Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cheerleading for Naomi

As a fangirl and cheerleader for the life and works of Naomi Mitchison (have you ever tried cheerleading to bagpipe music, on which Mitchison has a fascinating meditation in her notes to The Bull Calves (1947)?), I was absolutely thrilled to discover, quite by chance, that the Scottish publishers Kennedy and Boyd are issuing a Naomi Mitchison Library Series of reprints of some of her very numerous works, under the general editorship of Professor Isobel Murray. They are also issuing previously uncollected Essays and Journalism by Mitchison under the editorship of Moira Burgess, although only one of the projected volumes (Carradale) appears to have been published so far.

This is a very exciting development, and although the publishers are Scottish and their general focus is Scottish literature (why not check out their Twentieth Century Scottish Womens Fiction Series and Nineteenth Century Scottish Womens Fiction Series?) they do not appear to be restricting their Mitchison republication programme to those works of hers which could be classified under the heading of Twentieth Century Scottish Literary Renaissance, but include several of her historical novels about classical antiquity, at least one of her African novels, the first volume of her delightful memoirs Small Talk, the diary of her trip to Vienna in 1934 to carry aid from British sympathisers to beleagured Austrian socialists, and her remarkable short fantasy from the early 1930s, Beyond This Limit. I also note that commemorative volumes which she edited or contributed to about her distinguished female forebears are also included, so this is perhaps a wider recuperation of women neglected by history.

Perhaps not entirely overlooked by history, but possibly not a figure known to everyone, the Byzantine princess and historian, Anna Comnena, was the subject of a short biography by Mitchison (originally published in 1928, and now reissued by Kennedy and Boyd) which I am currently reading with great enjoyment. This was one in an, alas, forgotten series of short studies of 'Representative Women' which went well beyond the obvious heroines in bringing the stories of forgotten foremothers to attention.


Timmi Duchamp said...

Yay!!! That's great news, Lesley!

Nic said...

That's excellent news! Looking forward to adding to my collection.