Poems, Lyrics & Sonnets: 'When I offered you my soul, Heard you what I said?'' by Louisa Bevington

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Poems, Lyrics & Sonnets: 'When I offered you my soul, Heard you what I said?''

Louisa Sarah Bevington was born at St John's Hill, Battersea on 14th May 1845, the eldest of eight children to Quaker parents; Alexander, a member of Lloyds, and Lousia.

Details of her early life are scanty although in the census of 1861 she is listed as a scholar at Marlborough House, Winchcombe Street, Cheltenham. At the time her parents and siblings are listed as residing at Walthamstow with their four house servants and a coachman.

Louisa wrote poetry from a young age and she had two sonnets published in October 1871 in the Friends' Quarterly Examiner.

Her first collection, ‘Key Notes’, a slim volume of only 23 pages, was published under her pseudonym Arbor Leigh in 1876. A second publication, ‘Key-Notes: 1879’, written under the name L. S. Bevington also took issue with some Christian codes of conduct.

In her article in The Nineteenth Century in October 1879, ‘Atheism and Morality’, her secular pose provoked a clerical response. In December the same year, Bevington concluded a two-part essay entitled ‘Modern Atheism and Mr. Mallock’. This was in response to an attack on atheism in the same paper by a young Oxford graduate. Louisa put forward a spirited defence of secular morality.

Louisa received a letter from the philosopher Herbert Spencer, confirming that rationalists showed greater humanity than adherents of organized religion. Her exposition of this was published in The Fortnightly Review in August 1881 as ‘The Moral Colour of Rationalism’.

In 1882 ‘Poems, Lyrics & Sonnets’ contained both metrical experiments as well as remarks on the stagnant state of Christianity. Her politics were coming into focus.

Louisa travelled to Germany in 1883 and on 2nd May she married the artist Ignatz Guggenberger in Munich. She found married life in Germany dull and humdrum. By 1890 the marriage was over and she returned to London.

Here she took to joining anarchist circles and preferred the use of her maiden name. In 1891 she commented to a preference for "L. S. Bevington" over "Miss Bevington", as she objected to the values "Mrs" and "Miss", although she did sign that letter "L. S. Guggenberger".

Louisa quickly gained credence as an anarchist poet and was also helped by her friends Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin who had founded the anarchist paper Freedom in 1886. Louisa sought distance from advocacy of bombs and dynamite and became associated with another paper, Liberty, edited by the Scottish anarchist and tailor James Tochatti, for which she wrote numerous articles and poems. She was also a contributor to The Torch, which was edited by the Rossetti sisters, nieces of the painter. She also authored the Anarchist Manifesto in 1895 for the short-lived Anarchist Communist Alliance.

Louisa Sarah Bevington died due to dropsy and mitral heart disease on 28th November 1895 at the age of fifty in Willesden Green. She was buried at Finchley Cemetery.

Publisher: Copyright Group ISBN: 9781787804081 Pages: 61