Walter de la Mare and Flora

The Strong Child

In 1919, just after Pamela had her first show at eleven in Turin, the London publisher Heinemann’s suggested that she and Walter de la Mare (“Jack” to his friends) collaborate on a book. Pamela’s drawings would accompany de la Mare’s poems. The result was a beautiful, coffee-table sized book called Flora.

This is an excerpt from an early version of the novel, also written in Pamela’s voice. Jack visits the Biancos’ home to discuss the drawings and poems. (I hated to take him out of the story, but in the end he was inessential and he had to go).



“Surely he’d arrive any minute, I thought, and kept running to the window, hoping to see Jack de la Mare come up the lane. Mam had said, Wait till you meet him, Pamela, you’ll fall in love—he’s magical, honestly! If she thought that, well, he must be extraordinary. I pictured him striding out of a forest, wearing a tall, peaked hat, all jaunty, birds landing on his shoulder, writing poetry with a plumed pen on great scrolls of paper that trailed behind him.

Jack walked quickly up the street, looking about curiously. He was dressed in a tweed suit and vest and held a black ribbon-tied folder under his arm. My poet with the tall hat was nowhere in sight, but I was not disappointed. There was something in Jack’s manner that made you know, even from a distance, that he was an open, likeable man. He wasn’t tall, but he was very handsome, with fine-smile so welcoming, so beguiling that it seemed that he must be the host, asking me to enter his world. Ah, my dear, I’m so happy you’ve come to this lovely, lovely front stoop. Won’t you join me…it’s frightfully beautiful out here! he seemed to say, and I almost took a step outside.

“It’s you, Pamela, finally! Yes—you are perfect, aren’t you! You simply have no idea how long it seems I have waited to meet you. Why, when your father showed me your pictures….”

Of course I immediately adored Jack. His eyes were infinitely kind, and he had the sort of animation and lively spirit that attracted men, women, and children equally. He never failed to include me in his conversation; he always asked my opinions. Often, he commented on my eyes, which embarrassed me yet made me feel pretty at the same time. There – they’ve done it again – they’ve changed – they are almost gray! Now look at those beautiful eyes – I think I see a bit of violet now – remarkable! I felt comfortable and happy with Jack, not shy at all.”