Monday, 12 March 2012

Jack and Me illustrated by Helen Jacobs

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 One, an unpublished manuscript held by Southampton University and the other a book called Mollie Hazeldene's schooldays published in 1924.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 London home’ where they entertain numerous cousins, aunts and other relatives. The story is told in the form of a diary with each chapter concentrating on one or two incidents.

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. 


  1. What a find! I like the pictures. I'm not sure I'd want to live in a home that entertained a lot of relatives, but I could see it be a popular book for its time.

  2. I haven't read anything by Forsey, nor have I read Jack and Me. I think the illustrations are just beautiful- they really draw me into the scene. After reading what you included I do think it could be autobiographical- or based on someone's life. Great find!

  3. Lovely illustrations - fascinating glimpse into that era!

  4. Absolutely beautiful! What a great find.

  5. barbaraannefisher13 March 2012 at 07:42

    I used to love visitors when I was a girl, visitors meant sweets or a book or a new dolly. I think it was the same for the children in this story.

  6. barbaraannefisher13 March 2012 at 07:50

    I don’t think she could have written very much as there is next to nothing known about her (or at least I’ve been able to find out next to nothing!). I was drawn to the book because of the Helen Jacobs illustrations. It’s a strange tale. It felt like reading a diary written by a very young person.

  7. barbaraannefisher13 March 2012 at 07:52

    That’s exactly what it is – a glimpse into another time. Thanks for stopping by

  8. Megan @ Storybook Love Affair13 March 2012 at 08:51

    You always find the best stories Barbara! I haven't heard of this book or the author but I love the cover and the story sounds great.

    PS I left a comment in reply to the one you left me this morning just in case you wanna check it... I never know if people get alerts or not! :)

  9. barbaraannefisher13 March 2012 at 09:18

    Hi Megan, I don’t get alerts but will pop back over now, thanks for letting me know.

  10. Another nice book Barbara.

    Never heard of Maude Forsey before but Mollie Hazeldenes School Days sort of rings a bell. Seems she also wrote another school book Norah O'Flanigan Prefect.

    Thanks for putting these books up, wouldn't know about them or the Authors otherwise and of course it gets me digging a bit further for other books they have written.


  11. barbaraannefisher15 March 2012 at 12:59

    Hi Michelle, that’s really interesting, I completely missed Norah O’Flanigan prefect, when I was searching for books by Maude Forsey. I’ve sort of changed my mind about the autobiographical angle now – she obviously wrote other school books, so maybe I got the wrong impression while reading Jack and me.
    Thanks so much for providing the extra information.

  12. This one looks really good, I like the artwork especially. My guess is there are autobiographical bits in the story. (Barbara, I mean to mention this previously: I've often found the books you share on your blog to be quite different from the other kidlit blogs I read. Could be the English vs American story styles. The books you share give off a fuzzy adventurous warmth. :) I'm always reminded of a childhood dream: to be shipped off to an English boarding school or live under a governess's rule.)

  13. barbaraannefisher16 March 2012 at 11:42

    Hello Claudine, I think you could be right, some of the ‘episodes’ feel very personal, like when the kitten died it was written with such a depth of feeling. I wanted to try to make the blog feel like visiting an old-fashioned book shop (the kind I used to visit with my dad), so your comment made me very happy, thank you.

  14. 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.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the information. Do you have copies of her books? I imagine they would be a wonderful talking point. Barbara.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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