*”Griselda” by Eleanor Farjeon
I am wandering past the smallest of the Royal Palaces, Kew Palace, in the eponymous Gardens. The Dutch House is one of the few surviving elements of the original large complex. Its royal occupation lasted from around 1728 until 1818, with a final short lived occupation in 1844.
In the 1750s, the Dutch House was used as a schoolhouse for the future George III and his brother Edward. George III in turn used the place for the schooling of his two eldest sons, George (created Prince of Wales in the first few days of his life) and Frederick. George III’s treatment of his eldest son has been described as well intentioned but too harsh, featuring whippings and long days of lessons. As his family inclined to fat, young George was forbidden to eat the filling of a fruit pie, and restricted to the crust.
Although Kew had originally represented summer relaxation and family life for the Royal family, it became a place of incarceration for George III during his first bout of “madness” in 1788. For some years, historians have concluded that the King had the genetic blood disorder of porphyria. However, in March 2017, Rentoumi, Peters, Conlin, and Garrard published their paper: “The acute mania of King George III: A computational linguistic analysis “. Professor Garrard commented in 2013: “The porphyria theory is completely dead in the water. This was a psychiatric illness.”.
Eleanor Farjeon, the children’s writer quoted above, was not concerned with differential diagnosis: “Griselda”‘s closing line runs:
“Some people are greedy. Leave it at that.”.
Eleanor was born in London on 13 February 1881 to a literary family. In adulthood, she had a wide range of friends with great literary talent, including DH Lawrence, Walter de la Mare and Robert Frost. For several years she had a close friendship with the poet Edward Thomas and his wife.
After World War I, Eleanor earned a living as a poet, journalist and broadcaster, and achieved some of the most accomplished socialist poetry of the 1920s and ’30s. She never married, but had a thirty year friendship with George Earle, an English teacher.
During the 1950s, Eleanor received three major literary awards, including two which cited “The Little Bookroom”, a collection of twenty seven stories for children. This was one of several of her works to be illustrated by Edward Ardizzone; his work with Eleanor Farjeon was one of his happiest collaborations, especially on this volume.
The book took its title from one room in the house of her childhood, where the stray and left over books gathered. Her Author’s Note declares:
“Seven maids with seven brooms, sweeping for half a hundred years, have never managed to clear my mind of its dust of vanished temples and flowers and kings, the curls of ladies, the sighing of poets, the laughter of lads and girls.”.