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Diaries] Leahy, Margaret.

ARCHIVE: Correspondence and notebooks.


British Housekeeping During WWII
(Diaries) Leahy, Margaret. Manuscript notebooks. September 14, 1942 - May 13, 1944.
3 vols., 16mo.; ca. 52 pp. each; printed wrappers.
Together with:
Leahy, Margaret. 18 Autograph letters signed and 1 autograph postcard signed, "Margaret Leahy," to Mrs. W.J. Chichele Nourse, August 18, 1923 - October 14, 1944; ca. 35 leaves, ca. 70 pp.; several on personal stationery; one letter in fragment, lacking first leaf.
A series of notebooks in which Margaret Leahy, wife of Professor Arthur Herbert Leahy (1857-1928) and daughter of W. J. Chichele Nourse, laryngologist, meticulously recorded her expenses during the Second World War, along with a collection of letters from Margaret to her mother.
In the notebooks, alternating pages between "Self" and "Debit," Leahy gives items and prices for everything from toiletries and stationery items to subscriptions and charities. A sampling of specific items will give the character of her notes described as "Self":
vanishing cream, stamps, "collection at concert," books, lunch, notepaper, eye lotion, fares, dresses, subscription to hospital and periodicals, butterscotch, chocolates, church, post/letters, "Mrs Gibbs for entertaining ...4.0", tips, film, donations (including Prisoners of War), "Rose's" expenses (presumably a household employee), eucalyptus pastilles, rag doll, golliwog, ...
Expenses listed under "Debit" are primarily household items including food and drink (including  luxuries), staff (for example the gardener), household goods (such as dusters, kettle, string, etc.), insurance stamps,  "International" [an expensive item, perhaps International Tea Stores], coal, soap, washing, a magazine, piano tuning, polish, Rose's wages, bemax, gas bill, flowers, laundry, a sweep, Bronco toilet paper, etc., etc.. Leahy keeps a running total of cash in hand, as well.
All of Margaret Leahy's letters are addressed to her mother, Mrs. W.J. Chichele Nourse, and were written during the course of Margaret's frequent travels throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as a few from her hometown of Littlehampton, and including one from abroad. Addressed from Llandrindod Wells, St. Andrews, Cambridge, Felixstowe, Littlehampton, Ilminster, and Wells (Somerset), as well as from Randa (Switzerland), Margaret writes with good humor and affection about the theater, choral recitals, meals, lodgings, train travel, mutual friends and relatives, bike rides, trips to museums, and the frequent concerts she attends.
Many of the letters are written from Cambridge during visits to her daughter Eleanor (a member of the choir there). For example a letter of  May 16, 1938 records, "There has been a little Organ Recital in Kings' Chapel this afternoon for my private and personal benefit. Very nice! Eleanor's friend Daphne came to lunch here and afterwards the three of us proceeded to Kings' and Daphne played some Bach for me. She is a very good player (or she would not be allowed the run of Kings' Chapel organ!")
A few of the letters are written during visits to her son John, an officer in the Royal Air Force.  In the letter of May 22, 1938, for example, she talks about touring an R.A.F. hangar with John, and later attending a performance of "Julius Caesar in modern dress. Most peculiar, and rather gruesome in places."  
A letter written from The George Hotel in Ilminster, Somerset, shows what effect the war had on the nerves of the British populace; she writes of her first night's stay in her hotel that she was "sure that a salvo of bombs was falling in the near neighborhood; and could hardly believe it when told it was only the high wind, but that's what it was, apparently. It made me jump at first." (May 28, 1942; p 3 - 4).

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