The Wisdom of Miss Buncle

No, she was not like other people. Other people took grown-up things as a matter of course— things like late dinner, and wine, driving cars and going to the theater; things like marriage and housekeeping and ordering commodities from the shops; whereas she was just playing at it all the time, pretending to be grown up, when, really and truly all the time, she was just Barbara— a plain, gawky child… but not least, she still enjoyed the same things— ice cream, and sweet cakes, and crumpets with the butter oozing out of them— and she still loved being out at night when the stars were shining… Someday, she was convinced, somebody would find out that she was an imposter in the adult world. –  D.E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle Marries

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I know, right?! I can so relate to this! There have been times when I’ve sort of stood back and looked at my life – at my children, my marriage, my home, my job, the responsibilities of being an adult – and had to chuckle that I’ve managed to pull it all off without anyone suspecting I’m actually just a tree-climbing ten year-old in a grown-up body.

A month or so ago I was introduced to the writings of D.E. Stevenson – the author quoted at the top of the page – and have very much enjoyed reading her books. Her stories, which take place in her native Britain, were written in the 1930’s and 1940’s and capture really well the cozy, quirky charm of life in a small English village. They have the same feeling to them as an Agatha Christie story – only without the murder. They are wise.  They are thought-provoking. And there were times – as in the passage below – where I found myself laughing out loud:

“I was wondering what we should write in the Bible,” said Dorcas, looking at Jerry inquiringly.

“I know what to write,” Simon declared. “I’ve seen it written in a book before. It’s the proper thing to write in a book. Daddy has a book with that written in it and he said it made the book more valuable— that’s what Daddy said.”

“What is it?” asked Jerry and Dorcas with one accord.

“With the author’s compliments,” said Simon proudly.

– from The Two Mrs. Abbots by D.E. Stevenson

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The passage below captures the essence of a character named Helen really well – and haven’t we all known people like Helen? In fact, maybe we’ve ALL been Helen now and then… 🙂  –

She was a born meddler. In the garden, for instance, everything was directed by Helen. The raspberry canes, the sweet peas— even the ramblers were obliged to grow in the direction Helen thought best. She bent them to her will, tying them firmly to stake or trellis with pieces of green bass she carried in her pocket for the purpose.  – from The Two Mrs. Abbots by D.E. Stevenson

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I even found mention of Christian Science in one of Stevenson’s books! And she didn’t write us off as completely loony! I really appreciated that. 🙂

“You are interested in Christian Science,” said Markie, handing her a duster… she had found a book upon Christian Science in Jane’s room when she went in to make the bed.

“Yes,” said Jane. “At least I don’t know much about it. I just thought it might help to— to clear up something in my mind.”

“Perhaps it may,” agreed Markie. “There was a mistress at Wheatfield House who practiced Christian Science and she had an extremely lucid mind…” Here Markie knelt down upon the hearth rug and began to lay the fire in the empty grate. “She was agreeable and cultured,” continued Markie. “I liked her very much and I was much interested in her conversation.”

“Did she convert you?” Jane asked.

“No, dear. If I have a pain I just take an aspirin in a little water. There is no need to bother God about it.” 

– D.E. Stevenson from The Two Mrs. Abbots

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I love how Stevenson describes a child’s take on “grown-ups” and how they spend their time:

Trivvie listened with growing pity to the stumbling narrative— grown-ups were odd, she thought (not for the first time). Here was a perfectly strong and healthy grown-up with the whole day to do what she liked with, and nobody to say she mustn’t do this or that or the other, and look at what she did— it was really pitiable. “How dull!” she said at last, sadly shaking her untidy head. “Doesn’t it sound dull, Amby?”Miss Buncle Marries

***

I do not believe in ghosties or supernatural hokum pokum, but I have felt an “atmosphere” when I’ve walked into old buildings. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (the textbook for Christian Science):  “Though individuals have passed away, their mental environment remains to be discerned, described, and transmitted. Though bodies are leagues apart and their associations forgotten,  their associations float in the general atmosphere of human mind… Do not suppose that any mental concept is gone because you do not think of it. The true concept is never lost. The strong impressions produced on mortal mind by friendship or by any intense feeling are lasting…”

In Miss Buncle Marries, Stevenson addresses this feeling when she writes: “Slowly she became aware of Unseen Presences in the empty rooms— the aura of those who had lived in the house and loved it. And these Unseen Presences were friendly toward her, they welcomed her coming— she was sure of it— they would do her no harm. There was nothing ghostly about this aura, nothing supernatural, nothing frightening, it was more a sort of warm atmosphere, comfortable to the spirit as the warmth of a good fire is comfortable to the body.”

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Yes, I am enjoying D.E. Stevenson very much. Every now and then I read a book and think – “Wow! This author would have been my friend if we’d ever met!” And that is precisely how I feel about the author of the Miss Buncle books.

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It was a great relief to find that somebody wanted her, that she was not utterly and completely useless. – from the Two Mrs. Abbots by D.E. Stevenson

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4 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Miss Buncle

  1. It’s nice to see this treatment of CS, and to have your thoughts and reference to MBE’s writings. I’m seeing more and more articles about multiverse, quantum physics and so on, all pointing at the mental nature of everything.

  2. I first read Miss Buncle as a child and loved it. Later I discovered the two sequels; and though I felt the third fell short a bit, it still sits with its predecessors on my bedroom shelf of “favorite reads” 🙂

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