"TELL ME A STORY," are the first words Constance Savery remembers saying. Though her clergyman father supplied her with "books galore" as soon as she could read, she could never get stories enough to satisfy her love of them. She soon took to making up her own. These were sometimes acted out with "paper dolls cut out of my mother's pattern books," sometimes written out or told in her head or while she walked around "the house or garden pretending to play a solitary game of bat and ball." She went on to write some fifty books, nearly all for children. Three of Miss Savery's sisters also became writers due no doubt to the close and creative family environment with its plenitude of books.
Constance Savery, eldest of five sisters, was born in Froxfield, Wiltshire on October pst, 1897. Later the family moved to the city of Birmingham. From Birmingham she went to Somerville College, Oxford. Recently, just before her hundredth birthday, she was the guest of honor at an Oxford event celebrating the 75th anniversary of degrees for women. Previous to her year though they took full university courses and passed all the examinations, women did not receive diplomas as full members of the University. She wrote, "I had done nothing whatever to deserve being a guest of honour except to outlive all the other women in the first group that was admitted to degrees! It was a very grand occasion for a very insignificant person."
Sixty years' worth of young readers would doubtless challenge this claim to insignificance. Though her first book was published in England in 1929, it was not until the publication of Enemy Brothers in 1943 that Constance Savery was introduced to American readers. She soon became known as a gifted and sensitive author on both sides of the Atlantic, excelling in the portrayal of warm personal relationships between characters. The satisfying conclusions of her books arise from her deep sense of faith and goodness and from her love of a good story; they uplift the reader with a sense of hope, escaping the snare of the moralizing or overly sweet tale.
When asked in 1997 how she came to write The Reb and the Redcoats, Miss Savery wrote, "I can't tell exactly what prompted it. I have always been interested in American history from the time when as a small child my father told me the story of Benedict Arnold's treachery, and I can still hear the very tone of his voice as he pronounced a name that I ever afterwards thought of as standing only a little below that of Judas Iscariot! (I believe subsequent research has proved that Benedict Arnold was not so much to blame as has been supposed.)
"I do recall, shortly before writing The Reb and the Redcoats, that I had been reading an account of Major Andre's death and also an account of the fate of some American prisoners of war in England. They escaped from the prison quarters, but could find no way of getting back to the United States. Destitute and starving, they were captured by a kind-hearted sergeant and his party. He was so sorry for them that he took them all to the nearest inn and gave them a good dinner before returning them to their prison quarters.
"This is all I can tell you about the origin of the book. The next thing I knew I was in the schoolroom with Charlotte, who was writing her copy before George burst in to call her down to see Old Harry and the rebel doll."
Constance Savery spent her last years in the town of Stroud, of which she wrote, "It may amuse you to know that long ago Stroud was an important town. Most of the red cloth for British army uniforms was manufactured there." On March 2nd, 1999, just months before this reprinting of The Reb and the Redcoats, Miss Savery died at the age of 101. Her gift of sensitive, thoughtful writing will continue to be appreciated by many new readers.