Three Houses


Fall is here and I find myself feeling my usual autumn nostalgia. Three Houses, by Angela Thirkell, was a perfect fit for my changing season days. Her little book of memories from her childhood during Victorian times was beautifully written, with descriptions so lovely that I read them slowly, savoring them. Her memories are tied to three homes from her childhood, homes filled with loving grandparents, fun cousins, family friends, and all those who helped in or visited those households.


Painting by her grandfather, Edward Burne-Jones. Click on the image to visit the Angela Thirkell Society.

She was the beloved granddaughter of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Burne-Jones, was a cousin of Rudyard Kipling (first cousin, once removed), and was the goddaughter of J.M. Barrie, so her childhood was filled with art and stories. She became a wonderful storyteller herself, so after this lovely experience, I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Here’s an example of her magically descriptive childhood memories.

In the larger part of the drawing room was my grandmother’s toy cupboard. Originally begun as a toy cupboard for our visits, it had gradually fallen into her far worthier hands and she kept it and added to it with the collector’s passion. When the oak cupboard was unlocked what an enchanting sight was there. It was like a page from Nutcracker or Mouse King, or a story from Ole Luk Oie. Tiny houses, gardens, hedges, and people. Russian families of painted wood, shutting up one inside the other from grandfather to baby. Merry-go-rounds that made a little tinkling noise as one turned the handle. Tiny shops and stalls with suitable apples, pears, carrots, turnips, and cauliflowers. Flocks and herds that knew no other grazing lands than the table-cloth. Fishes of mother-of-pearl from Chinese seas. Sicilian carts drawn by bedizened oxen. Saucepans and jugs and coffee-pots carved from wood, no bigger than a baby’s finger nail — and whatever more of littleness you can imagine. He friends used to add to the collection and any one who came to Rottingdean bringing some tiny tree, or flower, or figure, was doubly welcome.

3 thoughts on “Three Houses

  1. Nan

    I started this book years ago, had to put is aside for some reason, and never got back to it. I should. I’m not a huge AT fan but I loved beyond words her brother Denis Mackail’s book, Greenery Street. And DM was a great friend of PG Wodehouse’s. Ah, literary connections!


  2. Robin Post author

    Nan, love the literary connections! I’ll have to look for Greenery Street! I read Three Houses very slowly, little bits at a time. I might not have liked it as well if I had read it straight through. It was more like an after-dinner mint!

    Ali, I really enjoyed her reminiscences and descriptions. She painted pictures in my mind…



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