Emilia Dilke

Emilia Dilke

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Emilia Francis Strong, the fourth of the six children of Henry Strong, a retired Indian army officer, and his wife, Emily Weedon Strong, was born in Ilfracombe on 2nd September 1840. She was educated at home and her tutor gave her a good education in French, German, Latin, and Greek. (1)

Emilia came from an artistic family and as a young women she met John Ruskin, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt (who proposed to her in 1859, but was rejected). Ruskin encouraged her to study at the Government School of Design in South Kensington where she became was a student for two years. (2)

Emilia Strong was a good student, with a special interest in anatomical drawing. As a woman, she was denied access to formal life-drawing classes at South Kensington, but in 1859, defying convention, she took private tuition from William Mulready in drawing from the nude. "Like a number of other female artists of the day, she protested against the exclusion of women from what was considered to be the most prestigious area of art education. She later withdrew an offer to found a scholarship for female art students at the Royal Academy Schools when the authorities refused to concede to her condition that the women's education include drawing from the nude". (3)

Edward Poynter, the first principal of the Slade School of Art, pointed out: "There is unfortunately a difficulty which has always stood in the way of female students acquiring that thorough knowledge of the figure which is essential to the production of work of a high class; and that is, of course, that they are debarred from the same complete study of the model that is open to the male students... But I have always been anxious to institute a class where the half-draped model might be studied, to give those ladies who are desirous of obtaining sound instruction in drawing the figure, an opportunity of gaining the necessary knowledge." (4)

In June 1861 Emilia Strong became engaged to the 48-year-old scholar Mark Pattison, the rector of Lincoln College. The couple were married on 10th September 1861. The Pattisons' marriage was very unhappy and led her to spend increasing periods of time in France where she continued her study of art. She also wrote for a variety of journals on the subject. This included an article, Art and Morality for the Westminster Review. (5)

In 1872 she became secretary of the Oxford branch of the National Society for Women's Suffrage. Emilia became in the first women's trade union, the Women's Protective and Provident League (later named Women's Trade Union League). Founded by Emma Paterson, the union represented dressmakers, upholsterers, bookbinders, artificial-flower makers, feather dressers, tobacco, jam and pickle workers, shop assistants and typists. (6)

Emilia continued to write about art and in 1873 she was employed as editor of The Academy. She was also the author of The Renaissance of Art in France (1879). As Hiliary Fraser has pointed out, "the hallmarks of her scholarship are already evident: her meticulous archival research into primary and unpublished sources; her interest in the institutional organization of the arts, and in the political, economic, and social conditions under which they were produced; and her deep conviction of the profound connectedness of the works of decoration, furniture, painting, engraving, sculpture, and architecture of a period". (7)

In 1882 she published a biography of Frederic Leighton. Emilia did not follow the widespread convention of journalistic anonymity, and published under the signature "E. F. S. Pattison". It was claimed that the ‘S’ referred to her family name Strong, as it was her "her wish for some recognition of the independent existence of the woman, and in some resistance to the old English doctrine of complete merger in the husband". (8)

Mark Pattison died on 30th June, 1884. Soon afterwards she became involved with Charles Wentworth Dilke, a member of the government led by William Gladstone. Dilke had for a long time been a supporter of women's suffrage. Dilke was one of the most left-wing members of the Liberal Party and had upset the House of Commons with several speeches complaining about the cost of the royal family and suggested that the country should debate the merits of the monarchy. (9)

In June 1885 Gladstone resigned after supporters of Irish Home Rule and the Conservative Party joined forces to defeat his Liberal government's Finance Bill. Gladstone was expected to retire from politics and Dilke was considered to be a possible candidate for the leadership. This speculation came to an end when Virginia Crawford, the 22-year-old wife of Donald Crawford, a lawyer, and also Dilke's brother's sister-in-law. Virginia claimed that Dilke seduced her in 1882 (the first year of her marriage) and had then conducted an intermittent affair with her for two and a half years. Virginia also told her husband that Dilke had involved her in a ménage-à-trois with a servant girl, Fanny Grey (she denied the story). Virginia said she had resisted this but the MP, whom she portrayed as a sexual monster, forced her to co-operate. "He taught me every French vice," she said. "He used to say that I knew more than most women of 30." (10)

Donald Crawford sued for divorce, and the case was heard on 12th February 1886. Virginia Crawford was not in court, and the sole evidence was her husband's account of Virginia's confession. There were also some accounts by servants, which were both circumstantial and insubstantial. Dilke resolutely denied the charges, although his position was complicated from the beginning by the fact that he had, both before and after his first marriage, been the lover of her mother, Martha Mary Smith. Dilke was advised by his legal team not to give evidence in court. (11)

Betty Askwith has pointed out that "as English law stood... a wife’s confession to her husband is evidence of her guilt but did not carry the corollary that the co-respondent whom she accuses is also guilty". (12) As a result the judge ruled that "I cannot see any case whatsoever against Sir Charles Dilke" and ordered Crawford to pay the costs but Virginia was found guilty and the judge granted Crawford his divorce. The judge appeared to be saying "that Mrs. Crawford had committed adultery with Dilke, but that he had not done so with her". (13)

The Spectator reported that the case could bring an end to his political career: "There was no corroboration of those charges, except as to a few dates; and for all that was proved, they might be mere inventions, or the dreams of a woman suffering from a well-known form of hallucination. But then, there was no disproof, and the Judge accepted the confession as substantially true. Sir Charles Dilke's counsel called no witnesses, attempted no cross-examination of Mr. Crawford, and advised their client not to enter the witness-box, and so defend both himself and Mrs. Crawford, lest 'early indiscretions should be raked up,' - obviously a mere excuse. The world is tolerant enough, if not over-tolerant, and no indiscretions could have hurt Sir Charles Dilke as the confession if proved would do. As a result, Mr. Justice Butt, while expressly stating that he believed Mr. Crawford's report of the confession, accepted the confession itself as so true, that though almost uncorroborated, be founded on it a decree of divorce against Mrs. Crawford". (14)

William T. Stead began a campaign against Dilke for not going into the witness box. By April this had persuaded him that he should seek to reopen the case by getting the Queen's Proctor to intervene. The second inquiry began on 16th July 1886. Dilke falsely assumed that his counsel would be able to submit Virginia Crawford to a devastating cross-examination. Instead, both witnesses were examined by the Queen's Proctor. Christina Rogerson also gave evidence and testified that Virginia Crawford had both confessed her adultery with Dilke and conducted another adulterous relationship with Captain Henry Forster, sometimes meeting him at Rogerson’s home. Under oath, Virginia Crawford confirmed her friend’s evidence - and also informed the court that Dilke had told her that Rogerson was another of his ex-mistresses. (15)

Dilke's biographer, Roy Jenkins, has argued: "The result was a disaster. He proved a very bad witness, she a very good one. The summing up by the president of the Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty Division was highly unfavourable to Dilke. The verdict of the jury - in form that the divorce should stand, in fact that Mrs Crawford was a witness of the truth and that Dilke was not - was reached quickly and unanimously". Jenkins is convinced that Virginia Crawford lied in court and was part of a conspiracy to end his political career. (16)

Some newspapers called for Charles Dilke to be prosecuted for perjury. "The sickening details of the Crawford divorce case, which ended yesterday with a verdict in favour of Mr. Crawford, in other words, against Sir Charles Dilke. If that verdict be true, Sir Charles Dilke must have been guilty of a particularly base form of perjury, and for perjury, of course, he must at once be prosecuted... That any man should escape without heavy punishment for the guilt of all these perjuries, which, if perjuries at all, are perjuries of the very meanest and basest kind, perjuries not committed in defence of the woman he had seduced, but for the purpose of making her seem even worse than she really was, would be a scandal to English justice of which it is hardly possible that this generation would exhaust all the miserable consequences". (17)

Brian Cathcart, recently investigated the case and believes that Charles Dilke was innocent of the charges. "This is not to say that the Liberal politician was pure as driven snow. Aged 42 at the time and single, he was known as a ladies' man and among his previous paramours was Virginia's mother. But Virginia also had a sexual track record. The daughter of a Tyneside shipbuilder, at the age of 18 she had been forced against her will to marry Donald Crawford, a man twice her age. With a married sister, Helen, she then set about finding consolation with lovers, particularly among the medical students at St George's Hospital. Both she and Helen also had affairs with an army captain, Henry Forster, whom they met frequently at a brothel in Knightsbridge, and Dilke's friends later produced evidence that the two young women shared the attentions of several men, possibly in the same bed at the same time."

Cathcart then goes on to explain why he was framed: "Various theories have circulated. Politically, he was important and controversial and many people, Liberal and Tory, were glad to see him fall. Queen Victoria was particularly amused, as he was the leading republican of his time.... Virginia was desperate for a divorce, but in the hope of avoiding publicity about her sexual past and of protecting her true lover, Forster, she decided to name some other, innocent man. Her choice fell on Dilke because of his past relationship with her mother and because she was encouraged by a friend, Christina Rogerson, who felt she had been jilted in love by Dilke." (18)

It is believed that one of the reasons that Christina Rogerson gave evidence against Dilke is that she expected to become his wife. However, when she realised he planned to marry Emilia, she decided to give evidence against him in the divorce case. Emilia married on 3rd October 1885.

In 1886, on the death of Emma Paterson, Emilia became president of the Women's Trade Union League. Emilia said she was proud "to fill the post of leader in a crusade against the tyranny of social tradition and the callousness of social indifference" and over the next few years she spoke "at public meetings across the country, regularly attending and addressing the annual Trades Union Congress as part of her promotion of male-female working-class co-operation and writing for the league's papers and the general press." (19)

Charles Wentworth Dilke lost his seat at the 1886 General Election. Although he had been a long-term campaigner for women's rights, a group of women activists, including Annie Besant, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Elizabeth Blackwell, Frances Buss and Eva McLaren, tried to prevent him from returning to the House of Commons. (20)

Emilia and Charles Dilke were close friends of Richard Pankhurst and his wife Emmeline Pankhurst and they both continued to give money to organisations supporting women's suffrage. However, many of the leaders of the movement did not want to be associated with Dilke because of the Crawford case. Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy felt very strongly about this as "she was clearly not at all in sympathy with his unorthodox extra-marital history." (21)

Emilia Dilke continued to publish books on painting including Art in the Modern State (1888) and her most ambitious work, an encyclopaedic four-volume study of eighteenth-century French art, where she sought "to trace the action of those social laws under the pressure of which the arts take shape". (22)

In 1892 Charles Dilke was elected to represent the Forest of Dean. Dilke retained his radical beliefs and over the next ten years he continued to advocate progressive policies: "He achieved great local popularity, particularly with the miners of what was then a detached but significant small coalfield. He vigorously pursued their interests and those of labour generally, as well as being an independent parliamentary expert on military, colonial, and foreign questions, and was an important link with Labour members and trade unionists". (23)

Charles and Emilia were more concerned with universal suffrage than any limited enfranchisement of women. The main reason for this was the fear that most middle-class women would vote for the Conservative Party. In 1903 she left the Liberal Party and joined the Independent Labour Party. (24)

Emilia Dilke, aged sixty-four, died following a brief illness on 24th October 1904 at her Surrey house, Pyrford Rough near Woking.

After completing her art education, Strong returned to Oxford, where she became engaged to the 48-year-old scholar Mark Pattison (1813–1884), rector of Lincoln College, in June 1861, and married him at Iffley church on 10 September 1861. Despite her intellectual marginalization as a woman in Oxford, Francis Pattison entered upon a life of serious scholarship, focusing upon the study of French cultural history and art. At the same time she cut a striking figure socially, developing an artistic and intellectual circle more in keeping with the salons of seventeenth-century France—upon which she was establishing herself as an authority—than with the stuffy masculine culture of Oxford college life. According to contemporary accounts, and on the evidence of the early portrait of Mrs Pattison painted by her friend Pauline, Lady Trevelyan, in 1864, her dress and general demeanour were particularly stylish and picturesque. The Pattisons' marriage was famously unhappy, allegedly the model for the mésalliances of Dorothea Brooke and Edward Casaubon in George Eliot's Middlemarch (1871–2) and of Belinda and Professor Forth in Rhoda Broughton's Belinda (1883), and a possible source for Robert Browning's poem ‘Bad Dreams’ in Asolando (1889). Its miseries, and her own ill health, led Pattison to spend increasing periods of time in France, where she was able to pursue her research interests with greater resources and more independence...

It was under this name that Pattison published her first book, The Renaissance of Art in France (1879), in which the hallmarks of her scholarship are already evident: her meticulous archival research into primary and unpublished sources; her interest in the institutional organization of the arts, and in the political, economic, and social conditions under which they were produced; and her deep conviction of the profound connectedness of the works of decoration, furniture, painting, engraving, sculpture, and architecture of a period.

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(1) Hiliary Fraser, Emilia Francis Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 169

(3) Hiliary Fraser, Emilia Francis Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(4) Edward Poynter, speech at the Slade School of Art (2nd October 1871)

(5) Westminster Review (January 1869)

(6) Charles Wentworth Dilke, Memoir (1905) page 54

(7) Hiliary Fraser, Emilia Francis Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(8) Charles Wentworth Dilke, Memoir (1905) page 19

(9) Paul Thomas Murphy, Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy (2013) page

(10) Kali Israel, Names and Stories: Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture (1999) page 207

(11) Christopher Howse, The Daily Telegraph (10th January 2009)

(12) Betty Askwith, Lady Dilke: A Biography (1969) page 149

(13) Roy Jenkins, Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy (1965) pages 238-9

(14) The Spectator (20th February, 1886)

(15) David Nicholls, The Lost Prime Minister: A Life of Sir Charles Dilke (1995) page 307

(16) Roy Jenkins, Charles Wentworth Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(17) The Spectator (24th July, 1886)

(18) Brian Cathcart, The Independent (15th April, 1995)

(19) Hiliary Fraser, Emilia Francis Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(20) Roy Jenkins, Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy (1965) page 376

(21) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 169

(22) Hiliary Fraser, Emilia Francis Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(23) Roy Jenkins, Charles Wentworth Dilke : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(24) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 169

Lady Dilke (1840-1904), born Emilia Francis Strong, was an author, art historian and trade unionist. As a child she was encouraged to take up cultural pursuits as her father was active in Oxford art circles which saw the family come into contact with important figures in the Victorian art world including John Ruskin and William Holman Hunt.

She moved to London in 1858 and studied for two years at the Government School of Design at South Kensington. She was especially interested in anatomical drawing but was refused access to life drawing classes because she was a woman - instead she took private classes. On completing her studies she returned to Oxford where she married in 1861 her first husband Mark Pattison (1813-1884). Following her marriage she undertook serious scholarship in the fields of French cultural history and art. The marriage was an unhappy one and she spent increasing amounts of time in France where she was able to concentrate on her research interests.

From the mid-1860s she wrote articles and reviews on art for the periodical press and between 1873 and 1883 she was the art editor of The Academy . In 1879 her first book was published The Renaissance of Art in France which was well researched. Further important studies of French art followed, the Wallace Collection has all four of her books on French art and architecture.

Lady Dilke was also asked to write the preface of the first Wallace Collection Catalogue in 1897, and she wrote the introduction to the following: Molinier, Émile, The Wallace Collection (objets d'art) at Hertford House , London: Goupil & Co. Paris: Manzi , Joyant & Co., 1903.

In the later years of her life she became involved in the Women's Trade Union League, becoming its president in 1886. Following the death of Pattison she married again, her second husband being the radical Liberal politician Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke (1843-1911).

Biography of Emilia Francis, Lady Dilke.

Keywords: biography, women writers, art history

How to Cite:

Fraser H., (2019) “Emilia Francis, Lady Dilke (2 September 1840–24 October 1904)”, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 2019(28). doi:



Published on 03 Jun 2019
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Art historian and trade unionist, Emilia Dilke (Fig. 1) grew up in Iffley, near Oxford. Christened Emily Francis Strong, she preferred to go by her second, masculine name. She was educated at home, and through family connections was introduced to leading figures in the Victorian art world. In 1858 John Ruskin encouraged her to study at the Government School of Design in South Kensington, London, which had a formative influence on her later scholarship as an art historian.

Pauline, Lady Trevelyan (née Jermyn) and Laura Capel Lofft (later Lady Trevelyan), Emilia Francis (née Strong), Lady Dilke, c. 1864, oil on millboard, 25.4 × 18.1 cm. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

After completing her art education, Strong returned to Oxford, where she married the 48-year-old scholar Mark Pattison, rector of Lincoln College, Oxford in June 1861. Thereafter, she produced her most serious scholarship, focusing her research on French cultural history and art. The Pattisons’ marriage was famously unhappy, allegedly the model for the mésalliance of Dorothea Brooke and Edward Casaubon in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She began writing reviews, articles, and notes on art for the periodical press from the mid-1860s, and became the salaried art editor of the Academy from 1873 to 1883. She published her first book, The Renaissance of Art in France, in 1879. A short biography of Sir Frederic Leighton was published in the Illustrated Biographies of Modern Artists series (1882), which was followed by her major study, Claude Lorrain: sa vie et ses œuvres (1884).

After her husband’s death in 1884, she married the liberal politician and periodical proprietor, Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke (1843–1911). As Emilia Dilke, she published further important studies of French art, which culminated in her encyclopedic four-volume study of eighteenth-century French art (1899–1902). In these volumes she was concerned, among other matters, with the role of women in the arts as producers and subjects, drawing parallels between the social and institutional constraints affecting earlier and contemporary female artists. She also drew attention to the political determinants of art and the economics of production within the modern art market in her Art in the Modern State (1888).

Pattison’s commitment to social reform, and to improving the working conditions of women, led to her involvement, from its inception, in the Women’s Trade Union League, of which she became its first president in 1886 until her death.

Emilia, Lady Dilke

Emilia, Lady Dilke (2 September 1840, Ilfracombe, Devon – 23 October 1904), born Emily Francis Strong, was an English author, art historian, feminist and trade unionist.

Emilia Francis Strong, the daughter of Henry and Emily Weedon Strong, was called by her middle name, with its masculine spelling, during her childhood and youth. She was raised in Iffley, near Oxford, and attended the South Kensington Art School in London in her late teens. She married Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1861 she was then known as Francis Pattison, Mrs. Mark Pattison, or, in some of her publications, as E. F. S. Pattison. After Mark Pattison's death in 1884, she married Sir Charles Dilke, and was subsequently known as Lady Dilke or Emilia Dilke. Both of her marriages were topics of some public discussion.

She became a contributor to the Saturday Review in 1864 and subsequently was for many years fine-art critic of the Academy and from 1873 its art editor, and she published in numerous other journals in Britain and France. In addition to numerous signed and unsigned essays, and her major works of art history, she wrote essays on French politics and on women's trade unionism and women's work. She also published two volumes of short stories (a third part-volume appeared posthumously). She was involved with the Women's Protective and Provident League, later the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL), from near its inception in 1874 and she served as President of the WTUL for many years until her death. Her niece, Gertrude Tuckwell (daughter of her sister Rosa and brother-in-law the Reverend William Tuckwell) worked with her closely in her feminist and trade unionist activities.


Kali Israel's Names and Stories contributes importantly to the nascent genre of historiographic biography. [Here], Dilke's life is treated for the first time as part of a sustained, historically aware, and critically self-conscious process of representation. Israel accomplishes her stated aims with clarity and often brilliance, using her study of Dilke's life to embark on carefully mapped excursions into various topics related to Victorian spiritual, cultural, and political life. ― Victorian Studies

The book is not merely biographical, but is rich in literary criticism, aesthetic history, and cultural inquiry as it investigates the full spectrum of nineteenth-century British thought and custom. ― Michigan Alumnus Magazine

This is a remarkable work of interdisciplinary scholarship. By exploring narrative representations of the life of the extraordinary Victorian Emilia Dilke, Professor Israel upsets what is often the most conservative form of history writing―biography. This is 'biographical' writing in a truly postmodern key. The author uses Dilke as a complex site for addressing important questions about gender, class, politics, social performance, the body, erotic desire, and how we make historical sense of such things. Kali Israel's study is controversial in the best sense, inviting readers to rethink methods of interpretation and understanding. ― James Epstein, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University

Names and Stories is a fruitful alliance of detailed and generous primary-source research with sophisticated post-modern readings of text of traditional and 'literary turn' history and of biography and cultural history. Part of the new school of feminist life-story writing which refuses a continuous, unified recital of its subject, Israel's book on Emilia Dilke (in all her incarnations) is nonetheless wonderfully thorough at retrieving the thousands of texts (including nearly a dozen novels, beginning with Middlemarch) woven around her life. I read it with fascination. ― Ellen Ross, Professor of History and Women's Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey

The collection has been arranged as follows into the following series and sub-series:

DILKE/I - Interiors
DILKE/I/1 - Arabesques and Singeries
DILKE/I/2 - Boiseries & Painted Panels – Various Locations
DILKE/I/3 - Boiseries – Palais de l'Élysée & Chateau de Beroy
DILKE/I/4 - Bronzes D'Ameublement
DILKE/I/5 - Details & Interiors – Various Locations
DILKE/I/6 - Details & Interiors - Petit Trianon & Grand Trianon
DILKE/I/7 - Details & Interiors – Versailles
DILKE/I/8 - Furniture
DILKE/I/9 - Tapestries, Screens, and Upholstery

DILKE/E - Exteriors
DILKE/E/1 - Exeriors – École Militaire
DILKE/E/2 - Exteriors - Paris
DILKE/E/3 - Exteriors - Various Locations

What’s in a Name? The Archival Legacy of Emilia Francis Strong/Pattison/Dilke

By Jessica Gregory, Curatorial Support Officer for Modern Manuscripts, 1601 – 1950. The papers of Emilia Francis Dilke (Née Strong, formerly Pattison) can be found at Add MS 43903-43908. The correspondence of Emilia Francis Dilke and Gertrude Tuckwell are found at Add MS 49610-49612. The British Library’s exhibition, Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, explores the history of women’s rights activism and is open now.

Emila Francis (Née Strong), Lady Dilke by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, 1887.
(NPG 5288, © National Portrait Gallery, London)

For too long, the achievements of women of the past have been lost many who have made significant contributions to various fields find themselves remembered only in relation to the men in their lives. Tracing their own histories through archival collections can be a difficult task: within their husband’s papers, their legacies are already framed by the names they inherit and the proximity to power which was granted by them. Retelling the achievements of women from the past often requires us to reconstruct and draw together their lives through their disparate archival legacies, so often mapped according to their inherited names.

One such case is that of Emilia Francis Strong. She would become an essayist, author, art historian and women’s rights activist, but despite her varied intellectual output, there is a surprising lack of primary material preserved. The British Library holds some of her papers within her second husband’s archive: The Charles Dilke Papers. There are also a few items of correspondence within the collections of other powerful men too, but she has — to adapt Woolf’s famous phrase — no  Archive of her Own.
Strong’s marriage to Dilke and her social class ensured that her name was preserved in history, but her varied intellectual pursuits have been overshadowed by her husband’s sex-scandal, which even now would have tabloid editors licking their lips. (And which, regrettably, I have to go into in order to contextualise her life).  

Sir Charles Dilke and Emilia Dilke,1894, By W. & D. Downey, published by Cassel and Company, Ltd. (NPG x8701. © National Portrait Gallery, London)

Charles was a Liberal MP with a radical agenda, but the discovery of his extramarital relations with his brother’s mother-in-law, followed by his brother’s sister-in-law, Virginia Crawford, was just scratching the surface of his misdeeds. When Mr. Crawford’s divorce trial made the headlines, the judge found Virginia Crawford guilty of adultery, but — paradoxically — found Charles Dilke innocent of the same crime. On top of this, Dilke found himself pursued by an investigative journalist with a grudge, and was soon forced to enter a case in an effort to clear his name, which catastrophically backfired when his heavily mutilated liaison diaries were paraded in court. The torn and self-censored diaries seemed to prove Charles Dilke’s adultery and he became a figure of ridicule for his desperate attempts to cover up his indiscretions. Emilia had defended Charles at the trial, but the damage was done. His reputation crumbled and his love-life was the talk of the town for many years to come.

Engagement Book of Sir Charles Dilke, 1888,
Add MS 49402

Emilia’s legacy — like her life — is framed by this relationship.  The situation would not be much improved by remembering her as ‘Emilia Pattison, wife of Mark Pattison’, either her first marriage was so famously unhappy that she and her husband are said to be the real-life inspiration for the unhappy couple of Mr. Casaubon and Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot’s, Middlemarch.

A letter to Emilia Pattison from her friend, author George Eliot, 1870. Add MS 43907. British Library.

However, apart from her two marriages, Emilia sought to establish a name for herself through her own actions and writings. She studied at the South Kensington Art School in London. After her studies, she began contributing essays to the periodicals, such as The Saturday Review. She studied and wrote on Art and became arts editor of The Academy journal. Married to Mark Pattison at this point, she signed her articles E. F. S. Pattison, adding the ‘S’ to signify her maiden name: Strong — to reflect an element of her independence from her husband. Emilia published on the subject of French Art and gained a reputation as a respectable historian and critic in her own right.

She was also interested in social reform and particularly in improving working conditions for women. She was a prominent figure in the Women’s Trade Union League, founded in 1874 and became its president in 1886. She wrote on the subject of women’s rights at work. In the book Women’s Work, she explores the idea that women are a feature of the modern workplace and that their low wages are damaging not just to women, but to men — who were having their wages undercut — too. She outlines her argument for a raise of women’s wages to be in line with those of men as follows:

It is only too clear that economic independence of women is very, very far from being accomplished…Even though a woman’s work may be as good and as rapid as a man’s, we have seen that her scale of payment is frequently inferior to his…it would seem, therefore, clearly to be in the interest of workman to promote legislation and such methods of organisation as will afford to women the same vantageground [sic] as men

Emilia examined many aspects of women’s work in her essays and opinion pieces, outlining issues of inequality and advocating for health reforms in various sectors — even speaking at the Trade Unions’ Congress. She advocated for women’s trade unionism and would continue to publish on this subject — as well as Fine Art — for the rest of her life. Emilia was also friends with Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst and supported their campaigns for women’s suffrage.

Header for an Article published in the North American Review, 1891.

Even more than this, Emelia also wrote fiction, publishing two volumes of short stories, called, The Shrine of Death and Other Stories (1886) and The Shrine of Love and Other Stories (1891). The preface to The Shrine of Love seems to reaffirm the importance of working for reform through life:

Nothing has troubled me more than the weight of retribution which often falls on those who revolt against any point of prevailing order.

Fly-page image from The Shrine of Death and Other Stories, 1886.

Hers are strange, allegorical tales, sometimes with a supernatural element, and a strong focus on morality and fate. They did not prove popular at the time, but these stories have recently been consolidated and republished for a new audience.

Considering this complex and varied legacy, it is a reductive to think of Emilia Dilke as simply the wife of MP Charles Dilke. Her many writing talents should have ensured her a more pronounced legacy than the one she currently holds. Compared to other women of the era, Emilia Dilke was privileged enough to be published and this has preserved many of her thoughts for the long-term. There is no doubt her work on women’s rights was an influence on other women, including her niece Gertrude Tuckwell, who advocated for women’s rights and women’s suffrage, becoming one of the first female magistrates in the UK. However, the lack of available archival material reflects a system of collecting that was very much centered on prominent men.

Gertrude Tuckwell, Emilia Dilke’s niece, women’s rights advocate and suffragist. Wikicommons.

The centuries of male dominance in society are reflected in the contents of historic archive collections. The exclusion of women from professional careers means that essential institutional records are primarily authored by men on the actions of men. Therefore, women of the past with intellectual careers and contributions to various fields, often find themselves excluded from many historical records. Without admittance into the professional sphere their work has often been side-lined as that of personal ‘interests’ or ‘hobbies’, and therefore, historically not deemed worthy of formal preservation. This may help explain the disparity between Charles Dilke’s archival collections and Emilia’s.

As well as this, the ability to trace individuals is also more complex for some than it is for others. Barring titles, ranks and self-administered change, the majority of male names will remain the same throughout life, whereas women’s names often change through marriage. Archivists make efforts to discover women’s maiden names so that they can link individuals’ relative outputs together and to help establish a full biography of a person, but sometimes these names are never found. Emilia went by many names during her life, she had her married names, but also preferred to call herself Francis over Emilia at times. As well as this, she would sometimes include her maiden name in signatures and sometimes prefer to author articles with differing initials. Given this abundance of known names, one might see how articles of her authorship may not be linked together.

A combination of structural bias and incidental loss has inhibited the collection of women’s archives for generations, but there is change in the air. Archival institutions now make efforts to correct imbalances in their archival collections. The efforts to brings the many untold lives of women back into history was a major feature of second-wave feminism. As well as this, the internet has provided a means of connecting and tying women’s narratives together, enabling the writing of fuller biographies and giving more credence to their achievements.

The legacy of Emilia Francis Dilke has certainly benefitted from these changes, and many of her works have even been digitised and so can be accessed by a wider range of scholars. Likewise, contemporary women have made efforts to recover Emilia Dilke’s legacy, with Professor Hilary Fraser writing her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, and Dr. Kali Israel writing a  contemporary feminist biography of Emilia Dilke that explores her accomplishments on her own terms. But such work has had to be accomplished without a comprehensive archival legacy for Emilia’s life and work. Given all this, one can see how easily other women have been lost to history, especially without the privilege of access to publishing that Emilia enjoyed. So many legacies have been reduced to a few scraps of paper and given our current advances in the field of archives, it is essential that we make an effort today to ensure that female archival legacies are fuller, broader, and most importantly, present in the future.

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Names and Stories: Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture

"Emilia Dilke" (1840-1904) was christened Emily Francis Strong and known by her middle name throughout her childhood as the daughter of an army officer-cum-bank manager in Iffley, England, near Oxford, and her days as an art student in London. During her first marriage, she was Francis Pattison or Mrs. Mark Pattison, while her published works of art history and criticism w "Emilia Dilke" (1840-1904) was christened Emily Francis Strong and known by her middle name throughout her childhood as the daughter of an army officer-cum-bank manager in Iffley, England, near Oxford, and her days as an art student in London. During her first marriage, she was Francis Pattison or Mrs. Mark Pattison, while her published works of art history and criticism were neutrally signed E. F. S. Pattison. Later, in the 1870s, she privately changed her first name to Emilia, a switch made public when she remarried in 1885. By this second nuptial union she became Lady Dilke, the famous intellectual, feminist, art critic, author, and, eventually, the active and popular President of the Women's Trade Union League for nearly twenty years.

A rich work of biography, literary criticism, aesthetic history, and sociocultural inquiry, Names and Stories traces the life of this fascinating and remarkable woman as it was lived under many different appellations and guises. In doing so, the book investigates the full spectrum of nineteenth-century British thought and custom. By studying not only an individual life but the many stories that informed, determined, and challenged that life, author Kali Israel considers Dilke as both subject and object--author and character, player and pawn--in the Victorian world of which she was a part. As they are chronicled, explained, and contextualized in this book, these stories--however they were created, told, or interpreted--move through realms both historical and fictional. Israel's central character experienced not one but two highly visible marriages marked by rampant gossip, high-profile sex scandals, and inconclusive courtroom battles was considered by some to be the model for the character of Dorothea in Eliot's Middlemarch and similarly "appeared" in many other novels, plays, and even poems in her own time and up through the mid-twentieth century.

Names and Stories is not a conventional "life and times" book, even though it recounts a birth-to-death adventure that is both unique and epochal. Rather, the work utilizes Dilke's myriad narratives as the means to broader critical, historical, and theoretical engagements. Debating the very nature of life-study and biography-writing, Israel employs a wide array of published and primary sources to argue that the "names and stories" of Emilia Dilke can help us understand key conflicts and tensions within Victorian Britain, as well as ongoing cultural arguments. This book thus examines several nineteenth-century pressure-points in this light, among them gender, representation, authority, authorship, knowledge, and political thought. Israel's contemporary and cross-disciplinary study also illuminates such broader themes as the family, the body, narrative, figuration, and historical writing and reading.
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I could not write this blog without the local history books from all the little villages and towns throughout the province. I am indebted to the web site, Our Roots, for digitizing many Saskatchewan local history books, and to the libraries that preserve these rich resources on their book shelves.

I am sorry that Google News Archives is no longer searchable. It still provides free access to scanned newspapers, including full issues of the major Saskatchewan papers, going back to the 1800s, but it no longer has a search engine. You have to browse, which is not really practical for my research purposes.

Watch the video: Emilia Francis Lady Dilke 1905 Spiritual Life custom leather book w. extra material author letter (July 2022).


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