Naden, Constance Caroline Woodhill (1858–1889)

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Naden, Constance Caroline Woodhill (1858–1889)

English poet and philosopher. Born on January 24, 1858, in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, England; died on December 23, 1889; daughter of an architect; educated at a Unitarian day school in Edgbaston, and studied science at Mason College under Herbert Spencer.

Selected works:

Songs and Sonnets of Springtime (1881); A Modern Apostle and Other Poems (1887); Induction and Deduction and Other Essays (1890); contributed to journals, including Journal of Science and Knowledge.

Because her mother died just after her birth, Constance Caroline Woodhill Naden was raised by her grandparents, who sent her to a day school in Edgbaston. Her hopes of becoming an artist were crushed when the Birmingham Society of Artists rejected her paintings, but in 1881 she began to study science at Mason College in Birmingham. Her lessons were supervised by Herbert Spencer, the English philosopher who explained Darwin's theory of evolution.

On the death of her grandfather, Naden inherited a large sum of money, which enabled her to travel throughout Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, and India in 1887. She settled in London in 1888 and began giving public speeches on her philosophy. With Robert Lewins, she developed a philosophical system known as "Hylo-Idealism," a form of monistic positivism—the view that reality consists of one tangible substance. Her main ideas on the subject are contained in a posthumous volume of her essays (Induction and Deduction, 1890), edited by Lewins. In her lifetime, Naden published two books of poetry and one of philosophy and contributed essays to scholarly journals. Her poems made such an impression on W.E. Gladstone that he included her among the foremost English women poets of the day in an article in the Speaker. Her intellectual career was cut short, however, as she died at age 30.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario