18 MAY 1929, Page 20

FLORA ANNIE STEEL [To the Editor of the SPEcrvron.] Sia,—Mrs.

Forbes of Callendar's delightful appreciation of Flora Annie Steel, in the Spectator of May 11thimpels me to add a few reminiscences' of this unique and fascinating woman. I had, at one time; the pleasure of knowing her intimately; she often stayed with me, and have been with her at Talgarth Hall, a former home of hers in Wales. I owe, at all events, the beginning of our friendship to her admiration of the badge of our College Guild, the letter " A " from the Book of Kells, which attracted her so much that she wished to become an honorary 'meniber of the Guild. She wrote : "I am glad and proud to belong to the first organization I have ever joined," (The italics are hers.) - - - Mrs. Forbes' mention of" Craddock ". interests me greatly.

Mrs. Steel 'always insisted that she was merely the channel through which Craddock spoke ; that she had no knowledge Of the things of which he-told her ;. that she simply wrote to his dictation: She used to say : "I must write ad fast as I can while 'he- is here, for when he goes I am powerless "—strange, but to' many of Mrs. Steel's views Westerns would-apply this term. She Was very Eastern in her sympathies and outlook, and;. after" all, it ought • not to seem impossible that a power

"not our own" may be given to us. _ Mrs. Forbes speaks of her dress, always so simple, so

beconiiirg, and yet- sci 'entirely uninfluenced by fashion. The delightful browns of her Choice seemed-to suit her Snow-white hair and to harmonize with her wonderful eyes. Nor must-her magic beads be omitted, which always-gave the finishing touch, and without which she declared she would be as speechless on the platform as she was powerless to write in Craddock's absence. -Her ideas about dress were-stern. She was firm on the point that no wtima-n should ever haVe more than .three dresses at- the same time. She travelled with practically no luggage and yet was always well dressed. • Her many-sidedness was amazing. She worked- not only with her pen but with her brush. Her house was filled with • her. civin- paintings. She loved music, she was. an excellent billiard Prayer, a very keen and successful gardener, and a most extraordinarily capable and practical housewife.

In almost all her letters an allusion to some domestic concern was made. She tells of the hatching of • pheasants'. eggs in 'her incubator and speaks of the -moment when- the - birds were just breaking through the shells, and adds, "such loud, eager cheepings till they hear my step on the cellar stairs, then the chorus lessens, and when-I open the door and let the cold air -in; there isn't a sound. Here is inherited knowledge with a vengeance ! First, that the untrodden world holds enemies, next, that when mother pheasant is no longer brooding and ready to wage war, it is unwise, to let marauders know of the nest by cheeping. That sort of thing means so much if one could only think it out."

She was at constant war with girls' modern education, and it was always a joy to her to tilt at school " maims " and principals. Once when she had a house party of sixteen, mostly girls,. she writes : It really is astounding, the inepti- tude of the modern girl. At a pinch she never seems capable. For instance, at the last moment, to meet, certain exigencies of ball-froekless dancers, I. decreed fancy dress—I say it without pride—almost every dress in the room was my suggestion and most my execution. No! there is, something wrong in your principle, my lady principal. What is it? Shall we try. to find out ? It. would he a great work."

Mrs. Forbes mentions Mrs. Steel's pride in her grandchildren. Her stories of them were delightful.. A youthful grandson of six breakfasting with his grandmother boldly threw down the

gauntlet _and_eNclaimed, "Men are so much stronger than women." Being muted from that standpoint he again took the field and asserted, "Men are so much cleverer than women." On being told that niany. men. would have to get ' up. very early in the morning if they wanted to _do all. thit' - women did, he added, somewhat sadly and sympathetieaW; " Poor granilpipa ! how Very early in the morning he must.' have to get up." On being questioned as to Who had imbued him with these theories he proudly replied, " I knowed theta of myself." Her attitude to women was paradoxical. She certainly hitt - , in certain. Ways, the deepest sympathy with them, yet she ' always seemedto enjoy quoting, not,. I aril afraid, with'entire' disapproval, sayings like that of the Old fisherman, " Worneir be like pilchards, when 'em's-bad, 'em's bad, and when good, 'em is but middling." She once. wrote to me, I am drawn to believe that personally my only hope Of salvation is by the elimination of my female elenient. DreadfuLisn't it ? " - And now she has left us, and- we shall not again find so." unique, so racy, *so original and so 'delightfully stimulating a