This is the first of what will be a longer project, surveying what Ireland read and why. The information will be drawn from letters in which he discusses literature, from a list of books in his ownership, and from evidence in the music.
I’m going to start by looking at Patience Ross’s collection of poems, Black Bread (1929). This young woman dedicated the volume to the composer, thus its appearance on Ireland’s bookshelves.
Ross was the daughter of Arthur Reed Ropes (1859–1933), better known under the pseudonym Adrian Ross (hence Patience’s adoption of this name). He began his career as a Cambridge University don, teaching history and poetry. However, he is much better known as a writer of popular lyrics, contributing songs to British musical comedies at the Gaiety, Daly’s, the Adelphi, and other London theatres.
In 1901 he married actress Ethel Wood, moving to 31 Addison Road, Kensington, living in a house close to the one shown, with four servants. As an aside, this road is now one of the most expensive residential streets in the world. At the time Ross lived there, other residents included Chaim Weizmann and John Galsworthy.
So why the dedication to Ireland? Patience Henrietta May Ropes (b. 1906) was a piano pupil of the composer at the same time as Helen Perkin, thus her first book of poems brings together her musical and literary lives. A second volume, The Glass Rose, followed in 1930, and in 1934 she wrote the libretto for The Captive: A Romany operetta, with music by Edgar Moy (1893–73), a pianist and organist who wrote a mixture of light music and organ works as heard here: A Little Suite.
After this date there is no further trace of Patience Ross, so we are fortunate that her slim volume of verse survived on Ireland’s bookshelves.
Nor friend nor lover; each way unfulfilled
But now the rose is rent, the music stilled.
Withdraw your hands, that would not curse or bless,
Since all their gifts are turned to emptiness.