The World of Vernon Lee
This site introduces Vernon Lee, a British female writer from the latter half of the 19th century to the early 20th century.
In Japan, Lee was little known except for a small number of lovers of fantastic stories. However, in 2015, the collection of her short stories translated into Japanese was published and the charms of her works are expected to be discovered by more Japanese.
Also in Europe and the U.S., she had been paid little attention to for a long time. Since the middle of the 1990s her revival have been made little by little. Until the 2000s, many of her books were hard to be found in market, but now most books of hers are easy to obtain. In the U.K., an international conference of Vernon Lee was held.
Her works are varied: she didn’t write poems but wrote novels, short stories, plays, travelogues, essays, criticisms on art and music. Especially in the field of the study of music in the 18th century Italy, she was a forerunner.
Though her parents were British, she herself was born in France and spent long years in France, Germany and Italy. She had a good knowledge of French, German and Italian languages, although she wrote her books in English. Some letters she sent to her elder brother Eugene were written in French.
One of the reasons Vernon Lee received a lot of attention today is that her activities as a feminist are highly valued. A large part of theses on Lee argue her works from the feministic point of view. She was lesbian and remained single throughout her life. She employed a male name ‘Vernon’ as her pen name and liked to wear male clothes. As for her character, she was very aggressive and as a result she made a lot of enemies. She said in a letter to one of her friends: "I am sure no one reads a woman's writing on art, history or aesthetics with anything but mitigated contempt." Lee fought against male-dominant world as a lesbian writer.
When the First World War broke out, Lee began to make remarks criticizing the war. In her closing years, the image of a pacifist became stronger.
I am sure if we read Vernon Lee’s works today, fantastic stories are most interesting. Stories collected in Hauntings are especially of high quality as a fantasy literature. Augustus Montague Summers (1880~1948）, a famous scholar studying fantasy literature, was the first who “discovered” her works. He said: "Lee's stories are really a category by themselves. Intelligent, amusingly ironic, imaginative, original, they deserve more than the passing attention that they have atrracted."
This site is intended to introduce Vernon Lee’s life, her works, and her associations.