English poet and novelist Maurice Hewlett (1861-1923) is rarely studied today, though his work around World War I often promoted socialism and universal suffrage. Perhaps the latter informs this collection, a series of poems told from the point of view of a woman, the eponymous village wife. As Hewlett notes in his introduction, World War I is “the greatest disaster of recorded time” and the village wife’s “reproaches strike at the heart of Mankind” (p. b1). By placing those reproaches in a women’s perspective, Hewlett attempts to chart the human toll of war, to show that soldiers are far from the only people affected. Thus, given the narrator and the subject matter, The Village Wife’s Lament, despite being written by a man, is included in the Women On War section of this exhibit.
The book itself is a slim volume of only sixty-one pages; it lacks a table of contents and features six numbered cantos. Each canto contains an average of three to six poems (also titled by number), and the poems themselves consist of rhyming quatrains or octets. While the bulk of the book is comprised of wood pulp paper, the publisher’s catalogue is printed on cheaper material and appended in the back. The catalogue includes plays, poetry collections, travelogues, books on craft, thirteen works by Henry James, and a section of “Two-Shilling Novels,” revealing Martin Secker to be a literary publisher with a commercial bent. Throughout, the book’s pages are cut poorly and glued unevenly. Yet, the volume’s poor production does little to lessen the impact of the words printed within: As the village wife laments the sight of mothers crying over their sons, she also condemns their shared grief: “We only cry, Let mine not die— / No thought for whom he slay” (p. 51).
Find The Village Wife's Lament in the UNT Library Catalog.