Ellen Buckingham Drewry
1836 - 1910
18th February 1836
Born in Middlesex.
Died in Hampstead.
In the 1881 Census Ellen appears as 'Housekeeper' with her father and her sister Louisa, staying at Jack Straw's Castle.
In the 1891 Census at 143, King Henry's Road (her late father's house)
|Ellen B Drewry||55||Head S||Living on own means||b. Notting Hill|
|Louisa Drewry||56||Sister S||Professor of English language and literture||b. Notting Hill|
|Mercy M Runciman||63||Visitor||Living own means||b. Marylebone|
|Susannah Ketteridge||30||Cook||Housekeeper||b. Cambs Ashdown|
|Elizabeth Ketteridge||27||Housemaid||b. Cambs Ashdown|
In the 1901 Census at 143, King Henry's Road
|Ellen B Drewry||Head||65||Living on Own Means||b. London, Middlesex|
|Louisa Drewry||Sister||66||Visiting Teacher own account||b. London, Middlesex|
|Ann Norton||Boarder||64||Retired School-mistress||b. London, Middlesex|
|Maria Zimmermann||Visitor||40||Teacher||b. Germany, Foreign subject.|
|Louisa Chapman||Serv||24||Cook Housekeeper||b. Devon Sutcombe|
|Charlotte Goddard||Serv||19||Parlourmaid Domestic||b. Kent Eastling|
All the earlier censuses show Ellen living with her parents. Her mother died when she was 42 and it would appear that for the next 8 years Ellen looked after her father, eventually inheriting his house.
Various references suggest that in her 20s, Ellen was involved with Elizabeth Garrett (Anderson) and others in early feminist activities. It seems clear that she was known to and involved with her cousins (daughters of Charles Stewart Drewry). Ellen was instrumental in setting up the Victoria magazine which appears to have been a journal to encourage and support female authors (including her cousins). See Georgina and her Sisters.
"...I should like to know a good deal more of the Drewrys, superior people are so very valuable, I think one would be justified in giving up time for their acquaintance. I should be very glad to have Ellen Drewry as a fellow student" [at Middlesex Hospital]
Elizabeth had only been living in London for a short while, so presumably she had only recently met the Drewrys socially.
Apparently Ellen joined Elizabeth at the hospital. On the 12th October, 1860 she writes to Emily Davies:
"..Miss E Drewry and I have arranged to study chemistry together. I believe that a fellow student of wit will be more help to me than a master would be. I do wish that the Drewrys dressed better. After the arrangement was made for her to come here I was almost afraid it was unwise on my part. She looks awfully strong-minded in walking dress but as my room is out of the way I hope she will not be supposed to belong to me by the students etc. She has short petticoats and a close round hat and several other dreadfully ugly arrangements: its is a serious mistake I think for a respectable woman to fall into...."
This letter was written at 4 in the morning, so it is possible that Ellen is here the victim of tiredness and a hard day.
Letter to Emily Davies, 19th October 1861.
"... We have been to Huxley's first lecture on physiology this evening, and after it was over Miss Drewry, Miss Jex-Blake and the Misses Octavia and Miranda Hill came in and spent an hour with me... Miss Drewry dined here and went with me. She and the others have been having some metaphysical discussion on the origin of evil and individual responsibility."
Was the Huxley who gave the lecture Thomas Henry Huxley, sometimes called 'Darwin's Bulldog'?
The following Article by Ellen B Drewry is copied from Selections from The Working Women's College Magazine, 1872-73 (Volume no. 185)
[In 1864, with her sister Louisa, Ellen was a founding member of The Working Women's College. - See image above.]
The Stage : Its Present Condition, and its Relation to the Education of the People
The 'stage', as we see it in the present time, is regarded, and not without reason, so entirely as a medium of entertainment, that it will perhaps be questioned in what sense it can be looked upon from an educational point of view, or linked with educational aims; yet education, in its larger sense, means the combined action, whether for good or bad, of all that surrounds us in life, and certainly our amusements, which too often take a much stronger hold of our imaginations and interests than our studies or our work properly so-called, exert a sufficiently powerful influence over the character to make it of the gravest importance that they should be wholesome and pure and really recreating in their nature.
And where can we look more hopefully for some such ennobling and invigorating influences as we so much need than to art ? — that development of the human mind which, whilst it is the highest expression that man has yet realized of his best and fullest life, is also capable — in virtue of this, that it exists wherever form and matter are suitably wedded to produce a beautiful or graceful whole — of descending to those less exalted levels where fancy and humour reign, and give complete repose to the more serious parts of our nature. But this very power of adaptation it is that exposes art to perils often threatening its existence. If we say that art, in its highest phase, is that embodiment of the human mind in which the emotional and the intellectual are most perfectly balanced and blended, yet it is certain that the emotional element always tends to predominate; and if emotion loses the ballast of intellect, if the imagination runs riot, then the art, which was once so noble and beautiful, be comes degenerate and trivial, corrupt and only capable of spreading the evil which has so overrun and debased its own being. We have seen such a fate threatening music, happily, as I hope and believe, to be counteracted by better influences; in the drama the evil seems at present to run its own course, with very little to resist it. There is another reason why art should have this tendency to decline from its high estate, namely, that it is not, and cannot be, confined to the keeping of the select few, but is essentially a national property, and must rise or fall, grow or decay, with the people which has created it. It is, indeed, in every sense, the offspring of the human mind, and is as essential a reproduction of that which gave it birth as is the infant of its parent. No less complete is the analogy when applied to its career and gradual development. It passes through the same course of struggle, growth, maturity, and ultimate decay. Yet, as in the human frame, everything which gives sign of retrogression is not necessarily the immediate precursor of dissolution. Disease may attack art as it does the body or mind but as long as life can be preserved, it is accounted a sacred duty to spare no effort towards the restoration of health and vigour. And again, since art is not only the creation of the mind, but, as such, reacts with a powerful influence on that life whence it originally sprang, it is of tenfold importance to guard against every symptom of degeneration, lest in time it should foster and confirm in the parent those very taints which are gradually undermining its own existence.
It would seem that some such abnormal condition, some such crisis of disease is, in fact, making itself only too certainly and rapidly apparent among the arts generally, but most especially, and far beyond all its brethren, in dramatic art. How far this condition is due to the unhealthily high pressure of labour so characteristic of our age it is not my purpose to discuss now; yet the possibility that there exists between the two a certain relation of cause and effect is suggestive of the most serious considerations concerning our present social state, as well as the future it must lead to. Is it not possible that the incessant and wearing toil by which we achieve in weeks what, in former times, would have been the labour of months or years, by which we maintain the commercial and social activity that is our pride and boast, is, in truth, laying the foundations of grave evils which it should be our first effort to check ? That intense craving for excitement which finds expression in a class of productions characteristically named "Sensation Dramas", is surely a proof of something very wrong in our social life. The truth is that one of the conditions most essential to a healthy development of mind and heart, no less than of body, namely, repose is, in a large metropolis like London, where society reaches its most complicated phase of existence, almost unknown or ignored. It would seem that the unceasing labour demanded by competition has banished from our lives those moments of rest which are necessary to enable the mind to collect its forces, or to mature and arrange the fresh material presented to it; and the process of stimulus thus carried on produces an exhaustion in which even the senses and emotions are incapable of receiving pleasure unless under the influence of renewed and unnaturally powerful excitement. Is there not also reason to fear that the aims which for the most part absorb time and thought, tending so much as they do towards material prosperity, wealth, and convenience, almost shut from sight the world of imagination and feeling, and, by continually strengthening our associations with the material and the finite, render it more and more difficult for us to appreciate or aspire after any ideal of beauty or goodness ?
Now, is not all this most truly reflected in the teeming life of so-called amusement with which London overflows? Nor can we, even while condemning such a state of things, deny that, if the theatre, as an institution, is debased, it is but a natural issue of the workings of society : if it presents little or nothing but vulgarity, emptiness, and exaggeration, it is because such is the nature of the demand. But if we believe in the theatre as a great moral agency by means of which to nurture all that is best in a national character, we immediately endue it, not only with great powers, but with great responsibilities. We can no longer regard it as an inanimate object to be swayed and moulded, like any other material force, by the circumstances and conditions external to it, but as a power fraught with a spirit and individuality of its own, which it lives to assert and develop. And then comes the question — What is this spirit that should animate the theatre ? This is a question far too comprehensive to find an answer here; yet, in general terms, we all know that it is the very same spirit which is the life and soul of all art : that its function, in the case of the drama, is so to blend the material and the spiritual in human nature as to produce conceptions and types of character sufficiently realistic to create vivid interest, whilst, at the same time, possessing enough of the ideal to raise men beyond the mere finite interests of life.
Now, we have seen that, in its present state, the stage, so far from realising these views, is a prey to all the worst influences of society. Why does it no longer assert its own dignity and privileges ? It has preferred to abdicate its high position as teacher of the people — to sacrifice the treasure of a pure and truthfiil spirit for the sake of a base reward, a present fame and prosperity of the least elevated or enviable Kind. And why ? — why, but that the love of the True and the Beautiful is too much crushed and silenced by the unceasing strife after material gain and intellectual advance which blinds us to all other aspirations. Not that I would foretell this as the ultimate and inevitable result of all our boasted civilization; yet, if we are to look with hope for a better spirit in society, we must endeavour to breathe into its recreations as well as its business a new and more living soul — we must not stand idly by and see the most powerful engines of moral influence exerting all their forces on the side of the bad rather than the good.
Here, then, the question presents itself — How is so great an end to be compassed ? and what can single, mostly uninfluential individuals do to aid in such a work ? Perhaps some will be inclined to answer — Surely, little or nothing. And yet why should we despair of doing something — not very palpable, indeed, or every rapid in its growth, yet, so far as it is genuine, true work, capable of strewing seed all along its path, and leaving germs behind which, happily springing up hereafter, shall carry on what has been begun, and do somewhat more towards raising up the goodly edifice of social improvement and purification ? For it is, after all, individual feeling, desire, and effort flowing together from all sides which, growing silently but surely into a great tide, are the real source of all social reform. We do but want society to be better, purer, wiser; then all social and human activities would become so, too. And each one who strives to get a little nearer to an ideal of goodness and wisdom — and surely education in some sort is the only true road to such — not only forms a new and healthy atom of society, but is the centre of an ever-widening circle, the ripples of which, once set in motion, though they may soon pass beyond our ken, can never cease to flow on.
Here, then, is the point of union between our poor, degenerate, frivolous stage and that life of earnest study and self-culture which is, I hope and beUeve, striking root deeper and deeper in the community. Such as society is — and we must not forget what position in that society is coming more and more to be claimed by the working part of our people — such will be its demands. In the degree in which a high ideal of life and its aims. can be awakened — in which healthy interest in all that is best worth knowing can be roused — in which free, hearty, kindly intercourse between all classes can spread refinement of tastes and feeling — in which we can learn to see that not only our work but also our play need be noble and genuine in kind, and earnestly wrought, if we would be what God means us to be — in that degree most surely will our work bear fruit; and we may thus help, each in our own small proportion, to re-awaken, if only in some distant time, that higher love of the Beautiful without which no nation can create or preserve a true and pure art.
Some may look on such hopes as Quixotic or ambitious, or, perhaps, even lacking of due modesty. And yet surely it is not so. Our lives can only become true or beautiful or, therefore, really fruitful when they emerge, each from its own narrow circle, to lose themselves in the great All; and if we can feel that, in working for ourselves, in seeking food for all their insatiable demands of brain and heart, we are also working for the happiness and good, not only of those who are striving with us, but perhaps of whole generations to come, we may surely believe that such feelings will infuse into our efforts for self-culture that spirit of unselfishness which alone can make them yield the best harvest: at any rate it will be a stimulus to our zeal and a motive for strengthening the links which already unite so many little bands of earnest men and women in the hope of a more complete union to come — a stimulus and a motive far nobler and higher than the mere love of knowledge, however pure and genuine, for its own sake. Ellen B. Drewry.
In 1877, Thursday 29th December, The Morning Post records donations to the London Homeopathic Hospital from Mr H R Drewry (1 guinea) and Miss Ellen Drewry (½ guinea).
[One guinea in 1877 is worth about £100 in 2011.]
Death: Dec 1910 Drewry Ellen B 74 Hampstead 1a 390