The finding aid for the collection of Edward Burne-Jones letters to Violet Maxse is now online via the Online Archive of California. As mentioned last week, when we highlighted the drawings of Burne-Jones’ “prominent women,” the collection consists of 2 albums of letters and drawings sent between approximately 1892 and 1898 to Violet Maxse (who later became Viscountess Milner).
One of Burne-Jones’ many friends was Cecilia Steele Maxse, the estranged wife of Admiral Frederick Augustus Maxse and the mother of Violet and Olive, who, in their own rights, became close friends of Burne-Jones family. Raised in a rather untraditional household, Violet and Olive were allowed and encouraged to attend adult social functions to speak their minds to adult friends, who included their father’s dear friend Georges Clemenceau, and artistic luminaries such as Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde. Violet born in 1872, was the youngest Maxse child and she defied normal expectations for a girl of aristocratic background, deciding to pursue an artistic education and career in Paris from March 1893-January 1894. Burne-Jones encouraged her in this work, and in the letter below, asks her to send him some drawings:
Draw me pictures in your letters. I love pictures from this upwards to Michael Angelo.
In 1894, Violet returned from Paris, met and married Lord Edward Cecil, a soldier and foreign service officer and the son of prime minister Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury. They traveled widely together and their time in South Africa during the Boer War made a profound impact on Violet’s life. Their marriage was not a particularly happy one, and after Cecil’s death in 1918, Violet married Sir Alfred Milner. The two of them had fallen in love during that time during the Boer War, and they lived happily together until his sudden death in 1925. After her brother Leo’s death in 1929, she took over editorship of the National Review, owned by their family since 1893.
Violet and Burne-Jones carried on a lively and affectionate friendship from her childhood to his 1898 death. As she wrote in her 1951 memoir My Picture Gallery, “the loss of so gifted, so stimulating, so trusted and so affectionate a friend was irreparable.”