The Strawman

The Strawman

After a delightful time in Italy with my daughter, I had an unusually long layover in London. We decided to get on the train and pay one more visit to the Armitt to see what new secrets we could find. Due to the constraints of the layover, I realized that we would only have about an hour before the museum closed. But who knows what secrets we might find?

At first I thought I would ask for box CM50. But then I remembered the set of handwritten letters from Charlotte Mason to H.W. Household. On a whim, I asked for CM33. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but something just felt right to ask for these letters. Something about how they were written in Mason’s own hand…

Deborah kindly obtained the box for me, and with only about 30 minutes left, I started sifting through the handwritten notes. It was hard to believe that Mason herself penned these pages. I looked at the ink, and tried to imagine the pen in her hand. What kind of pen would she have held? A black ink pen? Just like we have today? I examined the ink very closely, searching for clues.

Then something caught my eye. There were indentations in the page. Barely perceptible, but they were there. I pulled off my glasses and held the page right up to my eyes. The indentations were in the shape of writing. Except … it was backwards. What on earth is going on?

My heart started to race. I turned the page upside down. With the sun setting early, it was already somewhat dark in the Armitt. I held my bag over the page to make it even darker, then shined my iPhone flashlight on to the back of the page. To my amazement I saw that the indentations were actually writing. Someone had written letters using a pen with no ink, leaving just scratches on the page.

With the clock ticking, I did my best to decipher the invisible handwriting. I copied it down verbatim. Here is what I read:

I, Charlotte Mason, hereby state the true account of the origin of my method of education. In 1885 while on a nature study, I met an angel in the wilderness who told me he would dictate to me a book. I returned to that spot every day for 40 days and copied the words I was given. The last words the angel dictated to me were the title of the book itself: Home Education.

Deborah called out that the museum was closing. I thrust the page back into the folder and closed the box. I rushed down the stairs and in my excitement almost forgot the laptop on which I had typed the transcription. The train ride back to London was like a dream. “Now they will believe me,” I kept thinking. “No one can say she is classical now.” It is as I had thought all along. Home Education had come down from heaven, every idea as new and as old as eternity itself. It was the final confirmation. No one could ever again say I was wrong.

Editor’s note: Due to the exclusive nature of this content, this is a limited-run article that will only appear on April 1.

7 Replies to “The Strawman”

  1. Well, Art, I knew something was up when you described taking a train from London to Cumbria just to visit the Armitt Museum. England may be small, but it ain’t *that* small!