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Letter Opener
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Title: Letter Opener
Identifier: 2003.3.28
Donor: Bianca de la Roche
Item Date: 1915-1930
Creation Date: 2012
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: An ivory letter opener with a smooth flat knife, attached to an ornate handle. At the base of the knife, a piece of ivory is missing, revealing a metal screw. The handle is hollow in the centre, with large and small openings. There is a circular pattern around the top and bottom of the handle. The bottom of the handle has a hole, for a small chain or string to be attached.

This letter opener belonged to Mazo de la Roche or her companion Caroline Clement. It was donated by Bianca de la Roche, third wife of the adopted son of Mazo, René. René was adopted in England by Mazo in 1931 and died in 1984.

Mazo Louise Roche was born in Newmarket in 1879. She was the only child of Alberta and William Roche. In 1927, her novel "Jalna" published under the name Mazo de la Roche won the $10,000 first prize in a competition sponsored by Atlantic Monthly, this win led to the publishing of a series of novels about the Whiteoak family of Jalna. The Jalna series was exceedingly popular, selling thousands of copies, with "Jalna" being turned into a movie and a television series. Mazo lived in Trail Cottage, which was located on property that had originally belonged to the Benares Estate. Mazo was friends with the Harrises and had visited Benares on several occasions. It has been speculated that the Benares House was Mazo's inspiration for the "Whiteoaks of Jalna". Mazo died on 12 July 1961. See: C.J. Taylor, 'de la Roche, Mazo' "Canadian Encyclopedia, 2000 Edition" (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999), 639.
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