In Summer Term 1911, a young Violet Firth joined Studley Horticultural College For Women in Warwickshire. Gareth Knight's book, Dion Fortune and the Inner Light, dedicates a whole chapter to this part of Violet's life. Alan Adams (writing as Charles Fielding), Janine Chapman and Alan Richardson all touch upon aspects of this time with varying degrees of success and accuracy. With the recent improvements in records accessibility and research capabilities, Knight's telling seems by far the most accurate. However, the other works remain of interest and use. A photograph of the College from the turn of the last century is pictured below, giving a sense of some grandeur.
It was at Studely College that Violet allegedly met Evelyn Heathfield who would become a lifelong friend and stalwart. However, there is also some suggestion that the two may have been family friends before Studely. It was also here that she would meet the allegedly overbearing Dr Lillias Hamilton, Warden of the College, who would become infamous from a tale retold in Dion Fortune's Pyschic Self Defence. A picture of a formidable and rather stern looking Dr Hamilton is shown below.
It was her experiences with Dr Hamilton which led Violet to take up the study of analytical psychology, and subsequently the path of occultism. While the recounted psychic battle with Dr Hamilton clearly represented a critical point in the development of the person we would come to know as Dion Fortune, her time at Studley was also a time of embryonic creativity and emerging literary talent. The former element is usually the focus of attention, while the latter often remains ignored or at best played down. I think this is a shame, and have written in earlier blog posts about Violet's early writing and how, at times, this shows the early foreshadowings of a style and approach we would come to recognise later in Dion Fortune's work. I'd love to see someone with the time and skills doing a more detailed and expansive analysis of the early influences and burgeoning style of the young Violet. Maybe that will happen one day!
Some of Violet's early poetry and writing is available in the rare library copies Violets, or to buy in More Violets: A Child's Thoughts on Nature in Verse and Prose. It is worth checking out. Gareth Knight kindly published the manuscript of Poultry Department, a poem written while she was a student at Studley. Below is another poem from that time for your consideration, The Professor's Farewell to his Favourite Blight. It gives a further insight into Violet's formative time at Studely and will most certainly bring a smile to your face and some warmth to your soul. Enjoy...