Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Buried Treasures 11

The frontispiece of The Moochers Abroad (1951), showing Binic Harbour and the lighthouse at the end of the Jetée de Penthièvre.

Quote of the Day

At that moment we heard quick footsteps echoing in another part of the villa, and a door at the far end of the gallery opened and a man, tall, dark-haired and long-nosed strode in and stopped abruptly at the sight of us. He was the most tall, handsome, saturnine and thrilling creature that I had ever seen in my life, but obviously, alas, I wasn't having the same startling effect on him, because he was staring at me with such a look of malevolence and cold fury that I took a nervous step backwards - of course on to James' toe but I had more on my mind than worrying about him.

The Renaissance prince - for that's what he looked like in spite of the superb Italian men's suiting - spat something at me in Italian. My jaw dropped even lower. I tried to take another step backwards only I couldn't because James was in the way.

From the unfinished manuscript THE MAN AT THE VILLA CARLOTTA. This manuscript is undated but was probably written in the early 1960s because of all the references to art and the fact that the heroine, Flora Hamilton, is older than Jane Shaw's previous heroines. Flora is going to work as a governess in Italy and is travelling on her own. She also has two possible love interests by the end of the first chapter, which would certainly not be the case in any story penned in the 1950s. It is a very promising story, but not without the usual flare for the ridiculous. An Italian woman that Flora befriends, a certain Signora Pacitti, is convinced that she has a genuine Bellini painting hanging on her wall. However, despite the fact that the painting has been featured in an English newspaper, the Signora is convinced that no one will ever try to steal it, even though other thefts in the neighbourhood having occurred recently. It's a real pity that this story was never finished because the characters and premise are very interesting.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jetée de Penthièvre


The Tackle

An illustration from The Prowler, Chapter 9 of Threepenny Bit. Piet and Marietjie mistake each other for burglars and Piet tackles his sister and knocks her down the stairs.

Quote of the Day

"Oops - here it is!" Tessa passed the thing up to Susan.
"But - but," said Susan, examining it, "this looks like a kettle! A kettle with a hole in it!" That was rather an odd thing to find in Ronan's Heap, surely? She hadn't thought of there having been kettles in Henry the Eighth's time, it just showed how ignorant she was - all this fnding of treasure would be good for her history.
"Here comes a jug," said Tessa, passing up a tall, narrow-necked jug, with a lip and a handle, "and here's... something... else." She dragged at the object and handed it to Susan, another small round pot with a broken handle.
But that last effort was too much for the sides of their excavation. With their support dug away and nothing to hold them up, the walls of earth fell in, almost covering Tessa.

From SUSAN AT SCHOOL, Chapter 10, Ronan's Heap.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Places in Jane Shaw: Binic Harbour

Binic Harbour at low tide. This harbour will be a familiar sight to Jane Shaw readers because it features on the cover of Breton Adventure and is the frontispiece of The Moochers Abroad. The southern quay is called the Quai de Pordic. The northern one, with the lighthouse at the end, is the Jetée de Penthièvre.

Quote of the Day

"And he'd clap us in irons and batten us to the hatches and keelhaul us, and make us splice the mainbrace," said Belinda, getting a bit mixed up. The children had caught glimpses of the Captain as he made his round of the cabins each morning and found him a grim and terrifying man.

From Venture to South Africa, Chapter 3, Cheering up Jennifer.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fula fiskar, Fifi!

A better scan of the cover of the Swedish edition of Susan Muddles Through than the one I posted some time ago.  This illustration is a depiction of a scene from Chapter 13, Stowaways by Mistake, with Pea-green, Bill, Susan and Midge watching the crooks. At first they think they are smugglers, but it turns out to be a Cold War defection that they have stumbled on.

Quote of the Day

Everybody says that the chairman of the governors, a benevolent old boy called Lord Dulwich, who had a daughter at the school away back in the dark ages, would give us a hall right away but that he is restrained by the clerk to the governors who is a very disagreeable lawyer called Pennington-Smith and who says that the school can't afford any extras like building a hall. We know he's disagreeable not only because of not letting us have a hall, but also because his daughter Hermione is a prefect in our house and she's ghastly.

From SUSAN'S SCHOOL PLAY, a short story written in the first person by Midge. This is the first story based at St. Ronan's and, consequently, the first mention of Hermione Pennington-Smith. She has not yet been given the nickname of H. P. Sauce, but it is already clear that she and Susan and Midge will never get on.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Escape from the Manoir de la Falaise

An illustration from Rescue, Chapter 14 of Twopence Coloured. Louise makes her dramatic escape from the Manoir de la Falaise and the evil Black Maria.

Quote of the Day

Actually, they all came rushing out of the little log hut. When they saw Dizzy and Clare standing there, with guns in their hands, they looked a little taken aback, to say the least of it.
"Where did you get those guns?" Rod demanded.
Dizzy gestured rather helplessly towards Rupert and the pony. "In the saddle-bags," she said. "All covered in mealie-meal."

From NOTHING HAPPENED AFTER ALL, Chapter 12, Mealie-Meal.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Places in Jane Shaw: Arran

Aerial view of the west coat of Arran, the setting for Highland Holiday. Note the Drumadoon and the golf course. Click on the picture for a much larger view.

Quote of the Day

As it happened, they were both sheltered from the rain and at the same time quite hidden from the big door leading into the street. The rain was coming down, like slate pencils said Fay, but the girls were nicely sheltered in their doorway, and Julie was feeling  much better now that the rain was not going down her neck any longer.

From CROOKS TOUR, Chapter 13, Crook in the Rain.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Adventures of a Snowman


Quote of the Day

Next morning we went into the village to buy our lanterns for the celebration of the Swiss National Day. The lanterns were nice, like round paper balls with a candle at the bottom and with sticks with which to carry them. They were all different colours, but the ones we liked best were the striped ones and the red ones with the white cross of Switzerland on them. They were rather expensive, we thought, so we only bought one each.

From THE TALL MAN, Chapter 8, The First of August.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Binic at Low Tide

A recurring theme in the books set in Brittany is that it is impossible to go bathing at low tide because the sea simply disappears. In Breton Adventure, Sara decides to test whether this is actually the case, as she finds it a little hard to believe. In Chapter 2, They Meet Artichokes, Ajax - and Raymond, it is stated that:

"Sara, who liked to prove things for herself, declared that they ought to put this to the test: Caroline thought it was probably a waste of time, but wanted a bathe anyway, so they put on their bathing dresses at the grève, although the sea was not actually in sight. They walked hopefully over wet sand for what seemed about a mile, and less hopefully over sand and sea-weed for another: they did finally reach the sea, all right, but as it obstinately refused to  become any deeper than knee-high, they gave up in disgust, before they reached home and mother, Caroline said. And Sara thereafter was more ready to believe that when Madame said there was no bathing, there was no bathing."

However, at low tide, the Roches de Saint Quay islands appear, allowing the characters to go on la pêche, or shrimping.

Quote of the Day

The journey to the art room was not nearly so spooky as she had imagined, and she was half-way along the covered way that led to the classrooms when suddenly, over to her left, a strange and brilliant flash illuminated for a second the ancient cloisters that were part of the original old house of Northmead.

From NEW HOUSE AT NORTHMEAD, Chapter 7, Danger! Girls at Work.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Places in Jane Shaw: Mont Saint-Michel

Today's quote is from Chapter 13 of Breton Adventure, describing Madame and the girls' arrival at Mont Saint-Michel off the Normandy coast. Madame signs up for a guided tour, during which Caroline "drinks in every word". But Sara is bored, and manages to slip away from the tour guide at the impressive Crypte des Gros Piliers

Quote of the Day

They left the car, and passed through the Porte de L'Avancée, the only opening in the ramparts, and Madame rather proudly pointed out to the girls the two cannon which the English had abandoned when they had unsuccessfully besieged the Mont St. Michel in the fifteenth century. Caroline was frankly incredulous that the English had besieged any French stronghold without success, but she had no time to argue, for they went through two other ancient picturesque gateways, and the sight of the one street, a narrow lane with gabled and overhanging houses climbing up at its farther end by slippery and cobbled steps to the Abbey, was greeted with a chorus of Ohs and Ahs of appreciation.

From BRETON ADVENTURE, Chapter 13, Sara Does Some Rescue Work.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Twopence Coloured

Drumadoon Point (2)

The Drumadoon, where Sara wrote her play in Highland Holiday, on a more typically Scottish day than the abnormally long sunny spell the girls enjoyed in the story. The golf course is on the left. Click for a larger view and see the flags.

Quote of the Day

"Oh, come off your high horse, Liz-bags," said Pips, without animosity. "I'm not going to rob them. In fact I'm going to be the little ray of sunshine in their lives. How their eyes will light up on dull wet days, when they see the gay Loch Lomond Library boat plunging eagerly towards them out of the mist--"
"Someone a bit speedier than you two will have to rowing that day," Lilias remarked.

From THE CREW OF THE BELINDA, Chapter 9, Pips Has An Idea.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Family Trouble illustration

A scene from the 1961 short story. Nicky sneaks up behind Ruth and speaks in a witchy voice, frightening her sister. This delightful short story is set in Cornwall, the location being described as just over the fields from the sea, just within sight of the isle of Lundy on a clear day.

Quote of the Day

"Oh, John!" said Sara, in an agony lest her long-cherished dream of nonchalantly handing over a bunch of crooks to Scotland Yard was to be denied fulfilment by over-caution on John's part. "Of course we know they're crooks, and the book will prove it, somehow. And look - if we don't lay too false a trail, just enough to give us sufficient start to collect the evidence in Rhöndorf, then we could have them arrested when they make up on us!"
"I'm having no dealings with foreign policemen if I can help it," said John, with a firmness which brooked no argument. "With the language difficulties and so on, you never know where you'll land."

From BERNESE ADVENTURE, Chapter Twelve. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Buried Treasures 10

Only the original Collins edition of Susan at School has this wonderful colour frontispiece. Both the frontispieces of the St. Ronan's stories depict scenes in the school library. The scene pictured here is from Chapter 4, The Mysterious Map. While reading a book about the history of St. Ronan's, Susan and fellow new girl Tessa come across a map with the cryptic message "RH here" in faint writing. Susan immediately jumps to the conclusion that the map points to the legendary buried treasure known as Ronan's Heap. This treasure is supposedly made up of gold chalices and jewelled cups and gold plates.

Quote of the Day

The stone hut where we were to spend the night was not so much a rondavel as an oval-davel. It had once, according to Rob, been very nicely equipped by the Natal Mountain Club with mattresses, stores of food, wood and so on, but the Basuto tribesmen had found all these things too temptng, and now all that remained was a dubious-looking pile of coir in a corner, which was, all the same, a softer place to lay our sleeping-bags than on the floor. The tribesmen had even found the windows too tempting, so the hut was, to put it mildly, a trifle draughty.

From NOTHING HAPPENED AFTER ALL, Chapter 10, Don't Get Mixed up in Politics.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Book of Hours


Many of Jane Shaw's stories involve restoring the fortunes of impoverished middle-class people. This theme is touched on in her very first book, Breton Holiday, when Raymond wishes to join the cavalry but the family does not have enough money, so he has to sit a civil service exam instead. A little treasure would change all that. In Susan and the Home-made Bomb, the Harding family are unable to afford to send Jennifer to the Sloane School of Art because of her grandfather's unusual will forbidding the sale of their large house. The discovery of a Fra Angelico hidden under a hideous painting solves the Hardings' problems. And in No Trouble for Susan, poor, forgetful Mrs. Gregson is about to be evicted from her cottage by the heartless Sir Arthur Symes and is saved at the last minute when John Hunter announces that the little book she had found among her late husband's belongings and had hoped to get a few pounds for turns out to be a Book of Hours, worth £15,000.

In previous posts, I've looked at the dubious claims made in Jane Shaw's books concerning the value of the treasures her characters uncover and compared them with how much they are worth in real life. Her claims in Where is Susan? that an 1862 one-shilling Deep Green stamp was worth £900 and in A Job for Susan that a 1954 half-crown was worth £12,000 turned out to be totally untrue, with the real value being only a fraction of the prices stated in the books. Therefore, I began to wonder about the Book of Hours.

A Book of Hours is a medieval prayer book, elaborately written by hand on vellum and lavishly decorated. They were originally commissioned by devout catholics who wished to follow a monastic prayer cycle, hence the name. However, they soon became the status symbol of the Middle Ages, the medieval equivalent of a Rolex watch. The longer and more lavishly illustrated, or illuminated, they were, the higher the price. They were mostly owned by royalty and the nobility. As the fifteenth century progressed, shorter and less luxurious books appeared and they became more affordable. They are by no means rare. The fact that they are made of vellum means that they are durable, and the fact that they are considered by many people to be the most beautiful books of all time has resulted in their careful preservation and enduring popularity among collectors.

But how much are they worth? A little research shows that the less lavish books can be had for a sum in the low five-figure range. The highest price ever paid for a Book of Hours, according to Abe Books, was £8,600,000 for the Rothchild Prayerbook in 1999. So we have a wide range of prices to work with. The really high prices are paid for the larger and very lavish books that are illustrated by famous artists. Mrs. Gregson's is constantly described as being small but beautifully illustrated. The fifteen thousand pounds that Sir Arthur ended up paying for the book would be equivalent to around three hundred thousand today. I suspect that this figure is somewhat inflated but theoretically possible. So, unlike the 1862 one-shilling Deep Green and the 1954 half crown, the Book of Hours in No Trouble for Susan may, with a little stretch of the imagination, actually be worth the price it is given in the story.

Places in Jane Shaw: The Drumadoon

In Chapter 9 of Highland Holiday, faced with the challenge of writing a play, Sara retires to the Drumadoon in search of inspiration. From the top, she can see the sea and the golf course. "She found a little grassy hollow which just fitted her, and was sheltered from the wind." She then sees her little twin brothers Robin and Rufus walking to the caves and "she diverted herself for a few moments by rolling lumps of turf and bits of heather down on her brothers". She then goes through some ideas for her play. But the inevitable happens: "And the sun became very hot, and she struggled for a little, but finally she put her head back against the prickly, springy heather which smelt so nice, like honey... and went to sleep." Here we get four pages filled with nothing but Sara's scatterbrained train of thought as her mind drifts from Vanessa and Joyce playing golf, to Caroline and Jane and her brothers and then the play. Some people have found Highland Holiday to be overdrawn and long-winded, but I enjoy this plot and the fact that it is not rushed and lets us see the essence of the characters. And, surprisingly, Sara actually does end up writing a play called The Witch of Boguille.

Quote of the Day

"You can hardly blame Mr. Manson," said Katherine reasonably. "We haven't exactly taken him into our confidence."
"How could we?" said Fiona. "We haven't really got a confidence to take him into, have we? And we still haven't anything against Miss Grey, however much this shows M. Martin in his true colours. Party indeed! Dozens of pairs of nylons in those boxes I'll bet, and my poor-"
"Your poor mother hasn't a pair to her name," interrupted Katherine, "we know."

From THE MOOCHERS ABROAD, Chapter 7, Eclairs. When this story was published in 1951, Britain was still suffering from rationing in the aftermath of World War II. This explains why Fiona is bristling with indignation at Miss Grey and M. Martin having access to so many pairs of tights while "her poor mother" has none.

Places in Jane Shaw: Arran

This week I'm re-reading Highland Holiday. Every night, Sara gazes out of her window to see the sunset over Blackwaterfoot.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Quote of the Day

A car-load of monkeys could not have been more restless. They hurled themselves from side to side, pointing out the old familiar landmarks as the car left Brodick behind and slowly climbed the String Road, the small white farms of Glen Sherraig lying far below them on the right. At the top of the String they insisted on the rite that was always performed - the car was stopped, and the fact which never seemed to pall, that the sea on both sides of the island could now be seen, was remarked on again. The ususal argument about the names of the peaks in the fierce and jagged range lying to their right started.

From HIGHLAND HOLIDAY, Chapter 2, Arran Revisited.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Places in Jane Shaw: Binic

Jane Shaw's most beloved location, visited by Caroline and Sara (as St. Brioc), the Moochers (also as St. Brioc), Penny (as Kerdic) and Susan and the Carmichael girls (as St. Clos), Binic in Brittany.

Quote of the Day

No-one spoke; and suddenly there was a jagged flash of lightning from the storm clouds, the garden was bright for a second, and between the trees not far from the window they saw a figure. It was the figure of a man, round him hung the Loden cape, the Tyrolean cape, and in his cupped hands he carried a candle. As the flash of lightning died the figure turned, and the watchers saw the candle flame, straight and still in the breathless air, illumine his face.
"The Stranger comes, with face afire!" breathed John.

From FIVEPENNY MYSTERY, Chapter 3, More Mystery.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Places in Jane Shaw: Weggis (Rosendorf)

The picture shows a view of the Lake of Lucerne from the Swiss village of Weggis. In Susan Interferes, the Carmichaels and Susan stay in the village of Rosendorf, a thinly disguised Weggis. In Susan and Friends, Beverley Garmston explains that Weggis is situated right where Rosendorf is located. The famous Weggis Rose Festival began in 1926 and this may have inspired Jane Shaw to call her ficitonal town "Rose Village", the translation of Rosendorf. Furthermore, Uncle Charles tells the children that there is a monument to Mark Twain in the village. There is indeed such a monument in Weggis, which you can see below. The famous writer described Weggis as "the most charming place for repose and restfulness". For further information, see Susan and Friends, Chapter XXI, Adventures in the Alps. 

Quote of the Day

Bill was staring at a plate of hot rolls and croissants and things called swieback (which turned out to be a kind of thin sweet rusk, done up in packets) and a pot of steaming coffee - for Aunt Lucy and Dr. Carmichael, and a pot of steaming chocolate - for himself and Charlotte. He whispered anxiously, "Is this all?"
Aunt Lucy said that it was, that this was the Continental breakfast.
"No bacon and eggs?"
"No."
"No scrambled eggs?"
"No."
"Not even boiled eggs?"
"No."
"Oh crumbs," said Bill.

From SUSAN INTERFERES, Chapter 2, Up the Airy Mountains. Bill is dismayed by his first encounter with the continental breakfast.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013