Not that I’m obsessed with Mary Stewart’s writing, oh no, not me, but I’ve been looking for a fun piece of jewellery or a mug or something that has some sort of Mary Stewart book theme. I was unable to find anything even remotely connected to her books until I spotted a website where you can buy a personalised locket, namely The Locket Librarian on Etsy. No, I haven’t been asked to plug their product here (have you seen my follower count?), I’m shouting about my necklace because I adore it so much.
Anyway, I provided a book quote and an image and… voilà! Look what I got! Look!
I chose this book cover because it has a simple, clear design to put on a locket that is just over 2 cm long – and, let’s face it, it is a ridiculously fabulous (or fabulously ridiculous) piece of Gothic cover-art: good work, Herb Mott!
The book quote, ‘Being kind’s the main thing, isn’t it?’, is from The Ivy Tree. The Spell of Mary Stewart: Three Complete Novels by Mary Stewart has this book sandwiched between This Rough Magic and Wildfire at Midnight. Julie’s question comes in chapter 10 of the Hodder & Stoughton (UK) first edition; it is in chapter 8 of this Nelson Doubleday Inc (NY) edition (there are differences between the UK and US versions of the book).
Julie is in conversation with the narrator of the book, cousin Annabel Winslow/imposter Mary Grey:
‘It isn’t the people who’ve had things their own way who – well, who get wisdom. And they haven’t the time to think about what life does to other people, either. But if you’ve been hurt yourself, you can imagine it. You come alive to it. It’s the only use I can ever see that pain has… if they have to stand it, its best use might be that it makes them kinder. Being kind’s the main thing, isn’t it?’
‘Julie, I wouldn’t know… But you might be right. Being cruel’s the worst thing, after all, so kindness might be the best. When you come to think about it, it covers nearly everything, doesn’t it? One’s whole duty to one’s neighbour.’
‘And the whole other duty?’
‘My dear, I don’t even pretend to know what that duty is. My duty to my neighbour will have to do. Maybe it’ll count.’
I do enjoy it that in between all the intrigue, deception and danger in the book we have two women discussing heartache, kindness, and a philosophy of life. That philosophy amounts to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, ‘the whole other duty’ refers to loving God (if you’re interested, read Matthew 22:36-40 for the ‘Greatest Commandment’). Once again we are reminded that Mary Stewart was the daughter of a vicar. Perhaps, like me, as the west stumbles through 2017 you find the reminder to love your neighbour as yourself and to be kind timely and essential.