mysteriously named’ localities (e.g. Trundlebeer, Nymphehayes) Sampson draws the reader into their landscape and language, digging their linguistic origins and history while searching their women’s literary heritage introducing authors and their writing hitherto silenced by years of neglect; names such as Margaret Pedler (C20), Anne Dowriche (c16) and Mary Patricia Willcocks (C20. Through all this flows Sampson’s own connections and site-specific observation; a poetry in itself.' Tilla Brading
'...Through a woman’s eye, we are treated to a symbiotic journey of both past and present over Devon’s rich territory, once illuminated by many women writers who are now largely forgotten by time. Julie Sampson sweeps away any conventional assumptions through what permeates as a deeper process of anamnesis, reviving lost names and the landscapes to which they were embedded. The journey takes us into a tangible fusion of places which are still recognized today but whose import was more pivotal to our ancestors’ existence... Through examining the work of Anna Bray for example, we can feel the contagion of boldness as we imagine her striding long expanses of heather sprung turf in search of Dartmoor’s legendary folklore during a Victorian era where most women’s creativity was harnessed to piano and petit point. Very much a writer after my own heart, I am immensely grateful to Julie Sampson for her regular work on women writers of the West Country and the joys unfurled from her research into archives and libraries which are vital to our social being. Her new book acts as an escarpment between different eras, lifting us through the aura of mystery by revisiting the Devonian contours of magic to logic … and back again. Ruth Snell
.... Please if you should stumble upon this blog do send me some feedback or and commentary! I'd love to hear from you.