Rosa Harriet Newmarch

Rosa Newmarch was born at 29 Lansdowne Place*, Leamington, the youngest of the family of four boys and three girls of the physician Samuel Jeaffreson.

She was an artist, an accomplished musician, linguist, poet, writer, critic and composer, – and a wife and mother.

Mrs Newmarch began her writing career with cultural journalism and by translating foreign biography, learning Russian and making four visits to Russia between 1897 and 1915.  She became one of the first English critics to champion Russian music, and after 1915, Slovak music. She helped to make Sibelius (with whom she corresponded in French) known in England, and introduced the then barely known Tchaikowsky, Smetana and Janacek to English audiences.

From 1907 she edited the ‘Living Masters of Music’ book series for the publisher John Lane.

Her translations of Russian poetry constitute roughly 2/5 of her poetic output.  Critics acclaimed her command of metre, – considered in places smoother than that of the original.  Many are included in ‘The Collected Poems of Rosa Newmarch’ published in 2010, edited by John Holmes and Natasha Distiller, and according to the preface, the best of them “deserve to be read alongside those of the Edwardian and Georgian poets who are better remembered, – including Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons, John Masefield and Isaac Rosenberg”.

When Rosa’s father died in April 1870, in Cannes, her mother Sophia moved to London, setting up home in Kensington with her two youngest daughters. After her mother’s death only two years later, Rosa returned to Leamington to live at 60* Clarendon Avenue with her sisters Lily, an artist and professor of singing, and Caroline, who appears not to have had any profession.  It was from there that Rosa married at the Parish Church in 1883, Henry Charles Newmarch, a London-based Land Agent and Surveyor. They lived at a series of ‘good’ addresses in London, and brought up their son and daughter there.  Henry was a keen walker, and on holiday in Dorset in 1927, he died as a result of a fall whilst on a 10-mile walk to the Doone Valley.

Rosa subsequently resumed her career as writer, composer and music critic. She networked with influential figures such as Thomas Beecham and Henry (Later Sir Henry) Wood, publishing a biography of the latter in 1904, to great acclaim. From 1908 until 1920 she wrote programme notes for the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra, and for Prom concerts. From 1919 until 1927, when the BBC took over the concerts she was assisted in this by Eric Blom, then in the early stages of his writing career.

Westminster Gazette March 1904

Rosa Newmarch died in Worthing in 1940 aged 82 and is buried in Leamington Cemetery.

M M Rushton

January 2022

*N.B. 29 Lansdowne Place was next door to The Lansdowne Hotel, and is now part of Boots.  The row from The Clarendon Hotel to Warwick Street was home to a number of Physicians and Dentists.

*60 Clarendon Avenue is now number 52.

Sources: Leamington Courier online (BNA); Westminster Gazette; Spennell’s Directories.