Strawberries in December

Paul Laity

  • Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States by Sheila Rowbotham
    Verso, 512 pp, £25.00, October 2016, ISBN 978 1 78478 588 8

In 1889 Helena Born and Miriam Daniell, two socialists in their late twenties, left their family homes (and Daniell’s husband) in Bristol’s middle-class suburbs and moved to the slums. New converts to a ‘simple life’, they tinted the walls of their small house, waxed the uncarpeted floors and improvised furniture, hoping to set an aesthetic example to their neighbours. The drawing-room gatherings and expensive clothes of their former lives now seemed ‘as dross’. On a January morning the following year Born wrote to her cousin that she had ‘made the floor of my room shine with extra brightness’ using ‘beeswax, turps and elbow-grease’. She was excitedly preparing for a visit from the poet, philosopher and ‘saint in sandals’, Edward Carpenter.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in