I mentioned Lady Alice in an earlier post, but to give some more juicy interest to Aladore, we need to revisit her.
First of all, lets step back to one of Henry’s earlier novels, The Old Country: A Romance (1906).
The main character is a novelist, who visits a historic manor and falls in love with the woman who lives there. He reads a great history of place and wanders in the ruins of the old house… and somehow ends up in the 14th century (time slip!). He gets to experience a bunch of interesting history (and a lot of church debate), but eventually makes it back to the present and his love…
In 1889, Henry married Margaret Duckworth (with Ella Coltman along for the ride, of course) at the island chapel of her family estate, Orchardleigh. Well learned, radical, and from a publishing family, Margaret influenced Henry to shift from practicing law to focusing on literary pursuits.
It turns out that The Old Country is fictionalized Orchardleigh. It enacts a romantic ideal that Margaret’s childhood home deeply tied them to its ancient heritage through the land itself–and acts as a testament of his deep love for her.
Well, we know Henry’s married love life was complicated (i.e. Henry, Margaret, Ella triangle), and it gets more so. Soon, he met Alice Hylton, who lived with her husband (the Baron Hylton) and children at Ammerdown, fine estate not far from Orchardleigh. Apparently they started a spiritual, poetic, artistic affair–lots of exciting meetings at beautiful gardens and galleries in London. And lots of love poems.
Margaret and Ella did not like Alice…
By 1909 we get the lovey-dovey collaboration The Book of Cupid: Being an Anthology from the English poets (London: Constable & Co. 1909). Its a collection of old English love poems edited by Henry, with some not very good illustrations from Alice. I couldn’t find any information about Alice as an illustrator or artist–because she is not known as one… However, she is known for garden design. With a bit of professional help, she designed a new Italian formal garden for Ammerdown featuring yew trees, fountains, and statues.
Now if you have read Aladore, maybe she is starting to sound familiar. Henry worked closely with Alice while writing Aladore and would have her read every chapter as he wrote it. It was apparently based on vivid dreams. But, also his real life:
Alice becomes the mysterious lover Aithne. Alice’s childhood home Bamburgh Castle becomes Aithne’s Castle Kerioc. Ammerdown and its gardens become Aladore.
And while Henry wrote Aladore, Alice made the illustrations.
Note: most of this gossip comes from Susan Chitty, Playing the Game: A Biography of Sir Henry Newbolt (London: Quartet Books, 1997). Chitty’s husband is related to Newbolt, allowing her access to huge numbers of private letters still in the hands of various friends and family. Lucky for us that Victorians were such great letter writers! For a much less interesting bio, see: Derek Winterbottom, Henry Newbolt and the Spirit of Clifton (Bristol: Redcliffe Press, 1986).