It’s not every day the door bell rings and your postman hands you an unexpected parcel through the rain. Once in a lifetime (if you’re lucky) I’m guessing, will you open the wrapping on such a find. In this case a 90 year old handwritten journal detailing a journey taken by sisters – one of whom was the extraordinary artist and anti-fascist Felicia Browne, who I got to know rather well through the Arts Council funded project Through An Artist’s Eye.
A Journal of Events – commencing January 31st 1927 is exactly that thing – and I am exactly in that place of awe and wonder. As I stroke the cover and marvel at the exquisite handwriting and animated stick drawings I’m simultaneously pinching myself.
The journal traces a trip to southern France, but the tone is set in the first pages by a quite hilarious declaration “Relating to Mutual Behaviour & Deportment” solemnly signed by Felicia and Helen. Hungry glances further ahead confirm that it’s brimming with incident and reveals that while Felicia missed out on a visit to the Lourve in 1936 (en route to Barcelona) she was there in 1927. In 1936 she’d wandered the streets of Paris in a state of savage loneliness finding even the Lourve closed to her for Bastille celebrations. Her companion Dr Edith Bone had abandoned her for other friends and she was dizzied and alienated by Paris on this occasion. Within weeks she would be shot dead by enemy fire near a railway bridge in Tardienta (Aragon). She was the only British woman to fight in the Spanish Civil War and the first British volunteer to die in combat. Her 1927 journey could not have been more of a contrast it seems. I’m so incredibly glad for her.
I’m somewhat busy on other projects these days, but it seemed fitting to blog about this extraordinary journal as a postscript to TAAE. There’s a whole new chapter of the story and the potential for more creative responses held in these pages.
My immense gratitude to Felicia’s nephew – the ever generous Peter Marshall – for sending it to me to read and scan before I return it. I think my first job is an email to all my TAAE collaborators with the news!