Ida Lathrop’s portrait of Barbara (summer 1922)

Portrait of Barbara by Ida Lathrop (1859-1937)

Portrait of Barbara by Ida Lathrop (1859-1937)

From a letter to Mr. Oberg, dated March 19, 1923:

I went to the exhibition at the Paint and Clay Club [New Haven, Connecticut] yesterday, and I saw Mrs. [Ida] Lathrop’s portrait of myself. It is the one she painted of me last summer at Sunapee, and Mother and Daddy like it very much. But I like Herring Gulls by Henry H. Townshend the best. I liked also On the Connecticut River by Elizabeth S. Pitman; The Enchanted Pool and Morning Mist in California by Henry J. Albright.

Unbeknownst to me, Ida’s portrait has come up for auction three times since 1986. Its size, excluding the frame, is 10½ x 9 inches. I had not seen the portrait until this morning.

The Great Labyrinth of Sarbea (October 1923)

In 1923 Barbara’s goal was to finish her long story, The Adventures of Eepersip, by her ninth birthday, on March 4; she wanted it as a reverse birthday present for her mother. (She fell ill in February and also fell short of her goal, finishing her story a few days late.) Her father had the idea of teaching Barbara about printing, so he advised Barbara to carefully revise her story during her summer at Sunapee in preparation for printing up a few copies and binding them for friends. This she did, but the day after the family returned to New Haven, on October 6, the kitchen stove exploded, destroying the house and its contents, including Eepersip.

On November 12 Barbara wrote to Mr. Oberg:

After my books had arrived at the house that we were taken into through kindness we discovered that Eepersip, my long story, had been destroyed in the fire. For many days I tried to rewrite it and could not, but after a while I got a sudden inspiration, and I am now working on it like fire. Every little while I think of rewriting all those exciting adventures, seventy-two pages of them, and when I think of that I almost give it up again.Read more

Evandine (ca. 1922)

In a letter to Mr. St. John, dated February 4, 1923, Barbara asks: “Did you know that I have been writing a story, started long, long ago? I will tell you about it. It is about a little girl named Eepersip who lived on top of a mountain, Mount Varcrobis, and was so lonely that she went away to live wild.”

Just how long “long, long ago” equals I don’t know. In his “Historical Note” (which was published in Knopf’s 1927 edition of The House Without Windows but is missing in the recent Hamish Hamilton/Penguin edition), my grandfather wrote that Barbara began The Adventures of Eepersip in January 1923, which doesn’t sound “long, long ago” to me, but I suppose it’s possible. Regardless, I think Evandine might have been the inspiration for The Adventures of Eepersip, which Barbara gave to her mother a few days after her ninth birthday, early in March 1923.

Evandine (ca. 1922)


[Chapter 1]

It was in May when little Evandine woke early one morning. She was very tired and cross to think that she had waked so early, and then—she jumped out of bed and ran to the window. She opened it and looked out. A fairy came drifting in, and touched her, muttering strange charms.… Read more

A Woodland Coronation (ca. 1922)

A Woodland Coronation (ca. 1922)

A Woodland Coronation

The sun rose slowly in the north revealing a scene in far away Spiria. It was the fifth month, the month of Beloron; when the sky is flecked with fluffy spider-web clouds; when the waxen wind-flowers or Indian pipes are blooming; when yellow stars are glowing in the grass; and when foam-flowers with white silver-tipped petals and bright gold centres are shooting on long stalks above the earth, and winding sinuously up the brown trunks of trees, their bright blossoms mingling with the green of the budding leaves; when great clumps of flowers like steeplebush with dark green leaves and silver veins are decking the pasture-lands; and when great wild poppies of a dark red with black stamens are nodding proudly in the deep forests and mingling exquisitely with the light and dark green of uncurling ferns which nod gracefully along a winding little path through the wood. Brown fern-flowers shoot up on tall stalks in the centre of a clump of flower-ferns—fern-flowers with brown petals and stamens of bright gold; trees are flowering, and sending sweet perfume in the wind—the warm wind all scented with flowers; and the cool smell of pines and scented ferns—such is the month of Beloron.… Read more

Untitled (Language of the Moss, ca. 1922)

Untitled (Language of the Moss, ca. 1922)

Untitled (Language of the Moss)

Deep in a soft, wet forest lived three lizards—Coraleena, Flowereena, and tiny, spotty Squirlette. And they all talked together in the soft, slushy, green-sounding Language of the Moss. Sometimes, on sunny days, they crawled and squirmed together down on the soft white sand, and saw the great scrawly tracks made by the blue heron, silver-crested, with the broken wing. And in these tracks they laid and crawled very slowly, so they could tell the heron tracks whenever they saw them, and could scamper away into the soft, wet forest. But one day, when they were out on the sunny sand, they saw the hurt bird come sweeping across the lake, limping in his flight, and swirled down upon the sand suddenly. It was then that the tips of his wings brushed against the sand, and made beautiful feathery marks. When he came, Coraleena and Flowereena squirmed and squiggled back into the deep moss, but tiny Squirlette stayed. He whispered to himself in the soft Moss Language:

“Such a handsome bird making such beautiful patterns on the sand could do no harm to a poor spotty lizard—and he is so very handsome that I must stay and watch.”… Read more

Verbiny and Her Birds (May 1922)

The conclusion of the Verbiny trilogy. Although its title includes “Part Two”, Barbara crossed out the page number 12 and began this installment at page 1.

Verbiny and Her Birds (May 1922)

Part Two: Verbiny and Her Birds

[Chapter I]

Even with her butterflies and animals Verbiny was not content. She wanted birds. So one day she told her father so.

“For heaven’s sake, child, how many things are you going to tame?”

“Why, t-t-that was t-the l-last one I w-was thi-inking of t-taming,” said Verbiny, frightened at her father’s speech.

“All right,” said the king, “do you want water-birds or land-birds?”

“I will have first water-birds and then land-birds,” said Verbiny. “Why do you want to know?”

“Why, I wanted to know what kind of cage to build for them, of course,” said the king, surprised.

“Of course,” said Verbiny, ashamed at herself and turning from the porch she went to the pearl-room to think things over. “First I will have water-ducks,” she thought, “then finourios, iristio, and rockarteen, then fisheens fresh-water, silvery, and short-billed fisheens, and I guess that will be all, and any strange little bird that I don’t know. No, instead of doing that I will wait until I see some little bird, and catch anything that I think is pretty.… Read more

Verbiny and Her Butterflies (May 1922)

Verbiny and Her Butterflies (May 1922)

Verbiny and Her Butterflies

[Chapter I]

You know that Verbiny had a lot of kittens and played with them every day. After several months had passed with the kittens Verbiny took up a new and much more interesting interest. Verbiny had always thought that the butterflies were just ignorarg [sic: ignorant?] little insects flitting about through fields and meadows. Of course the butterflies fly so fast that one cannot see the colors in their wings, but every variety of color that one ever sees on a butterfly’s wing helps to make the plain color that the wings seem to be when the butterfly is flying. When the beautiful insect is in flight the color of the wing may seem gray or even brown, so of course Verbiny, never having seen one light, thought that the wing was a plain color gray or brown, and never dreamed of the wing being the magnificent varieties of color that they really are.

Now one day Verbiny wandered to the field that she played in every day, the field which was about an eighth of a mile from home. She saw several butterflies but while wandering about the field she saw the uncommon form of the Pearletue nestled in a clover blossom.… Read more

Verbiny and Her Kittens (May 1922)

From a letter thanking Dorothy P. Lathrop, who illustrated Walter De La Mare’s book of fairy poems “Down-Adown-Derry”, dated May 22, 1922:

Thank you ever and ever and ever so much for sending me a copy of Walter de la Mare’s Down A-Down Derry. I think the pictures are wonderful and especially the frontispiece is a wonderful illustration of a fairy. I also love the poem that goes with that picture. I think it is perfectly wonderful the whole business.

Dorothy P. Lathrop illustration for Down-adown-derry

I have now started a story about kittens, and the most important character is Verbiny the princess who found the mother-cat in the woods, caught her, and tamed her. One of the four kittens has a black back arched up like a kangaroo rat’s, and at the top of each white stocking was a band of yellow. All the kittens catch little crickets and grasshoppers, and one of the kittens catches a bay mouse, and a kitten named Citrolane catches two sparrows, one with each paw. But just a little while after the kittens are born they want so much to see what is on the other side of the fence that fenced in their property that they climb up over it and jump down and almost land on a porcupine, but he good-naturedly steps aside in time.… Read more

Makeup Birds (ca. May 1922)

Barbara’s makeup birds that would come to inhabit Farksolia. One description per page. From her letter to Mr. Oberg on May 22, 1922:

Talking of eggs reminds me of the makeup birds that I have been writing about. There are eighteen of them and I think they are all quite interesting, but the most interesting ones are the six finourios and the four fisheens. The finourios are all very pretty, but the knowraino finourio has the power to change his coat and also his song before it rains. The fisheens also are quite pretty, and they are the birds that sit on rocks sticking out of the water, and catch fish as they come by. But the short-billed fisheen has to duck his head under water to catch the fish. The total length of the fresh-water fisheen’s bill is six inches; the total length of the salt-water fisheen’s bill is four inches; the total length of the short-billed fisheen’s bill is one and a half inches; and the total length of the silvery fisheen’s bill is four and two eights inches. When you come to see me I will read the rest of the birds to you.

Imaginary Birds (April 1922)

1. Ositeroo

Birds are white, with an olive crown and tail-feathers.Read more

The Forbidden Forest (a play) (ca. 1922)

The Forbidden Forest (ca. 1922)

The Forbidden Forest

Scene 1.
A road before the forest. A large “No trespassing” sign-board.
Enter boy and his playmate.

Where are you going?

Into the forest.

Can you read?

Of course; anybody can read.

Well—pooh! I don’t believe you can read at all.

Why do you think that?

Because if you could read—well, if you can, come back here and prove it.

If you insist. [Reads the sign]  No trespassing. Well—I can, can’t I?


Boy (impatiently)
Of course I can.

Well, if you can read, why on earth do you want to go into the forest?

Pooh! Do you think I shall heed what that sign says. [Exit]

Don’t say I— He’s gone! Anyhow he can’t say I didn’t warn him when the time comes that he shall be on his knees begging for mercy. I don’t understand why he dares—why he wants to go into that forest. Why, if I could win a fortune by it I wouldn’t venture a foot. Shall I tell the duke? No. He’s my friend. If he’s going to be so foolhardy I ought to help him, not hinder him.Read more