Your KS #39: Sweet Lavender

November 28, 2018

As I edit my biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard, I’ve been cutting more words. One of the sections which just didn’t fit concerned Katharine’s love of lavender while she was in London. Rather than it being lost altogether, I thought it worth using to write this month’s column.

 

Picture, right: Katharine Susannah Prichard carrying lavender (Everylady’s Journal, April 1915).

 

In 1904, Katharine had earned the nickname ‘Sweet Lavender’—or ‘Lavey’ for short—after playing the title role of a play of that name when she was a governess in the Victorian town of Yarram. While in London from 1911 to 1915, she made scented lavender bags as gifts for friends as well as writing an article on the harvesting of lavender in the English countryside. Three handwritten, undated cards she wrote to accompany the scented bags survive among her papers at the National Library. Two identical ones were meant for friends:

 

This little sachet holds a charm

To keep your pretty things from harm—

The gay moth and the silver fish.

And here’s a wish

For happy days, this year,

And all the years, my dear!

Katharine Susannah Prichard.

 

The third, though, seems directed at a lover:

 

 

 

I’ll send you lavender
To lay among your thoughts of me
That I forever, in your dreams
May dwell with fragrance—
Breath’s undying,
Subtle, mysterious and sweet—
Of these herb flowers I love so well
Lo, I am a witch
And weave the spell!
Katharine Susannah Prichard.

 

She included this as a poem in her collection The Earth Lover and Other Verses (1932). The playful reference to herself as a ‘witch’ is interesting given her later (pejorative) nickname of the ‘Red Witch’.

 

It seems she was still using the nickname ‘Sweet Lavender’ right up until the time she met Hugo Throssell in 1915. One of the photos of him at the National Library has written on the back ‘Once upon a time there was a little lady known by one as Sweet Lavender’. Perhaps he sent her the photo during the war with that dedication.

 

At Greenmount in her later years, she grew lavender in the garden; the sight and smell of it would have brought back some of these memories from her youth.

 

- More on Katharine at Nathan’s blog at https://nathanhobby.com.

 

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