Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reminiscences of a Friend and Neighbor of Elizabeth Veblen's

As chance would have it, a woman who knew Elizabeth Veblen lives three doors up from me. I was told about her by a former tenant of the Veblen House, and was finally able to meet with her this past July to learn something of her memories of the Veblens. She wishes to remain anonymous, but I can say that she is a painter, 81 years old, and once lived in the Herrontown area not far from the Veblens. Elizabeth would have her over for tea sometimes. They shared a common origin--Yorkshire, England. One or both of them were specifically from Halifax, in West Yorkshire.

Here are my notes, with question marks where there is some uncertainty about what was said or known. Some useful chronology: The Veblens bought the house in 1941. Oswald lived until 1960, Elizabeth until 1974.

General memories about the Veblens:
  • Elizabeth met Oswald Veblen in Germany (?)
  • The Veblens arrived in Princeton before there were any cars, and would go into town on a horse and carriage.
  • The Veblen House was a weekend retreat. The Veblens had a busy social life while Oswald was alive.
Memories particular to her visits with Elizabeth:
  • Elizabeth had a maid who made tea. Elizabeth would have a fire burning, and they'd sit in comfortable chairs near the fire in the living room.
  • Elizabeth gave the painter's 2 year old daughter a dress.
  • She describes Elizabeth as unprepossessing, down to earth, direct, straightforward, not fancy, very pleasant.

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