Mona Steele Price Gooden (1894-1958)

By Andrew Hall with additional research by Alison Bailey January 2023

Mona Steel Price was an Irish poet, critic, and librarian, who after her marriage to Stephen Gooden, lived in Chesham Bois from April 1939 until her death in 1958.

Mona Price was born at Rathdown near Dublin in Ireland on 13th December 1894 to Lilian Price (née Robinson) of Dundrum, County Dublin, and her husband Dr George Price, a Civil Servant born in Herefordshire, England. Mona was educated at Alexandra School and at Trinity College, Dublin, where she studied English and French literature. She graduated in 1916 with a Senior Moderatorship, a university award, and joined the National Library of Ireland. In 1917 she was offered a temporary position on the staff of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, replacing a male employee who had joined the armed forces. 

Bookplate designed in 1926 by Stephen Gooden for his wife
Bookplate designed in 1926 by Stephen Gooden for his wife

In 1920 Mona left Oxford to become an assistant librarian at Birkbeck College, London.  In about 1922 she met the artist Stephen Frederick Gooden (1892-1955) who was living nearby and just beginning his career as an engraver. They married in London on 25th March 1925.  He called her ‘Cyril’.

After living in London and Bishops Stortford, in 1939 the Goodens moved to Chesham Bois and remained there for the rest of their lives.  Stephen had gained a reputation as an illustrator of fine books published in limited editions by the Nonesuch Press; as a designer and engraver of bookplates for Kings, Queens, Princesses, institutions and his wife; and did much less well-known work as a designer of banknotes for England, Scotland and South Africa.  He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1946.

Cover of the first edition of The Poet’s Cat, An Anthology (Harrap, 1946) compiled by Mona Gooden with engravings by Stephen Gooden
Cover of the first edition of The Poet’s Cat, An Anthology (Harrap, 1946) compiled by Mona Gooden with engravings by Stephen Gooden

Mona Price Gooden published literary criticism, poetry and translations of French poets such as Pierre de Ronsard, mostly in The Dublin Magazine, which had been founded in 1923 by the poet Seumas O’Sullivan (1879-1958). Over a period of 35 years of work for the quarterly magazine she signed her many contributions Mona Price, M.S.P., M.P., Mona Gooden and M.G. 

Mona also used a pseudonym, S. Michael Crevequer, for the only book of poems published in her lifetime, a small collection issued in 1918 entitled Leaves on the Wind.  After Mona’s death some friends published a small book of her verse and some translated poems (Dolmen Press, Dublin, 1960).

Just after the end of the Second World War Mona collaborated with her husband on an anthology of poems called The Poet’s Cat (Harrap, 1946) for which he provided an engraved title page and endpiece. This was published in a signed limited edition of 110 copies and in a trade edition for general sale. Their cat was called ‘Whisky’ and is depicted in an engraving by Stephen Gooden.

Stephen Gooden died of cancer at his home in Chesham Bois on 21st September 1955 aged 62; Mona Gooden died less than three years later of cancer in hospital in Dublin, during a visit to her sister, on 7th July 1958, aged 63.  They had no children.

 

 

Death Leaves on the Wind (Talbot Press, 1918)

If I should die before you I will hide

Around the corner of the infinite,

Crouching in some soft hollow of the night

Plucking the stars, till, mocking death, you glide

Forth with lips parted, curious, eager-eyed :

Then will I spring all sudden to your sight

And pelt your hair with flowers of living light

And we will laugh, take hands, and side by side

 

Run down the darkness breathless : separate

To slip around the moon and meet again

Dodge ‘neath the rearing thunder : naked-free

Dive from the rainbow to the green dawn sea :

Catch joy with the wind’s cloak, and lie in wait

To snare love in a net of silver rain.

 

Sources

Andrews, Duncan (2006) A Sort of Splendor The Life of Stephen Gooden Unpublished typescript

Crevequer, S Michael (Mona Gooden) (Talbot Press, 1918) Leaves on the Wind

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