Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s Handwritten Poetry Collection


Note written by Lucy Violet Holdsworth to accompany Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts 56)














Mary Elizabeth Coleridge was born on 23 September 1861, and she grew up surrounded by literary and artistic talent. She was the great-grand-niece of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and her family friends included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, and Robert Browning. During her lifetime, she became best known for her essays, reviews and her five published novels. These included ‘The King with Two Faces’ which she received the substantial sum of £900 for in 1897.

However, posthumously it is her poetry which has taken centre stage. Our first Treasure of the Month for 2017 is a fair copy of Mary Coleridge’s first poetry collection, ‘Fancy’s Following’, which was handwritten by the poet for her friend, Lucy Violet Holdsworth.


Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)






Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)

The copy was made before it was later issued privately by Daniel Press in 1896, and in fact, it was this small white book which led to the publication. Holdsworth’s cousin, Monica Bridges (nee. Waterhouse) was married to the Robert Seymour Bridges, Britain’s poet laureate from 1913 – 1930. Holdsworth planned for the book to be left out for Bridges to take notice and when he did, he asked to meet Mary to encourage her to publish her work. Coleridge agreed, but with the stipulation that it was published under the pseudonym ‘Anodos’ in order not to disgrace her family name by acknowledging she was the author. It wasn’t until four months after her death in 1907 that a book of two hundred and thirty-seven of her poems was finally published under her real name, and by that time, it proved so popular that it was reprinted four times in just six months.


The score for ‘The Blue Bird’, a poem by Mary Coleridge set to Music by Charles Villiers Stanford. (Stanford Collection, Op.119.3.)


‘A Blue Bird’, which appeared in ‘Fancy’s Following’, was one of eight of Mary Coleridge’s poems which was set to music by Charles Villiers Stanford. The score can be found in our Stanford (Charles Villiers) Collection, and you can listen to a performance of it below.

23rd December – Foxes in the Snow

The Common Fox

Probably every Englishman thinks he knows the common fox sufficiently well to run no risk of confounding it with any other animal…

The ordinary English fox, as represented in our coloured plate, is of reddish brown colour above, white beneath, while the outer surfaces of the ears, and portions of those of the limbs are black, and the extreme tip of the tail is white. Occasionally, however, the tip of the tail may be dark grey, or even black, while in one specimen caught in Warwickshire, the whole of the under-parts were greyish black. The total length of the head and body may vary from 27 to 46 inches, and that of the tail from 12 to 15 inches.

Extract taken from The Royal Natural History, Vol. I, edited by Richard Lydekker, B.A., F.G.S, F.Z.S, Etc.
Contains coloured plates and illustrations, with the above plate illustrated by W. Kuhnert.

This book is part of the 19th Century Collection and can be found here.

9th December – Mr Fezziwig’s Ball

Fezziwig- 19th century

‘There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.” Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.’ – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Find the book in our 19th Century Collection.

8th December – Dr Fridtjof Nansen

Dr Fridtjof Nansen [Norwegian Polar Explorer]

Dr Fridtjof Nansen [Norwegian Polar Explorer]

Dr Fridtjof Nansen (1861 – 1930) was a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He was also a champion skier and ice skater, and led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888.

This photograph came from Fridtjof’s letter to Robert Spence Watson from Lysaker dated 7 March 1892. See it for yourself here.