William and Lucy Clifford

A Story of Two Lives

2007 Dramatisation of Lucy Clifford's short story "The New Mother"

Following the success of Kathleen McDonnell's dramatisation of this story and its production by Youtheatre in Montreal in 2005 a new presentation was made of the play in Cleveland Ohio On January 13th 2007.

2005-6 Dramatic Production

In 2005 Youtheatre in Montreal produced an adaptation of Lucy Clifford's short story The New Mother. The play was written by Kathleen McDonnell an American writer who has lived in Canada since 1969. Youtheatre was established in 1968 and is dedicated to presenting world-class theatre for Canadian audiences. Their director states that:-

At Youtheatre, we are committed to creating original, innovative and challenging new works for young audiences. We do not shy away from difficult and controversial subjects, in fact, they are our priority…….Only by creating work that reflects our concerns and the world in which we live can we transcend our selves and see the world in a new light. I believe the work we do enables children and young adults to see that it is possible to change the world (and if not the world, then themselves and the world in which they live).

The Youtheatre production in 2005 was apparently a great success and will be produced again in the fall of 2006.

It is interesting to see how Kathleen McDonnell has used Lucy Clifford's story to illustrate modern family dilemmas arising from parent/child relationships. She sees the Ragged Girl of Lucy's original story as representing dangerous but alluring peer pressure to break established patterns of behaviour. She presents the children as tragic victims of a love that is totally conditional on their good behaviour. Furthermore in her dramatisation the ending of the story is changed so that the children's mother eventually returns to them. The horrific 'New' Mother is shown now to be the flipside of the 'perfect' mother. The terrifying and shocking ending of Lucy Clifford's story is thus made acceptable but what she would have thought of it I wonder?

2006 New Publication

In 2006 lulu.com published a paperback edition of Anyhow Stories.

Full details of the book and the full text of the short story The New Mother can be found on http://www.lulu.com/anyhow-stories.

2002 Guardian Newspaper Article

In 2002 Charlotte Moore contributed to The Guardian Newspaper an article about autism in children. In it she referred at length to Lucy Clifford's short story Wooden Tony. Charlotte Moore's own book about her autistic sons, Sam and George, is published in Penguin Books and she has frequently written articles about the problems of dealing with autism in children. Others have observed that the short story Wooden Tony in which a troubled little boy wants to be 'very far off and very little' seems to be an inversion of Carl Collodi's story of Pinocchio. In Lucy Clifford's story Tony's mother eventually feels that she has to give in to her son's wish to escape this world and she allows him to be taken away by a mysterious visitor who eventually turns him into a wooden figure in a cuckoo clock.

Charlotte Moore sees the story as a true description of autistic behaviour but of course with a macabre fairy tale ending. She ends her article by stressing that parents need to respect their child's autism but should struggle to keep the child from losing touch with the real world.

Wooden Tony was included in Anyhow Stories for Children published by Duckworth in 1899. In 1878 William and Lucy had spent time near the Mediterranean and in the Swiss Mountains. Thomas Huxley had encouraged them to travel there in order to improve William's health. In her story Lucy Clifford used the image of a strange child she had observed outside a poor peasant's cottage in the Monte Generosa mountains to dramatically describe a condition not recognized or named until more than sixty years later.