One of the joys of searching for second-hand books is receiving catalogues from other booksellers. One such catalogue dropped through my letterbox recently and one book, in particular, caught my eye.
The catalogue description was fairly brief; Jacobs, Helen (illustrator) Jack and me a story for Children by Maude S. Forsey, 1st 1919. Four colour plates, including a frontispiece. A Little boy and girl living in London have measles, go by train to Dorset and gradually sense they are growing up.
I haven’t read anything by Maud Forsey, and a quick on-line search came up with only two matches. One, an unpublished manuscript held by Southampton University and the other a book called Mollie Hazeldene's schooldays published in 1924.
Helen Jacobs, however, is a well-known and popular illustrator so decision made, book ordered, and here it is...
Jack’s sister Mollie is the ‘me’ in the title; she is also the narrator.
The lamplighter and the muffin man with his cry of “Hokey, Pokey, Penny a lump” are all part of Mollie and Jack’s life in Victorian London. Mollie and Jack live with their mother, father and two sisters in a ‘tall
One chapter deals with the issue of a little doorway on the landing. Mollie is sure a lion lives behind the door, but Jack insists it’s the home of a bogeyman.
Another chapter talks about the death of Mollie and Jack’s kitten. "There was our Jet, weak, panting, and dying. He seemed to recognize us, and then he rolled over dead."
Happier episodes concentrate on Mollie and Jack’s summer holidays spent in Devon with their aunts and grandmother. Their parents don’t accompany them on any of these holidays, and it’s left to the reader to surmise why.
When the story ends Mollie is fifteen and about to be sent away to finishing school. It’s at this point that Mollie and Jack’s surname ‘Hazeldene’ is mentioned. So I assume Mollie Hazeldeen’s schooldays is a continuation of their story. The more I think about it the more I wonder if the story could be autobiographical. Is it possible that Mollie might, in fact, be Maude Forsey?
I could be completely and absolutely wrong but the story certainly reads more like a factual account than a made-up tale.
Has anyone read Jack and me or Mollie Hazeldeen's schooldays or anything else by Maude Forsey? What do you think? Could it be autobiographical?
Update February 2014. I always enjoy receiving emails like this one from John:
I know a little about Maud Forsey. As a child, aged c.6, I stayed at her cottage in Bridport, Dorset. My father was killed in the war and one of my Guardians was a Brian Forsey, her nephew. We always called her Cousin Maud. She was a great story teller, and used to read from "Jack and Me" – I remember how she explained why it was Jack and "me" and not "I"! I thought it was slightly autobiographical.
We exchanged Christmas cards until 1950ish, I may have one somewhere, always signed, in v. neat writing, “Cousin Maud".
I’m very grateful to John for allowing me to share his memories.
Update October 2015. I'm pasting this comment here in case anyone should miss it.
Maude Forsey was at Truro Training College with my Grandmother Gwendoline Carveth, and was my Mother's Godmother. All 3 books are based on her life: She was 'Mollie', 'Jack' was her brother, Emeritus Professor of Classics at Southampton University. Mollie Hazledene's friend was based on my Grandmother (same initials), Norah O'Flanigan is dedicated to my Mother.