… Barbara vanished from her apartment at 48 Kent Street, Brookline, Massachusetts.
Barbara will turn 100 on March 4th, 2014. In anticipation I’ve written a long post about her with photos on Tumblr.
My book for Barbara—Wings!—is coming along very well indeed. It’ll be a long book full of her writing with a few notes by me scattered about. I await interest from Alfred A. Knopf, et al. Assuming that no major publisher is interested in such an esoteric book in 2014, I’ll publish it myself. Happy birthday, Barbara!
Farksolia is on hiatus while I work on my book for Barbara. It is well underway and it will be wonderful. I hope to publish it next year for her 100th birthday. We’ll have to see how that goes, though.
1922 — Kitty’s Christmas Supper : Barbara’s Christmas card for her mother.
1923 — The Tree
1924 — Silver Magic (my photo of the original Christmas greeting is very blurry, but fortunately I have a copy of the poem from another source.There’s a rare typo in the latter, two-thirds of the way down: “thrust” should be “thrush.”)
1925 — Noël
The small text at the bottom reads:
Barbara Newhall Follett, the daughter of Wilson Follett, is twelve years old and already has achieved something of a reputation as the authoress of “The House Without Windows.” In this Christmas song, of which she wrote both the words and the melody, she has chosen French as the medium for the beautiful tale of the birth of Jesus. She tells first of crossing the world to come to the manager [sic], then of the wise men, their guest and their gifts. The shepherds leave their flocks to follow the light. Miss Follett closes with an exquisite stanza—”Oh Jesus, may Gow blass [sic] you. Take what we bring in our hands. He smiled out from the arms of Mary. Oh, the devine Child.”
In September 1924, ten-year-old Barbara climbed Mt. Chocorua with her father. It was (I think) her first White Mountain peak. Eighty-eight years later (who knows—perhaps to the day?) I climbed the same mountain and shot this video, which will be pretty much the same as Barbara’s view from the top.
Here’s an excerpt from a letter she wrote to her friend Mr. St. John on October 5, describing her trip.
The next morning we had breakfast, fairly late, and broke camp, together with something additional—packing our packs for the spend-the-night. Three blankets were all we could conveniently carry for bed-clothes, only Daddy planned to keep a noble fire going all night. Then off we drove for Clement Inn, at the foot of Chocorua. When we got there, we left the car, put on our packs, and started up the Piper Trail. It was not steep at all at first, indeed it was almost level, but up above Chocorua Brook a slight change began. Still farther there was quite an abrupt change, and the hard climbing began. Then we were I think about half a mile from the cabins. We began to get tired, and our discomforting packs pulled back our shoulders, and tried their best to make our feet fly out from under us.… Read more
A year! It is very strange to reflect that two Christmases have come and gone, that the entire annus terribilis 1940 has been born and written its fearsome record and died, since any one of us who love you has clasped your hand or received a syllable written by it or unearthed the smallest clue to where you are, even to whether you are living or dead.
Any outright disappearance, even for a few hours or days, is incredible enough when it involves someone we have always known. We realize in a detached way that the Missing Persons Bureaus are called upon to interest themselves every year in a nondescript horde of our fellow citizens — eighteen thousand, is it? — of whom the majority have dropped out without a trace and will never be found. The knowledge is as irrelevant as the quantum theory when the void swallows up, not another anonymous statistical unit, but our own flesh and blood.
“But this is utterly different!” it is our first instinct to cry out to the level-voiced, stolid-faced official to whom (barring evidence of “foul play”) the whole thing is just the filling-in of one more printed form.… Read more
[Revised in February 2020]
Barbara Newhall Follett was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, on March 4, 1914. Her parents were the writers and literary critics, Helen (Thomas) Follett and (Roy) Wilson Follett (Wilson was my grandfather). When Barbara was born he was teaching English at Dartmouth College. In 1917 the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island where Wilson taught at Brown University, and a year or two later they moved to New Haven, Connecticut where he briefly worked for Yale University Press before Alfred A. Knopf hired him as an editor at his young publishing house in New York City.
Helen schooled Barbara at home, believing she would receive a better education if free to explore her own interests. Reading and writing were early passions, and her curriculum included corresponding with friends of the family.
A turning point in Barbara’s young life occurred when she became interested in the clacking and ringing of her father’s typewriter. She was four years old. In a very short time she’d taught herself to touch type and was composing stories, poems, and letters on her own machine. When she was a little over five she wrote to Mr. Oberg, proprietor of an antiques shop in Providence:
The goldfinches come every afternoon and eat their supper on the clump of bachelor’s-buttons right on the left-hand side of the path that leads from the back door to our road.… Read more
176 Armory Street, New Haven, Connecticut
March 7, 1928
I did receive your letter, yesterday afternoon, and I read it (as you may suppose) a good many times before I came to any conclusion or conclusions concerning it. And now that I think that I have, I feel that I must point out two ideas in that letter that seem like ill-concealed weaknesses, and that cannot help but make me suspicious. (1) Because you do not give any clue as to what your answer almost was, and especially because you call attention to the fact that you have given no clue, I am tempted to think that the answer you had in your mind was one that you are now ashamed to reveal. For, had the intended answer been the right one, why all the secrecy about it? (2) Because the question of the divorce was brought up, that seems to me to put all idea of choice out of the picture, and it also seems to betray what was in your mind. For, in the desiring of a divorce from Helen (and I shouldn’t have let her give it to you, anyhow), how is it possible that this answer which “rang clear as a bell” in your mind was the right one?… Read more
Here’s a video clip of Barbara’s sister, Sabra Follett Meservey, speaking in 1989 about Princeton’s decision to admit her as their Graduate School’s first female student, in 1961, as a “test case.” Sabra (1924-1994) and Edward B. Meservey (1916-2009) had three sons—Roger, Richard, and Michael.
Sabra is introduced about 10 minutes into the video.