Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Gladys TABER & Barbara WEBSTER – “Stillmeadow & Sugarbridge”

Publ: 1953 J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia and New York
Pensby Library
Genre: Letters
Pages: 280
Recommended by Nan
Rating: ***** *****

What led you to pick up this book?
Reading extracts of Gladys Taber’s writing on Nan’s blog.

Describe the book without giving anything away.
Published in 1953 this wonderful book takes us through a year of gentle correspondence between Gladys Taber who lived in Southbury Township, Connecticut, New England and Barbara Webster in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Paragraphs jump from serious philosophical discussion about the nature of friendship to asking if the other has ever pressed leaves with a hot iron and wax.
If you have never read this you should. It matters not whether you are into dogs and country matters or enjoy series of letters, the quality of the writing is excellent and takes one back to a peaceful time when head and hands were kept busy but the future (despite hydrogen bombs) was hopeful.

What did you think about the style?
Books of correspondence often seem either false (because they were designed for publication) or incomprehensible (because they weren’t). This is neither. One letter flows into another and the two writers complement each other perfectly.

What did you like most about the book?
Its gentleness.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No – except that I could have gone on reading for many future years.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Cloth with a pleasant motif.

Would I recommend it?

Totally irrelevant side note:
So many of the thoughts in the correspondence make one want to pick up one’s pen (literally – forget new fangled keyboards) and respond with one’s own thoughts on the subjects. Perhaps I’ll do that by means of a blog posting now and then.

The book is illustrated throughout with the delightful pen and ink drawings of Ed Shenton (Barbara Webster's husband).


What a wonderful climate bed is! A refuge from all care, a place to lick one’s wounds, and to plan fresh for the future. – Barbara Webster

I suppose every parent looks back and sees mistakes made with the children, and wishes it could all be done over. Often I wish I could begin again. – Gladys Taber

Why did I ever engage in the battle to make Jill’s daughter eat tomatoes? Many a man has lived and died without tomatoes. I had read they were full of vitamins and things. I felt sure her teeth would fall out if she forewent her tomatoes. Now, in my wiser years, I think that it would have been better for her to lose every tooth in her head than to acquire such a resentment to me. Store teeth can be bought, but affection is hard to come by. – Gladys Taber

So I think the trouble often is that parents try too hard. Children who grow up as they feel like, have a better chance in many respects. Vitamins may come and go, but ease and relaxation about life go on forever, if one has it once. – Gladys Taber

I suppose this is ‘human nature’. Did you ever think how seldom this expression is used to describe an admirable trait? It must mean something. – Barbara Webster

Did you ever fall into a fit of gloom in springtime? No, I’m sure you haven’t..... True happiness comes, and goes as quickly, a rare fleeting thing. But content is something else again. And, for a whole month, I was content. – Barbara Webster

I read an article recently on How To Be A Good Hostess. ‘Never forget to lay a fresh rose on the breakfast tray,’ said the writer merrily. It made me wonder how many people she had entertained! – Gladys Taber

Every housekeeper needs a few pet visitors to come and admire, and make her feel that the sometimes boring domestic routine is not in vain. I think that this would be a worthwhile and sufficient career for anyone who had no other demanding talents: merely to be a guest through life, going from house to house, tasting, savouring, approving. In my youth there used to be many of these pleasant characters about, mostly bachelors. They came to dinner often, always on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, admired everything, and sighed for domesticity (and probably thanked Heaven they were single), took you to the theatre, brought flowers and candy, and were generally indispensable. I know today only one like this, and he is in such demand that he must be invited months in advance. – Barbara Webster

I can never understand not wanting to share wonderful things – can you? Like secret recipes – it seems to me nothing is really good until you share it with someone. The same with books. I can’t wait to pass around any good book I find. Jill says I am just a frustrated lending library! - Gladys Taber

I suppose I am a sparrow, a stay-at-home bird. Travel is so alluring, but our own forty acres offers enough adventure for a lifetime. – Gladys Taber

Sometimes when I have a day with many small things going awry, I suddenly think as dusk lets fall her soft violet color, that it is very silly of me to mind the stresses and strains. It was a day , was it not? I had the free air to breathe, and the sky to look on. Whys should I complain?
Then I think, were I ill, were I dying, were I imprisoned, or had I been involved in some horrid accident – at the point of catastrophe, would I not wish this day back, just as it is?
A day measured up so, comes to be a very dear day, and I wish it not over at all!
The same thing is true about passing the time away. when I hear people speak of doing things to pass the time, I shudder. For the one precious and irreplaceable gift is time, and surely we are in sorrowful state if we merely want to toss it out as fast as possible.
A day is a fine thing, and we shall never see this day again.
It is not a thing to take too easily.
- Gladys Taber

A good book is lovely. , lovely in the soft pale blue dusk of a June day and lovely, lovely when the sleet flails at the window panes. For a book is its own climate. - Gladys Taber

Your not coming was like expecting a Christmas present and unwrapping the package to find it is the new bags for the vacuum cleaner. – Gladys Taber

I am never any good at partings. To me, they seem to come much more often than meetings, although that doesn’t seem likely to be true! – Gladys Taber

You can pretty well sum up a man or woman by how good a job they do at being friends. – Gladys Taber


  1. This is one of the best book reviews I've read, and not just because I agree with every word, and so love the book. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Nan, and, after all, you inspired it!

  3. First, I want to tell you I am a member of Friends of Gladys Taber, and as a former English/Art teacher, teacher of Composition on the college level, and former attorney...they are are an excellent writer.

    I loved how you said she is gentle..Gladys Taber is...I just visiting Stillmeadow(the outside)last week...her "Friends" want to see it remain intact, maybe made a historical monument someday...we are working on a reunion at Stillmeadow next June, and were lucky enough to meet one of her granddaughters and her neighbors at our most recent reunion. Please join us.
    Mary Lou

  4. Thanks Mary Lou but I live on the other side of the Atlantic! Nevertheless, I wish you and her fans all the best for the reunion.

  5. I grew up on a farm in Colorado, and read Gladys' column in Family Circle every month. It seemed to me that she lived in heaven. I'm still a fan of hers, and have quite a few of her books that I reread with joy. I keep trying to get them all. She had a quiet, joyful spirit, but became indignant at cruelty or injustice. She was the nurturer with a strong backbone. I had two lovely Grandmothers, but I adopted Gladys as my third. I never expected to see her mentioned on a blog.
    Thanks for spreading the news.

  6. Just finished reading Stillmeadow & Sugarbridge. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will look into more writings by these two authors. Highly recommend.


Hello folks - your comments are always welcome.