Dilke, Emilia Francis Strong (DNB12)
DILKE, EMILIA FRANCIS STRONG, Lady Dilke (1840–1904), historian of French art, born at Ilfracombe on 2 Sept. 1840, was fourth daughter of Major Henry Strong of the Indian army, by his wife Emily, daughter of Edward Chandler Weedon. Her grandfather, Samuel S. Strong (d. 1816), was settled at Augusta, Georgia, and was deputy surveyor-general of the state before the outbreak of the war of independence, during which he remained loyal to the British crown. Lady Dilke's father, who was educated at Addiscombe, served in India from 1809 till 1825; he ultimately became manager of the Oxfordshire branch of the London and County Bank, residing at Iffley. A friend of his, Francis Whiting, who was his daughter's godfather, gave her her second Christian name.
Educated at Oxford by a governess, who was sister of the African traveller, Thomas Edward Bowdich [q. v.], she made while a girl the acquaintance of leading professors at Oxford, including Goldwin Smith, Dr. Ince, and Dr. Henry Acland. From childhood she showed a taste for art, and on the recommendation of Ruskin, to whom Acland showed some of her drawings, she went to London in 1859 to study at South Kensington. She worked hard at the Art School there from March 1859 to Feb. 1861, and saw much artistic society. Her drawing showed promise, but her interests covered a wider field. She studied Dante and the 'Imitatio,' and developed a mystical sense of religion. At the same time her youthful spirits ran high and her outlook on life betrayed independence.
In September 1861 she married, at Iffley church, Mark Pattison, rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, her senior by twenty-one years. Thereupon she settled down to a life of literary study under her husband's direction. She devoted much time to the classics and to modern languages and acquired an exceptional facility in speaking French. Nor did she neglect academic society. She formed among her husband's friends a sort of salon at Lincoln College. Her circle soon included Robert Browning, with whom she long corresponded, Richard Congreve, Emanuel Deutsch, Prince Leopold, (Sir) Charles Newton (of the British Museum), and (Sir) Edgar Bochm (the sculptor). But the guest who attracted her most deeply was George Eliot (Marian Lewes). There is no doubt that Mrs. Mark Pattison suggested to George Eliot the character of Dorothea in her work 'Middlemarch' (1871), and that the novelist's conception of Casaubon was based on Mark Pattison. But in neither case was the fictitious study realistic portraiture. Travel with her husband at home and abroad during her early married life widened Mrs. Pattison's interests and acquaintances. Nervous illness which constantly recurred from 1867 onwards led her to spend an increasing part of each of the next seventeen years abroad. She tried medical treatment at Wildbad and Aix, but after 1875 she was a constant visitor to Nice and Grasse, arid permanently hired rooms at a villa at Draguignan, near Cannes. Abandoning her practice of art, she soon concentrated her energies on its history and criticism. She sent notes on art to the 'Westminster Review,' and regularly reviewed books on art in the 'Saturday Review,' the 'Portfolio,' and from 1869 in the newly founded 'Academy.' In 1872, moved by the conviction that one ought to become an authority on a special subject, she began researches in the renaissance of art in France. From time to time she studied at the archives in Paris; corresponded with and entertained Eugene Muntz, the historian of French art; became intimate with many French artists, including Dalou and Legros; and visited galleries and collections in Rome, Vienna, and other European capitals. The organisation of the arts in France, as well as the practical development of them in all branches, came within her design. The results of her inquiries filled many volumes; the first appeared in 1879 under the title, 'Renaissance of Art in France' (1879). As an historian of art she was very thorough and painstaking. But her critical powers were inferior to her industry. A critical biography of Lord Leighton followed in 1881 in Dumas' 'Modern Artists,' and a life of Claude in French, largely from unpublished materials, in 1884.
Meanwhile such time as she spent in England was in part absorbed by zeal for social reform, especially for the improvement of the social and industrial condition of working women. She joined in 1876 the Women's Provident and Protective League, now the Women's Trades Union League, which had been founded in 1874 by Mrs. Paterson [q. v.], with the aim of organising women workers. She spoke at annual meetings of the league in London in July 1877 and in 1880, when she urged the need of technical education for women, and was supported by William Morris and Professor Bryce. She founded a branch at Oxford, and showed immense enthusiasm for the cause. She also advocated the political enfranchisement of women, and joined the Woman's Suffrage Society at Oxford.
On 30 July 1884 Mark Pattison died at Oxford after a long illness. His widow, to whom he left his fortune, settled in the autumn at Headington Lodge and edited his early 'Memoirs,' which were published in 1885. In the spring of that year she paid a visit to her friend, Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff [q. v. Suppl. II], then governor of Madras. An attack of typhoid fever delayed her return to England till the autumn. Meanwhile, in July she publicly announced her engagement to Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke [q. v. Suppl. II], with whom her relations had been friendly from youth. At the moment Sir Charles's brilliant political career was prejudiced by charges of immorality, which had been laid against him in the divorce court. The marriage took place at Chelsea on 3 Oct. 1885, and thenceforth her career was largely moulded by that of her second husband. She fully believed in his innocence, and when the truth of the charges against him was legally affirmed in July 1886, she with heroic unselfishness resolved to consecrate her life to his rehabilitation in public esteem. While sparing no effort in her husband's behalf, she continued with undiminished ardour her pursuits as historian of French art and reformer of women's industrial status. She and her husband continued to travel much ; they spent part of each year in Paris; in 1887 they extended their tour to Greece and Turkey, and late in 1888 they visited India. No opportunity was lost of inspecting art treasures abroad. At the same time her literary industry bore fruit in the elaborate treatises : 'Art in the Modern State, or the Age of Louis XIV (1884) ; 'French Painters of the Eighteenth Century' (1889); 'French Architects and Sculptors of the Eighteenth Century' (1900), and 'French Engravers and Draughtsmen of the Eighteenth Century' (1902). She also attempted short stories of a mystical or allegorical temper. These were collected in her lifetime as 'The Shrine of Death, and other Stories' (1886) and 'The Shrine of Love, and other Stories' (1891). A posthumous collection was called 'The Book of the Spiritual Life' (1905). Her style in these tales shows an individuality which is wanting in her writings on art. Meanwhile Lady Dilke's activity in the women's trades union movement knew no intermission. The committee of the Women's Trades Union League was largely guided by her counsel. From 1889 to 1894 she attended each September the trades union congress as representative of the women's league. She thus was brought into constant touch with labour leaders, and she frequently spoke at meetings throughout the country on labour questions affecting women. She spared no pains to promote co-operation between the sexes in the field of manual labour, and championed with especial fervour the cause of unskilled workers in dangerous trades. She died after a brief illness on 24 Oct. 1904 at Pyrford Rough, Woking, a house which was her personal property. Her remains were cremated at Golder's Green after a funeral service at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square. She had no issue. In accordance with her direction some valuable jewels in her possession passed on her death to the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, together with her collection of art books, Aldines and Elzevirs. An early portrait by her friend, Pauline, Lady Trevelyan, of Cambo, Northumberland (reproduced in Sir Charles Dilke's ' Memoir,' p. 24), was left by Sir Charles Dilke, together with a miniature by Camino, to the National Portrait Gallery, but the trustees have, according to their rule, postponed the consideration of acceptance till the expiration of ten years from death. She was also painted by William Bell Scott and by J. Portaels in Paris in 1864.
[The Book of the Spiritual Life, with a memoir by Sir Charles W. Dilke, 1905 ; Athenæum, 30 Oct. 1904 ; The Times, 25 Oct. 1904, 2 Dec. (will) ; CornhilL Feb. 1912 (letter from Lady Dilke to Sir Henry Lucy) ; private information.]