THE HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS. By Barbara Newhall Follett. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1927. $2 Reviewed by Lee Wilson Dodd
This strange, delightful, and lovely book was written by a little girl as a present for her mother. When Barbara Follett has a birthday, she always gives her mother a present. Unhappily, one cannot commend this gentle custom to other children, since it loses all charm if not originally thought of by the giver. Barbara thought of it and adopted it; and when she was nine, she decided that on her tenth birthday she would make her mother a special present. [In fact, Barbara finished her story a few days after her ninth birthday, not her tenth.] So she set to work on her own typewriter and wrote down the story of Eepersip’s life in the House Without Windows. Fire destroyed the first manuscript in a jealous house with windows which, as I am convinced, burned itself to the ground out of sheer malice. That, I submit, would have settled the matter for most children–and for most adult authors, too. But Barbara (as Carlyle did, after John Stuart Mill’s famous housemaid incinerated the first draft of “The French Revolution”) set to work again.… Read more
In: The American Girl, June, 1927 Barbara Follett Writes a Book by May Lamberton Becker
I have just been reading a book by a girl: it is called The House Without Windows (Knopf) and is by Barbara Newhall Follett, who is twelve years old now, but was nine when first she put this story upon paper. It was scarcely completed when it was destroyed in a fire from which her family had to run for their lives. One would have thought the story was quite gone, for the hardest thing to do with the memory is to bring back something that you have once written down and lost. But Barbara worked at it for three years; by that time it had grown into a longer and even more lovely story, and the author had come to the edge of her ‘teens.
It is the tale of a little girl named Eepersip, who lived with her parents in a house with a garden, pretty enough but set in a countryside far more interesting. So one day Eepersip packed a little lunch basket and started out.
“… She went east from her home on a shady path through beautiful woodlands, with her and there a grove of great massive pines.… Read more
Published in the February, 1933, issue of The Horn Book Magazine
In Defense of Butterflies by Barbara Newhall Follett
A flash of black and orange outside the upstairs window; I sprang up, leaving arithmetic problems to solve themselves. “Butterfly!” I yelled, for the information of anyone who wanted to know. I grabbed my net and raced outdoors. A butterfly as lustrous as the one that had just sailed by was a tremendous adventure. Ever so much more exciting than arithmetic! what did anyone care about stodgy old numbers when the sun was shining and there were butterflies about?
I chased the shining wings over to a big red rhododendron bush. He hovered at the top of it, sampling flowers ruminatively, then swooped off toward the wide green field, I after him, net in hand, with all the energy of any healthy nine-year-old who wants very badly to capture a large black and orange butterfly.
My collection! Sheets and sheets of paper, a good-sized manuscript. But where were the butterflies? They were all safe and free, playing out in the field in the sunlight, communing subtly with buttercups. This butterfly collection did not consist of dry, faded wings. I had typewritten long, detailed descriptions of these iridescent friends, not couched in entomological terms, because I knew none, but in the prettiest words I could conjure up.… Read more
The Farksolians had a peculiar cloth something like our crape, but not so heavy and not so rough. The eleven queens were supposed to be all dressed alike, in blue dresses of this material, with some leaf patterns in white, and a white upper part. Then they also had a material much like our silk only much softer. The handmaidens dressed usually in this material usually blue and white, and beautifully draped. The Farksolians uniformly were dark with reddish-brown hair, the young girls not putting their hair up for a long time. Each handmaiden of any queen had to wear an ivory bracelet which the queen presented her when she won service as a handmaiden. This was a true royal sign and no one else was permitted to wear that kind of bracelet. If a handmaiden outside the palace grounds asked someone to walk with her and the person mistrusted the handmaiden, why the handmaiden would only have to show the bracelet and the person might be sure that the girl was a handmaiden.
If Earthans went to Farksolia they would be sick; first from breathing the air. This is because the air is so thin that when you breathe naturally too much flows through the nostrils and into the lungs, it flows so freely there.… Read more
I believe now you have now written to me twice, with no letters from me in between, but I have had many other things I really ought to do, that I have had no time to write letters.
Now, as concerning the mysterious key you sent me. I don’t really believe that it did belong to the ogre’s castle. You see, there ought to be a great strong brass key for that a flexible little thing like that wouldn’t cover an eighth of the lock. But I do think it belonged to something very mysterious–perhaps, to one of the many thousands of side-doors to fairyland.
Several days ago Daddy and I started out with our big khaki tent, the canoe on a trailer, and provisions, to scout out the first grounds of a long trip we intended to take later this year. We started out with the idea of putting in with the canoe at Ossipee River, a river flowing out of the lake, a little way. But upon enquiries, we found that we could put in at the Bear Camp River, a medium river flowing from the town of West Ossipee into the same Ossipee Lake that we had intended to put in at before.… Read more
I was very glad to get your letter, the picture of the silver fox, your account of your search for orchids, and what you are going to do at Shawandasee. Then, of course, I was glad to hear about Mr. ‘Coon. I like them very much: they are so pretty with their black masks, their dainty little feet, and their gorgeous tails.
I would like to tell you about an adventure I had this morning with one of our feathered friends. I was over at the Secret Beach–I had been watching the pretty sparkling minnows, the little golden-coloured perch, and the sometimes solitary, sometimes in school, bass. The three kinds of fish sometimes mingle together, the ones at the Secret Beach being about the same size. As I said before, I was over at the Secret Beach watching them all, when a great flapping of might wings reached my ears. I looked up and saw a great bird fly to a tree and alight on one of the limbs. He looked like a great dark splotch, but, as I had seen him alight there, I knew it was he.… Read more
From the Woods [cottage by Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire] July 31, 1924
Dear Mr. Oberg:
Needless to say, I am now in the land which Nature loves so much. It is the land of the lake of beauty unsurpassed, it is the land of the little shy nymphs and fairies, that here one sees all the time. Of course, it is Sunapee! Sunapee, the loveliest land in the world! Now of course, that isn’t saying very much, for I have not seen the whole world. I have not even seen the whole of the New England States. There may be lands which are more beautiful in scenery which is always the outside of a land, but there is no land equal to it when you take it from the inside. Now no one really knows what the inside of a land is, but, even if you don’t know, you can always be sure that it is the inside of a land that counts, not the outside. Also, even if one doesn’t know what the inside of a land is, one can usually tell by magical signs whether the inside of one land is better than the inside of another. But that is not of importance.… 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.
Barbara worked on Farksoo, the language of Farksolia, off and on from the ages of eight until about twenty or twenty-one. Here are six pages of notes, followed by the Farksoo-English lexicon, which I believe was the latest version.… Read more
Barbara vanished from her apartment at 48 Kent Street, Brookline, Massachusetts on December 7, 1939. No one appears to know what happened to her after that date. Until her death about thirty years later, Barbara’s mother tried to find out what happened. Here’s a reply to her plea to an old seafaring acquaintance of theirs—Andrew Burt—who sailed with them in the Caribbean in 1928-29.