Amy Clarke

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Amy Key Clarke (21 December 1892 – 20 June 1980)[1][2] was an English mystical poet and writer, and a teacher at The Cheltenham Ladies' College.


Amy Key Clarke was born at 121 Elgin Crescent, Kensington, London, England. Her parents were Henry Clarke, a lecturer and tutor, and his wife Amy (née Key, also known as Mrs. Henry Clarke), a writer and first Headmistress of Truro High School.

Clarke was educated at St Paul's Girls' School and at The Cheltenham Ladies' College where she was a student at St Hilda’s House from 1905–1906 – the senior house of the College. After reading Classics at Newnham College she returned in 1924 to teach as Senior Classical Mistress, becoming successively Head of Classics, Head of Upper College, and Director of University Entrants. She was away from 1939 to 1947, when she returned as House Mistress of St Hilda’s House until 1948, and then finally retired in 1953.[3]

Amy Clarke and Florence Cunningham[edit]

In 1917 Amy stayed for seven weeks with Florence Cunningham (1871–1950, grand-daughter of writer Peter Cunningham) at her home in Bayswater. Florence was a mystic who believed herself to be a prophet whom the voices she heard addressed as “Mary”: she compared herself to Abraham, Isaiah and The Messiah, but it should be said that she was later, for a short period, committed to the care of the Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. Florence's daughter was Edith Cunningham, then 18, whom Amy had met at St Paul's Girls' School.

Amy Clarke was enamoured of the spirituality of the poems of Florence, and wrote to Florence from Newnham College saying that she was leaving there by inspiration in order to come and stay at her flat. This announcement was a surprise, but Florence did not refuse her as she was a friend of her daughter. Amy stayed for 7 weeks, and during that time she would speak to Florence while in a state of inspiration for one or two hours at a time, only in the presence of her husband and daughter. Florence related that definite miracles happened which were witnessed by her family during Amy’s sojourn in order to demonstrate that she was under the control of higher powers. Amy left as suddenly as she came, in an agreeable way: she wrote to Florence on Christmas Eve, 1917, addressing her as "My dear Mother".[4][citation needed]


Amy Key Clarke wrote a mystical poem Vision of Him which in 1917 was published in the Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. The poem was written in the same year as her encounter with Florence Cunningham. In 1950 she wrote on mystical religious philosophy: The Universal Character of Christianity.

Clarke published a scholarly edition of a commentary on Claudian's De Raptu Proserpine by Geoffrey of Vitry, and wrote two histories of the Cheltenham Ladies' College and a history of Truro High School for Girls.


  • The Universal Character of Christianity. London: Faber and Faber, 1950
  • A History of the Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1853-1953. London: Faber and Faber, 1953
  • The Commentary of Geoffrey of Vitry on Claudian De raptu Proserpinae: Transcribed and edited by A.K. Clarke and P.M.Giles, with an introduction and notes by A.K. Clarke, (Leiden, Köln: E. J. Brill, 1973).
  • A History of the Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1853-1979. Suffolk: John Catt, 1979
  • The Story of Truro High School, the Benson Foundation: with a memoir of its first headmistress Amy Key. 1980


When Amy Key Clarke died at the age of 87 in 1980, her home was St. Ninian's, Victoria Street, Cambridge.[5]


  1. ^ Birth certificate GRO ref. 1893 Mar Kensington 1a 95
  2. ^ The Times obituary 23 June 1980 has her "in her 88th year" when she died
  3. ^ Archivist, Cheltenham Ladies' College
  4. ^ Cunningham, Florence, A Prophet's Overture in Three Parts / Part 1, Unpublished typescript, 1945
  5. ^ The Times obituary

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