The film, “Many Beautiful Things,” has introduced Lilias Trotter to many people for the first time, raising questions and queries about her life and legacy. What did her work in North Africa really involve? What specific approaches did she use to connect with the Arab Muslims? How was she received? Or, more importantly, how was her message received? What was the nature of her dialogue with the Sufi Mystic Brotherhood? How did she survive the desert years – physically and spiritually? What, if any, was her legacy in Algeria? What is her legacy today?
With these, and many other questions in mind, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to resources by and about Lilias Trotter, with a brief description of each work, then connect you to places that they can be purchased.
A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Rockness, Discovery House Publishers, 1999. This is the most current biography, drawn from original sources as well as past biographies.
Discovery House Publishers: https://dhponline.ca/authors-and-artists/miriam-huffman-rockness/cl004.html
A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Rockness. Discovery House Publishers, 2007. This is a wonderful compilation of some of Lilias most memorable insights paired with her watercolors, most of which have been hidden in obscurity for a century.
Lily: The Girl Who Could See by Sally Oxley with Tim Ladwig and Miriam Rockness. Oxvision 2015. Lilias’s developing talent and calling is presented in a recently published picture book for “children of all ages.” Here the simple narrative of her life is compellingly related by Sally Oxley and beautifully illustrated by Tim Ladwig.
Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter, Oxvision 2015. This devotional classic, written in 1893, remains, rare and true, composed of timeless verities tested by personal experience. This volume is distinct from other reprintings being the only facsimile edition. This edition includes high quality color plates copied from the original publication.
Lilias Trotter’s 1876 Sketchbook: Scenes from Lucerne to Venice This is a facsimile edition of the sketchbook that a young Lilias (23 years old) carried to Venice – where she met the famed John Ruskin, England’s foremost arbiter of art. It contains sketches most likely instructed by the master himself.
Lilias Trotter’s 1889 Sketchbook: Scenes from North Africa, Italy & Switzerland, Oxvision. This facsimile edition of her pocket sketchbook reveals her ability to quickly capture views with accuracy and beauty – a skill that John Ruskin extolled in his 1883 “Art of England” lecture.
The Sevenfold Secret , Lilias’ masterful treatise for her beloved Sufi Mystics, while not available in hard copy, can be accessed through the following link: http://muhammadanism.com/Gospel/seven_fold_secret.pdf This remarkable and relevant work is based on Jesus’ 7 “I AM’s” recorded in the Gospel of John and, through their unfolding “secrets,” speaks to the longings of a seeker’s soul – then and now.
Even as these books are introduced, several other works are in process. A Way of Seeing with 40 Trotter reflections paired with watercolors from the Egerton Collection (Lilias’ family archives) will be published Summer/2016. These writings/watercolors are introduced with a Foreword by Professor Stephen Wildman, leading Ruskin scholar (University of Lancaster), giving context to the Ruskin/Trotter relationship and with Darcy Weir’s essay on the integration of “faith and art” as observed in the life of Lilias.
Finally, (at least for now!) is the anticipated publication of Images of Faith by Miriam Rockness (Autumn, 2016) a devotional book of reflections inspired by the art and writings of Lilias Trotter. Miriam dips deeply into the journals and diaries of Lilias Trotter to reveal the context of Trotter’s insights and to explore their application to our lives today.