Read by David Shaw-Parker (Unabridged: 2hrs)
Vernon Lee was born Violet Paget on 4th October 1856 in Boulogne, France to intellectual expatriate British parents.
In common with several other very talented literary women of the day she felt it necessary to publish under a masculine pseudonym in order for her writing to be taken seriously. Indeed she seems to have adopted that persona across her whole lifestyle becoming personally known and acknowledged by all as Vernon Lee and accordingly dressed as a man.
Her first published work, in 1880, was taken from her collection of essays that had originally appeared in Fraser’s Magazine with the scholarly title of; ‘Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy.’ It reflected her passion for music and centered on the rich creative lives of poet-librettist Pietro Metastasio and dramatists Carlo Goldoni and Carlo Gozzi.
She wrote over a dozen volumes of essays on art, music, and travel with her scholarly appreciation animated by wit and imagination. Lee was well-regarded as an expert on the Italian Renaissance and was a proponent of the Aesthetic movement.
Her literary talents were extensive and she wrote a number of novels and plays. Perhaps her best remembered works are her haunting and powerful short stories exploring the supernatural. Lee has often received accolades for these and glowingly compared to other authors such as M R James. A committed pacifist she was resolved to protest against World War I. Her social activism in other areas was perhaps fueled by her feminist beliefs. In her private life she was a lesbian and had long-term passionate relationships with three women including the doomed author and poet, Amy Levy.
Vernon Lee died on 13th February 1935 in San Gervasio Bresciano, Italy.