EMMA CLAIRE SWEENEY

A Year of Hidden Friendships

When we first launched Something Rhymed, a year ago now, concerned well-wishers expressed scepticism about whether we’d discover twelve pairs of historic female writer friends to profile each month over the course of 2014.

Thanks to our close-knit community of readers from around the globe, the reverse has in fact been true. You’ve helped us to unearth many more female collaborations than we could possibly have envisaged at the beginning of the year. With such a treasure trove of hidden friendships still to explore, we intend to keep sharing our findings here in 2015.

The collaborations we’ve explored so far were sometimes illicit, scandalous and volatile; sometimes supportive, radical or inspiring; but always, until now, tantalisingly consigned to the shadows.

To mark the end of Something Rhymed’s first year, here are our top ten ideas on why the friendships between some of our most famous female writers still have a cloak of secrecy about them:

  1. Women writing in the past had more opportunities to converse in the parlour than in the pages of literary magazines.
  1. The marked harmony and lifelong endurance of many of these writing partnerships cost them copy.
  1. Friendships between women are often neglected in favour of a female author’s intense or turbulent relationships with men.
  1. The literary status of some of our writer heroines has suffered because their genre, style or subject matter was particularly associated with women.
  1. Some of the pairs shared an alliance so radical that others refused to believe that it could possibly have thrived.
  1. Other collaborations challenged core mythologies about female authors: the well-bred lady; the solitary eccentric; and the suffering genius.
  1. Popular perceptions of female friendship still struggle to allow for the kind of rivalry embraced by some of our writer forebears.
  1. Rumours of lesbian affairs sometimes actually seem easier for commentators to accommodate than the possibility of an intellectual partnership between women.
  1. Close friendships between girls might be all well and good but, after marriage, women have been traditionally expected to devote themselves primarily to their husband and offspring.
  1. Historically, female collaboration was considered subversive and therefore taboo.

Working together on Something Rhymed this year, we have experienced some of the most jubilant moments in our own friendship as well as some of the most fraught. But, from Eliot and Stowe – who taught us the importance of candour – to Mansfield and Woolf – who showed us that rivalry can be a positive force – we are learning how to keep our own collaboration on course.

Throughout our lives, we will keep turning to their illuminating wisdom to help us remain the closest of friends. And, with your continued support, we intend to keep celebrating the secret sisterhood between our trailblazing forebears, finally bringing it centre stage.