Blanche Isabella Atkinson (March 1847-October 1911) was a British novelist and author of children’s books. She is also noted for her correspondence and friendship with the influential art critic John Ruskin.
Life and works
Born in Aigburth, Liverpool, England Blanche Atkinson was the daughter of a prosperous Liverpool soap manufacturer, Jonathan Atkinson. An avid reader of Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain, she posted in March 1873 her first subscription along with a note of appreciation of his work. At the time their correspondence began, Atkinson was 27 and Ruskin 54.
During the first three years of their friendship, she received a hundred letters from Ruskin; forty others were written between the years 1876 and, probably, 1886.
In 1873 she became a Companion in Ruskin’s political group, the Guild of St George, which attempted to put some of his ideas into practice by setting up utopian communities.
Ruskin printed extracts from some of her letters in Fors dealing with the squalor of slum life in industrial cities and the devastation of the countryside caused by industrialisation. Atkinson's interest in the social conditions of the poor led Ruskin to introduce her by letter to Octavia Hill.
After reading an article she had written for mill workers, Ruskin encouraged Atkinson to write a short story so that he could assess it. She subsequently published three novels: The Web of Life, or the Story of Peter Holgate's Love (1889), They Have Their Reward (1890), and A Commonplace Girl (1895).
Her children’s books include Rosalinda and Other Fairy Tales (with Anna Cross, 1890), The Real Princess (1894), Dick’s Hero (1899), Tom Leslie's Secret and What Came of it (1900) and Jack’s Baby (1904).
Her non-fiction works include What Are the Duties of Selbornians? (1895) and Ruskin's Social Experiment at Barmouth (1900).
Atkinson edited two works by the Irish feminist and social reformer Frances Power Cobbe: Life of Frances Power Cobbe as Told by Herself (1904) and The Duties of Women: A Course of Lectures by Frances Power Cobbe (1905).
In the latter part of her life, Atkinson lived at Tynffynnon, the home of Mrs Fanny Talbot (1824-1917), a wealthy landowner who had donated land and cottages in Barmouth to John Ruskin's Guild of St. George.
- Spence, Margaret E. Ruskin’s Correspondence with Miss Blanche Atkinson. https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:1m2050&datastreamId=POST-PEER-REVIEW-PUBLISHERS-DOCUMENT.PDF
- 1911 Census
- Ruskin's Social Experiment at Barmouth https://openlibrary.org/books/OL25091476M/Ruskin%27s_social_experiment_at_Barmouth
- Life of Frances Power Cobbe as Told by Herself: https://archive.org/details/lifefrancespowe02atkigoog
- Dick’s Hero http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00082671/00001/1j
- Rosalinda and Other Fairy Tales http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00079881/00001/1j