This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Granny's Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne.

Two hundred years ago today, in Stranorlar in Ireland, a seventh child was born. 

Now, seventh children are said to be magical, but some at least of the fairies on duty at the time must have been idling, for not only was the child, though attractive, not quite as beautiful as the stars at night:

Frances Browne 7.jpg

but, very sadly, when she was still an infant an attack of smallpox took away her sight.

But little Frances wasn't daunted. She listened to the lessons of her brothers and sisters and learned them by heart. She did their chores in return for them reading her stories. By the age of seven she was writing poetry, and from then on she gradually established herself as 'The Blind Poet of Ulster' (she was from Donegal, which is in Eire, nowadays, but is part of historical Ulster).

Frances was soon writing short stories and having them published in magazines. She moved with a sister to Edinburgh, and from there to London, where she continued her busy writing career.

In 1856 Frances Browne wrote a book for children called Granny's Wonderful Chair.You can read the whole thing (it isn't very long) online HERE. The book is a collection of fairy tales, and even today they make thoroughly satisfying and entertaining reading.

And the chair itself isn't nearly, not nearly, as predictable and dreary as you'd think.

This is from very nearly the end of the book. 

'Great wars, work, and learning have passed over the world since then, and changed all its fashions. Kings make no seven-day feasts for all-comers now. Queens and princesses, however greedy, do not mine for gold. Chairs tell no tales. Wells work no wonders; and there are no such doings on hills and forests, for the fairies dance no more. Some say it was the hum of schools—some think it was the din of factories that frightened them. But nobody has seen them for many a year, except, it is said, one Hans Christian Andersen, in Denmark, whose tales of the fairies are so good that they must have been heard from themselves.'

A wise, kind, and generous woman, she seems to me. 

I've never heard of a fairy feeling the slightest bit of guilt, but perhaps there was at least one in Donegal who wondered from time to time if she'd arrived at Frances Brownes' house with her gift really just unforgivably late.

Word To Use Today: chair. This word comes to us all the way from the Greek kathedra, which is from kata, down, and hedra, seat.

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