THE CRYSTAL PALACE
Available in paperback.
Little Lily Hicks keeps a diary to protect herself and Joseph Paxton's other servants from the malice of his young nephew. But as the Crystal Palace is built, so Mr Edgar's hatred of her grows.
Fascinating 'Upstairs, Downstairs' view of a great achievement.
Thursday June 20th.
Master come up to London today with plans for the new hall. We knew he could do it! Mary was serving tea, Mrs. McK asks her to pour, her hands is not steady, so she heard it all (Mary I mean). Master says he sketched out the plan on his blottingpaper during a Railway Tribunal hearing against a pointsman. Mrs. McK says, Did no-one complain? Master says, Not the pointsman, he was fined 5s and it should have been 10s! Then he (Master I mean) went home and worked all night and all week to draw out his plan proper. He says his young men in the office was very good, and Mr. Barlow, I think it was, as is an engineer from the Midland Railway.
The Major says, Does Mrs. Paxton not object? But Master says, Sarah? No, she's used to it. (As is true, Master is often away days and days, at meetings all over the country from 5 in the morning till after midnight, he is a terror for work. And in his office all hours when he is home.) He says on the train up he met his friend Mr. Stephenson the engineer, son of the Stephenson who built the Steam Engine, as is on the Royal Commission planning the Exhibition, and he (Mr. S) thinks the plan is wonderful, and though he thinks it is too late he will do what he can.
Lord Granville called. They rang for the Times, but Miss Laura had cut it up to make strips of dancing dolls to amuse Mr. Edgar. Mr. Bibbings sent Billy scudding to buy another. When Mary went in for the tea-tray Lord Granville told her, Take away that slop! We want brandy! She near dropped the tray again, that excited with being spoken to by a real live Lord. Mr. B took in the tray with decanters of brandy and madeira for Mrs. McK, and he says as Lord Granville poured out glasses for them all with his own hand, and made a toast to Master. We'll see you Sir James Paxton yet! he says.
Just as Mr. B opened the door to leave, Mr. E banged the dinner gong again. His Lordship jumped and spilled brandy all down his coat, but he just laughed, and says, A libation to the gods! (Mr. B says it means a gift of wine, as is a heathen custom) A sure sign of success! But the Major scolded Mr. E after.
We think what they wanted to see in the Times was a piece about the Exhibition. Architects all over the world has put in plans, but they all cost too dear, so the Building Committee has made their own. But the Times says as how their building is very ugly and should not be allowed. So we all hope Master's plan will be accepted instead.
Miss L and Mr. E has been told to use yesterday's newspapers for playing.
Friday June 21st.
Mr. E quiet but sulky.
Found a pretty painting of roses under Miss Laura's bed, and asked if I might make so bold as to keep it. And she says as she will paint me a better one, of a lily as is my name. She is very pleasant, pretty manners and no stinking pride, and cleverer nor anybody except the Master and Mistress, I am sure. Her skin is yellowish, like her mama's, with being sick and the sun in India. She has to keep wrapped up because she feels cold, though it is ever so nice out.