The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1933
A Great Lady
A Great Lady
"'There goes a great lady,' said Brevis, and the salon drew a breath as though a spell were gone from it."
G. B. Lancaster.
There died in Wellington this year one of a little band of women very closely associated with the early days of Victoria University College. Margaret Richmond Fell was a daughter of the Honourable Mr. Justice Richmond, one of New Zealand's most distinguished Judges. Her father, after a short but brilliant career in politics, was called to the Bench when hardly mote than forty years of age. The association of the family with the statesmen and judges of New Zealand practically from the foundation of the Colony gave a rich background to the life and experience of a woman of rare character and ability. Mrs. Fell's education was probably influenced and directed more by her father than by any other person, although she was enrolled as one of the early students at Newnham and there came into contact with women of the highest calibre. It was in later years, married to Dr. Walter Fell, with two daughters at the University, that her more active association with Victoria College began. She became one of the chaperones, and no College dance was complete without her. She had that rare and quick perception of the essential in human character which belongs to an appreciable number of women and to very few men. She saw by instinct the little things that mean so much, and her interpretation seemed in-fallible. She was full of humour, of critical appreciation, touched always by a mellow kindness—except for things unreal or tainted by falsehood. As a hostess she was supreme. She gave her whole attention; she said the thing that was individual and proved the welcome; she had the genius for making the meanest worthy of her presence because she elicited the best. To make a prejudiced or unfair statement in her circle was to be called before the bar of a mind just, judicial, and penetrating. To have lied to her would have been to outrage, not a person, but a universe. She carried with her an atmosphere of scrupulousness, of universality. Her wisdom was as unfailing as her humour. She was comparable, in literature, to Meredith's women. Lady Jocelyn in "Evan Harrington" might have been drawn from her.
So she has gone, and gone, too, the institution of chaperonage. If sheer delight in conversation, in wit, in understanding, in mellow wisdom is to be desired at dances, then the loss of the chaperone is to be deplored.
Margaret Richmond Fell had the mind and temper which met our modern changing world not merely with courage, but with enthusiasm. There is much in the new order of things which must have wounded her noble Puritanism, but there was no reality she would not face, no genuine mistake she could not forgive, no failure she could not meet with imperishable hope. She belonged to that great order of chivalry which rises above distinctions of class, creed and nation, that chivalry which is greatest under fire.
F. A. de la Mare.