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Title: Agnes Mary Clerke and Ellen Mary Clerke - An Appreciation
Author: Huggins, Margaret Lindsay (Lady), Clerke, Ellen Mary
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CLERKE ***



  AGNES MARY CLERKE
  AND
  ELLEN MARY CLERKE



  ... “_above these heavens, which here we see,
  Be others farre exceeding these in light._”

                                  _E. SPENSER._
                         [_An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie._]


[Illustration:  _H. S. Mendelssohn._

AGNES MARY CLERKE.]



  AGNES MARY CLERKE
  AND
  ELLEN MARY CLERKE

  AN APPRECIATION
  BY
  LADY HUGGINS
  HON. MEM. R.A.S.

  PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION
  1907



FOREWORD


Lady Huggins in her original draft of the obituary notice of my sister
Agnes, which appeared in the _Astrophysical Journal_, included some
words of personal appreciation and of reference to her family which
were omitted from the copy sent for publication, as being, possibly,
somewhat beyond the scope of a purely scientific journal. At my request
Lady Huggins has consented to the full original draft, with a few
additions, being published for private circulation. She has also, to
my great gratification, and entirely on her own initiative, taken this
opportunity of adding an appreciation of my elder sister.

My sisters’ acquaintance with Lady Huggins commenced only after
they had been some time permanently resident in London; and for the
accuracy of the statements relating to their earlier lives I am
alone responsible. Their father had died before the period of which
Lady Huggins speaks from personal knowledge; and perhaps it is fit
that I should supplement what she says as to the influence of family
life upon the characters and careers of my sisters by mentioning a
few facts connected with my father. Although a classical scholar
of Trinity College, Dublin, his interests were for the most part
scientific. In our earliest years his recreation was chemistry, the
consequential odours of which used to excite the wrath of our Irish
servants. Later a “big telescope” (4 inch aperture) was mounted in
the garden, and we children were occasionally treated to a glimpse of
Saturn’s rings, or Jupiter’s satellites. In an age before railways
and telegraphs had reached the remote parts of Ireland and before
clocks were “synchronised with Greenwich,” the local time would have
gone “all agley” had it not been for my father’s observations with
his “orthochronograph.” These trivial things show that it was in
an environment of scientific suggestion that our early lives were
passed; and to me, at all events, my father’s influence was more than
suggestion, for to his painstaking teaching I have to attribute any
little successes which I subsequently achieved.

It is difficult for me to express to Lady Huggins my thanks in fitting
terms, for to thank implies a service; and her work has been not a
service to me, but a labour of love for those whose simple lives she
records. Still I may say that I am deeply gratified by this finished
product of her pen, and that I rejoice that she should have conceived
the idea of writing this Appreciation, thereby enabling me to place it
before the eyes of many friends.

I have to thank Director Frost of the Yerkes Observatory for his
permission to reprint that part of the “Appreciation” which has already
appeared.

                                                 AUBREY ST. JOHN CLERKE.

  68 REDCLIFFE SQUARE, S.W.



CONTENTS


                                                          PAGE

  AGNES MARY CLERKE                                          1

  LIST OF PAPERS CONTRIBUTED TO THE _Edinburgh Review_      37

  ELLEN MARY CLERKE                                         39



ILLUSTRATIONS


  AGNES MARY CLERKE          _Frontispiece_
      From a Photograph

  MRS. CLERKE               _Facing page_ 1
      From a Bust

  ELLEN MARY CLERKE               ”      39
      From a Photograph



[Illustration: _C. E. Fry & Son._

MRS. CLERKE.

From a bust executed in Rome in 1868.]



AGNES MARY CLERKE


Agnes Mary Clerke was born on February 10, 1842, at Skibbereen, a small
country town in a remote part of the County Cork. Her father was John
William Clerke; and her mother was a sister of the late Lord Justice
Deasy.

Constitutionally delicate, Agnes Clerke from her earliest years, as
so often is to be noticed in cases of frail health, found her chief
delight in literary study and in music. From quiet talks often enjoyed
with her in her later life, it was clear that the thoughtfulness of
Agnes Clerke, and her liking for probing difficult problems, must have
developed early.

This is not the place for enlarging upon the family influences of her
home life, but it should be said that these were truly fostering,
and that she was a devoted and loving daughter, to whom the parental
sympathy, strongly given on both sides, was at once inspiration and
joy. Mrs. Clerke was a remarkable woman, with rare powers of insight
and of capacity for love. Her conversational powers were of a high
order, as was her musical ability. Those privileged to be present
at her afternoon gatherings will not easily forget their pleasures;
and intimate friends will long remember the charms of her music. Her
rendering of old Irish airs on Ireland’s national instrument--the
harp--was delightful; and so indeed was her piano-playing. She told
me one day near the close of her life, when near her eightieth
birthday, that she practised on her instruments _every day_. This was
interesting; and showed that power of persevering work--even under the
natural disabilities of age--which was a marked feature in her daughter
Agnes.

The bust, a photograph of which is here reproduced, was executed in
Rome when Mrs. Clerke was about fifty years of age.

In considering the fostering influences of Agnes Clerke’s home life,
that of her only brother, Aubrey St. John Clerke, should be mentioned.

Mr. Clerke won the first gold medal of Trinity College, Dublin,
in Mathematics at his Degree examination in 1865, and was awarded
a studentship of £100 a year for seven years--the highest honour
obtainable at the Degree examination. He also won the second gold medal
conferred by the University for Experimental and Natural Science.

Mr. Clerke has told me--what indeed I always believed--that although
not professing to be a mathematician, his sister’s perception of
mathematical truth was singularly clear; and I feel sure that her
brother’s mathematical powers and knowledge of Natural Science were a
great advantage to her, for the helpfulness of thorough sympathy is
very great. In her later life she took lessons in mathematics, and
expatiated to me on the pleasure she felt in them. Not that she aimed
at making herself a mathematician; she was too wise to so err. Her
object was simply to go far enough to enable her to do better her
own particular work. No one that I have known--man or woman--better
understood that the half may be better than the whole; that the art of
doing, consists, greatly, in--_not_ doing. She could renounce. And in
these days great renunciation is necessary if useful work is to be done.

In 1861 the Clerke family moved to Dublin, and in 1863 to Queenstown.
The winters of 1867 and of 1868 were spent at Rome; those of 1871 and
1872 at Naples; and the next four winters at Florence--the summers of
1874-76 being passed at the Bagni di Lucca. Both sisters profited to
the full from this sojourn in Italy, as their subsequent writings show;
but Agnes at Florence worked specially hard, reading constantly in the
Public Library there, and always, I believe, with one great object
before her.

It is a question of much interest to examine into the early leanings
and aspirations of those who distinguish themselves later, and Agnes
Clerke early determined her life work. Before leaving Skibbereen,
about the age of fifteen, she had clearly before her the intention of
writing a history of Astronomy, and it is thought, had actually written
a few chapters. Her first article accepted for the _Edinburgh Review_,
is in harmony with the above facts.

Agnes Clerke’s first wish to examine into Science generally, was roused
by the perusal of _Joyce’s Scientific Dialogues_; but as regards
Astronomy, Sir John Herschel’s _Outlines_ was her earliest guide--and
I can imagine how much this really great book was to her, from my own
early use of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well do I remember reading an article in the _Edinburgh Review_ for
October 1880, on “The Chemistry of the Stars.” I admired it much: I
wondered who had written it, for it seemed to me to be unlike the
work of any one then known in the scientific world. Five years later
I solved my puzzle, for in 1885 appeared the _History of Astronomy
in the Nineteenth Century_; and I had not looked far into it before
I exclaimed: “Now I know who wrote that article in the _Edinburgh
Review_!”

Shortly after--dining at a house where to dine was always to share in a
feast of reason and flow of soul--and sitting between our distinguished
and kindly host Sir William Bowman, and Sir Robert Ball, Sir Robert
and I exchanged ideas about the new _History of Astronomy_, and about
its author, the new “Unknown.” With all his own acuteness, Sir Robert
showed that the writer could not be a practical astronomer. But I was
delighted to find that my admiration for the _History_ was fully shared
by him, and that his praise of it was very warm.

Shortly afterwards I entered upon a friendship, and upon a
companionship in Astronomy, which have been among my best pleasures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Agnes Clerke’s literary life may be said to have begun in 1877 with the
acceptance of her article “Copernicus in Italy,” by Henry Reeve, then
editor of the _Edinburgh Review_, who recognised the value of his new
contributor and kept her at work. The number of her contributions to
the _Edinburgh_ is fifty; and they are all of a high order.

Agnes Clerke, with her family, returned to England in 1877, and settled
in London. With the publication of the _History of Astronomy_ in 1885
may be said to have begun her astronomical life.

She read systematically, and cultivated personal relations with a wide
circle of astronomical workers, in person, or by correspondence. I
consider that these relations had much to do with the success of her
work. Her sympathies were so keen, her interest so warm, her longing
for further truth so intense,--that every one liked to offer her all
they could!

In 1890 appeared her second book, _The System of the Stars_.

The _Observatory_ for December 1890 contains an article by me on this
work. A review, in the strict sense of the term, it was not, because
there was much in the book which, for obvious reasons, I could not
discuss without becoming controversial. But upon one important question
I spoke strongly; and I venture now to recall and re-urge the position
I then tried to expound. Briefly it is this. The progress of Science
and the growth of its literature during the last quarter of a century
has been so enormous, that a new order of worker is imperatively
called for; and I hailed in Agnes Clerke an admirable example of
such a worker, devoting herself to Astronomy, which is at once the
oldest and, in its new developments, the youngest of the Sciences--the
science which Poincaré has lately so eloquently declared has given the
conception of _law_ to all the others.

I ventured to sketch what should be the qualifications and aims of such
workers; and the years which have gone by since 1890 have but deepened
my conviction that there is a splendid and ever-growing field--even now
white unto harvest--ready for these special workers. Their mission is
to collect, collate, correlate, and digest the mass of observations
and papers--to chronicle, in short, on one hand; and on the other,
to discuss and suggest, and to expound: that is, to prepare material
for experts, and at the same time to inform and interest the general
public. There is urgent need of better educated public opinion in this
country.

That such a mission may be a splendid and fruitful one has been shown
by Agnes Clerke; what careful preparation it requires, and how much it
demands of those who would enter upon it, her career also shows.

The immense increase in astronomical literature is hardly realised
except by those engaged in dealing with it. To give but one
instance--“The Annual Index of Astronomical Literature for 1905,”
published under the auspices of the _Astronomische Gesellschaft_,
contains over two thousand references, collated from three hundred
separate publications.

The strain of such work as I am indicating is great indeed, involving,
as it should, the power of holding loose in the mind, so to speak,
an immense mass of facts, and also a power of rapidly associating or
dissociating them as work and discovery may suggest.

In one of her latest works, _Modern Cosmogonies_, Agnes Clerke herself
dwelt upon this strain. “Year by year,” she says (p. 160), “details
accumulate, and the strain of keeping them under mental command becomes
heavier.”

Pathetic words! written--almost in blood! For not long before had been
published her last large work, _Problems in Astrophysics_; a work she
feared she could not live to complete--a work which at times she was
only able to toil at for half-hour periods.

       *       *       *       *       *

All through her life Agnes Clerke was a student. Lectures and Friday
Evening Discourses at the Royal Institution which bore upon her work
she was careful to attend. A three months’ visit to Sir David and Lady
Gill at the Cape in 1888 gave her some Observatory opportunities which
increased her power of clearly realising the records of observatory
and laboratory work. Sir George Baden-Powell invited her to accompany
his yachting party to Novaya Zemlya for the solar eclipse of August
1896. When I expressed very strongly my regret that she had declined
this invitation (chiefly I now know because she feared she might be
prevented from keeping literary engagements absolutely to time), she
surprised me a week later with an earnest request that she and I
should form a little expedition of two, and try what _we_ could see.
She had divined an unspoken longing of mine, and I cannot refrain from
recording the unselfish love that would fain have gratified me. But it
could not be.

She was awarded in 1892 the Actonian Prize of one hundred guineas
for her works on Astronomy, by the Royal Institution; and in 1901
was commissioned by the Managers to write the first Essay under the
Hodgkins Trust, on Low Temperature Research at the Royal Institution
by Professor Sir James Dewar from 1893-1900.

In 1903 she received the distinction of being elected an Hon. Member
of the Royal Astronomical Society--an honour and title held previously
only by Mrs. Somerville, Caroline Herschel, and Ann Sheepshanks. I may
perhaps be permitted to say that my own deep gratification in my share
of this great honour conferred on us by the Society was heightened by
receiving it with Agnes Clerke.

She was a frequent attendant at the meetings of both the Royal
Astronomical Society and the British Astronomical Association, and
always an interested one. Occasionally she spoke; but she had no liking
for speaking in public, nor indeed was she well suited for it.

       *       *       *       *       *

A complete list of Agnes Clerke’s papers it would be difficult to
compile. They were, in truth, innumerable. Her articles on astronomers
for the _Dictionary of National Biography_--out of the sixty-six
volumes which constitute this great work there are only eleven
to which she did not contribute,--articles for the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, and for other encyclopædias were many, and all of them
were models of painstaking inquiry and of clear, concise statement.
The more important of these, that on Laplace in the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, for instance, are of lasting interest and value.

Her larger works are:--

  _History of Astronomy in the Nineteenth Century_ (4 editions).

  _The System of the Stars._

  _Familiar Studies in Homer._

  _The Herschels and Modern Astronomy._

  _Concise History of Astronomy._

  _Modern Cosmogonies._

  _Problems in Astrophysics._

I venture to think that the _History of Astronomy in the Nineteenth
Century_ is the most important of her works. It is admirable in
its completeness of references, its wide inclusiveness, and in its
lucidity. It deserves to live, and it assuredly will live--the
invaluable continuation of Grant’s fine work. _The System of the
Stars_ and the _Problems in Astrophysics_ are works of a different
order. Treasuries of knowledge and of suggestion they certainly are.

The _Homeric Studies_, except in one chapter, are not specially
astronomical; but they are evidence of width of culture and of wide
intellectual interest, and are full of delightful touches of wit and of
humour.

_The Herschels_ is excellent and agreeable biographical reading. Three
lives are vividly set forth in little more than two hundred octavo
pages.

It seems to me a mistake to regard Agnes Clerke’s smaller works as of
less importance than her larger ones.

I have said that I consider the _History_ her greatest work. But,
in some respects, I venture to think that her greatest achievement
is _Modern Cosmogonies_. I claim for this book that it is not only
a history, but a work of philosophical thinking and of imaginative
insight of a very high order.

Its small size is an accident. It is a work essentially great. In these
superbly brilliant sketches Agnes Clerke’s style is at its best.
Usually, it suffers from effort; the lucidity may be laboured, and the
perpetual antithesis may sometimes be wearying. I have spoken of her
laboriousness in study and in work, and can adorn the tale by relating
what was surely a very remarkable performance. She had at the time no
knowledge of Portuguese, but as part of her preparation for an article
in the _Edinburgh Review_ “Don Sebastian and his Personators,” in six
weeks she not only acquired considerable knowledge of the language,
but read the whole of the _Lusiad_ in the original!

_Le Style, c’est l’homme_; is it surprising that the physical efforts
she made I fear only too often, tended to render her writing laboured
at times?

But the writing in _Modern Cosmogonies_, good as it is, is a small
matter compared with the masterly grasp of, I may say, all things, and
of their inter-relations, which the work reveals. And where else is
shown in recent philosophical writing such vision and faculty divine
for seizing and pointing out the reasonable spiritual clues, set in
what we call Nature,--clues helping to sustainment of soul in the midst
of the majestic mysteries surrounding us?

       *       *       *       *       *

No sketch of Agnes Clerke would be complete without reference to her
love of music. To her music was in the highest sense of the term a
recreation. She turned to it for very life. Her piano-playing was
truly musicianly, and her repertory was large. Perhaps on the whole,
her playing was at its best in rendering Chopin. As an accompanist
she excelled. Her teachers were,--in Dublin, Miss Flynn; in Florence,
Buonamici.

I record here the complete story of her introduction to Liszt. One
moonlight night in the spring of either 1868 or 1869, Mrs. Clerke and
her daughters rambling about Rome were fascinated by such piano-playing
as they had never before heard, and they stopped outside the open
window of the villa and listened spellbound until the unknown Maestro
had finished and came to the window to look out upon the night. Then
the enthusiasm of the hearers overcame conventionality, and they gave
free expression to their admiration; and the fifth act of the little
drama was that Liszt invited his listeners to enter, promising to play
again on condition that Agnes first played for him, which I believe she
did.

Remarkable as were the intellectual powers of Agnes Clerke, her
moral endowments were equally so. It was a question we frequently
debated--the influence of character on work; and as I write the memory
of certain talks is hauntingly present. As is the heart, is the work.
The best work is and must be associated with lofty character. It was
so with Agnes Clerke. No purer, loftier, and yet sweetly unselfish and
human soul has lived. She was so incapable of meanness that she even
incurred danger as a historian in crediting too readily all workers
with her own high ideals.

As a friend and companion she was faithful and true, and full of charm;
and without her the world to those who had her friendship seems
darkened and empty.

But her mission, I must believe, was accomplished. For twenty years
she had been to modern Astronomy an admirable historian, and had kept
before working astronomers clear charts, so to speak, of what was being
done, and of what should and might be done. In so doing she rendered
splendid service, and inaugurated a kind of work which must be more
and more needed--a kind of work which not only advances Astronomy, but
promotes a universal brotherhood and co-operation, golden indeed.

Agnes Clerke’s death comes as a shock to many. A cold--I fear not
sufficiently nursed at first--led to pneumonia and complications, and
in spite of all that devoted love and skill could do, she passed gently
to the next life, peaceful and fully conscious almost to the last, on
the morning of January 20, 1907.

  _Note._--The portrait is from a photograph taken by Mendelssohn in
  1895.



“EDINBURGH” ARTICLES

_List of Papers contributed to Edinburgh Review by Agnes Mary Clerke_


   1.    April 1877.   Brigandage in Sicily.
   2.    July    ”     Copernicus in Italy.
   3.    Jan.  1878.   Harvey and Cesalpino.
   4.    July    ”     Origin and Wanderings of the Gypsies.
   5.    Jan.  1879.   Campanella and Modern Italian Thought.
   6.    Oct.    ”     Spedding’s Life of Bacon.
   7.    July  1880.   The English Precursors of Newton.
   8.    Oct.    ”     The Chemistry of the Stars.
   9.    Oct.  1881.   Albania and Scanderbeg.
  10.    July  1882.   Don Sebastian and his Personators.
  11.    April 1883.   Volcanoes and Volcanic Action.
  12.    Oct.  1883.   Prowe’s Life of Copernicus.
  13.    July  1884.   The Future of the Congo.
  14.    Oct.    ”     Mountain Observatories.
  15.    Oct.  1885.   The Faith of Iran, Lady Marian.
  16.    July  1886.   Alford on Art Needlework.
  17.    Oct.    ”     The Aurora Borealis.
  17_a_. Jan.  1887.   The House of Douglas.
  18.    July    ”     The Life and Works of Giordano Bruno.
  19.    Jan.  1888.   Sidereal Photography.
  20.    Oct.    ”     The Law of Storms.
  21.    Oct.  1889.   East Africa.
  22.    July  1890.   Life and Works of Lavoisier.
  23.    April 1891.   Scandinavian Antiquities.
  24.    Oct.    ”     A Moorland Parish.
  25.    April 1892.   The Ice Age in North America.
  26.    July    ”     The Discovery of America.
  27.    April 1893.   Proctor’s Old and New Astronomy.
  28.    Oct.    ”     Sir H. Howarth on the Great Flood.
  29.    Jan.  1894.   Among the Hairy Ainus.
  30.    April   ”     The Liquefaction of Gases.
  31.    Oct.    ”     The Letters of Edward FitzGerald.
  32.    July  1895.   Problems of the Far East.
  33.    Oct.    ”     Argon and Helium.
  34.    Oct.  1896.   New Views about Mars.
  35.    July  1897.   Two Recent Astronomers.
  36.    April 1898.   Recent Solar Eclipses.
  37.    Oct.    ”     Ethereal Telegraphy.
  38.    April 1899.   The Origin of Diamonds.
  39.    Oct.    ”     The November Meteors.
  40.    April 1900.   The Evolution of the Stars.
  41.    Oct.    ”     Hermann von Helmholtz.
  42.    July  1901.   Temporary Stars.
  43.    July  1902.   The last Voyage of Ulysses.
  44.    Jan.  1903.   Double Stars.
  45.    Oct.    ”     The Revelations of Radium.
  46.    Jan.  1904.   Fahie’s Life of Galileo.
  47.    July    ”     Life in the Universe.
  48.    April 1905.   Earthquakes and the New Seismology.
  49.    July  1906.   A Representative Philosopher.
  50.    Jan.  1907.   The Old and the New Alchemy.



[Illustration: _C. Skillman._

ELLEN MARY CLERKE.]



ELLEN MARY CLERKE


Ellen Mary Clerke, the only sister of Agnes Clerke, whose interest in
Astronomy was also keen, was born at Skibbereen on September 26, 1840.
She shared her sister’s life, and her devotion to her contributed not a
little to the perfect fulfilment of its mission.

Acutely sensitive to the beautiful, and with a rare capacity for
enthusiasms, Ellen Clerke was first of all a poet. But she was much
besides. She was an accomplished linguist; and the years she spent in
Italy were devoted to such study of Italian literature as enabled her
later to do excellent original work in connection with it. An admirable
article by her in the _Dublin Review_ for October 1879, on “The Age
of Dante in the Florentine Chronicles,” well deserves remembrance, so
full is it of the illumination of wide reading and of careful thinking.
Alas! only too many articles by her have passed into magazine
oblivion. Some of these were written in foreign tongues--a sure proof
of mastery of them. For instance, in 1869 she published a pamphlet in
German with the title _Das Judenthum in der Musik_; while, besides
many articles and reviews in Italian in the Florentine periodicals,
she published in one of these a serial story in Italian, called _Sotto
le Sette Stelle_. She had also a knowledge of Arabic by no means
inconsiderable.

Her interest in geographical science was not generally known; but
she was a valued member of the Manchester Geographical Society, and
contributed to its Journal.

As regards Astronomy, she has left useful evidence of her warm interest
in the subject in two excellent popular monographs, and in various
articles.

A list of Ellen Clerke’s works is given at the end of this sketch, but
special mention must be made of her work as a journalist. Her friends
might regret--as I did for one--that so much of her time was thus
spent; but, after all, journalism is what the journalist makes it;
and it cannot be denied that it is a great and increasing power in our
midst.

Assuredly Ellen Clerke always used her opportunities as a journalist
for noble ends. For the last twenty years of her life she wrote a
weekly leader for the _Tablet_,--usually on subjects connected with the
Church abroad; and on several occasions during the temporary absence of
the Editor she filled his place at his request.

Many of her literary articles contributed to various periodicals were
critical, and that she was a generous and encouraging as well as a
capable critic the following facts pleasingly illustrate.

In the _Westminster Review_ for October 1878 she had an article
on “The later Novels of Berthold Auerbach.” It met the eye of the
novelist, and he directed to be sent to her a copy of his _Landolin
von Reutershöfen_, inscribed: “To the Author of the article in the
_Westminster Review_, October 1878, with kind regards of Berthold
Auerbach. Berlin, Nov. 14, 1878.”

It is singular that the poems of Ellen Clerke, published in 1881,
should not have attracted more attention. The volume is now, I believe,
almost, if not entirely, out of print; and partly on this account,
partly because of its subject and of its beauty, I give here one of the
poems.


NIGHT’S SOLILOQUY

  Who calls me dark? for do I not display
    Wonders that else man’s eye would never see?
  Waste in the blank and blinding glare of Day,
    The heavens bud forth their glories but to me.

  Is it not mine to pile their crystal cup,
    Drain’d by the thirsty sun and void by day,
  Brimful of living gems, profuse heap’d up,
    The bounteous largesse of my royal way?

  Mine to call o’er at dusk the roll of heav’n,
    Array its glittering files in order due?
  To beckon forth the lurking star of Even,
    And bid the constellations start to view?

  The wandering planets to their paths recall,
    And summon to the muster tenant spheres,
  Till thronging to my standard one and all,
    They crowd the zenith in unfathom’d tiers?

  Do _I_ not lure stray sunbeams from the day,
    To hurl them broadcast as wing’d meteors forth?
  Strew sheaves of fiery arrows on my way,
    And blazon my dark spaces in the north?

  Is not a crown of lightnings mine to wear,
    When polar flames suffuse my skies with splendour?
  And mine the homage with the sun to share,
    His vagrant vassals rush through space to render?

  Who calls me secret? are not hidden things,
    Reveal’d to science when with piercing sight
  She looks beneath the shadow of my wings,
    To fathom space and sound the infinite?

  In plasmic light do I not bid her trace
    Germs from creation’s dawn maturing slow?
  And in each filmy chaos drown’d in space
    See suns and systems yet in embryo?

Miss Clerke specially enjoyed romantic subjects; and the sea and
shipping appealed to her strongly. Her ballad on _The Flying Dutchman_
legend is one of the finest treatments of the subject I have met with,
and it is to be regretted that it is not better known, for it would
lend itself well both to the reciter and to the musician.

The volume of poems gave evidence of a special gift which in later
years the author cultivated with great success,--that of verse
translation. Her delightful and valuable book, _Fable and Song in
Italy_, is illustrated throughout with her own versions; and although
I do not pretend to have compared each version with its original, I
venture to say that the translations are, as a whole, wonderfully
faithful, and that when the number of them, and the variety of subjects
and of measures, are considered, the verse part alone of the work is
a notable achievement. The prose part is more than a mere setting;
it is full of touches of illuminating thought, and many little-known
facts are brought together suggestively, while many of the descriptive
passages are wonderfully vivid. In Dr. Garnett’s _History of Italian
Literature_ the English versions selected by him from Boiardo and some
other poets were by Ellen Clerke.

Ellen Clerke’s literary style was lighter and more spontaneous than her
sister’s.

Like her sister she was highly musical, and her instrument was the
guitar. A pupil of Madame Pratten, she had through the practice
of many years acquired a mastery of the instrument unusual in an
amateur, managing it with great skill, and arranging for it many an
accompaniment. To the last almost, her singing to the guitar was full
of charm; and in earlier years when the sisters sang together to her
guitar accompaniment the performance was delightful.

A devoted and exemplary Catholic, Ellen Clerke was untiring in her
zeal for all good works. Unselfish and loving, she was a devoted
daughter, sister, and friend. Fonder of society than her sister, it
was perhaps natural that she did not pursue literary work in the same
persistent way. And it fell in with her sociability that she pulled a
good oar and enjoyed riding.

These sisters were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death
they were but little divided. Ellen Clerke died after a short illness
on March 2, 1906.



A LIST OF THE WORKS OF ELLEN CLERKE


  Poems: _The Flying Dutchman and Other Poems_. (1881.)

  Versified translations of Italian poetry in Dr. Garnett’s _History of
  Italian Literature_. (1898.)

  _Fable and Song in Italy._ (1899.)

  _Flowers of Fire_: a novel which gives an admirable account of the
  phenomena of an eruption of Vesuvius. (1902.)

  An immense number of magazine articles, including a weekly leader
  contributed for twenty years to the _Tablet_.

  Monograph on _Jupiter and his System_. (1892.)

  Monograph on _Venus_. (1893.)

  An article in the _Observatory_, vol. xv. p. 271.

The monographs on Jupiter and on Venus, although unpretentious, are
based upon careful reading of the best authorities, and are written in
a way which places them above the ordinary popularisers.

The article above referred to in the _Observatory_ was the outcome of
her Arabic reading, and showed that there can be little doubt that the
variability of Algol had been noticed by the Arabian astronomers.

  _Note._--The portrait is from a photograph taken not long before
  death.

                                                    MARGARET L. HUGGINS.



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