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From The Reader, “Writers and Readers”: Review of The Green Sheaf, Vol. 5

MISS Pamela Coleman Smith was
born of American parents in
London, where her father was at
the time engaged in business. On both
sides her forebears exhibited in some
degree the tendencies which have
brought Miss Smith to the front in
literary and artistic circles. One may
say that from her mother she derived
an intense, individual creative desire,
which very early in life began to sat-
isfy itself in a curious sort of drawing,
later developed into the style already
so well known, especially in England.
While she was still a child the family
removed to the island of Jamaica,
where she lived seven years. During
the time her chief diversion, outside
her drawing, was learning the West
Indian negro folk-tales. A volume of
this folk-lore was later published by
Harper & Bros.; among her other
activities in London are her readings
from this collection. It is easy to
understand the grace of original com-
position in one so thoroughly imbued
with the simple naturalness which char
acterizes the style of all spontaneous
popular tales, lyrics and ballads.
Two years’ study at the Pratt In-
stitute in Brooklyn, N. Y., followed
this period. As no noticeable change
showed itself in the character of her
work under this tutelage, and as she
became more determined to work out
her own problems in her own way, she
ended her connection with the school
and shortly went to London, where she
became identified with the Celtic move-
ment. For some time she contributed
regularly to “The Broad Sheet.”
With the beginning of the present
year, however, she started a paper of
her own, called “The Green Sheaf,”
of which thirteen numbers will be pub
lished annually. This she edits. To
it, also, she contributes poems and illus-
trations in color. Herein lies the most
striking feature of her work. For,
whereas in outline the influence of the
pre-Raphaelites is very evident, her
colors and color-schemes are all her
own. Though fantastically fanciful
and in a way impossible, the Mendings
always please. From recipes which she
has evolved, she herself prepares many
of the unusual shades which she em
ploys, adding more individuality to the
general effect thereby. “It is very in-
teresting to see her,” says one who
knows, “dressed as ‘Gelukiezangerʼ
in parti-colored, gypsy-like gown and
with beaded hair, sitting in Turkish
fashion on the floor of a drawing-room,
reciting her outland tales full of their
queer conceits and unpronounceable
names.” She is an indefatigable
worker, enthusiastic and rapid.
We reproduce two of Miss Smith’s
drawings published in “The Green
Sheaf” (colored, of course) at the
time Sir Henry Irving was giving his
farewell performances at the old Ly
ceum Theatre, now being torn down.
The following apologia appears on
the cover of “The Green Sheaf”:

“My Sheaf is small  .  .  .  but it is
I will gather into my Sheaf all the
    young fresh things I can—pic
    tures, verses, ballads of love and
    war; tales of pirates and the sea.
You will find ballads of the old world
in my Sheaf. Are they not green
for ever  .  .  .
Ripe ears are good for bread, but
green ears are good for pleasure.”

MLA citation:

“Writers and Readers.” Review of The Green Sheaf, vol. 5, The Reader, Sept 1903, pp. 331- 332. Yellow Nineties 2.0, General Editor Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.