A Trip to New Orleans


Marjorie and George Lyon

Have you ever marveled at the different ways men and women see historic sites?  Here at Blithewold, Docents have to be prepared to answer very different questions from visitors.  Marjorie Lyon, herself, was well aware of this disparity, and in 1917 she wrote an amusing ‘imagined’ conversation about a sightseeing trip she and George made to New Orleans.  The exchange is between Marjorie and George and their tour-guide/chauffeur.



MARJORIE:      What a quaint city, and such narrow streets!

GEORGE:         What did you say was the population of New Orleans?

MARJORIE:      Just look at that fascinating doorway!

GEORGE:         You know I don’t want to miss seeing those Port Commission docks.

MARJORIE:      See that old square-rigged Danish ship with its figurehead!

GEORGE:         Yes.  What is the depth of the river here, Chauffeur, and how far did you say we were from the Gulf?

As the motor journeys to the old French Quarter, Marjorie gazes at cobblestoned streets,  flower-filled courtyards, and old world houses;  while George finds out the make of the car, the state of the roads around New Orleans, the names of the exclusive clubs, the amount of money per capita per citizen – not to mention the size of Lake Ponchartrain, and the number of feet its tide rises.

MARJORIE:      There is a building that looks hundreds of years old.  What an air of mystery there is about it!

GEORGE:         It was built in 1828 on the 16th of May at four o’clock in the afternoon.

MARJORIE:      And look at those picturesque old wooden houses with the dormer windows!

GEORGE:         Regular fire traps!

MARJORIE:      What exquisite iron grille work – surely a Spanish senorita would be in hiding there!

GEORGE:         Yes.  (To Chauffeur) When was this present modern system of sewerage installed?

MARJORIE:      This must be the park that used to be an old plantation – what beautiful live oaks!

GEORGE:         What is the exact area of this park?

On the homeward trip Marjorie continues to admire the old slate roofs, tiny Italian shops, and the quaint turns and twists in the old streets;  while George finds out how cold it gets in winter, what the density of the air is above the City, and how many people are buried in all six of the cemeteries.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


September was traditionally a month of celebrations for Marjorie Van Wickle Lyon, beginning with Labor Day when Blithewold was the gorgeous setting for Marjorie’s annual Labor Day Party.  The party gathered its own reputation and became known as the last hurrah of summer for family and friends, when Marjorie’s famous martinis were liberally served.  This was followed by Marjorie’s birthday on September 12th, when a smaller group would gather at Blithewold for a birthday dinner, the occasion often shared with Marjorie’s friend, Bristol architect Wallace Howe, who shared the same birthday.  The blue and gold Royal Doulton “birthday china” was brought out, and during dinner the guests would read their hand-written poems in celebration.

Marjorie Randolph Van Wickle was born 130 years ago, on September 12, 1883, in Cleveland, Ohio.  Her parents, Bessie and Augustus Van Wickle, were delighted.  Bessie’s mother, Anna Maria Pardee, was on hand to help, along with Bessie’s older sister, Anne.  Anne wrote to Bessie’s brother Frank and his wife Kate that the baby was perfect — a lovely little girl.  Bessie’s brother Izzie teasingly nicknamed the new baby “Miss RanDickles,” a name that stuck throughout her childhood.

On Marjorie’s seventh birthday, in 1890, a party was held at the Van Wickle home on Madison Avenue in Morristown, New Jersey, and in 1903 Marjorie celebrated her birthday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Munich, Bavaria, on her 11-month tour of Europe.

There are few further references to birthdays until 1904, Marjorie’s 21st birthday.  By then her father Augustus had died, and Bessie was happily remarried to William McKee.  Sad times were over, and the glorious years of Blithewold were beginning.  Bessie was already establishing her reputation as a gracious hostess, and she put all her efforts into making Marjorie’s party one that everyone would remember for a long time.  Blithewold and the Gardner House were full to overflowing with houseguests.    The guest list included aunts and uncles, favorite cousins, friends from school and from Boston, and at least 3 of Marjorie’s suitors.  George Lyon’s name appears on the original list, but his name is crossed off — presumably because he was unable to attend.  A few days after the party, George Clarke wrote to Bessie to thank her for

“a delightful visit replete with pleasure from start to finish.  I shall long remember your daughter’s birthday and the charming hospitality of Blithewold.”  Bessie’s old friend, Belle Grier, wrote “We shall none of us ever be able to forget all the beautiful things crowded into the days around the 12th of September, and I’m glad to have these beautiful memories to keep and go back to.  I do hope you are getting rested and that you will not collapse now that it is all over.  But I’m sure you must feel that it was all the greatest success possible.”  Mac Sturgis, who would spend the next 10 years trying to persuade Marjorie to marry him, wrote “Didn’t we have a splendid time in Bristol?  Every moment of my visit was so delightful.  With kind regards to all your household and again thanking you for permitting me to share in such a joyous celebration…”  Bessie’s sister Anne congratulated everyone, thanking Bessie especially for “The beautiful dinners, the tennis and golf, the delightful picnics, and The Party.’ “  Gertrude Keller, Bessie’s younger sister, wrote of the many pleasures and Bessie’s kindness, “I am sure Marjorie’s birthday, the 21st, will never be forgotten.”

In 1916 Marjorie spent her birthday with her husband George on board the Canadian Pacific Railway from Lake Louise to Vancouver, at the start of their 8-month trip to the West Coast, Wyoming, and Hawaii.  On September 12th they traveled through Kicking Horse Gorge, where the railway wound through tunnels and crossed the Kicking Horse River three times on its way to the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.  Marjorie wrote to William McKee,

“It certainly was wondrous.  Going through the Kicking Horse Canyon, with the Rocky Walls sheer on either side;  the river roaring beside us, and the train clinging to the side of the precipice – I’ll surely never forget it!”

September 12, 1917 found Marjorie in Columbia, South Carolina.  George was at Camp Jackson helping to train new recruits for the war in Europe.  Marjorie decided to look for accommodation and a job in the town, in order to be with George in his meager spare time.  She arrived on September 10 and checked herself into the Jefferson Hotel.  On the morning of her birthday, Marjorie found a large bouquet of flowers in her room, and when George arrived after lunch he found the room a bower of roses, “thanks to his thoughtfulness” wrote Marjorie.  Later, they went to the Country Club for a special dinner and enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the pines.  When Marjorie told George that it was a lovely end to her birthday, he was shocked – for he had not remembered that it was her birthday.

In September 1919, with the war over, Marjorie and George were camping with their friends Gay and Tom Pierce, hunting and fishing at Bathurst Lake, New Brunswick.  On the twelfth it poured with rain and Marjorie did the family washing!  She went swimming in the lake and played poker with their guide in the afternoon.  Gay made fudge and a “monstrous chocolate cake with candles, ferns, and daisies round it,” and there were letters and presents from home.

In 1921 Marjorie and George were hunting in the wilderness of northern British Columbia.  On September 12, Marjorie celebrated by shooting a “huge grizzly,” the biggest their Indian guide had ever seen at 9’ 4” tall.  The birthday dinner that evening was ptarmigan and groundhog and, as a special treat, roasted porcupine.

Birthdays were commemorated over the following fifty years, with celebrations and dinners but few references in letters and diaries.  Until September 1973, that is, when friends and family gathered together to celebrate Marjorie’s 90th birthday at Blithewold.

HAPPY-BIRTHDAYMarjorie Lyon on her 90th birthday at Blithewold

They came with cards and gifts and the traditional poems that had been written specially for the occasion that were read aloud during dinner.  Forty five guests contributed to a tree fund to enhance Blithewold’s arboretum, and Marjorie read aloud her thank-you poem at the dinner table:


Here’s to my friends and relatives

Who’ve come from near and far

To celebrate my ninetieth,

Tell Birthdays what they are.


Thank you for your gifts to me

Those beautiful rare trees

Are just what I really wanted

My thanks on bended knees.


Here’s to my dear godchildren,

Five out of seven are here.

I struggled hard to bring them up

And my success is clear.


To those who couldn’t make it,

I’m thinking of them all.

Another time, another place,

I’ll hope to see them all!





Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Garden Club of America Celebrates 100 Years

by Margaret Whitehead and Julie Morris

2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Garden Club of America.  In April 1913 Mrs. J. Willis Martin and Mrs. Bayard Henry invited the 12 founding garden clubs to form an organization (first called The Garden Guild) “to overcome their indifference and to put aside their fear that being organized would destroy their independence and kill the joy of living.” They came together from as far away as Illinois and Michigan to attend their first annual meeting on May 1st 1913 in Philadelphia where they adopted the following policy:  “The objects of this association shall be: to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs; to share the advantages of association through conference and correspondence, in this country and abroad; to aid in the protection of native plants and birds; and to encourage civic planting.”

Bessie McKee was an early member of the Garden Club of America, and attended its 10th Annual Meeting in Newport, Rhode Island in June 1923.  It was a 3-day conference held at the Casino on Bellevue Avenue, attended by more than 150 members.  On the first day, about 25 members from Bessie’s Chestnut Hill Garden Club stopped at Blithewold for lunch on their way to the Newport conference.  Estelle Clements wrote in her diary that day,

“About 25 members of the Chestnut Hill Garden Club came to luncheon and to see the gardens on their way to Newport to the 3 days meeting of the Garden Club of America.  We had a delicious luncheon and the place looked lovely.  It went off very well, and Marjorie was a great help. I went with [the] party through the Enclosed Garden, and the Rose Garden.” The conference comprised meetings, social activities, and garden visits.  Bessie thought the garden of Mrs. Emerson was by far the loveliest.


1923 Newport Meeting: Bessie center, with black band around her hat.

The Club later gained national attention for its support of the parks in Washington, DC, and for conservation of the Redwood forests.  In 1928 they established a permanent fellowship in landscape architecture with the American Academy in Rome, a partnership that continues today.  In 1994 they presented a valuable collection of thousands of historic glass slides of America’s early 20th century gardens to the Archives of American Gardens of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Following in her mother’s footsteps Marjorie, in turn, became a member of the Club and was honored with two prestigious awards:  The Horticultural Achievement Award in 1963, and the Horticultural Award honoring her achievements in propagating and preserving the Sequoia Redwood in 1976.

The Garden Club of America and its members have visited Blithewold throughout its history as both a private and public garden, and have contributed generously to its upkeep.

Blithewold salutes the Garden Club of America on its Centennial, and sends best wishes for its future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Costume Conservation Continues

One of the most exciting days in my tenure at Blithewold was the day Bessie Van Wickle McKee’s collection of fine gowns returned permanently to Blithewold from Boston where they had been in safe keeping at the headquarters of the Colonial Dames of America.  There was much work to be done – we had each gown professionally assessed, and then it was stored in a dedicated storage room on the 3rd floor of the Mansion.  Each gown was wrapped and supported carefully in acid-free tissue and stored in its own archival box.  Each box was then marked with an accession number, a brief description including date and designer, and a photograph.  The room is darkened with shades, and all windows protected with UV filters.

Bessie Van Wickle's 1882 Traveling Outfit

Bessie Van Wickle’s 1882 Traveling Outfit

The Collection Committee then began the process of deciding how the gowns should be restored and exhibited.  This is a very important collection – the gowns are all of the highest quality in terms of design, workmanship, and materials used.  We chose ConText Inc., a conservation and restoration company in Rochester, Massachusetts, to undertake the work of repairing and stabilizing the collection so that the costumes  could be shared with the public in special exhibits.  The first such exhibit ( in the new costume display space on the 2nd floor of the Mansion ) is this season’s “A Wedding to Remember” presenting the 1882 wedding gown of Bessie Van Wickle along with other pieces from her trousseau – a traveling suit, and an afternoon dress.

Bessie Van Wickle's Wedding Gown 1882

Bessie Van Wickle’s Wedding Gown 1882

The conservation work was funded by generous contributions from Blithewold members.   Once each gown was restored, full reports of the work undertaken (with before-and-after photographs) were included in the box, along with a list of donors who contributed to the restoration of that particular article of clothing.

We are now at the stage where we will have to be creative in raising funds to pay for the next 2 dresses that need to be restored.  The next exhibit will highlight Bessie’s fondness for the opera, and central to the exhibit will be her Opera Coat, made in 1912 by Fox of New York, her favorite designer.  The fabric is orange silk velvet, with black velvet collar and cuffs, decorative metallic bouclé fabric panels at shoulders and sleeves, and metallic tassel details.  The coat is in good condition overall, but needs surface cleaning and re-stitching in many areas.  Special supports must be constructed to make the coat stable enough for display.

We also hope to show another gown from 1912 (and also from Fox of New York) – a stunning evening dress of green and gold metallic velvet fabric with ivory cotton lace panels, ivory silk organza, and embroidered net.  It has two beaded butterfly-shaped appliqués at the center front and center back of the bodice, and pleated bands of silk net are stitched around the neckline and shoulder edges.  Much work will be needed to conserve the dress so that it may be mounted for exhibition.

Evening dress of green and gold metallic velvet fabric

Evening dress of green and gold metallic velvet fabric

Bessie Van Wickle's Opera Coat

Bessie Van Wickle’s Opera Coat

Would you consider helping us fund this important work?  Contributions in any amount would be gratefully accepted – and of course, your donation would be tax deductible.   You can send your check to the Blithewold Costume Conservation Fund.  If you would like to come and see the collection, and hear more about our plans, you can make an appointment.  Once you see the great possibilities, I feel sure you would agree that our preservation project is worthy of your support.  You can call me, Margaret Whitehead, at 253-2707 extension 22, or email me at mwhitehead@blithewold.org for more information.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Costume Collection

Many of you already know about the fabulous collection of gowns and accessories belonging to Bessie Van Wickle McKee that came home to Blithewold last year.  Forty-one dresses with accessories, coats, and hats, had been given to the Colonial Dames in Boston in 1955 by Bessie’s daughter, Marjorie Lyon.  We imagine that Marjorie wanted to make sure the valuable collection was preserved in perpetuity, and occasionally exhibited at their headquarters on Beacon Hill.  When Blithewold found itself in a position to offer state-of-the-art storage, professional assessment, conservation, and interpretation, negotiations began to have the collection returned to Blithewold.  Most of the collection was brought back last spring, and a special committee began the conservation and restoration work immediately.

Imagine our joy when we had an email from the Colonial Dames last November announcing that still more of the Van Wickle/McKee collected pieces had been discovered!  Gioia and I made the trip to Boston, excited to know what further delights awaited us.  We were not disappointed….



Revealing itself to us, with perfect timing, was a burgundy velvet jacket dating to 1882   which would have been part of Bessie’s wedding trousseau.  It will now be conserved, and exhibited next spring along with the wedding gown and other trousseau dresses.  The style is double-breasted, and has carved shell buttons with the image of a windmill on each one (remember, Bessie was marrying into a family of proud Dutch heritage.)  It could easily be worn today, and our conservators are considering having patterns made for sale to Blithewold members.

Two more silk evening gowns, and a gold lame opera coat, complete the collection.  They have all been measured and assessed, and carefully packed in acid-free boxes.

Anyone interested in donating to a fund to restore and conserve these important pieces can email me at mwhitehead@blithewold.org    I can show you the Costume Collection storage facility, and all the assessment and interpretation documentation.  If you would like to see individual gowns, and see impressive examples of ‘before and after’ work, we can do that too.

Margaret Whitehead, Curator

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized



When Marjorie and Miss Helen arrived back in Rome from Naples, the cool wet weather changed suddenly and they were pleased to see the sun:

“You can imagine how welcome it was! And it was delightfully warm too, almost like spring. It is such a lovely city in the warm sunshine,” wrote Marjorie to her mother. They took the opportunity to drive out into the country, and up into the hills surrounding Rome. But the good weather did not last, and Marjorie commented that Rome can be dreary on a rainy day, “…only there are so many beautiful things in it, and every bit is interesting. There are great sunny piazzas, and scattered all over the city are hundreds of fountains – big and little, adorned with beautiful statues or just tumbling out of a stone barrel. There are bits of old Rome everywhere you look.”

They returned to the Vatican and St. Paul’s again and again. Marjorie particularly loved the Sculpture Gallery where they saw “the wonderful statues of the Emperors, the beautiful Apollo Belvedere, the Loacoon, and the glorious Sleeping Ariadne … and lots of lovely things.”

Apollo Belvedere

Sleeping Ariadne

With Christmas fast approaching, Marjorie and Miss Helen went shopping for Christmas cards to send to people at home, and last-minute gifts for the family. Marjorie had been collecting gifts to send home from her favorite places. There was lace from Jesurum’s in Venice for Bessie, and a calendar from Florence; tortoiseshell brushes from Naples and Venetian cufflinks for Will; and a collection of toys for Augustine – a photograph frame from Venice, vases from Florence, castanettes from Pompeii, a fan and a mandolin from Naples, and a papal guard doll from Rome. She added a small Italian flag to stick out of the top of Augustine’s Christmas stocking, and “…in the afternoon I wrapped up and tied up packages and sent them all off to America.”

Once the weather improved again, they enjoyed taking rides in the Borghese grounds – very close to their hotel:

“Oh they are lovely!! Great avenues of ilex trees, moss grown fountains, rolling lawns and linden trees throwing their long shadows on the grass.” They went up on the Pincian Hill – a fashionable park of Rome – where they loved to spend the afternoon driving around, listening to the bands, and watching the people. Marjorie wrote, “What I liked best were the children, there are thousands of them walking and driving, attended by nurses in pink or blue with such beautiful coral necklaces and long streamers of gay ribbon down their backs.” They took tea every day at Aragno’s on the Corso where Marjorie observed people from many different countries and loved the atmosphere, even though it was “smoky.” In 1893, Baedeker’s travel guide described Aragno’s as “the finest café in Italy.”

By December 13, the streets were full of fascinating “Presepios,” or crèches: “… a little moss-covered grotto with the manger, the ox and the ass and St. Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds and Wisemen all arranged in a group.” They went to the Vatican Etruscan Museum to see the cinerary urns and the lovely vases, and to the Vatican Library to see the precious illustrated manuscripts – among them, curiously, Henry VIII’s love letters to Anne Boleyn. They took drives into the country where Marjorie admired the cypresses and umbrella pines. They walked down to the Piazza di Spagna and bought pansies on the great Spanish Steps. At the Borghese Villa Gallery Marjorie noted her favorite paintings, Correggio’s “Danae,” Titian’s “Sacred and Profane Love” and his “Three Graces,” and Botticelli’s “Madonna and Angels.”

Marjorie's photo of Spanish Steps

On the morning of the 24th, Marjorie and Miss Helen went to the Spanish Steps again and bought a big branch of holly and other greens with huge red berries, and a beautiful bunch of pansies. “From that time on Christmas really began.” In the evening they were invited to a grand concert and ‘arbre de noel’ festival at the hotel. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes. “The tree was a beauty!” wrote Marjorie. “With lights of the national red white and green, and all shining with pretty things – but oh how homesick it did make me, for Katrina’s trees are always nicest of all.” (Katrina was Bessie’s maid who stayed with the family for almost 50 years.) “After we had got settled down, from behind a thin screen decorated to form a church window, the music began. There were a choir of boys from one of the Roman Churches, and also a quartet of soloists … Later in the evening we had refreshments of every description and then were presented each with a gift “from the tree”. Mine was a very pretty leather card case. We had a beautiful time.”

The next morning Marjorie found a table filled with gifts and letters from home. After opening them, they went to St. Peter’s for the “Gloria in Excelsis”. They had lunch at the hotel (with mincepies) and then set out for the Christmas service at Santa Maria Maggiore where the whole church was lit with candles. From there they went again to Aragno’s, “How gay it was on Christmas night – all Rome seemed to be there.” That evening there was another concert in the Hotel, and when it was all over Marjorie “…wished pretty hard for a good-night kiss from you, Mother dearest.” She ended her last letter of the year, “Well, Mother dear I must close now, with just lots and lots of love and Happy New Year wishes from your little daughter, Marjorie.”

Marjorie had much to look forward to in January. She and Miss Helen had train tickets to Brindisi where they would take a boat to Egypt and spend two months exploring Cairo and sailing down the Nile in the Rameses II Steamer. Notes from the Archives in January will cover their exotic and exciting adventures.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

November 1903 – Rome

Marjorie’s European Tour, 1903-1904
Taken from letters to her mother, Bessie

We go back 109 years, and it is November 1903. Twenty-year-old Marjorie was very sorry to be leaving Florence, but madly excited to get to Rome. Miss Helen had asked the hotel in Rome, the Hotel de Russie (still in operation in the heart of the city, between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo,) to try to secure three tickets to the Consistory at the Vatican that was to take place on November 12. They rushed out to buy black veils and gloves in anticipation, but the day before the event they still had no tickets. However, that evening after dinner “…when we were just giving up thoughts of it…” the tickets arrived. “We fairly shivered in anticipation. It is a great occasion – being the first Consistory,” wrote Marjorie to her mother.

On Thursday the twelfth, at 8:30 a.m. they set of for the Vatican, dressed in an assortment of borrowed long black coats and black taffeta petticoats. On their heads they wore black lace scarves. This was the first public Consistory held by the new Pope Pius X, called to witness the canonization of a new Saint. (Pope Pius was, himself, canonized much later.)

“The scene was a gay one – the whole scheme of coloring being the Papal crimson. The room was a blaze of color, for the black gowns of the ladies only served as a background to set off the gay uniforms of the men. The Papal Guard costume is yellow and black, partly striped, partly plaid, and patched with red. Michael Angelo designed the costume – he wanted it as conspicuous as possible – I think he succeeded! …Then came the Pope himself on foot … he wore a huge silver mitre embroidered with gold and precious gems, a white gown covered with a red gold embroidered cape … a very wonderful sight.”

Following this exciting introduction to Rome, Marjorie spent the next days visiting churches, monasteries, and museums; and the grave sites of Keats and Shelley. They hired an English-speaking guide, Malaspino, who took them to all the famous sites and gave them the history of Rome and its ruins, and then accompanied them along the historic Appian Way to see the villas and the tombs of all the old Patrician families. Malespino took them to the Forum – the political and architectural centre of Old Rome, where the Ancient Romans built beautiful temples to their gods and held feasts in their honor. It was the centre of public life. Marjorie was fascinated to see the rostrum of Julius Caesar where Mark Anthony delivered his famous oration; and the entrance to the Golden House of Nero that was ¾ of a mile long. They visited the prison where St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned, and the gravesite of Romulus. The whole Forum area had only been uncovered in 1870, and every few months archeologists were digging up new and fascinating ruins. Marjorie wrote, “I should like to take a spade and dig myself!” They climbed to the very top of the Colosseum and pretended they were slaves watching gladiatorial combats and sham naval battles.

The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome

Later in the month they returned to the Vatican to see the Sculpture Gallery, and to the Palantine Hill where the wonderful “Circus Maximus,” the gigantic stadium of Ancient Rome, stood. “It all seemed near enough to have been yesterday instead of nearly two thousand years ago!”

A quick trip south to Naples and Pompeii was in order before Marjorie’s friend Gertrude had to return to the United States just before Thanksgiving Day. Marjorie loved Naples and would return to that area many times.

Marjorie’s pastel of The Bay of Naples

Marjorie’s pastel of The Bay of Naples

“They call the Bay of Naples the loveliest in the world, and I don’t wonder. And oh the climate of Naples is so perfect – the air so soft and gentle and the fresh, sweet breeze from the sea. Every Italian city has its own special charm, and I think Naples’ is its air and its people – the latter are charming! I believe they can cheat you there worse than other places, but they do it in such a sweet coaxing way, and if you find them out they don’t seem to be upset at all, but think it a huge joke just between you and them. And all the time they have the most beautiful manners and an air of doing it all for your best good. Oh they are delightful! I love them one and all.”

A train took them on a day trip along the coast to Pompeii, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii was completely buried in A.D. 79, and the ash-covered ruins were only discovered by accident in 1749. Since then, more and more of the once thriving city has been uncovered. Marjorie wrote to Bessie, “But what is uncovered is SO wonderful.”

Marjorie’s pastel of The Forum, Pompeii

Marjorie’s pastel of The Forum, Pompeii

She described the beautiful courtyards filled with statues and arbors, and rooms with their wonderful frescoes, busy little cupids working at various trades – and fruit and animals. They hated to leave it all behind to go back to Naples, but that evening “some really good serenaders came under our windows and sang their pretty soft songs.” They went to the Pompeii Museum, and went shopping. It was Gertrude’s last day, and Marjorie was very sad. Dorothy had left the party several weeks earlier, so the tour would now be only Marjorie and her guide/chaperone, Miss Helen. Later in the week they took a boat to the Island of Capri where the water was beautiful and where they visited the Blue Grotto. They stepped carefully into small cockle shell boats that carried them into the mouth of the cave: “It was heavenly in there, so still and calm and all the water an exquisite silver blue – all shining and rippling. Each boat looked like a glistening fish. The cave is big inside and only lighted from the narrow opening so you can imagine the weird soft coloring. It certainly was a fine experience. The sunset that night was glorious, with the sun dropping down all fiery red beside the hazy blue Capri.”

Thanksgiving Day came and Marjorie and Miss Helen had a special dinner at the hotel, “We had woodcock instead of [turkey] – but otherwise it was quite perfect. We even had nuts at the end, and oh such fascinating preserved grapes – much nicer than raisins – and all done up in a case of grape leaves. We had a beautiful drive this afternoon to celebrate the day and now we are spending the night at charming Sorrento, perched up on a cliff and overlooking the whole Bay of Naples.”

Back in Rome, Marjorie and Miss Helen took advantage of a rainy day to visit the Sistine Chapel. “It is lovelier than ever I dreamt it would be. Oh it is wonderful, every bit of it,” wrote Marjorie.

The next chapter of “Notes from the Archives” (December in Rome), will describe the days leading up to Christmas, Marjorie’s first away from home. There was much excitement in the city, and Marjorie enjoyed the Italian Christmas customs, decorations, and special foods.


Filed under Uncategorized