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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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High Windows
A few years ago I wondered in this journal why the ceilings of the Müller orphanages were so high. The consensus seemed to be that it was to aid ventilation.

As a postscript to that entry, I should add that I was talking the other day to a man who teaches in one of the orphanage buildings (now a Further Education college), and he told me that the windows were built deliberately high to prevent the orphans from looking idly out at the view. Not only that, but they angled the sills downward so that any athletic orphans (perhaps in training for chimney work) who managed to clamber that far would be unable to sit there, wasting time that would be much better spent hemming dresses or praying for an attitude of proper humility.

Whether he has warrant for this belief I don't know. I'd thought of George Müller as one of the good guys - but of course he may have believed he was doing the children a favour. "Life is hard," says the German proverb, "but it is good practice." And emptiness is its own contemplation, says Mr L:

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Sad thought. I don't think the ceilings need be so amazingly high to make the windows viewless and the sill-heights daunting? But then, I haven't stood inside. Or seen the architect's drawings, with a neatly pencilled orphan-figure and its calculated standing high jump.

...wasting time that would be much better spent hemming dresses or praying for an attitude of proper humility.

This reminds of Sylvia Townsend Warner's The True Heart.

I hadn't known the Larkin poem, which is beautiful. I think of him as sardonic, and was startled.


Larkin can be lyrical. I love "The Trees", too:

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

The only Sylvia Townsend Warner I've read is Kingdoms of Elfin, which I like a lot. Lolly Willowes has been on my list for a long time, though. What would you recommend as a next step?

Lolly Willowes. Land.


Have you read her biography of T.H. White? It was one of my touchstones in high school.

No, I didn't know of it. Thank you!

It is amazing. There was so much she couldn't say in 1968 (even then); but it's all there in the drawing.


Our old, crappy school buildings had high windows for the same purpose. So we stared out at the sky to daydream.

You daydreamed to some purpose, so perhaps they had a point!

Yes. us too. They opened with a long pole that the teacher used.

We had window hooks too, because for some reason the windows, though not high, only opened from the top.

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As ever, Gillian, I'm in your debt.

I think in fact that Pierson rather undersells the beauty of these buildings: the largest, Müller house, is decidedly handsome in my opinion - though certainly austere by the standards of the Victorian Gothic.