Constance Naden

Constance Caroline Woodhill Naden (1858 - 1889) was an English poet.

Born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England on January 24, 1858, the only child of Thomas Naden, an architect, later president of the Birmingham Architectural Association, and Caroline Ann who died within two weeks of giving birth. She was brought up by her mother's parents, devout baptists who were well read. She was sent to a local Unitarian day school from the age of 8, where she developed a talent for painting. When she left school at the age of 16 she submitted some paintings to the Birmingham Society of Artists but they were rejected. She then turned her interests to philosophy, languages and the sciences, in 1879 attending the Birmingham and Midland Institute to study botany, and in 1881 published her first volume of poetry Songs and sonnets of Springtime and attended courses in science at Mason Science College, also becoming a member of the Birmingham Natural History Society. Through this period she began an interest in social darwinism, inspired by the writings of Herbert Spencer which was later to influence her writing. In 1887 she published a second volume of poetry A modern apostle and inherited a considerable fortune from her grandmother which allowed her to travel to Constantinople(Istanbul), Palestine, India, and Egypt. She returned to England in June 1888, becoming part of the London scientific community, and gaining attention as an essay writer, one of which, Induction and deduction won her the Heslop Gold Medal. Her life was however cut short at the age of only 31 when she died as the result of an operation on Christmas Eve, 1889. She was lauded after her death for both her philosophical writings, by Dr. Robert Lewins and for her poetry in an article by the Liberal MP William Ewart Gladstone (three times prime minister) in the Spectator, (January 11, 1890) in which he ranked her among the top eight women poets of the 19th century. Two books were published posthumously, Induction and deduction, and other essays (1890), and The complete poetical works of Constance Naden (1894). Herbert Spencer, the inspiration for much of her writing remarked that "she had philosophical capacity comparable with that of George Eliot".

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