Ewing, Juliana Horatia (1841–1885)
Ewing, Juliana Horatia (1841–1885)
British writer who produced a number of children's books with a simple, unaffected style, including Jackanapes and Lob-Lie-by-the-Fire. Born Juliana Horatia Gatty on August 3, 1841; died on May 13, 1885; second of the eight surviving children of Dr. Alfred Gatty, vicar of Ecclesfield, and Margaret (Scott) Gatty (1809–1873, a writer); married Major Alexander "Rex" Ewing (a soldier in the commissariat), on June 1, 1867.
Melchior's Dream and Other Tales (London: Bell & Daldy, 1862); Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances (London: Bell & Daldy, 1869); The Brownies and Other Tales (London: Bell & Daldy, 1870); A Flat Iron for a Farthing (London:Bell, 1872); Lob Lie-by-the-fire, or The Luck of Lingborough, and Other Tales (London: Bell, 1874); Six to Sixteen (London: Bell, 1875); Jan of the Windmill; A Story of the Plains (London: Bell, 1876); A Great Emergency and Other Tales (London: Bell, 1877); We and the World (London: Bell, 1880); Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales (London: Bell, 1882); Brothers of Pity and Other Tales of Beasts and Men (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1882); Blue and Red, or The Discontented Lobster (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); The Dolls' Wash; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); A Week Spent in the Glass Pond by the Great Water Beetle (London: Wells, Darton, 1883); Master Fritz; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); Jackanapes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); Our Garden; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); A Soldier's Children; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); A Sweet Little Dear; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); Three Little Nest-Birds; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1883); The Blue Bells on the Lea (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); Daddy Darwin's Dovecote (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); Dolls' Housekeeping; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); Little Boys and Wooden Horses; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); Papa Poodle and Other Pets; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); Tongues in Trees; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); "Touch Him If You Dare": A Tale of the Hedge; Rhymes (London: S.P.C.K., 1884); Poems of Child Life and Country Life (London: S.P.C.K., 1885); The Story of a Short Life (London: S.P.C.K., 1885); Mary's Meadow and Other Tales (London: S.P.C.K., 1886); Dandelion Clocks and Other Tales (London: S.P.C.K., 1887); The Peace Egg and A Christmas Mumming Play (London: S.P.C.K., 1887); Snap-Dragons, and Old Father Christmas (London: S.P.C.K., 1888); Verses for Children, 3 vols. (London: S.P.C.K., 1888); Works, 18 vols. (London: S.P.C.K., 1894–96).
Elizabeth S. Tucker, Leaves from Juliana Horatia Ewing's "Canada Home" (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1896); Margaret Howard Blom and Thomas E. Blom, eds., Canada Home: Juliana Ewing's Fredericton Letters 1867–1869 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983).
Juliana Horatia Ewing was a storyteller par excellence. Writing only for children and concentrating on the experiences of youngsters in either the nursery or the schoolroom, Ewing showed a natural sympathy and grace reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen, an exquisite and careful attention to the details of family life, and a deep identification with her characters. No aspect of a child's experience was too small or insignificant for Ewing; she tended to favor pensive, aesthetically inclined, tractable, but high-spirited central characters who enjoy gardening, animals, and adventure. Ewing's upbringing in a staunch Church of England circle and her unquestioned fidelity to Anglicanism never translated into wearying didacticism in her tales, verse, and full-length novels. As a cleric's daughter who became a soldier's wife, Ewing also wrote with firsthand knowledge and real affection about the military; life in a camp bungalow, the frequency of moves from one station to another, and the continuing efforts to beautify new surroundings and create a garden were elements of her experience reflected in her writing.
There is a delicacy about Ewing's tales, as there was about the author, who because of a childhood susceptibility to quinsy (inflamed tonsils) was dubbed by her mother the "Countess of Homeopathy." She believed firmly in the law of reticence; aware of "the blunder of throwing away powder and shot," she insisted that "a real artist needs strong warrants of Conscience when he dips into … the highest hopes, the deepest sufferings of humanity." However, although Ewing did not shy away from these heights and depths in criticizing authoritarian or negligent adults and inadequate educational systems in her family stories, she was no joyless crusader. Sparkling wit, geniality, and an unshakeable belief in human goodness mark all her work.
She won a loyal following among contemporary writers and artists for the young and those of the next generation influenced by her; John Ruskin was a regular subscriber to Aunt Judy's Magazine, the periodical started by Ewing's mother, in which most of Ewing's tales first appeared; Charlotte Mary Yonge was an admirer and an early supporter of her work; and Randolph Caldecott, who agreed to illustrate some of her work, observed that Ewing possessed "a larger bump of imagination than falls to the skulls of most critics." Rudyard Kipling admitted having almost memorized whole stories by Ewing, while Arnold Bennett was convinced that Kipling's portraits of military life owed a great deal to his having read Ewing as a child.
Born on August 3, 1841, the second of the eight surviving children of Dr. Alfred Gatty, vicar of Ecclesfield, and Margaret Gatty , Juliana Horatia Gatty was a true child of the manse. The life of the Ecclesfield vicarage, with its High Church principles, family loyalties, and middle-class prejudices, was the first influence on her work and would be one of the most prevailing. Juliana and her sisters were educated at home by their mother; the boys were sent to public schools (Eton, Winchester, Marlborough, and Charterhouse). "Julie," as her siblings called her, was a natural leader. Her sister Horatia Eden pictured Julie as "at once the projector and manager of all our nursery doings."
As reflections of what she knew best, the responsibilities of family life loom large in Ewing's first stories. Throughout her writing career she stressed the importance of family and friendly mentors and the transformational potential of special or instructive experiences. She was also fond of the device of nesting a story within a story, a technique at which she became expert. Thanks to her mother's reputation, Ewing gained an entrée to Yonge's magazine, Monthly Packet, where her first stories, "A Bit of Green," "The Black-bird's Nest," and "Melchior's Dream," were published (in July, August, and December 1861).
From the beginning, amid the solemn moral trappings of these tales, Ewing was distinguished as a fine storyteller who developed fully the emotional life of her characters. The doctor's son in "A Bit of Green," whose plans for a vacation in the country have been thwarted by his father's busy schedule, learns a valuable lesson by visiting one of his father's patients in the slums. Bill, a consumptive cripple who has never been outside the city, lives in a stark and ugly room; "but through the glass panes that were left, in full glory streamed the sun, and in the midst of the blaze stood a pot of musk in full bloom." The flowers and fragrance of this bit of green leave the once ill-humored narrator "lost in admiration." Ewing likely assimilated the paradigm of the privileged child learning from the experience of helping the less fortunate from the sentimental evangelical novels of Mary Louisa Charlesworth , especially Ministering Children (1854). Although Ewing presents the moral about "the grace of Thankfulness," especially after Bill "was transplanted into a heavenly garden," without much subtlety, she succeeds in creating a believable child narrator.
The girl narrator of "The Blackbird's Nest" is similarly credible: she finds three birds and imagines that she will "walk about with them on [her] shoulders like Goody Twoshoes, and be admired by everybody." The curate tries to dissuade her, and when she discovers her pets "cold and dead," he helps to console her by relating an incident of his own youthful presumptuousness. Ewing succeeds in meshing fancy with noninsistent mentoring.
An adult friend and a story within a story both figure in "Melchior's Dream," but this narrative—the
most refined of the early trio—is expansive and nuanced, allowing a young boy fed up with his siblings to journey into the future and preview their various torments. The lad quickly feels the point of the story about his alter ego, admitting, "it hit me rather hard" and confessing, "I want to say that though I didn't mean all I said about being an only son (when a fellow gets put out he doesn't know what he means), yet I know I was quite wrong, and the story is quite right." Christian moralizing, unobtrusive yet scripturally sound and therefore appealing to both High Church and chapel tastes, concludes "Melchior's Dream," which alludes to "a better Home than any earthly one, and a Family that shall never be divided."
Yonge's Monthly Packet published two more stories by Ewing: "The Yew Lane Ghosts" (1865) and "The Brownies" (1865). The former displays a terrific capacity for creating suspense, a feature Ewing chose not to develop in her later work. Although she offered no explanation for not continuing in this vein, speculations include her possible discomfort with stage-managing the supernatural and with almost unregenerate malevolence. When the friends of a lad who is being terrorized by a village bully rally round to help him, they manage, with the help of chemicals, to produce their own "scenic effects." They succeed in frightening Bully Tom into penitence by creating a grotesque, headless apparition.
Confining its effects to the domestic sphere, "The Brownies," dedicated to "my very dear and honoured Mother," is not nearly as horrific. A poor tailor's idle sons become true helpers and are mistaken for Brownies, "a race of tiny beings who … take up their abode with some worthy couple … and take little troubles out of hands full of great anxieties."
Two major sources of power and agency in Ewing's literary life were her mother and her husband. As a bookish young woman, Margaret Gatty had made presents to friends of her own illuminated and translated versions of Dante. Even as the mother of a large family, she pursued her scientific interest in varieties of seaweed. Her parables, allegories, and tales do not hesitate to instruct and moralize. Quickly realizing the superior literary ability of her daughter, she encouraged Julie from the outset. Aunt Judy's Magazine, so called after the family nickname for Juliana, was the main outlet for most of Julie's stories. It was also a needed source of income for the Gatty menage, which could not exist on the vicar's scanty salary. Ewing eventually shared her mother's pecuniary anxieties too, since both women ended up paying the debts incurred by their husbands.
Besides being influenced by her mother's tastes and talents for writing and translating and understanding the need of these activities to pay for her brothers' school fees, Julie followed another family tradition in facing and surmounting opposition to her marriage plans. Just as the suitors of Margaret Gatty had been rejected initially, so too Major Alexander "Rex" Ewing, a soldier in the commissariat and ten years her senior, was not immediately welcomed by the Gattys. Julie, by contrast, was rhapsodic about her fiancé, confiding to a correspondent in December 1866: "A beautiful musician-good linguist-well read, etc.—a dab at meteorology, photography, awfully fond of dogs, good rider, finally a high free mason (a knight Templar) and … a … mesmerist! He suits me to a shade." They were married on June 1, 1867, and sailed for Canada, Rex's new assignment, on June 8.
Marriage was a form of liberation for Ewing, who was freed from duties around the vicarage and from the need to contribute to the family purse; she was also freed to start a life of adventure as a military wife. As Christabel Maxwell relates, Ewing wrote to her family that she had "found a double of [her]self and that it feels like the addition of a few new faculties—a large accession of strength—and a sort of mental companion, footman, courier, lady's maid, lover, and attendant geni rolled into one."
Ironies surround this liberation, however. Ewing ended up facing greater financial anxieties than those she had left behind; the separation from her family and especially from her mother led to serious bouts of homesickness. Yet her clear enjoyment of the life of a military camp, the friendships with other military families, and the spirited theatrical entertainments to which she often contributed also meant that Ewing was a much more productive writer, publishing 11 short stories before her marriage and more than twice that amount plus three novels in her first six years as an army wife.
Gatty's editorship of Aunt Judy's Magazine—which she launched in 1866 and continued until her death in 1873, after which her daughters took over the enterprise and continued publication until 1885—supplied a stable venue for Ewing's stories. The five interrelated stories comprising Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances (1869)—"Ida," "Mrs. Moss," "The Snoring Ghost," "Reka Dom," and "Kerguelen's Land"—first appeared serially in Aunt Judy's Magazine from 1866 to 1868.
The Ewings arrived in Fredericton during the celebrations for Confederation, "a very gay week" according to the young bride's letter home; they left two years later as the last British troops withdrew from New Brunswick. Thomas and Margaret Blom have edited a portion of Ewing's letters and sketches from Canada, and these documents reveal a largely idyllic period, during which the newlyweds discovered snowshoeing and canoeing, benefited from the warm and protective hospitality of the Anglican community who were familiar with both Ewing's and Gatty's works, and learned of basic domestic needs, such as the thawing of meat for 24 hours before cooking and the necessity of wool blankets. Rex studied Hebrew with the bishop of Fredericton, and Julie was so enchanted by the autumn foliage that she sent a box of scarlet maple leaves to her sisters in Yorkshire as decorations for the harvest home festivities at the Ecclesfield church. They called their first home in Fredericton, rented from the president of the University of New Brunswick, Reka Dom, Russian for "River House" and the title of a story that Ewing wrote while in Canada.
In England the most settled posting for Major Ewing was Aldershot, where the couple stayed until 1877. In Julie Ewing's stories details of military and family life mingled more noticeably. One of her finest early portraits of this blending is "The Peace Egg" (1871), the account of a Christmas change of heart brought about not by Dickensian ghosts but by ebullient children. A crusty old widower has disinherited his daughter because she went against his wishes and married a soldier. After years of foreign postings the Captain and his wife and family are at last back in England and living close to the cantankerous gentleman who is, unknown to the children, their own grandfather. Ewing conveys this information in the opening pages and then lets the emotional pilgrimage begin. Her loyalties as a narrator clearly lie with the young couple and their military life. In contrast to the misanthropy of the old man's existence, their marriage is a secure partnership, built on uncomplaining thoughtfulness and handiness on both sides. The children, whose performance of the nursery mumming play melts the obduracy of their neighbor and effects the reconciliation of their parents and newly discovered grandfather, are precocious and self-possessed. Class differences also work to favor and promote the mummers. When the old man's "timid-looking" maid opens the door to the Christmas troupe and tries to shoo them away, the poor woman's employer thunders in support of the mummers. The transformation of this authoritarian employer into a fond grandpapa and the hatching of "happy peacemaking" and "general rejoicing" from "The Peace Egg" may, in fact, be a little hard to believe, but Ewing's attraction to harmony determines the sort of resolution for which she always strives.
An increasingly remarkable feature of Ewing's work is her skill in observing the patterns of family life, an aptitude that came into prominence in stories without the normal complement
of natural parents: Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, or The Luck of Lingborough (1874), Six to Sixteen (1875), and Jan of the Windmill; A Story of the Plains (1876; originally published as "The Miller's Thumb" in Aunt Judy's Magazine from November 1872 to October 1873). The kind ministrations of generous women propel the narrative in these stories. When two spinster sisters from Lingborough Hall find a male baby beneath a broom bush, the reactions of Miss Betty and Miss Kitty point to the practical common sense of their Christian philanthropy. The first major decision the ladies must make concerns the name of the lad. Countering Miss Kitty's wish for a "pretty" and "romantic" name, Miss Betty opts for simple functionality; as she reasons, "The boy is to be brought up in that station in life for which one syllable is ample.… I propose to call him Broom. He was found under a bush of broom, and it goes very well with John, and sounds plain and respectable."
Concepts of plainness and respectability trigger most of the episodes of this extended tale, which relates how young John runs away from the abusive bailiff to whom he is apprenticed and how he finally finds his way back to Lingborough thanks to the intervention of a dying Highland soldier. It is a long homeward journey for John Broom, one that brings good luck to Lingborough. Although Broom settles as a respected citizen and raises a family in the area, "it is doubtful if John Broom was ever looked upon by the rustics as quite 'like other folk.' The favourite version of his history is that he was Lob under the guise of a child."
The realism is not magical but decidedly down-to-earth in Six to Sixteen, the diarylike entries of the orphaned Margaret Vandaleur, who comes to live with the Arkwrights and finds a sisterly companion in Eleanor Arkwright. One winter these teenaged girls decide to follow the "fad" of writing autobiographies, "merely to be lives of our own selves, for nobody but us two to read when we are both old maids." Although Margaret, coming upon her story a year later, regards it as but "a dusty relic of an old fad," Ewing's "sketch of domestic life" chronicles the eventful life of a Victorian orphan—from her childhood spent at a military camp in India to her private schooling at the home of her guardian, a Yorkshire vicar. With accurate strokes Ewing pictures the self-appointed director of all army wives, Mrs. Minchin, a notorious gossip; Margaret's Aunt Theresa, whose foolish gadding as Minchin's protegé leads to the neglect of her own daughter; the housekeeper Keziah, whose refreshing common sense sets the tone for the welcoming Arkwright home; and the knowledgeable mistress of this home, who unconventionally performs her maternal duties while also pursuing her interests as an amateur zoologist. Clearly this digressive account of the journey from girlhood to adolescence draws on many of Ewing's experiences and memories as an older sister who was likely part Eleanor and part Keziah.
Jan of the Windmill, one of Ewing's most successful novels, outlines the rewards, both monetary and aesthetic, that the foster child Jan brings to the family of an industrious miller, Abel Lake. Ewing concentrates not only on the minutiae of family life but also on the generally acknowledged superiority of the young boy with an artistic temperament over his adoptive and working-class parents. It is really a novel of cloaked identities, a juvenile Samuel Richardson or Henry Fielding novel, with Jan's aristocratic lineage being revealed at the end and an appropriate daughter of a squire being chosen as his wife. Ewing's deference to the gentry in matters of taste and morals, sometimes problematic for late-20th-century readers, is not veiled in any way, and the racist slurs that went unquestioned in her mid-Victorian Anglican milieu crop up too. When describing the appearance of the mysterious infant as the nurse delivers him to the Abel home, Ewing writes, "The contrast between the natural red of the baby's complexion and its snowy finery was ludicrously suggestive of an over-dressed nigger to begin with."
The death of her mother on October 4, 1873, was a severe blow to Ewing, who was deprived of her earliest and most intuitive mentor. As she admitted in a letter to her husband shortly after, "I have a feeling as if she were an ever-present conscience to me … which I hope by God's grace may never leave me." Her elegy, "In Memoriam, Margaret Gatty" (1873), clarifies how her mother had fostered many of Ewing's interests. Gatty's pencil drawings of trees and her determination to "attack bits of waste or neglected ground from which every body else shrank" promoted her daughter's love of gardens and beautification. Gatty loved animals; "the household pets were about her to the end." Despite the lingering effects of the stroke that gradually robbed her of the use of limbs and voice, Gatty maintained "a strong sense of humour" and "a child's pure delight in little things."
Ewing's ideas on literary models were certain and deliberate. Walter Scott had her vote over George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans ) because of his control of tone, his "artlessness and roughness." She liked the narrative sweep, the sense of historical saga, and the layered social scene in Scott as opposed to the intense character studies of Eliot. In a letter of 16 March 1880, she disclosed what she considered the "two qualifications for a writer of fiction" that Scott possessed in abundance: "Dramatism and individuality amongst his characters." Although she deemed Eliot's writing "glorious," she concluded pointedly: "Imagination limited—Dramatism—nil!" Her assessment of Eliot seems uncharacteristically extreme and limited; perhaps Ewing, as a writer for the young, learned the most from Scott's control of narrative incident.
John Ruskin was an admired contemporary who treated "Aunt Judy" with great respect and attentiveness on her visits to Herne Hill. Ewing confided in a letter to her family (October 11, 1879) that she found Ruskin "far more personally lovable than … expected." "We are so utterly at one on some points," she declared. "I mean it is uncommonly pleasant to hear things one has long thought very vehemently, put to one by a Master! … And then to my delight I found him soldier—mad!!"
One of Ewing's best-known soldier stories, Jackanapes (1883; first published in Aunt Judy's Magazine, October 1879), combines dramatism and individuality to touching effect. It was prompted by the news of the death of the French prince imperial during the Zulu War in June 1879 and the need Ewing felt to offer some explanation of military honor to skeptical civilians. Her control of a narrative stretching from infancy to adulthood reflects the lessons learned about panoramic design from Scott. Jackanapes (whose real but unused name is Theodore), the orphan son of a soldier killed at the battle of Waterloo, is raised by his great-aunt, Miss Jessamine.
The novel's emphasis is on the wholeness and balance of experience. While it is true that the hero has a lion's share of virtue, he has been brought up to appreciate both manly and womanly traits. Ewing indulges in observations about Jackanapes's education that sound like a philosophical aside from Eliot herself:
In good sooth, a young maid is all the better for learning some robuster virtues than maidenliness and not to move the antimacassars. And the robuster virtues require some fresh air and freedom. As, on the other hand, Jackanapes (who had a boy's full share of the little beast and the young monkey in his natural composition) was none the worse, at his tender years, for learning some maidenliness—so far as maidenliness means decency, pity, unselfishness, and pretty behaviour.
In adult life Jackanapes dies on the battlefield while saving his childhood friend Tony Johnson. Selfless to the end, he expires defending and explaining his friend to the Major. It is thanks to Tony and his filial ministrations to the frail Miss Jessamine that the blow of her nephew's loss is cushioned. The praise that Jackanapes receives from all quarters echoes in Ewing's closing remarks about eternal verities, "things such as Love, and Honour, and the Soul of Man, which cannot be bought with a price, and which do not die with death." This credal statement constitutes Ewing's formulation of true military honor.
The ways in which the incorporation of a child within a community reflects on the group's specific values, openness, aspirations, and restrictions are the underlying concerns of all Ewing's final books. The "country tale" of Daddy Darwin's Dovecote (1884; first published in Aunt Judy's Magazine, November 1881) deserves to be compared with Eliot's Silas Marner (1861). As Eppie brightened the miserly Silas' life, so too Daddy Darwin's adoption of the workhouse lad Jack March brings prosperity to the dovecote and happiness to many in the region. Ewing shows an acute awareness of the social rounds of both working and middle classes in this Yorkshire country setting. The precise details of the schedule of the parson's well-meaning daughter show how much Ewing was drawing on her own memories of the Ecclesfield vicarage and the accounts of her younger sisters who continued to run it and look after their father. Within the overwhelmingly Christian norms of this country community, it is fitting that Jack's faithful, honest commitment to Daddy Darwin extends and continues the church-centered rhythms of their simple lives.
In The Story of a Short Life (1885; first published in Aunt Judy's Magazine, May-October 1882) involvement in the life of the nearby barracks transforms the spoiled and peevish Leonard into a saintly sufferer. Ewing's love of military life, despite the exhaustion entailed in its constant uprootings, shines through; she enjoyed the camaraderie of the barracks, the display of parades, the good fellowship of army theatricals, and the overall discipline of a camp. Ironically, Ewing proved to be a stronger advocate of the military life than her husband, who often pined to return to musical studies.
The frequent moves, however, did take their toll on Ewing. After Aldershot, shorter assignments at Bowdon, York, and Fulford followed. Poor health prevented her from joining Rex in Malta in 1879. She also stayed behind while he took up his next position in Ceylon in 1881. Rex was likely not aware of the depth of his wife's loneliness and sense of isolation; in her own way Julie soldiered on, although she had confided to her mother from Fredericton in 1869 that "the natural terrors of an untravelled and not herculean woman about the ups and downs of a wandering, homeless sort of life like ours are not so comprehensible by him, he having travelled so much, never felt a qualm of sea-sickness, and less than the average of home-sickness, from circumstances." In May 1883, the Ewings were finally together when they moved outside Taunton in a home they named Villa Ponente, named, as Horatia Eden explains, for "its aspect towards the setting sun." Despite her precarious health, Ewing—as always—threw herself into the digging of the garden.
Along with a love of animals, another common trait of the children in Ewing's stories is their passion for flowers. In one of her final works, "Letters from a Little Garden" (1884–1885), Ewing admitted that "harmony and gradation of colour always give me more pleasure than contrast." Hers was an earthbound botanism that delighted in growing, picking, and arranging flowers.
Flowers fulfill several roles in Ewing's work. More than a mere scenic backdrop, they are often reflectors of personality and initiators of action. The childhood custom of blowing dandelion clocks ("you blow till the seed is all blown away, and you count each of the puffs—an hour to a puff") to tell the time accounts for the difference between Peter Paul, the young Dutch boy in "Dandelion Clocks" (1876), and his two sisters. Ewing relates, "it was Peter Paul's peculiarity that he always did want to know more about everything; a habit whose first and foremost inconvenience is that one can so seldom get people to answer one's questions." Even when he returns years later, after a life of wandering and adventure, Peter Paul realizes how far his own restlessness keeps him from his sisters' matronly contentment. "But he did not now ask why dandelion clocks go differently with different people."
An earlier story, "The Blind Hermit and the Trinity Flower" (1871), often compared to "Dandelion Clocks," makes the three-petaled flower an emblem of the dying man's faith and perseverance. Ewing noted in a letter dated October 25, 1871, that "this is one of my greatest favourites amongst my efforts." Charlotte Yonge, she added, "prefers it to anything I have ever done." The "mystic Three" controls the growth of the Trillium erythrocarpum (trinity flower). As the Hermit explains to his young apprentice, "Every part was threefold. The leaves were three, the petals three, the sepals three. The flower was snow-white, but on each of the three parts it was stained with crimson stripes, like white garments dyed in blood." In this moving legend, the trillium's form forecasts the hermit's prayer of resignation: "If THOU wilt. When THOU wilt. As THOU wilt!"
"Mary's Meadow" (1883–1884) is another poignant flower story. Its late appearance makes it an almost final credal statement from Ewing. The child who plants flowers to beautify wayside places brings about reconciliation between her father and the squire and also inherits a once-contested plot of land. Taking a cue from her chosen epigraph from George Herbert's "The Garden" (1633), with its acknowledgment that "we are but flowers that glide," Ewing imbues the aesthetic vision of the young heroine with a truly creative potential: Mary not only makes flowers grow, but she also unites feuding parties. Taking their cue from this character, readers of Aunt Judy's Magazine formed a "Parkinson Society," with the aim of cultivating older species of flowers and disseminating information on gardens "to try and prevent the extermination of rare wild flowers as well as of garden treasures." Ewing was the first president of this society.
Finally, as her strength deteriorated, even the salubrious air of Bath did not help Ewing. After two unsuccessful and mysterious operations (either blood poisoning or cancer is a plausible speculation), she died there on May 13, 1885. She was buried with a military funeral in her parish churchyard of Trull, near Taunton, "in a grave," Eden relates, "literally lined with moss and flowers."
Juliana Horatia Ewing was, in many respects, the product of an era and of a specific community. Her friendships with Yonge and Ruskin and associations with the illustrators Randolph Caldecott (who illustrated Lob Lieby-the-Fire, Jackanapes, and Daddy Darwin's Dovecote) and Gordon Browne all had a distinctive establishment cast. Kipling loved her work and learned from her warm characterizations of family life, as did Edith Nesbit and Mary Louisa Molesworth .
In her monograph on Ewing, Gillian Avery distinguishes between mother and daughter by suggesting that, unlike Mrs. Gatty, Ewing, "blessed with far more leisure and fewer responsibilities, wrote because she loved it." Ewing was a gifted and enchanting storyteller, even in childhood. Her writing seems to have supplied emotional and intellectual companionship throughout her life, particularly during periods of homesickness, loneliness, and depression. Writing not only permitted Ewing to participate in a rich imaginative universe, but also kept her close and sympathetically attuned to the feelings and perceptions of a generally happy childhood.
Some critics complain about the thinness of her plots and how they depend on stock devices. Ewing's stories are usually bulging with action—within the conventions of the Victorian maternal voice, blending entertainment and instruction to promote the goal of family unity and concord. But she definitely wanted to captivate young readers with more than the conventional. Whether animating toys or insects, whether detailing the routines of the barracks (which, thanks to Rex's tuition, she represented with great accuracy), or whether vivifying the yearnings of children as different as Ida, Jackanapes, Leonard, Jack March, and John Broom, Ewing makes an investment in characters and places. She is determined to tell a story, but she is prepared to linger, comment, and digress en route.
As a major contributor to the expansion of Victorian children's literature, which was releasing itself from an explicitly religious mission, Ewing helped to create a wider horizon for Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge publications. Writing for and appealing to both boys and girls, she made the detailed realism of her setting and the compassionate examination of the child character's emotional life the salient devices of her narrative art. Although F.J. Harvey Darton notes that with Ewing "literary qualities outweighed didactic excrescences," he concludes that her appeal to later generations is "limited." In Lance Salway's estimate her work now seems "excessively sentimental." Today Ewing may only be known to students of Victorian culture and historical children's literature, but the delicate nuance of her finest stories will always be enjoyed by a select readership.
sources and suggested reading:
Eden, Horatia Katherine Frances. Juliana Horatia Ewing and Her Books. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1896.
Laski, Marghanita. Mrs. Ewing, Mrs. Molesworth and Mrs. Hodgson Burnett. London: Arthur Barker, 1958.
Maxwell, Christabel. Mrs. Gatty and Mrs. Ewing. London: Constable, 1949.
Avery, Gillian. Mrs. Ewing. London: Bodley Head, 1961.
Bratton, Jacqueline. The Impact of Victorian Children's Fiction. London: Croom Helm, 1981.
Darton, F.J. Harvey. Children's Books in England; Five Centuries of Social Life. 3rd ed. Revised by Brian Alderson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 276-292.
McDonald, Donna. Illustrated News: Juliana Horatia Ewing's Canadian Pictures 1867–1869. Toronto & London: Dundurn Press, 1985.
Molesworth, Louisa. "Juliana Horatia Ewing," in Contemporary Review. Vol. 49. May 1886, pp. 675–686.
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