The Michaelian
the michaelian

issue one: june 2009

“For That Moment Only”: Michael Field and the Prose Poem.

Matthew Mitton

In a letter to Ernest Dowson on 30 June 1897, Oscar Wilde praised the younger man’s “words with wings,” calling his poetic ability “an exquisite gift, and fortunately rare in an age whose prose is more poetic than its poetry” (Wilde, 908).  This comment is a touch ironic, perhaps, from the man who, almost more than any other at the fin de siècle, did so much to elevate British prose to the same prestigious status as British verse. In a literary culture where for so long prose composition and publication had been geared towards mass commercial consumption—particularly in the manifold journals and periodicals which flourished throughout the nineteenth century—it had been a convenient, sometimes essential means of writers making their name and even, in the case of minor and/or female writers, a living. By the 1890s, the perfection of a beautiful prose style which could equal the aesthetic of poetry—capable of intellectual discourse, yet equally capable of exulting its own essential uselessness—became the goal. Following on from the example of Walter Pater, the aesthetic criticism of Wilde, Vernon Lee, Max Beerbohm and George Moore stands technical comparison with the finest poetry of the decade. As a result of this new culture of prose composition, the boundaries of genre became more flexible: high criticism, autobiography, fiction and fact collided and melded together. All of this provided the conditions for the brief growth and flourishing of that newest, rarest and most perplexing of literary phenomena: the prose poem.

During this period, from the close of the eighteen-eighties to the middle period of the nineties, Katharine Bradley and her niece Edith Cooper—more commonly known to their contemporaries as the poet and dramatist Michael Field—experimented with prose. Aside from the continual, quotidian composition of their journal, they wrote a series of increasingly experimental prose pieces which they intended to publish as Michael Field. Between 1887 and 1890, they wrote and published one short story and three aesthetic essays in the periodical press.1 In 1893, following the steady praise of their early verse dramas, they staged a full-length play in prose, A Question of Memory, which received a disastrous reception from the critics. From this time until 1895 they also began designing and writing a series of croquis (sketches), or prose poems, under the working title of “For That Moment Only.” This project, though completed in manuscript, was never published.

To date, the history and status of Michael Field’s prose in its manifold forms has gone largely overlooked. The period between 1893 and 1895 which Bradley and Cooper spent writing “For That Moment Only” shows how seriously prose was being taken by them as a potential new direction for Michael Field at a time when their lyric output had slowed down and their poetic drama was under increasing critical attack. Although the resulting works were not published, they nevertheless point to Bradley and Cooper’s experimental, eclectic approach to form, and their status as writers who were, for all their habitual trawling through the literary and artistic past, at the forefront of the literary avant garde. This essay will look closely at a number of pieces from “For That Moment Only” in detail, seeking to place them both in the literary context of the times as well as the wider Michael Field poetic oeuvre and Bradley and Cooper’s shifting attitudes to prose composition.

Following the death of John Miller Gray in 1894—a long-time friend of Bradley and Cooper, and public avatar of the works of Michael Field—one of the artefacts which he bequeathed to them was the original manuscript of “Effigies,” elegantly bound, and with the published version appended to the end. Attached to the front cover are the letters exchanged between Edith Cooper and Gray relating to the composition of the essay. In one dated 9 February 1890, Cooper stated:

The Proof of Effigies has been sent off this Sabbath morning after labour and sorrow of revision. My opening sentence always displeases me; it was the convulsive plunge with which one takes to a new element—and from prose I always recoil as I do from touch of the sea (What would Mr. Swinburne say to this!) [….] But I have made confession before now of my incorrigible disdain for prose; so that I cannot consistently levy forces in its behalf.2

Although Cooper received this document back in 1894, it is clear that even the passage of time had not softened her opinions of her abilities as a prose writer: “my Effigies lovingly bound—MS and printed form. Horror of re-reading it! I am as much parted from it as a ghost from his old home—I laugh at my heavy prose, I am bored by it, + I am horrified at it! [….] Today we thank the Lord that the years that produced Effigies were eaten—They are well restored in For That Moment Only!” (Field, “Works and Days,” fol. 132 r).  Here again is the voice of displeasure, of recoil, mentioned in the letter of 1890, but now heightened to ‘horror.’ But not even the embarrassment of re-reading this old text, and the perennial ‘convulsive plunge’ into the unsettling ‘new element’ of prose was enough to dampen confidence in the new project, the restored, mature prose of what would become “For That Moment Only.”

It was straight after the negative experience of staging the critically-slated A Question of Memory in 1893 that Bradley and Cooper, at the suggestion of Bernard Berenson (Treby, 84), began to write short prose sketches, or croquis. Between this time and 1895, approximately thirty of these were written. Eighteen were then collected under the title of “For That Moment Only.” These texts were never published; despite the professed enthusiasm for the project and their frequent appearance in draft form in the journal between 1893 and 1895, they remain in manuscript in the Bodleian Library. This holding3 consists of 71 loose manuscript sheets, ordered into two sequences entitled “First” and “Second Series.” The “First Series” contains the following works: “A Vision or a Waking Dream?;” “The Hill to Loreto;” “An Agony;” “A Maenad;” “A Traveller”s Tale;” “Eriphion the Faun;” “The Lady Moon” and “A Faun.” The “Second Series” consists of: “Darkened Eyes;” “Gwen;” “A Face Seen in Ling;” “By the Sundial;” “A Wintry Sea;” “The Grannary;” “Incongruity;” “The Fairy Knight;” “Grandfather’s Chair” and “Cupid at College.”  The manuscript reveals two distinct hands, though one appears to be more significant: that of Edith Cooper. In his catalogue Ivor Treby attempts to assign authorship to each separate piece, and the majority do seem to belong to Cooper, but, as he mentions of their collaborative compositional process: “Both women, apart from ‘weeding each other’s garden’ copied out both their own and the other’s poems in a series of notebooks. Handwriting alone is no sure indication of authorship” (108). Almost all pieces are signed Michael Field. Clearly, ‘he’ was again intended as the author, regardless of collaborative input, and shall be treated as such in my ensuing analysis.

Although never published, the writing and collation of these short prose sketches, even their fated obscurity, offers an insight into the literary and cultural phenomena of the strange and shifting genre of the prose poem in late nineteenth century Britain. But, before proceeding further, it is perhaps important to try and quantify what a prose poem is, and, more importantly, what the term would have meant to writers at the fin de siècle.

Critical assessments of the prose poem tend to be scarce and the authors often disagree on the shape of the canon, precisely when it originated, what its trajectory was, and where the genre stands today. The focus also tends to be either upon the French tradition of prose poetry, or how it was adopted and employed in America during the twentieth century. Although the prose poems of Wilde and Dowson are usually discussed—or at least referenced in passing—the prose poem tradition in Britain at the fin de siècle has rarely been given central focus. Two of the most significant recent studies of the prose poem genre are Margueritte S. Murphy’s A Tradition of Subversion: The Prose Poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery (1992) and N. Santilli’s Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English (2002). These two studies disagree on the precise origins of the genre, on the particular role of Wilde, and its subsequent future, but both are nevertheless important in offering definitions of this loose, paradoxical form, so seemingly at odds with itself, so often as baffling to its practitioners as its readers that it hardly seems likely to exist at all. As Murphy notes: “The genre, the prose poem, was a genre formed in violation of genre, a seeming hybrid, in name a contradiction in terms” (1). Santilli, regarding the formal structure and appearance of the prose poem, has noted: “The visual dimension of the prose poem is characterized by its brevity. The formal severity instantly distinguishes the form from poetic prose, which, by contrast, is naturally expansive in its complex weaving of syntactical rhythm” (98). So, what we have is a form so wonderfully open to endless possibility and suggestion; a formless form which allows the potential for lyricism without all the constraining accoutrements of rhyme and strict meter, something which has the discursive fluidity of prose, its ability to absorb and contain many different dialogic and monologic discourses, with all the immediacy and brevity of a small lyric poem. Its shortness, indeed, is the key to the prose poem’s status and its potential powers. What proved so attractive to writers in Britain at the close of the nineteenth century was the boundless possibilities which the new genre offered, its multitude of different voices, tones and idioms, and, moreover, its ability to subvert. This ‘violation’ of genres was a political act, a breaking up of centuries of tradition and received opinion, as well as providing fertile soil for writing about ‘violation’ of one kind or another. It promoted subversion, whether artistic, social, or even sexual; truly it was not coincidental, as Margaret Stetz has noted, that “the nineteenth-century British writers most powerfully drawn to transgress genre boundaries between prose and poetry were those whose politics [….] were radical in general” (620).

When charting the emergence of the prose poem in the nineteenth century, the single work which set the greatest precedence was Baudelaire’s Petits Poèms en Prose (1867). At the time of writing his ‘translations’ of verse in prose, Baudelaire had been re-reading Aloysius Bertrand’s Gaspard de la Nuit (1831) and translating the Suspiria de Profundis (1845) of Thomas De Quincey. Both of these texts had provided him with the desire for a particular form which coupled the lyric intensity of poetry with the flexible, direct, yet flowing mode of prosaic speech, which was seemingly improvised, almost off-the-cuff: “Which of us has never imagined, in his more ambitious moments, the miracle of a poetic prose, musical though rhythmless and rhymeless, flexible yet strong enough to identify with the lyrical impulses of the soul, the ebbs and flows of revery [sic], the pangs of conscience?” (Baudelaire, 25). What Baudelaire produced with this new hybrid form were fifty short pieces which vary widely in tone and content. Many deal with fantasies, of the relation between the artist’s conception of the ideal and the often harsh realities of urban dwelling. What they achieve is an apt mode for charting, exploring and describing the modern city and urbanised sensibility in flux: the high life and low realities, its pleasures and its hypocritical cruelties. What these works as a whole produce is the sense of an omnipotent persona, or sensibility, shot-through with a world-weary, Byronic cynicism, and a very keen, though not didactic, morality. It is difficult to overstress the importance of this collection upon subsequent European writers.

In Britain at around the same time, debate about the combination of poetry and prose was intensifying, with poetic prose becoming very much the vogue. It was to be Pater himself, in his essay “On Style” in Appreciations (1889), who would argue for a new kind of attitude to prose and its potential capabilities, because “those who have dwelt most emphatically on the distinction between prose and verse, prose and poetry, may sometimes have been tempted to limit the proper functions of prose too narrowly” (Pater, 5). Pater—the man who valued prose over poetry because he saw it as more difficult to write—utilised a poetic prose in this essay which placed the aesthetic experience of the text over its power to communicate ideas:

The line between fact and something quite different from external fact is, indeed, hard to draw. In Pascal, for instance, in the persuasive writers generally, how difficult to define the point where, from time to time, argument which, if it is to be worth anything at all, must consist of facts or groups of facts, becomes a pleading—a theorem no longer, but essentially an appeal to the reader to catch the writer’s spirit, to think with him, if one can or will—an expression no longer of fact but of his sense of it, his peculiar intuition of a world, prospective, or discerned below the faulty conditions of the present, in either case changed somewhat from the actual world. (Pater, 8–9)

Here, the line between sense and lyricism for its own sake is difficult to trace. But what passages such as this one point to—while not being prose poetry per se —is the possibility for prose to take on many of the rhetorical qualities of poetry while at the same time keeping the fluidity and informality of prose. Pater suggests that it is not so much the facts which prose communicates that are of prime importance, but the extent to which a writer’s prose can capture and communicate their spirit, the poetry of their personality, their subjective ‘intuition of a world,’ which can then speak to a reader at a more primal level than any amount of mere facts.

The prose poem proper in English, as an identifiably free-standing genre, began to emerge as something distinct from aesthetic/poetic prose as exemplified by Pater at the end of the eighties and the dawn of the nineties. The chief inspiration for this would, of course, have come from Baudelaire and other French practitioners such as Mallarmé and Huysmans, who would have been read in their original language. However, an indication of how widely known the genre had become in England at the fin de siècle, and an example of how the French originals began to be assimilated, is Stuart Merrill’s collection of translated prose poems, Pastels in Prose (1890). This book contains the more well-known exponents of the form along with new and more obscure practitioners as Judith Gautier and Paul Masy. W. D. Howells, the author of the book’s introduction, praises the prose poem as a “peculiarly modern invention” and that none of the writers in the collection “abused his opportunity to saddle his reader with a moral” (Howells, vii). This is perhaps a rather reductive, even inaccurate reading of some of the texts, but what the work did was to assert the prose poem, as a viable genre on the literary map.

A seminal prose poetry collection from this time was Olive Schreiner’s Dreams (1890). These texts have had a critical revival in the last few decades in relation to their status as feminist, New Woman, colonial and political texts, but relatively little has been said about their debt —as well as contribution —to the prose poem genre, yet they are, as Margaret Stetz claims, “allegorical poems in prose” (Stetz, 621). Although they do have a very strong moral and political agenda, their engagement with form, their brevity, concision, use of allegory, strong symbolic imagery and Biblical syntax all go towards strengthening the particular strand of argument in hand. Far from being a mere aesthete’s curio, a curate’s egg, the prose poem genre is shaped and transformed in Schreiner’s hands into a powerful tool for sexual and social protest. Many of the pieces appeared in Oscar Wilde’s The Woman’s World, The Fortnightly Review and other noted journals in the late eighteen-eighties. When they were published they received a huge popular readership. Another noteworthy collection from this period is Nora Hopper’s Ballads in Prose (1894). As an Irish descendent, though English herself, Hopper engaged in the Celtic Twilight tradition by retelling Irish myths and legends in a series of short prose pieces, inter-cut with more traditional poetic forms and prosodic techniques. This use of the two genres was both new and daring. The prose itself, though not thoroughly lyrical, does capture the music of the Irish idiom, and the winding narrative of the ballad form. Again, as with Schreiner’s work, this may have been further influence and impetus to Bradley and Cooper in the composition of their own collection.

The most famous/notorious prose poems of the nineties written and published in English were by Oscar Wilde and first appeared on 1 July 1894 in The Fortnightly Review. These pieces are remarkable for their apparently strong Christian morality, their craft and their use of the idiom of the Old Testament. Wilde does not use the prose poem form to explore its common concerns such as harsh urban realities. However, it was to be the problematic blending of prose and poetry which was to prove Wilde’s downfall in his trial. While claiming that a love letter to Lord Alfred Douglas was in fact nothing more than “a prose poem [which] will shortly be published in sonnet form in a delightful magazine” (Holland,53–4) did little to alleviate suspicion surrounding Wilde’s sexuality, it only served to fuel it as regarded the already confusing, contradictory and genre subverting prose poem. The genre very swiftly became associated with vice, corruption and the violation of acceptable boundaries. A form which had begun to be so liberating for women writers such as Schreiner, Hopper, and—in private—Bradley and Cooper, was suddenly outlawed, given “the kiss of death” (Stetz, 627). As Murphy has commented: “scandal and homophobia, ‘patriotism’ and Francophobia, combined lethally to stigmatize a form that had barely emerged” (33). At the close of the 90s Dowson would publish a small amount of prose poems at the end of Decorations (1899), but this would effectively be the end of the genre in England until well into the twentieth century.

Albeit somewhat partial, this brief outline of the history of the prose poem form shows the literary and cultural backdrop to Bradley and Cooper’s composition of “For That Moment Only,” illustrating the influences and diverse strands of thought and aesthetics within the genre, as well as one possible reason why the project was never published. Michael Field’s collection, in its final form, does constitute an important contribution not only to the genre in the nineteenth century, but the role of the woman writer within that new, ambiguous tradition, dealing with questions of aesthetics, sexuality, gender and social concerns. A work which takes its name from Pater’s conclusion to The Renaissance, that elemental hymn to momentary sensation—“Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us,—for that moment only” (188)— also manages to look beyond the pleasures of the moment, to the past, but also the future.

The two “Series” of “For That Moment Only” do not appear to follow any apparent or overriding narrative structure; the pieces are individual visions, single and singular moments of aesthetic, emotional and intellectual connection with a particular thought or theme. However, what does seem to distinguish the two series is that the first deals with more classical/pagan settings and themes while the second is more contemporary in tone and setting; the spirituality of series one becomes an assimilated way of feeling, seeing and living in the second. What I want to do here is dwell less on the distinction between the two halves, and more on how the whole collection deals with the major concerns of the lyric poetry—such as pagan spirituality/the classical past, desire for the masculine and the feminine love-object—and then combines them with more contemporary social issues surrounding gender.

The opening prose poem is entitled “A Vision or a Waking Dream?,” immediately invoking the close of Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale,” and pre-empting Michael Field’s contemplation of the liminal boundary between dreams and reality, art and life, the harsh present and the sublime serenity of the classical past. The piece opens with the speaker describing a landscape: “I looked down a vista of olive trees, white and grey and blue as silver: the branches were cramped into the form of a roof, above ground half dust and half pebbles. The morning was brilliant in the world, a fresh April morning; but in the olive vista shadow still held its own” (fol. 3). This summer scene, with the olives ripening in the sun, is actually divided into two, and it is the roof of olive tress which holds the two spheres apart. Above is the sun, a world of vibrant colours and clarity, but below, amidst the dust and pebbles of the ground is a shadow-land, a seemingly mystic space where “twenty or thirty little creatures” (fol. 3) are soon visible dancing together:

Their skins were brown, such brown as has in it a rich syrup-warmth: their little shanks shone demurely with fun, too young to be brown like the rest of their bodies, but visible as a sleekness with honied flush on it lying one way from the hips to the rugged hoofs. I did not see faces I could describe: only in the dance I caught now and then the glimpse of a mouth with a smile running up into the cheeks, and lost there as wonderfully as a rillet in sand; on eyes that slanted and spilt a bubble of laughter; on a chin with mischief round its globe; where the fur was slight as a peach’s. (fols. 3–4)

It is clear that whoever is dancing within the shade, be they real or a figment of the speaker’s heat affected mind, they are not entirely human. This paragraph, forming the centre of the sketch, consists of only two sentences, each composed of clause upon rhythmic clause—echoing the cadences of Pater— but using this music not for its own sake, but to enhance the ambience, the jouissant atmosphere of the dance which is being described. Further techniques such as sibilance: ‘skins’; ‘syrup’; ‘shanks’; ‘shone’; ‘sleekness;’coupled with the consonantal ‘s’ sounds further heightens the poeticism of the piece. At the same time it provides the background music, the soft, insistent hush, the continual movement and music of the olive leaves in the trees above the dancers. Whoever they are, fauns, maenads, dryads, this is the constant background anthem of their lives and their pleasures. The semantic field of richness—‘syrup;’ ‘honied;’ ‘flush;’ ‘globe;’ ‘peach’s’—serves to further emphasise the feeling of youth which the prose poem implies, filling out the sensuous nature of the dance which takes place under cover, in thick shade. “A Vision or a Waking Dream?” announces itself as something freer than the traditional formal poem, but through these prosodic effects, as well as its brevity, proves to be more compact and pungent than poetic prose.

This prose poem closes swiftly after this encounter with the strange forms in the shade as the narrator seemingly rouses, moving away from the scene to more sober reality, but with no answers as to what the figures were. Only one thing is clear: “Whatever one might call them they belonged to Bacchus, they belonged to April and to adolescence” (fol. 5). The narrator, it transpires, was talking about the olives. The tone has changed from the heady poeticism of the middle paragraph to shorter paragraphs of one sentence; the world of the prosaic has returned again. What may appear to be a rather comical piece about fauns/olives dancing in the shade is a keenly felt hymn to sensual pleasure in the natural world, and in the strength and beauty of youth. (The figure of the faun, as seen in Sight and Song and Underneath the Bough4 is used in Michael Field’s work as a trope for powerful, playful and subversive energies: part animal, part feminine and part child). This piece displays a deft control over form, the ability to change idiom and vocabulary, to play the poetic and the prosaic against each other and to evoke specific effects to a high degree of accomplishment. What results is a world vision where the present and antiquity lay one atop the other, each overlapping: the past is seen just below the counterpane of the present.

This theme of the classical/pagan past pervading the present is in many of the sketches in the first series, but in no more astonishing form than in the haunting piece “An Agony”:

The evening sky was colourless and the wheat one ardour of green in face of it: the world was too austere to be sad—we could only feel its sadness as tranquillity, as dew about the farms.
A tremulous, visionary passion rose in me as I wandered on: and then, as if in response to it, I found I was suddenly not alone as I had thought; for a young man, close to the path, supported himself across the branches of a maple, his arms hanging straight down from the armpits to the ends of the fingers. His naked limbs were long as a boy’s, yet soft in their modelling as a woman’s, dark-golden by nature, but reddened with sunburn. His hair was ruddier still by several shades than his chest, and a strange crown of Oriental design covered it like a bower—the rays of the crown being vine-stems: and their leaf buds stood out at such intervals as are normally left between jewels in a setting. Loops of vine-sprays and vine-buds fell from his neck to the waist, and at his loins a clump of boughs spread out into open leafage.
His head was bent, his mouth in shadow: underneath the tiara his dun brow stretched wide, with fretted eyebrows and eyelids that kept me quiet by their quietness. Then I saw that large drops, white, limpid, patient, came through the lids and hung unfallen.
I knew I was in the presence of Bacchus: I knew it by his garlands, his budding crown, by the ease of his limbs—and he, the Vine, was weeping.
In the top of the maple tree, over which he hung, a pruning-knife was hitched.
Then I understood, as far as confused passion can, the God was weeping at some hurt that had wounded to the quick, that he must bear in loneliness for the sake of the vintage, and of the men who should drink it, though they had ignored him.
Twilight grew over the vineyard: something was shaken down, glittering as it fell, was scattered and lost in the soil—a tear.
I looked with relief at the quiet lids: another tear was oozing and was almost round.
Then I moved sharply away—forever. (fols. 9–12)

This sketch, here presented in its entirety, has all the tactile colour and precise composition, all the physical and emotional intensity of an oil painting—a Grand Master—almost to a greater extent than many of the poems which appeared in Sight and Song. Amidst the austere nature scene, the speaker wanders amongst the wheat fields and lanes and happens upon the body of a young man, the god Bacchus, hanging across a maple tree, half supported, half crucified in an attitude of acute pain. The figure, though male, is androgynous: “His naked limbs were long as a boy’s, yet soft in their modelling as a woman’s.” Although there to heighten the plight of the forgotten gods which linger in the fields and the mountains, as well as the suffering of the vines born to be cut down and turned into wine, he is also there for the viewer’s visual pleasure: the second paragraph guides the reader’s eyes down from his outstretched arms, over his reddened skin, down to his loins which are crowded with boughs of vine: “his loins a clump of boughs spread out into open leafage.” His plight only serves as a context—much like the vogue for artworks of Sebastian’s martyrdom or Christ’s crucifixion—for a young man to be portrayed, semi-naked, in a pose ostensibly painful, yet with all the posture of physical gratification.

In this way, “An Agony” echoes the depictions of Sebastian in Sight and Song: “Young Sebastian stands beside a lofty tree, / Rigid by the rigid trunk” (“Antonello da Messina’s Saint Sebastian,” ll. 1–2; 69). And yet, this depiction of Bacchus is far less rigid, less statuesque than Sebastian; in his agonised, passionate suffering, this young god bears more than a passing resemblance to Christ. In a recent article concerning the post-conversion lyrics, Camille Cauti has stated that Michael Field’s Christ “is a vegetation god bursting into bloom” (185). This can be seen in a poem by Bradley from Mystic Trees (1913): “Thou art as a fair, green shoot, / That along the wall doth run; / Thou art as a welcoming open fruit, / Stretched forth to the glory of the sun” (“A Crucifix,” ll. 5–8; 35). If there is something oddly Christian about Michael Field’s depiction of Bacchus in “An Agony,” then, by the same token, there is something more than pagan about the depictions of Christ in the late Catholic poetry. This form of theological and aesthetic double-exposure inherent in Michael Field’s late poetry has its evolution in this boundary-free experimentation of the early half of the 1890s.

The narrative focus of “An Agony” then moves swiftly away from a physical description of the prostrate youth to a consideration of his status as Bacchus, the god of the vines cut to the quick by the pruning knife. The sudden understanding of his suffering in paragraph six is that the once lauded god must now suffer the indifference of men, as well as the actual pain inflicted upon the body of the vines. This evokes similar ecological sentiments which Gerard Manley Hopkins explores in “Binsey Poplars”: “O if we but knew what we do / When we delve or hew—/ Hack and rack the growing green! [….] even when we mean / To mend her we end her” (ll. 10–12 & 17–18; Hopkins, 78–9). Nature must bear the pain of Mankind’s desires, as literally embodied here by the presence of the weeping Bacchus. The speaker moves away at the end through a sense of guilt at their inability to alleviate this suffering. Despite the pain inflicted by indifference and ingratitude, Bacchus will bear these pains for the sake of the vine, for the sake of Man. Although ostensibly pagan, the Christian parallels are very plain. This intense, erotic and lush vision of the fallen pagan world is a lament for the fading of faith in general, of the lost ability to see the sublime and the spiritual in the world, and the lack of appreciation for the sacred bond between Mankind and Nature. This haunting work shows the deft visual precision with which Michael Field can paint with facility and flair in prose, and also the strain of the erotic which threads through their many poetic tableaux of the male and female form in the lyric verse.

This focus upon the classical past as a continuing source of viable spiritual worship is continued in subsequent sketches, reaching a state which borders upon epiphany in “A Maenad.” Here, the female narrator, along with two other women, are enjoying an afternoon together in the Surrey wealds: “It was April, an April without showers, with grey, inoperative clouds floating over the sunshine from time to time, making the air cold as they paused, but never withdrawing all the light out of the landscape” (fol. 13). This opening contains a deliberate echo of Chaucer’s “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales—“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote” (ll. 1–2; 23)—but here, no sweet showers bathe the thirsting earth. The landscape which these three pilgrims inhabit has all the threat of impending rain, all of its attendant, oppressive drabness, but none of the refreshing, replenishing qualities of the actual event. A further echo is from one of Michael Field’s own poems: “It was deep April, and the morn / Shakespeare was born; / The world was on us, pressing sore; / My Love and I took hands and swore, / Against the world, to be / Poets and lovers evermore” (“It was deep April,” ll. 1–6; UTB, 79). To all intents, that is what occurs in “A Maenad.” The three women, against the drab oppressiveness of nature, and away from the intrusive eyes of men, are able to enjoy complete freedom in each others’ company, against the world, away from the prying gaze of any outsiders. The youngest woman of the group is singled out for special attention by the narrator, being the physical embodiment of health and youth, and something much more, the Golden Age: “We were vibrant and impetuous as the forces that splendidly and naively were coming once more into existence round us. The imperishable truth of the Bacchic legend was re-incarnated in us all, but took the most perfect form in the youngest of our party—a girl scarcely out of her teens. [….] The dusky oval of her face was crossed by black brows, lovely in utter blackness, and in their union over the nose like a Greek’s” (fol. 14). The narrator, enchanted by the appearance of the girl, invites her to dance. She then proceeds to launch into a wild, primitive performance which—below all the ridiculousness caused by the juxtaposition with her more restrained Victorian clothing—betrays the liberating, threatening energy of the maenad:

She wore a black skirt and little black velvet jacket, over a bodice of shamrock green and a great black hat, with cloudy ostrich-plumes, swung behind her like a warrior’s shield. I had admired her all morning: suddenly I asked her to dance.
She sprang to the summons, hitched up her skirt ’round her black pantaloons, pulled off her shoes, and in her black stockings began to dance a hornpipe on the grass. I watched in an ecstasy of delight her lovely feet and ankles, her black girt shape with the green sleeves and green wreath, her liberated face following in expression the liberty of her feet as they hopped and spun and kicked and scarcely touched the ground. She sprang high, then fell on her toes that carried her forward of their own motion; her arms bent themselves over her head or swung out toward the veiled horizon of Surrey-wealds: and there was nothing against her arms and head and shoulders but the sky—one instance a monotone of cloud, the next a sheet of sunlight. (fol. 15)

The uninhibited young woman of “A Maenad” performs not just for her own pleasure, but freely and willingly for that of her surrounding (and admiring) female audience. If the dancer qualifies categorisation as a New Woman, she is also something potentially more extreme and threatening. The maenads themselves, carrying destruction and violence in their wake, were certainly not the victims of any patriarchal order. As can been seen in Sight and Song, the maenads are more than capable of wreaking terrible physical vengeance upon the male perpetrators of any torment (SS, 9–12). Indeed, Yopie Prins states of the maenads, or literally ‘mad ones,’ that “Breaking out of the domestic sphere, the maenad crossed the boundary into a domain culturally coded as ‘natural’ and ‘savage’” (49).  In this case, the power of the maenad, outside of domesticity, in the boundary free space of the prose poem, remains more of a latent threat, but one with more than a hint of almost ungovernable, savage potential. For instance, in the following paragraph the women are disturbed by the passing of two male walkers. The dancer flies into the shade of some trees, leaving the narrator furious at this invasion: “How we longed to tear them to pieces” (fol. 16). Any possibility of violence remains safely beneath the surface. Following their departure, the dancer reappears for an encore, before all three of them depart for the train, where the narrator closes: “I grant she did all this: yet I had seen as pure a Maenad as ever danced over Cithaeron. The far days of Greece had been today with us, among the box-groves on a Surrey down” (fol. 17). What “A Maenad,” as a whole, exhibits is the deep affiliation with the classical past as displayed in other prose poems, but in a modern setting. This is another intensely visual work, but one where the aesthetic of double-exposure is again in play, where the past and the present are placed together and both reveal and disguise the other in equal measure. It is a powerful, uncompromising declaration of the primal energies within femininity, but with their savageness against masculine interference tempered now to something more cheekily subversive than politically disruptive. What is particularly interesting is the strong implication that the work expresses the desire of an elder for a younger woman. The prose poem form, in this case, provides Michael Field with the perfect space for the crossing of the prescribed boundaries between the past and the present, and also between hetero and homosexual desires.

This aesthetic of the past becoming manifest within a contemporary person, an object of the narrator’s desire, is also evident in “A Faun.” Here, however, the focus of desire is a young man as opposed to a young woman, thereby retaining the balance of attention between the sexes as objects of desire which is also inherent in the collections of lyric poetry. This work describes a group of tourists in Italy, taking a siesta in the afternoon amid the ruins of a Villa when the sun is at its most fierce. The prose poem opens quite formally, descriptively, with the least hint of lyricism. At points it feels more like a brief travel sketch, a trivial piece of reportage. That is until the narrative turns to the period of the siesta and the eyes of the speaker turn to the figure of a young man who has been travelling with the party:

Among us was a young man with strange irregular features: we had often told him he was like a faun; even his character had on one side, the incalculable sincerity, the aplomb, the freshness and malice of a wood-god. Now it chanced, as I lent forward listening to the conversation of a scholar of uncertain age, that I caught sight of this young man asleep. He lay with his knees up and his hands behind his head, which was thrown back into the herbage with a fierce exhaustion that would have its fill of rest. His short locks were dark and damp on his forehead. The nose, though rather wide, had a finely sentient look about it; the jaw had the satyr’s squareness. His eyebrows were wonderful in ripple, only the wave lines left on sand will give an idea of their inevitable and naïve beauty—a silver light haunted them. The sunshine was a white enamel on his temples, his cheeks were ruddy hot and his mouth thrust its lips clear out of the beard—lips coloured as if with freshest pigment and simple in their insolence. (fols. 36–8)

Amidst the distracting, ephemeral chatter of the scholar in the present moment, the narrator, of indefinite gender, looks at the features and posture of the young man in perfectly undisturbed sleep and is transported from the present moment into a reverie where the young man is seen as a ‘satyr,’ the embodiment of a faun. The narrator dwells on each feature of the face, moving from the hair on his forehead down to the lips, visible through the beard, just as the man himself is half sunk amidst the undergrowth. It is as though the spirit of the location, the genius loci, has claimed him, and through him, momentarily, the narrator has the ability to see and sense the past made flesh, to see the inner character of the young man—brash, energetic, yet innately sensual—as it really is. As the young man awakes, the narrator again reverts to the matter-of-fact tone of the opening, but notes of the man: “He was now a young man, very much of today, who talked to the people he knew” (fol. 40). The spell has been irrevocably broken, and the narrator and the young male are to remain the poorer for that, as the final line proclaims: “O Poor Faun, Poor Faun, Poor Faun!” (fol. 41). The narrator has returned from the blissful moment of lyrical connection to the more enduring prosaic present. This specific prose poem dates from 1893, a time when Bradley and Cooper holidayed on the continent with Bernard Berenson and his circle. Therefore, on a biographical level—if solely by Cooper—it can be seen to be expressing the extent, but also the boundaries of, her intellectualised passion for him.5 However, within the context of the collection, the status of the narrator’s gender is impossible to define, even if the ‘male’ authorship of Michael Field is discounted by the reader. So, as with “A Maenad,” “A Faun” is rendered a possibly subversive expression of same-sex desire. Taking this into consideration, with the fact that the prose poem genre became associated with such transgressions and ambiguities in 1895, “For That Moment Only” begins to appear as a potentially compromising document as far as the expression of desire is concerned.

As mentioned before, the poems of the “Second Series” move slightly away from such close engagement with classical tropes but retain a sense of the pagan energy and close affinity with nature. There is also at times a more experimental lyricism, almost a mysticism which comes into play, emerging in the quite phenomenal “A Face Seen in Ling.” Here, the narrator addresses the reader in the first person, in the present tense, as though the scene described is immediately unfolding, an interior monologue. The narrator, crossing the moors in the sunset, discovers a young woman lying in the heather. Whether she is alive or dead, asleep or unconscious for any specific reason is not made entirely clear:

I am crossing a moor in declining sunlight. The vaporous western horizon breaks into a dazzling feather-light of cirri, over a rift of sudden acute blue, between toneless stretches of rain-cloud. I look till my eyes ache, and then, turning eastward, discern a few steps off to my left, on a higher slope, a woman lying full length in the ling, as rigid and uncompromising as if she were dead, profile outlined in white against the sky. Her soft hair is blown over her gray cap; the harsh ridges of a heath-coloured mackintosh cover her form up to the chin. Her face alone is exposed and lies deep in the ling, so that one little spray in its rebound, pushes toward the exquisite lobes of her ear.
Full of all darkness that is not black, the indigo [indecipherable word] of the undergrowth press up suddenly against the wash of pale hair over the forehead, while the delicate sprinkling of silver flowers on their surface subdues and carries into infinite distance the tawny background, moulding the cheek—a cheek of pure pallor and imperfect youth.
There is nothing in the sky so beautiful as that smooth face laid clear to the light, and I remain with my back to the west till sundown. (fols. 48–9)

The imagery is direct, sparse and intense, picking out the details of the thick heather and using it to throw into high relief the woman’s hair and the ‘pure pallor’ of her youthful face. In the final sentence, the last paragraph, the narrator moves away from the sky, finding no beauty there to compare with that which lies in the heather. The piece is extraordinary: there is no elucidation as to its meaning, where the narrator has come from, who they are, or what they intend to do after they have finished looking. It rests as a work of pure aestheticism, of the discovery of an unexpected, imperfect yet enchanting beauty, rendered all the more astounding by the strangeness of the encounter. This is a homely Venus asleep in the heather; not in her unguarded nakedness (and not in furs) but in a mackintosh and a cap. The subtle blending of atmosphere, somewhere between ecstasy and the macabre—the woman could, after all, be dead—is astonishingly beautiful, evocative and unsettling, and totally without precedence in the entirety of this prose poem collection. All extraneous matter has been removed, no prosaic preamble or explanatory postscript is appended, just the puzzling, pared-down lyricism of the immediate moment, the beguiling mystery of beauty encountered, though untouched, writ large and exulted. This piece exhibits the more condensed, more intensely imagistic qualities associated with the poetic and the lyrical, making it easier to identify it as a prose poem proper.

There is, I believe, an interesting parallel between this work and another prose poem which was not written until almost a century later in the 1980s by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett. The subject matter of Beckett’s “One Evening” and Michael Field’s piece, a body found in a field at twilight while a person is out wandering, is arrestingly similar in tone and theme:

He was found lying on the ground. No one had missed him. No one was looking for him. An old woman found him. To put it vaguely. It happened so long ago. She was straying in search of wild flowers. Yellow only. With no eyes but for these she stumbled on him lying there. He lay face downward and arms outspread. He wore a greatcoat in spite of the time of year. Hidden by the body a long row of buttons fastened it all the way down. Buttons of all shapes and sizes. Worn upright the skirts swept the ground. That seems to hang together. Near the head a hat lay askew on the ground. At once on its brim and crown. He lay inconspicuous in the greenish coat. To catch an eye searching from afar there was only the white head. May she have seen him somewhere before? Somewhere on his feet before? Not too fast. She was all in black. The hem of her long black skirt trailed in the grass. It was close of day. (253)

The chief difference lies in the gender of the body: this time the figure is male, the person who finds him is definitely female and not the narrator, but the coat, the sunset, the presence of flowers around the corpse and the mention of the west (not quoted here) are exactly the same. Another key difference is with the narrative styles: Beckett’s text is concerned with the post-modern agony over narrative form; the text continually slows itself down, poses questions, speeds up and chooses to omit certain pieces of information. Michael Field’s prose poem is more at home with its narrative voice, though being nonetheless innovative by making the action, or at least the retelling of the action, in the immediate present. It is almost inconceivable that Beckett would have seen or known about this small work when he composed “One Evening,” yet a comparison between the two is valuable and revealing. While certainly not as technically self-conscious as Beckett’s work, it is perhaps all the stronger for this, foregrounding the deftly accumulated sense of atmosphere, placing the contemplation of beauty centre stage. Michael Field’s prose poetry was certainly pointing straight towards future possibilities for the genre which it fell to others to fulfil.

“A Face Seen in Ling” and its satellite pieces, “Darkened Eyes” (fols. 43–4) and “By the Sundial” (fols. 50–1) exhibit a move to a more condensed and imagistic lyricism than some of the more discursive, lingering pieces. Yet this is a lyricism which relies less on formal poetic technique and more on brevity, sharper imagery and palpable atmospherics. Ernest Dowson, in his prose poems, experimented with a prose lyricism which used traditional prosodic techniques such as the refrain to some success, as this extract from the opening of “Absinthia Taetra” illustrates:

Green changed to white, emerald to an opal: nothing was changed.
The man let the water trickle gently into his glass, and as the green clouded, a mist fell away from his mind.
Then he drank opaline.
Memories and terrors beset him. The past tore after him like a panther and through the blackness of the present he saw the luminous tiger eyes of the things to be.
But he drank opaline. (211)

The opening line also becomes the closing one; the phrase “he drank opaline” occurs three times as a separate paragraph, an insistent refrain, and all the while the swirling colours of the drink and the ensuing dream-vision evoke the nauseous feeling of desperate intoxication. This is a prose text which trumpets its lyrical, poetic credentials. Michael Field’s prose poems do not go this far in their poetic technique, but are successful in finding a hybrid lyricism somewhere between the prosaic and the poetic which is all the more flexible, all the more teasingly elusive.

As Michael Field’s collection draws to a close, it moves away from lyricism for its own sake, to a consideration of more social concerns, such as the position of women in the domestic and educational spheres, and as desiring objects in their own right. In the piece entitled “Grandfather’s Chair” a group of young women at a breakfast table debate the freedom of women while in the company of a young male guest. It opens with a dialogue: the women are discussing the methods which they use to ensure they always get their “own way” (fol. 68). The focus then moves half way through to the young man, the American “cattle-hunting” colonist who is staying at the same country house, and the ways in which the women both try and fail to neutralise his dominating presence as they discuss a subject ostensibly not intended for his ears:

Only one man was in the room—a young colonist, fresh from cattle-hunting in the West, with eyes like azure lakes, gold moustache and a complexion as fine and pure as his own Californian air. Alone in the presence of women, a proud bashfulness frankly lighted up his face.
“We always leave the Grandfather’s chair for you” one of the girls had remarked, and had slipped in, rosy, secure of his freedom, his eyes motionless as if resting on the verge of a prairie.
The rebels went on with their confidences that grew more and more into demands. Every girl, they said, had a right to her own home and to the natural play of her own being.
“I don’t think you ought to hear all this”—one of the four addressed the young colonist. His smile grew more consciously radiant, but the clear eyes never moved in their outlook.
“We may theorise about woman’s freedom.” she continued “but Mr. Hooper is thinking how different it will be when he brings a wife to that beautiful home, with the redwood floors, he is going to build out yonder. Isn’t that what you are thinking?” He grew rose to the chipped roots of his hair, but did not answer or shift his glance.
So the girls went on talking heedlessly, while he sat in the grandfather’s chair, immobile and brilliant as a young sphinx at dawn. (fols. 66–8)

He may be abashed by the presence and confidence of the young women, yet he seems comfortable in that he holds the position of real power. In the Grandfather’s Chair, the patriarch’s throne, he sits ultimately above judgement, able through his silence to avoid being drawn into answering any questions on the subject of women’s freedom. The chatter may move on and continue around him, but it is ineffectual. Nothing has been changed by this playful non-encounter of opinions. The worldly adventurer, the coloniser of land and ultimately of women, is not affected by the ‘woman question’ which swirls aimlessly around him, reduced as it is in this smart allegory into the childish prattle of spoilt upper-class girls. At the close, he sits in triumph, with all the mysterious beauty of the powerful sphinx. It is possible to see a link between this sketch and the allegorical prose written by Olive Schreiner, such as “Three Dreams in a Desert,” where the imbalance of power relations between male and female is dramatically critiqued. And yet, it is an influence but gently felt: Michael Field’s work contains none of the stark allegorical imagery of Schreiner, none of the Biblical rhetoric and none of the proposed answers to female freedom. But it is an allegory nonetheless, but all the subtler for the blending of the dialogic with the lyrical, the enigmatically poetical and the short story form in miniature, one where the male and the female meet, but both are too assured in their supposed power over the other to properly connect, to change or modify each other’s views.

The final sketch, “Cupid at College” ends the collection on a playful, lighter note. Here, a group of women at college, presumably Newnham girls, chatter as they await the start of their class. A new girl has joined their group but stands at this moment apart from the rest, still unsure of herself and the place which she now attends. But then, the young Professor arrives, captivating his young charges into silence and awe:

Suddenly the door opened: there was the sweep of a black gown and a very young professor faced both the maidens and the sun.
His black college cap threw into relief a face somewhat fair and now ornate; grave eyes, half cold, half bashful avoided the glances that met them; the mouth had that look of adolescent repulse to soft emotion that we imagine on the mouth of Hippolytus.
He passed through the maidens as quickly as a gust of bright wind—chill, independent of their sex, yet self-conscious.
How Venus must have laughed at this disguise of Cupid’s!
All the girl students were heart-sick.
To the new-comer a God had filled the college …. it was the temple of her first love. (fols. 70–1)

The new-comer is now initiated into her new status as both student and as first-time lover. If there is any doubt in the previous sketch as to Michael Field’s opinion of the social status of women, then this piece goes some way to setting the record straight: these women are freed from the drawing-room, receiving the same manner of education to their male peers, and enjoying the privilege of that freedom to love and desire freely. Again, just for that moment, Cupid, below the surface of the modern young man’s beauty, peeks and captivates his charges. His appearance awakens the sexuality of these young women as he awakens them to knowledge. Present, but only in the eye of the beholder, the presence of Cupid, of the Classical past returned, is like that of the genre of the sketch, the prose poem itself: continually shifting, diaphanous, only present to those who happen to see and wish to be liberated.

The romantic initiation of the female students is a perfect ending to a collection of prose sketches which plays continually with the freedoms offered when the prosaic and the poetic collide and are combined. Brevity, concision of image and metaphor as well as a variety of voices and idioms can all be used to unique poetic effect within a genre so free of boundaries, a form so without form, that it can be adapted to almost any thematic purpose. In Michael Field’s hands “For That Moment Only” becomes a valuable contribution to the evolving, faltering and uncertain genre of the British prose poem at the fin de siècle. The fact that it did not appear in the end shows the devastating cultural legacy of the Wilde trials on experimental female authors, as Margaret Stetz claims: “As the century closed, women writers were, in a sense, returned to the house, after their brief wanderings in the lawless zone between poetry and prose” (628). And yet Michael Field did not retreat into submission or conformity. But this was to be the final attempt from Bradley and Cooper at a substantial prose project which was intended for publication. It is possible that in the end they simply felt their old anxieties about a mode of writing which they believed to be alien to their calling. Indeed, even in the midst of composing the prose poems of “For That Moment Only” in 1894, Cooper recorded in the journal: “It gives us such a solid feeling, when we have finished a poetic drama—this sense that we have wrought literature. With prose work it is as yet quite different” (Field, “Works and Days”, fol. 57r). And yet, the fact that the manuscript remained carefully preserved hints at a continued affection for these quirky, vibrant and deeply engaging prose poems. Had they been published as an individual collection, Michael Field would have been seen as much more experimental, even modern writer, perhaps detrimentally so, as the decadent associations which the prose poem genre accrued demonstrate. But even in its extreme isolation, what this work does is to show the experiments of form which were occurring at this stage, how the aesthetic essay, the short story, and many other genres were colliding and melding, forming the patterns for the Modernist short story, for new ways of communicating subjectivity, for the epiphany.

“For That Moment Only” looks continually to the past, not only the classical past, but the past poetic oeuvre of Michael Field: the concerns with gender relations, the painterly aesthetic, and the focus upon the body, all resurface in this radicalised form. These themes will remain in the lyric poetry of the future, but allied with these will be a pagan energy, not entirely severed from Christianity, even at this time, but which leads to a more spiritualised world view. What this collection constitutes is a valuable addition to the genre of the prose poem where it is not seen as a means of merely describing the immediacy of experience in the metropolis, the wanderings of the solitary muser. Like other female writers such as Schreiner and Hopper, Michael Field used the form to probe the mystical, historic, transcendent qualities of the domestic and the everyday. “For That Moment Only” surely rests as one of the most important poetic works of Michael Field which never saw the light.

Matthew Mitton
University of Hull

1 “An Old Couple” (1887); “Mid-Age” (1889); “A Lumber-Room” (1890) and “Effigies” (1890). The first three texts appeared in The Contemporary Review, with “Effigies” appearing in The Art Review.
2 Michael Field, MS.ENG.MISC.d.973, Bodleian Library, U. of Oxford.
3 Michael, Field, “For this Moment Only,” MS.ENG.MISC.d.976, Bodleian Library, U. of  Oxford.  References to this file in my text will appear as the folio number in brackets.
4 All further references to these volumes will appear in brackets as SS and UTB, respectively.
5 For an in-depth account of the complex vicissitudes of the relationship between Bradley, Cooper and Berenson, consult Martha Vicinus’ excellent essay “‘Sister Souls’: Bernard Berenson and Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper)," in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 60. 3 (2005):  326–54.


I gratefully acknowledge the kind permission of Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmian O’Neil to reproduce quotations from manuscript sources.

Works Cited

Manuscript sources
Field Michael. MS.ENG.MISC.d.973, Bodleian Library, U. of Oxford.
—. “For this Moment Only,” MS.ENG.MISC.d.976, Bodleian Library, U. of  Oxford. 
—. “Works and Days,” 1894.  Add. MS. 46782, British Library.

Published  Sources
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Beckett, Samuel. The Complete Short Prose: 1929–1989. Ed. S.E. Gontarski. New York: Grove Press, 1995.
Bertrand, Aloysius. Gaspard de la Nuit. Paris: Flammarion, 1972 [1831].
Cauti, Camille. “Michael Field’s Pagan Catholicism” in Michael Field and Their World. Eds. Margaret D. Stetz and Cheryl A. Wilson. High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2007: 181–9.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Riverside Chaucer. Eds. Larry D. Benson and F. N. Robinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Dowson, Ernest. Collected Poems. Eds. R. K. R. Thornton and Caroline Dowson. Birmingham:  U. of Birmingham P., 2003.
De Quincey, Thomas. Suspiria de Profundis in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Other Writings. Ed. Grevel Lindop. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1998 [1845]: 87–181.
Field, Michael, “An Old Couple.”  Contemporary Review 1887, Vol. LI: 220–25.
—. “Effigies” Art Review 1890: 89–91.
—. ‘A Lumber-Room’ Contemporary Review 1890, Vol. LVII: 98–102.
—. ‘Mid-Age’ Contemporary Review 1889, Vol. LVI: 431–2.
—. Mystic Trees. London: Eveleigh Nash, 1913.
—.  A Question of Memory. London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893.
—. Sight and Song. London: Elkin Matthews and John Lane, 1892.
—. Underneath the Bough. London: George Bell and Sons, 1893.
Holland, Merlin, Ed. Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde. London: Fourth Estate, 2004.
Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins: Fourth Edition. Eds. W.H. Gardner and N.H. Mackenzie. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Hopper, Nora. Ballads in Prose. London: John Lane, 1894.
Howells, W.D. “Introduction” in Pastels in Prose. Trans. Stuart Merrill. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1890: v–viii.
Merrill, Stuart (ed. and trans.). Pastels in Prose.  New York: Harper and Brothers, 1890.
Murphy, Margueritte S. A Tradition of Subversion: The Prose Poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.
Pater, Walter. Appreciations: with an Essay on Style. London: Macmillan, 1913.
—. The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, the 1893 Text. Ed. Donald L. Hill. California: University of California Press, 1981.
Prins, Yopie. “Greek Maenads, Victorian Spinsters” in Victorian Sexual Dissidence. Ed. Richard Dellamora. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Santilli, N. Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002.
Schreiner, Olive. Dreams. Ed. Elizabeth Jay. Birmingham: Birmingham University Press, 2003 [1890].
Stetz. Margaret. “‘Ballads in Prose’: Genre Crossing in Late-Victorian Women’s Writing” in Victorian Literature and Culture, Vol. 34 .2: 619–31.
Treby, Ivor. The Michael Field Catalogue: A Book of Lists. Padstow: De Blackland Press, 1998.
Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Eds. Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart Davies. London: Fourth Estate, 2000.