1. The Rosary, Florence Barclay
The Rosary is a warm and touching love story set in England circa 1909. Jane and Garth are in love, but as so often happens they are separated with obstacles to overcome. Florence Barclay tells their story with compassion and a deep understanding of her character’s innermost feelings and desires.
The novelist Florence LouisaCharlesworth was born on 2 December 1862. Her father was the Reverend Samuel Charlesworth who was the Rector of Limpsfield, Surrey. The family, consisting of her mother and father, her elder sister Annie, Florence and her younger sister Maud, moved to London in 1869. Florence is known to have been kept busy visiting the poor and singing at religious gatherings, something that stood her in good stead inher married life. In March 1881, at the age of eighteen, she married the Reverend Charles W. Barclay. During their honeymoon touring the Holy Land it is claimed that they discovered the true mouth of Jacob's Well, where Christ is thought to have rested. She became an accomplished public speaker and was to tour America giving lectures on her find in Palestine. The couple settled to parish andfamily life and she bore eight children.
Following ill health she turned to writing and her first work, from 1905, was a short novel called The wheels Of time. She sent this and her subsequent novel The rosary to her sister Maud who was living in America. It was Maud who arranged for their publication. The rosary (1909) found instant success, selling 150,000 copies in a year. It is a love story,extolling the benefits of wedded bliss, a theme she was to continue to use with similar popular success. She felt that her destiny was to write works that inspired people to live good honest lives without being introduced to sin and evil through the printed page.
Florence was an admirer of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, visiting the haunts of the poet including Wimpole Street in London and the Browning'svilla in Italy. In May 1913 Florence attended an auction of the Browning's belongings at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in London and made several purchases, including a writing table and Elizabeth's favourite chair.
Several visits were made to Birmingham, giving lectures at the Digbeth and Boots' Institutes. A newspaper report from the Birmingham Daily Mail (quoted in her daughter's biography)notes that such was her charisma that the "queer flotsam and jetsam of humanity that floats upon the currents of the districts like Digbeth" that made up the audience on the former occasion were held by an address that was mainly religious in character. "It was the triumph of the woman and not of the writer".
Music played an extremely important part in her life. It has been noted that perhaps themost memorable event in her life was attending the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester in 1920, which included Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. She had loved the cathedral ever since, at a very young age, she had stood in the vast space with her mother. The organ suddenly began to be played, the choir sang and the little girl was overcome with emotion. Her father at that time was spending a few monthsin charge of a Worcestershire parish. Florence was to use Worcester as the setting for her romance of the twelfth century, The white ladies of Worcester (1917). Unlike her other work, this was, to a certain extent, an attempt to get away from the horrors of the First World War.
West Midlands Creative Literature Collection
Established in 1974 with initial funding from the WestMidlands Arts Association, the collection moved to a permanent home at Shrewsbury Library in 1997. Facilities include a special study room and adjacent rolling library shelving and it is open to the public by request. If you would like to visit, please contact the library in advance through the enquiries e-mail address on this page.
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