Editorial Introduction
Whym Chow: Flame of Love COVE Edition

Heather Bozant Witcher

Our open-access scholarly edition of Michael Field’s Whym Chow: Flame of Love aims to make this volume of poetry widely accessible for classroom study and for personal reading and research. With a limited run of 27 editions, Whym Chow was published by the Eragny Press in 1914, though the volume was written (primarily by Edith Cooper) in 1906, following the death of the couple’s beloved Chow dog. Katharine Bradley oversaw the publication, following the death of Edith Cooper. Our source text is the digitized copy of Whym Chow, made publicly available by The University of British Columbia Library. With limited access to a physical edition of Whym Chow, held primarily in private or institutional archives, we were grateful to find a source that digitized the volume in its entirety for individual reading and research. 

A Note on the Text

As nearly as possible, we have reproduced the text as published in 1914 to preserve the textual integrity of the volume and authorial intent. Digitized images of the russet-covered binding and the volume’s final page, including the insignia of the Eragny Press, have been included to preserve the materiality of Whym Chow. In addition, Michael Field’s choice of flame-colored lettering—a reddish gold—has been preserved with red font in our COVE edition.

Not included here are the decorative—or illuminated—drop caps that begin each poem. Instead, we have opted to include a single annotation addressing the use of these aesthetic elements. Unlike aesthetic texts at the fin-de-siecle where the illustration cannot be divorced from the text—as, for example, Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx—Michael Field’s Whym Chow is not solely reliant upon the drop caps to illuminate the poem’s meaning. For this reason, we made the decision to include an annotation rather than reproduce the illuminations here.

Annotations and Editorial Apparatus

Scholarship and study of Whym Chow have remained limited, due primarily to the problem of access. Aside from a few poems that have been anthologized in Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo’s Michael Field: The Poet, the volume has not been reprinted. Our digital scholarly edition seeks to rectify this issue by providing readers with annotations and editorial essays that are brief and accessible to students, scholars, and the general public.

We have used the following COVE category filters to annotate Whym Chow: linguistic, textual, historical, cultural, and interpretive. Linguistic annotations include glosses on words that are no longer in common use, or that would inhibit public interpretation or understanding. Textual annotations identify variant words or spellings within the poems, and identify major structural elements, such as the decorative elements, epigraph, and insignia. Historical annotations provide insight into the critical events of the 19th century, while cultural annotations offer contexts relating to Michael Field’s personal lives, and the aesthetic contexts of the late nineteenth century. Interpretive annotations provide notes on intertextual allusions, as well as spiritual and mythological or pagan allusions. Interpretive allusions also include notes relating to the genre or style of the poems.

The COVE edition of Whym Chow focuses attention on the volume’s engagement with nineteenth-century animals. Poetic elegy is nothing new in the nineteenth century; however, what remains unique and daring about Whym Chow is its disconsolate grief over the loss of a dog. Michael Field were supporters of animal rights and participants in the anti-vivisectionist movement. Situating the volume firmly within a longer tradition of Victorian fascination with and centrality of animals and animal treatment in nineteenth-century discourses, alongside a participation in nineteenth-century Aestheticism and poetic convention of elegy, our edition argues for a renewed seriousness of study of what has predominately been seen as the volume’s “campness.”

Users can read more in depth about Michael Field, Whym Chow’s cultural contexts, and interpretive frameworks in our Editorial Apparatus of critical essays. Our essays are wide-ranging and include the cultural contexts of publishing history, Aestheticism, Victorian mourning culture, same-sex desire, and the relationship between the human and animal; alongside interpretive frameworks on religion and spirituality, elegy and grief, and the pet as poetic muse.

Editorial Principles

Guided by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra’s editorial principles for her course’s COVE edition of The Were-wolf, our edition is guided by the MLA Statement on the Scholarly Edition in the Digital Age (2016). All components of this project have been developed collaboratively.


This COVE edition was produced entirely by a class of advanced undergraduate and graduate students at Auburn University at Montgomery. As their instructor, I am indebted to the students’ willingness to embrace the rigor of creating a digital edition in just 14 weeks, and their support in this experiential course on Victorian Animals. I am also grateful for the assistance of Dr. John Havard and Dr. Seth Reno for serving as external reviewers of the annotations, and guiding students towards further research and direction of their critical essays. Finally, I am grateful to Dr. Dino Felluga and Dr. Ken Crowell for their assistance throughout the creation of our edition.