Leslie Howsam

Published On


Page Range

pp. 55–80


  • English

Print Length

26 pages

4. Private Life

This chapter opens with an analysis of the sole surviving photograph of Eliza Orme, and a description of the circumstances by which Leslie Howsam acquired a copy after many years of research without access to a visual image. It covers Eliza’s family and childhood, including the three London houses where the family lived, and corrects a much-quoted error about her mother’s early life. The two most significant of Eliza’s friends and colleagues are the philosopher Samuel Alexander (whose correspondence with Orme, only recently discovered by Howsam, reveals the frivolous side of her personality) and the lawyer-turned-local-politician Reina Lawrence (whose professional partnership with Orme might also have been an intimate one). Notable among her many connections were the politician/editor William Alexander Hunter, the novelist George Gissing, and the politician Charles Dilke. Orme’s life overlapped repeatedly with that of Hunter, although the connection has to be inferred because no direct correspondence has apparently survived. Whereas Gissing referred in his letters and diaries to Orme’s practical assistance with the breakdown of his marriage (but he apparently destroyed all her many letters to him, and may not have known or cared about her public achievements). In the case of Dilke, there is direct evidence of her political support for his radical ideas and his Liberal candidacy, and tantalizing but ambiguous evidence of her assistance at a crucial moment of scandal in Dilke’s career.

As an adult Orme lived with her younger sister Beatrice and one of her brothers; she stayed in touch with a wide family connection of siblings, nieces, and nephews, but she left her estate to Beatrice Orme and Reina Lawrence. The narrative returns to Orme’s retirement and last years in chapter 7.


Leslie Howsam

Emerita Distinguished University Professor at University of Windsor
Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Digital Humanities at Toronto Metropolitan University

Leslie Howsam is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Emerita Distinguished University Professor at the University of Windsor (as well as Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Digital Humanities at Toronto Metropolitan University). Her most recent book is the Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book (2015); her best-known book is Old Books & New Histories: An Orientation to Studies in Book and Print Culture (2006). For further information please see