A known unknown

Back in 2002 it was Donald Rumsfeld, the USA Secretary of State who attempted to confuse the world with his speech about known unknowns.

In my case I am using that term to mean things I didn’t know for a long time, but do now. I’m using it in a family history context and it centres around this book.

The book is Holiday House by Catherine Sinclair. I guess it is late Victorian but it has no publication date. It centres around two orphaned children raised by their grandmother and a kindly uncle not to mention the nurse who does most of the frequent chastising for misbehaviour. I haven’t read to the end of it yet. It is quite heavy going.


It is said to be a book for the young. All I can say is that youngsters in those past times must have had much more perseverance than those of today. There are 320 pages of uninterrupted text to get through.

The author advertises some of her other works on that title page.


I’m afraid these other books will have to remain unknown knowns – that they existed I know but what they are about I have no idea.

We seekers after information find all we can and there is a tiny stamp giving the name of the bookshop.


Now a chap called Thomas Pullinger was, amongst other things, a book seller living on Union Street in Brighton in 1891 and 1901. By 1911 he seems to have given up the book selling and concentrated on picture framing. He’d left Union Street as well. That does help me with my guess of a late Victorian book.

But best of all, this book was awarded to my grandmother.


Now I never knew that granny – Ethel Stevens – attended the Congregational Sunday School in Isfield. That has become my known formerly unknown. But I can be annoyed with that Sunday School for not dating the award or giving a reason for the award.

Granny was born in 1892 which certainly points to that late Victorian era for the book. But it would actually be entirely wrong for the book was written in the 1830s.

But well done Granny, whenever you won it and whatever it was for.

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