MAGNANIM'ITY, noun [Latin magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.]
Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness,
which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness,
and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.
in the words of her Friends and Students
Excerpted from In Memoriam: Charlotte M. Mason [ii]
An only child, she was lonely, her mother being too delicate to entertain much and she had no child friends. She was probably about eight when her parents moved and she became aware that children, lots of children, might be watched passing the window every day at certain times. From that time she was always there to watch them go by. She wondered where they went and if she might ever speak to them? There was a tall lady who went by too and how happy the children seemed when they saw her and away they would run after her! How happy the lady must be with those children! Later the opportunity came and the little girl was taken to the school by friends and allowed to see the children at work and she wondered what sort of books they had and if they liked them as much as she did the books her father read to her, "Anne of Geierstein[iii]" being at the moment the supreme favourite. Then came long, long thoughts about those children and then came great sorrow and the cherished little daughter was left alone in the world without means, for the American war had ruined her father and he never recovered the shock of his wife's premature death. But the thought of the children came to fill her bereaved heart and her one idea was how she could get into touch with children.
E. Kitching [iv]
Miss Mason always used to have luncheon with us when she felt well enough, and it was one of the senior students' privileges to sit at her table--and it was a privilege to sit next to her and talk with her. She always tried to get our thoughts and views on subjects before she gave us her own. If our views did not quite coincide with hers, she simply gently told us what she thought about it and left us to think it over. And after thinking it over somehow we always realised that she was right and we were wrong.
How she loved books! That is to say real living books. She used to talk to us about them in such a loving way as if they were personal friends. Often as not, I fear, we students had not read the particular books, but she always left us with a desire to read them.
What a sense of humour she had too! "Punch"[vii] was such a favourite with her, and at lunch time on Wednesdays she was generally full of choice little ancedotes from him.
At 4:15 on Sunday afternoons we used to go into the drawing room for "meditations" with Miss Mason. We used to read passages of the Bible to her and then she would discuss the passage, giving her thoughts and trying to get ours on the subject. The various volumes of "The Saviour of the World"[viii] were really the outcome of "meditations" with former students. It was during that hour that we saw more clearly than at any other time how closely she lived with God. Yet withal she was so human and humble, one of her favourite quotations being, "how very hard it is to be a Christian."
Ex-Student and P.U.S. Pupil.
What remains fixed is her shining face, lit up by the sun from within and the sun from without, and the joy of nature in her and the kindness of soul. Her infirmity counted as so little; her personality, the poetry of her mind, for so much.
She seemed to me always to be smiling. Just as when one looks at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, perhaps the greatest picture of a smile ever painted, one begins to smile oneself, one felt in her presence constrained to smile-her smile was indeed infectious. She had a huge sense of humor and fun. I had made a few verses upon the P.N.E.U.[ix] at a Student's Conference in London. Miss Mason had heard about it, and made me repeat them to her, and she laughed right merrily at the jokes. Truly she might be called "La Joconde."[x]
Michael A.E. Franklin
During last year--my first year at College--I came into a much more personal touch with Miss Mason, and I marveled more and more at her wonderful mind, her wonderful personality, and her wonderful vitality. Everybody who knew her, loved her; and all who came in contact with her realised how great her influence was, and when they went from her presence they felt uplifted and inspired to nobler things.
She was 81 on New Year's Day, but, in spite of a frail body--which, indeed, had grown a little stronger of late years--she seemed to have perennial youth, and the keenness and vigour of her mind were unimpaired. She was at work on Friday and had lately drawn up the term's programmes for the P.U.S. Early Saturday morning, after speaking of the beauty of the starlit sky, with a jesting word to the nurse, she fell into a quiet sleep which lasted until she died, very peacefully, at noon on Tuesday, January 16th.
She was buried yesterday (January 19th) in the quiet churchyard at Ambleside. One felt that thousands, all over the world, were thinking of her that day, and tributes of love and gratitude were sent by hundreds, including many who had never seen her but whom she had helped and inspired.
Miss Mason was loved by all who saw her and had many dear and intimate friends. She had the power of seeing and bringing out the good in everyone, but I think she loved little children best of all. "For the Children's Sake" is the motto of the House of Education, and it was for the children's sake that she lived and worked. She provided them with an education which is "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life," she reverenced them as "persons" and recognised their need for mental food in order that they might grow. She gave them living books, a love of literature, art, nature, craftsmanship, joy in learning and full lives. She never allowed the methods which she evolved or, as she preferred to say, "chanced to find"--to be called by her name; they were always "P.N.E.U." Her work will go on, not only because it is to be administered by those whom she has chosen and trained for this high responsibility, but because of its intrinsic vitality and truth.
By An Old Pupil
[ii] In Memoriam is a tribute to Charlotte Mason written by her friends, colleagues, and students. It is available online at www.amblesideonline.org.
[iii] Anne of Geierstein or Maiden of the Mist (1892) is one of the Waverly novels by Sir Walter Scott. The Waverly novels were a beloved favorite and Mason continued to read from them nightly before going to sleep.
[iv] Miss Kitching was Mason’s trusted friend and helper. She assumed leadership of the PUS5 on Mason’s death and was herself buried at the feet of Miss Mason.
[v] Parents’ Union School. The name of the umbrella organization which administered a ‘Charlotte Mason education’ in Mason’s time, including sending out Programmes (courses of studies) and time-tables (schedules) and the setting and evaluating of examinations.
[vi] Ambleside is a town in the Lake District of England, where Mason lived and established her teacher training college.
[vii] Punch was a weekly magazine of humor and satire, enjoyed by Mason.
[viii] A series of 6 volumes of commentary on the Gospels in verse, written by Mason.
[ix] Parents’ National Educational Union. An organization of parents interested in matters of education. They advanced Mason’s approach and her vision of a ‘liberal education for all.’
[x] The French name for the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
[xi] This short biographical sketch was originally shared at CMER 2016. This is the first time for it to appear as a blog.