Constance Savery: Unpublished Juvenilia CWS

Savery's Unpublished Juvenilia

Almost all of Savery's surviving juvenile works are in Winifred's Thought Book. It is hard to improve on her own assessment:

It is not claimed that Winifred's Thought Book has the smallest claim to be the work of an infant prodigy. Far from it! But teachers may be interested to see what can be done, without help or prompting, by a child who had not the advantage of intensive schooling with modern methods.

The juvenilia are in chronological order.

Winifred's Thought Book. 1965; fair copy in exercise book, ~1973.

When I asked for Winifred's Thought Book from the de Grummond Children's Collection in the library at the University of Southern Mississippi, I expected to see a child's handwriting. Instead, I found myself looking at the familiar strokes of Constance Savery's clear well-formed hand. The seven to ten-year-old Winifred had put down her thoughts in an exercise book that was sixty years old when Constance typed them out in 1965 and seventy years old when she wrote out a fair copy for the de Grummond collection. Consequently, we hear two voices as we peruse the book: the child Winifred and her editor and annotator, Constance. Here is Winifred's introduction:
A thought book written by me. In this I hope to write all that in my head doth come. All out of my head, not copied from any book.
I thought it would be helpful to have some idea when the various pieces were composed. Constance wrote the year 1904 on the cover, but states that Winifred was seven when the first poem was written. I conclude that The Bluebells was written in 1904 after Winifred's birthday on October 31. A note on page 18, where A Pocket of Rye is written, says that these stories "were written in 1906, when Winifred was eight." By noting the changes in seasons, one can date most of the pieces with fair accuracy.

We should take Constance at her word that Winifred was not a prodigy, but we are entitled, too, to find in these early works a strong desire to write, a willingness to experiment, and no desire to hide her faith under a bushel.

The most interesting piece is the three-line Magic Chant written when she was eight. With the change of only two words, the lines were used in The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood, which Constance began in 1944. Not only did she go back 38 years to pick up Winifred's composition, but she made those three lines an important part of her adult novel. Brava, Winifred! Brava, Constance!

Here is a listing of Winifred's poems and stories. Those titles that are green were identified by Winifred or Constance (or me) as having special importance, and these have independent listings. An asterisk means that a title was supplied by Constance, not Winifred.
Untitled introduction by 7-year-old Savery -- 4 lines.
The Bluebells -- 12 lines. Poem.
First Thoughts on Flowers -- 9 lines. Prose.
Untitled lines beginning, How quickly an hour passes! -- 15 lines. Poem.
Bluebell and Harebell -- 40 lines. Story in three chapters.
Poet's Corner -- 9 lines. Poem.
Poor Old Mike -- 5 lines. Poem.
Magic Chant -- 3 lines. Poem.
In the Early Morning the Little Birds Do Sing -- 11 lines. Poem.
Ada, Lily and the Roses' Queen -- 42 lines. Story.
A Pocket of Rye -- 19 lines. [Story with 4-line song, 'probably an advertisement that Winifred had seen somewhere.' --CWS]
The Father of Gold -- 20 lines. Story.
The Mermaid and the Pigs -- 20 lines. Story. Eight-year-old Winifred attributed this to 'Christina Chance'.
The Princess of Merry-Making Land -- 19 lines. Story.
The Lark -- 8 lines. Poem.
Beautiful Isle of the Sea -- 20 lines. Poem.
In Dismal Mood* -- 4 lines. Poem with librarian's note: 'Copied from verses by J. & A. Taylor (see letter from Ms. Savery in files -- dated 5-12-76)'
To an Old Wooden Dutch Doll -- 7 lines. Poem.
Sermons (i) -- 37 lines. Prose.
Beautiful Pictures -- 19 lines.
The Kitten that Stole the Fish -- 15 lines. Poem.
An Autumn Legend -- 15 lines. Poem.
God Cares -- 6 lines. Poem.
The Brown Hen -- 23 lines. Poem.
Rock-a-bye, Rock-a-bye -- 13 lines. Poem.
The Elves in the Shamrock -- 43 lines. Story.
The Little Boat Bee -- 17 lines. Poem.
The Christmas Bells -- 15 lines. Poem.
A Vision (original title: An Allegory) -- 28 lines. Poem.
Untitled, beginning ....his way he (the Angel) wended... -- 11 lines. Prose and poetry.
An Unlucky Maypole Dance -- 42 lines. Story.
Tenth of April -- 4 lines. Poem. Signed with note: "Notice not copyed."
Sermon II Why God is Like Jewels -- 19 lines. Prose.
An Allegory -- 18 lines. Poem.
Foolish Young Bird* -- 20 lines. Poem.
Fairy Anna -- 42 lines. Poem.
Good Night -- 16 lines. Poem.
Mary, Queen of Scots -- 6 lines. Prose.
The Sick Baby -- 17 lines. Poem.
My Molly* -- 11 lines. Poem.
Stockings -- 11 lines. Poem.
A Mother and Baby -- 10 lines. Poem.
To-day's Helpful Thought -- 10 lines. Poem.
Buns -- 20 lines. Story.
The Irritated Dressmaker -- 16 lines. Poem.
The Widow's Lament -- 63 lines. Poem.
Dear Little Ball* -- 4 lines. Poem.
A Vision -- 13 lines. Poem.
An Allegory -- 11 lines. Prose fragment.
Jane and Phyllis -- 10-line note by adult Savery mentioning fragment by the 7-year-old Winifred.
From the Bible -- 16 lines. Prose synopsis.
The Fire -- 13 lines. Poem.
The Only Child -- 8 lines. Poem.
Yellow Twilight -- 6 lines. Poem.
Off to the Fair -- 3 lines. Poem.
Frog Who Lived in a Pond -- 15 lines. Story.
Heartfelt Laments,* (i) and (ii) -- 9 lines. Poems.
Snow -- 12 lines. Poem.
Best pieces to go in new book: A List of Them -- 9 titles of compositions, two of which have been lost.
Ten Years Old -- 4 lines. Poem dated October 31st, 1907.

Magic Chant. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 5. 1905? Reprinted in The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood, 2004, by Eric Schonblom, Buckhorn, KY, pp 54, 136, 163.

In November of 2004, after mailing the printed book blocks of The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood to the bookbinder, I drove eight hundred miles to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to visit the de Grummond Collection of children's books and peruse Winifred's Thought Book, q.v., in their manuscript collection. There I was astonished to discover the following lines written, probably, when Savery was eight:
Once round the Hulué stone,
Wind, wind, and round again,
Once more round!
They are not great poetry, so why the astonishment? Because these lines, virtually intact, are important to the plot of The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood, which was begun in 1944, revised frequently throughout Savery's lifetime, and identified by her as the finest of her novels. True, two changes were made for publication in Jack, but judge for yourself their significance:
Once round the heulë stone,
Wind, wind, and wind again,
Once more round.
For eighteen months I had been searching the Internet and other references for the source of "heulë stone" only to find that it originated in a little girl's imagination. How Savery must have smiled when, needing a tropical sea chant for her novel, she resurrected this one from her memory or a decades old piece of paper with childish handwriting. Readers who know more than I do about heulë stones are invited to correct me, but I will be saddened if you do.

Beautiful Pictures. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 15. 1906?

The nine-year-old Savery identified her "Best pieces to go in new book." This poem, written when she was about eight, is the earliest of these and starts well with
Pictures, lovely, ugly, pretty;
Pictures of towns, village and city...
but the young child's muse flits off, and while her native wit sustains her, it doesn't bear quotation. Still, she must have been very proud of the erudition shown in her last line:
More shall I write,
But not tonight.
Au revoir, au revoir!

The Elves in the Shamrock. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 24. 1906?

Winifred's Thought Book, q.v. Here is her comment about this one:
Winifred thought well of this story. She marked it "Specially interesting" !
Exactly 301 words long, the story tells of a baby fairy that was kidnapped by a bird, nurtured for two years by elves, and released by them on a mountainside, where it wondered among the shamrocks until it was found by Mike, an Irish boy.
"Shure, it's a fairy," he said; "it behoves me to be careful."

From which you may guess that he was very clever. Well, Mike saw the baby was very dusty, tired, and worn with running. He picked up the baby, put it in his pocket.
After clothing the baby and providing it with some bread, Mike "hurried off to find the fairies," who rewarded him by turning him into a fairy also. This is not literature, let alone great literature, but it is a credit to its eight-year-old author.

The Sick Baby. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 38. 1907?

"Poor little thing!" writes Savery, aged about nine, beginning another of her "best pieces". In the lines that follow, a neglected child is taken from her mother to live securely in Dr. Bernardo's "Babies' Castle." The adult Savery added a footnote:
From very early childhood Winifred had been told about the Christian philanthropist Dr. Bernardo, who rescued many children from unspeakable conditions. She can still vividly recall the moment when her mother came into the room with the words "Dr. Bernardo is dead." It was as if the end of the world had come.
Dr. Thomas Bernardo died in 1905 about six weeks before Savery's eighth birthday. It is "a lady," not Dr. Bernardo, who rescues the baby in Savery's poem, additional evidence that the verses were written after the good Doctor's death.

A Mother and Baby. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 40. 1907.

Here is a brave attempt at dialect, but there are only so many rhymes for 'bairn':
O sweet wee babe,
  My ain dear bairn,
I'm glad that it's warm inside;
  For it's cold o'er the cairn.
After four more lines of verse, she ends this way:
And now here's tea and Dad too. Soon you must go to bed, my baby bairn, oh!
The adult Savery edited Winifred's Thought Book and punctuated these lines as prose despite the near-rhyme of 'too' and 'oh!'

The Irritated Dressmaker. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 42. 1907.

The nine-year-old Savery identified her "best pieces," and the list was incorporated by the author sixty-odd years later into Winifred's Thought Book. The Irritated Dressmaker is the only prose on her list. In introducing her thought book, the older Savery wrote: "Some of the verses have been rearranged in verse form where they were written continuously as prose." This particular story is a plausible one, and I quote it at some length in the section devoted to Autobiography.

The Widow's Lament. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, pp 43-46. 1907.

This is another of the "best pieces" chosen by Savery as a child. Sixty years later, Savery noted that the original manuscript of the poem was lost, and the version that she was copying into Winifred's Thought Book was written down from memory by the child some months after its original composition.

Compared with others in the Thought Book, this poem is quite lengthy, even without the missing portions. As a rule, the rhymes are true rhymes, and the meter is sufficiently regular that most of the variations can be viewed as artistic license rather than faulty construction. The lines portray a widow grieving over the loss of her youngest, a 5-year-old boy. It is sufficiently saccharine. Here is a sample:
One day my wee Dickie
  Would not go out to play.
"I'll wait till anuvver day, muvver,
  I'll wait till anuvver day."

"And what is the matter, Dickie?
  What can the matter be?
You've never been like this before.
  Don't you want to see the sea?"

And then he faded away
  Till at last he was no more
He was dead, my little Dickie,
  So my heart was very sore.
The Fire. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield or St. Mark's Vicarage, Birmingham. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 49. 1907.

Another of the 9-year-old's "best pieces," the first and third verse are quite regular, but Savery takes chances in the second:
Our pussy by the fireside
Is making such a noise,
Such a purring!
She, I expect, is dreaming
Of mice and other joys.
I'm confident she knew that "Such a purring!" destroys her meter, but there it is, anyway.

The Only Child. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield, or St. Mark's Vicarage, Birmingham. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 50. 1907.

Another "best piece," this one required imagination, because Savery shared the vicarage with four younger sisters. Here's the whole lament:
I am an only child, And every comfort have I,
But one I am deprived of
Which makes me want to cry:
I have no little sister,
Or even a brother,
No one but
My father and mother.

Best pieces to go in new book: A List of Them. St. Mark's Vicarage, Birmingham. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 54. 1907.

The nine titles listed by Winifred were The Widow's Lament, The Fire, Bluebell, A Mother and Baby, The Only Child, The Irritated Dressmaker, Beautiful Pictures, The Sick Baby, and Our Chatterbox. Constance could not identify either Bluebell or Our Chatterbox.

They bumped into them... Birmingham: ODDS AND ENDS, I(1), St. Mark's Vicarage, Birmingham. ~1909.

Savery would have been indignant to find these lines in her bibliography. She was only eleven when they were written, the journal was a 'family magazine', and when she, incautiously, quoted them in THE METHODIST MAGAZINE article, Rise and Fall of a Family Magazine, it was with the comment, "Of the poetry, the less said the better." Nevertheless, as they have survived a century, I am reproducing these lines:
They bumped into them as they walked,
And into them bumped they,
And which was which at the end of the scene,
I really cannot say.
No, I do not know who 'they' are. Or 'them.' Mrs. Hummerstone is the fortunate owner of many of these family magazines, and if someday I am invited for another visit, I may find out.

Often in Dreams. Handwrirtten in "Verses," Savery's bedside book of poems. 1911.

Written at age thirteen, first as prose and then as a poem, this is a successful effort describing Savery's recurrent dream of her ancestors. The verse, in ten lines, concludes
I wonder, dreamwise, why they come,
And why they stand in silence dumb,
Their hands stretched forth upon the air
Appealing mute. Do they still care
  For things of earth like me?
The last line rhymes with the first.

A Judicial Murder. Birmingham: THE ROSE, I(1?), St. Mark's Vicarage, Birmingham. ~1911.

This poem was a response to the National Insurance Act, which was proposed in 1908 and became law in 1911. THE ROSE was a family magazine with a number of correspondents, so these lines may be the work of a younger sister or a contributor from another household. In Rise and Fall of a Family Magazine, op. cit., Savery says of THE ROSE only that 'poetical outpourings' were very much in and that the poem was trenchant. Judge for yourself:
She died--this is her epitath
She died a dreadful death.
She licked those wretched, wretched stamps,
And died of loss of breath.

Stamp after stamp she licked and licked
And stuck them on the card,
And, panting, gasped for breath, and cried,
'Alas, 'tis very hard!'

Now other tongues will lick her stamps,
For hers lies cold and still,
She'll hear no more of beastly Acts,
She's murdered--by a Bill.

NOTE: Two juvenile works of Savery were published .