Faber & Faber just announced their acquisition of two books by Leah Broad—the “dazzling young musicologist” at Christ Church, Oxford, whose work you’ve read about in these pages several times before—the first of which is Quartet, a group biography of four “trailblazing” women who “changed British music”: Ethel Smyth, Dorothy Howell, Doreen Carwithen, and (you guessed it) Rebecca Clarke.

Word of the deal broke only day-before-yesterday—you can read The Bookseller’s breathless take on it here—and Quartet won’t be published until sometime in 2023, COVID permitting. Still…

We hasten to bring it to your attention for one very important reason: Quartet will be the first extended publication on Clarke and her music since Daniela Kohnen’s pioneering monograph, first published in 1999 (see our “Learn More” page). Dr. Broad’s book is written for a wider audience, but with equal rigor, and, of course, the range of documentary sources available to scholars—especially contemporaneous journals, trade-magazines, and the all-important concert-advertising—is exponentially larger now than it was twenty years ago. Quartet will set Clarke in the context of the professional world where she actually lived, breathed, worked, and drew her own life’s meaning.

So stick a pin in this, and we’ll keep you posted as things develop. In the meantime, check out Dr. Broad’s article on Ethel Smyth, just published in The Guardian, for a sample of her fair-minded, even-handed, thoroughly lively style, and for evidence that she is refreshingly willing to admit that great icons can be less than they claim to be—or than we might want them to be—and still be fundamentally decent, real people who are interesting and exciting to know.

Leah Broad, of Christ Church, Oxford, is giving a talk about “expressions of sexual desire in Rebecca Clarke’s fabulous song The Seal Man” at this year’s conference of the Royal Musical Association, which is being held entirely online, and will be open to the general public at no charge. We cannot recommend this event more highly.

Dr. Broad stands at the forefront of a new generation of scholars who are looking at Clarke with fresh eyes and, more to the point, with scrupulous regard for the documents in the case. For The Seal Man, those documents comprise Clarke’s diaries, expository writings, and visual archive, and the complete underlying text by John Masefield, including the parts that Clarke dealt with only by implication. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Dr. Broad’s presentation is her focus on Clarke’s theatrical bent, and the physicality—here, the extreme physicality—of Clarke’s vocal expression. (We’ve seen a draft of the paper, and, trust us, there is no holding back.)

The talk leads off Session 2c, scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, 2020, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. British Summer Time (check here for your local equivalent). The program booklet is here, and the registration form is here. Anyone may register, but you must do so in advance.

If you want to refresh your memory of one of Clarke’s great signature pieces, this is a good place to start. Masefield’s original story is here.