Philip Ross Bullock looks at the life and works of Rosa Newmarch (1857-1940), the leading authority on Russian music and culture in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England.
Although Newmarch's work and influence are often acknowledged - most particularly by scholars of English poetry, and of the role of women in English music - the full range of her ideas and activities has yet to be studied.
As an inveterate traveller, prolific author, and polyglot friend of some of Europe's leading musicians, such as Elgar, Sibelius and JanA!cek, Newmarch deserves to be better appreciated.
On the basis of both published and archival materials, the details of Newmarch's busy life are traced in an opening chapter, followed by an overview of English interest in Russian culture around the turn of the century, a period which saw a long-standing Russophobia (largely political and military) challenged by a more passionate and well-informed interest in the arts Three chapters then deal with the features that characterize Newmarch's engagement with Russian culture and society, and - more significantly perhaps - which she also championed in her native England; nationalism; the role of the intelligentsia; and feminism.
In each case, Newmarch's interest in Russia was no mere instance of ethnographic curiosity; rather, her observations about and passion for Russia were translated into a commentary on the state of contemporary English cultural and social life.
Her interest in nationalism was based on the conviction that each country deserved an art of its own.
Her call for artists and intellectuals to play a vital role in the cultural and social life of the country illustrated how her Russian experiences could map onto the liberal values of Victorian England. And her feminism was linked to the idea that women could exercise roles of authority and influence in society through participation in the arts.
A final chapter considers how her late interest in the music of Czechoslovakia picked up and developed these themes in the context of interwar Europe.