SCC Seminar at Winchester Wednesday 15th May 2013.

We enjoyed a very special seminar this year, when Professor Joyce Goodman and Dr Stephanie Spencer of the Department of Women's Education welcomed friends of the SCC to the new lecture hall at the University of Winchester.    Our speaker, Felix Driver, Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, had been led by the internet to the SCC website where Ivy Davison's association with the library at Crosby Hall was revealed.  He came to share his research in a lecture entitled Women, Writing and Publishing, the Life and Work of Ivy Davison 1892  - 1977.  

Ivy, a distant cousin of Sybil Campbell, bequeathed her books to the library at Crosby Hall after a lifetime's work in publishing, including some years as editor of The Geographical Magazine, work which Felix Driver found to be unrecorded in the history of either publishing or geography.    He brought Ivy to life for us, sympathetically revealing the work of a young woman who carved out a career for herself apparently against the wishes of her well-to-do family at Kemsing in Kent.  While her brother was sent to Winchester College, Ivy and her four sisters were educated at home.  During the First World War Ivy served as a VAD nurse in Kemsing and in France, and later at the Stamford Street hospital for wounded soldiers in London.

Then, while her elder sisters married, Ivy sought to earn her living as a literary editor with The Saturday Review and The Weekend Review, so meeting people involved in politics, books, theatre, art and music.   Professor Driver went on to discuss Ivy's work with Michael Huxley, editor of The Geographical Magazine, with whom she was employed first as assistant editor, then acting and finally as executive editor during the Second World War , when she was assisted by John Lehmann (of Penguin New Writing fame).  Her work brought her into contact with many important writers of the day, both men and women.  Some of them joined her wide circle of friends.  Ivy was well placed to assist aspiring writers.  A notable meeting with Vera Brittain happened just before the publication of Testament of Youth and Ivy was invited to tea with Rose Macaulay and Virginia Woolf, who employed her to write letters.  Another contact was Lady Rhondda of Time and Tide.  

Among the SCC archives our speaker came upon the small suitcase, with Ivy's own typescript description of her visits and walks with 'dear companions' to country houses in South East England, delightfully illustrated with her watercolour impressions of these 'country villas'.  This unpublished work occupied Ivy's retirement years when she lived at North Mundham, near Chichester and provides perhaps the most intriguing element among her donations.   

We thank Professor Felix Driver most sincerely for searching out Ivy Davison and recording her life work with sensitivity and charm, so giving her proper thanks for the generous bequest she made to Crosby Hall's library.   His lecture was indeed a model for students, reconstructing the past from diverse sources.  He gave us a truly enthralling evening.


Margaret Roake   
28th May 2013
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