Pulling Back the Veil on Illusions, Denial, & Narcissism

Sunset, Sky, Sun, Cloud, Twilight

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it’s cloud illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all. – Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now
I am 66-years-old now, and as I look back through the string of events that have been woven together to create my life, I can see that much of my past behavior was  based on partial or cloudy bits of information–the illusions that I allowed to pose as truths to myself and that have blinded me.
The problem does not lie in my lack of thinking. I think all of the time, and I piece things together in a way that makes sense to me at the time. But I can see now that some of the things that I have reasoned to be true were not actually true at all. I know that in some cases, I have swallowed half-truths and have jumped into pits of denial and have floated there for a while and then have later figured things out. What alarms me is that on some issues, I am probably still in denial. That is the nature of denial. When we are in denial, we do not realize that what we are thinking and believing is merely self-deception.
At times, denial is a type of defense mechanism that prevents us from realizing things that we cannot fully fathom–things that would cause us so very much emotional pain that we could not bear it. Yet, sometimes our denials are ways that we do not acknowledge things that we know that we should not be doing or thinking. Our denials become the places that we hide.
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
But allowing ourselves to remain in denial can have serious consequences.
“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.” – Patrick Rothfuss
Ultimately, our denials become the masks that we wear, and those masks become the people that we are.
“She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms—and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too—end up in their shadow.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Perhaps we want to elevate ourselves in our businesses, but we perceive that the others ahead of us are preventing our ascensions. We might do things to discredit those other people with the administration or with other clients. If we do that and KNOW that we are doing it, we are not in denial–we are merely mean. This type of mean manipulator has probably devised an invisibility cloak that allows him to slip in and out of people’s views. Thus, the very skillful manipulator can be greedy without appearing to others to be so. The most deceitful people are masters of disguise.

Great politicians often fall into this group of people. Salespersons also often fall into this group of people. When people can behave selfishly without being detected by others, they are excellent schemers. That type of person is probably not in denial at all. That type of person may have compartmentalized himself away from having to deal with anything that he does not want to acknowledge, but this is less a case of denial than it is a case of narcissism. Narcissists simply do not care about the people that they hurt or about how many people that they have forced off the road, to jockey themselves to the fronts of the lines.

This same type of back-stabbing also takes place socially. Sometimes we begin to feel that another person is no longer socially advantageous to us, and we begin seeking excuses to exclude that person. So that we won’t appear to be cruel, we may lie to other people about the person that we want to discredit. Sometimes we may also lie to ourselves about that other person. When we lie to ourselves and believe our own lies, we might be in denial, but we might also be narcissists, and as I have said before, narcissists are some of the most evil people that we know.

The bottom line is that all of us need to force ourselves to pull back the curtains that form around ourselves. At the very least, our cloud’s illusions may be blocking our own suns and preventing us from seeing some of the beautiful opportunities and people that pass by.

Eye, Blue, Vision, Iris, Futuristic

The Mask

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.” – Shel Silverstein

We need to lift the clouds that settle around us and that soften the edges of our behaviors. We need to look at our clouds from both sides now and to scrutinize them, asking ourselves if we are functioning from our own delusions or if we are actually seeing things as they are.

©Jacki Kellum June 30, 2016

Carnival, Venice, Carnival Of Venice, Masks, Italy

“Let’s burn our masks at midnight
and as flickering flames ascend,
under the witness of star-clouds,
let us vow to reclaim our true selves.
Done with hiding and weary of lying,
we’ll reconcile without and within.
Then, like naked squint-eyed newborns,
we’ll greet the glorious birth of dawn;
blinking at the blazing, wondrous colors
we somehow failed to notice before.”
― John Mark Green

You might enjoy reading my post: A Narcissist May be the Most Evil Person You Know Here

©Jacki Kellum January 13, 2016

Now You See Me



Recipes from Victorian England and Kensington Palace

Franz Winterhalter, Portrait, Painting, Oil On Canvas

When Queen Victoria’s mother was pregnant with her, she lived in Germany; but Victoria’s father wanted her to be born in England and borrowed enough money to see that this was the case.  The family moved into Kensington, which was not palatial at the time.

Victoria’s German uncle Leopold supported the family until they could survive in a new place. Victoria’s mother gradually raised enough money to renovate the kitchen at Kensington, but this did not happen from a place of any abundance.

“As with most aristocratic girls, she was educated at home, and learnt to enjoy sketching, singing and riding as her main extra-curricular activities.” from FutureLearn Here

As I read this passage, I immediately thought about the part of Pride & Prejudice, where Elizabeth is chastised because she has not been taught to draw and play the piano and sing.

Chapter 29

[In Chapter 29, Elizabeth Bennet joins the Collins, as they visit Lady Catherine de Bourgh.”

“Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?”

“A little.”

“Oh! then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to——You shall try it some day. Do your sisters play and sing?”

“One of them does.”

“Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?”

“No, not at all.”

“What, none of you?”

“Not one.”

“That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters.”

“My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London.”

“Has your governess left you?”

“We never had any governess.”

“No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.”

Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the case.

“Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected.”

“Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”

“Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it.”


Pride & Prejudice was published in  1813. Queen Victoria was born in 1819. Jane Austen has spelled out what would have been expected of the training of Queen Victorian, in her youth.

However, increasingly under the influence of her advisor John Conroy, the Duchess slowly implemented a set of rules and procedures which later became known as the ‘Kensington System’. The System aimed to break Victoria’s spirit as she entered adolescence, ensuring she was totally reliant on her mother (and, by default, Conroy), through complete isolation and control. She slept in her mother’s room, and had to hold her hand on the way downstairs until the day she became Queen. All decisions were made for her, often against her wishes, and, much to King William IV’s annoyance, she was kept away from court, where she might have been exposed to other influences. Even her food was limited to plain ‘nursery’ food, including bread and milk alone for breakfast.

Her only support during these years was her governess, Louisa Lehzen, who was utterly devoted to the princess, and became her ally against her mother and Conroy. …

King William IV became seriously ill in May 1837, hanging on just long enough for Victoria to turn 18 and reach her legal majority. When he died in the early hours of June 20th, Victoria was finally Queen, and able to declare her independence from her mother. She threw herself into her new role with enthusiasm, and the British public initially, adored her.

from FutureLearn Here

A modern photo of a Victorian kitchen including a large central table, a large oven at the far end and plates and brass pots.

Victorian Kitchen ©Stafforrdsire Museum

Ruins of the Kitchen at the Palace of Kew

In the Victorian kitchen, we still see the long, central table that was at George III’s Palace of Kew.

As I mentioned before, that long kitchen table is what I most remember about the kitchen of Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey is set during the Roaring Twenties, which is 100 years after the reign of George III, 1760 – 1820, owner of the Palace of Kew and slightly after the Victorian era, 1876 – 1901.

During the Victorian era, a number of people had returned to England after working in India, and they brought their newly discovered appetites for curry with them.

“Some brought their Indian cooks back with them, but others took advantage, either of curry houses – the first was the Hindoustanee in 1810, but there was at least one coffee house serving curry in 1773 – or of the commercially produced curry powder on sale by 1780. Queen Victoria, on whose tables curries appeared throughout her reign, employed Indian servants to wait on her from the 1870s. On at least one occasion one of them cooked her a curry of his own creation, which she greatly enjoyed.” from FutureLearn Here

Recipe for curry powder

Recipe from the New England Cookbook, 1836





How to Make Victorian Sandwiches from Sponge Cake





Thank Goodness You Don’t Need Money to be A Tourist

Hampton Court Palace – Home of Henry VIII

This week, I have traveled all around England and have visited several Country Houses similar to the one  in Downton Abbey and have also visited several of the English palaces.

At the same time, I was also in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, visiting the Amish country.

Hampton Court Palace is in Surrey, and  it is 3, 569 miles from Surrey in the UK to Lancaster, PA, and yet, I was in both of those places on the same day. I didn’t stand in any lines at either spot, and I wasn’t wanded at the airport. My bed was not lumpy and no one had been smoking in my room. And here is the best part: my trips were absolutely free.

Because of our current digital age and because of the magnitude of the world wide web, being a tourist doesn’t cost any money at all. Here is another great thing about my trips this week: There were no thick, gold-braided ropes that confined me in a few, small areas of the places that I visited. I was allowed to go back into kitchens in several of the homes, and I even watched the royal chefs prepare foods that the royal families would have enjoyed at the time that they were living there.

I loved the kitchen at Kew. With that long table down the center of the room, Kew reminded me of the kitchen at Downton Abbey, and it served as a kitchen for George III about 100 years before the setting of Downton Abbey.

With very little imagination, I could envision Mrs. Patmore and Daisy standing at that table, and I could see the rest of the kitchen staff fluttering around the room–doing whatever it took to prepare meals that were fit for a king and for everyone else who happened to be staying at their home at that time.

Downton Abbey is set during the Roaring Twenties, which is 100 years after the reign of George III, 1760 – 1820, owner of the Palace of Kew and slightly after the Victorian era, 1876 – 1901.

While I was at Kew, I was also able to talk to its head chef, and he showed me how to make a chocolate tart, Georgian style.

Afterward, he did the unbelievable: He gave me some of his secret recipes. I was even able to putter around in the Kitchen Garden at Kew, and I did that without being attacked by bugs and without getting hot and sweaty:

As I began to travel, I was able to visit Hampton Court Palace twice in one day, and I first visited it in the 1500’s when Henry VIII was there, and I was able to visit it again in 1689 when William and Mary were there. Thus, my extensive vacation trip this week not only involved traveling several thousand miles, but it also required zipping back and forth across 100’s of years.

When I was at Hampton Court in 1689, I was able to tour the expansive kitchen garden that was added long after Henry VIII was there, and I was allowed to watch fine craftsmen make the exquisite serving tools that were necessary for serving the delicacy of that age: Chocolate.

Later today, I’ll visit the palace and the age of Queen Victoria.

On July 18, I’ll go to Scotland and meet Robert Burns, and in October, I’ll return to England and visit with William Wordsworth. In April, I was in Denmark and was enchanted by the fairy world of Hans Christian Andersen. And again, none of these trips have cost me a thing. I took all of the European trips through the free online university systems of Europe: FutureLearn. Most of the teachers for FutureLearn are college professors, and all of the teachers are at the top of their game. Through FutureLearn, I am able to be a world tourist, and it doesn’t cost me any money at all. Google funded my trip to the Amish Country in Lancaster, PA.

FutureLearn has classes for virtually every area of interest. There are classes in animation and film-making at FutureLearn, and a class about writing fiction is coming soon. All of the classes are excellent and you can check out the catalog of their courses Here.


Kitchens of Kew Palace of George III Look Like That of Downton Abbey

King George III reigned from 1760 – 1814. King George IV essentially reigned from 1810  – 1830. George IV was the king during the era depicted on the series Downton Abbey. When I look at images of the kitchen of the Palace at Kew, I see things that are very familiar to the kitchen on Downtown Abbey.

George III’s formal palaces were at Windsor Castle and at Buckingham House [which is now Buckingham Palace], but he preferred the simpler lifestyle at Kew. In 1788, George III began having bouts of mental illness, and after that, he was somewhat confined there until his death. Kew palace was somewhat abandoned for about 80  years, until the time that Victoria opened it again. The kitchens were not reopened until 2012.






Kitchen Gardens, Chocolate, & Craftsmanship at Hampton Court Palace During Georgian England – Recipe Chocolate Port

William and Mary ascended to the throne in 1689, and they remodeled Hampton Court Palace. Among other things, they had a kitchen garden created in the area that had been where Henry VIII held jousting matches.

Three new kitchens were also added to the  palace: a confectionary kitchen, a spice kitchen, and a chocolate kitchen.

How to Cook for a Henry VIII Feast – Recipes & Manners and Eating Customs of the Elizabethan Age

Part of the Kitchen at Hampton Court – One of the Palaces of Henry VIII, Where 100’s of People Were Served Twice Every Day.

Henry VIII’s Kitchen may have contained as many as 55 separate rooms. There were boiling rooms and even rooms for preparing the laundry in the kitchen  area, which filled 36,000 square feet.

Today, I registered in the free FutureLearn Course A History of Royal Food and Feasting Here, and it is going to be a blast! Check out the following video cool-along for food that might have been served at the court of Henry VIII:

Ryschewys close and fryez

Ryschewys close and fryez: A Small, Fried Fruit Pie

Ingredients: to make 12

For the filling:

  • 3 dried figs
  • 3 chopped dates
  • A table spoon of currants
  • Half a teaspoon of mace
  • Half a teaspoon of black pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of canelle

For the paste:

  • 100g (3.5 ounces) flour
  • A dessert spoon of sugar
  • A pinch of saffron dissolved in half a teacup of water


  • Pound the figs in a mortar
  • Add the dates and currants and pound some more
  • Finely chop, grind and mix the spices – should be balanced, so if you can smell one stronger than the others, add more of them to compensate
  • Add the spices to the dried fruit and mix thoroughly
  • Make a paste from the flour, sugar and saffron water
  • Roll out the paste as thin as paper – a little goes a long way in this recipe
  • Cut out small circles – about a teacup size
  • Add a small amount of the fruit mix – about half a tablespoon
  • Damp the edges of the paste with water and close forming a pea-pod shape
  • Shallow fry in oil (or in a deep fat fryer) for a couple of minutes or until golden brown
  • Serve warm, sprinkled in sugar

See this recipe and more Here

Fylettys en Galentyne

Fylettys en Galentyne – roast pork stewed in rich caramelised onion gravy

  • 400g (14 ounces) roast pork
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pint (600ml) gravy – a good beef stock will do, with powdered pepper, cinnamon, cloves (one is plenty) and mace for an optional Tudor taste
  • 1 teacup of breadcrumbs – brown bread works best
  • 1 level teaspoon of vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Chop the onions and fry until till golden brown
  • Slice the roast pork quite thickly – about 1cm thick, with all the pork scraps shredded and used as well
  • Put the pork in a large stewing pan, add the stock and fried onions
  • Put on the hob, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer
  • Stew for about an hour – or when the liquid is reduced to a half
  • Towards the end, thicken with the breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper and point with the vinegar
  • Serve whilst piping hot

See This Recipe and More Here

Tart Out of Lent


Ingredients: to make 6-8 portions

For the filling

  • 100g (3 ½ ounces) Cheshire cheese
  • 150ml (¼ pint) cream
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 30g (1 ounce) butter
  • Salt and pepper

For the pastry case

  • Any high butter pastry, such as shortcrust, will do
  • Egg yolks for glazing


  • Chop the cheese and then pound in a mortar
  • Add cream, egg and butter and mix together to make a thick cream (about the consistency of Cottage Cheese – add more cream if too dry, more cheese if too wet)
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Make a pastry tart case, about 25cm (10inches) diameter – you can use a tart tin if easier – and thin pastry lid
  • Fill with cheese, cream, egg and butter mixture
  • Put on pastry lid – seal and glaze with egg yolks
  • Bake at 220°C/gas mark 6 for 40 minutes or until golden
  • Allow to cool a little and serve

Recipe for Tart Photo Credits Future Learn Here:


Misconceptions about Foods Served at Henry VIII’s Court

  1. Henry VIII’s kitchen staff did not use spices to hide the taste of fouled meat. Serving 600 -1200 people twice each day, food rarely had time to sour, and if that happened, it would not have been used. Henry VIII’s kitchen only served the finest of foods, and spices were used as an expensive garnish.
  2. Beer was not drunk because fresh water was not available at Hampton Court, where fresh water was piped from the springs at Coombe Hill, which was three miles away.
  3. Henry VIII was a dainty eater and the only one who had a fork at meal time. Eating at Henry VIII’s court was not a crude and rowdy affair.

Code of Manners for Meal Time at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court

Sit not down until you have washed.

Undo your belt a little if it will make you more comfortable; because doing this during the meal is bad manners.

When you wipe your hands clean, put good thoughts forward in your mind, for it doesn’t do to come to dinner sad, and thus make others sad.

Once you sit place your hands neatly on the table; not on your trencher, and not around your belly.

Don’t shift your buttocks left and right as if to let off some blast. Sit neatly and still.

Any gobbit that cannot be taken easily with the hand, take it on your trencher.

Don’t wipe your fingers on your clothes; use the napkin or the ‘board cloth’.

If someone is ill mannered by ignorance, let it pass rather than point it out. 

– recorded by the Dutch Writer, Desiderius Erasmus, who published his De Civitate in 1534-

A Glimpse of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace

Hans Holbeing, King Henry Viii, England, Great Britain

Before Henry VIII owned it, ArchbishopThomas Wolsey owned Hampton Court Palace, and he added a palatial suite for Henry VIII to visit there. When Wolsey would not grant Henry VIII a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, however, Henry VIII stripped Wolsey of his power, and Henry VIII seized Hampton Court. After that, the house and grounds were improved even more.

“Now in royal hands, Henry VIII undertook his own building works; creating one of the most modern and sophisticated palaces in England. Under Henry VIII, Hampton Court boasted tennis courts and bowling alleys, pleasure gardens and a hunting park (of more than 1,100 acres), a magnificent royal chapel and an expansive kitchen needed to feed Henry’s entourage of over 600 people, twice a day.

Hampton Court was a spectacular show of Henry’s wealth and power. The palace was a reminder to visitors, both from home and abroad, of the King’s greatness, and dining formed a key aspect of this show.” Read the full article Here

Interior, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

Interior Hampton Court Palace

Chapel at Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court, Gardens, Sophistication, Palace

Kitchen at Hampton Court Palace

Week 1: Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace



Family tree of King Henry VIII.

Photo Credit FutureLearn

I have just begun another free course at FutureLearn. This one is a History of Royal Food and Feasting. During the first week, the class studied Henry VIII and his Hampton Court Palace, where his son’s christening was celebrated with a truly royal feast.


•Elizabeth I at the Tower of London

•George I at Hampton Court Palace

•George III at Kew Palace

•Victoria at Kensington Palace.

I Love the Rain


No doubt, the world can be divided into groups regarding a few issues. For example, there are the cat lovers, as opposed to the dog lovers; and while some people love hot weather, their opposites do not. In addition, there are also the rain lovers and those who do not love rain.

Yesterday, I was working in my garden, and everything was distastefully dry and parched. With my hose, I tried to water things, but I don’t believe that I was very effective; and about 3:00 this morning, it began to rain. I immediately opened my window and listened, and I listened the rest of the night. Like a blanket that washed over me and cradled me, the rain watered my soul.

I am a rain lover.


I am not exactly sure when I first realized that I loved rain, but I believe that it was at camp, because it was at camp that I learned to love much about nature. Even as young children, the kids at my camp slept in cabins that hardly had exterior walls. At least 2/3 of the walls were screened, and it was almost as though we were sleeping in the very arms of nature.

The cabins at my camp had no electricity, no bathrooms, and had very little else to keep the elements away. On cooler nights, the evening’s vapors would filter through the screen and swallow me, regardless of how deeply I dug into my sleeping bag. I loved the cool, damp sensation of camp’s night air–or perhaps it was the snuggling that I loved more. Probably, I just loved both.

When the night grew very late, I would often hear small animals picking through the leaves outside the cabin’s walls. It always seemed that whippoorwills and owls perched no more than 5 feet from my bed, and I always felt as though everyone else in camp was asleep, and I lay awake all alone–listening to the night sounds of nature. It was a feeling of being alone and yet, not lonely.

That phrase probably summarizes my life, and that is probably why I love the rain. Rain is moody, gray, and wears a feeling of aloneness, all of its own.

At my camp, the cabins had galvanized metal roofs–or tin roofs. I loved to hear the rain, filtering through the trees and then tapping the tin roof and sliding from it one drop at a time.

The softer rains would ultimately pierce through the crust of leaves that lay on top of the ground. The leaves would rustle, crackle, and fizz.

The dust on the tree leaves outside would be moistened, and the aroma of the moistened earth would fill the air. The smell of the evergreens would be refreshed, and the woods would take on  the scent of a  rain potpourri that I wish I could bottle or bag.

When it rained hard at camp, the trees got involved with the ceremony and waved their arms, shook their heads, and wildly swayed.  Like savages dancing around a ring, preparing for a bountiful hunt, the trees would toss spears into the air and fiercely hurl things about. A tree limb would occasionally scrape across the metal shelter, screeching as it slowly etched its way over the top.

Also when it rained hard, the drops of rain would pound the tin top, and the belting would become a roar. Torrents of water would form at the edges of the galvanized roof and would flood, like water being sloshed from a tub, down to the ground below. The river of rain water would get behind piles of leaves and branches on the ground and push them downstream.

When the rain was not pouring, I liked to put on my squeaky, new rubber boots and my cold, stiff raincoat and walk outside. I loved the way that a misting rain would form on the exposed parts of my body. When there were actual rain drops falling, I liked to feel them pat my face and then roll.

Like Mother Nature’s bathtub, rain is how the world is washed clean, and when I am in the rain, I feel that I am being cleansed, too.

In my bedroom now, my bed is immediately next to a window that I frequently open to allow nature to come inside. Every time that it rains,  I pull the glass back and listen–and I feel.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post, naming all of the things that would happen, if I were filled with magic. Following is one of the things that I said:

If I were filled with magic,
Everyone would hear the rain tap on their tin roofs–and feel,
And no one’s roof would leak.

I guess that about sums it up. I love the rain. It fills my soul.

©Jacki Kellum June 28, 2016


Thoughts about Good Fences and Good Gates

Mallow, Flowers, Plant, The Fence, The Rays, Sun

Have you ever considered the true nature of a fence? We often think of a fence as something to keep a creature inside an area–i.e. fencing cattle or a dog or chickens inside. But when people have no livestock to contain, why do they erect fences? I venture to say that it is the same reason that they erect walls. To keep other people out.


In Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall, it is springtime, and the poet and his neighbor are doing what they do every spring. They have met at the stone wall that stands between their properties and have begun to walk along the fence, replacing the stones that have fallen over the year.

Robert Frost says to his neighbor that he doesn’t understand why they continue to repair the fence between them. He points out that they do not have cattle that need to be confined, and he says that an apple orchard is the only thing that is standing on his land and that the neighbor only has pine trees.

Fence, Rustic, Landscape, Wood, Green, Field, Nature

“My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours?” – Robet Frost

Robert Frost raises good questions: What is the purpose of a fence and do fences really make good neighbors?

Honestly, fences do not make good neighbors. If a person has a very bad neighbor, a fence would be an excellent way to keep a bad neighbor out, and in that respect, fences do not make good neighbors, but they are ways to keep bad neighbors apart.

I am currently reading about how many of the great British estates were developed by powerful men who merely fenced an area and claimed it. Apparently, the fences were justified as a means of containing sheep, but when the more powerful people fenced an area, they often took land away from the less powerful who were living there and growing gardens there.

Excerpt from Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ – Written in 1516

“Your sheep, that were wont to be so meek and tame and so small eaters, now – as I hear say – be become so great devourers and so wild that they eat up and swallow down the very men themselves. They consume, destroy, and devour whole fields, houses, and cities.”

The sheep were blamed for being the greedy culprits who had stripped people from their homes and fields. Yet, the sheep were not the guilty parties. The guilty ones were those who simply claimed what they wanted.

I have also been reading about the British estate Penshurst.

In 1483, Penshurst was owned by Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. In 1519, Henry VIII visited Penshurst and apparently liked it. Because he felt that Stafford might become a strong contender to the throne, Henry VIII had him beheaded and simply claimed Penshurst. In essence, Penshurst itself was at one time acquired by the powerful Henry VIII who merely squatted there. He was like the devouring sheep, and he devoured what had originally belonged to someone else.

When we who were once British came to America, we were still squatting on land that was not ours. In the United States, we British squatted on the land of the Native Americans and claimed it as our own; and the early history of the United States reflects the blood bath that ensued. When labor was needed to farm the Americas, we white people merely took men and women from other places and enslaved them. We erected fences around other people and claimed them as our own. The history of America is one of squatting on other people and their lands and creating fences around them, and in reading “Utopia” and the other texts for this week, I see that the gluttony of the USA must have crossed the ocean on the Mayflower. That would be an example of an abuse of fencing something or someone in.

I am an odd mix of a social butterfly and a cat lady who doesn’t like cats. If it were left up to me, I’d probably never leave my house. In many ways, I have essentially fenced myself in and fenced other people out; yet, after I am  among other people, I enjoy a god get-together as much as anyone else. As a general rule, however, I am happy puttering around my house and garden, and I have enough projects to keep myself busy and contented.

Saturday, my friend and neighbor had a barbecue to celebrate the last few days that her son will be at home before he enters the Naval Academy. My friend is truly my friend, and she knows that I am only about two inches away from being a recluse, and she knows that getting out is not something that I often do; yet, she always invites me to her parties, and I always do whatever it takes to make myself attend them. In this case, I have erected a fence around myself, and if the fence remained impenetrable, it would not at all make good neighbors. Yet, my personal fence has gates, and it is because of my gates that I have any friends at all.

©Jacki Kellum June 28, 2016

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast….

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go…..

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows….
I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”




Looking at Penshurst Estate, Subject of Ben Johnson’s Poem “To Penshurst”

A Video Tour of Penshurst Place

A Visit to the Penshurst Place Gardens

Sir John de Pulteney Has Penshurst Place Built in 1341

“Sir John de Pulteney, already the owner of two large town houses, wanted a country estate where he could hunt. Penshurst – conveniently located just half a day’s ride from London fitted the bill and, having acquired the estate in 1338, he set about building a suitable manor house. It has been suggested that the architect and carpenter could have been King Edward III’s. The house was completed in 1341 and much of it remains in its original state today.”

Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham Inherits Penshurst in 1483

“Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, inherits Penshurst Place. Buckingham’s display of wealth and power may have led to his downfall in later year”

Henry Viii Visits Penshurst in 1519

“King Henry VIII arrived at Penshurst as the guest of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham – an event which the Duke saw fit to lavish the staggering sum of £2,500 – over £1 million in today’s money. Henry had no male heir and saw Buckingham as a threat. Known as ‘the proud Buckingham’, he had a strong claim to the throne himself. Henry therefore found an excuse to have him tried for treason and beheaded.”

Henry Viii Owns Penshurst in 1521

“As the estate of a traitor, Penshurst became the property of the Crown and from 1521 Henry VIII used it as a hunting lodge. He would visit his friend and kinsman of the Sidneys, Charles Brandon, Earl of Suffolk, whilst courting Anne Boleyn, his second wife and future Queen, whose family owned nearby Hever Castle. Penshurst Place was part of Henry’s divorce settlement with his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and then briefly came into the hands of Sir Ralph Fane before he too was executed for treason. It was left to Henry’s son, King Edward VI, to settle the fate of Penshurst Place after Henry’s death.”

Penshurst Gifted to the Sidney Family in 1552

“King Edward VI was keen to reward the services of his tutor and steward of his household, Sir William Sidney. He saw Penshurst Place as a fitting gift, and the house and its estate – located not far from the Sidney ironworks in Sussex – were given to William in 1552: thus began the long and fascinating history of the Sidney family at Penshurst Place.”

Queen Elizabeth I First Visits Penshurst in 1599

“Queen Elizabeth I first visits Penshurst Place. The Queen Elizabeth Room, open to the public today, was named after her, as she often held audience there during her many visits after 1599.”

‘To Penshurst’ is Written by Ben Johnson in 1616

“Penshurst’s most famous appearance in English literature came in the early 17th century with a poem by Ben Jonson. ‘To Penshurst’ is one of the finest examples of a country-house poem, in which the estate’s woodland, abundant fruit and game and generous hospitality are praised as aspects of a true family home.”

John Shelley-Sidney. Uncle of Percy  Bysshe Shelley,
Inherits Penshurst in 1781

“John Shelley-Sidney, the uncle of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, inherited Penshurst from his grandmother, Elizabeth Sidney, in 1781. John was just a boy and the House began to deteriorate.  However in 1818 he gained full ownership and the North & West parts of Penshurst Place were restored & refurbished by J.Rebecca, his architect.”

Penshurst Place Opens to the Public in 1946

“Penshurst Place opened to the public in 1946, to help pay for further restoration work following wartime damage.”

All of the above text and the photos are credited to: http://www.penshurstplace.com/

To Penshurst in University of Sheffield Special Collections: The Workes of Benjamin Jonson

“To Penshurst” was written by Ben Johnson in 1616. To place this in historical context, the Pilgrims landed in America.

Extract from ‘To Penshurst’

Thy copse too, named of Gamage, thou hast there,
That never fails to serve thee seasoned deer,
When thou wouldst feast or exercise thy friends.
The lower land, that to the river bends,
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed;
The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed.
Each bank doth yield thee conies; and the tops
Fertile of wood, Ashore and Sidney’s copse,
To crown thy open table, doth provide
The purpled pheasant, with the speckled side:
The painted partridge lies in ev’ry field,
And for thy mess is willing to be killed
And if the high-swollen Medway fail thy dish
Thou hast thy ponds, that pay thee tribute fish,
Fat aged carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously at first themselves betray.
Bright eels that emulate them, and leap on land,
Before the fisher, or into his hand.
Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours.
The early cherry, with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come:
The blushing apricot, and woolly peach
Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They’re reared with no man’s ruin, no man’s groan;
There’s none, that dwell about them, wish them down;
But all come in, the farmer and the clown;
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses bring them, or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands, and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? […]

(Text reproduced from ‘To Penshurst’ by Ben Jonson, 1616)

Extract from ‘To Penshurst’

But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know;
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat;
Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine,
This is his lordship’s shall be also mine,
And I not fain to sit (as some this day
At great men’s tables), and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups; nor, standing by,
A waiter doth my gluttony envy,
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat;
He knows below he shall find plenty of meat.
The tables hoard not up for the next day;
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery; all is there,
As if thou then wert mine, or I reigned here:
There’s nothing I can wish, for which I stay.
That found King James when, hunting late this way
With his brave son, the prince, they saw thy fires
Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires
Of thy Penates had been set on flame
To entertain them; or the country came
With all their zeal to warm their welcome here.
What (great I will not say, but) sudden cheer
Didst thou then make ’em! and what praise was heaped
On thy good lady then, who therein reaped
The just reward of her high housewifery;
To have her linen, plate, and all things nigh,
When she was far; and not a room but dressed
As if it had expected such a guest!
These, Penshurst, are thy praise, and yet not all.
Thy lady’s noble, fruitful, chaste withal.
His children thy great lord may call his own,
A fortune in this age but rarely known.
They are, and have been, taught religion; thence
Their gentler spirits have sucked innocence.
Each morn and even they are taught to pray,
With the whole household, and may, every day,
Read in their virtuous parents’ noble parts
The mysteries of manners, arms, and arts.
Now, Penshurst, they that will proportion thee
With other edifices, when they see
Those proud, ambitious heaps, and nothing else,
May say their lords have built, but thy lord dwells.

It helped me to place the writing of this poem into historical context. To Penshurst was written in 1616, and the Pilgrims landed in America in 1620. With that in mind, the word use is slightly more understandable.

At the time that “To Penshurst” was written, many of the wealthy landowners had essentially abandoned their country houses, and other country house owners were at odds with the common people living around them. In many cases, the landowners had seized the land of the common people and had claimed it as their own, and there was no harmony between the peasants and the nobility.

Ben Johnson says that Penshurst is different. He says that there were more than sufficient provisions at Penshurst and that the nobility there was happy to share with anyone, including the peasants. Visitors were also welcome to stay, and the lodging and the use of the stable were free. Indeed, peasants were treated in the same manner as King James and his son were treated when they visited there

The owners of Penshurst are .praised. They have taught their children to pray, and the women there are chaste.