A Seasonal Collection: May

April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled up its duration.  And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery; its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties of moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange ground-sunshine out of the wealth of its wild primrose plants: I have seen their pale gold gleam in overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetest lustre.  All this I enjoyed often and fully, free, unwatched, and almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and pleasure there was a cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.

From ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

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‘Hyde Park in May’ by Mary Rose Barton

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The next morning, when Thomasin withdrew the curtains of her bedroom window, there stood the Maypole in the middle of the green, its top cutting into the sky. It had sprung up in the night, or rather early morning, like Jack’s bean-stalk. She opened the casement to get a better view of the garlands and posies that adorned it. The sweet perfume of the flowers had already spread into the surrounding air, which, being free from every taint, conducted to her lips a full measure of the fragrance received from the spire of blossom in its midst. At the top of the pole were crossed hoops decked with small flowers; beneath these came a milk-white zone of Maybloom; then a zone of bluebells, then of cowslips, then of lilacs, then of ragged-robins, daffodils, and so on, till the lowest stage was reached. Thomasin noticed all these, and was delighted that the May revel was to be so near.

From ‘The Return of the Native’ by Thomas Hardy

* * * * * * *‘May Flower Fairy’ by Cicely Mary Barker

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Into the scented woods we’ll go,
And see the blackthorn swim in snow.
High above, in the budding leaves,
A brooding dove awakes and grieves;
The glades with mingled music stir,
And wildly laughs the woodpecker.
When blackthorn petals pearl the breeze,
There are the twisted hawthorne trees
Thick-set with buds, as clear and pale
As golden water or green hail-
As if a storm of rain had stood
Enchanted in the thorny wood,
And, hearing fairy voices call,
Hung poised, forgetting how to fall.

‘Green Rain’ by Mary Webb

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Illustration by Charles LeRoy

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 May 28th, 1876

On coming in from our walk, I went to my room and sat in the window, It’s odd that nothing seems changed; it seems as if we were back in last year. The songs of Nice have never seemed so charming before; the croaking of the frogs, the murmur of a fountain, a sound of singing in the distance, are desecrated by the noise of a prosaic carriange.

I am reading Horace and Tibullus. The latter only speaks of love, and that suits me. And I have the French text open opposite the Latin to give me practice. If only all this talk of marriage, which I have thoughtlessly set going, won’t injure me. I fear it.

I ought not to have promised A_____ anything. I ought to have answered him.

“I thank you, monsieur, for the honour you do me; but I can promise you nothing before consulting my parents, Let your family confer with mine and we shall see. As for me,” I might have said to soften my reply, “I would have no objection to you.”

This answer, accompanied by one of my sweet smiles, with my hand given him to kiss, would have sufficed.

And I should not have been compromised, and there would have been no gossip in Rome, and all would have been well.

I think of clever things, but always too late. I should have done better, no doubt, to make a fine speech like the one you have just read, but I should have economised so much pleasure, and besides …. life is so short ! ….and besides, there is always a – besides.

I did wrong in not making the above answer, but I was really so much moved; sensible people will say certainly; and sentimental ones, no.

From ‘The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff’

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‘Ringelreihen’ by Franz Van Stuck

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IN the greenest growth of the Maytime,
I rode where the woods were wet,
Between the dawn and the daytime;
The spring was glad that we met.

There was something the season wanted,
Though the ways and the woods smelt sweet;
The breath at your lips that panted,
The pulse of the grass at your feet.

You came, and the sun came after,
And the green grew golden above;
And the flag-flowers lightened with laughter,
And the meadow-sweet shook with love.

Your feet in the full-grown grasses
Moved soft as a weak wind blows;
You passed me as April passes,
With face made out of a rose.

By the stream where the stems were slender,
Your bright foot paused at the sedge;
It might be to watch the tender
Light leaves in the springtime hedge,

On boughs that the sweet month blanches
With flowery frost of May:
It might be a bird in the branches,
It might be a thorn in the way.

I waited to watch you linger
With foot drawn back from the dew,
Till a sunbeam straight like a finger
Struck sharp through the leaves at you.

And a bird overhead sang Follow,
And a bird to the right sang Here;
And the arch of the leaves was hollow,
And the meaning of May was clear.

I saw where the sun’s hand pointed,
I knew what the bird’s note said;
By the dawn and the dewfall anointed,
You were queen by the gold on your head.

As the glimpse of a burnt-out ember
Recalls a regret of the sun,
I remember, forget, and remember
What Love saw done and undone.

I remember the way we parted,
The day and the way we met;
You hoped we were both broken-hearted,
And knew we should both forget.

And May with her world in flower
Seemed still to murmur and smile
As you murmured and smiled for an hour;
I saw you turn at the stile.

A hand like a white wood-blossom
You lifted, and waved, and passed,
With head hung down to the bosom,
And pale, as it seemed, at last.

And the best and the worst of this is
That neither is most to blame
If you’ve forgotten my kisses
And I’ve forgotten your name.

‘The Interlude’ by Algernon Charles Swinburne

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‘ …. and behind me cliffs are slipping and whispering. Penarth. May 2013’ by Kurt Jackson

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Spring bloomed in all the dark houses, every rafter and every post were festooned with greenery. The girls wore wreaths of flowers in their hair, the men tucked flowers behind their ears and under their belts. They drank the May wine, perfumed with wild thyme and violets. And they went to dance and sing around the enormous gilded Maypole which each year was erected by St. Andrew’s church in Cornhill. So famous was this Maypole that it had given its name to the church, St. Andrew-under-shaft, at which some of the stricter clerics frowned, deeming the May frolics pagan things that lured the folk to licence. But most of the clergy thought no harm, and in the smiling ring of onlookers about the Maypole there was many a passing friar or parson, and even the black-garbed Benedictines stopped to watch. Ah, Katherine should have been May Queen, cried Hawise, for she was fairer than any other maiden! But the queen had been chosen long ago, and already sat on her flowery throne beside the dancing. The May Queen’s father was a goldsmith, and his metal seemed to shimmer in his daughter’s hair, while her eyes were round and blue as forget-me-nots, so that Katherine knew Hawise was but being kind in calling her the most fair. Still, this kindness warmed her, and added to the glory of the golden day the feeling that she had found a true friend.

From ‘Katherine’ by Anya Seton

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‘May Day’ by Walter Crane

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Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, “I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick. I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests. I shall watch the things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes. On wet days I will go into the thickest parts of the forests, where the pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I’ll lie on the heath and see how the broom flares against the clouds. I shall be perpetually happy, because there will be no one to worry me. Out there on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I have discovered there is peace.”

“Mind you do not get your feet damp,” said the Man of Wrath, removing his cigar.

It was the evening of May Day, and the spring had taken hold of me body and soul. The sky was full of stars, and the garden of scents, and the borders of wallflowers and sweet, sly pansies. All day there had been a breeze, and all day slow masses of white clouds had been sailing across the blue. Now it was so still, so motionless, so breathless, that it seemed as though a quiet hand had been laid on the garden, soothing and hushing it into silence.

From ‘The Solitary Summer’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim

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There is May in books forever;
May will part from Spenser never;
May’s in Milton, May’s in Prior,
May’s in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;
May’s in all the Italian books:–
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,
In happy places they call shelves,
And will rise and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will,
May’s at home, and with me still;
But come rather, thou, good weather,
And find us in the fields together.

‘May and the Poets’ by Leigh Hunt

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A Walk around the Virago Art Gallery

Here is another celebration of the art that adorns the covers of some of my favourite books.

Because the covers are lovely, but the paintings really come alive when they are released from their green frames. Sometimes just a detail has been chosen, or the painting has been cropped because it wasn’t book-shaped. That may be the best way to make a good cover for a book, but it shouldn’t be the only way we see the art-work.

Because art is one of the best things I have found to distract me from everything going on in the outside world.

And because even after three years of seasonal exhibitions, there are still a great many artworks waiting to be shown off.

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The Cover Suggests that this Book is not set in the Author’s Usual Milieu

‘Studio Lunch’ by Henry Siddons Mowbray

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‘The Fruit of the Tree’ by Edith Wharton (#145)

John Amherst, clever, idealistic and poor, is assistant manager of a cotton mill and has the makings of a working-class leader. While visiting a worker in hospital he encounters a young nurse, Justine, compassionate and principled, a woman who shares his aims and dreams. But Amherst is fatally distracted when he meets Bessy. A widow of great wealth, Bessy is charming, beautiful – and the new owner of the mill. The lives of all three become strangely interwoven as Amherst is forced to choose between sense and sentiment, between his care for the working classes and his infatuation with Bessy – a woman made for passion, but not for its aftermath.

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A Rare Cover Portrait of a Man

‘Der Schieber’ (The Profiteer) by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen

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‘A Little Tea, a Little Chat’ by Christina Stead (#59)

It is 1941 and war is imminent. Robert Grant is a man in his fifties, living on the seamier side of New York. Life is a game and he makes his own rules, whether trading in cotton, writing a best seller, or pursuing his only hobby – seduction (and betrayal). He searches for easy women – the cheaper the better, the more the merrier: always on the lookout for a new face, a new phone number, ‘a little tea, a little chat’. Enjoying his intrigues, he receives little pleasure – and gives none, until he encounters Barbara, the ‘blondine’ a big, handsome, sluttish woman of thirty-two. In Barbara, he meets his match.

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A Book that has been Published by Both Virago and Persephone

‘The Birdcage’ by Henry Tonks

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‘The Squire’ by Enid Bagnold (#246)

At the Manor House on the village green, the household waits in restless suspense. The master is in Bombay, the mistress, its temporary squire, is heavy with child and languorous. Her four young children distract her with their demands, her friend Caroline tells the squire of her latest lover, her restless adventuring a sharp contrast to the squire’s own mood. And watching and waiting for the birth, the squire contemplates the woman she was, “strutting about life for spoil” and the woman she is now, another being, “occupied with her knot of human lives”.

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The Cover says Spring and the Book says Summer!

‘Spring Day at Boscastle’ by Charles Ginner

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‘One Fine Day’ by Mollie Panter-Downes (#195)

It’s a summer’s day in 1946. The English village of Wealding is no longer troubled by distant sirens, yet the rustling coils of barbed wire are a reminder that something, some quality of life, has evaporated. Together again after years of separation, Laura and Stephen Marshall and their daughter Victoria are forced to manage without “those anonymous caps and aprons who lived out of sight and pulled the strings.” Their rambling garden refuses to be tamed, the house seems perceptibly to crumble. But alone on a hillside, as evening falls, Laura comes to see what it would have meant if the war had been lost, and looks to the future with a new hope and optimism.

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A Painting from One Side of the Atlantic and a Story from the Other

‘Dorelia McNeill in the Garden at Alderney Manor’ by Augustus John

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‘Barren Ground’ by Ellen Glasgow (#219)

Set in 1925, this is the story of Dorinda Oakley. As a young woman she works in a general store whilst her parents eke out their existence on the starved Virginian land. To Dorinda, Jason Greylock seems to offer an escape from this monotony and she falls in love with him. But Jason seduces and then abandons her. For years Dorinda strives to quieten the bitterness of rejection. Turning back to the land, she works the soil with the intensity of feeling she offered Jason and, as a middle-aged woman, emerges, triumphant, self-possessed. Described by Ellen Glasgow as a work by which she would like to be judged as a novelist, this is a strong and deterministic work. “For once in Southern fiction” she wrote, “the betrayed woman would become the victor instead of the victim.”

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There are Four Figures in the Painting but Only Two on the Cover

‘A Portrait Group’ by James Cowie

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‘Another Time Another Place’ by Jessie Kesson (#379)

In 1944 Italian prisoners of war are billeted in a tiny village in the far northeast of Scotland. Janie, who works the land and is married to a farm labourer fifteen years older than herself, is to look after three of them. While her neighbours regard the Italians with a mixture of resentment and indifference, Janie is intrigued by this glimpse of another, more romantic world – with almost inevitable consequences. Much more than a simple love story, Another Time, Another Place is also a vibrant portrait of a rural community enveloped by an untamed landscape.

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The New Edition of the Book is Lovely, but I Still Love my Old, Green Copy

‘Gillian’ by Leslie Brockleburst

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‘South Riding’ by Winifred Holtby (#273)

This, Winifred Holtby’s greatest work, is a rich and memorable evocation of the characters of the South Riding, their lives, loves and sorrow.  There is Sarah Burton, fiery young headmistress, inspired by educational ideas; Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall, a conservative councillor, tormented by his disastrous marriage; Jo Astell, a socialist fighting poverty and his own tuberculosis; Alf Huggins, haulage contractor and lay preacher of ‘too, too solid flesh’; Mrs. Beddows, the first woman Alderman of the district, and the obsequious Snaith.  These are the people who work together – and against one another – in council chambers and backroom caucuses.  Alongside them are the men, women and children affected by their decisions: Tom Sawdon, landlord of the Nag’s Head; the flamboyant Madame Hubbard of the local dancing school; young Lydia Holly, the scholarship girl from the shacks, is the most brilliant student Sarah has ever taught, and many more.

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That’s the last painting in this exhibition.

Please tell me if you have any particular favourite cover artwork, or any suggestions for future exhibitions.

The Windows of the World: A Collection

‘Domenica’ by Barbara Balmer

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On that first morning when the sky was blue again Mary wakened very early. The sun was pouring in slanting rays through the blinds and there was something so joyous in the sight of it that she jumped out of bed and ran to the window. She drew up the blinds and opened the window itself and a great waft of fresh, scented air blew in upon her. The moor was blue and the whole world looked as if something Magic had happened to it. There were tender little fluting sounds here and there and everywhere, as if scores of birds were beginning to tune up for a concert. Mary put her hand out of the window and held it in the sun.

“It’s warm—warm!” she said. “It will make the green points push up and up and up, and it will make the bulbs and roots work and struggle with all their might under the earth.”

She kneeled down and leaned out of the window as far as she could, breathing big breaths and sniffing the air until she laughed because she remembered what Dickon’s mother had said about the end of his nose quivering like a rabbit’s.

“It must be very early,” she said. “The little clouds are all pink and I’ve never seen the sky look like this. No one is up. I don’t even hear the stable boys.”

A sudden thought made her scramble to her feet.

“I can’t wait! I am going to see the garden!”

From ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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 ‘East Window of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge’ by Joseph Murray Ince 

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Strangely, the cathedral is empty: not a tourist, not a priest, not a parishioner in sight. Suddenly, the place is his. We walk around at first, then he halts in his tracks. ‘Sit down, Catherine! No, not there … directly on the floor. You have to feel Chartres.’ I settle at his feet while he sits on a low velvet prayer stool, his hands on my shoulders. My bottom becomes icy and soon my legs are quite numb too, but only a part of me notices. ‘See that big round window? It’s called la rosace bleue. Do you know what stained-glass windows are made of?’

He takes a deep breath. He could be at the seaside.

‘They were made of precious stones, feathers, liqueur, twigs, women’s milk and birds’ blood. The secret is lost; nobody knows how to make them quite the same today. They have tried, of course, but it just doesn’t work.’

The enormous stone walls surrounding us have closed off the rest of the world. It just isn’t there anymore.

‘Listen to the music of the stained-glass windows, Catherine.’

We could be near a creek in a forest. Whenever we find one, Alexandre always has me kneel to drink its freezing water. In the same way, we listen to the fine-edged vibration of crazy blue, blood red, emerald green, bird’s-beak yellow.

‘The stained-glass windows, little one, create a luminous slope of light. Whatever the time of day, from dawn to dusk, the same dim glow is maintained within the church, whether it be bright sunshine or rain. That’s the stained-glass windows’ secret. Right now, they are sifting the bright afternoon glitter in the same way they will sift the pale light of dawn.’

From ‘Poum and Alexandre: A Paris Memoir’ by Catherine de Saint Phalle

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Artwork by Edna Eicke

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Lucy was nervous, and said what first came into her head, and had been saying things of this nature the whole journey down. She didn’t want to, she knew he didn’t like it, but she couldn’t stop.

They had just arrived, and were standing on the front steps while the servants unloaded the fly that had brought them from the station, and Wemyss was pointing out what he wished her to look at and admire from that raised-up place before taking her indoors. Lucy was glad of any excuse that delayed going indoors, that kept her on the west side of the house, furthest away from the terrace and the library window. Indoors would be the rooms, the unaltered rooms, the library past whose window…, the sitting-room at the top of the house out of whose window…, the bedroom she was going to sleep in with the very bed…. It was too miserably absurd, too unbalanced of her for anything but shame and self-contempt, how she couldn’t get away from the feeling that indoors waiting for her would be Vera.

From ‘Vera’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim

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‘The Studio’ by Frederick Cuming RA

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Her new Saratoga trunk stood solid and gleaming in the firelight. To-morrow it would be taken away and she would be gone. The room would be altogether Harriett’s. It would never have its old look again. She evaded the thought and moved clumsily to the nearest window. The outline of the round bed and the shapes of the may-trees on either side of the bend of the drive were just visible. There was no escape for her thoughts in this direction. The sense of all she was leaving stirred uncontrollably as she stood looking down into the well-known garden.

Out in the road beyond the invisible lime-trees came the rumble of wheels. The gate creaked and the wheels crunched up the drive, slurring and stopping under the dining-room window.

It was the Thursday afternoon piano-organ, the one that was always in tune. It was early to-day.

She drew back from the window as the bass chords began thumping gently in the darkness. It was better that it should come now than later on, at dinner-time. She could get over it alone up here.

She went down the length of the room and knelt by the fireside with one hand on the mantel-shelf so that she could get up noiselessly and be lighting the gas if anyone came in.

The organ was playing “The Wearin’ o’ the Green.”

It had begun that tune during the last term at school, in the summer. It made her think of rounders in the hot school garden, singing-classes in the large green room, all the class shouting “Gather roses while ye may,” hot afternoons in the shady north room, the sound of turning pages, the hum of the garden beyond the sun-blinds, meetings in the sixth form study…. Lilla, with her black hair and the specks of bright amber in the brown of her eyes, talking about free-will.

She stirred the fire. The windows were quite dark. The flames shot up and shadows darted.

That summer, which still seemed near to her, was going to fade and desert her, leaving nothing behind. To-morrow it would belong to a world which would go on without her, taking no heed. There would still be blissful days. But she would not be in them.

From ‘Pointed Roofs’ by Dorothy Richardson

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‘A Window in St John’s Wood’ by Harold Knight

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The Murrays at Deuchar held out, and no one troubled unduly with them; but Catslack was a Scott stronghold and they burned that, though the man Andrew Kerr who had stopped to rummage at Tinnis came spluttering up with a parcel of relations to complain that the assault party had made away with a Kerr.

‘My dear friend.’ William Grey, thirteenth Baron of Wilton, had been fighting in Scotland for months and disliked the country, the climate and the natives, particularly those disaffected with whom he had to converse. ‘You are mistaken. Every man in this tower wore Scott livery.’

‘It wasna a man,’ said Andrew Kerr broadly. ‘T’was my aunty. I tellt ye. I’m no risking cauld steel in ma wame for a pittance, unless all that’s mine is well lookit after –’

‘An old lady,’ said Lord Grey with forbearance, ‘in curling papers and a palatial absence of teeth?’

‘My aunt Lizzie!’ said Andrew Kerr.

‘She has just,’ said Lord Grey austerely, ‘seriously injured one of my men.’

‘How?’ The old savage looked interested.

‘From an upper window. The castle was burning, and he was climbing a ladder to offer the lady her freedom. She cracked his head with a chamberpot,’ said Lord Grey distastefully, ‘and retired crying that she would have no need of a jurden in Heaven, as the good Lord had no doubt thought of more convenient methods after the seventh day, when He had had a good rest.’

From ‘The Disorderly Knights’ by Dorothy Dunnett

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‘The Future’ by Madeleine Green

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She’s staring out to sea now. My young wife. There she stands on the barren beach, all wrapped up in her long green coat, among the scuttle and clutter of pebbles and crabs. She stares out as the water nears her feet and draws back, and when that soft and insistent suck of the tide gets close enough to slurp at her toes she shuffles herself up the shore. Soon the beach will be reduced to a strip of narrow sand and she will be forced to retreat to the rocks; and then, I think, she’ll come back to me. In the meantime, I watch from the window, as she stares out to sea.

From ‘Orkney by Amy Sackville

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‘La Cathédrale – Marc Chalmé’

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Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them. For instance, they may remember to mention, a week after the event happened, that when they were in the wood they had met their dead father and had a game with him. It was in this casual way that Wendy one morning made a disquieting revelation. Some leaves of a tree had been found on the nursery floor, which certainly were not there when the children went to bed, and Mrs. Darling was puzzling over them when Wendy said with a tolerant smile:

“I do believe it is that Peter again!”

“Whatever do you mean, Wendy?”

“It is so naughty of him not to wipe his feet,” Wendy said, sighing. She was a tidy child.

She explained in quite a matter-of-fact way that she thought Peter sometimes came to the nursery in the night and sat on the foot of her bed and played on his pipes to her. Unfortunately she never woke, so she didn’t know how she knew, she just knew.

“What nonsense you talk, precious. No one can get into the house without knocking.”

“I think he comes in by the window,” she said.

“My love, it is three floors up.”

“Were not the leaves at the foot of the window, mother?”

It was quite true; the leaves had been found very near the window.

Mrs. Darling did not know what to think, for it all seemed so natural to Wendy that you could not dismiss it by saying she had been dreaming.

“My child,” the mother cried, “why did you not tell me of this before?”

“I forgot,” said Wendy lightly. She was in a hurry to get her breakfast.

Oh, surely she must have been dreaming.

But, on the other hand, there were the leaves. Mrs. Darling examined them very carefully; they were skeleton leaves, but she was sure they did not come from any tree that grew in England. She crawled about the floor, peering at it with a candle for marks of a strange foot. She rattled the poker up the chimney and tapped the walls. She let down a tape from the window to the pavement, and it was a sheer drop of thirty feet, without so much as a spout to climb up by.

Certainly Wendy had been dreaming.

From ‘Peter Pan’ by J. M. Barrie

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‘Lumière’ by Franz van Holder

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A Collection for Christmas

You do not go where the lark is high
But you find yourself under that part of the sky
Where he is singing

You do not look for the wind where it blows
Through the stems of the ivy woods over the snows
But you find yourself pressed against its breast
Where the cold storm is winging

You do not search where Christmas is keeping
Bright the flushed dreams of children sleeping
But you wander wherever the white bells are swinging

‘Over the Snows’ by Margiad Evans

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Walter Crane’s Christmas Card (1888)

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Christmas Eve was the day we liked best. The morning was a frenzied rush for last rehearsals, last posing of cards, last buying of presents. My father came home early, laden with parcels. The tea table was resplendant  with bon-bons (crackers), sweets, and surprise cakes with icing on the top and threepenny-bits inside. The usual ‘bread and butter first’ rule was set aside and we talked  and laughed to our heart’s content.

Then followed the solemn ascent to the study for the play. The boys had bprrowed chair from the bedrooms, and placed them in two rows: the front (stalls) for mother, father, and any aunt, uncle, or vistor who happened to be there, and the back (pits) for the serants, who attended with much gigglement.

Personally I was thankful when this nerve strain was over, and we all crowded down into the breakfast-parlour. Here, earlier in the day, mother and I had arranged the presents – a little pile for each, and we all fell upon them with delight. We were never fussed with a Christmas tree or stockings or make-believe about Santa Claus. Perhaps we were too hard-headed. Perhaps mother considered that waking up in the small hours to llok at stockings was a bad beginning for an exciting day. As it was, we had a nice time before bed for peeping into our new books and gloating over all the fresh treasures.

From ‘A London Child of the 1870s’ by Molly Hughes

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‘My Ball of Twine’ By Jessie Willcox Smith

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December 25th.—Last Christmas I was a bride, with a heart overflowing with present bliss, and full of ardent hopes for the future, though not unmingled with foreboding fears.  Now I am a wife: my bliss is sobered, but not destroyed; my hopes diminished, but not departed; my fears increased, but not yet thoroughly confirmed; and, thank heaven, I am a mother too.  God has sent me a soul to educate for heaven, and give me a new and calmer bliss, and stronger hopes to comfort me.

From ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte

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Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice reechoed through Green Gables.

“Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green—they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why—why—Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!”

Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.

“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why—why—Anne, don’t you like it? Well now—well now.”

For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

“Like it! Oh, Matthew!” Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.”

“Well, well, let us have breakfast,” interrupted Marilla. “I must say, Anne, I don’t think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it for you, see that you take good care of it. There’s a hair ribbon Mrs. Lynde left for you. It’s brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in.”

“I don’t see how I’m going to eat breakfast,” said Anne rapturously. “Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I’d rather feast my eyes on that dress. I’m so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I’d never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I’d never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”

From ‘Anne of Green Gables’  by L M Montgomery

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‘Christmas Day’ by Vladimir Akinshin

* * * * * * *

I have seen a court, and a dozen courts,
And no court have I seen as gracious
As the court I love for its chieftain’s sake,
Not weak is my praise, like Celligwen:
Heaven’s bounty on earth in Bachelldref,
Where there is a revel each Christmas,
A crowd of kinsmen, a lake of liquor,
Bright the honour of Meurig’s homeland,
Many a minstel and merry fiddler,
And much the mirth on a polished floor,
And a sound of strigs, a deluge of drinks,
And the constant cadence of singing,
And a red-hued lance of Cadwaladr’s line,
A blood-gushing blade, promise of meat,
And minstrels’ swaying, and children chirping,
And the bustle of boys bringing food,
The cup-bearer weary, kitchen sore-tried,
And three kinds of wine for the thirsty.
Three customs there are, a merry country,
At Daffyd’s hight court, blameless boldness:
Whoever you are, whatever you sing,
And whatever the thing you’re known for,
Come whenever you wish, take what you see,
And once come, stay as long as you like.

‘A Christmas Revel’ by Dafydd Bach ap Madoc Wladaidd (1340-1390)

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‘Noël’ by Loïs Mailou Jones

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23:xii:1946

Dearest Alyse,

Usually one begins a thank-letter by some graceless comparison, by saying, I have never been given such a very scarlet muffler, or, This is the largest horse I have ever been sent for Christmas. But your matchbox is a nonpareil, for never in my life have I been given a matchbox. Stamps, yes, drawing-pins, yes, balls of string, yes, yes, menacingly too often; but never a matchbox. Now that it has happened I ask myself why it has never happened before. They are such charming things, neat as wrens, and what a deal of ingenuity and human artfulness has gone into their construction; for if they were like the ordinary box with a lid they would not be one half so convenient. This one though is especially neat, charming, and ingenious, and the tray slides in and out as though Chippendale had made it.

But what I like best of all about my matchbox is that it is an empty one. I have often thought how much I should enjoy being given an empty house in Norway, what pleasure it would be to walk into those bare wood-smelling chambers, walls, floor, ceiling, all wood, which is after all the natural shelter of man, or at any rate the most congenial. And when I opened your matchbox which is now my matchbox and saw that beautiful clean sweet-smelling empty rectangular expanse it was exactly as though my house in Norway had come true; with the added advantage of being just the right size to carry in my hand. I shut my imagination up in it instantly, and it is still sitting there, listening to the wind in the firwood outside. Sitting there in a couple of days time I shall hear the Lutheran bell calling me to go and sing Lutheran hymns while the pastor’s wife gazes abstractedly at her husband in a bower of evergreen while she wonders if she remembered to put pepper in the goose-stuffing; but I shan’t go, I shall be far too happy sitting in my house that Alyse gave me for Christmas.

Oh, I must tell you I have finished my book—begun in 1941 and a hundred times imperilled but finished at last. So I can give an undivided mind to enjoying my matchbox.

Sylvia Townsend Warner – From ‘More Letters of Note’

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‘Nativité’ by Georges de la Tour

* * * * * * *

Down by the shore, just above the Bay of Orde, we suddenly had an impulse to foresake the car, alk a little way off and lean over the gate. And for a moment I had a passionate hatred for motor cars that could let me neither hear nor smell, but only see. The air and the turf and the seaweed smelt sweet and aromatic, and we heard the waves break in a long thin sound as though as though a line of glass were being very gently, very regularly, shattered a quarter of a mile away. And curlews were twittering and curving nearby, or perhaps they were smaller frienlier birds; and a few sheep with black faces grazed near the quiet grey stone sheds and barns. And the wind fluttered and sighed in the sun.

“Next Christmas,” I said to Paul, when I had rather more than I could bear of imagining myself, next Christmas, somewhere quite different perhaps, longing to be back in Skye and leaning over the gate just above Orde Bay looking across in solitude towards Rhum, looking my first, looking my last, on all things lovely. “Next Christmas,” I repeated, buff and hearty, and leaving out “perhaps” because I feared Paul was going to throw an attack of scepticism. But he said, to my amazement: “Yes, we’ll come here again next Christmas,” so that for the sake of D.V. and touch wood and all the rest of superstition I had to add quickly: ” We may not be able to, of course. It would be safer to stop here till Christmas of 1939.”

And then slowly and relactantly we climbed into the car, and backed, and made motoring noises which startled the whaups, and drove away. Slowly and reluctantly.

From ‘Another Part of the Forest’ by G. B. Stern

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A Virago Art Collection for Autumn

When I first put together a collection of the paintings that adorned the covers of green Virago Modern Classics, more than three years ago, I didn’t think that I would go on putting together more collections, or that I would be here now with many more paintings in the wings ready to be displayed in future collections.

Not all of the paintings are available but a great many of them are, and it is lovely to see them freed of the constraint of a green frame.

Sometimes just a detail has been chosen, or the painting has been cropped or adjusted insome way to suit its book. That may be the best way to make a good cover, but it shouldn’t be the only way we see work of the artists.

I do hope that you will enjoy looking at this season’s exhibits.

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The painting works well as a cover image, but it isn’t a good match for the book

‘The Mirror’ by William Orpen

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‘The House on Clewe Street’ by Mary Lavin (#266)

Theodore Coniffe, austere property owner in Castlerampart, looks forward to the birth of an heir when his third and youngest daughter, Lily marries. A son is born, but the father, Cornelius Galloway, is a spendthrift who dies young, leaving the child to the care of Lily and her sisters, Theresa and Sara. Their love for Gabriel is limited by religious propriety and his youth is both protected and restrained. At the age of twenty-one Gabriel runs away to Dublin with Onny, the kitchen maid. Here they tumble into bohemian life. But Gabriel is ill-suited to this makeshift freedom and finds the values of Clewe Street impossible to evade.

* * * * * * *

The painting is of the same fair that my father visited as a boy

‘The Merry Go Round’ by Ernest Procter

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‘Devil by the Sea’ by Nina Bawden (#433)

“‘The first time the children saw the Devil, he was sitting next to them in the second row of deckchairs in the band-stand. He was biting his nails.’

So begins the horrifying story of a madman loose in a small seaside town – his prey the very young and the very old. Seen through the eyes of Hilary – a precocious, highly imaginative, lonely child – it is a chilling story about the perceptiveness of children, the blindness of parents and the allure of strangers. As the adults carry on with their own grown-up capers, Hilary is led further and further into the twilight world of one man’s terrifyingly warped view of normal life. But will she have the sense to resist it?”

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The subject’s expression seems to lighten when she is freed from her green frame

‘June’ by Ellen Day Hale

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‘The Brimming Cup’ by Dorothy Canfield (#254)

One day in 1920 Marise watches her youngest child depart for his first day at school and feels redundant. Absorbed in her role as wife and mother she has not been aware of the slow ebbing of her spirit, nor the way in which her marriage, though comfortable, and happy, has lost its passion. As the year progresses Marise continues as the pivot of the household, drawing new neighbors into the family circle and the Vermont community. Doing so, she reassesses her marriage and the values on which it is based, each day underlined by the questions she now asks herself — and sharpened by her increasing attraction to another man

* * * * * * *

A Strikingly Different Choice of Cover Image

‘The Annunciation’ by Frederick Patrick Marriott

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‘The Land of Spices’ by Kate O’Brien (#287)

On an early October day in 1912 three postulants receive the veil at Compagnie de la Sainte Famille, a lakeside Irish convent. When Eileen O’Doherty, beautiful and adored, kneels before the Bishop, a wave of hysteria sweeps through the convent. Only two remain distanced: Reverend Mother and six-year old Anna Murphy. Between them an unspoken allegiance is formed that will sustain each through the years ahead as Mere Marie-Helene seeks to understand a childhood trauma, to recover the power to love and combat her growing spiritual aridity, and as Anna, clever, self-contained, develops the strength to overcome loss and to resist the conventional demands of her background.

* * * * * * *

I have read other books by the author but not this one – yet

‘At the Piano’ by Harold Knight

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‘The Squire’s Daughter’ by F. M. Mayor (#260)

At the age of twenty-one Ron is witty and assured, delighting in the glamour of her London set and resisting her role as the Squire’s daughter. She is used to the adoration of men and, “busy in an existence that made deep feeling difficult”, is so far untouched by it. Now the Squire is faced with the necessity of selling Carne, the ancestoral home which symbolises so much for him, yet means little to his children. Whilst the older generation acknowledges change with pain and reluctance, Ron and her contemporaries are dismissive of the values their parents uphold. But Ron’s bravado is as impermanent as the privilege of her class and her life will be changed when she falls in love…

* * * * * * *

The first of a number of Virago Editions of this book

‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ by John Singer Sargent

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‘Sisters by a River’ by Barbara Comyns (#164)

The river is the Avon, and on its banks the five sisters are born. The river is frozen, the river is flooded, the sun shines on the water and moving lights are reflected on the walls of the house. It is Good Friday and the maids hang a hot cross bun from the kitchen ceiling. An earwig crawls into the sweep’s ear and stays there for ten years. Moths are resurrected from the dead and bats become entangled in young girls’ hair. Lessons are done in the greenish light under the ash-tree and always there is the sound of water swirling through the weir. A feeling of decay comes to the house, at first in a sudden puff down a dark passage and the damp smell of cellars, then ivy grows unchecked over the windows and angry shouts split the summer air, sour milk is in the larder and the father takes out his gun. The children see a dreadful snoring figure in a white nightshirt, then lot numbers appear on the furniture and the family is dispersed ..

* * * * * * *

When I saw this image in its entirety I thought it would have worked rather well as a wrap-around dust jacket

‘Les Ailes dans le vent’ by Edouard André Marty

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‘The Knight of Cheerful Countenance’ by Molly Keane (#388)

To Ballinrath House, where purple bog gives way to slate-coloured mountains, comes Allan to visit his Irish cousins. No sooner has he arrived than he falls in love with Cousin Ann, though it seems she only has eyes for Captain Dennys St Lawrence. Cousin Sibyl is as swiftly and equally smitten – with Allan. As the summer gives way to misty autums days, the social round of dancing and hunting does little to untangle love’s misunderstandings. Here hearts – and reputations – threaten to be broken in the elusive pursuit of happiness.

* * * * * * *

That’s the last painting in this collection, but there will be more art shows next year.

Please tell me if you have any particular favourite cover artwork, or any suggestions for those future exhibitions …

A Seasonal Collection: Apples

It all started with an apple. Trouble often does, I suppose, and this apple was a real troublemaker – a Pendragon, red-fleshed and sweet, that I stole from someone else’s orchard.

I don’t know why I chose that particular day to make my way over to the island. After years of staring longingly across the water, it suddenly seemed urgent that I make it there, that I put my foot on the shore. When I arrived I practically fell into the orchard, plucking the shiny red apple from the branch without a second thought. With the first bite of that apple I was lost.’

From ‘A Sky Painted Gold’ by Laura Wood

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‘Green Apples’ by Dorothy Johnstone

* * * * * * *

A shower of apples fell down around her as she tested the first branch. But it was strong enough to hold her. She took a deep breath and swung up. The bark scraped and furrowed her shins and thighs and stomach as she threw herself into the gnarled arms of the tree.

She had to scramble painfully for every foothold and handhold. Once a branch broke with a groan under the trusting sole of her foot and she hung in agony by her hands, hung up between earth and heaven, kicking blindly for a safe, solid thing in a world all shifting leaves and shadows. Apples tumbled continually as she moved, and the waning moon blinked between leaves that thrust leathery hands spitefully into her eyes and into her gasping mouth.

From ‘The Magic Toyshop’ by Angela Carter

* * * * * * *

‘Apple Tree Branch’ by Elizabeth Boott Duveneck (1883)

* * * * * * *

But surely Adam can not be excused,
Her fault though great, yet he was most to blame;
What Weakness offered, Strength might have refused,
Being Lord of all, the greater was his shame:
Although the Serpent’s craft had her abused,
God’s holy word ought all his actions frame,
For he was Lord and King of all the earth,
Before poore Eve had either life or breath.

Who being framed by God’s eternal hand,
The perfectest man that ever breathed on earth;
And from God’s mouth received that straight command,
The breach whereof he knew was present death:
Yea having power to rule both Sea and Land,
Yet with one Apple won to loose that breath
Which God had breathed in his beauteous face,
Bringing us all in danger and disgrace.

From ‘Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women’ by Amelia Lanyer

* * * * * * *

‘Apples’ by Clarice Cliff (Bookends c 1931)

* * * * * * *

“And when I brought out the baked apples from the closet, and hoped our friends would be so very obliging as to take some, ‘Oh!’ said he, directly, ‘there is nothing in the way of fruit half so good, and these are the finest looking home-baked apples I ever saw in my life.’ That, you know, was so very — And I am sure, by his manner, it was no compliment. Indeed they are very delightful apples, and Mrs. Wallis does them full justice — only we do not have them baked more than twice, and Mr. Woodhouse made us promise to have them done three times — but Miss Woodhouse will be so good as not to mention it. The apples themselves are the very finest sort for baking, beyond a doubt; all from Donwell — some of Mr. Knightley’s most liberal supply. He sends us a sack every year; and certainly there never was such a keeping apple any where as one of his trees — I believe there is two of them. My mother says the orchard was always famous in her younger days. But I was really quite shocked the other day — for Mr. Knightley called one morning, and Jane was eating these apples, and we talked about them and said how much she enjoyed them, and he asked whether we were not got to the end of our stock. ‘I am sure you must be,’ said he, ‘and I will send you another supply; for I have a great many more than I can ever use. William Larkins let me keep a larger quantity than usual this year. I will send you some more, before they get good for nothing.’ So I begged he would not — for really as to ours being gone, I could not absolutely say that we had a great many left — it was but half a dozen indeed; but they should be all kept for Jane; and I could not at all bear that he should be sending us more, so liberal as he had been already; and Jane said the same. And when he was gone, she almost quarrelled with me — No, I should not say quarrelled, for we never had a quarrel in our lives; but she was quite distressed that I had owned the apples were so nearly gone; she wished I had made him believe we had a great many left. Oh! said I, my dear, I did say as much as I could. However, the very same evening William Larkins came over with a large basket of apples, the same sort of apples, a bushel at least, and I was very much obliged, and went down and spoke to William Larkins and said every thing, as you may suppose. William Larkins is such an old acquaintance! I am always glad to see him. But, however, I found afterwards from Patty, that William said it was all the apples of that sort his master had; he had brought them all — and now his master had not one left to bake or boil. William did not seem to mind it himself, he was so pleased to think his master had sold so many; for William, you know, thinks more of his master’s profit than any thing; but Mrs. Hodges, he said, was quite displeased at their being all sent away. She could not bear that her master should not be able to have another apple-tart this spring. He told Patty this, but bid her not mind it, and be sure not to say any thing to us about it, for Mrs. Hodges would be cross sometimes, and as long as so many sacks were sold, it did not signify who ate the remainder. And so Patty told me, and I was excessively shocked indeed! I would not have Mr. Knightley know any thing about it for the world! He would be so very — I wanted to keep it from Jane’s knowledge; but unluckily, I had mentioned it before I was aware.”

From ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen

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Baked Apples with Spiced Oatmeal and Ginger Honey

10 apples
juice from 1/2 lemon

Apple Oatmeal
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unfiltered and unsweetened apple juice/cider (or milk of choice or water)
1 1/2 cup water
2 tbsp almonds, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground vanilla
3 tbsp butter (or coconut oil)
10-15 almonds, chopped

a large pinch salt

Serve
1 cup full-fat greek yogurt (or coconut yogurt)
Ginger Honey (simply stir lots of freshly grated ginger into honey over low heat)
10-15 almonds, chopped
ground cinnamon

Set the oven to 200°C / 400 °F. Prepare the apples by cutting off the top and then, using a sharp small knife or apple corer, scoop out the seeds and core in the center of each apple. Use a small spoon to scoop out enough apple flesh to make room for the porridge. (The flesh can be chopped and mixed into the oatmeal before filling the apples). Rub the inside of the apples with a little lemon juice and place them in a baking tray with high sides.

Add all the oatmeal ingredients except butter and to a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil while stirring. Lower the heat and cook until creamy. Stir in the butter (or coconut oil) and almonds towards the end and then fill the apples with the oatmeal, top with a pinch extra cinnamon and put the apple tops back on. Add 2 tbsp water to the bottom of the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the apples are soft. Keep an eye on the oven as different apple varieties need different baking time.

Serve the apples on a plate, topped with a dollop yogurt, chopped almonds, cinnamon and a drizzle of ginger honey.

From Green Kitchen Stories

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‘Notes on an Empire’ by Sean Beavers

* * * * * * *

 I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ by William Butler Yeats

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The Silver Apples of the Moon’ by Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh

* * * * * * *

There were two orchards belonging to the old house. One, that we called the “wild” orchard, lay beyond the vegetable garden; it was planted with bitter cherries and damsons and transparent yellow plums. For some reason it lay under a cloud; we never played there, we did not even trouble to pick up the fallen fruit; and there, every Monday morning, to the round open space in the middle, the servant girl and the washerwoman carried the wet linen – Grandmother’s nightdresses, Father’s striped shirts, the hired man’s cotton trousers and the servant girl’s “dreadfully vulgar” salmon-pink flannelette drawers jigged and slapped in horrid familiarity.

But the other orchard, far away and hidden from the house, lay at the foot of the little hill and stretched right over to the edge of the paddocks – to the clumps of wattles bobbing yellow in the bright sun and the blue gums with their streaming sickle-shaped leaves. There, under the fruit trees, the grass grew so thick and coarse that it tangled and knotted in your shoes as you walked, and even on the hottest day it was damp to the touch when you stopped and parted it this way and that, looking for windfalls – the apples marked with a bird’s beak, the bruised pears, the quinces, so good to eat with a pinch of salt, but so delicious that you could not bite for sniffing . . .

From ‘The Apple Tree’ by Katherine Mansfield

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‘The Golden Apples of the Sun’ by Edmond Dulac

* * * * * * *

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.

From ‘The Painted Drum’ by Louise Erdrich

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A Seasonal Collection: Poppies

“Ask yourself my love whether you are not very cruel to have so entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom. Will you confess this in the Letter you must write immediately, and do all you can to console me in it — make it rich as a draught of poppies to intoxicate me —write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been. For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair.”

John Keats

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‘Vase des Coquelicots’ by Odilon Redon

* * * * * * *

They walked along listening to the singing of the brightly colored birds and looking at the lovely flowers which now became so thick that the ground was carpeted with them. There were big yellow and white and blue and purple blossoms, besides great clusters of scarlet poppies, which were so brilliant in color they almost dazzled Dorothy’s eyes.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” the girl asked, as she breathed in the spicy scent of the bright flowers.

“I suppose so,” answered the Scarecrow. “When I have brains, I shall probably like them better.”

“If I only had a heart, I should love them,” added the Tin Woodman.

“I always did like flowers,” said the Lion. “They seem so helpless and frail. But there are none in the forest so bright as these.”

They now came upon more and more of the big scarlet poppies, and fewer and fewer of the other flowers; and soon they found themselves in the midst of a great meadow of poppies. Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together their odor is so powerful that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on and on forever. But Dorothy did not know this, nor could she get away from the bright red flowers that were everywhere about; so presently her eyes grew heavy and she felt she must sit down to rest and to sleep.

But the Tin Woodman would not let her do this.

“We must hurry and get back to the road of yellow brick before dark,” he said; and the Scarecrow agreed with him. So they kept walking until Dorothy could stand no longer. Her eyes closed in spite of herself and she forgot where she was and fell among the poppies, fast asleep.

“What shall we do?” asked the Tin Woodman.

“If we leave her here she will die,” said the Lion. “The smell of the flowers is killing us all. I myself can scarcely keep my eyes open, and the dog is asleep already.”

It was true; Toto had fallen down beside his little mistress. But the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, not being made of flesh, were not troubled by the scent of the flowers.

“Run fast,” said the Scarecrow to the Lion, “and get out of this deadly flower bed as soon as you can. We will bring the little girl with us, but if you should fall asleep you are too big to be carried.”

So the Lion aroused himself and bounded forward as fast as he could go. In a moment he was out of sight.

“Let us make a chair with our hands and carry her,” said the Scarecrow. So they picked up Toto and put the dog in Dorothy’s lap, and then they made a chair with their hands for the seat and their arms for the arms and carried the sleeping girl between them through the flowers.

On and on they walked, and it seemed that the great carpet of deadly flowers that surrounded them would never end. They followed the bend of the river, and at last came upon their friend the Lion, lying fast asleep among the poppies. The flowers had been too strong for the huge beast and he had given up at last, and fallen only a short distance from the end of the poppy bed, where the sweet grass spread in beautiful green fields before them.

“We can do nothing for him,” said the Tin Woodman, sadly; “for he is much too heavy to lift. We must leave him here to sleep on forever, and perhaps he will dream that he has found courage at last.”

“I’m sorry,” said the Scarecrow. “The Lion was a very good comrade for one so cowardly. But let us go on.”

They carried the sleeping girl to a pretty spot beside the river, far enough from the poppy field to prevent her breathing any more of the poison of the flowers, and here they laid her gently on the soft grass and waited for the fresh breeze to waken her.

From ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L Frank Baum

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Rene Lalique Pendant Made Of Glass, Enamel And Gold

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“Fourteen months had passed, but Margaret still stopped at Howards End.  No better plan had occurred to her.  The meadow was being recut, the great red poppies were reopening in the garden.  July would follow with the little red poppies among the wheat, August with the cutting of the wheat.  These little events would become part of her year after year.  Every summer she would fear lest the well should give out, every winter lest the pipes should freeze; every westerly gale might blow the wych-elm down and bring the end of all things, and so she could not read or talk during a westerly gale.  The air was tranquil now.  She and her sister were sitting on the remains of Evie’s mockery, where the lawn merged into the field.”

From ‘Howards End’ by E M Forster

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Red Poppy (1927) by Georgia O’Keeffe

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Through halls of vanished pleasure,
And hold of vanished power,
And crypt of faith forgotten,
A came to Ludlow tower.

A-top of arch and stairway,
Of crypt and donjan cell,
Of council hall, and chamber,
Of wall, and ditch, and well,

High over grated turrets
Where clinging ivies run,
A thousand scarlet poppies
Enticed the rising sun,

Upon the topmost turret,
With death and damp below,–
Three hundred years of spoilage,–
The crimson poppies grow.

This hall it was that bred him,
These hills that knew him brave,
The gentlest English singer
That fills an English grave.

How have they heart to blossom
So cruel and gay and red,
When beauty so hath perished
And valour so hath sped?

When knights so fair are rotten,
And captains true asleep,
And singing lips are dust-stopped
Six English earth-feet deep?

When ages old remind me
How much hath gone for naught,
What wretched ghost remaineth
Of all that flesh hath wrought;

Of love and song and warring,
Of adventure and play,
Of art and comely building,
Of faith and form and fray–

I’ll mind the flowers of pleasure,
Of short-lived youth and sleep,
That drunk the sunny weather
A-top of Ludlow keep.

Through halls of vanished pleasure,
And hold of vanished power,
And crypt of faith forgotten,
A came to Ludlow tower.
A-top of arch and stairway,
Of crypt and donjan cell,
Of council hall, and chamber,
Of wall, and ditch, and well,

High over grated turrets
Where clinging ivies run,
A thousand scarlet poppies
Enticed the rising sun,

Upon the topmost turret,
With death and damp below,–
Three hundred years of spoilage,–
The crimson poppies grow.

This hall it was that bred him,
These hills that knew him brave,
The gentlest English singer
That fills an English grave.

How have they heart to blossom
So cruel and gay and red,
When beauty so hath perished
And valour so hath sped?

When knights so fair are rotten,
And captains true asleep,
And singing lips are dust-stopped
Six English earth-feet deep?

When ages old remind me
How much hath gone for naught,
What wretched ghost remaineth
Of all that flesh hath wrought;

Of love and song and warring,
Of adventure and play,
Of art and comely building,
Of faith and form and fray–

I’ll mind the flowers of pleasure,
Of short-lived youth and sleep,
That drunk the sunny weather

‘Poppies on Ludlow Castle’ by Willa Cather

* * * * * * *s-l1600‘Poppy’ from ‘Flora’s Retinue’ by Walter Crane

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“An amphitheater of mountains encloses one’s horizons and one’s footsteps. Today I climbed up to the eternal snows, and there found bright yellow poppies braving alike the glacier and the storm; and was ashamed before their courage… This is how one ought to feel, I am convinced. I contemplate young mountaineers hung with ropes and ice-axes, and think that they alone have understood how to live life… ”

Vita Sackville-West

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‘Red Poppies’ by Mary Cassatt

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“Night was nearly gone. All slept in the beautiful bright city of Osaka. The harsh cry of the sentinels, calling one to another on the ramparts, broke the silence, unruffled otherwise save for the distant murmur of the sea as it swept into the bay.

Above the great dark mass formed by the palace and gardens of the Shogun a star was fading slowly. Dawn trembled in the air, and the tree-tops were more plainly outlined against the sky, which grew bluer every moment. Soon a pale glimmer touched the highest branches, slipped between the boughs and their leaves, and filtered downward to the ground. Then, in the gardens of the Prince, alleys thick with brambles displayed their dim perspective; the grass resumed its emerald hue; a tuft of poppies renewed the splendor of its sumptuous flowers, and a snowy flight of steps was faintly visible through the mist, down a distant avenue.

At last, suddenly, the sky grew purple; arrows of light athwart the bushes made every drop of water on the leaves sparkle. A pheasant alighted heavily; a crane shook her white wings, and with a long cry flew slowly upwards; while the earth smoked like a caldron, and the birds loudly hailed the rising sun.”

From ‘The Usurper’ by Judith Gautier

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‘Poppyland’- Furnishing Fabric by Liberty & Co. Ltd. 

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“Lilia, holding a cup and saucer, wore cotton of an extinct blue, of a shade only less indolent than the sky’s – side-by-side on a stone bench, she and Antonia were under a twisted apple tree silvered over with lichen. Jane had found a bed inside a box-edged oval; and not far off stood the sundial, around which old poppies lolled, bees dozed on the yellow lupins. Below, the river had almost ceased to run; a nonchalant stillness hung over everywhere. It was thought to be about eleven o’clock.”

From ‘A World of Love’ by Elizabeth Bowen

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‘Poppies Prospect Cottage’ by Annie Soudaine

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“Scattered with poppies, the golden-green waves of the cornfields faded. The red sun seemed to tip one end of a pair of scales below the horizon, and simultaneously to lift an orange moon at the other. Only two days off the full, it rose behind a wood, swiftly losing its flush as it floated up, until the wheat loomed out of the twilight like a metallic and prickly sea.”

From ‘Between the Woods and the Water’ by Patrick Leigh Fermor

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A Seasonal Collection: June

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade?”

From ‘Gardens for Small Country Houses’ by Gertrude Jekyll

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‘Early Morning’ by Dod Proctor

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‘To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood. In a country there was a shire, and in that shire there was a town, and in that town there was a house, and in that house there was a room, and in that room there was a bed, and in that bed there lay a little girl; wide awake and longing to get up, but not daring to do so for fear of the unseen power in the next room—a certain Betty, whose slumbers must not be disturbed until six o’clock struck, when she wakened of herself “as sure as clockwork,” and left the household very little peace afterwards. It was a June morning, and early as it was, the room was full of sunny warmth and light.

On the drawers opposite to the little white dimity bed in which Molly Gibson lay, was a primitive kind of bonnet-stand on which was hung a bonnet, carefully covered over from any chance of dust with a large cotton handkerchief, of so heavy and serviceable a texture that if the thing underneath it had been a flimsy fabric of gauze and lace and flowers, it would have been altogether “scomfished” (again to quote from Betty’s vocabulary). But the bonnet was made of solid straw, and its only trimming was a plain white ribbon put over the crown, and forming the strings. Still, there was a neat little quilling inside, every plait of which Molly knew, for had she not made it herself the evening before, with infinite pains? and was there not a little blue bow in this quilling, the very first bit of such finery Molly had ever had the prospect of wearing?

Six o’clock now! the pleasant, brisk ringing of the church bells told that; calling every one to their daily work, as they had done for hundreds of years. Up jumped Molly, and ran with her bare little feet across the room, and lifted off the handkerchief and saw once again the bonnet; the pledge of the gay bright day to come. Then to the window, and after some tugging she opened the casement, and let in the sweet morning air. The dew was already off the flowers in the garden below, but still rising from the long hay-grass in the meadows directly beyond. At one side lay the little town of Hollingford, into a street of which Mr. Gibson’s front door opened; and delicate columns, and little puffs of smoke were already beginning to rise from many a cottage chimney where some housewife was already up, and preparing breakfast for the bread-winner of the family.’

From ‘Wives and Daughters’ by Elizabeth Gaskell’

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Illustration by Edmund DuLac for “Fairies I Have Met” by Maud Margaret Rodolph Stawell 

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“My second cousin and I came to London for ten days in the middle of last June, and we stayed there for three weeks, waiting for a fine day. We were Irish, and all the English with whom we had hitherto come in contact had impressed upon us that we should never know what fine weather was till we came to England. Perhaps we came at a bad moment, when the weather, like the shops, was having its cheap sales.

Things came to a climax one day when we had sat for three-quarters of an hour in a Hungarian bread shop in Regent Street, waiting for the rain to clear off enough to let us get down to the New Gallery. As the fifth party of moist ladies came in and propped their dripping umbrellas against the wall behind us, and remarked that they had never seen such rain, our resolution first began to take shape.

” Hansom ! ” said my second cousin.

” Home ! ” said I.

” England is no fit place for a lady to be in,” said my second cousin, as we drove away in our hansom with the glass down. “

I’d be ashamed to show such weather to a Connemara pig,” I replied.

Now Connemara is a sore subject with my second cousin, who lives within sight of its mountains, and, as is usually the case, has never explored the glories of her native country, which was why I mentioned Connemara. She generally changes the conversation on these occasions ; but this time she looked me steadily in the face and said,

” Well, let’s go to Connemara!”

From ‘Through Connemara in a Governess Cart’ by Somerville & Ross

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Ten o’clock: the broken moon
Hangs not yet a half hour high,
Yellow as a shield of brass,
In the dewy air of June,
Poised between the vaulted sky
And the ocean’s liquid glass.

Earth lies in the shadow still;
Low black bushes, trees, and lawn
Night’s ambrosial dews absorb;
Through the foliage creeps a thrill,
Whispering of yon spectral dawn
And the hidden climbing orb.

Higher, higher, gathering light,
Veiling with a golden gauze
All the trembling atmosphere,
See, the rayless disk grows white!
Hark, the glittering billows pause!

Faint, far sounds possess the ear.
Elves on such a night as this
Spin their rings upon the grass;
On the beach the water-fay
Greets her lover with a kiss;
Through the air swift spirits pass,
Laugh, caress, and float away.

Shut thy lids and thou shalt see
Angel faces wreathed with light,
Mystic forms long vanished hence.
Ah, too fine, too rare, they be
For the grosser mortal sight,
And they foil our waking sense.

Yet we feel them floating near,
Know that we are not alone,
Though our open eyes behold
Nothing save the moon’s bright sphere,
In the vacant heavens shown,
And the ocean’s path of gold.

‘A June Night’ by Emma Lazarus

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‘Spurge, Withyham , June 1909’ by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

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June 9th

“Life takes on entirely new aspect, owing to astonishing and unprecedented success of minute and unpretentious literary effort, published last December, and—incredibly—written by myself. Reactions of family and friends to this unforeseen state of affairs most interesting and varied. Dear Vicky and Robin more than appreciative although not allowed to read book, and compare me variously to Shakespeare, Dickens, author of the Dr. Dolittle books, and writer referred to by Vicky as Lambs’ Tails. Mademoiselle—who has read book—only says Ah, je m’en doutais bien! which makes me uneasy, although cannot exactly say why.

Robert says very little indeed, but sits with copy of book for several evenings, and turns over a page quite often. Eventually he shuts it and says Yes. I ask what he thinks of it, and after a long silence he says that It is Funny—but does not look amused. Later he refers to financial situation—as well he may, since it has been exceedingly grave for some time past—and we agree that this ought to Make a Difference.”

From ‘The Provincial Lady Goes Further’ by E M Delafield

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‘Boatyard June 1938’ by Eric Ravilious

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June puts bronze and crimson on many of her leaves. The maple-leaves and many of the leaves of thorn and bramble and dogwood are rosy; the hazel-leaves are rosy-brown; the herb-robert and parsley are rose-red; the leaves of ash and holly are dark lacquered. The copper beeches, opulently sombre under a faintly yellowed sky, seem to be the sacred trees of the thunder that broods above. Presently the colour of the threat is changed to blue, which soiled white clouds pervade until the whole sky is woolly white and grey and moving north. There is no wind, but there is a roar as of a hurricane in the trees far off; soon it is louder, in the trees not so remote; and in a minute the rain has traversed half-a-mile of woods, and the distant combined roar is swallowed up by the nearer pattering on roof and pane and leaf, the dance of leaves, the sway of branches, the trembling of whole trees under the flood. The rain falls straight upon the hard road, and each drop seems to leap upward from it barbed. Great drops dive among the motionless, dusty nettles. The thunder unloads its ponderous burden upon the resonant floor of the sky; but the sounds of the myriad leaves and grass-blades drinking all but drowns the boom, the splitting roar, and the echo in the hills. When it is over it has put a final sweetness into the blackbird’s voice and into the calm of the evening garden when the voice of a singer does but lay another tribute at the feet of the enormous silence. Frail is that voice as the ghost-moth dancing above the grass so faithfully that it seems a flower attached to a swaying stem, or as the one nettle-leaf that flutters in a draught of the hedge like a signalling hand while all the rest of the leaves are as if they could not move again, or as the full moon that is foundering on a white surf in the infinite violet sky. More large and more calm and emptier of familiar things grows the land as I pass through it, under the hoverings of the low-flying but swiftly-turning nightjar, until at midnight only a low white mist moves over the gentle desolation and warm silence. The mist wavers, and discloses a sky all strewn with white stars like the flowers of an immense jessamine. It closes up again, and day is born unawares in its pale arms, and earth is for the moment nothing but the tide of downs flowing west and the branch of red roses that hangs heavily laden and drowsed with its weight and beauty over my path, dipping Its last spray in the dew of the grass.

From ‘The South Country’ by Edward Thomas

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‘The Bride’ by Annie French

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‘It was a hot evening in June: the perfume of the lilac, now in fullest bloom, lay over squares and gardens like a suspended wave. The sun had gone down in a cloudless sky; an hour afterwards, the pavements were still warm to the touch, and the walls of the buildings radiated the heat they had absorbed. The high old houses in the inner town had all windows set open, and the occupants leaned out on their window-cushions, with continental nonchalance.

The big garden-cafes were filled to the last scat. In the woods, the midges buzzed round people’s heads in accompanying clouds; and streaks of treacherous white mist trailed, like fixed smoke, over the low-lying meadow-land.

Maurice and Louise had rowed to Connewitz; but so late in the evening that most of the variously shaped boats, with coloured lanterns at their bows, were returning when they started.

Louise herself had proposed it. When he went to her that afternoon, he found her stretched on the sofa. A theatre-ticket lay on the table—for she had taken him at his word, and shown him that she could do without him. But to-night she had no fancy for the theatre: it was too hot. She looked very slight and young in her white dress; but was moody and out of spirits.

On the way to Connewitz, they spoke no more than was necessary. Coming back, however, they had the river to themselves; and she no longer needed to steer. He placed cushions for her at the bottom of the boat; and there she lay, with her hands clasped under her neck, watching the starry strip of sky, which followed them, between the tops of the trees above, like a complement of the river below.

The solitude was unbroken; they might have gone down in the murky water, and no one would ever know how it had happened: a snag caught unawares; a clumsy movement in the light boat; half a minute, and all would be over.—Or, for the first and the last time in his life, he would take her in his arms, hold her to him, feel her cheek on his; he would kiss her, with kisses that were at once an initiation and a farewell; then, covering her eyes with his hands, he would gently, very gently, tilt the boat. A moment’s hesitation; it sought to right itself; rocked violently, and overturned: and beneath it, locked in each other’s arms, they found a common grave….

In fancy, he saw it all. Meanwhile, he rowed on, with long, leisurely strokes; and the lapping of the water round the oars was the only sound to be heard. ‘

From ‘Maurice Guest’ by Henry Handel Richardson

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‘Three Girls by a Rock Pool’ by William Stewart MacGeorge

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‘June is always, as I see it, a time of sadness, it has the poignant beauty of a deep read rose, prefect to-day, widely open on the morrow, overblown on the next day, only to end in fallen petals.

In June the summer that we have so long awaited has come at last and nature has reached her peak of perfection. Since, however, hope is man’s dearest lifelong companion, he will always find more happiness in beginning than in completion; the powers that be, when denying him a continuously perfect world, spared him a twofold sorrow, the aching void of completion and the weariness of satiety.

We live like mountain climbers; our supreme moments are not when we stand at the summit, they come at some earlier stage of the journey while hope and endeavour are carrying us ever a little nearer to the sky.’

From ‘A Cornish Year’ by C. C. Vyvyan

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