Wednesday, October 4, 2017


These posts are meant to be sort of clearinghouses of all the fun little details to be found in the novels of Essie Summers. I've missed some things in Heatherleigh but I think I got most of it. In future, most of these things will only be brought up if they are particularly special to a novel. But I thought I'd throw the whole kitchen sink at this one. (Where possible, I'm including page numbers for my edition which may not correspond to other editions but, in a book that is 190 pages long, will give you a rough idea of where to look.)


Oamaru, North Otago, New Zealand
Literary mentions:
29--Books on Muir Buchanan's bedside table: "...a couple of whodunits from the library in Oamaru, a textbook on soil conservation, a theological study book, a Bible, and a huge copy of Robert Burns."
The original hot Scot.
"Hey girl..."
30--Burns quotes: "Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow'r. Thou's met me in an evil hour.", "Oh, what a panic's in thy breastie!", "The best-laid plans o' mice and men gang aft a-gley." After she accepts his proposal, he sends her red roses in reference to the poem, "O my Luve is like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June..."

30--his living room has copies of Punch, the Scotsman and the Auckland Weekly

37--Muir is a piper and whistles the song that goes: "Gan on the forty-second, gan on the forty-twa." (73) He later whistles: "Pipes of the misty moorland, voice of the glens and hills..." (80) He sings: "Lassie, will ye lo'e me." (91) He plays and sings Silent Moon: "Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass, The fingerprints look through like rosy blooms; Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms 'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass..."  (112) He whistles: "A hundred pipers and a' and a'"
I am posting this strictly because the Unipiper is a Portland institution.
My friend has interviewed him. He is the treasure you always hope
renowned citizens will be.

53--Muir quotes Emily Climbs, an L.M. Montgomery novel: "No man is free who has a thousand ancestors."

61--Shakespeare gets a look in: "Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care."

80--Muir finds a very cheeky poem that fits the occasion when she comes and tidies his house. "The lass that made the bed for me.", whereupon, Roberta remarks that Robert Burns was not always such a nice man.

82--Muir says, "I should never dream of taking anyone who had no appreciation of the play to see Othello."

83--Seeing First Church floodlit, Muir tells her a story with the hymn "The Church Her Watch is Keeping"

85--Muir quotes Twlefth Night: "Give me thy hands And let me see thee in thy woman's garb."

94--Muir says, "I was going to read Browning to you," he said gently, "but I've changed my are in far too skeptical a mood. Browning believed in people..."

95--He was also going to read Christopher Marlowe (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love): "Come with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That hills and valleys, dale and field, And all the craggy mountains yield." She responds with a bit of a sting, quoting Sir Walter Raleigh: "If all the World and Love were young, And truth in every Shepherd's tongue These pretty pleasures might me move To live with thee, and by thy Love." Then she goes and sings Shakespeare at him: "Sigh no more, lady, men were deceivers ever."
Roberta's poetry tolerance was HIGH.
Muir opened all the sluices.
118--The children call a large boulder the Balancing Rock after reading some Zane Grey books in Grandfather's library. (Meep! It's about evil Mormons! I would love you to remember that The Founding Betties are Mormon, super adorable and would be first in line to throw a sharp fist into the nose of Evil Mormon (tm).)

148--The Bible is mentioned several times. Ian, Grandy's youngest son, is described as Grandy's 'Benjamin'. The relationship between Muir and Dead Robert is described as similar to that of David and Jonathan.

New Zealand-isms:

Native flora and fauna are mentioned: tui, kowhai, macrocarpa hedge, koromikos, ngaios, totara, flaky Oamaru stone, and paua shells

Rabbits are discussed as an invasive species and the estate puts up 'rabbit fences' to combat them. Do click this link for a short video of a time just after the publication of Heatherleigh.

88-A local eatery is decribed as having pictures from the time of Cobb & Co. decorating its walls.


13--Before Roberta takes over the housekeeping situation for Heatherleigh, she gets this: "...watery mince with a ring of fast-congealing fat about it, a large helping of insufficiently-cooked spring cabbage, tough and dark, and lumpy potatoes that would have been vastly improved by being well beaten and having butter and milk added."

14--Old Robert worries that Roberta will want a half grapefruit, OJ and tiny rolls for breakfast. She wins his admiration when she takes salted oatmeal porridge.

31--Muir makes her girdle scones and oatcakes.

88--"It was an excellent dinner. The salmon was perfect, the duck melted in her mouth, the sweets and the savory all as they should be." Somewhere, Betty Neels is rolling her eyes at such a scant description.

129--A Colonial Christmas dinner is described as homegrown lamb, new potatoes, green peas, mint sauce and plum pudding.

143--Berry picking season sees the women of the house make jam and large fruitcakes, shortbread and biscuits to keep when harvest begins and lunches must be taken in the paddock.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these things--What you think of salted oatmeal (I am CON. Oatmeal should be drowned in butter and brown sugar), how you like poetry, what your own tolerance for it is (Mine is high in books and low when someone is talking to me.), etc.


  1. 1. I have a thick Barnes & Noble anthology of English poetry and it has the Passionate Shepherd and the Nymph's Reply on facing pages. I always giggle when I read the reply and think, with Beyonce, "Shepherd boy 'if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it'."

    2. I'm with you on oatmeal. Likewise, I know that true Southerners (US) are supposed to eat grits with salt, but this one likes butter & sugar (unless they also contain cheese; cheesy grits are awesome and I could eat them for breakfast, lunch & dinner.)

    3. I love poetry and I wish I talked to people who could toss random bits into conversation, even though I might not be as quick as a Betty (or Essie) heroine and be able to identify/respond.

  2. I like my grits with salt, butter, bacon and fried eggs (mmmmmmmmm...excuse me while I have a heart episode). There are few Southern dishes my Southern mother passed on to me but grits, fried gizzards, beignets...I'm just going to think about all that for a while this up the griddle, maybe.

  3. Ah, thanks to Google maps, I now know this book takes place on South Island, NZ, which I was not fortunate to visit the one time I was in NZ. I regret that.
    Re: oatmeal--no salt! We cook our quick-cook oats in milk, add sugar and (usually) banana slices--unless blueberries are in season--then blueberries rule!
    The only grits I like are the cheesy ones, especially if accented with shrimp!
    I am a poetry fan--but am a failure at reciting bits off the top of my head. My memory cells are all occupied by 1960s rock and roll lyrics!

  4. Apparently, reading Essie Summers requires the uninformed foreign reader to do a lot of research. I have a feeling that would have been nigh impossible before the days of Google...



    Macrocarpa hedge
    MACROCARPA AND OTHER CONIFERS: Large spreading macrocarpas (Cupressus macrocarpa) are a common sight in rural New Zealand, usually growing alongside homesteads and farm buildings. Macrocarpa (also known as Monterey cypress) was brought to New Zealand in the 1860, and planted for shelter. It grows well throughout lowland New Zealand on fertile and moderately fertile sites. The cultivation of trees in farms is limited by canker disease.

    • Macrocarpa Shelter and Woodlot: Macrocarpa is more tolerant of wind and salt spray than radiata pine, and is the preferred shelter tree for coastal farms. It has spreading branches with dense foliage, so stock can shelter and remain dry under a macrocarpa hedge. Macrocarpa is highly sought after as a decorative and building timber. It is durable outdoors and can be used without any preservative treatment. Most macrocarpa timber in New Zealand has come from old, untended woodlots and shelterbelts. Some plantations were established by farm foresters during 1970s and 1980s, but, as trees succumbed to canker, the species has fallen out of favour with growers.

    By Antony Joseph Raj; S. B. Lal.

    Re.: oatmeal——no salt. (Or a pinch, at the most, if I should feel so inclined.) Same as Betty Barbara, we cook our oatmeal in milk, and add sugar. (If I feel fancy or Christmas-y, I may add cinnamon, or Christmas-y spices.) 😋