The Arbiter of Elegance - Mrs Haweis
by Bruce Tober
Copyright © 2004 Bruce Tober All Rights
|Mary Eliza Haweis (1849?-1898), née Joy, artist, illustrator and
writer on art and decoration, was one of the more prolific contributors to The Lady's Realm. The daughter of the artist
Thomas Musgrove Joy, she was the wife of Rev. Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838-1901), a musician, author, preacher, lecturer
Lady's Realm - Bound Volume 3
When she was just 16 she exhibited in the Royal Academy and Dudley Gallery.
Throughout her life she illustrated both her own and her husband's books. One of her crowning achievements was
her 1877 Chaucer for Children, A Golden Key, which she wrote and illustrated. On to a good thing, she went on to write and
illustrate, Chaucer for Schools (1880), Chaucer's Beads, a Birthday Book (1884) and Tales from Chaucer (1887).
But her most prolific work was in the writing on domestic art and dress
for magazines such as The Lady's Realm, and her books including The
Art of Beauty (1878), The
Art of Dress (1879), The
Art of Decoration (1881), Beautiful Houses: being a Description of certain well-known Artistic Houses (1882), Rus in Urbe: or
Flowers that thrive in London Gardens and Smoky Towns (1886)
and The Art of Housekeeping: A Bridal Garland (1889).
was first published London 1882. It's considered a key book on the Aesthetic
Movement and as such is cited repeatedly in Elizabeth Aslin's
book of the same name. The "well-known Artistic Houses" described include those of Sir Frederick Leighton,
William Burges, Alma-Tadema, the British Embassy in Rome, G. H. Boughton, Alfred Morrison, Reuben Sassoon, Ashley
"The Arbiter of Elegance"
Cited as "the arbiter of elegance" by Julia Vorst in her article
"The Giuliano Style" at the Collector's C@fe website, Mrs Haweis
described the Neopolitan jeweller's work in her book, The Art of Beauty. Carlo Giuliano at that time had a shop
in Piccadilly in London.
|According to Michelle Tolini's article, "'Beetle Abominations' and
Birds on Bonnets: Zoological Fantasy in Late-Nineteenth-Century Dress" at the Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide
website, "Mrs. Haweis utilized Darwinian philosophy to justify zoologically inspired
Tolini explains that The Art of Beauty, while addressing fashion, beauty,
and etiquette issues, "also encompassed a strong dress reform message. Though many of her sartorial standards
remained grounded in late Victorian aesthetic ideals, she advocated the banishment of corsets and encouraged simpler
dress..." Perhaps more importantly, she also "examined the idea that women's interest in fashion is a
natural, innate inclination." This idea, Tolini says, is based on the Darwinian theory of natural selection:
"In vain have moralists inveighed against our propensity for outward
adorning" Mrs Haweis wrote. "The need of conspicuousness which Darwin tells us results in the survival
of the fittest, is at the root of this love or ornament, a healthy instinct not to be sneered at."
By this thinking, Tolini explains, at a time when, in general, the woman's
role was one of being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, "the notion that they were to seduce a potential
mate with their beauty, and their artifice, was deeply entrenched. Not only was it acceptable to wear dead, stuffed
animals on one's body, it was a thoroughly justifiable prerogative for any woman."
Plus ça change
Caroline Clifton-Mogg reminds us that today's interior decorator gurus
are nothing new -- Mrs Haweis railed against them a century ago. In her article, "Two Decorating Legacies"
on the Christies Trends London website, Clifton-Mogg says, "Those
who think know-all interior decorators are a modern disease should learn from Mrs. Haweis... In The Art of Decoration
Mrs. H. R. Haweis exhorts her readers to brace up and stand firm against decorative autocrats, reminding them,
'the customer ought to meet a tyrannical decorator with Shylock's dignified answer, "It is my humour".'
Plus a change."
But she wasn't just your Victorian-era style-guru. An article in The Queen, The Lady's Newspaper
dated November 23, 1895, reports, "Mrs. Haweis's first autumn At home took place last Saturday at Queen's
House, when the Indian Yogi, or ascetic, Swami Vive Kananda (Buddhist [sic] delegate at the Parliament of Religions
at Chicago in 1893) discussed in a liberal spirit, and not without humour, the chances and the charms of an universal
"He showed that the underlying principles of all the great religions
of the world resembled one another," the article continued, "and amongst the great prophets he placed
the Christian Redeemer very high, implying, however, that His teaching was little borne out sometimes by His professed
followers. There was no radical impossibility of reconciliation between sects, now biting and devouring each other
from the best motives, if charity and sympathy were carried into the kiosque, the temple, and the church. Canon
Basil Wilberforce and the Rev. H. R. Haweis both made interesting speeches in reply to the Swami. . . . The guests
Mrs Haweis in The Lady's Realm - Vol 3
Page 3 - "Queen of Italy" - This article is the first in the
volume. It is as much a travel piece centring on The Quirinal Palace, her home, as well as about Queen Marguerite
Page 95 - "What to do with Our Daughters" - This is a series
of three essays by women including Mrs Haweis. Mrs Haweis, was a strong supporter of the women's franchise movement
and her novel A Flame of Fire (1897) was written 'to vindicate the helplessness of womankind.' She tells readers,
amongst other things, "The question is surely rather what our emancipated daughters mean to do with themselves."
Page 208 - "The Effigies in Westminster Abbey" - A seven-page,
photo-illustrated tour of Westminster Abbey's own version of Madame Tussaud's waxworks gallery.
Page 383 - "Husbands Relations and How to get on with Them"
This is a series of essays by three women, including Mrs Haweis. In her essay, she suggests, "My advice to
the young bride is to do her best to unite all the new relationships, but to hold her own, and not pass over liberties
and covert interference till at last it is too late to resist them."
Page 523 - "The Duchess of Albany" - In which our heroine
writes a profile of the wife (of Queen Victoria's youngest son, Leopold, (1853 - 1884), Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont.
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