You are viewing the archived content of Scholarly Editing, Volumes 33 – 38 issued between 2012 and 2017. Go to the new site.

Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2016, Volume 37

A Transnational Literary Network Around 1900: The Correspondence between Laurence Binyon and Olivier-Georges Destrée

Edited by Eloise Forestier, Gero Guttzeit, and Marysa Demoor


This edition makes available unpublished letters exchanged between British writer, critic, and curator Laurence Binyon (1869–1943) and Belgian poet-critic Olivier-Georges Destrée (1867–1919), written mostly in English and French, but also incorporating other languages. (Robert) Laurence Binyon is best known today as the poet who wrote the poem "For the Fallen," stanzas of which have been recited at commemorations for war victims from its initial publication in 1914 to the present day. Binyon’s scholarship was deeply rooted in the late Victorian period; Frederick Morel asserts that he "has always been considered a traditional nineteenth century poet" yet presents him as a "pivotal figure for the modernist movement in Britain." [1] His importance for modernist poetic networks is visible, for instance, in his connection to Ezra Pound, whom he introduced to Wyndham Lewis. [2] Olivier-Georges Destrée, brother of socialist politician Jules Destrée, was connected to Belgian artistic and literary networks such as Les XX and La Libre Esthétique. He was also an eminent champion of Pre-Raphaelite art in Belgium. [3] The correspondence between Binyon and Destrée began in 1896, and while it slowed down considerably after Destrée’s final decision to become a monk and enter the Benedictine Maredsous Abbey in 1898, it only ended with Destrée’s death in 1919. Though neither writer is highly canonized individually, their correspondence offers an insight into transnational literary networks between Great Britain and Belgium from the turn of the century to the end of the First World War. The edition builds upon results of our own and others’ research undertaken at Ghent into Belgo-British cultural and literary networks at the time. [4] The letters reveal a strong friendship between two young scholars whose experience, language skills, and wide network of friends and relations illustrate transnational artistic and literary movements, offer us insights into the publishing conditions of the time, and broach issues of national, religious, and personal identity.

Transnational Artistic Movements

Laurence Binyon and Olivier-Georges Destrée first met in London in 1895. Binyon already benefited from a solid reputation as a poet and an art critic within a wide network of English artists who made up the rising generation of London artistic life. He had been appointed Second Class Assistant at the British Museum’s Department of Printed Books two years before and was newly transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings. The Belgian government acted on the importance of the expanding cultural exchange with Britain when they sent Destrée to London on a mission for the Arts and Crafts exhibition in 1894. The visit confirmed Destrée’s enthusiasm for the Pre-Raphaelite movement, then in full bloom in England, yet relatively unknown abroad. [5] He met some of its main representatives, notably the painter Edward Burne-Jones, who made a great impression on the young scholar. Destrée was also introduced to London’s literary and artistic circles and clubs. He met Binyon at the Fitzroy Settlement, [6] a large Adam-style house in Fitzroy Street purchased by Arthur Mackmurdo in 1889, which was to become at the turn of the century one of the most thrilling environments for artistic and intellectual London life. According to John Hatcher, "in Fitzroy Binyon had the ideal gateway into what Ricketts [7] called ‘Little London’, that intimate, clubbish, almost familial network of fluid cross-fertilizing groups which gave late Victorian culture its characteristic tone and texture." [8] Binyon and Destrée’s friendship began in the very center of late Victorian culture. The correspondence reveals that they were both admirers and scholars of Victorian art, yet they belonged to the generation of artists who contributed to a turning point in the European artistic world as it opened to foreign influences and evolved towards modernism.

The correspondence between Binyon and Destrée provides us with new evidence of cross-fertilization between Britain and the Continent. Their travels and projects confirm the results of previous research that focused on the influence of Italian art on the European cultural scene. [9] There is also ample proof that a number of English artists traveled to Flemish medieval towns to seek inspiration for their own endeavors. An example of this is William Morris, whose admiration for medieval artisans led him to study Flemish medieval manuscripts and reproduce them in his own press. Dante Gabriel Rossetti also visited Flanders at least twice and this exposure to late-medieval Flemish art deeply influenced his work. [10] In Belgium, "le Cercle des XX" nurtured a pointedly modernist approach to art that transformed the Belgian art scene of the 1880s. The avant-gardism of their exhibitions attracted many prominent artists from abroad, notably France and Great Britain.

Transnational networks such as the one between Binyon and Destrée have been approached via the theoretical framework of so-called histoire croisée, an approach that aims to theorize the inter- and transnational crossings of local histories and to demonstrate their entanglements. [11] Applied to our correspondence, the concept makes apparent how Binyon spread Belgian culture in Great Britain while Destrée introduced British culture to Belgium. [12] The transnational nature of Binyon and Destrée’s correspondence is particularly evident in the bilingualism, or rather multilingualism, of their letters. The correspondence is generally in English and French, but other languages employed include Italian, Latin, and Ancient Greek. As in some other correspondences between artists and writers in the period, Binyon and Destrée frequently engage in what linguists refer to as code-switching, rapidly changing from one language to another within a single letter.

Moreover, they both contributed to the development of literature and art in their own countries. Binyon wrote catalogues and guides to art exhibitions as part of his employment in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. [13] Destrée endeavored to shape a national artistic and cultural identity in Belgium that would result in the introduction of foreign influences and consequently the creation of a transnational network of artists. Thus, Binyon and Destrée both published works that boasted the merits of art production in the other’s country. Les Préraphaélites: Notes sur l’art décoratif et la peinture en Angleterre by Destrée was published by Dietrich in Brussels in 1894 and Dutch Etchers of the Seventeenth Century by Binyon was published by Seeley in London in 1895. Destrée was the first Belgian to introduce Pre-Raphaelism to his countrymen, and among the first few who published on the subject in the French language (along with Gabriel Sarrazin [14] and Robert de la Sizeranne [15] ). He describes it in explicitly transnational terms as "the result of a voyage that English thought undertook in Italy" (our translation; "le résultat d’un voyage que la pensée anglaise a fait en Italie"). [16]

As Laurence Brogniez points out, Pre-Raphaelism mirrored traits of earlier Belgian art movements: Pre-Raphaelite poetry and renaissance Flemish art both celebrate ideals of purity and nobility with the image of a golden age that takes its roots in medieval (Arthurian) legends. Binyon and Destrée shared this passion during their journeys and discussions of the towns of Cornwall (May 9, June 5, and June 19, 1897). The friendship and travels of Binyon and Destrée symbolize the early struggles of Belgian artists such as Maeterlinck, Verhaeren, and Rodenbach to create a unique and elevating national artistic movement, as Brogniez puts it: "the reclaiming of the rich history of Flemish painting is part of a struggle for self-sufficiency that flaunts the promotion of a 'Belgian soul,' that 'soul of the North' that Destrée described in 1911" (our translation; "la réappropriation de la riche tradition picturale flamande s’inscrit dans un mouvement de lutte pour l’autonomie dont l’enjeu est la promotion d’une 'âme belge,' cette 'âme du Nord' que Destrée décrira en 1911"). [17]

The correspondence gives further evidence of the versatility, open-mindedness, and multilingualism of European artists at the eve of World War I. Binyon was a poet, an art critic, and an amateur artist. [18] Artists and collectors, such as those mentioned in the correspondence, did not merely travel but immersed themselves in different cultures and languages. As Carton de Wiart observes in his biography, Destrée adopted Great Britain and later Italy as if they were his own countries: "secret affinities beckoned him towards that land, which became for him, as Italy did, another homeland" (our translation; "des affinités secrètes le poussaient vers ce pays qui devait, tout comme plus tard l’Italie, lui devenir une autre patrie"). [19] Hence Destrée’s will to expand the British cultural heritage to Belgium. A great project that forms the bulk of the correspondence is his compiling of an anthology of English poets throughout the nineteenth century. Destrée’s exact title was "Anthologie des poètes anglais du XIXe siècle. Traductions littérales, accompagnées de notices biographiques et critiques de poèmes de: Blake, Rogers, Wordsworth, Scott, Coleridge, Southey, Lamb, Landor, Campbell, Moore, Lord Byron, Wolfe, Shelley, Keats, Hood, Lord Tennyson, E. B. Browning, R. Browning, E. Brontë, M. Arnold, D. G. Rossetti, Morris, Swinburne." [20] Destrée would spend most of his working hours translating poems to make them accessible to French speakers. One can also trace his excitement as he asked and received from Binyon unpublished photographs of the poets, and his confusion as to foreign standards: "I don’t know, nor does my publisher, what 'inches' exactly are and how they translate into centimetres" (our translation; LTR #87, undated, probably March–April, 1898). Destrée also sought to improve Binyon’s talent through the recommendation of Russian and French literature: "Do read in the same Heroic line the poem by V[ictor] H[ugo] that I told you about. The poem I am referring to is in the 1st volume of the Légende des Siècles and is entitled Aymerillot" (our translation; LTR #20, September 29, 1896). This also prompts him to act as a medium for his scholar friends and encourage international cultural networks: "Yesterday I sent you a former comrade of la Jeune Belgique, Charles Van Lerberghe, who is going to spend three or four months in London. Please treat him well, and introduce him a little, if you want, to some friends (…) he will be even better than me at showing you the Legend collections" (our translation; LTR #91, undated, probably May 1898). While not always completely successful, Binyon and Destrée were spinning a web of cultural ties that made artistic work accessible for foreign speakers, and participated in a transnational exchange with collaborating artists that took into account foreign traditions and languages.

Within this international network that springs from Binyon and Destrée’s friendship, a few names deserve more attention. Binyon developed close ties with the members of the Century Guild of Artists whose artistic eclecticism and craftsmanship prefigured the Art Nouveau and who were forerunners of the Arts and Crafts movement. These members were Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo (mentioned above), Herbert (Percy) Horne and Selwyn Image. These are intimate friends but also artists who contributed to Destrée’s work: "about Image and since we spoke business or money at the beginning of this letter – when you see him ask him please if one of the volumes I suggested to him would suit Elkin Matthews [sic]. Image will explain to you what it is about" (our translation; LTR #2 undated, 1896). One of Binyon’s publishers, Elkin Mathews, published the Rhymers’ Club Anthologies, and Binyon "was later on the fringes" of the Rhymers’ Club and "his name appeared on the provisional list of contributors to The Book of the Rhymers Club." [21] The Rhymers' Club introduced Binyon to many literary figures whom he put in contact with Destrée later on: "If you see Johnson tell him that his mysterious and wild bardic Friend Yeats ought to send me (…)" (LTR #15, September 4 1896) and "send my regards to Image and Horne and the few friends I met with you in London, Plarr especially" (LTR #103, undated, September 1898; Victor Gustave Plarr was a founding member of the Rhymers Club). There is little or no distinction between the friendship and the business collaboration among almost all of Binyon and Destrée’s artistic friends; they were involved, and often collaborated, as poets, designers, illustrators, translators and photographers in the small publishing world of avant-garde culture in London, Belgium, and France at the end of the century.

Publishing Conditions

The letters also present a relevant case study of the struggles of artists and writers who had to adapt to the contemporary world of small publishing houses, often held by a single person. These were starting to specialize in different fields: art, literature, travel. They had to manage the cost of publication and the expectations of the public with little means at their disposal. Artists and writers tried to cope with these conditions, as we can see in the examples of Binyon and Destrée. Binyon’s and Destrée’s professional activities were constantly plagued with money issues; it emerges from their letters that there were no fixed rules as to remuneration in the publishing world. These issues are very much discussed in the correspondence, and Binyon and Destrée categorize and define their own projects in order of economic priority. "Potboilers," a term much used by Binyon and often borrowed verbatim by Destrée, describes many of their projects, unrewarding creative work undertaken exclusively to maintain a living. These are opposed to several pet projects that included poetry, anthologies, magazine articles, and travelogues for which they could only hope to get paid. Binyon and Destrée shared a common passion for the town of Bruges which became their regular meeting place (see LTR #18, September 24, 1896; LTR #21, October 2, 1896; LTR #30, November 9, 1896; LTR #43 February 2, 1897). They discussed at length the possibility of writing a guidebook to the city (see LTR #27, October 9, 1896, and the letters of May 1897). The project, which was aborted, would have contained the enriched culture, views, and experiences of a Belgian and an Englishman. Unless the work was commissioned, however, publishers would receive several similar ideas or manuscripts which resulted in stressful competition among the artists, as we can see in a letter from Binyon: "I’m sorry to say there’s danger at Allen’s, as a Guide to the Cities of Belgium is just announced by another publisher. [22] " (LTR #58, June 5, 1897)

Destrée in particular is entirely dependent on the goodwill of his editors: "I got your postcard at the same time as a note with a postal money order for 100 frcs, which is too much I think, for my "remarkable article," such are the terms of this good man [23] whom I was starting (having heard nothing of him) to consider a villainous scoundrel of the worst kind!" (our translation; LTR #76, probably November 1897). Binyon's earnings from the British Museum seemed hardly sufficient to enable him to travel and meet his friend: "I shall have at least 100 fr at your disposal. No I have not killed anybody, but shall get 10 £ for my Ode" (LTR #72, October 5, 1897). The financial uncertainties extended to the recent introduction of photographic reproductions; Destrée laments prolonged discussions with Emery Walker, William Rothenstein, and other amateur or professional photogravurists whose copyright conditions were arbitrary and varied alarmingly: "am horrified to hear from Oldmeadow that the photographer will charge you a guinea for permission. This is absurd. So I asked Rothenstein" (LTR #89, April 15, 1898). Destrée struggled to get his anthology published, even renouncing authorial rights: "Finally – as I have made up my mind not to be paid for the anthology, I have found an editor – it is almost settled" (our translation; LTR #76, probably November 1897). Binyon reacts indignantly: "But it will be a great success, then he will have to pay you!" (LTR #77, November 27, 1897). Despite Destrée’s numerous attempts to get his work published, it remained a manuscript; only a few notices and translations appeared here and there in Belgian periodicals. [24] Although there have been attempts to recover it (notably by the Catholic writer and politician Carton de Wiart who knew Destrée from university and wrote about their youth in La Vocation d'Olivier-Georges Destrée), it has remained lost to this day.

Artists and editors would either meet in social contexts, at friends’ houses or through the intercession of common acquaintances, or they would be put in contact through letters of introduction. We have several examples of such proceedings in the correspondence, with the interaction of different social circles, such as the Century Guild in Britain or the artists who wrote for La Jeune Belgique in Belgium, or in some cases, the upper classes and the intellectual elite.

Destrée was very anxious to be introduced to one of the biggest French publishing houses of the time, Hachette, which had recently opened a distribution network in Belgium. For this purpose Binyon proposed to help him with an introduction from Auguste Angellier, a literary critic and art historian as well as a poet and teacher of English literature: "I mentioned the anthology to Garnett [25] (Keeper of the Museum Library) and he offers you an introduction to M. Angellier, the translator of Burns, who has also written on Keats, who (he thinks) might be useful in finding you a Paris publisher" (LTR #25 October 6, 1896). A publishing house of such importance as Hachette would tend to invest in more marketable projects. This proved unfortunate for Destrée’s anthology, which would not have attracted a large readership. Conversely, his project appealed to smaller publishing houses, whose specialized fields offered only a limited potential readership: "unfortunately his field is rather art works and I don’t think his clientele is big enough for the anthology" (LTR #78, December 16, 1897). These difficulties point to the fact that Destrée’s work was, in some regards, too far ahead of its time. He nevertheless received an introduction through the influence of the Italian nobleman, collector, and photographer Guiseppe Primoli (LTR #43, February 2, 1897), though Angellier had recommended Armand Colin, a more recent publishing house (1870) which was then foremost in the world of higher education. However, none of these came to fruition.

Binyon enjoyed moderate success with the publication of Porphyrion and Other Poems, published by G. Richards in London in 1898, at the height of their correspondence, though it is clear that his poetic endeavors paid little. He made much use of his networks to find more lucrative projects and extended his help to his friend: "yesterday I saw the editor of a new magazine called the Dome [26] , for which I have written something, and I told him you might possibly contribute something. He said he would write to you. If you write something short I could translate it for you. It is not a good magazine, but pays quite well" (LTR #63, August 14, 1897).

Publishing conditions were thus a prickly issue for both Binyon and Destrée: money was uncertain, there was stiff competition, and it was difficult to manage publishers’ and readers’ expectations. The conflict between the need to carry out commissioned work and the delight of personal pursuits was ever present and in some cases, the only response left was irony and sarcasm: "The book on Flanders progresses slowly," writes Binyon about one of his commissioned works, "but it is not easy for me to write at all. I want to finish it and begin the Forest" (LTR #96, July 18, 1898). To which Destrée responds: "By all means, dear Laurence, do finish your book on Flanders. It doesn’t matter a bit. If there is a good title page – some good etchings by Strang and if the book is cleverly bound it is all that is expected of you and no one will read it!" (our translation; LTR #97, undated, probably July 1898).

National, Religious, and Personal Identities

One can gather from the correspondence how Pre-Raphaelism both influenced Destrée’s religious conversion to Catholicism and developed the national Belgian cultural scene. Both histories follow a parallel course. After entering the monastery in 1898 Destrée persevered in his resolve to transmit a literary legacy with another anthology, this time on religious art. He sought for inspiration and talents from England, to which Binyon contributed, acting as a mediator. The three letters dated 1912 and 1918, which we have selected from the later years of the correspondence for this edition, show Binyon and Destrée at a mature stage of their careers and give more evidence of Binyon’s role as an "agent of consecration" as Morel calls him in his doctoral thesis. [27]

In Belgium in the 1880s, Max Waller gathered the rising actors of Belgium’s literary renaissance around the creed l’Art pour l’Art of the magazine La Jeune Belgique (1881–1897). Young talents awakened to the call of change, modernity, and above all the selfless love of beauty: Rodenbach, Verhaeren, Gilkin, Maeterlinck, Eekhoud, Giraud, Goffin, Séverin, Fontainas, Van Lerberghe, as well as Jules and Olivier-Georges Destrée.

The idea of l’Art pour l’Art, art for art’s sake, certainly had rallying sonorities, but it soon rang hollow, particularly in religious circles:

What can we then make of the saying "Art for Art’s sake"? Taken at face value it does not mean anything. [...] Its intrinsic objective, the only one worthy of it, is beauty, the conception and expression of beauty: it expresses in concise terms the noble mission of Art.

(Our translation; Que penser dès lors de la formule l'Art pour l'Art ? Prise au pied de la lettre cette formule n'a pas de sens. [...] Sa fin intrinsèque, la seule digne de lui, c'est le beau, la conception et l'expression du beau ; elle exprime en des termes concis la noble mission de l'Art.) [28]

This turn-of-the-century definition by the Catholic neoscholastic Désiré-Joseph Mercier was an attempt to bridge the gap between pure aesthetics and the ideal of beauty as a kind of religion defined by John Ruskin in his popular lectures on the philosophy behind Pre-Raphaelism. Destrée was not the only Belgian intellectual to eagerly adhere to this neo-Thomist perception. The 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum by Pope Leo XIII gave a new impulse to political Catholicism in Belgium. The Congress of Mechelen (1891) established the political existence of a group of Young Catholics who took a keen interest in literature. The creation and success of the Belgian periodical Durendal (1894 - 1914), to which Destrée contributed, coincided with the political domination of the Catholic Party in Belgium. It was also the result of a merged effort with several adherents of La Jeune Belgique to transcend the formula "l’Art pour l’Art." Durendal did not disavow its predecessor, but gave it a new meaning. As L. Brogniez explains, far from preaching a dusty return to Catholic traditionalism, the magazine used Pre-Raphaelite art to channel religious feelings. With the publication in 1895 of his Notes on the subject, Destrée participated in this movement and certainly shared the point of view of the editors of Durendal when they wrote "listen carefully, Catholic friends, never has anyone painted angels as beautifully as Edward Burne-Jones" (our translation; "écoutez bien ceci, catholiques, jamais aucun n’a peint les anges comme Edward Burne-Jones"). [29] Catholicism thus became represented as the peak of modernity: "the tour de force of Durendal is to have reinstated the reputation of Catholic art by promoting it to the final stage of the aesthetic evolution. In art as in letters it is presented as the foremost point of modernity" (our translation; "le tour de force de Durendal est d’avoir su redorer le blason de l’art catholique en le présentant comme une ultime étape de l’évolution esthétique, tant dans les arts que dans les lettres, la pointe extrême de la modernité"). [30] One could say that Destrée’s conversion is representative of the Catholic revival in Belgium before World War I, except that Durendal helped popularize Belgian symbolist aesthetics, whereas Olivier-Georges Destrée, now Dom Bruno, contributed exclusively to the development of religious art.

Destrée’s manuscript on religious art was destroyed in the fire of Louvain of 1914 (see LTR #106, December 5, 1918), but he became an authority on the subject, and contributed to several international exhibitions, including, in 1911, "Les Arts Anciens du Hainaut," with his brother, the socialist politician Jules Destrée (1863 -1936), who was close to him despite their different vocations. We may gather from Binyon’s letter (LTR #104, January 27, 1912) that he might have contributed to the World Fair in Ghent in 1913: "I marked a few names of artists who might perhaps contribute to your exhibition." In the same letter Binyon also shows his propensities toward religious art criticism and his interest in foreign expressions, especially Oriental art: "a (Chinese) play" (an offspring from the Exhibition of Chinese and Japanese Painting staged at the British Museum [1910–1912] for which he had written the catalogue). Destrée’s literary guidance and criticism, his praise and advice, which pervade the correspondence certainly shaped the poet, artist, critic, lecturer, and art historian that Binyon was. It illustrates and is confirmed by the oral recollection of the late Nicolete Gray, daughter of Laurence Binyon: "Destrée my father was very fond of, perhaps fonder than any other friend" (letter from Edmund Gray, Binyon’s grandson, to Professor Demoor, April 17, 2003).

Editorial Selection and Transcription

To our knowledge, the letters edited here have not been previously published. [31] Nearly all of them are transcribed from the Laurence Binyon Collection (Loan MS 103/1-77) at the British Library. The only exception are the two 1912 letters by Binyon held in the archive room of Mont César Abbey in Louvain. Our selection of postcards and letters excludes a part of their correspondence (from October 1898 to January 1912). During this time, Binyon hardly responded to the letters which Destrée wrote from the isolation of the abbeys at Maredsous and Mont-César, and, because of their one-sidedness and descriptive nature, they offer little insight into their transnational network. What is included, however, are the final few letters exchanged between them after 1911 so as to complete the narrative of their friendship and also to give an indication of Destrée’s mature reputation as a critic of religious art.

The transcription of the correspondence is as faithful as possible to the letters and postcards on loan at the British Library. Not all the letters are dated and some of the date stamps on the postcards are not clear; our sequencing of the undated letters is based on their content. There are remarkably few spelling mistakes in Binyon’s and Destrée’s texts. In the few cases of illegibility, we have supplied the most likely reading. Punctuation, capitalization, and authorial emphasis have not been changed. The correspondence is generally bilingual, English and French, but other languages include Italian, Latin, and Ancient Greek.

What is not marked are the differing ink colors and the spatial organization of the writing. The postcards, which represent about 75 percent of the selected correspondence, are sometimes crammed with writing, not only horizontally but vertically, in circles or even between existing lines and upside down. The change of ink color (coral and pencil as opposed to black) might have been made for legibility reasons or was simply a matter of chance. Four typical postcards have been selected, reproduced, and added as illustration to the edition. Explanatory notes give the necessary background for nonspecialists.


The parts of the letters that are in languages other than English have been translated. The translation does not aim at being verbatim, but is intended to make the non-English parts of the correspondence accessible to speakers of other languages. In the translation, we have kept the original French titles of artistic works. When Destrée uses archaic expressions or words, we have employed Binyon’s words to recreate the dialogue as far as possible; an example of this is the French noun "causerie" and its derived verb "causer" which today has the slightly different meaning ‘to chat’ compared to the one intended at the time – Binyon refers to it neutrally as "talks" and "to talk." Similarly, the Italian is slightly old-fashioned and has been translated into modern English. In a small number of cases, longer French sentences are divided into two or three English ones.

XML Encoding

The correspondence has been encoded in two TEI XML documents, one for the transcription and one for the translation into English. The alignment of transcription and translation was initially automatically performed using Pavel Vondřička's software InterText ( and then manually corrected. Both texts have been segmented into sentences, <s>, with the @xml:id attribute preceded by "o" for the original and "t" for the translation. An index of the letters offers the choice between viewing the letters individually or side by side with their translations

The original letters have been encoded by specifying the <div> tag through the @type and @xml:lang attributes. They have also been numbered with the @n attribute and their <dateline> has been marked. The dateline sometimes contains two dates: the first is the one on the post stamp; the second, the date the sender wrote himself. There are 107 letters in total. The <head> specifies sender and addressee of each letter. There are 48 letters from Binyon to Destrée and 58 letters from Destrée to Binyon as well as one letter from Jules Destrée to Binyon, written after Olivier-Georges Destrée’s death. Emendations of the text have been marked mostly through the use of the <supplied> tag but in very few cases also through the <gap> and <del> tags. The <supplied> tags distinguish between the @reason "omitted-in-original" and "illegible." Underlining by Binyon and Destrée has been encoded via the <emph> tag. The cases in which one of the writers used more than one postcard on which to write their letter are marked with the tag <p type="second-postcard">.


We would like to extend our thanks to Edmund Gray, grandson of Laurence Binyon, for the permission to publish this correspondence, and to the British Library for the permission to use images of three of the letters. Our thanks also go to editors Amanda Gailey and Andy Jewell, developer Karin Dalziel, copy editor Lona Dearmont, and the two peer reviewers.


1. Frederick Morel, “Beyond Borders: Laurence Binyon’s Networks, Poetics, and Orientalism” (PhD diss., Ghent University, 2013), 2, 4.Go back
2. See the biographies by John Hatcher, Laurence Binyon: Poet, Scholar of East and West (Oxford: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1995); John Hatcher, "Binyon, (Robert) Laurence (1869–1943)," in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Lawrence Goldman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004–), accessed October 9, 2014, On the connection between Binyon and Pound, see John Hatcher, "Binyon, Stevens, Pound, Eliot," Poetica: An International Journal of Linguistic-Literary Studies 64 (2005): 1–23, and David P. Corbett, "'Make It New': Laurence Binyon, Pound and Vorticism," Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 26, no. 2 (1997): 183–94.Go back
3. See Henri Carton de Wiart, La Vocation d’Olivier Georges Destrée (Paris: Flammarion, 1931).Go back
4. Morel, "Beyond Borders"; Marysa Demoor and Frederick Morel, "Laurence Binyon and the Belgian Artistic Scene: Unearthing Unknown Brotherhoods," Victorian Periodicals Review 44, no. 2 (2011): 184–97,; Frederick Morel and Marysa Demoor, "Laurence Binyon and the Modernists: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Marinetti," English Studies 95, no. 8 (2014): 907–22, back
5. A likely outcome of this time spent in England was the publication of Destrée’s article "Some Notes on the Stained Glass Windows and Decorative Paintings of the Church of St. Martin’s-on-the-Hill, Scarborough," Savoy 6 (October 1896): 76–92. Binyon and Destrée mention this article in the correspondence (LTR # 27, October 9, 1896): "The October Savoy contains your article."Go back
6. "[K]nown variously as Whiteladies, Hobby Horse House, the Fitzroy Settlement or simply Fitzroy, this protean household was one of the great bohemian centres of the 1890s" (Hatcher, Laurence Binyon, 27).Go back
7. Charles de Sousy Ricketts (1866–1931), English artist, illustrator, author, and printer, one of Binyon’s earliest artistic friends.Go back
8. Hatcher, Laurence Binyon, 45–46.Go back
9. See Susan P. Casteras and Alicia Craig Faxon, Pre-Raphaelite Art in Its European Context (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Associated University Press, 1995).Go back
10. Marysa Demoor, "Art-Catholic Revisited: Dante Rossetti’s Early Paintings and Northern Renaissance Art," Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 14 (Spring 2005): 4.Go back
11. On histoire croisée in general, see Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, "Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity," History and Theory 45, no. 1 (2006): 30–50,; Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, eds., De la comparaison à l'histoire croisée, Le genre humain 42 (Paris: Seuil, 2004); Birgit V. Puymbroeck, "‘The Age of a Mistaken Nationalism’: Histoire Croisée, Cross-National Exchange, and an Anglo-French Network of Periodicals," The Modern Language Review 107, no. 3 (2012): 681–98, back
12. For a similar application of histoire croisée to transnational networks, see Puymbroeck, "‘The Age of a Mistaken Nationalism.’"Go back
13. Hatcher, Laurence Binyon, 41; Morel, "Beyond Borders," 86.Go back
14. Pierre Nothomb, Une Conversion Esthétique: Olivier Georges Destrée (Bruxelles: Librairie de l’action catholique, 1910), 23.Go back
15. Gabriel Sarrazin, Poètes modernes de l’Angleterre (Paris: Paul Ollendorff, 1885) and Robert de la Sizeranne, La renaissance de la poésie anglaise 1798–1889 (Paris: Hachette, 1889).Go back
16. Ruskin and the Religion of Beauty (1899) and English Contemporary Art (1900).Go back
17. Laurence Brogniez, "Georges-Olivier Destrée et la religion de l'art: De l'esthète au converti," in Dimensions du sacré dans les littératures profanes, ed. Alain Dierkens, Problèmes d’histoire des religions 10 (Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1999), 36–37.Go back
18. Binyon refers to this hobby in LTR #14 September 4, 1896 ("I am doing a dry-point portrait of you"); LTR #32 Nov 18, 1896 ("I am just beginning to do wood-cuts, it is very amusing"); and LTR #34 Dec 9, 1896 ("I hope to send you a woodcut very soon; I am improving") with Destrée expressing his admiration in LTR #47 March 11, 1897 ("Is my portrait a woodcut – it looks like a lithograph and I think much better than the first print you have done. I think that you are improving very much"). In his biography of Binyon, Hatcher also mentions Binyon’s artistic aspiration (Hatcher, Laurence Binyon: Poet, Scholar of East and West, 43).Go back
19. Wiart, La Vocation d’Olivier Georges Destrée, 65.Go back
20. Wiart, La Vocation d’Olivier Georges Destrée, 65.Go back
21. Hatcher, Laurence Binyon, 34.Go back
22. Grant Allen’s Historical Guides, Cities of Belgium. (London: Grant Richards, 1897).Go back
23. Destrée is referring to E. J. Oldmeadow, editor of The Dome.Go back
24. Françoise Delsemme’s compilation Les Littératures Etrangères dans les Revues Belges de Langue Française publiées entre 1885 et 1899 (Brussels: Commission belge de bibliographie, 1973) lists Destrée’s publications in Belgian periodicals at the time (122, 127, 285, 286, 287, 291, 313, 314, 371, 375, 468, 471, 482, 524, 538, 539, 560). The Université libre de Bruxelles has digitized the periodicals La Jeune Belgique (1881–1897), and Durendal. Revue catholique d'art et de littérature (1894–1914; 1921,, which were also consulted. Destrée’s translations of poems and essays as well as notes on authors appeared mainly in five journals during that period:
  • 1) In La Jeune Belgique, Destrée published translations of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "My Sister’s Sleep" (October 1891): 379–80; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Sister Helen" (November 1891): 406–11; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Three Shadows" (January 1892): 69–70. John Keats, "La Belle Dame sans Mercy," "On a Dream", "On Reading ‘The Flower and the Leaf’ by Chaucer" (March 1892): 153–55; John Keats, "Ode to Autumn" (April 10 1897): 126–27. Notes on Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Blake, William Bell Scott, William Morris and Algernon Charles Swinburne (October-November 1892): 411–13. Walter Savage Landor, "I. Dream of Boccaccio" (September 11, 1897): 299–300; Walter Savage Landor "II. Petrarch’s Dream" (September 18, 1897): 307–08.
  • 2) In Magasin Littéraire et Scientifique: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The May Queen" and "New Year’s Eve" (January 15, 1891): 67–75; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Palace of Art" (April 15, 1894): 273–82.
  • 3) In Revue Générale: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Holy Grail" (January 1892): 95–115; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Oenone," "The Sea Fairies," "The Mermaid" (December 1892): 872–82; John Ruskin, "The Seven Lamps of Architecture" (October 1895): 481–99.
  • 4) In La Société Nouvelle: Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Anactoria" (April 1888): 362–67; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Passing of Arthur" (August 30, 1891): 362–67; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Lady of Shallot" and "The Dying Swan" (October 30, 1891): 401–04; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Lotos-Eaters" and "Locksley Hall" (November–December 1891): 569–80. Notes on Pre-Raphaelites: John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, George Frederic Watts, Walter Crane, William Morris (February 1895): 279–82.
  • 5) In Durendal: Christina Rossetti, "Why?," "A Christmas Carol," "Paradise: In A Dream," "Love is Strong as Death" (January 1898): 41–44; Note on Christina Rossetti and translation of "Goblin Market," "A Birthday," "Echo," "Uphill," "Good Friday" (October 1898): 885–99.
Once Destrée entered the monastery he turned to other pursuits and left the manuscript of his anthology with his friend Arnold Goffin (see LTR #103, September 1898).Go back
25. Edward William Garnett (1868–1937) was an English writer, critic, and literary editor.Go back
26. The Dome was published in London from 1897 to 1900, edited by Ernest J. Oldmeadow.Go back
27. Morel, "Beyond Borders," 14–15.Go back
28. Quoted in Françoise Chatelain, "Une revue catholique au tournant du siècle: Durendal 1894–1914," Bulletin de l'Académie Royale de la Langue et de la Littérature 62, no. 1 (1983): 20–21, back
29. "Miroir d’art et de littérature. Quelques propos des Douze pairs autour de la Table Ronde" in Durendal, April 1894, p 83. Burne-Jones himself, however, was not a Catholic. Go back
30. Brogniez, "Georges-Olivier Destrée et la religion de l'art," 39.Go back
31. The exception is in Marysa Demoor and Patrick Vanleene, "'The Noble Rose is Very Charming as You Say': Schrijven en etsen in Veurne 1898," Biekorf - West-Vlaams Archief 104 (2004): 5–12. Letters from Binyon to Arthur Quiller-Couch were published by F. G. Atkinson, "Unpublished Letters of Laurence Binyon (I): The Years of Struggle," Notes and Queries 29, no. 4 (1982): 335–39; F. G. Atkinson, "Unpublished Letters of Laurence Binyon (II): The Years of Achievement," Notes and Queries 31, no. 1 (1984): 72–76.Go back