Grave of Amelia B. Edwards

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St Mary’s Church, Church Close, Henbury, BS10 7QF

The grave of Amelia Blanford Edwards — traveller, Egyptologist, and writer — to whom Symonds dedicated his poetry collection Old and New.1  Symonds shared many poetic works with Edwards, and his poem “To a Friend Leaving England in September” is originally dedicated “To A.B.E.”

Discussing the collaboration on Sexual Inversion, Symonds told Havelock Ellis that Edwards “made no secret to me of her Lesbian tendencies”, and formed a menage with an “English lady” and her clergyman/school inspector husband. “Miss Edwards told me that one day the husband married her to his wife at the altar of his church – having full knowledge of the state of affairs.”2  These were probably Mr and Mrs Byrne – a clergyman and his wife, whose departure from the area was “like a death-blow” to Edwards.3 Local census records show Ellen Gertrude Byrne living at 7 Cambridge Park, with her husband John Rice Byrne, a clergyman and school inspector.

Among Edwards’ close friends and companions was Symonds’ sister-in-law, the artist and traveller Marianne North. The pair were frequent correspondents, and some of Edwards’ letters apparently ardent enough for North to respond  “What love letters you do write, what a pity you waste them on a woman!”4  The two remained close friends for several decades, sharing news of North’s travels and Edwards’ literary career. A surviving letter from 1880 includes Edwards’ account of Symonds’ departure from Clifton Hill House.

Edwards is buried together with Ellen Drew Braysher (1804 – 1892), with whom she shared a home at The Larches. Braysher’s daughter had been buried in the same grave twenty-eight years earlier, and on Edwards’ death the grave was covered a large Egyptian ankh. More information on the monument can be found in the August 2011 newsletter of the Egypt Society of Bristol. [Note: The newsletter’s gravestone transcript has some errors. See images below for my best attempt at transcription.]

Some resources on Edwards:

My Home Life in Arena, 1891, describing Edwards and Braysher’s Westbury-on-Trym home.

Amelia Edwards’ novels and travel writing at archive.org

Amelia Edwards Collection at Somerville College.

Egypt Exploration Society Library & Archive

 

  1. The American edition making the common mistake of mixing her middle name with that of her cousin, Matilda Betham Edwards. Edwards on her part misremembered the dedication as being in ‘Many Moods’. []
  2. Sean Brady,  John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) and Homosexuality: A critical edition of sources (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan., 2012) p.240 []
  3. Joan Rees, Amelia Edwards: traveller, novelist & Egyptologist (Rubicon Press, 1998) p. 22 []
  4. Rees, p. 34-35 []