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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Chapter I
At that hour, we had to go to the bedroom where the nurse or maid got us ready to go down to the drawing room. White frocks, colored sashes, silk stockings and well brushed hair were the order and then, hand in hand, we had to go to the drawing room where the house party were sitting after tea. There we stood in the doorway and made our curtsies and thus endured the misery of being talked to and inspected until our governess came to fetch us. Our own schoolroom supper was at 6:30 and after it was finished we again had our lessons to do till 8 p.m., bedtime. There was never any time in those Victorian days to do anything which we, as individuals, might want to do. It was a life of discipline, rhythm and obedience, varied occasionally by spurts of rebellion and consequent punishment.

As I have watched the life of my own three girls in the United States, where they were born and lived until in their late teens, and as I saw them go through the public school system of the country, I have wondered how they would have liked the regimented life I and my sister lived. With more or less success, I have tried to give my daughters a happy life and when they grumbled over the hardness of life - as all young people normally and naturally do - I have been forced to recognize what a perfectly wonderful time they have had compared to the girls of my generation and social background.

Until I was twenty my life was completely disciplined by people or by the social conventions of the time. I could not do this; I could not do that; such and such an attitude was incorrect; what will people think or say? You will be talked about if you do so and so; that is not the sort of person you [27] can know; do not talk to that man or woman; nice people do not speak or think like that; you must not yawn or sneeze in public; you must not speak unless you are spoken to, and so on and so on. Life was entirely hedged in by things impossible to do and conducted under the most minute rules governing every possible situation.

Two other things stand out in my recollection. From the earliest possible time we were taught to care about the poor and the sick and to realize that fortunate circumstances entailed responsibility. Several times a week when it was time to go for a walk we had to go to the housekeeper's room for jellies and soup for some sick person on the property, for baby clothes for the new baby at one of the lodges, for books for someone who was confined to the house to read. This may be an instance of the paternalism and the feudalism of Great Britain but it had its good points. It may be a good thing that it has disappeared - personally I believe it is - but we could do with that trained sense of responsibility and of duty to others among the wealthy in this land. We were taught that money and position entailed certain obligations and that these obligations must be met.

The other thing I remember vividly was the beauty of the countryside and the flowery lanes and the many woods through which my sister and I drove our little pony carriage. It was what was called in those days "a governess cart," designed, I presume, specially for small children. On summer days my sister and I used to take it out, accompanied by a little page boy in uniform and buttons and a cockaded hat, standing on the step. I wonder sometimes if my sister ever thinks of those days.

After my grandfather's death, Moor Park was sold, and we went for a short while to live with our grandmother in London. My major recollection of that time is driving round and round the park with her in a Victoria (as it was [28] called) with a pair of horses and coachman and footman in livery on the box seat. So dull and so monotonous it was. Then other arrangements were made for us but until her death, my sister and I spent much time with her. She was then a very old lady but showed signs even then of beauty; she must have been very good looking in her day, as a portrait of her, painted at the time of her marriage early in the 19th century, proves. The second time I came to the States after taking my eldest daughter, then a baby, home to see my people, I arrived in New York tired, ill, miserable and homesick. I went to the Gotham Hotel, Fifth Avenue, for lunch. Sitting in the lounge there, feeling very blue and depressed, I picked up an illustrated magazine. Opening it in idle fashion, to my surprise I saw my grandmother's portrait and the portraits of my grandfather and great-grandfather looking at me. It was such a surprise that I wept, but I did not feel so far away from all of them after that.

From the time of leaving London (when I was around thirteen) until our education was supposed to be completed, my whole life was one of change and constant movement. Neither my sister's health nor mine was considered very good, and we spent several winters abroad on the French Riviera where a small villa would be taken for us, close to the larger one of an uncle and aunt. There we had French teachers as well as a chaperoning resident governess and all our lessons were done in French. The summers we spent in another aunt's house in the south of Scotland, going back and forth from her home to visit other relatives and connections in Galloway. I can realize now what a rich life of contacts it was; there was much leisured beauty those days and very real culture. There was time to read and hours for interesting conversation. In the autumn, we would be down in Devonshire, accompanied everywhere by a governess, [29] Miss Godby, who came to us when I was twelve years old and who stayed with us until I went to a finishing school in London at the age of eighteen. She was the one person to whom I felt "anchored." She gave me a sense of "belonging" and was one of the few people in my life at that time who I felt truly loved me and believed in me.

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