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Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth (1858 - 1944) was a renowned English composer and a member of the women's suffrage movement. She faced struggles in the field of composition being a woman; however, she created many pieces including songs, works for piano, chamber music, orchestral works, choral works and operas and found great success, so much that in 1922, she was the first female composer to receive damehood.

She, like Vernon Lee, traveled often to work on and promote her work. She knew and interacted with many prominent figures in the European literary and artistic scenes, including Virginia Woolf, with whom she fell in love at age 71 and preceded to become good friends with, Oscar Wilde, whom she met in on a trip to Ireland, and also Maurice Baring, whose biography she wrote, and also Vernon Lee, just to name a few.

Smyth first visited Florence in 1882 and would continue to return for years; however, Symth did not meet Vernon Lee until 1893 when they were both guests at a dinner at Windsor Castle in the UK. The two would become good friends and would be inspired by each other's work. Vernon Lee dedicated her play, Ariadne in Mantua (1903), to Smyth. Smyth would go on to derive the story for her most successful opera, The Wreckers, from Vernon Lee’s 1903 novel, Penelope Brandling: A Tale of the Welsh Coast.


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