- Virginia Johnson
When one thinks of heirs and heiresses, one thinks of bags and bags of money. But in T. H. White’s Mistress Masham’s Repose, ten-year-old Maria has no money. She is only the heiress to a falling down 17th-century English estate called Malplaquet. Even so, she might have enjoyed a lovely if quiet life in the countryside. But she doesn’t. Because she is an orphan and only ten years old, she has to live under the cruel rule of her guardians—the awful vicar Mr. Hater and the greedy governess Mrs. Brown.
When she can escape the house, she often explores the grand gardens, laid out centuries ago. On the grounds, there is a lake. In the lake, there is an island. On the island, there is a summer house—a perfect place to get away from all those grumpy grown-up people who bother one so. Still, it might have been a bit lonely—if it weren’t for “The People” whom she discovers living within the foundation of the summer house.
Though only inches tall, “The People” were naturally outraged when Maria snatched a tiny baby nestled in half a walnut shell. Gulliver’s Lilliputians-in-exile had lived their lives for centuries on the island called Mistress Masham’s Repose, thank you very much, and they did not appreciate having a great gorm of a girl interfering in their pleasant routines by snatching babies or giving ridiculous presents. Yet they find Miss Maria’s interferences far less threatening than those proposed once they are discovered by the vicious vicar and the greedy governess.
T. H. White is best-known for The Sword in the Stone, a story about young King Arthur. Like that more famous book, Mistress Masham’s Repose is one of those solid English fantasy stories that stealthily steal into the readers’ hearts. Timeless in nature, it is ideal for a summer idyll, an autumn’s repast, a winter’s feast, or a spring regale.