Tuesday, January 14, 2014


"He sat down on the edge of the bridge, his legs dangling towards the silver-glinting water. All these thoughts and memories, so long in the telling, had, in fact, crowded through his mind with incredible swiftness. And even as he remembered his childhood, what was really filling his mind was Davy, Davy so loved, so dear, and now a sixmonth dead. It was she--she alone--that had brought him back to Glenmerle in the night, the girl he had loved here, the girl he had married and continued to love for a decade and a half until that winter dawn when she had blindly touched his face a last time and died with her hand in his. Since then grief, the immensity of loss, had filled his life. And yet, amidst the tears and the pain, there was a curious hint of consolation in one thought: the thought that nothing now could mar the years of their love."

Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, Prologue

Sunday, January 12, 2014


"Glenmerle, he thought, had been a place to come home to, home from Kentucky or Florida or England, home from schools and home from college. He pictured coming home from boarding school, perhaps for the Christmas holidays, perhaps with snow all about--the woods full of snow. It would be a winter dusk with the big blue spruce a-twinkle with tiny white lights like stars, the big car sweeping up the hill to the house. Then his mother's cries of welcome and her kiss, his father's handshake, and his brother grinning in the background. And of course, as always, the cheery fire in the drawing-room, and through the french doors the dining-room alight with preparations. Upstairs, waiting, would be his own room, just as he had left it. Heaven itself, he thought, would be--must be--a coming home." A Severe Mercy, Prologue

Monday, March 4, 2013

Glenn Van Auken

"His father, when he was home from the great world, was quiet and relaxed and amused--though capable of fearful sternness....his father's rare 'Well done!' had been a thing to treasure for days....It came to him him now in the night that his father, lawyer, soldier, and lover of his land, had been a very honourable gentleman."

Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, Prologue

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kensington Round Pond

"As a child England had seemed much nearer than New York or the cowboy west. Partly, he supposed, it was because of the year in Kensington when he was very small : Kensington and the Round Pond and tea in the nursery and 'Here comes a chopper to chop your head'. And being taken out to the shires to visit country friends. That year had given England reality--perhaps that was why it lived in the books. And even as a boy he had wanted to go to Oxford. When in the end he had gone up, it had seemed both right and inevitable."

Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, Prologue

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

His Other Grandfather's House

The photo above is of Sheldon Vanauken's grandfather's house without the verandas.

"Then he travelled to his other grandfather's house: the many veranda'd Victorian house set in its ample shady lawns. In it there were marvels, the staircase window with squares of deep-red stained glass, and a bedroom-sized bathroom with an immensely long tin bathtub and a wonderful grating in the floor to bring heat up from the kitchen: whilst having your bath you could hear people chattering in the kitchen and smell the savoury odours of bacon cooking to hurry you. Or maybe his grandfather's deep voice calling you to hurry. He could see his grandfather now, white-bearded and jovial and, apparently, the permanent mayor of his town."

Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, Prologue

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Magic Grove

"Then he thought of his father's boyhood home, the great farm called Magic Grove, a grove planted in a mathematical figure by his grandfather's father who was a mathematician. He remembered sitting on his grandfather's knee and being given a tiny gold dollar."

Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, Prologue

The photo above is of Magic Grove, but sadly the grove of trees is long gone. Here is a photo of Van's grandfather, Frank B. Van Auken....

And here is Van's great-grandfather, Jacob Van Auken....

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Gothic Lamp

One little thing Sheldon Vanauken mentions in A Severe Mercy is a gothic lamp that stood in his father's study at Glenmerle. This was a treasured possession of Van's that he kept throughout his life in his own home, Vancot, as pictured above.

"Through the study door, sitting under the 'gothic' lamp with its strange leaded shade, would be his father in the deep leather chair with books and pipes all around and casement windows opening towards the wood."

A Severe Mercy, Prologue: Glenmerle Revisited