mother & religion

 Ottoline in 1889

The closeness of mother and daughter could not be denied:
'The words of Ruth and Naomi were our mutual chant...The devotion to my mother, at whose shrine I worshiped with so much passion and tenderness and pity, had only one rival a passionate love of religion. How the seed of this tree began to grow in me I cannot tell- ' The wind bloweth where it listeth.'

 Ottoline in 1889

For Ottoline religion became obsession when given The Imitation of Christ by Tomas a Kempis:

'Every thought word, action and motive ws subjected to its fierce, burning light, none was kept back or hidden. My young being was scrutinized, scourged and mercilessly pruned: all desire for food must be constrained, pleasant books put away, everything soft and pleasing renounced. '(1889-1890)

Failed attempts to whisk Ottoline into the London season by her beautiful sister in law-the Duchess of Portland, were followed by the suggestion that Ottoline and her mother travel to Italy. (1892)

The Duchess of Portland, 1912.
by Philip de László

'What  a frightful ordeal it was!.. I must have had some dances, for I know I was led out into a highly decorated sitting-out room... and taken to a basket chair by a young man. A feeling of intense shame overcame me. I felt degraded... I remember... a feeling of utter desolation, shyness and loneliness, for I felt myself quite apart from the smart world, and conscious of being out of it...The lovely scent of gardenias and stephanotis and white lilies is the only happy memory I have left... Great timidity bound up my spirit and my ideas.'
The trip to Italy was marred by Ottoline's contracting typhoid fever. Ottoline's mother had to be "wheeled along in an invalid chair," The entourage,along with the ladies, included a Virginia nightingale and two pugs. Though Ottoline's mother's health was slowly deteriorating it didn't stop her from pausing in Paris to shop for Ottoline:

'On our way through Paris my mother had insisted on buying me some very lovely muslin dresses, and for some reason this had greatly upset me; also it was there that she bought for me a row of pearls at the sale of the French crown jewels; she liked to feel that I should wear a row of pearls that had been round the neck of Marie Antoinette. These gifts gave me acute pain... in my distress they seemed a mockery.'

 OTTOLINE would be photographed many times wearing these pearls in 1903.

Two months after returning to London- Ottoline's mother, Lady Bolsover died.
Rarely leaving her side, Ottoline would write over twenty years later:

'Here in my hands again lies this long tress of my mother's hair; raven black and silver shining, and silken and soft, and still with the perfume of almonds that it always had. It has still upon it the tender love that it was touched with twenty years ago. I keep and touch it again and again, with the same undying passionate love.'


  1. Excellent post! The religion thing baffles me, considering the company she stepped with.

    I'm so glad you are doing this blog!

  2. Grouchy-well one does wonder, however I think for OTT is was about the passion-always the passion, and what better than to embrace all the passion and not have to "consummate" it. I think she held real passion at a distance all her life-Do you think?
    & I am glad you are enjoying it. pgt

  3. or, was it her Victorian upbringing and breeding?

    I'm not a psychologist so I shouldn't even try to analyze. But what a fascinating character.

  4. Certainly that played it role-with all the women of that era, and certainly the Bloomsbury set too. She longed for the father figure- and that too was in the mix. Yes I definitely think a character worth reading, discussing-and I thank you for the dialog. It helps me as I attempt to grasp at her psyche.pgt

  5. And now more of my free time will be spent on this new blog! I wonder if the portrait of the Duchess is by Giovanni Boldini (Ferrara-Paris).
    Fascinating stories.

  6. Brillante, welcome to Ottoline's world! The portrait, which I have returned to note above, is by painter Philip de László. The Duchess was also painted by Sargent in 1902. pgt