By Sally Blackburn-Daniels
The International Vernon Lee Society was founded by Professor Sophie Geoffroy (Université de la Réunion) in 2007 to promote the life and works of Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, 1856-1935) and her circle. The society has been integral in revitalising interest in the works of Lee, and members include a broad network of scholars whose disciplines intersect with Anglicist literature and gender studies. Alongside close connections to Université de Paris-Diderot and Université de la Réunion, the IVLS also maintains close ties with the Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino, in Florence, Lee’s home between 1888-1935 – now an arts centre. Conferences and seminars organised by the society include Vernon Lee and Her Circle: Women Committed to Freedom (2015), Women and Political Theory: Vernon Lee and Radical Circles (2013) and Violet del Palmerino: Aspetti della cultura cosmopolitan el salotto de Vernon Lee (2012).
Lee was the writer of over forty published collections of essays, short stories and novels in her lifetime. As a British citizen born in France, she spoke both native languages, as well as Italian (the language of her adopted home) and German fluently. Lee was an ardent anti-vivisectionist, a staunch pacifist, and a supporter of the rights of women. She read widely, and this is reflected in her output: stories on folklore, essays on art history and aesthetics, plays concerning the human sacrifice of the First World War. Lee worked collaboratively in the field of aesthetics, often with her amore, Clementina ‘Kit’ Anstruther-Thomson. Their seminal work Beauty and Ugliness was one of the first introductions to the concept of ‘empathy’ in English.
The IVLS and its online journal The Sibyl echo the multidisciplinary and collaborative nature of the work of Vernon Lee. The site includes a comprehensive bibliography for study, including repositories of archival materials, primary resources as well as peer-reviewed articles on Lee. The Sibyl also provides a hub for information on Lee studies, including calls for papers and conferences. Assisted by Gilles Pasquet and Thomas Cordet, IVLS founding president Sophie Geoffroy has written and produced an online documentary A la découverte de Vernon Lee, which interviews the most notable scholars in the field of Lee scholarship at present. The IVLS also has a Facebook and Twitter account.