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July 2014, vol 10, no 2

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Patricia Prime

Maid of all Work (Thrale House)


To a poet nothing can be useless.
     Samuel Johnson

floating
in a bowl of water
red grevillea

Mother’s room was in the attic, the cheapest room in the house. I picture her in front of a scrap of mirror, tying on her apron, brushing her hair and covering it with a cap. Imagine her dressing in the cold room at 5 a.m., eating her breakfast of bread and milk before her duties began. She was fifteen years old and had left her home in Ireland to earn money to send back to her widowed mother who was bringing up six children. In those days, my mother emptied the chamber pots, filled the washstand jugs, raked out the grates, built up the fires, brought up cans of hot water, scrubbed the front steps.

The mansion she worked in was built on the grounds where once Thrale House had stood. Hester Thrale, the Welsh writer, who had married Henry Thrale, a prosperous brewer, lived there, with their 12 children. Samuel Johnson, conceived an extraordinary affection for her, and lived in the house for 10 years. But, sadly, the house was destroyed and the land used for simpler housing

rinsing two glasses
she breaks the precious
crystal




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