This month we focus our attention on a new accrual of photographs.  The photographs feature the anthropologist, writer and banker Edward Clodd (1840-1930).  A talented writer Clodd was also renowned for his ability to forge lifelong, close friendships with many preeminent scientific and literary authors.

As a young man Clodd joined the London Joint Stock Bank.  After a day at work he would read and study.  Clodd was a prolific user of free libraries.  Interested in philosophic and religious debate, he attended church to listen to the arguments of leading churchmen of different denominations.  This stimulated his interest in science and in 1869 Clodd joined the Royal Astronomical Society.

Clodd’s first book ‘The Childhood of the World’ was published in 1873. This was an introduction to evolutionary anthropology for children, describing recent discoveries about prehistoric man.  Clodd went on to write further books on academic subjects for children and many publications on philosophy, science and folklore.

Photo of Clodd and Meredith
Edward Clodd with George Meredith, taken by Clement Shorter. Image credit Leeds University Library

Clodd had numerous literary and scientific friends including Sir Ray Lankester, George Meredith, Clement Shorter and Thomas Hardy.  Some of them belonged to the Rationalist Group associated with Thomas Huxley and Samuel Lang.  Clodd regularly invited friends to his home Strafford House in Aldeburgh for house parties and our photographs were taken during these events.

Special Collections holds a considerable number of letters written to Clodd by his friends and associates.  Correspondents include Thomas Hardy, George Meredith and Louis Compton Miall.  The letters show Clodd having lively discussions with his friends about reading and publishing material on philosophy, science and literature.  His opinions were evidently highly valued.  In 1910 Miall asked Clodd to read the proof of his history of biology before its publication.

Clodd’s ability to develop close friendships is indicated by the author George Meredith’s comments in a letter of 8 December 1886 ‘Your visit to the chalet marks a happy day with me … When us two touch earth I see that we are brothers’.  By 1908 Meredith addressed Clodd as ‘Dear friend’ and shared the latter’s grief at the death of his son Arnold.  James Milne the literary editor of the Daily Chronicle wrote on 10 May 1914 ‘I’d be quite content to spend the remainder of my abode in this life at Aldeburgh’.  Clodd obviously knew how to make his guests feel welcome!