Sunday, December 25, 2016

HILDA VAN STOCKUM | Her Books (Updated Feb. 2, 2017)

Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006).
Dec. 25, 2016–Today is the 100th Anniversary of the memorial service for Inez Milholland Boissevain, who died on November 25, 1916 in Los Angeles. Inez's death played a significant considerable part in the passage in 1920 of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, recognizing the right of women to vote. Inez married my mother's uncle, Eugen Boissevain in 1913. 

An article I wrote about the centennial of the memorial ceremony for Inez and a dozen other blogposts in the last two months have generated a surge of interest in the books of my mother, Hilda van Stockum. See chart below and her photo (as an art student) at left.

Her 25 books for children and young adults were originally published by Harper & Brothers, Viking and Farrar Straus during the period 1934-1975, a span of 41 years. Her last book, which she thought was her best one, was The Borrowed House.

Of these books, 15 are currently available in English from three publishers in the United States. Her books are available in other languages from several foreign publishers (the Japanese edition of A Day on Skates and the Dutch edition of The Borrowed House are two examples).

Monthly page views,, end of Dec., 2016.
Graph of Blogger page views

Three U.S. publishers currently sell 15 HvS books in the English langage:

The Purple House Press reissued The Borrowed House in 2016. This extraordinary book takes us back to Hitler's occupation of Holland and presents the situation in Amsterdam from the perspective of a 12-year-old German girl in Hitler Youth who took as gospel Hitler's theories of racial superiority. These theories did not fit the reality she came to see in occupied Amsterdam.

Bethlehem Books sells eight HvS books. It took a lead in 1995 in reissuing some of her books that were out of print, notably The Winged Watchman (originally published by Farrar Straus). Other books currently sold by Bethlehem Books are A Day on Skates, the Irish Trilogy (The Cottage at Bantry BayFrancie on the Run and Pegeen), and the Mitchells Trilogy (The Mitchells or V for VictoryCanadian Summer and Friendly Gables).

Boissevain Books LLC sells six HvS books. It has in recent years reissued five HvS books that were out of print, including Little Old Bear, Patsy and the Pup, Kersti and St. Nicholas, Penengro, and King Oberon's Forest. It also sells Pamela Walks the Dog, originally published by Bethlehem Books. (Boissevain Books also issued a new edition of Olga Marlin's To Africa with a Dream, and Brigid Marlin's A Meaning for Danny and The Box House, and most recently published Kate Bodsworth's Princess Josephine and the Rainbow Dragon. Bois Books also sells a large-sized durable poster of Inez Milholland Boissevain, HvS's aunt.) In the pipeline for reissue are several more HvS books, including The Angel's Alphabet, Andries and Gerrit and the Organ. 
If you are interested in Holland, World War 2, Hitler's Occupation, the Resistance, or any of the other themes that Hilda van Stockum took up, her books continue to enlighten and enthrall. 

Click on the publisher's name above to have any of these books delivered to your door.

BLOG VIEWS | 40K – Top Posts

Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006)
This blog is about  the life, family, art and writing of Hilda van Stockum. 

It has just passed 40,000 page views.

Thank you for reading. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2017.

Below are the ten most-viewed posts during the last month.

PATSY AND THE PUP | "My Favorite Book," says Hachi...
Mar 31, 2016, 4 comments
HILDA VAN STOCKUM | Nov. 1–10th Anniversary of Her...
Oct 30, 2016
BRAM VAN STOCKUM | Expedition 1902-03
May 8, 2016
WW2 BOOKS | HvS Classic Jumps to #6 from #11 on Go...
Dec 23, 2015
HILDA VAN STOCKUM | Links to Relatives
Jun 7, 2016, 1 comment
KIN | Boissevain Reunion, April 16-17, 2016, Amste...
Oct 8, 2015
ART | HvS Collections, Exhibits, Sales (Updated No...
Oct 25, 2015
HvS | Eleven Poems
Oct 2, 2016, 1 comment
HvS | RHA Exhibitions, 1990-2000
Sep 16, 2016
BOISSEVAIN | Gens 0-6 (Updated July 1, 2016)
Mar 30, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

HvS IN VERMONT | Painting, Trapp Family Lodge, 1950

Hilda van Stockum doing a plein air demo of her painting at
or near the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt. In the background
is surely Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak.
The photo at left appears to be from a visit of HvS to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt. in about 1950.

The Marlins spent a few weeks at a Music Camp at the Lodge in about 1947, right after the death of Georg [von]* Trapp.

We all learned to play instruments – especially the recorder – and to sing in parts. Most of the music was religious because the Trapps' brilliant but forgotten (i.e., not in the script of the Sound of Music) musicologist was Fr. Franz Wasner.

The Trapp Family Lodge  experience kindled a desire by our Dad to expose us to more culture and led to the multi-week vacation trips that we took around Europe in our Volkswagen bus in 1954-55.

A photo of HvS from around 1950.
Maria [von] Trapp ran the camp with a firm and businesslike hand. She invited Mom to return to provide one of the activities for Lodge visitors – plein air painting. So Mom painted for her supper and was invited back several times, according to her daughter Lis.


*The "von" is in square brackets because it helps identify Maria Trapp as the wife of "Baron" von Trapp, who became famous through the movie The Sound of Music. When the Trapps became U.S. citizens, they forswore titles, and the "von" in the German language connotes nobility. (In Dutch, it does not.)

Corvette Captain Georg Johannes Ritter [Knight] von Trapp (1880–1947), incorrectly referred to in The Sound of Music as Baron [Freiherr] von Trapp, earned his fame as WW1 Austro-Hungarian Navy officer.  Submarines SM U-5 and SM U-14 under his command sank 13 Allied ships totaling about 45,669 gross register tons. Following Austria-Hungary's defeat and  collapse, Trapp returned to his family but in 1922 lost his first wife to scarlet fever. Most of his children were by his first wife.

Five years later, Georg von Trapp married his children's governess, former novice Maria Augusta Kutschera, who trained the children to sing and perform to earn money after most family wealth was wiped out by a bank failure. After the Anschluss, von Trapp refused to serve in the Nazi Navy. Instead, he fled to Italy and then to the United States, where he bought a farm in Vermont and lived there until his death in 1947. The Lodge is now run by a grandson of Georg and Maria von Trapp.

Monday, December 5, 2016

IRELAND | Is Francie Based on Francis O'Neil? Yes and No

When Ireland Was Poor.
Francie on the Run is the second of my late mother Hilda van Stockum's "Irish Trilogy", which starts with The Cottage at Bantry Bay and ends with Pegeen. The books were originally published by Viking Press when the children's book editor was the truly great May Massee.

My Mom told me that Massee urged her to stick with the old rural Ireland that she knew, where children like her (she lived in Ireland as well as Holland when she was growing up) ran barefoot. Some of Mom's Irish friends wanted her to show that Dublin and other urban areas were catching up, becoming more like New York City. All the more reason, said Massee, to capture the way it once was.

The three Irish books had a huge following during the late 1930s into the 1950s. In the 1960s the fashion in children's literature started to shift to diversity issues and the portrayal of long-ago family life was crowded out in the schools by newer books. Viking let the books go out of print. Bethlehem Books in North Dakota loved the Irish Trilogy and they reissued the books and have kept them in print. Catholic homeschoolers love the book and doubtless many of them have Irish roots.

The year after my mother died, in September 2007, I was delighted to received this message from Francis Joseph O'Neil:
I knew Hilda van Stockum from Georgetown, Washington DC. I ran away and went to the zoo at age three. The zoo was about six miles from my home on M Street. A policeman at the zoo asked me where my parents were and when I couldn’t tell him he took me to the police station. I remember them setting me up on the desk way up high in the policeman’s chair and it had two lights, one on each side. The lights had a long slender post with a globe of white glass mounted on top and I remember then bringing me ice cream. They eventually found my father [William John O’Neil] and took me home. The story of my runaway made its way into the Washington papers and soon after your mother contacted my parents. That’s how I came to know her. From what I can remember she became a good friend of my mother [Virginia Dare O’Neil]. We lived at 3029 M Street and I believed your mother lived up the hill from me about R street [it was 3728 Northampton Street]. I remember my brother and I [the other two boys in the family are Robert Evert O'Neil and Regis Terrence O'Neil] went to your mother’s house to sit for her illustrations. Years later, I heard from my parents that I might have been the inspiration for Francie. I am very sorry to hear of your mother’s death and wish I could have found her before she passed away. 
Francis O'Neil (Opp, AL)" [Opp is on the southern end of Alabama, near the Florida border. It is called Opp because it is a “City of Opportunity”.]
I have been doing some followup research on the origin of the Irish books. The Cottage at Bantry Bay I had heard was based at least partly on the Murray family. Some members of the Murray family  came to stay with us. On Francis O'Neil's claim, I can report:
  • Yes indeed, the drawings and character of Francie in Francie on the Run do seem to be based on Francis O'Neil.
  • However, the character of Francie in the earlier book, The Cottage at Bantry Bay, is not. 
  • The O'Sullivan family is based on the Murray family, which really did include twins–Francie and Liam–and an older boy called Michael and a girl called Brigid (Bridey). 
  • The character of Francie in Francie on the Run is much more independent and from information collected from my sibs Olga, Brigid, Sheila and Lis, it appears that the character of the older Francie and the drawings of him in the book are based on Francie O’Neil.
HvS got to know the Murray family (possibly as many as nine Murray children) when May Murray worked for Olga van Stockum, HvS’s mother, in Ireland in the late 1920s. May was reportedly a bit in love with Jan, HvS’s younger brother. HvS’s world-class editor, May Massee, insisted that the family be pruned down to four for The Cottage at Bantry Bay. Francie Murray came to visit the Marlin family in Blackrock, Dublin when the Marlins moved there in 1952. Bridey stayed with the Marlins later on Harbour Road in Dalkey.

Much later, in Canada, May and Agnes Murray came to work for HvS when her mother, our granny, was ill (and eventually died) in 1949.

It would be good to find the original story in the Washington Post or wherever it was. I did a Google search and nothing came up that looked plausible given Francis O'Neil's age. But Regis Terrence O'Neil came up and it appears to be Francie's brother, born in 1934 in Ohio, same age as my eldest sister Olga:

Regis Terrence O'Neil (Brother of Francis, "Francie" in Francie on the Run) Born March 3, 1934 in Ohio Mother born in West Virginia Father: William John O'Neil, born in Pittsburgh, Pa. Source: Ohio Birth Index, 1908-2011, record count #13,254,340, Ohio Dept. of Health. File date: March 8, 1934. Certificate Number: 1934019747

Saturday, November 26, 2016

IRELAND | Vacations – Rosturk, Mulranny, Mayo

Rosturk Castle, Mulranny, Mayo, August 1987.
 Spike is dozing in the back. His granddaughter
Margie Marlin (about to be married in 2017) is
standing. Her older sister Laura has the red pail.
VACATIONS – While the Marlins were growing up, we used to spend the summers in a rented cottage–Ste Adèle, Quebec, then Val Morin.

The years 1951-55 were special, because we lived in Europe (Dublin and Paris), spending our vacations in 1954-55 traveling on a "pilgrimage" around Europe.

Every year after that Spike and Hilda vS Marlin would find a place to rent in the Laurentian Mountains and then in Europe. They would invite over their children and grandchildren.

  • Val Morin, Quebec, Canada (1956-62)
  • Robin Hood, Maine (1971)
  • La Ferté St Cyr, France (1972)
  • Florence, Italy (1976)
  • Skibbereen, Cork, Ireland (1983)
  • Rosturk Castle, Mulranny, Mayo, Ireland (1987-88)
Spike died in Berkhamsted, Herts. in 1994. HvS died in the same place in 2006.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

HvS | Best Illustrators of Children's Books, 1944

Kate Seredy's cover for Eva R.
Gaggin's book about a Swiss-
herdsman doll and a pet goose.
I just ran across an article in the May-June 1944 issue of The Horn Book by Hilda van Stockum, "Through an Illustrator's Eyes".

It is a remarkable survey of the relationship between the artist and author–in HvS's case, an internal dialogue–and the ways in which the illustrations help the story.

The timing of the article was also tragic. It appeared as HvS's brother Willem was piloting six missions in a Halifax bomber over occupied France during the ten days surrounding D-Day. As a mathematician, he knew well the tiny probability of his surviving so many missions during that period. On June 10, 1944 he and his six fellow crew members were shot down over Laval, France along with another Halifax, two of the ten planes on that mission.

But back to the article. Here is an early paragraph, which gives a flavor of HvS's message:
The author does need the illustrator. It is a terrible bore to have to write long descriptions, especially when you know everyone skips them anyway. It is much easier to jot down in the margin, "Picture of such and such," and have done with it. This is true of all literature, although nowadays it is respectable for publishers to pretend that only children like pictures (p. 177).
HvS has a good vantage point from which to survey the field, because she has been a writer with another illustrator, an illustrator with another writer and an author-illustrator of books for a variety of age groups.

She praises the engravings (by James Mahoney and others) in the Household Edition of Charles Dickens' novels:
  • They tell the story you're reading, not some other story the artist prefers.
  • One even suspects the illustrator read the book.
  • The people in the pictures are the same as in the book, with some details added...
  • The pictures are placed where you expect them.
  • At satisfying climaxes, the illustrator takes care of situations the author has to leave in a hurry. The illustrator must rise to the occasion and put the baby to bed, warm the soup, sweep the floor and show that the rest of the world is going on as usual (p. 178).
She much prefers the illustrations that Reginald Birch for the first edition of Little Lord Fauntleroy (one of her favorite books) to the ones he did for the second edition. "Gone is the sober little lad with the wistful eyes. Instead we see a wriggly girl masquerading in trousers and looking self-consciously from under the frothy wig" (p. 179).

She gives special praise to the following contemporary illustrators:
  • Fritz Eichenberg's pictures for Ermengarde Eberle's Wide Fields. "There is no showy quality about his work; it is all direct and simple and thoroughly sincere (p. 181).
  • Kate Seredy's adaptation of her style to Eva R. Gaggin's An Ear for Uncle Emil. "The pictures sing" (p. 181). Sylvia Plath had this 1939 book in her library and was inspired to copy at least one of the pictures in the book in July 1944. The timing of her copying of the illustration suggests that she read HvS's article in The Horn Book. Sadly, An Ear for Uncle Emil is out of print, despite its two distinguished fans.
  • Feodor Rojankovsky's fresh impressions of a child's view of bus tickets and bottle caps in The Tall Mother Goose, making them as beautiful as flowers (p. 182). It reminds me of Albert Camus, L'automne est un deuxième printemps où chaque feuille est une fleur.
Author-illustrators do not, HvS says, tend to rise to the pitch which two people can achieve together, but neither does it sink to as low a level of disharmony. She singles out Marguerite de Angeli not for the quality of her artwork but for its youthful quality. Her "constant trembling on the verge of an anatomical error" creates a child-like atmosphere. The example she gives is for Tom Robinson's story, In and Out (p. 183).

This article is an education, allowing one to appreciate the finer points of the teamwork between author and illustrator.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

HvS | Nov. 1–10th Anniversary of Her Death

Spike, 1909-1994 (L) and Hilda van Stockum
Marlin, 1908-2006. Photo taken in NJ in 1971.
Nov. 1–Hilda van Stockum died this day, All Saints Day, in 2006. This is the 10th anniversary of her death, and it was celebrated with the issue of a new (2016) edition of her 1975 book The Borrowed House, originally published by Farrar Straus.

The family HvS Remembrances post has recently been updated

Here are some of HvS's many obituaries and appreciations:

New York Times, Nov. 4, 2006, New York Sun, Nov. 3, 2006, Children's Literature NetworkBethlehem BooksPublishers WeeklyHorn BookAna Braga-Henebry's JournalLove2Learn MomTop Ten Sources - Children's MediaHiram LibraryKaren Edmisten BlogMailgate.
CANADA Toronto Globe and Mail, Nov. 2, 2006, National Post, Nov. 9, 2006.
IRELAND Irish Times, Nov. 18, 2006.

UK Books for Keeps, Jan. 2007, Berkhamsted Gazette, Nov. 8, 2006, World People's BlogAchockoblog (Achuka).  
Reissued in 2016.
NETHERLANDS (in Dutch) Het Parool (Amsterdam, WWII Underground Resistance Newspaper), Nov. 9, 2006, Leesplein
GERMANY (in German) German-Language Wikipedia.  
KENYA Daily Nation, Nairobi, Nov. 14, 2006, p. 38. 
NEW ZEALAND Dorothy Neal White Newsletter

Related Posts: HvS English-Language Wikipedia Entry . HvS Dutch-Language Wikipedia Entry . Her brother Willem . European Pilgrimage 1954-55 . New Purple House Press Edition of The Borrowed House . Remembrances by Her Family (Updated to 2016)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

WW2 | Willem van Stockum Gravesite

I have posted elsewhere the memorials to the crew of the two airplanes that crashed during the week of  D-Day.

My wife Alice Tepper Marlin and I attended a reunion of the relatives of the crew members in June 2014, 70 years after the downing of the planes.

In HvS's diary of her travels in 1954, she mentions the trauma she felt on finding her brother Willem van Stockum's gravesite without a marker.

The explanation for the absence of a grave headstone is in the letter dated Feb. 21, 1955 at left from the Imperial War Graves Commission.

Apparently the British were in charge of all the headstones for this gravesite and they made 13 headstones for the British and Commonwealth countries, including the Australian who piloted the second plane.

The Dutch Government was in charge of providing the headstone for Willem. They asked HvS what she wanted written on the headstone and she said: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13."

The headstone was delivered by the government, but without the inscription.

Related Posts: Memorials to Air Crews . HvS Diary of Travels, 1954 . New Edition of The Borrowed House (about WW2) . Letter 1 about The Borrowed House . Letter 2 . Letter 3 . The van Arkel Portrait . Time Bomber

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MARLINS | European Pilgrimage, 1954-55

In front of the VW Bus that took us through Europe. It arrived in Paris in 1954
 and was shipped later to Montreal in 1955. This is Montreal. L to R:
Martin Beausang, Muireann Beausang, Spike Marlin, Hilda vS
Marlin, Lis Marlin, Moira Beausang, Peggy, Thérèse Dwyer. 
[These letters, many to the Dowling family, and notes by HvS were originally transcribed for me from a large family album by two non-French speakers. I have edited a lot and have responded to edits suggested by others but there are still quite a few errors. I spend a little time each week on this. I am also looking for the photos and art work to add, with the idea of its becoming a book. Please send edits or comments to me at Also let me know if you would like to place an advance order for copies of the book if and when published. The length will be about 150 pages and the cost would be about $30 a copy. So far requests have come from Randal Marlin... The longer this list, the higher the likelihood it will be done soon. JTM] 

TABLE OF CONTENTS – By date, location, and page number in original manuscript

February 20, 1954 – Dublin - Mr. Cronin’s lecture on Irish Poetry 2
March 8, 1954 – York – Ampleforth and the Eldons 3
June 1st, 1954 – The Ball at Beulah 4
November 14th  - Dublin - Letter from Elizabeth Huston 4
PARIS - 1954        4
September 22, 1954 - First impression of Paris - Sceaux 4
September 23 - Sceaux 5
September 24 - Sceaux 7
September 25 - Sceaux 8
September 26 9
September 27 10
September 28 11
September 28 12
September 29 13
September 30 13
October 1 14
October 4 15
October 5 17
October 6 17
October 9 19
October 13 21
October 14 22
October 15 23
October 16 24
October 18 26
October 19 27
October 20 28
October 28 30
October 27 31
October 25 34
October 28 35
October 26 37
October 29 38
Christmas Day – Sceaux 1954 39
December 26 - Laval 42
December 27St. John the Evangelist 45
December 29, 1954 - Lourdes 48
December 29, 1954 4 pm with a view on Sunny Lands Cape 49
December 30, 1954 - Lourdes 51
December 31, 1954 – Lourdes to Spain 52
Road to Biarritz 54
1 January 1955 - Biarritz 55
Monday January 3, 1955 - Compostela 56
January 4, 1955 Octave day of the Holy Innocents – Compostela to Portugal Border 60
January 6, 1955 – evening - Fatima 63
January 6, 1955 - Fatima 65
January 6, 1955 - Fatima 69
January 8, 1955 - Alvarez 72
January 9 73
January 10, 1955 74
January 12, 1955 75
January 12, 1955 78
January 13 81
April 10, 1955 – Easter day 83
April 10 - Pisa 84
April 12, 1955 – Rome 87
April 12 – Rome (late in the morning) 88
April 14, 1955 90

DUBLIN, Feb. 20, 1954
Mr. Cronin’s lecture on Irish Poetry

We went to the Contemporary Club and listened to an indefinable and unpredictable miasma of words by Mr. Cronin (Editor of The Bell).  Various intelligent things were said by Mr. Todd Andrews, Mr. John Dowling and Mr. Joe Keading.  Mr. Paddy Kavanagh also spoke with a certain amount of sincerity, dignity and meaning.

Mr. Kavanagh looked sensitive and intellectual, with the addition of a certain seediness.  The atmosphere was rather heated – but I couldn’t discover about what.  I think it was Irish history but I don’t particularly know what period.  There was some question about whether Irish poets were great and whether people could paint chairs as well as van Gogh.  Mr. Cronin said they couldn’t and Mr. Dowling insisted they could.  He said van Gogh’s chair was badly painted.  Someone quoted Padraic Pearse with great emotion whereupon Mr. Kavanagh said it was false sentiment – with which Mr. Andrews agreed.  It wasn’t explained whether the sentiment was false in Mr. Pearse or merely in the poem.  There was a demand for enthusiasm and excitement but the excitement wanted seemed to be that of a lot of steaks and ale and good loving.

There was certain bitterness about the public not accepting writers and a heated debate on which writers were working for acceptance and at even greater bitterness about a writer who, apparently, was being accepted after his death.  This was considered commercialization.  When and how writers should become acceptable was not discussed.  It was said of an Irish writer that he was merely Irish by accident.  It was not said how he could have been Irish on purpose; or whether being Irish on purpose was desirable or even acceptable.  On the whole the motion was put forward that one shouldn’t be anything very definite if one wanted to be a poet.


Ampleforth, The Eldons
Olga and I went to visit the boys at Ampleforth College.  Olga was much impressed by the school, and especially liked meeting Father Denis [Housemaster of St. Thomas, Randal’s house].  I especially liked meeting John Encombe’s parents – Lord and Lady Eldon – a charming couple.  They invited us out to tea the next day and Lord Eldon called for us at the Countess de Lerianne’s guesthouse.  The tea was at the Fairfax Arms – an Inn at Gilling – and there were four or five boys as well as John Encombe and Randal.  There was Scott – John’s younger brother, and two or three cousins.  They were all playing games and later we had tea at which the boys consumed three eggs each.

Lady Eldon told me of a project she and her husband have embarked on.  They have brought an old ruined chapel near Thirsk, which used to be devoted to our Lady, and they are going to put it into use again for the Marian year.  They believe that the body of Margaret Clitheroe may be buried there.  Margaret Clitheroe was a Saint of York – very much beloved. She was the wife of the butcher – who was a Protestant – and who loved her so much he let her say mass in her home and harbor priests, etc.  She had four children and sent the oldest boy to France to be educated – which alone was enough to have her drawn and quartered.  She also adopted a Spanish boy.  Somebody finally gave her up to the police – most people loved her too, much as she was gay and pretty and always doing good, but when she was denounced, the Spanish boy gave her away in his talk and she refused to plead not guilty.  So she was crushed to death under a door.  She was expecting her fifth child.  The body was buried in manure for a month and guarded by soldiers.  But then it was left and friends dug it up and it was still completely intact.  They took it away to give it a Catholic burial, but were overtaken and it disappeared somewhere near Thirsk.  The Eldons believe it may have been buried in that chapel.

On Johnny’s 12th birthday [March 1] we had two of his friends to lunch and tea at the guesthouse and we played games – consequences and charades.  We also saw an actor doing characters from Shakespeare, which we enjoyed very much.  Afterwards we went to Father Denis and had a long talk with him – discussing Randal’s teeth and Olga’s future.  Olga was very grateful for his advice.  He was happy to see Olga again at the Exhibition.  We walked home by starlight.

Elisabeth had influenza and is also on a diet for eczema.  She has grown a lot.  She is writing a play on King Arthur’s Knights.  Olga is singing in Brahm’s requiem at Trinity College tomorrow evening and Joan Dowling and I are going to hear her.  I have started the big picture of the four Dowling girls, which promises to be good.  Brigid did an amusing poster for Randal’s new magazine the Rubaiyat.  Sheila did a nice drawing.

There was another meeting of the Contemporary Club at which Paddy Kavanagh was guest speaker.  Mr. Kavanagh didn’t turn up – which was rather hard on the president of the week, Mr. John Dowling.  The discussion on poetry was carried on in the absence of poets, with less than the usual enthusiasm.

DUBLIN, June 1-Nov. 14 
June 1, The Ball at Beulah
This was the day of our ball. We had got a waiter and maid, crockery, savories and cakes, and Mills Orchestra from Pigott’s.  Chinese lanterns were string out on the trees to greet the arriving guests and the first comers helped hang them. Most of Trinity College arrived, including Prof. Armant and his wife, Mr. Pyle and his wife, Miss Juliette Riveau etc.  There were also Mr. & Mrs. Andrews, Mr. & Mrs. Gore Grimes, John Dowling and two daughters and Daddy, who had stayed over for it.

The orchestra left at 3, after playing “Old Lang Syne” I made a short speech and they all danced around Daddy, me and the three girls.

Olga wore a blue taffeta, very pretty.  Brigid deep pink taffeta, and Sheila blue net.  They all looked lovely.  About 10 couples stayed to dances till six, with one of them at the piano.  We saw the sun rising over the sea.  Beautiful!

November 14, Letter from Elizabeth Huston

Dear Mrs. Marlin,
I just wanted to write and tell you what a lovely, lovely time I had at Olga’s party, the day before yesterday and yesterday!  It could not have been nicer, and all your daughters looked beautiful – and so natural and gay and charming too.  This morning, no, I mean yesterday morning, I saw Olga down at Trinity and she looked just as fresh and radiantly happy as the night before.  It was truly a wonderful dance, and I loved your funny speech and Miss Farrell’s acting too, and I am keeping the sweet little ball book to remind me of one very happy night.
Very sincerely,
Elizabeth Huston
[Sad Note: This was a bright day in Elizabeth Huston's tragic life. She died two or three years later in Texas, apparently a suicide, a shock to her friends Olga and Brigid. I was just 12 years old then, but I remember her as a highly strung person. JTM] 
September 22, 1954 - First impression of Paris - Sceaux
(From letters HvS sent to the Dowlings. She often used carbon paper and made a copy for Evie Hone and kept one for herself.)

Dearest Dowlings,
The plane journey was uneventful (Deo Gratias).  Elisabeth aroused herself as we went up but recovered after a while.  She was very excited about the beauty of the landscape, wanted me to take movies all the time, but I was far too tired and slept through most of the journey. I wasn’t even frightened. I was on the St. Fergal [Aer Lingus planes are named after saints – JTM] and St. Fergal was on the job, so we arrived safely.  

Elisabeth was shocked at a cinema advertisement showing a nude figure [France and Ireland took very different attitudes toward nudity on billboards. JTM].  “Olga warned me about those things”, she said in a scandalized whisper. Sheila was irritated at my obvious foreignness and the number of times I asked questions.  There was nobody to meet us at the Gare des Invalides and the man there suggested that we take the Métro. I don’t know why, but people always immediately assume that I want to save money. I don’t seem to look opulent. So Sheila and I dragged the big bag between us and Lizzy took a small bag and we toiled up and down subway stairs and followed arrows and studied maps and hopped in and out of nerve-racking trams and trod on people’s toes and changed stations and perspired and panted.  

After more than an hour of this we found ourselves in Sceaux Station, where an obliging guard showed us the way to Ave. Charles Péguy. It was pitch dark and the streets were deserted. House numbers were indecipherable. I had to send Sheila to sort them out while I rested in the middle of the street among the baggage. Sheila shouted from the distance that she had found the number. I shouted back to find François. Sheila shouted back that the house was dark – glooming forebodings stirred in me that perhaps I’d have to burgle the house after all – but meanwhile the neighborhood had been aroused by all the shouting, dogs barked, people let down blinds, and Sheila remarked bitterly that we were making a bad impression already.  

Luckily François had also been aroused and met us at the gate, a handsome, clean-shaven man, with nice brown eyes. We made our beds ourselves, though, brown eyes or not – in fact, we sent François off, to his satisfaction.  Then we unpacked and made a frugal meal off mushroom soup, which we’d had the forethought to bring and potatoes fried in olive oil, which we had the luck to find. The house is very French – fully of heavy carved oak furniture, potted plants, rugs-pluck table covers, red velvet bedspreads indirect lamps and interesting ways to wash oneself. I feel as strange as a duck in a hayrick!
September 23 - Sceaux

I have collapsed in bed after an exhausting day with the children.  It’s much too early, of course – a quarter to six.  At 6 I usually would not even be thinking of supper, but we’ve had our length of bread with camembert cheese, yogurt, coffee, fruit and biscuits and I managed to have a bath after pushing a long time on a number of taps.  

It’s a beautiful bathroom, all tiled and chromed, but they’re not people who like to lie in bath, apparently – you can either sit up severely in it or you have to put your feet on the rib neither of which is very comfortable.  This is all to the good, of course, from the French point of view, as it conserves water, no one being likely to want to stay in the bath long enough for it to fill up.  In case one still uses too much water there is a sort of spray – which guarantees to hit only the dirty spots – and a curtain, in case any water was spilt, and thus wasted.  You see, I am getting acclimatized very soon.  I just had a lecture from François on the expense of heating the water and the advisability of having a bath only occasionally, so to speak.  He advises me to have a Bath Day.  Coal must be very expensive here, though I am inclined to think it isn’t that – the house is very well furnished – everything is of good quality, it is a great contrast to Beulah.  In general the French seem to be well off.  But saving apparently is a ruling passion.  

François was showing me all the ways of locking up the house.  Even the gate is locked – and the letterbox.  I asked him if there were many burglars.  He opened his eyes in surprise: “Non Madame, on ne vole pas ici”.  “Then why all the locks?”  “O, c’est mieux, voyez-vous, quand quelqu’un arrive, qu’on le sait avant qu’il est entré, qu’il soit d’abord.” Very well, so all the locks are to keep one’s friends out.  I have a suspicion that the Marlins will manage to forget those locks. I have already forgotten to lock the gate and I’m blowed if I’m getting out of bed to do it.  Then all the shutters, it takes a quarter of an hour to open them all in the morning.  What purpose does it serve?  I like the light. I told François I was going to leave them alone and he just smiled. He is a forgiving sort of man.  

We have peculiar pear trees that grow like rows of beans, quite flat – there are very good pears on them.  They will keep till March. In June we’ll have cherries – there’s a cherry tree too.  

This morning we went to the school to present the children. The school is a delightfully tumble-down building of peeling yellow stucco. The man who received us was charming “Elles sont les petites de Dublin, oui, j’ai entendu qu’elles arriveront”. She wanted to call Sheila “Cecile” and Elisabeth “Lisa”, but the children protested so she obediently tried to say “Sheela” and “Leesee”. She seemed charmed with the girls, especially when I translated two remarks of Lizzy – the first time she asked if the French children were learning English, as she would be the best in that subject, (“Ah! Elle est fine, la petite!), and the other remark was that she wanted to bring sweets to school as it was the easiest way to make friends.  This amused them very much.  

Funnily enough Elisabeth has adjusted herself quicker than Sheila – she is very ambitious to learn French quickly, she says she is not going to let down Zion Hill [their school in Blackrock] – and Sheila walks around with a miserable countenance and says she doesn’t want to make new friends.  She is thoroughly unsettled, keeps taking pictures of Eithne and Hazel out of her pocket and gloating over them and is only mildly amused at anything happening in Paris. 

Since the nuns didn’t want them till tomorrow, I though I’d go on a spree with them.  So I took them into town – I gave them a lunch at a restaurant and took them to the Louvre.  Sheila was interested but Lizzy very bored.  I found myself a little jaundiced too – I fell asleep in front of an enormous Baroque scene from mythology and woke up to find the children gone.  But I found them again among the Primitives.  It was Thursday and we got in free.  I’ve noticed that the French habit of counting everything in units of 1/50 of a Shilling [the Old Franc - JTM] adds to their frugality.  It breaks your heart to part with anything as big as a thousand – it seems so much more than just a pound!  I find everything just a little dream.

The Métro is a shilling into town instead of tenpence as in Dalkey.  Ice cream costs a shilling each – the cheapest is sixpence, and it’s just water ice.

Well, Lizzy insisted on leaving the Louvre and we had just bought an ice when she had a tiff with Sheila.  I asked Sheila not to be so bad-tempered and Sheila flounced off in a huff.  Lizzy couldn’t keep up with her and soon Sheila was lost in the traffic – Lizzy and I walking up and down the Seine in the hope she’d return.  I was wondering what I could do.  Police?  Taxi?  The child had no money and is extremely pretty. I said to Lizzy: “What can I do?”  “Well,” said Lizzy, “All I can think of is to pray.” So I walked to the edge of the road to say a rosary with her and whom should I see walking down below among the fishermen but Sheila – who, by this time, I think had got a fright and was willing to join us again.

We visited the Jardins of Luxembourg, which were crowded, and saw the fountain spouting up and all the little children playing with their sailing ships.  On the way back I fell asleep in the Metro and went past my station, but we finally arrived home.

September 24 - Sceaux
We have adopted a cat and Madeleine Duger stood on my doorstep this morning.  She is coming to stay with us tomorrow.  She says the people she is staying with are so devastatingly polite that she can’t feel comfortable. I went to lie down a bit this afternoon and them was a ring at the door, a Mrs. Schneiter.  She lives next door and came to tell me to call on her for anything I might want.  A very nice lady, and very polite:

“Je suis enchantée d’avoir faite votre connaissance” it all trips off their tongues like so much honey.  I feel very gauche.  In the shops too: “Bonjour Madame” “Merci Madame” “Qu’est-ce que vous voulez, Madame?”  and all I can get out is “Bonjour” and “Oui”, and I never know whether to say Madame or Mademoiselle.  The French take their manners seriously.  

Madeleine is very impressed with the seriousness of the French.  She says the little boy of 14 where she stayed had to work terribly hard – no games for him – and the examination they have to go through is terrifically stiff.  I wonder how the girls will make out.  They went to their school for the first time today – Sheila very nervous, desperately afraid of doing the wrong thing, or me or Elisabeth doing the wrong thing, and Elisabeth planning her plan de campagne like a true Napoleon armed with sweets to make friends, and a dictionary  right through it displaying a wholly misleading air of devotion.  

The girls just came back and fell on the food I had for them: chicken soup (yes, I know, I forgot it was Friday) and potatoes boiled in skin (sweet little ones with brown skins) and artichokes (hoary old bearded warriors, which I had better have left in the shop), peaches and a delicious French cake, which really tastes the way it looks.  They said school is only over at a quarter to five and it begins at 8:30 am.  They have one hour for lunch and no recess. Sheila was exhausted but Elisabeth was composed. “I was the center of attraction,” she announced in a satisfied voice.  Apparently she had taken her dictionary and tried to ask the time, which resulted in her getting a wholesale lesson in French.  Sheila learns Spanish and Italian as well as Latin.  She says the nuns are very nice, but the children take it for granted, they are used to it.  But they keep patting girls on the head, etc.

The lady next door has a girl Lizzy’s age and two boys of 18 and 20, who like ping pong  and I presume girls, as the lady was cordial about inviting us.  So there will be a field of action for my offspring right at the doorstep.  Their father has a car and knows English.  There is enough room to dance in and I don’t think it’ll be dull.

September 25 - Sceaux
It is really a delightful old place, Sceaux, and they have markets here twice a week, everything is cheaper then, so people from out with basket carts and voluminous handbags to do their shopping.  I went to 7 o’clock mass and already the shops were opening.  Old ladies in gray underclothes with curl papers in their hair were putting out bins and men in shirtsleeves were opening the shutters.  Everything is shuttered and barred at night, really the job of burglary must be reckoned among the skilled professions here.  I hear from François that there are no Protestants at all in this village and it seems very devout – masses from 6 am up – and people at all of them and lots of communicants.  The church has lots of atmosphere.  It is gothic with gray painted arches and fluted gray stone pillars, the ground is worn by feet and all the windows have take medieval stained glass – not up to Evie but better than the glass in Dalkey. When I came out of the church after mass at 7:30 the markets tall were being put up and I was able to buy a nice ripe melon for about 1/9, which isn’t expensive by Irish standards.  So we breakfasted on melon and yogurt.  Already  François was at work when I arrived home and he has been working steadily ever since, making the house shine.  Then I went off to do my shopping and by the time I arrived at the market the place was full of shuffling old men and women bargaining.  A lady insisted on my drinking a cup of soup, which she made for e then and there out of a sort of samovar – and then she made me buy four soup cubes.  But my mind was not on food – so I walked on a bit and entered a park.  A beautiful avenue of trees led to an old chateau, of great dignity and beauty, with formal gardens laid out in front of it.  Gardeners were at work keeping it all tidy.  It stood there, lonely and beautiful and remote, dreaming of a past with kings and queens and knights in armour.  Then it began to drizzle and I felt very sad and went back to the market. There I cheered up because of the most interesting food.  Little shells, like snail shells, with green stuff in them, and things like earrings and other delicacies like that, which I didn’t buy.  But all the varieties of cheese – I just pictured digging into them – and the wines!! And the most delightful pastry and all sorts of vegetables you never see in Ireland very their French beans and celery roots and all sorts or pickles and fresh walnuts – there was no end to it.  

Poor François  has a hard life of it.  He has one daughter Sheila’s age whom he calls “la Petite”.  He and his wife work at the Lycée.  He cleans and janitors for 8 hours a day and she cooks for a thousand children.  He has Monday in which he does his own wash, which he hangs up when he comes home in the evening.  Besides his work at the Lycée he keeps two gardens – this one and that of some countess or other, and does 2 half-day jobs on the house here.  He approves of religion: “Quand on ne crois pas, on est comme les bêtes,” he says, “Et quand on crois, tout est plus legère.”  He is another saint.

September 26
Madeleine Dwyer is with us, and a godsend to the children.  She is 17 and romps with Sheila and plays cards with Lizzy and seems happy to be with us.  It brings a bit of cheer in the house.  Mass this morning was beautiful. I told you how lovely the church was.  I was noticing the gilt and paint on the pillars and arches, this morning.  We went to high mass at a quarter past nine, and it is sung by the whole congregation in Gregorian chant.  It is an entirely different atmosphere from Ireland.  In Ireland there are crowds and cheap art, and a thick atmosphere of real, but private devotion.  It is very alive but not very intelligent.  Here there are no crowds, but there is no cheapness, and everything is very intelligent and the mass is a corporate thing – one senses little private devotion.  Madeleine Dwyer was much impressed by it.  I can imagine people like Tod Andrews finding it easier to be a Catholic in France.  But poor Peggy would be lost here. I miss the little candles – few candles are lit here – it is difficult to get them.  I used to love the masses of candles burning before Our Lady. It was easy to be a Catholic in Ireland, it takes an effort here, but I feel I shall learn a lot – and I was reflecting on the marvelous thing it is – the same church, the same religion, the same ceremony with all these national differences to lend colors and interest.  I am already very fond of the French.  I thought today at mass that they are the most civilized people in the world.   Here is real civilization – the English have a civilization of manners but the French civilization is of the mind.  When I had attended that beautiful mass with its dignity, art and mellow beauty I went to walk in the Parc de Sceaux – past the Chateau of Sceaux of which I told you in my last letter – and the thing was again a revelation of French thought and life to me.  You have no idea of the grandeur of that park. 

The space used is terrific and the planning too – enormous square basins of water – terrace like descending with avenue of arched trees disappearing into the distance.  One vista after another of planned formal avenues – lakes with swans, beautifully mowed, sloping lawns – covering acres and acres with indescribable grandeur and aristocratic dignity.  Walking under those immense trees, I reflected on the French character that was expressed in this park – and contrasted it with similar parks in USA and Britain.  They just can’t do it, they haven’t the grandiosity.  The French have a magnificent seriousness.  They believe in their own dignity and in the nobility of feelings, they are always grand.  And their parks, for all their grandeur, don’t look opulent. The grandeur has a sad and seedy look, as if waiting for the royalty that was exiled.  I feel the French are orphans without a king and they are secretly building all these grandiose mansions in the hope that their king will come back.  They have been robbed of what was most theirs, their knights and kings and princesses and they are now just patching up their faded old garments and waiting – with a sad but dignified resignation.  I felt all those things as I walked under the soaring poplars beside the rectangular lake and looked into the long distance of more rectangular lakes and further avenues – and I loved France.

September 27
St. Therèse Day
This afternoon I went to church and saw a christening – quite moving – I love the French majestic sentences and there was such a family interest over a dozen people participated, it was obvious by a great occasion.  The baby didn’t cry.  Then I went to vespers, which are sung in turn by the congregation and the choir.

The choir is three nuns and they have lovely voices.  After that there was benediction, which is called “Le Salut” and the rosary in French – and then a distribution of roses, little artificial flowers, which the priest blessed before us all and then they had evening mass if you please, every Sunday at 6 pm.  I find this an extremely interesting church.  On Sunday everybody goes walking with their families.  They all go to the park or sit in the café opposite the church, which has little tables and chairs in the street.

Sheila says that at school they learn Latin from the missal.  She got the gospel for St. Thérèse to do today.  It seems very sensible.  Sheila takes her work very seriously and has already been praised for being so good.  She met some school friends on the street and solemnly shook hands with them all.  Then she came to me, blushing like a peony.  “Everybody shakes hands here,” she whispered, “And everybody kisses – the big girls kiss their little sisters all the time. It is very embarrassing”.  

It seems that French people are very fond of cats.  There is a lady here who walks around with a cat on a string, like a dog.

September 28
Madeleine told me interesting things about the family she stayed with.  She admired them very much.  The mother has six boys and as she cannot rule them by force she just charms them and is adored by the whole family. Children are not allowed at the communal table till they are 12 and then they are supposed to take an intelligent part in the conversation.  Papa has a terrifying knowledge.  Table conversation would be something like this: The mother would turn graciously to one of the younger children and ask him what he had experienced at a trip he had made.  The child would proudly respond and make a big effort at description – mentioning different architecture and shapes of windows – types of wood.  Papa would take this up and say “Oh, this reminds me, when I was at…” and give the benefit of his experience – whereupon one of the other children would add some school knowledge.  The conversation would become general and Mad says it is all on a terrifically high intellectual level.  She says here this is taken for granted and the examinations are accordingly.  

Whereas in Ireland you sit for subjects and are examined on subjects, here you are expected to have general knowledge and the oddest questions are jumped at you.  Certainly French people can talks and they have made a high art of living.  As Madeleine says, they talk because they really want to know.  I think the French really try to rule themselves by reason.

Madeleine and I were philosophizing about this and about the difference between the Irish and the French and we agreed that the Irish talk for emotional reasons – to be admired or to win hearts – but the French talk for intellectual reasons.  The Irish have grand intelligences but they don’t use them to rule their lives.  They live on their emotions and because their reason doesn’t rule them their emotions get out of hand.  Instead of using their reason to curb their emotions, they think up emotional reasons for curbing them – religion especially – and this has turned their emotions against each other, creating hopeless impasses, which are inhibitions. 

The French are not as afraid of their emotions because they have no intention of allowing them to get away with them. In a way this is not so sympathetic, there is something cold and calculating about it. All this savoir faire and intellectualism can lead to heartless machinery. But that is after all what can happen too, to the Catholic religion and to all perfect expressions. If one withdraws the heart it becomes valueless, like a well-run home without a mother.  It is the duty of the French to have their emotions keep pace with their sense – if they don’t, it’s their fault, but their way of life is correct. We were meant to be ruled by reason and there is a fitness and order about things in France that appeals immediately.  The French know that they have to work at personal relationship – they take nothing for granted. They have a word and expression for everything. It is instructive and interesting. 

Sheila is happier already.  I think you are right in what you say about her.  She is now passionately anxious to be “correct” in this school.  We have had to purchase two aprons for the girls, blue, long sleeved aprons, much more sensible than uniforms, and serving the same purpose.  I am tying up Lizzy’s fringe and she looks very French now.  

The boy next door came to visit us about 9 last night (I had gone to bed – getting up at 6 is making itself felt at the other end), and Madeleine entertained him alone.  She says he is a nice boy.  He asked her if she was “romantique” and she said “Non”.  They discussed a girl who had just committed suicide because she was in love with a Spanish boy (I confess it isn’t very reasonable but exception prove the rule). I think the boy is interested in Sheila but Sheila refused to come down.  The male sex is at present anathema to her.  Anything not called Eithne or Hazel has no attractions.  This boy, he is called Alain, has just done his bachaud [baccalaureate] and can talk of nothing else.  It is a tremendous achievement in France – a very difficult examination and after it you are a MAN.  He is allowed to drive his father’s car in two weeks.  I suppose our word bachelor comes from it – and denotes the juvenility of the unmarried state when not dedicated to religion.  Now Alain is eager to see the world and obviously expects to find the world here.  This is the third time he has come in one week!  And he keeps asking after the other girls who are still to come.  Just think – to have finished with school, to be conscious of being a nice, charming young man and have parental favor shining on you for good behavior and be presented by a houseful of pretty young girls next door.  Doesn’t it seem as if God Himself has been rewarding his labor?

September 28
We are beginning to fall into a routine now.  I wake up at 6, get up and go to 6:30 mass – walking through deserted streets.  Today I was the only one who made the responses, quite thrilling.  Then, at 7, when I come out, all the shops are opening.  There is a nice little bakery opposite the church where I buy a yard and a half of bread and a pain d’épice, a spiced bread, rather like honey cake.  Farther on I buy melons and figs and milk and arrive home at about twenty past seven.  Then I start breakfast – eggs and fruit and bread and honey and call the children.  They have to leave at 8 to be at school at 8:30.  They take some bread and fruit with them because lunch at school is mostly soup.  They also take a napkin, knife, fork, spoon and mug with them.  They stay at school till quarter to five.   Meanwhile I tidy up a bit, collect my post, answer letters and do my second shopping for the day.  Then I make lunch for myself and Madeleine have a nap and do some exploring in the neighborhood until 6 when I make supper.  Of course later on I’ll be going to Paris everyday with the girls.  

Yesterday I went to Paris and Monique met me at the Luxemburg station.  She helped me to get a taxi to the ecole des Beaux Arts, where I wanted to register Brigid.  I found I could not register her, as she has first to be approved by the Professeurs.  She has to make two drawings, one life and one antique and they have to be sent in before October 9. 
Afterwards we went to the bank and had lunch at the little restaurant near the Luxemburg.  Monique is working for an exam on October 9.  She was very sweet and cordial.  We have already had an accident.  The children spilled a bottle of milk on the plucke [?] tablecloth.  It was washable milk and would have been all right if they hadn’t washed it with eau de javelle – which bleached the thing.

September 29
We have our first party today.  Mr. & Mrs. Schneites with their son and daughter, the neighbors.  Dominique, the little girl, is rather like Evie, and Lizzy is delighted with her.  They vanished to play cards.  Elisabeth had dressed herself up for them.  They arrived at about nine and sat on the dark-blue pluche sofa and we had indirect lighting out of two lamps and a little mirror table on which I’d put cups for coffee – they serve coffee here in the evening.  I think they are very nice people but our bad French is a bit of a barrier.  They wanted to see some of my work but all I had was Lizzy, Mrs. O. Faolain’s picture and John’s profile, which they admired. Mrs. Schneites has promised to take me to a Benedictine church nearby where there seems to be a marvelous preacher.  He works among the workers and seems to have a very simple, direct style.  She says it will be very easy to get into contact with the Abbé Pierre, who will, however, rope me in to do work for him she says.  As a matter of fact, workers in what is needed and anybody willing will be snatched up.  It sounds interesting.  Mr. Schneites is an interesting man too.  He comes from Berne, Switzerland, and builds boats in his free time, sailboats, with cabins, cushions and everything.  
Sheila tore herself away from her letters to Eithne and Hazel, and honored us with her company.  She looked extremely pretty, sitting on the floor.  Madeleine talked to Alain, who was very much there with an air of proprietorship.  It was not up to my Beulah evenings. I missed the fire and my friends, but it was, I think, a success.  As far as Lizzy is concerned it certainly was, and we have found out that Dominique was born 23 of March, exactly a month before Elisabeth.
“It is all very well,” said Elisabeth, “to have friends at school. I’d rather have one near home”.  They have very much the same serious expressions and grave demeanors so I think they’ll get on splendidly.  Elisabeth has lost her bands again – her teeth bands – in my bed, of all places, where she spent day with a tummy ache. François and I ransacked the place but they have completely disappeared.
September 30
Thursday is a free day for the children.  They work all day in Saturday.  On Thursday all the museums are free – so I’ll be taking them out today, in the hope that Sheila will be behaving herself this time.

There are an awful lot of mirrors in this place.  Two full length ones in my bedroom – two doors with mirrors in the hall (to prevent you going out with your slip showing) and of all things a mirror top on the coffee table.  If I ever was in love with my own appearance I assure you the romance is over.  Anything more awful than looking down at what looks up at you from a mirror-table when you are cleaning up dirty coffee cups can scarcely be imagined. Mrs. Muriel Brandt picture of me was a Venus de Milo beside it.  No wonder the French are realists!  And a great wonder the coffee cups aren’t broken!

One of the ways French economy and taste shows itself in the vases with dead flowers.  They are beautifully arranged and very pretty, but they are definitely past resurrection.  Dead grasses – dead grain husks – dead leaves, these things we call Judas pennies and you call something else, plumes, etc.  There are two of four huge vases filled with them and they prevent me succumbing to the beautiful live mimosa and dahlias and other living creatures at the marketplace, because I don’t dare to throw them out.

We had market day yesterday. You can buy everything there, even pictures, very nice oil paintings in frames.  People actually want pictures here.  Most of them were of an earlier epoch but one was painted recently.

October 1
Today I went with Madeleine to a fashion show.  She had a ticket for two and wanted me to come.  I had only seen one in Dun Laoghaire, which was extremely boring but I thought perhaps France would be different and at any rate it seemed a kindness to Madeleine – so we went – it all was very intimate and hush, hush and excessively polite – Madame this and Madame that – a circle of critical females sat in an elegant room with buff-colored carpet and buff-colored curtains. 

Several ladies whom Madeleine admired very much, with wasp waists and practically stilts for heels moved up and down in a more natural manner, I must confess, than in Dun Laoghaire.  Perhaps I don’t know beauty when those plucked eyebrows and tinted lips and carefully graded complexions seemed to tell me so little that I didn’t particularly want to look at the faces and it seemed to me the dresses and coats were all the same – they all had the same sort of look – rather short, with big collars, straight line – most collars like this (drawing).  And the dresses all had sleeves that were pushed up to do the wash – that sort of things (drawing).  And then they had a kind of feed bib, some of them, like this (drawing) that looked downright silly, like a horse with his bunch.  Being very bored and having been presented with a white paper, for what purpose I don’t know, perhaps to write down the names of dresses – they all had magnificent names like “Lerge” and “Nic”, etc., I made some sketches to send you and Maurice until a very indignant lady took them away from me and said it was “Tout à fait interdit de dessiners”, that it was all very private and secret and made me feel like a spy.  So after not being interested I offended by showing too much interest. 

Well, I took it meekly and sat out some more dresses until I asked Madeleine whether she wanted to see more – she said no – so we left, but I think she would have liked to see more.  She was really interested.  I suppose it is necessary to interest oneself in these things, but after having given it, I hope, a FAIR TRY I say it is an entertainment NOT FOR ME.

P.S. Madeleine just tells me that the funniest thing about it… that I created a sensation. They thought I was “Madame de Martignac”, whoever she is, and a rival couturier or something.  Madeleine says they kept whispering “C’est Madame de Martignac” and talking to me but I didn’t understand and said “C’est bon”, in a distrait manner you can understand how fishy they thought it that I started to sketch!

October 4
I enclose a rose, which was distributed on the feast day of little Thérèse – as you see you won’t have any trouble preserving it.  They are very practical, the French.  Most of the candles on the High Altar are electric, long white candles with electric bulbs at the end – the height of bad taste. Of course, the rubric prevents them having all the candles electric, there are a certain number of real ones, but you can see they would prefer clean, labor-saving, money-saving electricity if it were allowed.  I have now a new prayer: “Dear Lord, let me be a true candle, and not an electric light, before your Face.” I have always loved candles, with their straight, pure, sacrificial bodies, their leaping, fragrant, boring flames and long, melting tears.  There is something human about them.  The effortless glare of hard round bulbs doesn’t speak to me at all.  Yes, I love candles.  

Yesterday evening I was invited out by the Schneites.  I had telephoned that I accepted their invitation but Alain received the message and promptly forgot it.  When I arrived at 9 pm in my best togs, the family had gone to bed and the door was opened by Alain in his pajamas.  I asked him – had he not transmitted the message? “Oh mon Dieu!” he cried in a tone of anguish and rushed upstairs to tell the calamity to his parents.  

I heard a great deal of whispering upstairs and Mrs. Schenites demanded a bathrobe.  Presently she appeared, in a pretty red one, I said I understood the situation and would return home, but she pressed me to stay.  So, without taking off my coat and she her bathrobe we had a two-hour chat!  I spoke mostly, I confess – which is quite a feat, as I spoke in French since she knows no English.  It just shows you that you can’t stop a gabbler.  We began by talking about teeth, always an interesting subject.  I told her about Elisabeth having lost her bands again and she said that Alain had projecting teeth and that the dentist had scolded her for not having them corrected, but she said she didn’t think them so bad. I said I hadn’t noticed it and anyway, what did it matter for a boy, the girls would love him anyway.

This immediately struck a spark for she became animated and said “Yes, women didn’t love men for their beauty, it was different for women, when their beauty went they were thrown into the ashcan”. I felt that was going a bit far and I wanted to console her, so I said I didn’t think men cared as much for beauty as all that, that the mind mattered too. “Ah, the mind!” she said, and snapped her fingers, “I know a beautiful girl, she hasn’t brains, but everybody stares at her when she comes into the room. She isn’t completely stupid. When I tell a joke, nobody listens, but she does and repeats it afterwards and “then it is a success… for I tell you – that is true!” 

I said I believed her but surely one could gain something upon growing older, “Ah well”, she said with characteristic French shoulder-shrugging, “I suppose one gets serenity and all that, it is true that one is not happy when one is young, one wants too much, but still, it is very nice to be 20”, I couldn’t help laughing.  “One gains charity when one grows older”, I encourage her, but she doubted that. “I do not do much for the poor” she said (she is always talking about the poor). 

“Ah well, that is not the only charity” I told her, “There is charity towards one's husband, for instance”.
“Ah, but that is difficult!” she said immediately.  I love her for it.  The French are certainly honest.  She has a very nice husband, by the way, and it is a charming family.  
I acknowledged that it was difficult, “Ah yes,” she said, “I suppose one could gain Heaven that way” but she didn’t seem attracted by the prospect; “It is sad,” she resumed “To lose one’s beauty – not to be attractive any more” (according to my eyes she hasn’t lost her beauty at all, her skin is a bit old but she has a charming face with bright intelligent eyes, a kind mouth, a sensitive nose and charming gestures and beautiful  breeding – what more could one wish?).  So I granted her that one didn’t get whistled at in the street any more or provide titillation to shop assistants.
“But is that so important?” I asked, “And is the physical side of love so important? Aren’t there other relationship with their own beauty?” she pulled a charming little face of discontent.
“No”, she said, “I like physical love.” 
It was all very frank and disarming “Quand on le peut pas encore, on ne peut pas – mais c’est dommage”.  I think I shall enjoy being friends with her.  Her attitude is refreshing to me.  She doesn’t look at all like a woman who is sensual.  I don’t think she is, either.  I think it is just the realism and honesty of the French – whereas in the English civilization one hides these things and pretends they are otherwise.

I told her of my visit to the Haute Couture and she didn’t notice that it was funny.  She quite seriously explained how wrong it had been of me to make sketches. Oh, of course, she understood I didn’t know – but in the Haute Couture, that could be punished severely. “Of course,” she ended, with a little smile, “We all make sketches in our own minds and tell them to our seamstresses afterwards, but to do it on paper, no.
I told her that in my distress I’d left my gloves there and didn’t dare go back for them.  She was horrified at that.  “Mais assurément – you must go back, you cannot let your gloves go – you must expliquer.”  I said I didn’t know how. “Oh, we’ll go together”, she said.  “I will take you in my car and we will see exhibitions and then we will go and explain to this lady and get your gloves”.  So I have an appointment now for Wednesday.  Dominique and Elisabeth get on marvelously.  They can’t speak together but they understand each other perfectly and laugh all the time. I think this is going to be a fertile relationship.

October 5
I saw an exhibition of dahlias yesterday, a curious exhibition. In Holland that would have been made into a picturesque mass of colors, but here it was straight beds full of flowers all ticketed as to their varieties and names without any attempt at artistry.  All sorts of funny people went around with pieces of paper, writing down names and varieties and handling the flowers and being frightfully scientific and learned about it.  The shops here are enigmatic.  They are always open when you think they are closed and closed when you think they are open. They open at 7 am and close (on Mondays at least) at 11 am, then they open again at 4 until all hours in the evening. It is handy, I must confess.
Today I am going to bring Brigid’s drawings to the Beaux Arts. Her life drawing isn’t good. I wish she had sent better ones.

October 6
There is a loaf here called Fichelle – very long and thin and crisp. I eat so much of it, I am getting a double chin!  Loaves have the must romantic names here but I haven’t got them all sorted out yet. Fichelle is very nice though, don’t you think?  It might be a girl’s name. You couldn’t ever call a girl “Slice Pan” (unless she had been to a beauty expert who made a mess of his surgery).  

By the way, talking about beauty, I went to bring Brigid’s drawings to the École des Beaus Arts and walked along the beautiful avenue St. Germain.  There’s a medical hand of the Université de Paris right beside the École des Beaux Arts and they had the most fascinating medical books in an enormous medical bookshop.  

I couldn’t help staring at them.  There were at least three enormous volumes on childbirth without pain and then there was an interesting booklet on how to keep your face young and one on how to keep thin.  I couldn’t resist going in and asking to have a look at them.  I was a very posh bookshop and there was a very elegant and well-groomed lady attendant.  She had to get the books out of the étalage; she seemed to have only one copy of them.  When I asked for the book on the visage she didn’t show much interest and handed it to me.  I soon found out that it was all about how to put powder on and electrical massage and that sort of thing, but my appearance in the mirrors of the house haunted me so I timidly asked for the book about “Maigre” you should have seen her face.  One broad grin. “You poor funny thing,” she might have said in so many words. “What do you think you’re doing?” I had a look at it and soon found out it contained a lot about glands and that sort of thing.  I asked her how much it cost and as it was over 400 francs I laid it down with a sigh.  “Je pense que je pouvrai devenir maigre plus bon marché” I told her and you should have seen her grin!

I had my first hot chestnuts on that same boulevard – lovely hot chestnuts, which one couldn’t very well let get cold.  I soon repented of my purchase, as it somehow didn’t seem quite the thing to be walking along the boulevard casting chestnut skins about and guzzling their contents.  I hastily finished them and tried to look afterwards as if I’d never seen a chestnut in my life (that’s when I went into that bookshop).
I found out at the École des Beaux Arts that Brigid has to have far more work in than just two drawings so I had to send her a telegram to send more – before Friday if you please.
I was reading out geography to Sheila yesterday. I have to translate her lessons for her and it is very interesting to me what they tell children about the USA, very subtle but very unmistakable propaganda against USA and for USSR.  Constant references to the need of amicable settlements and how USSR is part of Europe and treating USA as something alien, which is taking over industries and power, which used to belong to Europe. It is really very instructive for my children to learn the attitude of so many different countries.

I have had the most interesting afternoon and after giving the children a sketchy dinner of baked beans, fried eggs, bread, cookies and coffee I settle down to tell you all about it.
We went to a “Magasin”, which has a booklet, which tells all about what it sells, with the prices – I am sending it.

Monsieur Schneites brought us in his car to the city and the first thing we did was to go to La Grande Chaumière, a sort of place when professional painters go to get lessons.  It is 3 pounds for four weeks of mornings or afternoons.  I’m waiting for my paints to arrive before I enlist.  I’ll do it for a month and see.  It’s a many-roomed [?] place, with small ateliers of studios, very warm and dusty and very strange looking characters – decrepit bearded old men, mannish looking women, untidy young men, etc.
After that we went to a painter called Monsieur Le Long, who lives at the top of a house near la Chaumière, up very, very dirty stairs with very rickety balustrades and finally we arrive at a studio, which has the name of Madeghani because that artist worked there once.  Monsieur Le Long is a very elderly man, half paralyzed, with beautiful Irish eyes.  He told me he came from Brittany when I said he looked Irish.  “C’est la même”, he said.  He is the painter whose work I admired at Madame Schneites’ with all the light on the landscape.  He makes tender pictures, a bit dreamy, full of light.  His wife, who according to Mrs. Schneites is no better than she should be – with an illegitimate grandchild – two generations of illegitimacy – quite a feat.  At any rate, the wife had her charms too.  She was, definitely, no longer young and I don’t think she kills herself washing and cleaning, but she has the sort of smile on her face that makes a place a home. I think if I were a man I’d sell all my material comforts for a smile like that.  Mrs. Schneites, however, doesn’t approve of her.  And perhaps it was because of that smile her irregularities occurred, who knows?

We next went to try and retrieve my gloves, and passed an art exhibition – a semi-private one – something like Waddington’s.  It was extremely interesting.  There were pictures by an Austrian called Fuchs – Ernst Fuchs.  It is a most marvelous technique.  He never went to art school and taught himself, but he learnt the technique of the old painters out of books and paints with egg, honey, etc, on parchment.  His drawing is exquisite, his detail so delicate, it almost breaks as you look at it.  It is very like the work of Heronymus Bosch – but with a difference.  I can’t help but feel there’s decadence in his work.  It is terribly unpleasant but it wrings your heart with admiration – the colors are beautiful.  He has the most extraordinary fantasies and surrealistic touches. 

We next went upstairs where we saw a very interesting thing – painting done in wax.  Heated wax is applied to any surface, stone, wood, paper, glass – it adheres perfectly and makes a very permanent picture in slight relief.  The artist did the stations of the cross for a church in Normandy, a 12th century church, which had been damaged by bombs and is now being reconditioned by various artists. The stations are very moving, though again the macabre and the harsh were emphasized rather than the love with which Christ’s offering was made.  She has captured the agony of suffering in Christ’s face in a way I’ve never seen before.  There is little tenderness and no relief in those stations but I thought it might be a salutary thing to realize that that probably was the way it felt to Him.

Afterwards we went to the salon where I thought I had lost my gloves but didn’t find them.  Perhaps they will turn up all right.  Then we went to the store and had tea.  And we talked. She is a charming woman.  I told her I envied her skinniness but she pulled a face and said her husband didn’t like it that she had grown so thin.  She has charming little expressions on her face and lovely gray eyes and a wonderful sense of humor.  She kept wanting to buy things and I kept telling her “what do you want that for?” so she didn’t. 
“Oh mon mari vous aimerait,” she said “Parce qu’il ne veut pas que j’achète des choses.” Later I told him that she had said this. “Ah, je ne vous aimerai pas, je vous adorerais,” he said promptly.  I indicated that I was satisfied. More it was not reasonable to expect.  Not only did I manage to keep my end up in the conversation, but I told her several jokes at which she laughed. She says I’ll learn French very quickly, and very well, that I have a feeling for it.  “Vous avez des finesses,” she said.

October 9
Today Lizzy sighed: “I’d give anything for one more day – no, two more days at Beulah!” Yet she is quite happy and has a nice friendship with Dominique and I believe Dominique’s mother likes me.  Funnily enough she is called Jeanne.  I asked her to go to a movie with me yesterday, but she was so sorry, she had been with a friend to the theatre but she’d rather have stayed and gone to the movie with me.  She has invited me to go to 11 am Mass at the Benedictine church tomorrow.  At 4 o’clock I am expecting my Dutch friends and they are to stay for a few nights.  My luggage hasn’t come yet and they had only two clean sheets.  They’re very expensive here, but at the market I found some white material, which was a bit narrow but would just do – 10 francs each – not bad, eh?

Today I went to have my hair done by a fierce, fat little woman, who gave me the impression of eagerly chasing every chance of earning a franc.  She had no time for me but she hated to let me go and she got me to come and be done in installments – in between her hopping about to help customers, all with a passion and eagerness worthy of a great cause.  Quite un-Irish but rather touching. She was a nice creature and had very artistic hands.  When she had done my hair I praised it and I liked to see the warmth of her smile break through her worried look as she gave me some extra touches and extra sprays of eau de cologne.  She was really happy at having done a good job.  It is called her “Lavage et faire au plis” as if it were laundry.

October 13
My guests have left this morning and the visit was a great success.  I confess to a certain anxiety on that subject, which was confirmed when they arrived, as they were obviously out of sorts.  It was like sending two wilted plants.  I began by giving them lovely food – I served them Roquefort cheese (his favorite), cream cheese (her favorite), artichokes (his favorite), champignons (her favorite), etc., etc.  They had breakfast in bed and they were very grateful for that – though I hate it myself and pitied them as I saw them wandering about in bathrobes and eating on the edge of their beds.  I get all sorts of undeserved praise for giving people breakfast in bed, as I really think it is much easier.  You concentrate for a moment and then you know they’re happily supplied and can think of something else.  You don’t have to keep HOVERING.  

We agreed we would go to Paris the first afternoon.  In the morning I had a nice chat with Winnie about all her troubles while Lex went wandering about Sceaux, enjoying his own male company.  Then we had a quiet little nap [?], Madeleine and the girls being away, and afterwards we went to Paris.  Winnie wanted to shop, and Lex and I were going to go to the Louvre – but it was such a lovely day, that we decided to walk about Paris instead. He knows Paris very well and conducted me to the Notre Dame, La Sante Chapelle, another church of which I have forgotten the name, and a little Greek Catholic church very near the Sorbonne.  I want to go to Mass there sometime.  Paris was at its best – a filtered sunlight gently bathing a lazy Seine with singed trees glowing dimly on either side – faint mists wreathing the distant blue spires and buildings and here and there the wing of a bird or the gentle floating of a fallen leaf.  And I got bits of history told me, and snatches of poetry recited to me – as Lex is not only extremely well read and well versed in everything a man should know but has learnt endless poetry by heart and pulls Verlaine and Alfred de Musset out of his sleeve at the drop of a hat.  So that I can truly say I enjoyed that afternoon, though my feet suffered in the high heels – my low shoes being still with my absent luggage.  

We met Winnie at the Louvre and had tea at a teashop nearby, and home again, where we had to hurry to get dinner ready in time as I had asked the Schneiters over en masse.  Of course we were not ready when they arrived but it didn’t matter, and we had a lovely evening talking French and discussing world politics, art, the Matisse Chapel at Vence, religion, etc.  I managed to impart my views notwithstanding the handicaps of the language – though I caught a sardonic smile on the face of Lex several times during the evening, he having been my French teacher at school 30 years ago!

One of the things we discussed was Matisse’s work on the chapel at Venice.  It is a
Dominican church but it is a now called after Mattisse, which seems wrong, somehow.  
Both Mrs. Scheniter and Lex had seen it.  Mrs. Schneiter was enthusiastic but Lex didn’t like it – he said there was absolutely no spirit of devotion, it had become a tourist place with strangers wandering in and out looking at Mattisse’s drawings.  His impression was that it was horrible.

The next day was another lovely day of sunshine and we decided to go on a picnic to Chevreuse, a village at the end of our tramline here.  It supposed to be a beauty spot.  I hadn’t got my thermos bottle so I bought a bottle of wine, François told me what to buy.  We had rolls with ham and cheese, wine, crispy waffles and fruit and we ate it in a little park at the edge of a little stream – the Yvette, which threads its way into the Seine. Our view was beautiful – on rolling fields with a little castle on top of a hill.  I had my watercolors with me and Lex fetched me water from the Yvette in a wine glass, and almost dropped it, in the process.  Winnie can’t walk very well and sat and chatted with me while Lex explored the neighborhood.  Later I went and painted the church in the village.  That was done in 20 minutes.  Both are typically French views, I think, which was confirmed by Lex, who has traveled far more than I.  He was sorry he hadn’t bought his own painting things.  We were tired that evening and went early to bed.  This morning 
I brought them to the train.  They were both smiling and relaxed and at peace with the world.  Winnie said it had been the nicest part of their holidays!

October 14
The girls have come back, Deo Gratias.  They and Mr. Dwyer and Therese arrived last night, bringing me the last news of you.  But their hearts are very much in Ireland still.  I had a lovely dinner for them and I think Mr. Dwyer enjoyed it, though neither he nor the girls had enough appetite to enjoy the veal roast I’d got ready with such fear and trembling.  Mr. Dwyer took Therese and Madeleine off to a hotel afterwards and I got all the stories from the girls and this morning Olga went to early mass with me.  

We went to the bank and the Kodak shop to see our color films and took the wrong bus afterwards and when the conductor put us off we were in front of the Printemps and the girls sucked me inside, wanting to buy presents for their friends.  But of course there wasn’t anything really worth buying and meanwhile we got separated and only found each other again by accident, as it were.  

It is extraordinary how extra wills and voices added to our company shows down our action – Brigid wanted the Louvre-Lizzy wanted Notre Dame-Olga wanted coffee-Sheila wanted to buy presents for her friends and I wanted PEACE.  Then Elisabeth dropped the bombshell that she had left her drawing book in the bank and we had to go back at the risk of our lives, crossing hazardous streets and consulting the map ever so often – only to find that the bank was CLOSED for lunch.  After that we thought we ought to have lunch too, but the only reasonable restaurant I know is the one in which I wrote my first postcard, at the Luxemburg – and how to get there?  We were at the Opera.  I consulted my traveling book and we found that bus 21 would bring us there. It looked very easy on the map – but we had to traverse more wide streets with cars caring nothing for our lives and when we arrived breathless at the bus stop we found it was the one going the other way.  A kind French lady told us in English that it was quite at the other end of the Opera.  Off we went again, risking more and more.  But did arrive finally at what did prove to be, against our worst fears – the right bus stop.  And alleluia! [?] This bus passed the Louvre so we knew that by taking the same one the other way we could arrive at the coveted place.  

We spent an hour over lunch, as there were so many people.  I had my usual mushrooms, but Olga and Brigid, after being persuaded, said they wouldn’t have it again – too much garlic!  Brigid was afraid Benjamin would be able to smell it in Ireland.  Afterwards we managed to arrive at the Louvre where Brigid much admired the Venus of Milo and has expressed the wish to do an oil painting of her.  But I must say that my feet, those long-suffering extremities, found the combination of parquet floors and enormous scenes of wars and shipwrecks rather depressing.  I am not exhilarated by the Louvre, strangely enough.  I found myself bored and depressed notwithstanding all the Botticellis and Titians and Leonardo’s in that enormous big hall.  It’s just too much, too much – so much gesticulation, so many beautifully lit nudes, so many flowing draperies – to be gaped at by guided groups.  One guide, who was talking to a group of Africans, punished Raphael by saying: “You see he does not make his Madonnas holy.  They are just pretty young women”.  (Why pretty young women can’t be holy he didn’t explain.)

I sort of fled the whole company of accomplished works and felt only refreshed at a small side cabinet when I found the Flemish primitives – small, jewel-like, decorative and purposeful.  Art was meant to serve religion.  But the girls dragged me off. They were weary.

October 15
We’ve had another DAY.  Brigid wanted to find out her fate at the Beaux Arts, so we went there only to find out that she had failed.  She was refusée.  She took back her poor despised drawings and we walked sadly along the Seine, the yellow leaves fluttering down on us – across Pont Neuf, the oldest Bridge in Paris.

By the time we reached the subway we had already discovered that we weren’t very sorry, that it was really the best thing for both of us.  I wasn’t going to make a big fuss about my schooling, but for Brigid I am now going to comb the city, which will incidentally benefit me.  I told her I thought the Beaux Arts looked very much like my Dutch academy, only bigger still, and a place like that is no good just for a year. You’ve got to follow the whole course.  And I said I much prefer to paint Paris than to paint silly old models.  I’d also like to work in the Louvre.  Brigid wanted to see the Grande Chaumière School, so we pressed a button in front of a map in the subway station and it lit up all the stations, which would lead us there.  A very ingenious device, I love playing with it.  But apparently I pushed the wrong button because I landed somewhere else when I followed its directions.  Brigid wanted to go back again but I said: “Not on your life – we are going to explore right where we are, it is FATE”.  The first thing we saw was a church.  We went into it and immediately were struck by the windows with very vivid coloring.  I took them in to describe to Evie and then I wanted to know the name of the artist, in case she knew him – or about him.  I asked a lady but she didn’t know.  She said they were done lately – that the church had been bombed and the old glass destroyed.  The lady said we could ask the Abbé about it. The Abbé was in the sacristy.  That was all very well but to go to the sacristy you had to walk right past our lady’s altar – neither Brigid nor I dared to.  So we went out again and saw the bus, which we had hoped to take to the zoo – which was near the place we’d landed.  Before we could leave, we saw a curate coming up the steps – a very kind curate with great, white teeth.  We told him what we wanted and he beamed at us and brought us to the Abbé who told us the name of the artist “Mannejcan” and dilated on the beauties of the windows, especially the rose window, of which the colors changed all the time, he said.

Rather pleased with ourselves we then waited for the bus, which took us to the Bois de Vincennes – a pretty little Corot-like wood of thin steamed trees and olive green foliage flecked with yellow.  Dark figures moved here and there among the gray stems.  Two old ladies sat on a bench, gossiping, their tortuous hands in their laps, at peace for a moment. 

We had to pay 50 francs each to get into the zoo and saw flamingoes with bright pink legs, just like a Japanese screen – and pensive penguins, bored with visitors, and a much- petted elephant.  There were little ponies and donkeys to ride and I saw four children being strapped on a camel!  The camel had a muzzle on, obviously a bad boy.  We also saw a place where they sold enormous round, crisp waffles.  All the French people were gobbling [?] them so we did too.

We saw a Brasserie where you could sit at a table and eat your sandwiches and you only had to order a drink.  Lemonades are very expensive. The cheapest is wine.  Only 10 francs a glass! We ordered café au lait at a café on the street near the Port Doré where there is a beautiful gilt statue of some muse or angel and water basins leading up to it.  Somehow whatever the French do, they do with taste.  Brigid was telling me about her visit to Benjamin. She did two oil paintings of Benjamin – a portrait of the father and one of the mother – she also gave them a watercolor of mine and a mug and a candle stick she had done in pottery and our kitten.  The mother said seldom had a visitor made such an impression on her house!  It was fun having a tête-a-tête with Brigid.

October 16
Nothing but subway – subway – subway – studying of maps – studying of booklets, rushing upstairs and downstairs through little gates and little doors.  Waiting at platforms. Squeezing into trains, standing intimately pressed against burly businessmen and toil- worn workmen – more moving up and down corridors like so many ants.  Transferring to another line and seeing more high sounding names flash part – Madeleine – Concorde – St. Lazare – Hotel de Ville – Chatelet – Bastille – all just names on white plates and in between the rattle and shake and morbid atmosphere of the metro, like so much theory, while outside in the sunshine the real thing is glowing and pulsating.  But when I’m about to rebel – about to leap out of the subterranean dangerous and gain the blessed surface – two thoughts restrain me: one is the expense – buses are 3x the price of the metro – the other is the absurd difficulty of reading one’s destination on the surface.  These wide avenues with so few traffic lights and so few policemen – such madly rushing cars and incomprehensible tangle of radiating streets and avenues – no, no – better to dive under [?].

Brigid and I first went to see a painter, a monsieur Collet, who had been recommended to me by Monique, who told me he knew a lot about schools, etc.  We got off at a very interesting little street and then we came to a sort of apartment house.  There was no visible janitor.  Someone said he might be in the courtyard, but he wasn’t… only open doors looking into other people’s kitchens, and among them was the janitor’s kitchen, and there was the janitor, eating his lunch.  He told us “Sixième a droit,” whatever that meant.  We discovered a very dirty narrow winding stairway and toiled up it.  At the sixth flight we were too exhausted to admire the view of Les Torts de Paris.  We knocked at the door and an extremely surly, harassed-looking lady told us she was not Monsieur Collet and we’d better try the other door.  We tried the other door and a vivacious dark- haired woman let us enter a kitchen where a little boy was eating a piece of bread.  She talked a tremendous amount when she heard what we wanted and opened a door and said “Madame” to an elegant lady on the point of going out – all dressed up.  She addressed another torrent of words to this lady who looked surprised and took the paper with the name. Looked blankly, looked blankly.  This seemed to irritate the dark-haired, vivacious woman, whom we now understood to be the maid.  She kept shouting the name of Monique Bouffault, telling her Madame that we were sent by her to a Monsieur Collet.  That monsieur Collet had left.  The lady kept looking blank and gazing uncertainly at the paper.

“Mais je ne sais vien”, she said coldly.  This infuriated the servant who repeated the whole story in a manner that suggested she was breaking the words over her Mistress’s head.  The other remained stolid and motionless.  The servant then threw up her hands and departed.  I tried to explain the situation but the lady seemed so amazed, said so often that she didn’t know anything, that we believed her and took our leave.  We were lead out by the front entrance this time down magnificent stairs carpeted in velvet.  We’d come by the trade man’s entrance, apparently.  Whew!  That was that.  Now what? “We must find out what is in Paris – lets try the USA Embassy,” I suggested.  We looked it up laboriously in my metro book but when we were in the metro I recollected that it was Saturday afternoon and the embassy was probably closed.  

Instead we went back to that exhibition of Fuchs.  Most of his paintings were sold – but what remained interested Brigid a great deal.  She admired the technique immensely, but thought the work Harry Clarkish.  We heard from the owner of the gallery that he is only 24.  He doesn’t teach.  He is very successful, as the few paintings left had already red dots on them.  

I asked the owner about art schools and he took Brigid’s address and said he’d look it up.  An artist who was there told me to buy the weekly paper Art – which would tell me what I wanted to know.

When we were out in the sunlight again we decided that we would go to confession.  We had discovered an Église Anglaise Catholique next the Place d’Étoile.  We managed to find it and a nice old priest heard our confessions.  It will be a good place to bring the children until they know French.  Brigid admonished them to commit only sins of which they knew the name in French, until they know the language.

October 18
Olga is through her exam!  Hallelujah!  She is quite pleased with the Sorbonne, says the work standard is very high and they do a lot about religion.  There’s a special theological course once a week, free – which she is going to join and there was mass this morning said by a priest student and there is all sorts of Catholic activity, which pleases her very much.  She says they are all extremely alive and the teachers are so pretty, even the elderly ones.  I haven’t heard Brigid’s report yet.  I went in search of a school for myself today and though I got warm I haven’t landed it yet.  Olga, Brigid, Mad and I went to Paris this morning after having seen the little girls off to school.  

First I went to the Opera to get tickets for Sheila’s birthday and I found that on Sunday afternoon they give Obéron, a fairy Opera, which seemed ideal for children.  I had to wait in a queue to get tickets and found that even on the 4th balcony they are 12 francs each – but I got 6 anyway and at least they are in front.  

Then I went in search of Andre L’Hôte.  It meant going into the subway and changing and changing again, landing in a square studying a map – finding the road, finding the house, locating the concierge, getting the information on which floor he lives, tramping four stairs, knocking at a door with a hard wary for luck – being opened by a cross servant who eyes me coldly and says that Mr. L’Hôte doesn’t receive without appointments.  But Mr. L’Hôte was so kind as to write on a piece of paper where his academy is and when he can be visited there.  

So I go down four stairs again, back on the street, almost run over by an indignant motorcyclist who doesn’t understand why there should be pedestrians anyway – and walk along Boulevard Raspail, which is quiet, for once – and where gray trees hold trembling leaves, which fall down gently.  So that one stares, slowing ones pace and begins to enjoy just being there, walking there, watching things and thinking gentle, slightly sad little thoughts.  I am wondering why it is so nice to be alone sometimes.  I always think I like it better when my children are with me, but they are so likely to quarrel, or distract my attention, I might as well be by myself.  And now I was alone, and quiet, without any urgent business.  So the houses and the trees and the street could talk to me, and the leaves, and my footsteps and the drizzly rainy afternoon and my sad little thoughts all became woven into a kind of song, which is still going on at the back of my head. 

I finally located Andre L’Hôte academy in a back alley in a tumbledown house, but it was shut, perhaps for lunch. I thought I’d try another time and went back.  I was ravenously hungry for I hadn’t eaten yet and I’d been up since six.  It was one now.  So I bought a pound of figs and a brown loaf and ate them in a movie house, which was showing “Kontiki”.  I must say I was very bored with this film, which is all about the wild life of some real young man, with real beards on a real raft.  It makes you seasick to look at it and besides seeing a lot of feet and hands and bits of raft and waves the only exciting spectacle is a whale, and that is mostly under water.  But at any rate I could eat my figs and it was cheaper than a restaurant.

Brigid just came back, she likes Le Chevalier. And so here we are – in our little comfortable bourgeois house – getting used to François who seems warning up to us and seems keen on the children. He approves of me because I appreciate his many virtues and get up early.  Olga is bucked to get her exam, Brigid and I are longing to stick our teeth into Paris and Sheila is very ambitious to get on.  Elisabeth is gravely happy, she is writing an adventure story.  The last time I saw it the heroes were in a coconut tree, while a blood-thirsty bear was menacing them from below.

October 19
Brigid is extremely happy at her new school. She needs money because it is a tradition that new students treat the others to wine.  Brigid said she would be very pleased to, and heard the others saying as she left the room: “Comme elle est charmante!” She says Mr. Chevalier thinks well of her work and is very alive and full of interest.

I sallied forth on another expedition.  I was in search of a present for Murrean that would be different, not the sort of thing you can buy anywhere, and I finally decided on two handkerchiefs with poetry on them.  I hope she likes them. I also went to sign myself up at Andre L’Hôtes and I’ve paid for 4 weeks.  Guess who is working there: Jack Hanlon! So you see I am not so far from Dublin after all!  I had a long and serious deliberation about it.  Would I go to the Grande Chaumière and the usual stuff – or should I go to L’Hôtes who seems the parent of the Dublin moderns?  But what choice did I have?  If it comes to classical stuff, there’s no need to go to Paris.  So why not take of Paris what it does have to offer?

Poor Olga finds she is behind the other students.  She has to plunge into French grammar. 

It is beautiful here – so many trees all with different colored foliage and a smell of grapes in the air.  I love the pale yellow leaves against a misty blue background with here and there the red of a vine. 

October 20
It was a queer day today, full of little shocks.  First the mail came late, so we already thought there wasn’t any and Olga and Brigid went off resigned, when I saw the white envelopes sticking through the latticed window of our little letterbox at the gate.  I found a postcard for Olga from Gena Jackson saying that poor Therese had failed her exams.  Then a fat letter for Lizzy marked “private”, which I put beside her lunch plate, and a letter from Evie, very pathetic, lovely and depressed [Evie had cancer then?], which I answered immediately with all the consolation I could  muster.

Meanwhile I was looking forward to my lunch with Madame Pépin, whom I remember very well from Montreal.  I liked her best (she is the one who gave me meal on an ember Wednesday and I wouldn’t eat it and afterwards she thanked me because it had shocked her into a realization of having drifted into pagan habits).  I actually dressed up for her in my black dress.  I am leaning on it and my gray suit for the last four weeks, as my luggage has still not arrived yet.  

Well, the rendezvous was to be at my husband’s office where Monsieur Pépin was to bring me to their house.  Imagine my surprise when a total stranger came and said Hallo and assumed I was going with him!!  I kept feeling that I was keeping the Pépins waiting and I must have been very stupid.  But it gradually dawned in the back of my head that the mistake must have been mine, because it was improbable that two prominent people of the organization were both waiting at that place to take me to lunch – and therefore it was easier to believe that I had heard wrongly over the phone.  But the terrible thing was that I now did not have a clue to where I was going and with whom.  I felt I was being abducted, though the behavior of my partner was correct enough.  He was mostly occupied in allowing his dog to relieve himself in the Bois de Boulogne.  I was so busy figuring out the situation and realizing my mistake that I wasn’t my sparkling self.  

“Are you interested in aviation?” he asked. “Well, what I know of it”, I said vaguely.  Spike has so often assured me that there is nothing interesting to tell about his job that I have learnt to believe him.  But this man was interested (by this time I was decided that his name was probably Pepinau and that I hadn’t heard the tail of it).  He said that it had been found out that the reason the [BOAC] Comets failed was that the varied air pressure interferes with the atomic organization of the metal (what will we have next!).  He then discussed his various experiences in airplanes; he was a pilot once, and it was all very interesting.  I told him to tell me as much as he could about the organization and flying, etc., as my husband was very reserved and I felt it was a wife’s duty to know something about her husband’s job.  He obviously approved of that and was very sympathetic.

When we arrived at the apartment I was met by a nice little French lady with dyed hair and much massaged skin.  She was so perfectly made up that one had the feeling she was born that way.  At first I made the mistake of thinking she would be dull (probably from association with American ladies of that type), but far from it.  She was very intelligent and very interested in art.  And under the influence of a delicious lunch: rice and chicken! – and a beautiful light wine – and French dessert with liqueur – we all became fast friends (I still didn’t know their names). 

One of the things we became friends about was a common hatred of Montreal.  They had been saying polite things about Montreal and there was the stiff atmosphere of everyone on their best behavior, but you understand how soon my hair was down and I’d confessed my true feelings, which made them warm up like a plugged-in radiator.  And then I discovered that he had been to Ireland and really appreciated the Irish and had defended the Irish cause to the English (with whom he lived for a while).  In fact, he was a close friend of Sean McBride, Maud Gonne’s son! (I still didn’t know his name).  He was saying that the Irish had so little materialism and such a lively philosophy and he told about a Fitzgerald, a friend of his, who was on the government side of the civil war and his wife was a republican and she voted for his death and then sobbed in his arms.  He didn’t get killed and now they are an exemplary couple.  I said it was a case of “I could not love thee dear so well, loved I not honor more”, and he agreed that it must be that.  He is in favor of abolishing the Irish Partition and in every way he would warm your heart.  

About Montreal they admired the marvels of technocracy but said that it would kill them to live there – no intellectual life – no art, no interest.  They told me that housewives buy food from the deep-freeze now that keeps salmon fresh for 4 months.  I said it made me shudder and they said it made shudder too.  I told them about my first entrance in New York, where I arrived on my 26th birthday, the 9th of February, and my husband, to surprise me and show me the wonders of his country, received me with strawberries, and that then and there I had burst into tears.

“Ah!” cried Monsieur – whatever his name – “that’s the way we all feel! The Americans show us miracle after miracle but it only makes us weep.” And he told how scientists are discovering that all this killing of bad germs leads to killing good germs too and creates a vaccine, a deadness, which is having a terrible effect on man’s physique – as we need both bad and good germs to live.  By this time we were all intimate and tried friends.  I told them about Willem and his death and my family and we were as if we’d been though the war together.  Mrs. X wanted to go though the Louvre with me and we arranged a date and I timidly but shrewdly suggested that she spell her name by which underhand method I discovered that her name is Bedin and that her husband calls her Jeanne. It was a great relief at last to know – names are useful. 

Meanwhile Monsieur Bedin was deploring the fact that the organization was in Canada.

October 28
I went to André L’Hôte this morning after having got a big mail, your letter [from the Dowlings], one from your mother, one from Evie, and one from a Dutch gentleman who wants me to write an article in one of the big Dutch papers!

So I went off, thinking a lot about you – and all the things discussed in your letter – and Brigid was with me.  We parted at Pont [?] Rochereau, where I took another subway and went to the studio.  I had to wait to buy a paper.  There was a nice model, golden brown, thin. When I got the paper I decided I wasn’t going to try the cubistic stuff though the others were all doing it.  I felt I must be myself – but to justify myself I must do my best.  I worked very hard and tried to make every line mean something.  I had a very hard pencil but that was all to the good in my severe mood – and very soon, of course, I was enjoying myself.  And I realized why the nude is considered so essential for students, because it is organized in a way nothing else is.  You cannot mess up the lines of a nude body and expect to get away with it.  You can with landscapes, still clothed individuals – even animals or birds, because of their furs and feathers, but not the nude body – every line must be right, or you see it.

I thought everybody would despise my curves and shadows – but they didn’t.  Jack Haulon, who had come in and who had at first not recognized me, made me a compliment on my “Nice lines”.  Another Irish lady from Cork said it was a good drawing quite spontaneously.  An American lady just behind me said: “I see you can draw.”  Andre L’Hôte’s assistant, a very nice man, come to correct my drawing and seemed pleased but he pointed out some dark spots to be eliminated. “On ne fait pas ça à Andre L’Hote, ne pas copiez tous, ma chère Madame.”  So I’m in for elimination, which I think might do me a lot of good.  

I invited Jack Hanlon for dinner.  I’m writing this after the dinner but first I’ll tell you what else happened at the studio.  Jack was talking to various other people – among others an American lady, heavily painted, with a strong accent.  She has white hair but doesn’t look more than 35.  She was telling Jack Hanlon about her love for cats and how she had gone to a cat show, which is run by her husband and she had to pay to get in!  Her husband breeds pedigreed cats. “And prefers them to me, which says a lot for his taste,” she told us.  Jack Hanlon remarked tactlessly that he didn’t like cats, to which she replied that he had then missed the meaning of life.  She then told us about a panther she had seen, and how its look of innocence had stuck her.  “Yes,” I said, tactless in my turn, “babies have the same effect.”  She winced a bit but went on bravely that it was different,  to which I replied that of course animals never lost it – but the meaning of that eluded her.

She went on to tell about a friend who seemed to live for her art though it was very mediocre and how curious that was.  I said it was nice to be able to express yourself that way.  “Yes,” she said fiercely. “Without it life wouldn’t be worth living.”  She then found out that I had six children and her eyes were full of envy, which made me feel like a nouveau riche.  “What a rich, full life you must have,” she said, and turned away her head, her lips twitching.  It was tragic.  Father Hanlon said tonight that she had made a similar impression on him.  “I don’t think she has any religion,” I said and he told me that she had made remarks to that effect.  He seemed pleased that I was interested in her.

We have a very nice supper tonight and he and his mother enjoyed it.  Lizzy did a drawing of the crucifixion, which was much admired by Jack. While I was cooking the supper in comes Mrs. Schneiter, rather the worse for wear, with dark circles under her eyes.  She told me that she felt wretched.  She wants me to come to her on Monday.  There’s something trustful about her.  I’ve started to pray for her – I’m fond of her already.  She said that God was punishing her for enjoying herself last night.  I was horrified.   “Mais Dieu le veut, il veut que nous nous amusons, il faisait tout le beau monde pour nous amuser – c’est ce qu’il veut”, I assured her.  There were tears in her eyes. “Ah, ma mère,” she said.  “She bought us up very strictly.  We were never allowed anything.  Then, when we grew up, we were mad for things”.  It was like a cry.  “I must talk this over with you later,”she said, and fled.  How interesting people are and what extraordinary depths behind their conventional behavior!

October 27
Dearest Joan,
I forgot to tell you yesterday about the exhibition I went to see of Art Sacrée – I am sending some reproductions cut out of the catalogue.  It was very interesting and certainly better than the commercial saccharine stuff – but as far as assiduous are concerned they didn’t get near to Evie’s perfection, and the sculpture remands me here and there of Usheen Kelly and has a moving quality of genuine but rather primitive emotion with very much the accent on sorrow and to my mind the things gesticulated too much, there was a kind of grimace – a grimace of suffering and despair in it all without a hint of the triumph and consolation. There is an interesting chapter in a book called “Love and Violence” about that.  It says that the flowing line, the rounded form symbolizes love in art and hard jaggedness hatred.  It says: :One has only to let one’s eye follow the meandering line, so pure and simple and yet so subtle of our French 13 and 14th century miniaturists and 15 century primitives to realize how eloquently this style suggests a loving flexibility, the longing to create harmony out of discord, to soften contours, to join with curves rather than emphasizing contrasts by the use of broken lines, to win the heart with its grace and elegance portraying all things in sweetness and light: no musical phrase could speak more impressively and eloquently to the sensitive ear than this speaks to the eye.  Only one other school of painting can bear comparison for delicacy of style and that is the Siennese, and what is the motto of that gentle city but love: “Sienna tibi cor paudit”. 

At the opposite pole stands the German school, with its harsh drawing that seems full of a kind of negative electricity.  The Flemish school is crude, uncivilized, unpolished, brutal – the lines change direction strangely, in jerks, the style is neutral, insensitive to the subtleties of the physical object (I should excuse Mainling and van Eyck here myself – I don’t think he’s right about that).  The German style of ………….. ship goes one better – it becomes aggressive; instinctively it was toward the visual equivalents of cruelty – the line no longer adheres lovingly to the form, it is abrupt, haughty, hostile, suggesting all the things that cut and scratch and sting and rend to pieces.

It will suddenly twist into those little hooks, which it cannot resist using to clutter up its lines, whether the subject calls for them or not, pushes out sharps points, setting them up in foreside juxtaposition one against the other so that they look like the hectic scribbles of delirium like the tooth marks of a saw; it summons symbols through which the diseased imagination expresses its obsessions”.

That is I think even more time of modern art – even of religions art.  The crucifixions were brutal – they have the note of shame and anguish unrelieved.  They have knocked out all the nobility – the Christ hanging there doesn’t rise above those sufferings and couldn’t have said half of this sublime words.  But they are interesting and full of genuine emotion.  I’ll go on a little with the book for it is really very good:
“In art too, love is made up of sacrifices” as Delacroix so often insisted, whereas realism is insatiable, it wants everything.  It’s determined to have everything.  Let beside Delacroix, who is full of passion, if not love, an artist like Jugres, whose enthusiasm is only arouse by sensuality, and the difference is plain.  Jugres has an eye that loves every detail and can record it, Delacroix is attracted only to what moves him and inspires him with fervor; Delacroix’s color (which for this reason often deceives beginners, who have developed quite different ideas to what constitutes a great colorist), brings out the secret correspondences the affinities, which it perceives between different tones, and reduces them to harmony.  Jugres gets the most out of every separate tone, often at the cost of sacrificing the colors harmony: his strangest emotion is an avid sensuality, Delacroix’s is compassion. 

The relentless scientific precision of the realists takes hold of things, but it does not give itself to them.  Line and color are perfect, but they state more than they evoke.  How remote they seems from the mute trembling tones of the artist roused by love, from the magically warm ……….. in which artists like Rembrandt bathe their world, or the feeling that gives such shy delicacy to sort color, making his hand tremble with devotion!  Here the picture is no more than a cage in which the painter displays his prey, conquered and tamed.  Nature has been subjugated, she only presents her external appearance, her soul is absent, for she belongs to those who love her not to those who subdue her.  Realism is like science; their nets have the same bend of mesh, they catch the same things and let the same things escape, things of the kind that can be less easily grasped.”
Isn’t that a lovely condemnation of pure realism?  Like Whelan and Festus Kelly and that crowd.  I could go on quoting from this book, for it is very interesting, but I don’t want to bore you.  The art sacree is not realistic in that sense, it has emotion, but it is an aggressive, cruel emotion and the exhibitions looked to me like a torture chamber with writhing victims.  The architecture was the best part.

Today we celebrated Sheila’s birthday as it was Sunday and easier to celebrate on that day.  It was quite a success.  I gave her a pair of opera glasses – Lizzy gave her a French missal, Brigid and Madeleine gave her a matched set of earrings and necklace in black and gold and Olga gave her a medal.  She was very pleased.  Then to crown it, Dominique came tripping up the steps with a beautiful bunch of pink carnations, a present from Mrs. Schneiter!  Now you must admit that she is a darling!  I wrote her a thank you note right away with painted flowers on it and a kiss.  She really is sweet and I’m very lucky to have her as a neighbor!

We then boarded the subway for the opera – and I had all the tickets and was scolded for that by the lady-ticket-purchaser who said she couldn’t punch them in a bunch and I should have distributed them to each.  She was quite solemn about this, smiles are expensive in France.  At those moments you can’t help thinking nostalgically if the lovely Irish way.  She sort of damped our joy a bit, and then we had some unpleasant surprises.  We had already paid £3-10-0 for the seats and 6. for subway fare and then at the opera (and it was a thrill going up those wide steps and into that magnificent hall) we found out that programs were 3, that you have to put your coats into a cloakroom and that cost 4, and then the lady who showed us our seats required a 6 tip for that – and she said she was letting us off cheaply as it was really 60 f each (a shilling more) so you can see it isn’t a thing I could do every day.  And we had almost the worst seats in the place – 4th gallery at the side – and Lizzy had to kneel on the floor and we had to sit three on two seas in order to see, as only the front seats had visibility.  But we felt it was money well spent, for seldom have we enjoyed anything more.  It was “Oberon”, by Weber, a fairy opera.

I can’t give you the slightest idea of the beauty of it – the stage of course – and full of people.  It wasn’t modern décor – rather old-fashioned but so tasteful – everything was exquisite, finished to the last detail, flawlessly executed.  The costumes were original and so beautiful – for the first time in my life I found fairies really satisfying without being sentimental – and in the last scene, when Oberon and Titania are reconciled, it almost brings tears to your eyes. The music is lovely and they even perfume the hall in the last scene, so that senses are satisfied!  And though the costumes are a bit daring here and there, there is never the slightest hint of vulgarity.  I thought the place would be full of children – but I suppose it’s too expensive – Lizzy was the only small child there.  And it was right up her alley for it is about a knight who, with the help of Oberon, rescues a lady.  “I’m so glad it’s about knights,” said Elisabeth. I could see she was storing it all up for Pascal.  

She was very sweet, for when Brigid was cross with Sheila at the subway later and put Sheila out of humor, Lizzy took her own 20 francs to buy her some candy out of the automat, to cheer her up, she told me in a whisper.  The plan succeeded too and made Brigid feel very ashamed of herself.  Those girls are sweet, they’re constantly offering the seats they capture in the metro to each other, after having provided me – and Olga made sure Madeleine had a better seat than herself at the opera.  I love to see that spirit.  I made them a nice supper later, with candles on the table and the pink carnations and the cake I had ordered with Sheila’s anniversary on it and 15 little candles.  And we drank her health with wine.

October 25

I am writing this in a café at Boulevard Montparnasse.  By the way, I have found out that if you want to sit in a café a moment to rest or go to the bathroom, you mustn’t ask for coffee, tea or lemonade, as that immediately amount to 2/, but a glass of red wine is 6d!  So you may thing of me as drinking red wine to save money.

I had my first day of painting. Of course I was late – because I got into the wrong train.  They have a Porte d’Orleans and a “Gare d’Orleans” and these are in opposite directions so how can they expect a poor sinner like me to know the difference!  It involved a lot of walking, as they are not even sympathetic lines and refused to meet.

On the way I acquired a canvas and other paraphernalia and arrived exhausted. However, Mr. Poliakoff was very kind to me.  He explained to me a long time about subways while I longingly eyed the model and the clock – and he found out I had 4 daughters and practically invited himself and his wife out to our house.  The American and I didn’t get on very well today.  She seemed to prefer talking to men, so I’ll leave her to it, God bless her. I prefer talking to men myself.
I looked around at the paintings of the other students and was rather amused.   Most of them did things like this: (drawing)
Of a model who looked like this: (drawing)
And though the coloring was blueish, pink, magenta, and pearl they made her a screaming orange, with olive green background and a man beside me made the model dark alive and the background spring green.  What I wondered was, why they didn’t do it at home.  But I suppose I’ll learn better soon.
  I’ve just been to a ceramics atelier.  A couple, who do it professionally are throwing open their studio to students at very moderate rates and it means you have all the benefit of their experience and equipment.
Brigid came home very disgusted because another professor she has laughed at her drawing and made wisecracks about her knowledge of anatomy.  The thing here being simplicity, Brigid said it was a bad drawing and she agreed with him. There was too much emphasis on muscle and bone.  I suggested that it was rather unfair to blame a student for trying to draw anatomy into a nude, but she said she realized what he meant.
“You are very lenient about it” I told her.  “Oh well”, she said ruefully, “I know what fun it is to say worthy things against someone so it is only fair I should be at the receiving end one and lean what it feels like!”  She is right too!
Elisabeth always refers to Beaulah as “home”.  This bath is small, she said, “much smaller than the one at home”.

October 27
I have had a harrowing day, because the art business really is upsetting.  I went with Mrs. Bedin to the Louvre to see the modern section and was in raptures over Monet, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, van Gogh, Gangen, Toulouse Lautrec.  I was absolutely in raptures and I realized I’d much rather paint like that than like what I am supposed to do at Andre L’Hote.  Still, as an exercise that may be alright.  But all sorts of things are going on inside me, which may be the reason I got not only in the wrong subway but in 1st class again with another 2/ fine – just after I drunk red wine to save 6d.  This is the way I feel:
Oh will you please examine my head
And see if there’s spaghetti inside instead
For it doesn’t seem to work any more
And I fear I am getting a terrible bore
Much more silly than I was before
Or perhaps it is just that Paris here
To making me a little queen.

October 28
I went at my picture again and wiped it all out and started over again.  The Russian lady thought it a pity I was listening to Poliakoff’s criticism and said my painting had had a fine sensitivity that it had lost.  But I don’t mind, I’m on the track of something I badly needed and when I have that I can use it on my other painting.  For the time being I’m throwing all my other ideas overboard and starting from scratch.  I’m on the track of color and its creative possibilities.  I’ve never really studied or exploited them.  I’m really a draughtsman.

The intoxicating afternoon spent with the Impressionists helped a lot.  I am still reflecting on those pictures.  They have a chic, a view, a passion, a tenderness that is seldom equaled nowadays.  I became extremely fond of Sisley, for instance.  After that the work done in L’Hôtes studio seemed very drab but it is better even so than the stuff done in the Dublin school of art.  I feel that I am wrenched out of myself with admiration for the Impressionists – yet I also see the modern stuff is based on it, that it led to that, that the staid old masters like Jugres knew and felt it would lead to chaos eventually. It was a breaking loose, a glorious spree of children into the unknown and as night have been expected the children got lost.

Now the terrible thing is that the masters are all contradicting one another.  The Russian lady told me that she had been to another celebrity in Paris who said that you need not copy, must not copy except the values – the values and tones and colors must be right.  At Andre L’Hotes you must not copy at all – and even the colors must be changed.  At Brigid’s studio it is the outline they concentrate on – and the only thing they are all agreed on is not to copy.  I think it is pushing the thing to absurdity.  On the other hand I am definitely discovering things.  I know I am learning.  I’m feeling at the bottom of the class in every way but it’s a lovely feeling because at the bottom is the only secure place. You can’t slip any lower!

I am also beginning to realize why the church puts such value on humility.  We have nothing that we have not received – it is by receiving that we get – God is there all the time, longing to give, but if we are proud we are closed and He cannot give us anything.  To receive we must first realize that we need the thing – that is where humility comes in.  Then we must ask for it – that is hope.  Then we must receive it, reflecting on the advantages of being at the bottom – that is faith. Then we must use it – that is charity.  

I spent a quarter of an hour leaning back on my stool, watching my bad painting and the model and thinking all this up while a warm feeling of peace bathed my soul.  I don’t know why I should have felt like that after having wiped out a painting, but I did.  Then the Russian woman came over to me to be comforted, because Poliakoff had said she was very, very bad.  Tomorrow we are going to be criticized and I shall be interested to hear what L’Hôte has to say.  When I can home a roar of rage greeted me, as my hungry ones had not had lunch.  So I hurried off to buy something, notably bread and milk.  I remembered that Madeleine likes chocolate so I bought some and I had just poured the foaming chocolate into cups when Mrs. Schneites was on the doorstep with Dominique, to return my books, which she liked very much.  So I heroically let my chocolate congeal while talking to her.  She always gets on the subject of religion.  She looks very sad.  She has a bad liver and it has been troubling her lately – I am touched at the way she keeps dropping in on me, absolutely sure of a welcome.  She asked Lizzy and me out for a drive to the Bois de Vincennes, where I took movies of them and we looked for mushrooms – it was absolutely beautiful, the autumn times, the autumn smell, the gray-stemmed trees, the crackling leaves under foot and the thinly fluttering yellow leaves overhead with patches of blue shining through – the pattern of shadow and light and the children’s little figures flitting in and out.  

Then she brought us to a little country restaurant, where we sat at the table and the girls had chocolate while Mrs. Schneites and I had what was called tea, but tasted like lukewarm rosewater, very nice anyway, especially with bread and honey.  They had their own bees.  Elisabeth kept popping up and down and saying “Regardez! Regardez!” to Dominique.

October 26
My luggage hasn’t come yet.  I have to walk over this sort of thing and stand for 3 hours painting on shoes like these (drawing).  I’m seriously thinking of investing in a sensible pair before they arrest me as drunk, old woman.  My luggage seems to have divorced me.  Brigid was in bed today with a cold, probably caused by the criticism.  I had my second day of painting, drove in with Monsieur Schneites.  I had noticed the day before, when I hopped over for tea with Mrs. Schneites, that he had made a beautiful ship. I commented on this.  He lit up “Ah, but you should have seen it when I had just made it, it was beautiful. The children ruined it.  Ah, I cannot do things like that anymore – I haven’t the time.”  So I asked him what his work was – some big position and if he liked it – and he said there were a lot of worries connected with it.  So I sympathized and said my husband’s job was somewhat like it and that it wasn’t as satisfactory as doing more natural things like making boats.

“Oh no,” he said, rather bitterly, I thought.  “The women are all happy, their lives are relaxed, they have fun – it is we who carry the burden – but it must be carried so that other people are fed and supported”.  I suddenly say that there was a lot of truth in that and I said: “Yes, perhaps the wives do not appreciate that enough”.  “Bien sure they don’t,” he said with increased bitterness – “Elles ne s’entéressant pas. Sa n’est pas amusant, sa ne les plait pas, elles s’enmurgent.”  And I felt that his wife was behind all that.  Apparently she is bored with her husband’s occupation and doesn’t give him the sympathy he craves, but on the other hand he thinks of her as a silly little butterfly when she is nothing of the sort.  She is a woman with a strong sense of guilt, which she tries to pass off with wisecracks.  She knows she hasn’t measured up – she is very sorry about it and yet she finds the only reaction she can use is that of a child who says: “I don’t care – I’ll just be as bad as I like.”  And he is a very sober individual intelligent in a masculine way, and extremely good, of which he is quite conscious.  He hasn’t a sense of guilt but the attitude of a man who doesn’t get the good marks he deserves.  He is Swiss and has, I think, a heavy side – he doesn’t come halfway to meet his wife’s whims.  And leaves her when looking very wistful and a bit pathetic.  My sympathies go mostly to her but I find him pathetic too, in his own dignified way, because virtuous people are even more helpless than sinners.  Their bewilderment at suffering is greater.  They expect more.  They expect a lot – they want their daily meals and the fatted calf!  But I do like Mr. Schneites – there is something ingenuous and clean about him – he is honest and open as a child. 

Well, he dropped me off at the D’volessa where my studio is and when I thanked him “Mille firs” he said in the lovely French way: “Ah mais sa me farsait grand plaisir Madame” – making me feel like a duchess!  I was very much too early and found myself alone with a New Zealander who was warming himself by the stove.  He is an enormous man with blond hair and a long face.  He told me about New Zealand and all its beauties, which sounded extraordinary like Canada.  So I shot the question “What about arte there?” And he admitted there wasn’t any and began to abuse his country for not giving scholarships to artists.  I said I didn’t think he could expect that.  “Art has to tangible value”.  “No,” he agreed immediately.  “It certainly hasn’t”.  I warmed up at that (I always like people to agree) and began to expatiate on my theory that art belongs to religion and was always meant to go with that and serve it – that  it is during periods of religions revival that flourishes, except with the Protestant reformations, of course, and that before cheap commercial art became accepted by the church artists were always needed.  

“Put it this way,” I said: “A mother who has difficulty feeding her children isn’t going to buy a portrait or a landscape, but may make sacrifices for that.  Religion gives art its immediate and practical as well as ultimate value.  “And once it has that value”, I said, “It will keep it even when it goes and does more trifling work, which will then be carved by the tradition of the other.” And the New Zealander agreed with it.

October 29
It was just as well as I had prepared myself to be at the bottom of the class.  Today Andre L’Hote corrected us.  Funnily enough, he had been working ion the class without my knowing it – and I had been making jokes with him.  He seemed such a character, so humorous and so much himself.  I didn’t know he was Andre L’Hote.  

Well, meanwhile Poliakoff had frightened me to such an extent about my academicness that I had gone hag wise.  I’d plastered my nude with pinks and yellows and greens without having the least idea of what I was doing.  Poliakoff was rather worried about it – I felt him hovering anxiously behind me.  Well, the criticism started and I found my feet again.  I noticed that L’Hote dislikes the same things in the other people paintings that I did – that he didn’t approve of the violent colors some had, that he peaked restraint.  The Russian lady, who had been told by the assistant that she was very bad, didn’t get a bad criticism at all and was told to go on as she was doing only to pay more attention to composition.  But I, who had tried to follow Poliakoff’s theories, provoked an eye rising, brow raising reaction. “Mais c’est impossible, ça ne va pas” – in horror.  Actually I agreed with him.  He went on to say that my color was vulgar – a thing to be avoided at all costs – and I’d better get back to drawing and then he would try and help me to avoid further bêtises.  He had been saying to another lady who didn’t react to his suggestions “Why don’t you say ‘Oui papa?’”  So now I loudly said “Oui papa”, which raised a big laugh, also from him.  “Mais bien sure, je veux être votre père spirituel,” he said, “J’ai l’aje pour vous fêtes beaucoup plus jeune que moi” – at any rate I got the impression that he likes me.  

The American lady was very nice and came to sympathize with me.  She said she wished she had the courage to experiment as I did – but I am not sure it was courage.

Christmas Day – Sceaux 1954

Dearest, Dearest Joan
A happy Christmas to you!!  We went to midnight mass last night at Notre Dame, but it was very disappointing.  It was being televised and there were loudspeakers and flashlights all the time.  And sometimes the apparatus picked up some other station and jazz music would float through the church.  It was simply packed with sightseers who hadn’t any intention of praying and it was so full that we were squeezed into a side altar-niche where we found a seat – people were sitting in the confessionals and taking the chairs out of the priest’s part of it, and sitting on altar’s step, etc.  We sat at the bench where the priest sits when waiting for the credo to finish.  I don’t know which saint the altar was dedicated to.  There were some sermons broadcasted by loudspeaker and carols, which we all sang.  

Spike wanted to go, he didn’t like it, but it was too late then to go anywhere else.  We managed to follow the mass by ear, singing the responses – though all we saw was a milling crowd.  The main altar was away on the left.  We managed to get communions too, though desperate perseverance, at a side altar, and when I walked back I felt a singing happiness not with standing the rather un-up-lifting ceremony – they were all singing glooooooooooria in excelsis deo.  And I thought how nothing, nothing ever can spoil Christmas with its gospel message – people in concentration camps found that out too.  I’ve read an account of a cousin who celebrated Christmas in Nazi prison and said it was the loveliest one he had ever know – just reading the gospel aloud with his mouth against an opening of the door and all the other prisoners listening and weeping and then singing carols together.  I also remember the Christmas I spent in hospital.  

I’ve fixed everything for the children’s Christmas and then on Christmas Eve – at a party.  I got a miscarriage and had to be rushed to the hospital – and I spent that day without any Christmas whatsoever, as they didn’t even sing carols.  Yes, I believe they had turkey or something.  The nurses had tears in their eyes with pity for a mother of six children who had to spend Christmas in a hospital, and it did not make me feel hilarious – but I had such a deep sense of peace and union with the Holy Family, for whom it hadn’t been much fun either, come to think of it.  Their birth wasn’t the way they’d planned it either, and it must have been fiercely uncomfortable and lonely.  And last night I felt there was beauty in not seeing anything – taking the mass on trust – like faith. 

I have often reflected on the fact, Joan dear, that you can’t lose as a Christian – unless you cease to be one.  There is nothing that happens that can’t be turned into eternal wealth.  The saints knew it so well that they valued suffering most – it’s the pressure – cooked method and brings quickest results and fastest turns over.  Happiness is valuable too, but it’s more like a stew and takes time to work.  
You see, I am preoccupied with cooking as my goose is in the oven.  We’re having goose – stuffed with sausage, meat, a red wine, salad, peas, potatoes and yulelog called “Buche”, a sort of cake made like a tree trunk sprinkled with mushrooms and roses.  We hope to have that at two (I’m writing this while the goose is cooking), and at 3 François, his wife and daughter are coming to admire our Christmas tree and see the movies (they had nothing to do on Christmas and I thought that so sad!).  

At five we go to the Schneiters.  Then we come back and have our Christmas tree and distribute our presents.  Tomorrow morning we leave.  I do hope you are having a happy time.   Thank Mairsile for her cake, it was delicious and a real help and its finished already. 

All my love dearest
Also to John and children.

It is now Christmas day in the evening and we have been packing feverishly for our trip.  It was an eventful day, to say the least of it.  The dinner was a huge success.  The goose was done to a turn and very succulent.  It was consumed to the last bone.  The yule log cake was rather sweet and heavy.  But I’d bought good wine, which pleased Spike.  Afterwards, we gave the presents and several of mine were a great success.  Lizzy was delighted with her CS Leurs book, which I got her in Dublin, and with her cowboy outfit, which looks sweet on her.  Sheila gave her a boy doll and Lizzy is surprisingly pleased with it.  She says she has fallen in love with it and that she likes it so much better than those sweet girls with their silly smiles.  Brigid had made her a wonderful game, that heaven game of mine but with really good pictures of all the things that happen in life and really very fumy.  She had made dice for it in pottery and little pottery figures to put on the numbers.  It’s a great success and much admired – she made Spike a vase with a picture of the bas being pushed into Spain by eight Marlins’ – also very funny.  And Sheila made a lovely angel for him.  I don’t think my presents made much of an impression on him.  He gave me a book, which I haven’t read yet.  I was most pleased with Brigid presents – a book on the development of the technique of painting in French, which seems very interesting – and Lizzy’s – a pottery bowl with mommy on it.  John and Randal bought me slippers, which I’ll have to give to Brigid as by no stretch of willpower will they stay on me.

Olga gave me a sweet little bed jacket and Sheila gave me some stockings so I had a nice Christmas.  Spike bought Randal a new camera for the trip and the girls bought each other sweaters.  We had just finished unpacking everything when  François arrived with wife and daughter (I have invited them as they had nowhere to go for Christmas).  They were very shy at fist and obviously expected no to make class distinctions: the lady of the house being kind to servants” sort of things.  I think one had better not invite them at all if one felt like that.  But they soon noticed that I realized they were human beings and began to relax and then we showed the pictures and they were entranced – I am sure François is a special pet of God for they were better than they ever were and those unfortunate people who have to work so hard and have so little family life (she is a cook at the school and he janitor as well as working for me and others) really had a good time.  

Then we went down and I served tea and petits fours and let the tree with the sparklers (fireworks) and we all sang carols for about half an hour – second voice as well as first.  They were so happy and François had tears in his eyes.  Then I gave them some little things like a chocolate figure for the girl and a chocolate liqueur bottle for François and sweets for his wife and they were truly warmed and invigorated when they went home.

December 26 - Laval
It is now about 6 pm and we have arrived at our first overnight stop.  When I discussed this trip with Spike I asked whether we’d be able to see Willem’s grave in Laval and he said we could, we’d go there first shot.  I’d had a letter from the English government when I was still in Montreal saying that they were putting up stones for the 14 air men, which were buried in the cemetery and what did I want inscribed and I wrote them I wanted “Greater Love hath no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends.”  I was looking forward to seeing it.  When we heard about his death we were in Washington and Laval seemed the other end of the world.  Now we’re so close!          This morning there was a feverish get-a-way: “Daddy” had told us to be early, so we’d put the alarm at 6 am – but what with one thing and another (chiefly sleep) we only made the 8 mass – that is to say, the girls and I – and we got confession as well – which was lovely considering possible accidents.  François came in time to be told the last frantic instructions and faithfully promised to do everything.

The boys didn’t hear mass – they were counting on Chartres.  They pick their churches – they insisted on Notre Dame for midnight mass and now Chartres for St. Etienne’s (as St. Stephen is called here).  There was some trouble getting in luggage – I discarded a suitcase and folded blankets on the seats to save room.  Then we left – waving goodbye to François and were on the road.  Spike has a knapsack full of guidebooks and maps, which he consults constantly.  It rained and Johnny’s nameplate, which he had made laboriously out of silver tinsel and cardboard and pasted over the Volkswagen sigh, to hide the cars German origin – didn’t last very long. He had given his father all sorts of permanents – one from Germany, Holland, Iceland, Ireland etc., but we didn’t use them.  The road was wet and glinted pearly against the saturated green of the fields and the purple-gray sky.  We went through little pastel villages and when we arrived at one with a church we got out in search of mass for the boys – but we only found the tail-end of the ten (there was not eleven) and knelt a moment by the crib – the usual plaster one with straw – but it had six or seven figures cut out of paper.  On the whole there is not the same devotion to the crib here that there is in Ireland.  The one in Notre Dame was unvisited – if I think of the quarrel in Ireland!  Yet the figures there were most artistic and beautifully expressive but there was no love spent on the crib – the figures were plunked down in a bare stable without any sort of greenery or straw.  In the church at Sceaux there was an extraordinary contraption – a babe made like modern painting – just a scrap of wood painted white with a pink over for a “face”, and cloths were draped around it to suggest the figures of Joseph and Mary in a futuristic way, with wine halves where the heads should have been – it would have been possibly effective if the proportion had been right – but the baby was much too small for the figures.  Further there was a basket of fruit and a jug to suggest offerings. Very weird and modern and of course nobody looked at it.  What price chic!

Well, anyway, we managed to make Charteress at a little before twelve and came in at the sermon.

It is a beautiful church – so simple and purely gothic – towering columns tapering off towards the roof, windows like sparkling oriental carpets and their vivid colors emphasized by the dignified gray of the stone.  The organ played “silent night” and somehow that hymn seemed to bleed in and join the soaring of the columns.  After mass we walked around the church.  Sheila had her opera glasses, which enable one to see the mural designs in the windows and the faces on the sculptured groups – the whole life of Christ is exquisitely done, on the screen around the main altar.  We also lid candles at a shrine where Our Lady holds her Christ child in one hand and a scepter and heart in the other.  She is in a stiff gold mantle and has a gold crown on her head – and so has the baby.  It is of almost pagan splendor.  But Spike hurried us along, as we had to get to Laval before dark, so we decided to pay a special visit to Charteress another day and really look at it.  Spike bought some bread and local sausage (replete with garlic) and cheese and we had our lunch on the way, with some fruit I’d bought.  Then we drove around on and on – first over the long flat sketches of land then gradually along rolling country wooded – with gorse flowering in the hedges and along the ditches.  Everywhere exquisite silhouettes of bare trees against a now lowering sky and presently the clearing sky of evening while they were finally etched on primrose as the sun decided to stay!
The children sang and quarreled and slept and played games and I slept a bit myself.  

We made Laval cemetery just before closing time.  It’s a pretty, well kept cemetery outside Laval with impressive rows of tombs all with crosses exactly alike of blue iron.  We had some trouble finding the “Tombe Anglais” with the 14 air force officers – it is beautifully looked after with fresh red cyclamen on all the graves – but 13 had headstone stones and our Willem hadn’t any, just a bare cross with scarcely legible name on it.  I almost cried.  We are staying the night here to investigate this.  Spike has already found out that he has to go to the Mairie about it.  

We said our rosary at the foot of the grave and I stole a little flowers somewhere and kissed it and put it down and I felt utterly unreal.  Willem is still so alive, so vivid, so present to me – yet ten years ago he was stuck into the soil I was standing on and now probably only his bones are left.  It just shows you how unreal our bodies are – and how little they matter.  It was almost as if I could see Willem laughing at me!  “What are you looking there for, you clots!”  But he will have liked the rosary.  When he left us the children were so small – and here they towered above me, and Randal’s deep voice rumbled as a background to our female ones.

We left cemetery then and drove into Laval, our incredibly beautiful town.  Parts of it are so old we could not enter it with the bus – uphill with houses almost touching on top – the old kind you associate with Germany.  A bridge arched over a lazy river, which reflected the pink evening sky and behind rose musty towers.  Then we went into the shopping district with bright colored lights and Christmas trees everywhere.  Spike wanted to find a hotel and asked a restaurant keeper to tell him of a clean good place.  We hooted at him “They’ll have sent you to the most expensive one in town!” Spike wouldn’t believe it but found out we were right.  It had the “Ye old country shoppe” look, Yale logs and timbers and a porter at the door.  

We fled – now we have a quiet little place with the “Traveling salesman’s home” sort of look where we get 3 double bedrooms for £2 – not bad.  The girls sleep in the first with two double beds and Spike and I in the next and Randal and Johnny in the last.  As the beds are small, it’s a toss up who’ll be more uncomfortable, Johnny or I!  But one must suffer on a pilgrimage (Randal is actually as tall as Spike now).  So we are all writing out our accounts now – and Spike has been trying to hurry us up, as he wants his supper and our company.  We have been discussing the possibility of adventures with Spike in town.  There is something about efficiency that is death to adventure.  A certain leisureliness, a lousiness faire, a “I don’t care if I get there” spirit is better.  I always feel I am out with a grownup when he is along.  But he is willing to learn and as we were all telling him how fatal good planning is, he practically...

December 27 – St. John the Evangelist

This morning I got up early (after a surprisingly good night) and woke the girls (I didn’t wake the boys but I will in future, they should have come along).  It was about 7:30 when we were ready and still quite dark.  The little waitresses were up and edified by our wish to attend mass.  They showed us with great cordiality how to find the Cathedral.  Apparently there’s no lack of masses and this town is well supplied.  We found our way through the dark streets with here and there a lamp and up the hill, past more of those old, steep gabled, timbered leaning houses to the enormous Cathedral, which we entered by a side door.  I’m sure Willem was buried from it as it is certainly big enough to hold 14 coffins.  We came in at the tail end of a side altar mass and joined communion.  Then we prayed for a moment at the crib, which was very lovely, a round stable with a baby in French Normandy dress – with a little cap on – lying in a brown wooden crib.  Mary and Joseph and the shepherds all in French peasant dress and very simply carved by a modern sculptor with fine feeling.  One shepherd plays the pipe, and another kneels with a lamb in his arm.  St. Joseph is simple and dignified with a green dark, a red hat in his hands and big hobnailed boots.  Mary is enveloped in dark blue cloak.  Unfortunately the French enthusiasm for electricity made them have lights that popped about from red to yellow, which was rather disturbing.  All the same it was interesting to me to see the origin of the Canadian French monstrosities.  There the love of ornament has got completely out of hand and has become ridiculous – gesticulating marble stones, meaningless gold twirling-endless electric effects, fairy lighting, etc. Here it is held in proportion by the dignity of the architecture and the natural good taste. But the Louis XIV influence is noticeable and there is a lot of gilt about.

We then saw an 8:00 o’clock mass starting on the other side altar and joined in.  I was again impressed by the general participation in the mass – everybody said all the responses – the Gloria, the Creed, the Confiteor, the end prayers, which were said in Latin.  I read the epistle and gospel on St. John the evangelist and thought of all my Johns and Jeannes – a tremendous collection of them.  And towards the end the monks came in on the middle altar and took their choir seats and began to chant their office.  And I thought what a wonderful thing the Catholic faith is, and how it makes of a trip like ours, which could so easily be a completely superficial and meaningless “visiting of natives”, a deeper and more rewarding Odyssey. I thought that instead of visiting merely the surface of things we are, by joining at mass each different village and town, participating at the very heart of their lives.  For the space of an hour we four were “In Laval” in the true sense of the word.  And it had that timeless quality of peace and knowledge – we felt at home, at one with the people there who would have been complete strangers in the street, and in a sense by visiting this way church after church we are following Christ as he comes to all the different places – as surely – perhaps more surely, than the apostles did. It has very much consoled me.  

Last night I felt melancholy – very much in a strange place (and I don’t like strange places) and I thought “what is the use of raging through a country in a bus – one doesn’t get into contact with the people – one might as well be in an airship hustling towards Mars (as I said to Mr. Selsly – who has dreams of being able to visit another planet one day: “How homesick I should be there!!”).  It is a strange thing that homesickness has been so great a part of my life – even as a child I was wrenched from my surroundings continually as my mother and father got ill.  Now it’s time for breakfast – later more.

Saintes – 9 pm

Where was I?  Oh yes, we were still in Laval.  We had breakfast of croissants and coffee and Spike discovered that 3 of the croissants were stale.  He told the children not to eat them and went to complain.  He had a long argument with the lady of the hotel in which he was defeated.  As he walked off to give battle he asked the children the word for “stale”. “Antique!” cried Johnny.  But apparently the hotel’s proprietors would not admit the antiquity of her buns. “They had been brought that morning by the baker”, she said.  When Spike retired defeated and told us that we weren’t hungry any more, she came to investigate and discovered that indeed, vraiment, they were stale!  A terrible thing, due entirely to the lack of gentility in the baker.  She would have a long chat with him about it.  She was still explaining when we moved off in the bus.  

First we went to the Mairie, where we arrived at the same time as a wedding party.  A beautiful young bridal went up the steps, with an enormous tulle veil and a sweet little boy in a white suit with long pants preceded her, while six bridesmaids with blue flowers in their hair and white and blue dresses held up her veil.  The elderly members of the party were all in their very best – the ladies with fan and black velvet ancient dresses and the men in full dress with top hats.  We had to wait for the wedding to be over before we could go and investigate about Willem’s tomb.  So Spike went off in the bus with Randal and Sheila and Lizzy to take a picture of Willem’s grave and Olga, Brigid, Johnny and I went into Laval to do shopping.  We first bought Olga shoes she badly needed, and then we went looking for lunch.

Spike had asked us to lay in provisions.  We passed such enchanting old houses that Brigid insisted on drawing them.  I made some quick sketches but Brigid wanted to do one in color, so we left her while we bought pains and the local pâte and a cheese the monks we had listened to that morning made.  Meanwhile the church bells were ringing, presumably for the wedding, which must be moving on the church.  In the shop we heard that it is not a popular wedding.  The bride is only 17 and the bridegroom very old.  It is all arranged by the parents, and the town is indignant about it (what tragedies everywhere!!).  

We also saw a shop with rabbits and a whole fox – apparently they eat fox here.  We bought the cheese there and they wanted to know were we Anglais.  They said it coldly as the Anglais aren’t popular.  But Olga mentioned Ireland and they immediately warmed up to that, and told us there were many Irish religious in Laval.  

Olga, Johnny and I then hurried back to the Mairie, where Spike was already talking to the required official.  I was ushered in after him and learnt that the trouble was that the English had sent the wrong tombstone and had never corrected their error though the French officials of Laval had agitated about it several times.  Then the Dutch had come with a proposal to take Willem away and bury him with the Dutch. So at Spike’s dictation I wrote that I was opposed to this and wanted him to remain with his crew. Spike is going to investigate the matter when he goes to London next month. 

That finished we wanted to hurry on to Nantes but Brigid wasn’t there.  Johnny was sent off to find her but also didn’t return.  Meanwhile I did a sketch of Spike trying to be patient. (Actually he is very patient and this is a wonderful way of getting a homogeneous family, to be tossed up in a bus together.  I have been lecturing that every impatient word is going to spoil the atmosphere and we’re really managing to be cheerful and tolerant.  The ones that make all the noise are of course Brigid and the boys!).

Finally Brigid and Johnny came back and of course Brigid had produced a masterpiece – a perfectly delightful drawing, which mollified her father considerably.  By the way, I’ve been regaling Spike with stories of the Dowling children and the joke of Eoin on “Popgun” provoked a terrific burst of laughter, also Colin’s “Don’t waste my time”.

We went then with a wise crackling group of children, everybody very merry.  The scenery was more interesting this time – we passed lovely little villages with yellow trees like poor little mane fists stuck in the air.  I noticed that what I had thought were crows’ nests in the trees were really mistletoe – most exciting!  There’s an awful lot of it there.  I also noticed the many ditches, like Holland, and a windmill.  There are very few cars on the road as it is out of season, which is just as well, for I am worried by traffic.

At Nantes we visited the Cathedral and wrote and sent some postcards.  It was a beautiful Cathedral with a marvelous crib.  Not that the figures were particularly good – the usual plaster stuff – but they had made so much of the landscape, huge paper rocks – a whole painted background, river etc., the church had obviously been damaged and restored, some parts were quite new.  There were some lovely old windows reminiscent of Chartres.

After Nantes the landscape changed and became very like Holland with willow trees reflected in ditches luminous with water – and oxen!  It was such an excitement to see yokes of oxen everywhere – sometimes 2 yokes in front of a load.  They look really picturesque.  But the people are not very picturesque and Brigid said she’d thought of a marvelous cartoon – us looking at “The natives” and the “Natives” looking quite ordinary while we’re the weird ones.  Actually we are.  Spike looks sporty but not exotic and I’ve just my gray coat and the hat with the panache, but Sheila looks a regular German with a Tyrolean hat on and embroidered Mexican yellow shirt and Canadian ski sweater and big thick boots over socks.  

Then Randal is wearing ski pants, Johnny is always flamboyant and half undone, Brigid as another embroidered skirt and manages to flick herself up with red scarves and doodah hats and Lizzy is just plain untidy.  Olga alone looks more or less respectable but she is rather subdued and feels sick.  We have lovely times together, though.  The children play spelling games in which Lizzy manages to hold her own – and we said the rosary in the car and then sang hymns.  It was dark when we arrived at Saintes but we found the same set-up here and a really delicious meal around a round table – hors d’oeuvres of mussels (shades of Molly Malone), beets, carrots, onions and mushrooms – wine from Bergerac – veal and fried potatoes and then fruit, delicious.  I’ve asked to be called for Mass tomorrow at 6:30.  We’re all going (except Spike).

There was another interesting thing I noticed today – the vines everywhere – all pruned away – which made me think of “the vine and the branches” – the vine being everlasting, the branches temporal.

December 29, 1954 – Lourdes

We arrived after a very tiring day yesterday, during which we got frozen through while waiting for things to be done to the bus in a garage – poor Lizzy had bare legs and it is colder here than in Paris.  I bought a bottle of local wine for 1/-  a liter and we tried to warm up with that, but we didn’t really get warm. It was a foggy day – we could hardly see anything, though I loved the Provencal houses – not the usual gray and blue and blue-pink, but lovely warm ochre and Venetian red houses with round patios and roofs of red very round wavy tiles.  We stopped briefly in Bordeaux but couldn’t visit the Cathedral as it was locked up for lunch (the idea!). What shuck me about it, was that it was so very much a sailors’ town – we saw the big ships and the taverns. 

Well, we had several misadventures with the [Volkswagen] bus. In the morning we almost overturned at a corner (we were on two wheels and skidded).  It seems to be rather unsteady on its legs – which gave Olga the creeps as she has once been in a car that overturned – so we were urging Spike to go slow – and to tell the truth he wanted to go slower himself, if only to save gas – as it consumes too much at 80/- per liter.  We had more and more fog after we left the garage, it was just as if we had the devil against us.  Lizzy developed a temperature – Sheila & Johnny were feeling ill.  I was frozen.

But toward the end the fog lifted – which was a mercy as it was dangerous driving.  However, we said the rosary and sang hymns.  When we finally arrived at Lourdes it was 7 pm and we had to find a hotel.  We asked the way of one of the usual idling men, who immediately wanted to take us in tow and earn money “guiding” us, which annoyed Spike, so the first quarter of an hour was spent dodging him.  

Then we went from boarding house to hotel.  Some were so posh they’d require you to dress for dinner – others were so bad that Spike wouldn’t consider them.  Finally we found one which was “grim but possible” according to Spike, who feels very déclassé in it as it has iron bedsteads and no rugs on the floor and a central heating, which is lukewarm, and tap water which is lukewarm.  However, we are all very happy in it, except that Lizzy’s fever got worse and to her great indignation I put her in bed and wouldn’t let her go to the grotto right away, the same with Sheila who has been suffering from nosebleeds and looks as white as a sheet.  Elisabeth maintained that if she was ill the grotto was the very place to go.   Perhaps she is right, I don’t know.  Olga, Randal, Brigid, Johnny and I went to the grotto and it was very moving to see it back.  It is nice now that at pilgrimage time as the grille is taken away and one has access to the whole grotto.  It was like saying hello to Our Lady again after last year – and thanking her for my main intention, which was granted – and thanking her for getting me there again with my whole family, Spike included – it was so quiet in front of that grotto with all the flickering candles and a row of motionless, praying people in front of it – the children were deeply moved and very grateful for having come.  We all drank Lourdes water and then went back to our beds.

In the night I had another attack of my bladder trouble – quite painful and Spike was angelic – he woke the maids to get me a hot water bottle and now (at 9:30 am) he has gone off to send a telegram to Ben asking for my pills.  I have not gone to early mass as I planned and am feeling rather low but with the comfortable sensation of being home, with Our Lady looking after me – and it’s really a most relaxing and lovely experience.  You will heard more about our stay at Lourdes later, but I just want to get this off as I had no time and energy to write last night.  Luckily all the children have had a good night’s sleep and though we are missing communion this morning, I don’t think our lady will mind.  I feel as if she is saying: “There, dears, rest now, you’re home with Mother!” and we’ll all be at the grotto tomorrow for mass and communion.  Spike has got a bit of a fright and I think he has given up the idea of pursuing his “schedule” with full force – which will give us all more leisure.  He is really angelic.  So all is well in the best of all possible words and with this I leave you till later.

December 29, 1954 4 pm with a view on Sunny Lands Cape

Today the sun shone beautifully and I had my breakfast in bed – a huge cup of coffee and two croissants.  Lizzy had her chocolate and croissants in bed too.  We missed mass except Randal, who went to the basilica and had communion. I went to see how Lizzy was and found her contented and anxious to write postcards.  I gathered together my camera, and bag and went outside where I found Spike and Brigid in a car with footed panes, trying to warm themselves.  It was much colder than it’s been in Paris and the air has the tingling quality of the Canadian or Swiss mountains (the only ones I know).  Two old ladies were curiously eying the bus and wanted to know where I came from.  Holland, Ireland, Canada, USA, I answered airily, with success.  They panted out that their dog came from Holland too – a compatriot, but he had forgotten his Dutch, I found out.  The lady pointed to her eye, which said had been cured by our lady and the other lady, her daughter – spread out some manned hands, which hadn’t been cured but “improved” They wished us good luck and told us we were lucky to get the sunshine – Spike went off in the car to the grotto, but Brigid, Olga and I preferred to walk.  We bought some souvenirs on the way.  The sunshine was lovely – we felt so festive.  When we came to the grotto grounds we took a Marie of the basilica and surroundings.  Spike came to meet us with Sheila and Johnny, and I took a picture of him and persuaded him to come back with me and light a candle at the grotto.  He did that – he lit all our candles and then he knelt with my hand on his before Our Lady, and I was very happy.  There was a lovely atmosphere.  Spike drank some Lourdes water too, and when we walked back the carillon played the Lourdes hymn and then the bells rang for Angelus, which I and the children said, and all around us were the mountains – and nuns walked here and there, and priests – and we felt as if we were living in Our Lady’s arms.  We got some bread and sausage for lunch then and went off in the car, after having collected Lizzy, who had no fever and we didn’t want to leave her.  We went up a lovely winding road through the mountains with vista up on vista of these very high close peaks – some covered with snow – along a murmuring river.  We ate our lunch stationed on a high point, the sun streaming into the bus.  Randal wanted to see the stalactite rocks and grottos – and we drove through some charming old villages and reached the place.  We forked out 2.00 f each (4) and had to wait for the guide – who looks us through miles and miles of subterranean rock formations, all electrically lit.  It is really fantastic those things are produced from water dripping down sediments and they are forming all the time at the rate of 2 cm a century.  Just think of the billions and billions of years it takes to form all that!  Steps have been built, with railings, to allow tourists to pass through all the passages and arches.  Finally we descended over a hundred steps, deep, deep down and landed at the subterranean river, where we got into a boat and were pailled along by the guide, who pushed with his hands along a sailing.  This reminded one strongly of the river stuff.  It was very stimulating to the imagination but the air was very warm and heavy (yes warm – its warm underneath the earth though it was freezing outside) and we were getting a little oppressed by the immensity and endlessness of the caves so we were rather relieved to sight the exit. 

I had meanwhile been ransacking my bag as I realized a tip would be required, which, for seven, would be of monumental proportions.  In case we had not understood that, there was a light which said: “N’oubliez pas le guide”, and in case we overlooked the light the guide pointed to it and said: “C’est le meilleur lumière de tout”.  Well, we managed to satisfy him by emptying our pockets.  

He was a typical type of the region, stocky and swarthy, with intelligent brown eyes and a black beret on his head.  His French was veering towards Spanish – rolling rs and a tendency to talk of ving instead of been and maing instead of main, etc.

He had the usual guide’s form of human and plunged us into total darkness once – which really was frightening. It is so very dark down there – and you hear the rustling of water and smell the smell of stones and little toad stools, and you could easily panic.  But with the lights it has a fairy like appearance.  Some of the stones are gray and some white – the white is crystallized chalk.  We saw the narrow aperture through which the first explorers entered.  Now we are resting at the hotel and we’ll go to the Lourdes grotto again after dinner.  Tomorrow we’re earnestly going to pray – this was a kind of holiday we all needed.  So more tomorrow!
December 30, 1954 - Lourdes

Dearest Joan,
Another interesting day, Spike would have liked to have gone on today but my bladder trouble was still much in evidence and I was not equal to a long auto journey.  Ben telegraphed the name of my pills but they don’t have them here so I got something else, I hop it isn’t poisonous – it makes me very drowsy.  I didn’t feel equal to early mass this morning but we went to 9 at the grotto.  It was covered with frost – but there’s something about that grotto, I for one didn’t feel the cold, or not so, and I noticed it.  There was an invalid wrapped in blankets in a chair and a person looking after her and several dozen people following the mass, which was said by a bearded priest.  Little sparrows hopped about confidently, knowing nobody was going to molest them.  The boys are now anxious for an opportunity to serve mass at the grotto and we are going to early mass tomorrow in the hope of their getting a chance. I must admit that we were pretty dulled going home – the sun had not properly risen yet and at the hotel there was no blazing fire to warm us – we had to do the best we could with lukewarm radiators and a hot cup of coffee.  After breakfast I took my movie camera and we went back to the grotto where I took a movie of the way of the cross.  That is an exquisite arrangement behind the Basilica up the mountain, you go up a road and first you get to the scale sancta – a set of marble stairs going to the firs station, which you mount on your kneels saying an our father, ave and Gloria at each step.  Then you go by a back path to the second station and so on to the crucifixion on top of the hill, descending again for the thirteenth and fourteenth stations.  They are lovely stations made of stone and the expression of Christ  and his Mother and the Roman soldiers are beautifully done.  Then you must imagine the setting – all around the Pyrenees – the huge mountains – some of them snow capped and down below the village of Lourdes, spread out like a map.  It was a beautiful day and the sun warmed us up beautifully.

After the station we went back to the grotto where we lit candles and drank more Lourdes water and touched rosaries to the rock and said prayers for our friends and had a mass said for our intentions.  And our intentions included Joan and John and Evie – as you know.  I also took a nice movie of the grotto and of a wedding party – apparently you can get married at the grotto.  The atmosphere is quite different now from the last time and I much prefer it – it is the same difference between meting someone at a crowded cocktail party and just dropping in on ordinary home life.  I feel much closer to the Bl virgin and I feel much better able to pray and much happier without the crowds.  Feel very much like a spoilt and privileged child and not with standing the cold I feel drawn towards the grotto all the time, as if I’m wasting my time anywhere else.

It was time for lunch then and Spike drove us to a lovely spot in the mountains where we sat on the grass in the sunshine (yes, it gets quite warm during the day), and ate bread with local sausage and cheese and ham and tangerines, bananas and local sponge cake and local wine and drank in the beauty of those lovely, lovely mountains, rearing above us.  I wanted to be at 2 o’clock benediction to have some presents I bought blessed (among others some Lourdes candles I am sending Joan. I know she’s got plenty of Lourdes water), so we went off – but Randal insisted on being left behind as he wanted to climb a peak and take pictures.  We were just in time for Benediction at the crypt, a lovely little chapel under the Basilica, which was warm, and we said the rosary afterwards.  Then we went back to the grotto for a visit and back to say the stations once more after which we trudged back to the hotel by the wrong toad, and landed at Bernadette’s old house instead – a dreadful place – very damp and cold with gray moldy walls frightful – and finally home – where Spike put me to bed and I had a lovely sleep.
December 31, 1954 – Lourdes to Spain
Dearest Joan and John,
This morning we got up at 6 and went to the grotto in absolutely freezing weather only to find the first mass at the grotto was at 7:30!!  So we went to the crypt instead, where 5 masses were going on at different stages in 5 chapels at the same time – I just said the rosary and drank in the holy atmosphere without attempting to follow it.  Johnny was so anxious to serve mass at the grotto he hovered about from 7 on in the freezing cold – but when Olga, Brigid and I went down at 7:30 he wasn’t serving, someone else had got in first.  We heard that mass, with Spike hovering in the background, impatient to be off – and it was so cold that after communion I tried to get some warmth from the many candles, which are always burning day and night – which gives you some idea of the devotion of the faithful – some candles cost a pound and are as thick as a tree and there are many of those burning too.  The roof of the grotto is black with candle smoke.  However, just as Spike hoped to get us off, Randal got a chance to serve and I said perhaps he’d have a chance at the crypt – so we went to the crypt but all the priests there had servers.  We warmed up a bit and went back again to see the tail-end of Randal’s mass and then a young priest appeared and Johnny presented himself and oh! Bless!!  He was allowed to serve!  Then a lady came to me and said, pointing to him, “Ts that your son?” and I said: “Yes” and she said “Well, that’s mine” pointing to the priest.  Her name was O’Langhlon and she came from Australia.  He was ordained on December 4!!

Johnny looked perfectly sweet serving and did it very well, he and the priest looked equally young and innocent and equally anxious to do everything correctly and though we simply froze we were all blissfully happy and I kept thanking Our Lady when I wasn’t thinking of how cold I was.  In the end Johnny was actually allowed to hold a canopy over the priest and conduct the Blessed Sacrament to the Church, as it had been the last mass.

By now it was quarter to ten and we had seen many masses and been blessed many, many times.   Mrs. O’Laughlin gave Johnny a mass card of her son.  There was an old bearded man who always came to all the masses and answered all the responses and looked very sweetly at us and looked very poor and the children made out he was one of the 3 kings who according to the legend haunts the earth between Xmas and twelfth night.  He had a look of a disguised king. He wore sandals.

When we were back in the bus we were very, very cold and though Spike put the heat on and shut the window, I couldn’t warm up. Shivers went up and down my back and I felt wretched.  So at the next town I begged for breakfast.  None of us had had any yet.  We couldn’t find a nice place until we saw a restaurant on a country road – but the restaurant room was icy cold and made me feel more ill than ever. I was going back to the car when the proprietor invited us into his own kitchen, which was beautifully warm.  You have no idea what bliss it was to be in front of natural heat again – instead of lukewarm pipes – there was a beautiful stove and I just stood there and thanked God and got really warm for the first time since we left home.  

Meanwhile it was obvious that we had landed with a character – he was an elderly man who bustled about his lovely old kitchen with antique dresser and grandfather clock and copper and china ornaments on the dresser – and made us the first really good coffee I’ve tasted in France – by the drip method – while he talked all the time – commenting in Spike’s large family and telling him that he would get ₤60 a month for it in France, but of course, the Americains were tres riches, they didn’t need that.  Meanwhile he was serving us nice fresh bread and homemade marmalade and hot milk and coffee.  We asked about Lourdes and if he had heard of miracles.

“Mais naturellement, nous avons tonjours des miracles en France” he told us loudly. “But at Lourdes”, I persisted. “Ah oui”, he said, “I’ve heard of people who went there on their feet and returned on their heads – marvelous!”  “Here we have a skeptic”, I told the children he doesn’t believe in Lourdes but he is good, he believes in charity”.  He had gone out for more food when I said that.  “How do you know?” asked Randal.  “I don’t know”, I said.  “But I guess that’s what he’s like”.  

Well, I wasn’t far wrong.  I forget how we got on to it but we were soon in a religions argument.  He said he didn’t believe in intermediaries.  “The out-of-doors is my Cathedral”.  He said. “I tell God I believe in Him but I don’t want anyone between us.” “And what did God say?” I asked.  He leant over to me: “Il ne m’a jamais repondu”.  So we went on and he said: “On me baptizait catholique mais on ne m’a pas demandé a qu’est-ce-que j’ai voulé,” he said.  He was really a Protestant.  I told him it was dangerous to be a Catholic with a Protestant heart.

He was also obviously a pantheist as he went on to say that he had traveled much and had been in the Spanish civil war and in all sorts if countries and cities but he had found since he had settled in the country and observed animals that they were much better than man.  And he told us a curious thing. He had a hen with 12 chicks, and there was a hawk trying to catch the chicks to feed its young.  But when the hawk hovered the mother hen by some means had conveyed to the chicks that they had to lie for dead – so they did – motionless and when they were not standing up the hawk couldn’t catch them.  As soon as the hawk was gone they got up as if nothing had happened.  He was praising nature for the rest of our visit and Brigid was arguing with him and trying to tell him that as animals have no choice, that they are neither good nor bad.  It was a very stimulating visit.  When we left I thanked him for his charitable reception and said I hoped to meet him in heaven, “If you get there before me, reserve a place for me” he said.  “Then I must know your name”, I said. “St. Laurent”, he told me.  “Well, if you are a saint already you’ll certainly be there before me!”  I said.  We parted excellent friends.

We drove on then to another Cathedral town beyond Pau where the girls and I had some coffee in a shop, which had two parrots called Jacquot and Daisy and a wolf dog called Boy.  Jacquot sang when you said “tais-toi” [“shut up”], and we got him to sing just as we wanted, to the despair of the shopkeeper who said she’d have to listen to him all afternoon.

Road to Biarritz

Now and after another drive through Basque country – Biarritz – with different architecture – no more the Provençale ochre and Venetian red but more a twin chalet type, with white walls and deep red roofs – pointed and more oxen – and an exquisite glimpse of the gulf of Biscaye of brilliant blue with easy curling waves – we came towards the Spanish towers and it began to look like an enlarged howth – with gorse and smoky distant mountains – the sea to the right of us – the road winding over flat moon.  The weather was mistily sunny.  At the border we had to show our passports and our cameras and wait a while, while they found out we were neither immigrants nor an invading army.  We admired the Spanish guards and suddenly Spanish faces – and there were some girls in colorful costumes for the old year fiesta.  Then we traversed an exquisite bit of Spain – all along the coast – twisting and turning, reminiscent of a glorified bray-head, and we went through little Spanish villages where a lot of brown eyed children with blue pants played a bout a fountain in a kind of patio – and we saw little black burros (donkeys) with packs or before carts – and oxen flogging fields – and we saw rolling green hills mounting towards the sleeper – bluer mountains and melting away into vistas – we saw valleys with lakes and sudden harbors with colorful ships reflected in primrose water and twists in the road bringing us a beach with rolling breakers and old towers – and guards with hats like Napoleon.  And we saw the sun disappear behind the distant mountains, while we said the rosary and sang hymns and as the darkness fell we stopped at a little seaside hotel and there we are staying the night right beside the beach – where I went to hear and greet the sea first thing – and I picked up a Spanish feather for John, which I enclose.

I heard that there is a fiesta on at the pueblo for New Year’s Eve and everyone is going to it at 8 tonight – we only have dinner at 10 that is the custom here.  It is Friday but in Spain there is no fish on Friday, we’re allowed meat.  It is all very, very interesting and a little frightening, not knowing the language at all.  But it sounds as if one could pick it up quickly.  I’ll write all about the fiesta tomorrow.

P.S. We went to evening service in the church – an old 19 century church with big bronze doors behind the altar, making a dark – rich rather somber effect, entirely different from the Irish.  They were saying the rosary in Spanish as we entered, which was followed by Benediction and the creed and litanies.  And it struck me again the extraordinary contrast between the strangeness of being in a country of which one doesn’t even know the language and the familiarity of being in the church – it was like being home in Ireland to hear the Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris.  Afterwards the people gathered in the square and a band played and the youngsters began to hop around and ours got very excited and wanted to join.  Spike was opposed to it but I felt it was almost a duty so we left Spike gazing after us while we linked arms and swept along the narrow streets.  After a while it got very rough, however and we got separated.  A young fellow linked his arm through mine and though he meant well he went too fast and I realized I was too old for the sport, so when Spike intercepted us and wished to entice us home I supported him, though the children wanted to go on.  But we won, and we had a beautiful dinner – much better than the French watery soup, chops and fruits – we had real chicken soup (it was Friday but in Spain there is no abstinence) ham and eggs – veal chops, chips and tomato salad – rose wine and a special New Year’s dish – stewed figs and prunes with sticks of almond paste – very light and delicious!  Mmmmm!  I’m looking forward to more Spanish food!
SPAIN 1955
1 January 1955 - Biarritz

After a rather disturbed night, in which we heard a lot of celebrations, which we didn’t join in, because we were too tired and because we thought the invitation to join might have been polite rather than sincere – and anyway the festivities went on till 4 pm and included carols like Adeste Fideles and Silent Night and a lot of rattling of those tambourines – anyway, after this night we got up in time for 9 mass – which we walked to via the beach, as usual the sea was lovely and two big dogs wanted to make friends.  There were a lot of ladies with black lace shawls shuffling to mass and when we got there we found the candles lit already.  The men and women are separated here – men and boys in front, women behind.  There are only tiny windows at the top of the church and there’s very little light form the lamps so its difficult to follow the mass from a book and nobody seems to do it.  Communion was served at a side altar right at the beginning of mass and we all went to it.  A little altar boy held the paten and a lighted candle, which made communion festive.

The Spanish sermon was delivered just after the consecration and we could actually understand it a bit – all about the New Year and the promises of God and asking St. Bernadette and St. Maria Goretto to pray for us.  Then after mass the boys and men rushed to the altar where the priest held a Christ child statue to be kissed – an altar boy went with a collection plate beside it, which was embarrassing as we’d given the Spanish money we had already.  After the men the girls were allowed to kiss the infant.  Then we said a prayer before the crib, which was beautiful and most unusual – in three compartments, the first with Mary and Joseph looking for room at the ruin and Mary on the donkey looks so sweet and helpless – and then the birth of Christ with perspective vistas beautifully done – and then the three kings with a dark sky with pricked stars and light behind it.  We also revered a very old statue of Mary and Jesus – and then went to the hotel.  We saw a whole row of little donkeys delivering the milk – charming!

Monday January 3, 1955 - Compostela
Dearest Joan,
Thanks to our blessed Lady I am continuing this itinerary.  We had a nasty smash – but I’ll start the beginning.  I woke up this morning feeling much happier after a long, long sleep.  Spike and the children had had dinner with the students of the Sorbonne, who are Americans and described American college life in a way, which horrified our children.  Spike said there was a tremendous argument and the Americans didn’t get the best of it.  We went to 9 mass again – scandalously late but I’m still feeling a bit tired.  This church was again very ornate with marble altar rails and a lot of gilt and gold behind, but it was almost empty – even of pews – an enormous empty space between the pillars – and some righteous pews, like an after thought – enough to seat about 50 people.  This time we had again communion with an altar boy holding a lighted candle and the precaution was necessary for towards the end of the mass the lights again went out and we were in pitch darkness except for the mass candles.  This is not part of the ceremony, as it always happens at a different time.  I’m expecting it now.  I imagine that electricity is not one of the things the Spanish are gifted at.  They certainly leave us in the dark in hotels too.  I am writing this in semi-obscurity.  There is something lovely though, in a dark church.  During communion Randal distinguished himself by overthrowing a pew and I saw the priest looking at him several times as if wondering whether he was a half out.  I was quite surprised that he gave Randal communion after it, for it made a terrific noise (the overthrowing of the bench, I mean).  The children and Spike had breakfast them and I had some fruit.

After a cordial farewell (the masculine hotel keeper were all very interested in my daughters and nothing can keep Brigid from conversation, she pitches headlong into Spanish.  I tried it at the post office with hopeless success I managed to get stamps for my letters but I couldn’t make him understand that I wanted extra stamps – not knowing the word for it – and when I held up my ten fingers he thought I was disputing the price.  He’d weighed the letters on his hand and wrote down the prices and added them up, and then he showed me one peseta, (about 3 d) and said “for me”, in Spanish, and put it in his pocket.  So apparently you give a tip to have your letters franked in a post office.  The whole thing had to be taken on trust by me.  I do hope the letters reach you – and see if thy have stamps of 5 pesetas on them – that’s what he told me they were).

Well – with much adios we went off then – I stretched out again on the middle seat.  It was very cold and rainy and I’d just as soon sleep.

We had a very interesting lunch as I had protested against the late dinners at 8 and 9 – much too heavy a meal before going to sleep – I though we should have just a drink and rolls in the evening and eat an hot meal in the middle of the day – which would also refresh us – so Spike found us a restaurant and promised they would not serve veal – we’ve had veal every single day since we left home.

Well, they really did serve us a meal – the most beautiful spinach and potato soup – and then fried eggs – and then wonderful fresh fish with lemon (no vegetables) and then bananas and apples. I nipped out then to buy this paper and a new fire and a man who knew English helped me.  

Then we went on and this time Olga & I sat in the back seat with Lizzy who wasn’t feeling well and stretched out on our laps.  We were dozing away as the bus hurtled along over sharpen dunes and suddenly it came up a hill towards a place where they were constructing a new airport.  It wasn’t really cross roads – because the side roads were not even paved – but the tractors were going up and down there to bring gravel to the airport.  They were crossing the highway at great speed and not slopping at all to see if anyone was coming.  I saw the one appearing but being in the back, didn’t warn Spike – thought he’d see it himself.  He confessed later that he was interested in the airport and wasn’t watching.  Anyway, we crashed head-on. I must hand it to Spike, though, he didn’t lose his head and slammed on the brakes so fast that all that happened was that we all got shaken up and mocked about a bit and one lamp is completely smashed – the other still works, and the offensive Volkswagen sign was battered to bits and the bus has lost whatever look of opulence it once had.  

Spike got out and again was very patient and tactful, he managed to come to an amicable arrangement with the men and he hopes to collect insurance from the German company.  It was a terrible blow for him as he had hoped to sell the bus at a good price.  Also, it attracted a lot of attention.  Soon a crowd was gathered, all ready to lay funeral wreaths on our graves, but Brigid laughed at them and showed them she was alive, and we all followed suit and soon all the women were laughing and crying Bulong! Bulong! (Brigid by the way, is a wonderful traveling companion, she is so gay).  One woman kept staring stolidly at us with an enormous bucket in her head.  I don’t think she knew she was carrying it, she certainly showed no wish to put it down and stood looking and chattering with the thing on her head all the time.

Well, the next thing was that the American boys on their motorcycles caught up with us and were concerned at our plight but even more concerned with their own – they’d tried to reach a certain town and got lost in the mountains in a blizzard.  We finally said goodbye to them all and went on rather pleased that the engine is in the back and hadn’t been hurt (I shudder to think what would have happened if the bus didn’t go any more!) I read up on Santiago before we got there and I’ll copy out some interesting descriptions written by I. M. Ruiz Morales, who gave a lecture at Randal’s school.

“Compostela is the place in the world where you will at last find peace.  If you make up your mind to go, I advise you to arrive on foot” (that we did – the children and I).  You will thus start by contemplating things with that calm rejoicing of someone who, being able to enjoy many pleasures savors the best of them all, that of renunciation, of choosing the simplest.  Moreover, just as your ancestors did, you will suddenly feel yours heart beating faster when you catch glimpses of those towers between the mountains; you will then be passing near moment joy – the Mons Gandii of the pilgrims.

The first thing to do, is to be prepared to recognized that we modern men, in Spike of our lifts and planes, raise ourselves above: the matters of this world with more difficulty than our medieval opposite numbers.  And this will help you to accept the great truth upon which rested that spiritual architecture the primacy of the papacy, so much fought against ever since the fifteenth century – which as a doctrine is infinitely above what has been glorified as “International law” from the time of Grotius, above what the French called équilibre Européen (where in fact is the equilibrium and where Europe nowadays?), above the Staten System of Germans, not to mention our contemporary international organizations.

It was the ecumenical magistracy of the pope, which instituted in Compostela the jubilee of the Holy year for the first time during the history of the church at the beginning of the twelfth century.

Holy year – Jubilee of pardons, all the metaphysics of true Christianity is there.  We believe in everlasting life, and we believe in a final judgment but also in the possibility of redemption of our sins in this world.  The Jubilee, which in the Old Testament was a civil festivity for the remission of debts and the emancipation of slaves, becomes in the Christian cycle a purification of the spirit.

But Jubilee is still another thing, it implies crowds.  A Jubilant cry is that which comes from many throats, so unanimous that in it no one can trace the confusion of the tower of Babel.  How touching to think that all the pilgrims were united here by the work of Caritas, that supreme and generous impulse, which according to St. Paul is worth more than all the charismata or gifts of the Holy Ghost – more than the gift of languages itself – more than the gift of prophecy!”
And he goes on to trace the history of the place.  St. James was the first, according to traditions, to preach the gospel to Spain, where he went from Palestine.  And he converted to the true faith the ancient dwellers of the country.  His body was taken later to Spain by his disciples, who steered a marvelous course until they came to the NW of that country and landed at Padron, a village of near Compostela – where according to the express evokes of the almighty, the remains of the “Son of thunder” were burned on the very spot where they are today.  During the reign of Alfonso II the place where the apostle was burned was discovered according to tradition, after being forgotten for several centuries.  The devotion felt for him in Spain dates back to those times.  The cathedral like shrine was visited during many centuries by countless pilgrims, kings, rants knights, monks, nobles and common, all of them sharing the wish to enjoy the privileges granted by different popes to the Compostelan Jubilee, similar to those of Rome and Jerusalem.  St. James was the true inspirer of the long drawn wars to evict the African moors from the Spanish soil.  During the 12th century Maestro Mateo created in Santiago Cathedral the portico de la Gloria, one of the marvels of Christian art.  Since then they all kept arriving by the thousand in commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi, burnable of heart, had never thought of emerging from an obscure life, but the vision of Compostela with people coming from all parts of the world revealed to him the reality of the injunction “The harvest is great”, and that is why he started his foundational vocation in Compostela and why there exist today in order of Friars Minor.  To Santiago went as pilgrims all the Christians herd of any grace, age, sex, condition and race. And the pilgrims, almost held as sacred persons, could cross the lines of battle among kings and barons, without being troubled.  The reason being that there was something which was respected as a hierarchically superior above all – do you see the colors at difference separating that world from the one in which we live?”
I don’t think I’ll quote any more – this will give you an idea.  It is indeed a strange city – one feel as intimate in the sheets as if they were passages in a house. The bus is an insult, an anachronism.  It certainly creates a sensation with its squashed nose.  Everyone examines the damage carefully.

They look at the headlights – at the crumpled front – walk all around the car and then inside it to see if there are any corpses.  Then they shrug their shoulders and walk off.

Now we are in this hotel and Johnny is lost.  He wandered off on his own and hasn’t been able to find us.  Spike has gone to the police.  Poor old Johnny, a little while ago we all sat at dinner and he was missing. We all wondered where he could be until Randal exclaimed: “Oh, maybe he was still in the room when I locked it!” he says he came just in time to keep the door from being damaged.

All of us are getting to look dilapidated.  There’s no heat in the radiators and no hot water anywhere so we can’t wash things in time to get them dry in the morning.  The smashing in the car didn’t help things – we all got bumps on our heads and legs – Olga’s stockings are un-ribbons, I lost my best nightgown in one of the hotels, Lizzy lost her barrette, Sheila’s raincoat ripped – so Brigid says she is going to make a caricature of the Marlins departing triumphantly in their plush [?] car and returning like warriors who have lost the last battle.

January 4, 1955 

Dearest Joan,
Another day!  And tomorrow we’ll probably be at Fatima!
This morning it was raining and I wasn’t feeling well at all – had dreamt of accidents all night and it had been very noisy as Tuesday is market day in Santiago de Compostela, so the squealing of pigs and crashing of gears and excited talk of men and braying of donkeys waked us at an unearthly horn.  We went to 9 mass in the Cathedral and to our great luck there was a high mass.  It was quite imposing a big choir of monks singing matins first at the high altar, which is erected over the tomb of St. James.  It is very ornate indeed – a large space between the altar rails and the altar filled with carved pulpit, carved seats – mounting steps, bit lectures with big missals on then and overhead all sorts of oriental looking lamps and gold ornaments and flags and so much of it all that it looks more like a museum than a church – but yet it has dignity and beauty – rather like an old churches overloaded with jewels but aristocratic for all that.  What fascinated me was the idea that I was looking at something medieval knights and kings and scholars had looked at, where perhaps St. Francis and other saints had knelt.  I prayed to St. James for you all.  I thought here is someone very dear to our Lord, called Son of Thunder together with the disciple he specially loved – and probably third in his estimation after Peter and John.  And how much he, John’s brother, must have loved John and shared John love for our Lord!  So I recommended you all very especially to him, Evie, Joan and John – and I also prayed for you at his tomb in the crypt.  His remains are in a gold casket there.  I am enclosing a medal St. Santiago for Evie (in Evie’s copy), and Joan, in Joan’s letter.  There were other shrines too.  One of St. Francis seeing the Christ child with a chalice in his hand, this is a statue on ground level of natural proportions and I saw an old peasant woman fervently praying before him and gently stroking the statue with her gnarled fingers as if to say: “Please dear old boy, do what I tell you”.  I thought it so touching that I also prayed for her intentions.  There is a shrine of the infant Jesus – but he is decked out like a doll in stiff gold clothes and has a ring of long black hair, which makes him look very much like Louis XIV.  Then there is a statue of St. James on a horse, simply massacring the poor moors – which is much venerated (the moors are fascinating, one is rending a cloth with his teeth in death agony), St. James appeared thus in a vision to those who fought the moors.  

Well, anyway, the high mass was lovely with organ and chanted by the monks.  There was no communion at it so we found it at side altar, which reads in Spanish that there is communion there every quarter of an hour.  The church is much frequented and the people are very, very poor.  One of the altars I liked best was our Lady of the Seven Dolores.  She had the most beautiful expression on her face, and has her hands in front of her as if she was winging them in agony at her son’s death, and her face has a look of resignation in such deep sorrow that you stand silently before it and your own troubles suddenly appear very, very small.

Afterwards we went to the hotel for breakfast and then I took my camera and wandered around Compostela, taking movies.  I hope they’ll come out, it was a gray day and it’s a color movie.  Olga discovered the market and took me there, a colorful scene.  Various people wanted met o take them and a man gave me his address to send him a picture.  Unfortunately I can’t as it’s a movie – so as I knew I had to disappoint him I made a drawing of him on the spot. Some little boys saw this and begged me to do drawings of them.  So I did one and they were very pleased.  I love Spanish children.  Then Spike took us to see a posh hotel, which was done in the old Spanish grandee style – very much to attract tourists and too glamorous and on purpose to be quite palatable after the grinding poverty we had seen on the streets – but very interesting all the same, with inside patios and old Spanish tables and chests and old frames around pictures.  

Quite a lot of the pictures were modern and reminded me of Sheila’s work.  Sheila wasn’t flattered.  It is absolutely true that Spain is a sad country at present.  There is real, real poverty there – the way there used to be in Ireland and isn’t anymore.  It breaks your heart to see the church full of shawled old women who have only one joy in life – religion.  There is very little to buy in the shops besides souvenirs and stuff for tourists.  There aren’t any of the delightful sweetmeats and cakes you get in France.  Yet when you do get a good meal there it is delicious.  We went on in the afternoon and passed Vigo – the old port where the Spanish galleons sailed from and the adventures left to find the New World.  It is a fantastically long and deep bay – with fir trees and mountains on both sides, making it look like a river.  The town is of the same antiquity as Compostela and the streets also make one feel an intruder in a car.  They are so intimate and narrow and obviously made for pedestrians.  Everybody is on the road here and I’m constantly in fear of something happening to pedestrians.

My sympathies are wholly with them!

Poor Spike had to put up with a lot of advice form me (probably unnecessary), and he was very patient about it.  To tell you the truth I was terrified after yesterday!! 

We finally reached the Portuguese border where we had to wait a long time and fell in a lot of papers. A man came out to chat with us. He spoke French and was very gallant and kissed Lizzy’s hand.  He wanted to know what had caused the accident and I told him in French.  He then repeated it in Portuguese to others.  They all shook their heads over those Spanish truck drivers.  Then they wanted to know if the headlights still worked.  Luckily they did, though they’re cross-eyed, pointing in different directions.  We had to drive a long way with them afterwards.  

Buster, as Johnny has christened our car, has now become “Busted”.  There is one advantage in having such a battered front – everybody takes one look at us and leaps away.  “They think I’m a dangerous fellow who’ll stop at nothing,” said Spike ruefully.  “It’s like a prizefighter with a broken nose”.  But I find the general reaction much pleasanter than before, now the German sign is removed and the look of opulence taken away, everybody is much more sympathetic.  

Spike was puzzled over it until he found the meaning: “They’re telling me I’ve been in hot water!” he said and chuckled over that.  “They’re marvelous at sign language!”  It’s just as well too, since we don’t know much Spanish and no Portuguese.  You immediately notice a difference when crossing the border.  There is less poverty and more efficiency – and people are no longer pale with dark hair and eyes but have definitely swarthy faces – one sees a lot of Negro types.  People here are also definitely better humored and less amorous.  There is a more modern spirit – I should almost call it an American influence, if that is possible.  Something similar, anyway.  You’re no longer in the middle ages.  I prefer Spain, really, but I must say that I enjoy being in a really comfortable hotel again and did we have a meal tonight – first delicious vegetable soup – none of your watery stuff, it was full of beans & potatoes & carrots and what not.  Then we had an omelet with shrimps inside garnished with olives and pickles.  Then we had salad of endives and onions with French dressing.  Then we had lovely fresh fish with cress and radishes.  Then we had beefsteak with rice and peas and then a delicious lemon cake and then fruit.  Could it be better?  For all this and 8 beds and 8 breakfasts Spike pays £7.  

We are in a coast town called Ventia or something, above Oporto.  We hope to reach Fatima tomorrow.  The roads here are much better than in Spain.  Tomorrow we’ll hear our fist Portuguese mass.  We’re going to spend several days in Lisbon, Deo Gratias – as all of us are weary of car riding.  It’s noticeable in the children who were like angels at first and now are beginning to squabble.  Johnny and Randal are constantly in each other’s hair – Johnny walked out on us again tonight because he couldn’t have the biggest bed – but came back in time for dinner.  Where he disgraced us by demanding bread & butter on top of the huge meal he got.  

For poor Lizzy the whole thing is too exciting but there’s nothing we can do about it.  I had her on my lap the latter part of the day – and I try to curb her eating and drinking a bit, though it’s a hopeless job.  However, we must suffer a little for all those lovely shrines we’re seeing!

Some of the things I noticed today were the little orange trees with oranges on them just like the trees Grotto paints or you find in the book miniatures.  And the Spanish women wear wooden clogs with spools under them against the wind, or very heavy leather boots with wooden soles.  And I noticed a tree with thick glossy leaves like laurel leaves, which has pink roses on it!

Almost everything in Spain is still done by hand.  At Compostela we watched people making the medals – boiling tin or silver or whatever it was and putting it in a little plate and then stamping the design on them.  And we saw them make statues and hammering gold on them.  I am constantly seeing sights that remind me of old nursery rhyme pictures – like this (drawing) and this – (the woman who had an awed pig – Mary had a little lamb – and this herding the cows with a piece of string).

January 6, 1955 - Fatima

Dearest Evie & Joan
We had a most interesting time tonight.  Apparently our host – who is an extremely kind and traveled person, was impressed by our appearance for Benediction in the pouring rain.  He told us tonight that he immediately thought that we must be a very good family – he interrupted his prayers to pray with us and sent us home in a taxi.  Later in the evening I went down to return his kindness and make some drawings of himself, his son and his wife (the son is the youngest of eleven children).  We began to talk – he loved the drawings, and presently we were all singing.  He started it with a good bass voice and taught us the Fatima hymn:
A treise de maio                          The 13th of May
Ha cova da Iria                           in the Cova da Iria
Apparceau brilhando                  appeared brilliantly 
A Virgei Maria                         the Virgin Mary
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria
          Ave, Ave, Ave Maria
Then he got into such a good humor that he poured us all out some port (and you never tasted port like that – you don’t get it outside of Portugal and it’s only 10/- a bottle).  Apparently you are allowed to take one bottle out free of duty.  I must tell Spike.  Well, we got very merry then, all of us in the small living room with the three of them.  We sang Adeste Fideles and “Silent Night” and O Sanctissima and “We Three Kings of Orient are” and “Good King Wencelas” and Panis Angelicus. All the servants were listening in the hall.

Later we got into a discussion with the pater familias (who is very much looked up to, admired and loved by everyone), and really he is a very good man and extremely religious.  He told us all sorts of things about Fatima, which you will read in the book I am sending you – and then we went on to discuss her message and he became very serious and concerned.  I had been saying that Lourdes seemed more like baptism – with all the water and the consolation – whereas Fatima reminded me of confirmation.  There’s strength here, a grace for combat.  

He nodded and then he said:
 Yes, and at Lourdes she is happy – she looks up.  It is the age of materialism, people are amazed at their own cleverness and inventions and don’t believe in God any more.  Pope Pius IX to counteract this proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1850.  People laugh at it, they say: “How can this be? The pope is quite wrong.”  Four years later Our Lady appears to Bernadette [at Lourdes] and says: “I am the Immaculate Conception” and that supported the pope’s definition.  Then she looks up to Heaven and says: “See how good God has been to me – how happy I am”.  But now, in Fatima, it is different.  She looks down. She weeps because she knows we have to suffer so much. She begs us: “Please, please – do what I tell you and you will not have to suffer so much.  It is so simple, pray – pray the rosary every day and make sacrifices. Do this and I can make it easier for you all.”
But do we do it?  No, a select few yes, but millions, millions don’t.  There is a statue of our Lady in Syracuse in Italy, which has been weeping.  They have examined the drops and they are human tears.  Lucia also is not pleased.  She is now a nun in Carmel and her sister, whom you visited today, is allowed to visit her as often as she likes.  She tries to find out what Our Lady is saying to Lucy, but Lucy will not tell.  She only says that Our Lady is not pleased with Portugal nor with the world, she is very, very sad.  You must tell people to pray the rosary, it is the only thing.
When Lucia’s sister was ill and worried about it, Lucia told her: “Don’t worry, your illness is not important but please! Please! Tell people to pray the rosary to avert much sorrow, that is very important.”
“What sacrifices does she want?”  I asked, “Little ones – little ones – Our Lady does not like great big sacrifices, just the little things of every day that go against your will and would make you angry – do not get angry but say it is a sacrifice for our Lady, that is enough.”

He was really very impressive, I suddenly realized what a precarious position the world us in and how important it is to pray.  When he heard that Spike was not a Catholic he became very serious and told us: “It is your duty to pray for him – your plain duty – you must pray for him.”

Of course we do, we did, but I realized this morning at Fatima’s chapel that I hadn’t been fervent – loving, hopeful enough.  It is strange that there should be three visionaries at Fatima as if she wanted to give an example of faith, hope and charity.  Lucia is faith, quietly waiting, quietly strengthening others.  Little Franciscus was hope – he was such a thoroughly good little soul – lost in the rapture of God, waiting for Heaven.  And little Jacintha was charity – that tiny child was consumed with a longing to save souls.  To the very last of her very great suffering (a rib was removed with only a local anesthetic).  She said: “For souls, its for souls.”  One feels the burning intensity of that little personality.  And those pathetic little tombs in the Basilica here!

To me there is no doubt of the genuineness of it all – again there is something in the air.  One feels the presence of Our Lady.  Our host told us that they always have pilgrimages every month on the 12th and 13th (when she appeared), but it always rains, why?

He says: “Because she does not like illness”.  There is a well here too, which is miraculous.  Our host told us he knows a nun who was cured here from a terrible disease. I forget the name.  I’ll send you some Fatima water!

Love, Hilda

Fatima, 6 January, 1955

Dearest darling Joan,
We arrived!  Yesterday (it seems ages ago), we woke up in Viana where I sent a letter via the hotel people as we had no Portuguese money and the post office wouldn’t accept Spanish money.  The hotel people would at a to them advantageous rate.  I was sorry afterwards as there was a nice blessed medal of Santiago in Joan’s and Evie’s letters and there was a chance they’d pocket the money and throw the letters in the dust bin – but let's hope they were honest – anyway I asked our blessed Lady to look after the letters.  Do let me know if you received the letter written Jan. 4, enclosing a medal.  It is very interesting to go from shrine to shrine.  I notice that as we approach a shrine of Our Lady things get worse and worse and worse until we approach her domain and then they soar again.  

Our near-accidents happened en route to our Lady – our tempers were worse just before nearing Lourdes & Fatima.  Spike was bad tempered for the first time in Viana and got into conflict with the children who didn’t hurry fast enough. 

“Traveling with daddy is like perpetually catching a train,” they grumbled.  Spike is always terribly upset himself when he has lost his temper, and drove viciously for a while, slamming on the brakes and pressing on the accelerator in a way that made me sit like a mouse, and hang on to my rosary for dear life.  After a while he calmed down a little and took some pity on passersby but he drove what I call fast all day.  He doesn’t call it fast because he is used to American cars on American highways where there are no foot passengers and long stretches of concrete roads with cars all speeding at the same rate and no worries.  Here the roads are cluttered with hens, pigs, goats, oxen, people with water jugs on their heads, bicycles, donkey carriages, markets, etc., not to speak of lively children.  The streets are narrow – the villages and towns weren’t built for autos and our bus is an insult, an anachronism.  I hate whizzing past peaceful peasants who are bringing home their harvest or leisurely returning home from a hard days work – past women who set our to do some shopping, etc., etc., to took these people out of the way hurts me.  But I realize its absurd since we’ve got to get on.  Still, I would have liked the race to the slower.  And I suffer thousand accidents that never happen.  I know it's nerves but at the same time I like to sit in front and see what’s going on.  I feel then I know when to pray. 

Yesterday I prayed and perspired most of the time, but I thought that was a good penance for Fatima.  At Oporto we had a lovely lunch. Portuguese food is delicious and much more plentiful than Spanish food.  We had a lovely spinach soup – fish with salad and a most piquant potato salad of which we all took two helpings – and the fish was fresh, and then slices of pineapple (ripe) drenched with sugar, delicious.  At lunch we all made friends again and Spike introduced me to a gentleman of the bank, who said I looked like a Portuguese lady.  Spike wasn’t pleased but I was because I knew he thought it was a compliment. 

Well, anyway, we went on again and at Coimbra, there was another fun.  We had been driving all day.  It was 4 o’clock and I must admit I was tired.  Elisabeth wanted to go to the bathroom, but Spike said we should see a university, which is world famous there and lists on top of a hill.  I begged him not to go up it in the bus, but he wouldn’t listen and drive through a dizzily narrow street up and up until he couldn’t go further and had to go down again at a dizzying slope.  Something snapped and I began to cry: “Let me out, let me out!  I’ve had enough!”  So I jumped out and Olga followed and the car rocketed down – at the bottom Lizzy got out and ran up to join me.  Olga was as white as a sheet   - ever since that accident she’s very nervous in a car.

I felt rather foolish at having made a scene especially as a lot of Portuguese people were very concerned and wanted to know what had happened.  I could only shrug my shoulders and tell then I didn’t speak their language.  Spike was waiting for us down below and I was afraid he’d be angry with me, but he wasn’t.  He looked like a schoolboy who knows he has been naughty.  He dutifully took Lizzy and Johnny to go somewhere to the bathroom and I sat down on a bench and made some sketches.  Soon a crowd of Portuguese young men collected around me, loudly exclaiming at my work and incidentally teaching me Portuguese.  Perhaps Brigid & Olga & Sheila were part of the attraction.  When Spike came back he looked much happier and flung a parcel in my lap.  He then went to fiddle with the car.  “It’s a present, Mother”, Johnny and Lizzy exclaimed joyfully.  “He said you were unhappy and he wanted to get you something.  He wanted to give you a silver plate but we said you wouldn’t like that.  We said you’d like candlesticks!”  So here were two Portuguese candlesticks!  They’re a bit flowered and they’re made for electric lamps and not candles (there’s a nick in the base to let the thread through), but they’ll be very dear to me all the same.  I now have 4 candlesticks I prize very much.  Meanwhile the girls here horrified that I had unpacked the present in full view of the crowd (I’d forgotten them); they were all delighted and interested.

As a matter of fact, Brigid is simply mobbed by them.  When we went to see the Cathedral and Spike went to get money out of the bank a crowd of boys collected around her and showered her with photographs of themselves and addresses to which she is to write.  She is apparently a Portuguese’s dream of a girl.

Spike persuaded me to sit in the back and let go of front seat driving and faithfully promised to go slow, so I went to the back and we had a very peaceful drive towards Fatima in the dark – while the children and I said the whole rosary – one for our pilgrimage, one for a special intention of Brigids (probably Spike and Benjamin) and one for all our friends.

While we were saying the rosary and before it was quite dark, we saw the olive trees flashing by – those lovely, lovely alive trees we have been admiring all day.  They are low trees, with short, gnarled dark trunks, and feathery silver tops – rather like our willows only more delicate, feathery and silver.  I asked the children what the olive trees reminded them of, what person – and they all said their grandmother and their great aunt in Holland, and I agreed with them.  While we were saying the sorrowful mysteries on the rosary they seemed even more significant as I looked at them.  It seemed suddenly as if they had in a special way taken part in the passion and witnessed Christ’s suffering.   As Randal said, what other trees would have done so well?  Lizzy thought the weeping willow – but it is too weak and too sentimental.  “And pine trees aren’t intimate enough”, said Olga, “Oaks are too stem – not sensitive enough”.  Birch trees not strong enough.  The olive is ideal – low, though and strong, yet tender, sad and yet also hopeful.  You don’t know how beautiful they are until you see them.  Olga says olives are very bitter and have to be steeped a ling time in water before they’re eatable.  
“Couldn’t that be because they witnessed Christ’s agony?” came to my mind.  What a privileged tree!  But Lizzy stuck up for the vine “Christ mentioned the vine”, she said.  The poor fig tree got of worse.

But then it is so intimately connected with the fall of Adam and Eve – and so is the poor apple tree.  It is fascinating to see the orange trees here – they really look like those stiff ornamental pictures.  And to get oranges and tangerines with the stalk & leaf still on them is another experience!!  I am enclosing an olive twig from the grounds of Fatima for Joan and Evie.

I am not surprised that the olive branch is a symbol of peace.  When we finally arrived in Fatima It was 8 pm.  We’d been singing hymns the latter part of the way and our hearts beat faster.  I felt as If grannie was very near us.  She so much glared our devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.  When Franciscus and Jacintha were beatified in 41 the whole world heard about Fatima and Mother and I and the children started our daily rosary.  That was when Willem and Spike were in England and when Olga and Brigid were kindergarten fry.  They don’t remember it at all but I remember telling about it to Mother and the two of us being moved at the description of the apparitions.  Then so much happened – Willem death, Lizzy’s birth the move to Canada and though it all went the rosary and our devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.  It was because of her we began to wear the brown scapular.  It became especially vivid to the children after my mother’s death, when we got in touch with the Sisters of the Precious Blood and got a lot of information on Our Lady of Fatima and joined the Blue Army.  Johnny was a terrific recruiter for the Blue Army and got his whole school to join first in Black Rock and then at Amppleforth.  And now we are really here – it seems incredible.  Last night we arrived in the pouring rain and Spike had difficulty finding a hotel.

At first he was offered a little shack over a souvenir shop, which had no bathroom, no water – no nothing.  He was horrified!  There aren’t many buildings here, only the basilica, the convent and seminary and some shops and a few lodging houses.  We found a lovely one, simple, rustic, in a farmyard.  Only Spike finds the straw mattress very hard.  The poor man is not really enjoying this trip at all, I fear.  Fatima holds nothing for him and when he heard I wanted to stay here a while he was horrified.  He had to go to Lisbon, he said.  I thought of the poor man here and realized his plight: “Why don’t you go to Lisbon and leave us here?” I suggested.  He was delighted.  It would save time, it would save money, so this morning he departed for Lisbon, to come back tomorrow night.  And we have our first peaceful morning, all of us catching up with our mail.

This morning we had a very, very moving experience.  We were told that there was mass at the Basilica at 8:30, but on the way there I caught sight of the tiny chapel built exactly on the spot where our Lady appeared, at her request.  It is tiny, only a priest and a server and 2 people fit in the enclosed part.  Then there is a porch, which is filled with about a dozen kneeling peasants – all very fervent.  We joined the mass there and somehow one felt the presence of our Lady.  Forcible and weakness, which didn’t seem so bad before suddenly seemed much more vicious – one’s complacency left one, but not in a despairing way, because one felt that one wanted very much to love and please Our Lady and that she wanted it too and that one had but to place oneself in her hands.  Lourdes was consoling, Fatima incites to penance and sacrifice.  It has a different spirit.  A more difficult one rarer.  Lucy has said that penance and sacrifice are the meaning of Fatima and that there must be no big buildup.  

We even got communion in this small chapel after warning the priest beforehand.  I cannot describe the intimacy of the experience and the way it moved me.  It was with difficulty I opened my mouth for communion, because I was almost in tears.  I did feel so thoroughly unworthy and such a very privileged child to have been brought so far woke where I’ve come from – heathen child of Holland – what peregrinations, what traveling! 
From Holland to Ireland, from Ireland to America – then to Canada, back to Europe and there, in Fatima practically in the lap of divine presence!  I couldn’t help asking Our Lady to be sure to bring me further still, to bring me all the way.  And I prayed very, very specially for Joan and Evie.  I asked our Lady to consider them with me, there.  I think she will.  I think you will benefit from this too, darlings.  And that the children have all this too!  Though they were not as moved as I was.  The boys had gone on to the Basilica where there was singing, Lizzy had stomachache, Olga isn’t feeling well at all, I’ve put her on a diet today, Brigid felt very sinful and Sheila is out of sorts altogether.  We all badly need a rest.  And now I’m going out to see more of Fatima, because I have to see for you as well as myself.  I’m enclosing an olive branch picked at Fatima.

Love, Love, Love

Fatima January 1955

Dearest Joan,
This morning we were up at 6:15 to join the Luis family at their prayers.  Actually it was only Mr. Luis and five servants who were standing up in the kitchen reciting the rosary when we joined.  The servants were obviously pleased and flattered.  Mr. Luis says it is the first time guests have joined their morning rosary.  We went to mass – but the priest didn’t arrive.  We sat for about half an hour in the Basilica waiting for him.  When a priest finally arrived (an Italian one), Johnny was allowed to serve mass.  We then had our medals and rosaries blessed by the priest afterwards.  Then we went to the little chapel where Randal was serving mass in the tiny little space, no bigger than a monks cell.  So we joined that mass and after that Johnny served a mass there, so it was quite late before we came back for breakfast.  The hot milk with coffee tasted good then.  We warmed ourselves at their Brazier, a kind of charcoal stove, setting on the ground like a plate like this (draw).

Mr. Luis conversed with us and told us again a lot of interesting things about Fatima.  He says he himself only got to know it in 137 after some heavy blows.  He said: “before that I was well and fortunate, I did not need God. Then our eldest son died – 19 – a very good boy, very clever, No. 1 in his medical examination.  He was going to be a doctor and had just finished his studies.  We did not understand it, my wife and I.  Why did God take him?  The world has nothing to offer in consolation.  Then one has to go to God.  So we went to Fatima and we have found peace here.  Peace is what matters.  Those who belong to God, they are not admired.  They are not very successful.  People do not like them.  But they have peace.  It is easy to follow processions and light candles and put flowers on the altar.  It is hard to put your life in order.  To do what God wants.  Not to follow your own desire.  It is hard to do good to your enemy.  You like to bite his nose off – that makes you laugh.  But no, God says do good to them.  That is hard.”

We asked him if he had seen any miracles.  Well, yes, he had seen cures done at Fatima – and he had also seen the body of Jacintha, still intact though she was buried in 1920 – thirty one years after her death she was exhumed to be put in the Basilica here and they opened her coffin.   Mr. Luis saw her, everybody was allowed to see her.  She was completely there still – hands, face, eyes, hair, rosary, clothes.  Did she look as if she had just died?  No, Mr. Luis wouldn’t say that.  Her expression was “preserved”, not fresh.  And a sort of oil had formed over her skin, which was pale but still skin.  She was not mummified.  And there was no adorn.  “I will tell you about Jacintha”, he said, “She was very pretty.  Lucia is not pretty, she is rough looking, but Jacintha was pretty.  She liked to sing and dance.  But not after the visions – she became very grave then.  There was a difference between the children.  Lucia could see and hear the Virgin and could speak to her.  Jacintha could see and hear her but could not speak to her.  Francisco could only see her.  They have exhumed his body too, but there are only the bones left and his rosary.  He is also in the Basilica now.  He died first in 1919 of the flue and Lucia and his father were the only ones to follow him to the grave.  Then Jacintha told her father: “Now Francisco has gone it is my turn to die.  But I shall first have to go to two hospitals.”  “But my child”, said her father, “Do you not know that our circumstances do not allow you to be sent to a hospital?  Why do you want to go to two hospitals?”
“I did not say I wanted to go,” replied Jacintha, “I only said that that is what will happen”.  It was the years of the terrible post war flue epidemic and they continued to treat Jacintha with “tonic” till pus came through the pores of her chest.  It was virulent pleurisy.  They brought her to a nearby hospital where she stayed for twenty days.  Then they sent her home to die.  A visiting priest, accompanied by a doctor, chanced to call at the house where they had arranged everything for Jacintha’s death.  “What is the matter with this child?” said the doctor, who came from Lisbon.  “She is going to die”, sayd the father, “Nonsense, nonsense”, the doctor wouldn’t hear of it.  “It is your duty to do something for this child” he said, “I shall bring her to a hospital in Lisbon myself”.  So she went.  There she stayed another 20 days. Then she asked for a priest.  “I am going to die tonight” she told the nurse.  They had a freemason government then in Portugal and the nurse was an unbeliever.  “You do not need a priest yet,” she told the child.  “But if you like I will call a doctor”.  “No”, said Jacintha, “I do not want a doctor, I want a priest”.   The nurse sat down on the chair beside Jacintha’s bed to argue with her but Jacintha cried: “No! No! Do not sit there please”.  “Why not?” asked the nurse, surprised,  “Because Our Lady just sat there,” said Jacintha.  Then the nurse got a panic and fetched the priest. The priest confessed Jacintha but wouldn’t give her the viaticum.  “You are not bad enough for that”,  “But yes,” said Jacintha, “I am going to die”.  “I will bring it to you tomorrow”, promised the priest.  “That would be too late”, said Jacintha.  She didn’t argue further about it and she died at 2 o’clock that night without a viaticum.  Now the government of the time was very hygienic.  There was a rule that all people who had died of infections diseases should be buried within twenty-four hours.  Jacintha’s body was therefore immediately bought down to the church.  The next morning all the papers carried the news of Jacintha’s death and so many people came to visit the bier and touch their rosaries to Jacintha’s body.  That against the law – against the wishes of the soldiers that were there, the priest, the government officials, the medical authorities, they had to keep Jacintha’s body in the church for four days.  And during that time there was no bad smell – but a beautiful scent of flowers, though she had died of Tuberculous Pleurisy.  That certainly was a miracle and so is the preservation of her body.

He himself (Mr. Luis) was an army doctor and rose to the top very early in life.  He is now retired and wanted to start a hospital here – but found that a guesthouse was more needed.  He is a bit of a saint, I think.  He gets tears in his eyes when he talks of God and Fatima.  “The atom bomb, that is nothing”. He says:  “What is bad is, there are people who want to kill God – yes – kill Him.  They believe in Him or they would not want to kill Him.  The spiritual battle between good and evil is very bad today.  That is why God has created Fatima – it is a bulwark.  We must fight for God, for our Lady.  We must do His will and we must do it gladly – with singing – like the martyrs.  That is the message of Fatima.

Poor Brigid was so affected that I found her in tears at dinner.  Afterwards I asked her what was the matter.  “I’m so afraid God wants me to be a nun!” she sobbed.  I couldn’t help laughing, “I don’t think somehow, that He does”, I said, “I thing you’ve just been scaring yourself – the way you say to yourself when you’re at a height: “What if I jump down now?”  Brigid’s eyes gleamed.  “Yes, I suppose so” – she admitted.  “It was the idea of sacrifice, and it was the most horrible thing I could think of!”

“Fine motive for entering a convent”, I said.  “Seriously, what do you think Father Pius would say to this?”  Well, that cheered her up enormously.  She knew very well that Father Pius would blow the whole thing to bits in two seconds.  So soon she was herself again.  It’s funny how presumptuous we all are, really – how somehow we think that God must ask great things of us, as if we were important people.  When probably our role is very small – just to do our daily duty and keep out of harm.  And if great things are asked of us, God gives the grace and we won’t be dissolved in despairing tears.
But there is undoubtedly a spirit in the air here of penance and sacrifice.

Spike hasn’t returned yet from Lisbon.  I went with Randal to the village again to show him Lucia’s home and a little ragamuffin acted as our guide.  I drew a picture of him and he was delighted, soon I had 6 little boys clamoring for pictures.  I also drew a couple of oxen.  I gave a copy to the owner who rewarded me with a big grin.  I have also been trying to draw olive trees, I am fascinated by them.

I am really longing to get news from you – it’s been a long time – I feel as if I’m miles away from anywhere here, and yet at the heart, as I did at Longh Dereg.  
If only you’re alright.  Well, all I can do is pray.

Lots of love, Hilda

PS. The place here where Our Lady appeared is called “Cova da Iria” after a Portuguese saint – St. Iria or Irene – who more or less 600 years ago suffered the same fate as Maria Goretti – wouldn’t yield to the importunations of a boy and was killed by him and thrown into a river.  She was carried by the river to another city where they found her body and it was luminous.  She has been beatified.  The town of Leiria has also been called after her.

Did you know that St. Anthony of Padua was really Portuguese?  He was born in Lisbon, I have forgotten to mention that I’ve seen palms a lot too – but they’re such a familiar sight in Ireland I didn’t think you’d be interested.  They do look a lot happier and more flourishing here, though.

Alvarez, Saturday January 8, 1955

Dearest Joan,
 We arrived in Alvarez this evening at quarter past ten.  We had another wonderful morning in Fatima.  Spike had come home in the middle of the night, and hadn’t been able to get into our lodging house so he slept in the sleeping bag in the car.  We discovered him there when we went to 7 am mass in the dark with Mr. Luis – after saying the rosary again with the servants.  We found first mass in the little chapel or Our Lady and had communion as well.  Then I had asked Mr. Luis about confession and he asked an English priest who was kneeling there to confess us, which he did at the back of the little chapel, out in the open.  It was all so intimate and so close to Our Lady!  After coming home and having breakfast with Spike – who was in a hurry to be off as he wants to reach Madrid tomorrow night, I bough some special rosaries – with different color beads – they’re a special Fatima rosary to pray for the whole world.

The yellow beads are for Africa, the blue for Asia, the white for Europe, the red for America and the green for Oceania (Australia and islands), I got one for you too.  I wanted Spike to see the chapel of the apparition and Mr. Luis had kindly promised to bring us to the Dominican Monastery to have the rosaries blessed.  

So Spike went with us and we said goodbye & fervent thanks to Our Lady and Mr. Luis touched our rosaries and medals and Joan’s rosary case to the statue.  We also put them on the pillar, which is in the place of the tree where Our Lady stood.  Afterwards we went to the Dominican Monastery, where a very kind superior of the Dominicans blessed all our rosaries with all the indulgences and then blessed us all – including Spike – who knelt down, and asked Our Lady of Fatima to watch over us specially.  I am so very pleased – because now the rosaries have all the blessings they could possible have.  

I thanked Mr. & Mrs. Luis very much – and Mr. Luis said I’d better thanks our lady.  “How did you know to come to us?” he asked.  I admitted it was pure chance – “But I was praying that my husband found the right place”.  We exchanged addresses and Mrs. Luis kissed us all with tears in her eyes.  Mr. Luis told me I had very good children.  He praised Johnny’s serving (he served mass again this morning), I feel we have made real friends there, and I shall certainly write to them.  He has promised to pray for me.

So laden with blessing we went on driving.  Spike says around Fatima it looks very like the Holy Land, only greener.  I had a suspicion of that as I roamed around yesterday under the olive trees – it looked so biblical.  There are little orphans in Fatima with white headdresses and they looks exactly like people in pictures of the bible.  We went on and on until we came at about 11 am to Tomas, where there is the “Convent of Christ” of the old Knights Templars, who later became the order of Christ.  They’re the ones that have the cross I gave to Joan.  It was a lovely building, partly of the 12th, 15th and 16th centuries in the garden.

We picked some of the lemon tree leaves and found that if we bit them we could taste the lemon. I enclose some.  We saw the tomb of Vasco da Gama’s brother, who was the Grand Master of the Knights Templars.  We went a rather bad road and had to drive slowly so it is now almost twelve and I can’t write much more. 

More tomorrow, much love from Hilda


January 9

Dearest Joan,
This morning it was pouring rain.  We had arrived at Caceres in Spain, where Spike found a hotel, which looked very grand but turned out to be slightly deceptive.
He had ordered a room with bath – but there was no hot water in the bath. There was, however, a lift, which amused the youngsters, Johnny and Lizzy spent their time going up and down it to my terror – as I constantly visualized the thing slicking in midair or starting with someone half in and half out.  

We lost an hour in time crossing the Spanish border as they have English time in Portugal and French time in Spain, with the result that we were all late for mass – we had to go to the ten and I had nothing to wear on my head as I’d left scarf and hat in the car.  Spike gave me a big white handkerchief but when I was praying in church he suddenly appeared there and bought me a scarf.  I was very surprised as it was pouring rain and he doesn’t like going out in it.  I thought he was going straight back again but I found him waiting for us outside the church door at the end of mass.  “Did you stay for mass?” I asked.  “Well, I had to shelter against the rain” – he explained.  But he had listened to the sermon, which was in Spanish.  It was the feast of the Holy Family and he told me the priest had said that women should look after their children and husbands should look after their wives.  We were all very happy that he had stayed for mass.  

I bought a rosary for him at Lourdes (just in case), a nice big one because he has big fingers.  And I am praying on it before all the shrines and it has been touched to all the places where the angel & Mary appeared at Fatima and to the rock at Lourdes – it has the Dominican blessing at Fatima and was touched to the Miraculous Statue of Fatima.  So, I feel I am providing for the future!  Our Lady has definite by taken a hand in my affairs and I must say I relinquish them to her with a sigh of relief.  She is much better capable of dealing with them than I am!

I went to sit in the back seat today, to save my nerves.  “Why didn’t you do that right away, as I advised you?” asked Spike.  “Because I thought that my presence was needed in front when we were approaching shrines of Mary,” I said.  “I didn’t trust the adversary.  I had to pray then.  Now I can relax a little”.  It is actually true that the driving has ceased to seem so hazardous.  Spike is really quite a careful driver – but I felt dreadfully insecure on our way to Lourdes and Fatima.  Now I had a quite restful day in the backseat with Sheila and Olga, and Randal was in front helping his father find the way.  The landscape was high plateau – brown and arid – with little plucks of vegetation dotted about and silver cactus here and there.  It was rather like what one imagines Don Quijote to have traveled through.  Occasionally we’d descend into arid rocky valleys and go up again.
You suddenly see a medieval walled city on top of a mountain – or a castle – everything is brown – the earth is brown and even the vegetation has a brownish tint.  Of course it was pouring rain all day.

We went to a very posh hotel where we had a delicious lunch at 3 pm, after having breakfast of oranges, bread and coffee at 11 am that morning.
Now we are in Madrid – it looks a very big city – reminds one of Paris (with a Metro), or of Montreal (with trams), we’ll probably be here 3 days!

Lots of love from Hilda

Monday January 10, 1955

Dearest Joan,
Today we spent the day in Madrid.  In the morning I missed mass because I thought I was ill – yesterday at dinner, Spike offered us a choice of wine or mineral water – we, Olga, Sheila, Johnny, Lizzy and I chose mineral water, it wasn’t prickly though, it tasted like ordinary water.  Yet it had a label on the bottle saying it got a gold medal or something for something or other.  “What on earth is that for?” I asked.  Randal examined the label critically and aired his chemical knowledge on the contents, but it didn’t make us any wiser.  This morning we knew: It acts like castor oil!  And Olga, Sheila, Johnny, Lizzy and I all missed mass!  Afterwards Spike and Brigid wished they had chosen mineral water too.  We all feel very well, thank you, they don’t.

This morning we went to the Prado Museum where we admired all sorts of pictures we had only seen in reproductions.  I especially liked Rivera.  Murillo is a little too sweet.  Elisabeth was fascinated by the works of Hieronymus Bos – which are pretty gruesome – he depicts the tall of man and the resultant degeneration of his appetites in the most graphic way.  Later she got bored and we lost her.  We caught her outside, talking to a policeman and trying to explain to him what she wanted – she is too independent altogether!  We’re going to visit the museum once more before we leave.  

Lunch was very late, as they haven’t a cook in this pension and seem to have no idea of time.  It is ruler by a Russian Countess, who has come down in the world.
Afterwards we went shopping and after trying to steer a wife and 6 children through crowded department stores, Spike decided to send me off with the girls, while he went with the boys.  Everything is much cheaper here and he managed to buy the boys their outfits.  I got us all shoes, mantillas, Olga a sweater, Brigid a slip, Lizzy got a little dolls school sachet for her Christmas present from Spike.  And now we are waiting for our dinner as usual. 
One thing I noticed, and that is the dignity of the old way of dressing. I saw two women sitting on the steps of the Spanish court building in the center of the city.  If they had been in modern dress it would have looked extremely odd – now it looked quite normal.  You can do almost anything in a shawl and mantilla, without losing your dignity!

It was a glorious day today – almost too warm, like a Washington spring. Tomorrow we are going to visit Toledo and the El Greco.

Lots and lots of love from Hilda

January 12, 1955

Dearest Joan,
Today we had a most interesting time.  We went to early mass at a Franciscan church nearby – a morning experience as they are obviously very poor friars with ragged robes, and also very devout – there was a lot of cheap ornament in the church, done with loving care – artificial roses with light behind them etc.  The cribs have disappeared now, but there was a special altar with the Holy Family.  Three statues smothered in artificial roses and electric candles.  After the usual frugal breakfast or milk less tea (they don’t serve milk with tea here), we got into the car for our trip.  We had lunches packed by our pension.  It is always a taste to get the whole family together and it tries poor Spikes patience.  The minute he thinks he has us all down someone goes up again for something he had forgotten.  In the end Spike usually stalks off ahead, perhaps graciously taking my arm, and lets the rest straggle after – if he should cast a glance behind him he usually gives a groan – as it is unlikely that those who follow look in any way respectable!

In the car they did a new game.  Randal sat in front beside Spike and was the papa – taking his family on a sightseeing trip.  Brigid was Prunella, his brightest child.  Spike was uncle Horace (poor man – he is quite intelligent for ninety, you know.  Don’t excite him – lets leave him to enjoy the last fun days of his life in peace – etc).  Lizzy was Gwendolyn, who was usually requested to keep still but refused to do so.  Johnny, our dear little Alphonse, was so fond of making his little jokes – Sheila was aunt Flossie (poor dear – if she’d known what she knows now she’d never have married dear uncle Horace!), Olga was the poor deaf and dumb child Genevieve and I was Martha (never quite this came since she fell down the coal hole – but so happy, you know – look at her smiling – one of God’s simple ones).  Papa and Prunella kept up a lively conversation only interrupted here and there by the others.  Papa would point out pompously the sights of interest until Prunella remarked that she was too sensitive to bear the sight of so much beauty – it overwhelmed her.  It was really fun to hear those two improvising.  We were almost at Toledo before they were exhausted.

We stumbled right into the marked in Toledo and I saw some lovely local pottery, very cheap – 6 d and a shilling.  I asked Spike to buy some.  I fell in love with a little pottery pig – which had unfortunately lost his ears.  Spike thought a shilling too much to pay for it, but I bought it myself afterwards.   It is meant to be a drinking cup.  You pour the water in on top and drink through the snout.  It is a beautiful egg white with blue and brown flowers on it.  I am thinking of making him a character in a children’s story.  There are some lovely artless things at 3 pesetas each, which are about 3 d – but then again there are things made especially for tourists, like plates with Don Quijote on them, which were very ugly, because though they are made by hand they are not traditional – and become vulgar.  I persuaded Spike to get some ordinary earthenware of the same material as flowerpots – and some lovely handmade jugs and things for still life – one of them we had filled with honey – about a quart of honey for /6!! 

Then we went to see the Cathedral, which is huge.  Spike was really impressed by it.  He said it seemed bigger to him than St. Peter.  There were also a lot of antiques and ancient museum pieces around and I felt the church to be used almost like a museum – and it seemed very chilly to me until I came upon a lamp hanging in front of a side chapel, which was shut off from the church by glass doors.  Inside it was very, very quiet and lovely – and people who had dropped in to pray knelt motionless.  It never struck me so forcibly what the Real Presence means in a church.  

Afterwards we went to have our lunch in the car with the usual squabbles.  Brigid was sick because she had eaten figs and olives on top of each other – a combination I cannot recommend – I tried myself.  They got them at the market and it was tempting because its all local stuff and very cheap.  Spike was exhausted and fell asleep with his head on a cushion over the back of the front seat.  Olga, Randal, Sheila and I felt energetic and went off to do some more sketching until the museums and Cathedral open again at 2:30 after lunch.  I made quite a sensation trying to sketch something at the marketplace.  It was like an accident – the way the people gathered around me, exclaiming over each line I put down and getting more and more excited as the picture progressed.  I could learn Spanish quickly that way, for they called out the name of anything I was drawing.  I had to abandon the picture finally.

School children in Spain wear a delightful outfit.  Long black capes, with hoods, lined with blue or red – a black dress with starched white collar and blue or white tie.   Quite lovely.  

We next went to the house of El Greco, which has been made into a museum.  We first passed a typical house in Toledo, which has a view – it has a little patio inside the house – open to the sky, with plants in the middle and a balcony running on all four sides overhead.  I saw a lovely shrine to Our Lady in the wall – a niche with a crowned statue of the Queen of Heaven on it – and all around tiles had been put into the wall.  Two little plants in pretty blue flowerpots had been put before it.  It seemed typical, so I made a picture of it – and also of the little Spanish boy, who insisted on being our guide for a few pesetas. 

El Greco house was much grande – a typical 17 Century Spanish gentleman’s home.  It was full of picture on the easel of St. Peter in tears a study.  The finished picture we saw in the sacristy of the Cathedral later – we saw some lovely portraits and also some pictures that were clearly not finished – and his view of Toledo with his son in the foreground, holding a map.  We saw the bed in which he died. This sort of affair he obviously was not poverty – stricken or despised when he died.

We saw the kitchen, which was still as he used it – a fascinating fireplace – so deep it could hold two stone couches and people could move and walk about under the chimney.  
All the same I was a bit disappointed in El Greco’s pictures, perhaps because the lighting was bad.

Later, in the Cathedral, we saw more of them.  But I had once been told by a Mrs. Bereton in Washington, that seeing the El Greco in Toledo had been a revelation to her – something like a religious experience – and all I can say is that it didn’t have that effect on me.   I thought exactly the same about El Greco afterwards as before

We saw more things in the Cathedral – the lovely statue of smiling Madonna – 14th Century French – a really beautiful thing.  I am sending you a picture of it.  The child Jesus is touching her chin and she is smiling at him.  Then there was an impressive array of paintings of all the bishops of Toledo – going down practically to the starting of the church – or rather of the church in Spain.  It goes several times around the room where the prelates must have met a rosary of heads – Spike was much impressed.  Some of those portraits were done by famous painters, two by Goya, one by Velasquez, one by El Greco.  The earlier ones were done from imagination and look too much alike but the later ones are actual portraits and make an interesting psychological study.

Then there was also a display of vestments going back to the twelfth Century – beautiful art work with goldthread and pearls and jewelry.  And the vestments could have been worn today, as far as fashion goes.  Mass fashion doesn’t change, apparently.  

There was a beautiful hand carved crucifix too – which captured Spikes attention – and a smaller crucifix in gold by Benvenuto Cellini and one by Fra Angelico – painted on the cross.  There is a beautiful statue of St. Francisco of Assisi and an enormous gold edifice of incredible delicacy, for holding the monstrance.  It is one beautiful thing after another, until you cannot hold it anymore.  I noticed especially that Spike was really interested in it all.

When we wanted to go home of course, Johnny was missing again – but after the usual wear and tear he turned up and we’re safely here again.  the children have gone off to the movies and Spike has fallen asleep on his bed as I write this.  It is quite warm weather here – even stuffy.

Wednesday, January 12, 1955

Dearest Joan,
We had another day in Madrid, which isn’t finished yet as it is only 4 pm, but tonight I am going to dine with the head of the curb aviation organization, with Spike, and as that starts at 9:30 I don’t imagine it will leave me time to write.  This morning the girls and I went out to buy some books of photographs of Spain for my story of the pig – but they are very hard to get.  We located a very posh thing in 3 volumes with marvelous photography but it was 1050 pesetas or £8.  Still, if you come to think of it, its worth it.  I think Spike is going to buy it for me.  

Later (2:30 pm) yes, did buy it for me.  He is being very sweet.  But to take up where I left off.  The children formed second hand English books they wanted to buy – Olga recommended a book about a child called Bessie for Lizzy.  It cost 10 pesetas or 2 sh, but Lizzy is disgusted with it.  “Such a silly book – all about a girl who is very good, and she doesn’t do anything but just good things all the time, and has soppy conversation with her papa and mama”.  Then she added bitterly: “I might have known every book in which the father and mother are called papa and mama is soppy!”  Olga bought a novel.  She was in a mood for distraction, but she also is discontented: “I don’t know what it is about novels – but they leave you dissatisfied.  I felt I am wasting my time.  It’s just the story – there isn’t anything that makes you think – or improves your mind.”

I have advised her to get something big, a really good author and maybe it was just as well she found this out the hard way.  But Brigid’s choice pleased her – she bought a book, which was a composition of European opinion on America, and she thought it very funny.
We then went back to the Prado museum, where we went to see the Dutch painters and Rubens and Goya.   There are lovely Flemish primitives too.  But the real discovery, the real emotion of this museum is the Artemis of Rembrandt.  It shocked me into a realization of how great that man was.  I think they can’t be any doubt about the fact that he transcends other painters.  They have only three Rembrandts in the museum and over twenty pictures of Rubens – but Rubens or Velasquez do not have the depth and grandiosity of Rembrandt.  They still remain within the frame of virtuosity – they do not really reach to the height, which makes one forget the cleverness of a painter, forget that a picture is made – but makes one stands before a picture as if it had grown or been created by God.  Something like that happened to me about this picture.  The light in it has a divine quality – and it is that light – that golden texture – that absolute miracle of vivid life, done with dead paint – that raises this picture beyond the ordinary limits of a picture.  

What it portraits is nothing.  Artemis is just a word – there is no story.  The woman is not beautiful – she has a fat (original) stomach and a silly insignificant face.  There is no “human interest” to captivate one – and what psychological insight there may be in the portraying of the features does not contribute to the effect of grandeur.  Why is this woman so important, so moving, so lifted beyond the silly limits of her own pusillanimous character?  Because of the light. It is parable – a visible parable – a parable for the eyes.  It is what God does to us, puny creatures by enveloping us in the light of His grace.  It is His glory, His greatness, His love that clothes our insignificance and lofts us far beyond what we could ever hope to be by ourselves.  It was almost like a prayer to look at it – and I want to go back to it – though I can’t.  And I suddenly saw what had preoccupied Rembrandt – why he was so absorbed in that one thing: light – he might not have seen the parable or known that his devotion to the light was a kind of worship of God – but it was.  
For what was the first thing God created? Light.  What did Christ come into the world to bring? Light.  It shone in the darkness and man didn’t comprehend it.  Rembrandt tried to paint it – tried to show how it was through the light that objects achieved their majesty – that light which is the source of all life – truth, beauty, creative light.

And in a sort of war Rembrandt was a martyr to this testimony – for it was to this concept of light that he sacrificed other things – individual portraits – a general decorative pattern, detail, story.  Everything was thrown away and he concentrated on that mystery.  That seems to put him apart – to raise him above other painters like Velasquez and Rubens, who still taste of all the delights of painting and don’t go in for such renunciation.  In that respect Greco and Goya are nearer Rembrandt – they too eliminate more and more what isn’t essential and they too look upon the world with mystical eyes – but both Goya and Greco are still completely swayed by the subject – the story.  Rembrandt’s wise eyes alone have forsaken even that – he finds the truth a universal thing, not bound by events – and he makes his people timeless and story less.
I did admire Goya very much too – I saw a little landscape of his, which is exquisite.  A distant view of a city and in the foreground a group of picnicking people. 

Spike and I went to lunch with some Americans friends, whom he met accidentally in Toledo yesterday – and who gave us a magnificent lunch on the 25th floor of a skyscraper hotel where we had the most wonderful view of Madrid.  Afterwards we went to see the Royal Palace – one stood suite – and it is all kept up perfectly – as if waiting for another Royal Family.  We went through an enormous hall with a panted ceiling, which had shell holes in it from the civil war – up an enormous carpeted stairway and then we went the rounds of one magnificent room after another – each one as high and wide as a church – with tapestried walls – either ordinary tapestry or cloth with gold embroidery – ceiling with painting by Teepolo of all sorts of apotheoses – Columbus returning home and being received by the queen – the triumph of Hercules, etc., etc.  
The windows all have heavily embroidered drapes caught with thick cords.  All the furniture is of carved and gilt wood – there are carved golden twirls around the ceilings – all the frames around portraits by people like Goya and Greco and other famous painters have heavy gold carving.  From the middle of all the ceilings hang magnificent crystal chandeliers, which reflect light in a rainbow of colors.  And the exquisite masterpieces scattered around.  A marble horse with a  tiny little prince riding it – a triptych with scenes from the life of Christ in miniature of exquisite detail – a picture of the deposition of the cross done entirely by embroidery but it is so exquisitely done it looks like a very good primitive painting until you come close to it – and see the tiny, tiny stitches of fine, fine silk.  There is a room mostly of mirrors, where they held chamber music – a dining room so vast and so long it could seat an army around the narrow table – a smaller dining room – more intimate, with a square table – a dainty salon with satin embroidered chain and flowery tapestry – and a throne room with a red velvet and gold throne up thickly carpeted steps, flanked by four gold carved horns and a baldakin over it.  Johnny wanted to sit on it and had to be restrained by force.
“Doesn’t Franco look silly on that?”  Asked Olga.  I said perhaps he’d look alright in his gala uniform.  
We went away deeply impressed with royalty and very grateful we didn’t have to live there.

The guide kept up a running commentary in Spanish.  I definitely prefer the sound of French.  The Spanish is like all their scroll work – too flowery – I really prefer France to Spain.  I like Spain – but I fell more at home in France.  And as far as beauty goes – I find France just as beautiful.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Bilbao, where Spike has to meet someone – and then we’re off to France again – and fat all the beauty and delight of seeing Spain – I won’t be sorry to see France again – and there’s a lot to be said for knowing the language of a place.  All the same I feel I am much the richer for what I have seen and experienced.  

I hope you are well – lots of love from 

Sunday January 13

Dearest Joan,
We left Madrid this morning.  First we went over a high plateau – flat olive green fields, now and again ondulating and melting into gray or brown – low hanging clouds partly concealing deep blue mountains (in the distance), stone walls along the road and stones scattered about, sudden sunshine lighting ochre and gold patches on the hills – which are polka-dotted with dark green olive trees.  Plots of sheep with shepherds and here and there a white low house with red tiled roof.

Then, suddenly the landscape changed.  Naked stone scattered about on arid land with only plucks of vegetation – it began to look like a vast, uninhabited common are until the scattered stones became jagged cliffs raising itself beside our bus window and the road began to dip and rise and our stomachs with it.  We went along dizzying hairpin bends and looked down precipices on one side and up sheer cliffs on the other.  This way we mounted higher and higher until we had passed the mountain and descended into Bilbao.  On the way we went through some interesting towns and villages.

  • Around Madrid the poverty is awful – we saw ragged children eating the stuff they found in garbage cans!
  • The children spent the time doing games.
Mrs. Ascarraja, our hostess, was one of those people I immediately loved.  She has beautiful brown eyes, full of feeling and intelligence.  I suppose it was mutual because she kissed me goodbye.  She didn’t know English very well, but we spoke French – and I found out all sorts of things about Santiago I didn’t know.  He is the patron saint of intelligence and a person to pray to for exams.  We should have learnt our foreheads against the middle post of the door of Jubilee – for intelligence.  We should also have embraced the statue of Santiago on the main altar.  Too late – it can’t be helped.  She said it is very satisfactory to embrace him.  She seems a very devout woman herself – somehow one knows, by the eyes – and she told me to go and see the miraculous statue of the virgin at the Cathedral in Bilbao tomorrow.  She also wants us to see the Christ in Burgos, but I don’t know whether we can manage that.  She said that at San Diego, where we were for the New Year, they have a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and we were attending a service in her honor on the day we arrived.

There are also sorts of legends and stories in Spain, which I of course didn’t hear of.  Mr. Luis told me some things about Portuguese saints.  There was a St. Elisabeth of Portugal, who was a beautiful virtuous village maiden who took the fancy of a queen and head to be lady in waiting, but she also took the fancy of the countess and the queen got jealous and had her locked in a box for three days.  Then she ordered her servants to remove the corpse and behold!  The maiden was still alive!  So after this miracle she became a nun and founded the order of the Conceptionists, long before Catherine Laboure (Mr. Luis pointed this out with pride).  There is a picture of this event done by some Spanish painter or other in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Toledo (you can see the girl coming out of the box amidst the astonished courtiers).

Well, we’re still at dinner and after the clams we had lamb chops and peas and salad and after that lovely pears (stewed in a white sauce or some sort of confection with a chocolate sauce), and coffee.  We discussed Velasquez painting of the surrender of Breda, which aroused very patriotism as all the Spanish in it look very noble and kind and beautiful and all the Dutch very stupid and unattractive.  As spike says – the only good face on the Dutch side is that of the horse.  But our host protested that that could not have been intentional as the Spanish are very proud of the nobility on both sides in that incident and when they were disgusted with the Arial at Nűtchberg they published a photograph of that picture in the front page of one of their great newspapers and all it said was  “the peace in those days was better than now”.  At the end of the meal Spike wanted me to do a sketch of our hostess and called for a paper, which a waiter brought.  Then I did a sketch with a biro, which is difficult because
  1. It is severe
  2. It can be erased
She also didn’t pose at all but I managed to make a sketch she liked and I had five waiters looking on with admiration!

I think this has been a very successful evening.  I am especially pleased because Spike is so very kind to me.  When he bought me the books he said it was alright if it made me happy.  “This whole trip was to make you happy and if it hasn’t done so it is a failure” he said.  It is very, very sweet.


April 10, 1955 – Easter day

Dear people,
I am writing this longhand as the typewriter is too prosaic a machine.  It doesn’t allow me to express myself.  Whenever I want to say something slightly silly the typewriter just sticks.  It won’t move with me, feel with me, etc., etc., it is all right for practical communications but it isn’t sympathetic.

We had a great dinner yesterday at a small pension.  Randal has been studying Italian on his own all last term and is now cock of the roost, as Spike doesn’t know Italian.  So while Spike was ordering a sensible dinner he kept interrupting to ask for special Italian dishes.  He asked for a vegetable pie – which was bought in after we had consumed the soup – could veal and fried potatoes, which Spike had ordered.  It looked fascinating – strips of dough separated by a form green mass of cold mixed vegetables.  I tasted it and thought it very nice, spinach was the predominating vegetable, but we then discovered that ants were crawling over our plates and that they apparently had their homes and families inside the pie.  Now I know that ants are clean animals – they are even considered eatable by the Chinese, I believe – and they can happen to the best housewife – but somehow the idea of intruding on the domestic life of these dear creatures revolved us.  We therefore summoned the waitress, a dear little Italian girl with pink checks and black curls, and she would at first not believe in the presence of, what the dictionary told us was something like “Fourmilia” – but as they walked about the plates and several corpses already showed with what little sympathy we had received them, she shrieked and laughed and told us not to eat any more and removed our plates.

Doubtless she had made the same mistake Tod Andrews one made, they keep a pet- anteater and this was its food, why not?  Randal then dipped into his dictionary and asked for “Panitoni” as dessert.  This turned out to be merely a glorified bread – “Tony bread” as Spike put it, but we ate it anyway.  With Randal there we like certainly get in touch with “The natives”.

We naturally are comparing Italy with Spain.  I notice the houses are higher here – it is less primitive and the Italians go in for bright splashes of paint on – for instance – shutters and fences.  In Spain they paint the whole house or nothing.  I find Italian also easier to understand and so far I notice less grimness – mores suavity, more inclination to laugh.  The Spanish are a proud people – I think they would have taken great offence to us panting out ants there – and would have a long recital of explanation.  The girl just laughed it off, though she was a bit embarrassed.  Italy is definitely more civilized.  I don’t know what the South is like, though.

Since Sheila and I had not slept the night before, and as there aren’t enough blankets and mattresses, Sheila and I got a room at the pensione.  We had to go up three flights of concrete stairs through peculiar smells – not garlic, but some other strong herb – and landed at a poor little room without carpets and with dirty coverlets but with clean sheets.  Sheila and I slept wonderfully, not with standing the fact that the train passed right by our window.  I was rather sorry to be away from the sea – where the others slept – but I felt it was my duty to society to have a sleep as it doesn’t approve the temper to be without and temper is a very necessary ingredient in family life.  

Patience – kindness – tolerance – despised little virtues and oh! How they sweeten life – and how much it is our Christian duty to cultivate them!  To me they come before any asceticism – they are an asceticism in themselves.  And if I find that brother ass is getting restive and will not dance to the time of these virtues into the stable with him!  (Of course, John would just say I am rationalizing my with to sleep in a bed – but let him say it HA-HA)  
I was up earlier that the others and had a grand time paddling in the sea while I said my prayers.

My best wishes to you all, Hilda

Pisa, April 10

Dearest people,
A lot happened today.  After I wrote my last letter we had to have our Easter mass.  We wanted to go to communion so we didn’t breakfast.  Then we drove and drove – trying to get to Genoa for mass.  But about 24 km before hand we got nervous and went to a church where the 9 sung mass was just finishing and I managed to get communion, but the children didn’t, as I was at the tail-end of a side altar queen.  I discovered it was a church devoted to the infant Jesus and they had the Blessed Virgin holding out the brown scapular.  As the next mass was at 10:45 we went to Genoa, to the Cathedral and we were very lucky as we came in on the sermon of the Archbishop – who stood in the pulpit with a high gold mitre on his head, lined with red – a crosier in his left hand – two priests behind him and he was gesticulating with his white gloved hand and pouring forth a torrent of passionate Italian – doubtless – dealing with Our Lord’s resurrection, but it seemed to deal a lot with man’s sin as well, to judge by the tone of voice.

There were only a few pews in the church and for the rest one rented chaise from a mumbling old woman in a black shawl.  There was a terrific crowd, milling about, and I noticed that most of the women had no hats on.  The atmosphere is totally afferent different from Spain, it is like Franco is only more so.  One feels that Holland, Belgium, France all lead to Italy as their source – their essence – while Spain is not in the direct route, is a side branch, so to speak, like Britain and Ireland.  Ireland and Spain have a great deal in common, but Italy and Ireland have very little in common.  The churches are light here – they miss the heavy gloom of Spain.  There is also a lighthearted acceptance of religion.  In Spain there is sense of penance and effort.  Obviously Italians are spoilt children with the freedom of the house.

The Archbishop then went back to the altar, took off his enormous gold mitre and put on a red skullcap.  A loud speaker announced that at the end of mass there would be the popes blessing with a plenary indulgence.  At a side altar they began to give communion while a very good choir chanted the creed.  My children got communion then.  After the mass there was a procession of the archbishop in gold and red followed by twelve bishops with white mitres.  It was a very interesting experience.  We then were very hungry and wanted lunch.  Spike, who had waited for us in his bus in the square pooh – poked every place we proposed until it was 1:30 and we arrived at Rapallo where he went to a posh restaurant with tables outside, looking out over the sea (I sketched the view for you).  There we had a lunch the price of which made Spike blanch – served by an extremely handsome Sicilian waiter, who became very confidential with Brigid, which betted us a second helping of the delicious Italian dessert (rather like trifle, but not so squashy).  

Little donkeys drawing carts with children passed us all the time on the boulevard.  They wore fanciful hats with feathers and bells – but we were sorry for the poor little beasts who looked old and ill-treated and miserable.
Then we went for a long drive to Pisa through mountainous scenery (I enclose a sketch, which is only a pale reflection of the beauty of the terraced hills with vineyards – the flowering trees – the high mountain peaks, heavy and blue – the green fields – etc., etc.
I had to do it hurriedly while the children drank some lemonade.  We finally landed late in Pisa – and as Daddy had refused to stop to buy food we had to go to a restaurant as all shops were closed.  So poor Spike spent far too much today!

We saw the leaving tower of Pisa by floodlight against the dark sky and it is incredibly beautiful. I am hoping to make a sketch of it tomorrow morning.  The children were delighted with it! 

Till tomorrow – love

  • Missing first page
…and the rolling hills of Tuscany were enchantingly beautiful in all colors of fresh green – with little clusters of ochre houses on the tops of the swelling hills – and the road winding  through the country seems much wider than Spain or Ireland – you have endless vistas and there is something gentle and endearing about the landscape – blond and feminine and curving and sweet – quite different from the stark masculinity of the Spanish landscape with its sleep mountains, abrupt descents, wild arid sierras, etc.
Don Quijote couldn’t have rampaged around in Italy.  This is obviously the place for gentle saints like St. Francis and St. Catherine of Siena.  And it is a place John would love to paint because the colors are so delicate and there is a complete absence of wall or hedge – only narrow ditches here and there to separate the fields, which means that one color melts into another without harsh interruptions, even the trees seem cream and gold except for the cypress trees, which are the only dark dots in the blond landscape.  Also it is also cultivation – we saw our first cow after Siena, and they weren’t grazing in a field but led along the road and were they beautiful.  Real aristocrats among cows – of a milky white with the lines of those cave-specimens or the Greek drawings on vases – real animal to worship – if you want to – and so clean they looked as if they had a bath every day, and they were absolutely and completely white – without tiny spot – glorious!

I only once saw sheep – being grazed by a shepherd off the sides of the road – and no horses – though I did see donkeys and once a pair of oxen.  We went to Siena, which is again an ochre town, but it has a Cathedral done in layers of white and black marble – like a zebra.  The thing is repeated inside on the pillars, which gives a peculiar effect.  The front of the Cathedral is marvelously carved – but it isn’t gray, like chartres – it is ………….. white whenever there is carving – around the doors, etc., and there are gold frescos of saints etc., and colors.

Inside the Cathedral there are endless treasures of mosaic on the floor – carving on the marble pulpit, which makes it look like ivory – gold and colored pictures on the ceiling over the altar, etc., etc.
Afterwards we went to the church of St. Domingo.  Brigid had stuck up a friendship with two Italian girls and they showed us the way while Daddy minded the bus.  Someone has told him that the Italian are a pack of thieves so he now won’t leave the bus out of sight.  He was very sweet and bough me a booklet on Siena with pictures and an orange drink and then I think he was very relieved to subside into the bus.  All the driving is getting him down.  The church of St. Domingo had been bombed by the allies and was in process of reconstruction.  I am sending you a picture of the famous painting of St. Catherine of Siena and also a medal blessed by a Dominican priest, who was in the church.  The church is full of her.  There is also a street in Siena called after her.  And there are paintings of all sorts of phases in her life – among others the time when she brought a criminal to repentance – and then in pity for his fear held his head while he was being beheaded so that it tumbled into her lap.  She also brought back the popes from Avignon –and it is funny seeing the two places in such close succession.  

Well, I felt happy at having had this contact with St. Catherine, whom I have always greatly loved and admired – and cheered by wearing her medal – and so had fresh corsage for the long, long track that was coming for we drove non stop until ten that night, from five.  I gave out some oranges and bread and cheese while we were driving.  Brigid complained of being cold at about 6 and asked daddy to put on the heater in the car.  She began to cough.  We extracted from her that, though she had had two blankets she’d been very cold the night before and had slept little.  I had been in the bus so.

April 12, 1955 – Rome

Dear people,
Brigid is getting a little better.  I bought some books to read out to her – and missed seeing the pope that way as Spike came to fetch me in a hurry – he was going to appear on his balcony – and I was at the bookshop.  I hope there will be another occasion.  He is not receiving any private audiences.  Randal saw him and said he looked well, he send a lot of people collected on the square and cried “Viva el Papa”.  And the pope blessed them.  

The children and Spike went to see St. Peter in the morning and Lizzy went to confession to an English priest who held a long conversation with her.  In the afternoon Spike came to fetch me and I hope Brigid would sleep, but there was too much noise and she was very feverish and miserable.   Meanwhile Spike took me and the three youngest to a big building to see some friends and afterwards we visited the coliseum, which is being restored.  It was the place where they held the fights of gladiators and wild beasts and where Christian Martyrs blood flowed.  St. Perpetua and St. Felicita were killed there, and a priest, who tried to stop the gladiator’s fighting was massacred, but it did stop the spectacles.  There was a cross erected by a pope to honor the place as a martyrs sacred spot – but it was destroyed and only in ’26 was another cross put up.  I touched my rosary to it.  It looks slender and pathetic – of simple wood amid the crumbling ochre blocks of antiquity – but it conquered.

I took a lot of movies of the place.  It has great beauty but the modern bits are slightly disturbing.  Yet if they didn’t restore it the stuff would all collapse – arches and so forth.  We then saw the forum, where tourists walked among the crumbled statues – but I didn’t feel like doing that.  I tried to feel exhilarated seeing the Roman remains – I tried hard – but it only made me feel as if I was at ancient history at school.  I’ve seen so many reproductions and it really does look like that, only it’s ochre, more than white.  The thing that is white is St. Peters, where we went next – an enormous square as big as the place de la Concorde.  St. Peter is immense and its dome was built by Michael Angelo.    It has two galleries of Greek columns supporting a roof – which stretch out like two wings on each side and curving to take the world in its embrace.  On top of the front façade you see Christ flanked by St. Peter and John the Baptist and a whole crowd of other saints – probably of the old and New Testament.  Inside of St. Peter  you just stare up an immense height all painted and quilt – and endless side altars, where they have the head of St. Andrew, St. Veronica’s veil, etc.  I wondered along, having shaken off my children and found the confessionals with the foreign language written on them.  One with “Français” was waiting in his box.  I decided to go to him, as I hadn’t been for 3 weeks.  He immediately discovered that I wasn’t been French and asked my nationality.  This always causes hesitation in me – but I decided to answer “Dutch”.  He then wanted to know why I didn’t go to the Dutch priest but I said I didn’t see him: “He must have gone out then”, he said.   There was a German one, but I don’t know how to sin in German.  Sinning in English is easier and I mean to make an English confession before I leave here. 

Meanwhile I got off with seven hail Maries, feeling extremely cleansed.  I said them in front of the tomb of St. Peter and then I touched the toe of his statue and made the sign of the cross.  Of course, I am going back to St. Peters – I want to go early in the morning when I am by myself.  I saw the statue of the Pieta of Michael Angelo, and I do think it’s the loveliest statue in the world and ever so much better than the copies.  It’s a funny thing but religions things give me a far greater thrill than historical or classical things.  I didn’t have to try and feel impressed in St. Peters – I just did – I felt happy rested – like a person coming to his father’s house.  To me Rome is St. Peters and the Vatican. 

When Brigid is better we are going to see the catacomb.  Poor Brigid, it is disappointing for her, but also very restful for us both – I find I’m reviving.  Spike, however, is obviously very sorry to have me on my own away from the rest – and that is touching.

Lots of love from Brigid and me to you all
April 12 – Rome (late in the morning)

Dear Olga,
I have plenty of time to write as I am sitting beside Brigid, waiting for the doctor. Just now a gentleman was brought into the room who was very embarrassed – our landlady had mistaken him for the doctor when he just wanted to rent rooms.  He had a nice peep at Brigid’s flushed face sticking out of the blankets.  Spike found us here (Deo Gratias; I was afraid he wouldn’t find us again).  

While I was a mass and very concerned about Brigid, who has a fever and telephoned the doctor, later, when he finally arrived he turned out to be Dutch!!  Which inspired me with great confidence, as I believe the Dutch doctors to be better than any.  He gave Brigid a really good examination and said she had bronchitis and that she might get pneumonia if she didn’t stay in bed at least two days.  He said he thought it due to the camping.  It is too severe weather in Italy to camp at this time, he said, and forbade her sleeping in a tent for at least another week.  He prescribed sulfa pills to be taken day and night and a cough medicine.  He warned me not to let her out unless the fever is quite gone.  

Meanwhile I heard that Spike was in a hotel with the rest of the children as Randal told him he was too tired to put up a tent at 11 pm at night.  I was relieved to hear it as I had been a bit anxious about them in a tent near Rome without at least me and Brigid to look after the little ones – though Sheila is very thoughtful of Lizzy.  Brigid was cold that night because she had two very thin blankets, having given the fat one to Lizzy.  The whole trouble with the girls is that they’re too unselfish.  But I am glad Olga isn’t here as it would have all been far too much for her!!

I haven’t seen much of Rome yet, but then I went this morning to mass in with a kerchief (which I borrowed from the landlady) on my head, as I wasn’t able to get what I wanted out of the bus in the hurry last night and left my prayer book and mantilla in it, so I wasn’t able to follow the mass or say the usual litanies, but I said Hail Marys and the rosary instead for all of you.

It was probably a Carmelite church as they had an altar each devoted to the big and little Therèse, but the monks wore black, not brown. It had the same sort of architecture as the Claremont church, but much richer and of course, authentic, full of gold and colored frescos. There was a terrific scent of flowers as the altar was piled with it and bouquets were all over the church. There were candles too but unfortunately also the hideous electric lights – with, horror of horrors, imitation candle drippings.  I wonder what our Lord thinks of such dishonesty!!

I absolutely refuse to light one of those affairs.  I have a great love for candles – but the electrical business leaves me cold.  I was thinking of the symbolical difference between the two – every candle is unique – they may combine and mingle the lights in one blare of glory but each candle consumes its own body in its own way – no two candles are completely alike in their way of burning down. 

On the other hand, the electrical candles are all completely identical.  There is neither individual initiative nor devotion.  So I feel they are symbolic of all that is wrong in our modern world.  There are few pews in the Roman churches.  There is a beautiful wide space in front of the altar, with only here and there some pews or seats.  People stand for mass on Sundays.

As I was at mass I reflected on Daddy, and what a wonderful husband and father he is – how he does this trip all for us, though it really is sacrifice because he hates camping and cheap boarding houses and he has already seen most of these places and seen so much of the world – it is a true act of love all through – like his sending us to Ireland – and his whole ambition is to do well by us.  He really and literally lives for us.  I only wish he could get more fun out of it himself and this reap the rewards, which now often are denied him.  But perhaps he will learn.  He is already learning, I think, that it is better not to take things too fast and furious, it only slows you up in the end.  

But I do take my hat off (which I left in the bus) for his physique.  I made jokes about it and told the children that they had his marvelous ancestors as well as my crocky ones, though to tell the truth my grandparents on both sides were well enough – it was the children who weren’t too well.  But Spike seems to be able to stand literally anything and to go on and on.

Well, I tell him: “I’m no pioneer, I’m a puny little European intellectual”.  Though, mind you, I seem to be able to stand more than the children, who leave his ancestors. 

Poor Lizzy’s stomach is out of order and Sheila has “The shivers” every morning and has to be revived with hot coffee and the heater in the car etc., I think it’s digestive.  But then our meals are extremely uncertain and irregular.

Later more.  

Love from Hilda

Thursday April 14, 1955

Dearest Olga, 
Yesterday afternoon we changed Brigid into another bigger room with sunlight – but it was in front of the street and she couldn’t sleep for the noise of the traffic all night – it literally didn’t cease and went on past 2 o’clock, past 3 o’clock until we fell asleep at 4 o’clock.  I wanted to go early to St. Peters and had to get up very quietly at 6:30 not to wake Brigid.  I took some lovely movies of the Tiber and St. Peter’s in the morning light.   When I got into St. Peter I found my two sons serving mass.  Randal served and American priest – who told him there would be a big ceremony at the altar of St. Pius at 6:30 am, before the gates open and he is going to let us all in at a private entrance, which leads through Vatican city.  Just thing of it!  Then we found out, because they are putting up red velvet drapes and railings, etc., all over St. Peters that next Sunday there will be a pontifical High Mass (pope saying it) and a beatification.  The guard whom we asked didn’t know who.  He is bored with beatifications but we’re not!

As a matter of fact – I don’t think we could move Brigid before Sunday anyway, as she is very weak still, though the fever is gone – and this driving and sightseeing would be too much for her.  But Spike is fed-up with Rome and wants to go on and the boys want to see Naples so I suggested he take the children to Naples and leave me in Rome with Brigid.  We haven’t half seen what we want to see – Brigid hasn’t seen anything yet.  It means we won’t have much time for Venice and Florence – but what are they in importance compared to Rome – and isn’t it better to see one place well than to see snippets of this and that and the other?  At any rate, as far as I am concerned – it is religion that matters to me and art is secondary to that.  It is a servant, not a master.

We saw very interesting churches yesterday.  You know in the missal it says all the time “Station St. Mary Mayor”  “Station St. John Lateran”  “Station St. Paul”, well, we saw those three churches yesterday.  St. John Lateran is the biggest.  It is surprisingly the Cathedral of Rome.  The popes lived there, in a palace, which has been destroyed, until they were moved to Avignon.  It was the first church to be built after the temples of Israel and the catacombs.  It was called “Basilica of The Savior” and founded by Constantine in the fourth century.  Of course, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times and it is now a late renaissance church – but very imposing, and very simple.