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LIF_E IN A QUAKER AUBURN ELIZABETH BREWSTER uBallitore, in the county of Kildare, twenty-eight Irish miles from Dublin, is a village a little off the high road from Dublin to Cork. It is situated in a valley encompassed by gently rising hills, except where the river Griese takes its meandering course of about fourteen miles from its spring of Tubber, in the county of Wicklow, to its union with Barrow near jerusalem, a little hamlet in the county of Kildare. Ballitore derives its name from its former marshy condition (bally in Irish signifying a town or village, and togher a bog), from which it was reclaimed by drainage and careful cultivation.""1 WITH this brief description, Mary Leadbeater introduces to the readers of her Annals of Ballitore her native town, one of the most delightful villages of the world of literature; one of those villages, like Cranford and "Sweet Auburn," whose very names call up to the mind's eye a vision of rustic peace and happiness. In this little Quaker community, in the year 1758, Mary Shackleton, later Mary Leadbeater, was hom. Her grandfather , Abraham Shackleton, had come to Ballitore from Yorkshire to establish a boarding school. This school prospered into Abraham's old age, when he was succeeded as head of the school by his son Richard, Mary's father. Surrounded as she was by a family of seven brothers and sisters, not to mention a whole school of boys whom she considered as very nearly brothers, Mary was in no danger of becoming an unsocial being. She spent a pleasant childhood, although one so far removed from excitement that one of the chief amusements of the children was to run races to catch a glimpse of the carriages passing along the highway, and the fortunate people within them. When they were confined to the house, she and one of the little boarders at the school used to pull each other's hair for a place at the window. Otherwise they lived harmoniously together, accompanying each other to plant their baby teeth in the field when they fell out, hoping for "some marvellous growth.'' Mary even planted sweet~pea seeds by the parlour hearthstone, with happy anticipation of her mother's delight when she saw flowers springing up by the fireside. Mary had only dim recollections of the home of her grandfather, Abraham Shackleton, but she was impressed by the grandeur of the parlour, "with its sashdoor opening into the garden, and the map of Dublin, ornamented by pictures of its remarkable buildings, etc., over the chimneypiece ," and by the "superior elegance" of the "Friends' room" (the guest room, that is) which was remarkable chiefly for "some peacock's feathers about the Chimney-piece."2 She was greatly attached to her grandfather, 1The Leadbeater Papers: A Selection from the MSS and Correspondence of Mary Leadbeater, 2 vols. (2nd ed.; London, 1862), I, 15. 2Jbid., I, 28·9. 124 LIFE IN A QUAKER AUBURN 125 whom she and her young sister loved to accompany to the fields in summer, helping him toss hay with tiny pitchforks that he had made for them. However, although he was generally indulgent to them, his Quaker distrust of vain frivolity made him show disapproval when he saw the little girls playing with dolls. Indeed, Mary's upbringing was in general very strict; and it was only through the indulgence of her Aunt Fuller, who was somewhat more worldly than Mary's mother, that she was allowed to read a ·collection of ballads that became a favourite with her. Another relative to whom she was devoted was her Aunt Carleton. This aunt was unusually fond of pets, and was particularly proud of her pet pig, which used to lift the knocker of the hall door in order to get into the house. She kept two hens and a cock in the house, and the hens laid their eggs on a cushion under her chair. It was no wonder that her little niece viewed her with some awe, as perhaps possessing magic power over animals. And so, among these familiar surroundings, the little Mary grew up. In the romantic days of girlhood, she used...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 124-130
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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