Amy Clarke

Amy Key Clarke (December 21, 1892 – June 20, 1980) [Birth certificate GRO ref. 1893 Mar Kensington 1a 95] [The "Times" obituary June 23, 1980 has her "in her 88th year" when she died] ) was an English mystical poet.


She was born at 121 Elgin Crescent, Kensington, London, England. Her parents were Henry Clarke, a private tutor, and Amy Key, a literary writer and first headmistress of Truro High School.

Amy Key Clarke was educated at St Paul's Girls' School and at Cheltenham Ladies' College where she was a student at St Hilda’s House from 1905–1906 – the senior house of the College. After reading Classics at Newnham College Cambridge she returned to teach at the College in 1924 as Senior Classical Mistress becoming successively Head of Classics, Head of Upper College, and Director of University Entrants. She was away from 1939 to 1947, when she returned as House Mistress of St Hilda’s House in Cheltenham Ladies' College until 1948, and then finally retired in 1953 [Archivist, Cheltenham Ladies' College] .

She wrote a mystical poem called "Vision of Him" which in 1917 was published in the Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse.

When she died aged 87, on June 20 1980, her home was St. Ninian's, Victoria Street, Cambridge ["The Times" obituary] .

Amy Clarke and Florence Cunningham

In 1917 Amy stayed for seven weeks with Florence Cunningham (1871-1950) at her home in Bayswater. Florence was a mystic who believed herself to be a prophet whom the voices she heard addressed as “Mary”: she compared herself to Abraham, Isaiah and The Messiah, but it should be said that she was later, for a short period, committed to the care of the Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. Florence's daughter was Edith Cunningham, then 18, whom Amy had met at St Paul's Girls' School. The nature of the friendship was unusual: Edith was attracted to Amy because of her "poetic nature", and it was for this reason that Edith introduced her to Florence, thinking that Amy would be interested in her newly received Enlightenment. Amy Clarke was enamoured of the spirituality of the poems of Florence, and wrote to Florence from Newnham College saying that she was leaving there by inspiration in order to come and stay at her flat. This announcement was a surprise, but Florence did not refuse her as she was a friend of her daughter. Amy stayed for 7 weeks, and during that time she would speak to Florence while in a state of inspiration for one or two hours at a time, only in the presence of her husband and daughter. Such was the power of Amy that she convinced Florence that she had inspired knowledge and was greater than Abraham. Florence related that definite miracles happened which were witnessed by her family during Amy’s sojourn in order to demonstrate that she was under the control of higher powers. Amy left as suddenly as she came, in an agreeable way: she wrote to Florence on the Christmas Eve of 1917, addressing her as "My dear Mother"; it seems that she was in poor health and her spirit message told her that she had served God well, but must entrust her body to her doctor. She did not feel ill, she was only weak, and she was perfectly happy.


In addition to her poetry, Clarke published a scholarly edition of work by the Latin poet Claudian, histories of schools with which she had been associated (Truro High School and Cheltenham Ladies' College) and a work in mystical religious philosophy, "The Universal Character of Christianity" (1950).


*"The Universal Character of Christianity". London: Faber and Faber, 1950.
*"A History of the Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1853-1953." London: Faber and Faber, 1953.
*"A History of the Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1853-1979." Suffolk: John Catt, 1979.
*"The Story of Truro High School, the Benson Foundation: with a memoir of its first headmistress Amy Key". 1980.


* [ “Vision of Him”] by Amy K. Clarke
* Nicholson, D. H. S. and Lee, A. H. E., eds., [ “The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse”] , Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917;, 2000.
* Cunningham, Florence, "A Prophet's Overture in Three Parts / Part 1", Unpublished typescript, 1945.
* Obituary, "The Times", Monday June 23 1980

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