I suppose the thoughts uppermost in our minds are of gratitude for the
great and loving friend who has left us--for a serene and joyous
spirit, a wonderful intellect, her effectiveness and great
achievements, the beauty of her soul and the gracious beauty of her
Miss Mason had been ill a few weeks and, on her birthday, her bed was
brought down to the drawing room where, surrounded by books and
beautiful pictures, she had been wont to see friends and students at
work, lying on a couch near French windows that looked on to the garden
with its lawns and trees and birds and mountain views. There was always
a cocoa-nut hanging from the window for the tits.
She was 81 on New Year's Day, but, in spite of a frail body--which,
indeed, had grown a little stronger of late years--she seemed to have
perennial youth, and the keenness and vigour of her mind were
unimpaired. She was at work on Friday and had lately drawn up the
term's programmes for the P.U.S. Early Saturday morning, after speaking
of the beauty of the starlit sky, with a jesting word to the nurse, she
fell into a quiet sleep which lasted until she died, very peacefully,
at noon on Tuesday, January 16th.
She was buried yesterday (January
19th) in the quiet churchyard at Ambleside. The Rev. H. Costley-White,
chairman of the P.N.E.U. Executive, read the service, and was assisted
by her friend, the Rev. F. Lewis and the Rev. J. Bolland, the vicar of
Ambleside. The sky was leaden and it rained during the funeral--some
think the Lake District looks its best under a grey sky. The coffin was
covered with flowers, and flowers (including those sent by the
Students' Association) were carried in procession by her friends and
colleagues, the staff at Scale How, past and present students and the
children of the practicing school. One felt that thousands, all over
the world, were thinking of her that day, and tributes of love and
gratitude were sent by hundreds, including many who had never seen her
but whom she had helped and inspired--such as children of an elementary
school, a preparatory school for boys "in the name of all who have
passed through the school," pupils of girls secondary and private
schools and home schoolrooms.
Miss Mason achieved great fame. Her writings and the P.N.E.U. which she
founded 36 years ago have spread far and wide, she trained some 400
students, and (including those in about 200 elementary and 100
secondary schools) there are some 40,000 children--many of them living
in distant lands--actually working in the P.U.S. at the present time,
her pupils, whose work she followed with the greatest interest.
Besides her own organisations she inspired the work of others. Even
where her work is not known the influence of her ideas has permeated
modern education, and much that was new when she first taught it is now
accepted everywhere. But in many things she is still far ahead and it
is only when used as a balanced whole that P.N.E.U. methods give their
Miss Mason was loved by all who saw her and had many dear and intimate
friends. She had the power of seeing and bringing out the good in
everyone, but I think she loved little children best of all. "For the
Children's Sake" is the motto of the House of Education, and it was
for the children's sake that she lived and worked. She provided them
with an education which is "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life," she
reverenced them as "persons" and recognised their need for mental food
in order that they might grow. She gave them living books, a love of
literature, art, nature, craftsmanship, joy in learning and full lives.
She never allowed the methods which she evolved or, as she preferred to
say, "chanced to find"--to be called by her name; they were always
"P.N.E.U." Her work will go on, not only because it is to be
administered by those whom she has chosen and trained for this high
responsibility, but because of its intrinsic vitality and truth.
BY AN OLD PUPIL
My first impression of Miss Mason was when I used to see her out
driving. She had a smile and a wave for everyone whom she knew, and it
was with a feeling of pleasure and exultation that one passed on after
How wonderful to think that the great founder of the
P.U.S. and P.N.E.U. had actually waved and smiled at an insignificant
person like oneself. For nearly a year I used to see her in this way,
as I was fortunate enough to have lessons in the P.N.E.U. system near
One summer I had the great privilege of being asked to a
party at Scale How. All the guests were greeted by Miss Mason in her
beautiful drawing-room. She made one feel at home straight away by her
sweet and gentle welcome. She watched all the games and races which
were part of the afternoon's entertainment, and when tea-time came she
went to a table where the little ones were sitting and had her tea with
It had been arranged that I was to go to the Practising School of
the H.O.E. the following term.
That term began on a Saturday in late September. On the Sunday we went
up to see Miss Mason. I can remember how sweetly she kissed us all as
one by one we filed into the drawing-room where she was lying on her
She then spoke to us about our work for the term and dismissed
us with a nod and a smile.
After that we saw her out constantly
driving, at Criticism lessons or on our visits to College. One thing I
shall always remember was when after the Member's Conference we were
summoned to Miss Mason, who thanked us for our part in the Conference.
Little had she to thank us for. It was our part to thank her for the
liberal education and books she had put before us.
At our Drawing-room
evening when we had to play to Miss Mason, there was always a charming
smile and a few words to encourage us.
Whenever I think of Miss Mason I
always see that same beautiful smile which made one love, and respect
her more each time one saw her.
E. DA FONSECA
I am sensible of the honour of being asked to write a few of my
personal remembrances of Miss Mason; and I know that what I write will
have been the experience of many others beside myself. When at the age
of twelve, I first came to the Practising School and saw Miss Mason, I
had had it carefully explained to me by the other girls that she was a
very great and wonderful person: and I was very much awed at seeing a
person of such great wisdom and learning, and very surprised to find
that she was the sweetest, kindest-looking person whom I had expected
to see. And that, I think, was one of the chief charms of Miss
Mason--she was so gentle, so quiet, so unassuming, and yet her
personality was so dominating that everyone felt when they were with
her that they were in the presence of a truly wonderful spirit.
Some of my happiest remembrances of Miss Mason are the almost daily
pictures of her that we used to see as she came down the drive when
going out in her carriage. One half of the gate was usually closed, and
got down to open it, we used to flock to the window to wave to Miss
Mason, for she always waved and smiled at us whenever we saw her.
There were certain memorable occasions upon which we used to see Miss
Mason, and these were the Musical Drawing room Evenings which we gave
up at college once a term. Arrayed in our best frocks we used to go up
to Scale How and play the piece we had practised for a whole term
before Miss Mason, the staff, and a roomful of students, and it was to
us a terrible ordeal.
But how much worse it might have been!
Miss Mason was the gentlest and kindest of critics to us poor nervous
children, and she never failed to make some encouraging remark to each
of us as we left the piano.
At the beginning of every term we used to go up to College to greet
Miss Mason, and she would talk to us of the coming term, and ask about
our holidays: she knew each of us by name, and very often would inquire
after various relatives of ours whom she had met. At the end of every
term we used to go up to say "Good-bye" to her, and she would ask us
whether we had liked the exams, and if we thought we had done well, and
what we were going to do in the holidays, and many other such questions.
I was specially privileged in being prepared for Confirmation at
Ambleside, and once a week the two other candidates from the Practising
School and myself used to go up to Miss Mason for a quiet talk. I doubt
if we realised the extent of the honour done to us.
At the end of every summer and autumn term Miss Mason gave a party for
us, at which, if her health permitted, she was always present. During
the tea she would come round and sit for a while at each table, talking
and smiling with us all, and presently there would be peals of
laughter--Miss Mason had asked a new riddle! She was very fond of
riddles and funny stories and always asked for some at the parties, and
great was the joy of the girl who could ask Miss Mason a new riddle
that she had never heard before.
During last year--my first year at College--I came
into a much more
personal touch with Miss Mason, and I marvelled more and more at her
wonderful mind, her wonderful personality, and her wonderful vitality.
Everybody who knew her, loved her; and all who came in contact with her
realised how great her influence was, and when they went from her
presence they felt uplifted and inspired to nobler things.
When looking at that sweet, grey haired old lady, it was strange to
think that she held in her hands the workings of schools all over the
world and that she had brought parents, teachers and children into one
happy land of love, work and service.
It has often been said by ex-students of the House of Education that
the two years spent there were two of the happiest of their lives, and
it is true--I know I shall say it when I leave--and it is mainly
because of the spirit of the place, everyone is happy and loves
everybody else, and this will always be so because Miss Mason's spirit
will always be there and her memory faithfully and lovingly cherished.
Miss Mason was one of the great ones of this earth, and so I feel most
unworthy to write about her, but as I have had the great privilege of
having known her as a student, I think some of those who never saw her
may like to hear a few personal recollections.
Miss Mason was not only the beloved Founder and benefactor but also the
friend of every child brought up in the P.U.S. Those of us who came up
to Ambleside as students after our P.U.S. training, had the honour of
knowing her in a very special way, but all those thousands of P.U.S.
children she never saw were her friends. I shall never forget the first
time I saw her and what she said to me. I went up to Ambleside a
fortnight after term had begun, and felt most shy and forlorn, not
knowing a single soul. When I went into the drawing-room, to see her,
she held out both hands and said: "Isn't it funny to think
we are such old friends and yet, this is the first time we have seen
We did not see very much of Miss Mason during the day, but her
influence was felt in a most remarkable way throughout the house,
whether she were actually in the room or not. That influence must have
been entirely spiritual so we may assuredly believe and know that it
still reigns throughout Scale. How, perhaps in a more real way than it
ever did before. And not only is it felt at Scale How, but throughout
the world wherever her teaching has spread.
Miss Mason always used to have luncheon with us when she felt well
enough, and it was one of the senior students' privileges to sit at her
table--and it was a privilege to sit next to her and talk with her. She
always tried to get our thoughts and views on subjects before she gave
us her own. If our views did not quite coincide with hers, she simply
gently told us what she thought about it and left us to think it over.
And after thinking it over somehow we always realised that she was
right and we were wrong.
How she loved books! That is to say real living books. She used to talk
to us about them in such a loving way as if they were personal friends.
Often as not, I fear, we students had not read the particular books,
but she always left us with a desire to read them.
What a sense of humour she had too! "Punch" was such a favourite with
her, and at lunch time on Wednesdays she was generally full of choice
little ancedotes from him.
At 4:15 on Sunday afternoons we used to go into the drawing room for
"meditations" with Miss Mason. We used to read passages of the Bible to
her and then she would discuss the passage, giving her thoughts and
trying to get ours on the subject. The various volumes of "The Saviour
of the World" were really the outcome of "meditations" with former
students. It was during that hour that we saw more clearly than at any
other time how closely she lived with God. Yet withal she was so human
and humble, one of her favourite quotations being, "how
very hard it is
to be a Christian." I think of all the "Meds" at which I was present, I
appreciated her talks at Whitsuntide most of all. She was so full of
the Holy Ghost herself that her very words seemed to have been inspired.
Her parting present to leaving students was always "The Cloud of
Witness," edited by Mrs. Gell. This makes one of the many bonds
bind all ex-students together. It is good to think of her now as one of
the "Cloud of Witness" herself.
Ex-Student and P.U.S. Pupil.
Miss Mason gave her whole life to children, both rich and poor, in
fact she took for her motto "For the Children's Sake," and this idea
she kept before her through her whole life-time. Everyone loved
her,especially the children, and no one could help being affected by
her influence although they did not always realize it. Although she was
so clever I don't think that anyone could feel uncomfortable in her
presence, and there was not one of us who would mind telling her
anything if we were in trouble of any kind.
She always took an interest in everyone and everything, however small
or insignificant, and she took a great pride in knowing how all the
children in the Parents' Union School were progressing even when she
was so very ill.
Many people knew her by correspondence, and others by reading her
books, but whether one only saw her once or twice or perhaps not at
all, one could not help knowing and admiring her.
Although she was all this, she was very human and could sympathise and
understand anybody, in fact I have never known anyone who could
understand the feelings of everyone so thoroughly.
But I am quite sure that all who knew Miss Mason, although perhaps they
never saw her, will continue and carry on her work in the way she would
I HAVE been asked to write something of my early recollection of Miss
Mason, because it has been my privilege to have known her since I was
quite young. It is difficult to separate childhood memories from her
very vivid personality rather than outstanding incidents.
She used to stay at our home on her way to her annual Journey to
Nauheim, and her visits were delightful for us, although, as an
invalid, she had to be spared fatigue and noise and we could only visit
her bedroom separately and at special times. I can, however, recall one
occasion when she was well enough to stay with us in the country and to
take part in family life and country drives. It was here that Rudyard
Kipling came to see her--probably to hear about her methods--and
the "Jungle Book" was a great favourite with us. It must have been
then, or soon after, that I read "Mowgli" to Miss Mason, most likely
sitting by her bed, but that I cannot quite remember.
Reading to Miss Mason was a great pleasure, for she entered so
genuinely into the spirit of the book, even if it was only a children's
story, provided it had some literary value.
Once at school (not P.N.E.U) a companion laid a challenge that she and
I should each read the whole of Wordworth's "Prelude" during the week
end. It took all one's spare time, but Miss Mason was staying in the
house and in reading it to her and listening to her occasional
comments, I soon forgot in enjoyment of the poem the urgency of the
self-imposed "task." I felt quite sorry when my friend, who had to read
to herself and had less time, confessed that she felt too hurried to
Miss Mason had a nice sense of precision in the use of words and did
not like them to be applied loosely or incorrectly or to be
mispronounced. She seldom interrupted the child reader by criticism,
but she had a keen sense of how a passage should be rendered, and gave
us a most valuable course of reading lessons when I was a student. Her
fine literary judgment has been diffused through her choice of books
for the school.
Miss Mason had, of course, great sympathy with children, and she always
seemed genuinely pleased to see one and never pre-occupied. She
radiated affection and gaiety and showed a quick interest in many
things; such as nature, plants and flowers, people, books, household
and school affairs, and (I nearly said most of all) in anything
amusing. She had a splendid sense of fun and loved to hear or tell a
good story. She often invented special names for her friends and liked
to chaff the "dear people" around her, but never in a way that left the
I think children appreciated the serene happiness of her temperament.
She never seemed to have "moods" and, although her cares and
responsibilities must have been great, one never saw her in the least
I am afraid I have said very little--there is much that cannot be
written down and other things that seem trivial on paper when separated
from the atmosphere in which they occurred. Like thousands of others I
owe a great debt to Miss Mason's teaching, although I was but a few
years in the P.U.S.
Miss Mason has shown her love, respect and understanding of children in
her work. The seclusion which her health exacted prevented her from
seeing them as much as she would have liked but she always took
pleasure in contact with a child and read the children's examination
papers with real enjoyment. The spread of her pupils from the home
schoolrooms to private and secondary schools and especially to the
public elementary schools brought her great happiness. She took a warm
interest in the recently formed Association of old pupils, and herself
set the syllabus for the reading course and gave a cordial welcome to
the magazine the Association has started for the children of the school.
"In as much, as ye have done it unto
one of the least of these my
children, ye have done it unto Me."
A great heart has ceased to beat, a great spirit has gone on, the
I have been privileged to know Miss Mason. All of us in the P.U.S. were
"friends," yet I enjoyed the thing I account one of the greatest of my
possessions, the special joy of being personally known to her. Every
year nearly, she used to send me a book--"From his Ambleside Friend,
C.M.M." Even this last Christmas, when her health was declining, she
remembered and ordered a Wordsworth to be sent to me. Therefore
anything I can add to the beautiful words that have been said about her
must be of a very personal nature.
She was always so thoughtful of everyone near her. When I last had the
joy of staying under her roof, she saw me a boy just in his Oxford
examination, and said "Now would not he like to dance, all young men
like dancing," and in a few minutes she was able to see her students
dancing in the class-room with desks pushed back, and she was glad we
were amusing ourselves. How many elderly people are annoyed by noise of
any kind, especially when they are ill.
She was such a perfect hostess. On the same occasion she had arranged
for us to drive to see the Langdale Pikes, and as we went she stopped
the carriage at good view points, pointed out gardens, showed us birds,
asking Barrow's opinion of their names. Arrived beneath the Pikes, she
made Barrow and me climb up to look at the falls, and when we came back
there was tea waiting in a private room at a inn, and the window was
wide open, "So that we can think we were outside."
My mother read to her I remember, but, what remains fixed is her
shining face, lit up by the sun from within and the sun from without,
and the joy of nature in her and the kindness of soul. Like Henley, her
infirmity counted as so little; her personality, the poetry of her
mind, for so much.
She seemed to me always to be smiling. Just as when one looks at the
Mona Lisa in the Louvre, perhaps the greatest picture of a smile ever
painted, one begins to smile oneself, one felt in her presence
constrained to smile-her smile was indeed infectious. She had a huge
sense of humor and fun. I had made a few verses upon the P.N.E.U. at a
Student's Confrence in London. Miss Mason had heard about it, and made
me repeat them to her, and she laughed right merrily at the jokes.
Truly she might be called "La Joconde."
One little book she gave me has been a real and great joy; a little
anthology called "English Landscape." It is small enough to go into my
waistcoat pocket, yet in are all one's favorite poems. I have read from
it in Venice in a gondola, and on the top of mountains in the Savoyan
Alps, with the snow around me and the sun shining on the wild
rhododendrons and soldanella and gentians, and through the pages came
the vision always of its donor--a frail little lady with the biggest
heart in the world and the finest brain and the most marvellous energy
that has ever come into my life.
From her teaching I have got--everything. I found in France lately,
that the keenness for flowers which had been received in the P.U.S.,
but had not been cultivated since my leaving it, was a possession for
always, and I kept a flower-list and a nature-note-book in the Alps.
The same with pictures in Italy and with literature. Nothing I have
intellectually has not its roots in the P.U.S. teaching.
One might say that one would have got this from any other method. I
believe that one might have got the one thing or the other, but I do
not believe that any other method has all that men could want in its
teaching; it is an anthology of the best in education. Miss Mason used
to say that everything that was good in itself, should be given to
Her machinery was so perfect that I imagine--and this is very
beautiful--that those of us who have not known her, yet have come under
her influence, will hardly realise that she has gone. This means that
the thing Miss Mason discovered was good in itself and was not only
efficient because of a dominating personality behind it. The machine
has been set in motion; it is for each one of us to keep it going.
In Miss Mason's letters she had the art of appearing to understand and
be in sympathy with one, a kindred spirit, a
sharer in one's joys and interests. When I was going in for an Oxford
examination, she wrote so encouragingly, so helpfully, so personally. "Yes, MacKail's
'William Morris,'" she writes, "is deeply interesting. I hope not just
too much so for your ardent mind just now when you are so anxious to
concentrate on that "key" to Oxford. I hope you will conquer all
obstacles in March and make your friends happy--Do!" Such sweet and
helpful sympathy; and then when I managed to pass the examination, "The
good news of your success has made me very happy this lovely morning."
Then the desire, "I wish I could be with you and your beloved Mother to
drink in Florence and much besides,"--in her own handwriting and it
must have been a great trouble for her to write.
I always felt that Miss Mason had something of the fairy, of the Robin
Goodfellow, of "Lob" in "Dear Brutus." She was so young and so
whimsical in her (to me) never changed body of the elderly lady.
There is much in the letter to me at the time of my confirmation too
private to quote but such a phrase as "I think it is a happy thing to
be a boy at a time when the air is full of great thoughts and great
purposes" is such a beautiful thought and gives one an insight into her
I have had the great privilege of seeing elementary school-children
doing the same work as we did at school, loving the same books, the
same pictures; here indeed is an example of the "good that she did to
little children"; here indeed are those whose lives have been
brightened by the light of her wisdom, here indeed is the visible
result of her service to mankind and to God.
I should like here to pay my tribute to those who have so longed helped
Miss Mason, each according to their might, in her work and its
interpretation. It is, of course, to them that her loss comes as the
greatest sorrow. I should like them to feel that we are grateful to
them; both those at Ambleside who tended her and helped her, and those
in London who made her work and the spreading of it possible. Just as
God could not have made Stradivarius' violins
without Stradivarius, so
Charlotte Mason could not have made the P.N.E.U. without her helpers
Miss Mason, as is known, was responsible for much that to-day is in
almost every educational system; script writing, musical appreciation,
scouting, literary evenings. She has made thousands of homes happier,
thousands of children brighter. To her students she seemed to impart
something of her self. I have always said that we pupils could
invariably tell a P.N.E.U. governess; she has always something that
others have not.
"I am, I can, I ought, I will." This was the motto she gave us. I am a
human being, one of God's children; I can do right by my fellowmen and
by myself; I ought so to do and God help me, I will so do. Is this not
a great message she has given us?
Her students chose for the badge of her teaching, showing the
humbleness of mind diffused through the College and Miss Mason's desire
for no honour for herself, the "Humble Plant" or "L'humile Pianta."
She herself was a "humble plant." She was frail and the wind passed
over her and she was gone, but her spirit lives, to-day and while her
children live, so shall her spirit be green and fresh and so shall her
word go forth from mouth to mouth.
And as she was humble, let us be humble--for she never thought her way
was the way but only a way--as she was strong and
upright, so let us be strong and upright and let us remember her as a
teacher, a philosopher and a friend.
Michael A. E. Franklin.
Hers was a Beauty rare and comforting--
A strength to stem the tide of discontent
And yet to sow new seed.
Give us, O Time, to learn what she would teach;
To stay upon the instant, there to find
God's measure of our need.