26 February 2015

Dwell in the House... בֵּית ba yith

illumination of Psalm 27 by James S. Freemantle
The Psalms of David, William Morrow, 1982

I taught in October 2013  but failed to post my Hebrew word study of
 בֵּית  ba yith  which means House, Household, Home, Family, Temple, Palace, Shelter, Stronghold, Door, and, surprisingly, Daughter
Strong’s # 1004                      http://biblesuite.com/hebrew/1004.htm
It is a masculine noun and derives from a primitive root, also masculine noun Strongs #1129,
  בָּנָה   ba nah meaning
to Build, to Repair, to Restore, to Get Children in particular Sons, to Fortify
Hidden in this word are ideas of home, refuge, provision, and conflict/warfare.
All of these meanings are carried in the Hebrew word and specific meaning is deduced from context.
Very often the meaning connotes not a place but set of intimate relationships like those of a family.
There are 2,056 occurrences of בֵּית  ba yith in Hebrew Scripture.  

Bethlehem    בֵּית לֶ֫חֶם     “House of Bread”
 ba yith בֵּית  appears in the place name of the birthplace of Jesus, the city of David:

Bethlehem was indeed a House of Bread for an exiled Jewish widow returning home in poverty with her Gentile daughter-in-law to glean grain from the fields of Boaz with which to bake bread and survive at the margins of the community. Later, Ruth and Boaz’s grandson, Jesse, would send his youngest son, David, with bread for his brothers encamped with the army of Israel against the army of the Philistines. In doing so, Bethlehem provided not only bread for an army but a champion to defeat the enemy. (1 Samuel 17) This theme of provision has an important place in our considerations of the meanings folded into the phrase “House of God.”

David would build his own house and desire to build a בֵּית The House of the Lord. He would gather treasure for the task which his son would bring to fruition.
In time, through “the root of Jesse” which was the royal house of David, God would provide the Messiah, the eternal king.

Bethlehem—the house of bread—is the birthplace of Jesus, the place where God provided the bread of life. (John 6:35) Each week we treasure these things in our hearts as we “partake of the bread, the body Christ.” At every Eucharist, we enter the House of Yahweh and gather around the Lord’s Table and together eat the Bread provided by God, our Father.

Note: a similar word in the Semite language of the New Testament (Aramaic) means house and, in that language, Bethlehem becomes house of meat (flesh) making a wonderful word play for the place of incarnation where The Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Today we will examine the use of בֵּית  ba yith in the Psalms and develop an understanding of what it means to "dwell in the House of the Lord."

Psalm 5:1-8   In the morning I will pray and watch – a cry for help
1 To the Chief Musician. With flutes. A Psalm of David.

Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation. 2 Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray. 3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. 4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. 5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. 6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. 7 But as for me, I will come into Your house בֵּית in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple בֵּית. 8 Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face. NKJV

   Note: One of my other Hebrew words appear in this passage
           5:7        “But as for me by your steadfast love חָ֫סֶד   #2617 Checed
                                    Here translated “in the multitude of Your mercy”

When Jesus said “My house shall be called a house of prayer…” [Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46], he quoted Isaiah 56: 6-8:

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord  and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant--these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house בֵּית of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house בֵּית shall be called a house בֵּית of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”

The House of the Lord is a house of prayer; it is a good place to be in the morning.
It is a place where the foreigner/the outcast/the “other” is welcomed.
It is a place where evil does not dwell.
It may be entered by meditation and prayer.
It is a place of worship.

Psalm 23
1 A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy חָ֫סֶד shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house בֵּית of the Lord Forever.

The House of the Lord is a place of provision, a place of rest, a place of restoration, a place of guidance. It is the place where the sheep are with the shepherd.
It is a place with no fear where evil does not sit at the table, a place of safety for the sheep..
It is a place of celebration, abundance, goodness and mercy חָ֫סֶד  checed forever. It is eternal.

Psalm 26
1 A Psalm of David.
Vindicate me, O Lord, For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. 2 Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. 3 For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth. 4 I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, Nor will I go in with hypocrites. 5 I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked. 6 I will wash my hands in innocence; So I will go about Your altar, O Lord, 7 That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works. 8 Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house בֵּית, And the place where Your glory dwells. 9 Do not gather my soul with sinners, Nor my life with bloodthirsty men, 10 In whose hands is a sinister scheme, And whose right hand is full of bribes. 11 But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; Redeem me and be merciful to me. 12 My foot stands in an even place; In the congregations I will bless the Lord.
Note in verse 8:   the movement from habitation (city) to  house to the place where glory dwells  (the Holy of Holies in the Temple)
The House of the Lord is a habitation, a city, a place to settle.
It has an altar; it is a place where God’s glory dwells.
It is an even ground, a broad expanse “a wide extended plain” where there is a congregation.

Psalm 27:4-6
1 A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war should rise against me, In this I will be confident. 4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house בֵּית of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple בֵּית. 5 For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock בֵּית. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. 7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When You said, "Seek My face," My heart said to You, "Your face, Lord, I will seek." 9 Do not hide Your face from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. 10 When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me. 11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. 12 Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. 13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
 The House of the Lord is a place where I may dwell forever.
It is beautiful and I can meditate there.
It is my hiding place, my shelter, my rock, my stronghold.
It is a tent, a shelter in the wilderness;  it is a tabernacle, the presence of the LORD wherever I am.
The House of the Lord is a place of thanksgiving and worship, joy and singing.
Psalm 30 offered at the dedication of The House of David
                             “joy comes in the morning”

Turning to a Psalm that Jesus quotes:
Psalm 31:1-8, 19-24    Refuge, deliverance,
1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. 2 Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge בֵּית, A fortress of defense to save me. 3 For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name's sake, Lead me and guide me. 4 Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. 5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. 6 I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord. 7 I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, 8 And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place. 9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! 10 For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. 11 I am a reproach among all my enemies, But especially among my neighbors, And am repulsive to my acquaintances; Those who see me outside flee from me. 12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. 13 For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life. 14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." 15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, And from those who persecute me. 16 Make Your face shine upon Your servant; Save me for Your mercies' sake. 17 Do not let me be ashamed, O Lord, for I have called upon You; Let the wicked be ashamed; Let them be silent in the grave. 18 Let the lying lips be put to silence, Which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. 19 Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! 20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues. 21 Blessed be the Lord, For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city! 22 For I said in my haste, "I am cut off from before Your eyes"; Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications When I cried out to You. 23 Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person. 24 Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.
 The House of the Lord is a house of defense, a place of refuge,  a stronghold, a fortress, a rock of strength.
The House of the Lord is a large place, a level ground.

Psalm 52:8   9
1 To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, 'David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.'
Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. 2 Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. 3 You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah 4 You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue. 5 God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah 6 The righteous also shall see and fear, And shall laugh at him, saying, 7 "Here is the man who did not make God his strength, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And strengthened himself in his wickedness." 8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house בֵּית of God; I trust in the mercy חָ֫סֶד of God forever and ever. 9 I will praise You forever, Because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.
 “I am like a green olive tree IN THE HOUSE OF GOD (Elohim) Olive trees denote: 
Fruitfulness, resilience, wisdom, faithfulness steadfastness, continuity, and peace.
The House of the Lord is a place of olive trees.
It is a place of growth and rootedness, of חָ֫סֶד steadfast love forever.
It is a place of waiting in the presence of the godly.

Psalm 65           A celebration of God’s provision in Creation O GOD OF OUR SALVATION
1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song.
Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion; And to You the vow shall be performed. 2 O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. 3 Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them. 4 Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house  בֵּית, Of Your holy temple בֵּית. 5 By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; 6 Who established the mountains by His strength, Being clothed with power; 7 You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. 8 They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice. 9 You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it. 10 You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. 11 You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance. 12 They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, And the little hills rejoice on every side. 13 The pastures are clothed with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain; They shout for joy, they also sing.
               65:4      “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
                                           To dwell in your courts!
                                           THE HOLINESS OF YOUR TEMPLE!
 The House of the Lord is a place of blessing, of justice, of satisfaction and contentment, of goodness, of holiness, and worship.

Psalm 84:1-4, 10-12
1 To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home בֵּית, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young-- Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house בֵּית; They will still be praising You. Selah 5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion. 8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah 9 O God, behold our shield, And look upon the face of Your anointed. 10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house בֵּית of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. 12 O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!
               84:1      “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts… Yahweh Sabbaoth
              84:3      “Even the sparrow finds A HOME and the swallow a nest for herself,
                             Where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of Hosts…
84:4      BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO DWELL IN YOUR HOUSE Ever singing your praise.
                             Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
The House of the Lord is a beautiful dwelling place.
It is a home for even the very small, the very weak, the most insignificant.
It is a place for family, for mothers and children.
It is a place of worship,  blessing, and singing.
It has a door. There is no wickedness, no evil there.

Psalm 892:12-15
1 A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; 2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, 3 On an instrument of ten strings, On the lute, And on the harp, With harmonious sound. 4 For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. 5 O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. 6 A senseless man does not know, Nor does a fool understand this. 7 When the wicked spring up like grass, And when all the workers of iniquity flourish, It is that they may be destroyed forever. 8 But You, Lord, are on high forevermore. 9 For behold, Your enemies, O Lord, For behold, Your enemies shall perish; All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. 10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. 11 My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies; My ears hear my desire on the wicked Who rise up against me. 12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Those who are planted in the house בֵּית  of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts בֵּית  of our God. 14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, 15 To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, בֵּית  and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Note: palms and cedar are evergreen e.g. like them we are ever green, alive, growing
Note: The Temple is built with the cedars of Lebanon. The righteous build and are the stuff of which the House of the Lord is built.
 The House of the Lord is where we flourish (grow and are fruitful) and where we are evergreen (always alive) and deeply rooted.
It is the place where we declare that our Lord God is righteous and true and just.
It is where we proclaim that God is the rock, the foundation of our life.
Being in the House of the Lord is what gives our old age life, creativity, and meaning.
It is, indeed, our home.

Do you have a favorite Psalm (or other scripture) that might be called a HOUSE where you dwell?
Describe a time when you beheld beauty and felt the presence of the Lord.
What description of the House of the Lord is special for you? Why?
Materials not used with the LBC study:
Psalm 101                       describes not God’s House but ours
 Psalm 127:                      A song of Ascent. Of Solomon
127:1    UNLESS YAWEH BIULDS THE HOUSE,               
Psalm 128                       A song of ascent.
                             128:3    “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
                                           Your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”
 Repeated themes:       Dwelling, no evil, rescue, steadfast lovingkindness חָ֫סֶד Checed,
provision: abundance, beauty, creation, space room, joy, worship
 Jesus in John 14:
“In my father’s house are many mansions (rooms, houses)
I go to prepare a place for you
That where I am, you may be also.”
There is ample room in the house of God, in “the Father’s” extended family, where the righteous hope to dwell forever, where Jesus is in company with his friends. 





16 February 2015

South Plains School

1925 photo of Sunset School, housed in a wooden building. 
I attended a rural school in Floyd County, Texas, and several years ago created a facebook group for  the South Plains School Alumni & Community.
Today one of the discussions took a bit of a  turn from remembering and honoring a community member who had died to a discussion of the school's history.
As it happened, a bit later in the day I came across an envelope of newspaper clippings from May 1988 when the school closed. It "was the last rural school in Floyd County and one of only seven in Texas." At one time there were 32 rural schools in Floyd County.
My family had attended South Plains School for three generations and we had family connections going back four.

The school  "opened in 1895 as Sunset
School, district number eight," in a one-room, wood frame building located 2 miles east of South Plains. Children walked, rode horseback, or came in buggies to attend. John Wilson, the oldest student of the school still living in Floyd County at its closing, started school at Sunset in 1914. They carried lunches (cold biscuit and sausage) in a syrup pail. He remembered "the big rain of 1919... which filled the draw west and south of Sunset from bank to bank." The teacher thought it unsafe for the students to cross the flood and sent them to nearby homes of Grigsby Milton, Sr., Charlie Wilson, and Mrs. Vera Snodgrass.

Top and bottom are views are 1927 photos of the brick Sunset School.
The middle view is the flat-roofed South Plains School,
rebuilt from those bricks. I attended that school
from the first through eighth grades.
"In 1926, a brick school building was erected one mile north (farther from that draw) from the original school. It was large for its days, containing eight rooms where an enrollment of 180 students studied. They ranged from primer to tenth grade." This new brick school building was I think located on the southeast corner of the half section homestead of my grandparents, Zach Carter and Oma Calahan Cummings. Her younger sisters and brothers attended the school. I think members of his family also attended Sunset School.
I think this building was also the first meeting place of the South Plains Baptist Church of which my great grandmother, Lala Delilah Shelby Calahan, was a member.
The location of new Sunset is marked by an electric substation on land still belonging to my family.
The Fort Worth and Denver Railroad arrived in 1927 and the town of South Plains was located platted on the railroad halfway between Floydada and Silverton, the county seats of Floyd and Briscoe counties, and an equal distance from Lockney. The Sunset community decided to "dismantle" and move its school to the new town. "Noel Deavenport, one of the students in all three schools--old Sunset, new Sunset, and South Plains--remembers helping clean the brick when the school was rebuilt." I can remember hearing my great uncles (Shelby and Junior Calahan) tell that same story. The South Plains school opened in the fall of 1929 with 133 students which would be the school's peak enrollment.
I have been gleaning information and quoting an article by Neta Marble and Jim Reynolds, The Floyd County Hesperian, Volume 92, Number 25, Thursday, June 23, 1988 published upon the closing of the school and its students going to either Lockney or Floydada.
Neta interviewed my father, Kendall K. Cummings, for that article. He attended ninth and tenth grades at South Plains School following the consolidation with Roseland School in 1935. (He had started school at Roseland. Yes, he rode a pony. Then attended school at Lone Star before moving back to Roseland. At that time South Plains offered only ten grades.
Quoting Daddy: "Well over a hundred students were enrolled. We had six rooms and there was somebody in every room." He adds that some students from Cedar Hill were also attending South Plains. "They were trying to get the school accredited with a full high school then, but it went the other way." Two years later, South Plains School "was cut back to nine grades."

After Daddy's graduation from South Plains in 1937 (we have the commencement program), he attended an additional year and graduated eleventh grade from Lockney High School in 1938. His younger brother, Sterling, and his sister, Delilah,  would follow in his footsteps.
The younger siblings, Mona, Jean, and Zach W.,  attended high school in Floydada.
By the time I attended South Plains School, it had only eight grades.

1988 photo Dallas Morning News, last days
It was cut down to six grades and had only twenty-seven students enrolled before it closed in 1988.
My brother's children, Kendall II and Victoria, had just finished the fifth and the second grades. She is the girl in pink on the left. He is the taller blond boy in the black and white shirt, at the back, fifth from the left.
There was a reunion-homecoming to mark the end of the era. I flew home for the party. We had one of those rare "big rains" and couldn't get there for all of the events. We were able to make the party for which my mother had baked dozens of cookies.

Newspaper articles were published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Saturday, May 28, 1988 and in The Dallas Morning News, Sunday, May 29, 1988. I think there was some TV  coverage.

My aunt, Margaret Calahan, painted a picture.

My mother wrote a poem:

On the closing of South Plains School
1928 - 1988
by Dorthy Wieland Cummings

Country school stands in a bed of weeds.
Time has come!
No school smell--glue and sweaty kids.
The walls listen and long for laughter.
Hallways, missing footsteps
      of boys and girls
          running through,
                 happy skips of young feet.
Dead silence.
Where are they? Oh, where?
           No more!
Memories live.

14 February 2015

A book and its cover...

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an idiomatic phrase which cautions against opinions based on outward appearances.
.The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson is a book in which the plot hinges on the judgments the characters make based on appearances. From the first page to the last, in the world of this book nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be. The book surprises and its plot twists and twists again because of expectations that the reader brings to the book.

"Maud Heighton  was always one of the first to arrive each day and set up her easel... the Englishwoman liked to sit on the far eastern side of the room. The challenge of the narrow angle... seemed to please her." from the first page of the first chapter

Despite the idiomatic injunction, my first judgment about a book is often "by its cover."
 I walked into Murder by the Book, my husband's favorite bookstore which we visit twice a month at minimum. Because David much prefers to read print and likes a real bookstore, we have a rule: If I first see a book at his bookstore, I must buy it there. Yes. Even if I really prefer reading Kindle's e Ink. Even if it is cheaper on Amazon. He loves that store and the people who work there and badly wants them to stay in business. The new arrivals table held a pricey hardback with a beautiful cover and I just had to pick it up. In a store with thousands of books, on a table with at least 25 titles, that was the one book I chose to pick up. I judged it by its cover.

Paris. Winter. A woman alone. Belle Epoch. The suggestion of canvas and paint.
I prefer London to Paris and 1890 to 1910 but I adore the Paris fashion of the Belle Epoch. Historical fiction is always promising.
The Prologue (yes, British spelling!) is an "Extract from the catalogue notes to the exhibition 'The Paris Winter: Anonymous Treasures from the de Civray Collection', Southwark Picture Gallery, London, 2010" I flip through pages and discover several more of the "Extracts..." scattered through the book. I adore art exhibits.

French Impressionism and Neo-impressionism is my favorite art genre and many of my favorite paintings are winter scenes. I spent many hours in front of Camille Pissarro's Morning Sunlight on the Snow, Eragny-sur-Epte, 1895 when it was part of the Impressionist Landscape Exhibit at MFAH.  It features a woman with her back to the viewer, tree branches, and winter light. For me the image evokes a feeling of vulnerability.
I suspect the cover of The Paris Winter had a similar emotional tug for me.

I opened the book and found the pages were a fairly heavy, textured paper. Reading this book would be a sensual pleasure.

Because I am a librarian I noted the publisher: St. Martin's Press and on the reverse title "First published in Great Britain..."
Does it sound snobbish to say that I considered that a very good thing?
I have a preference for British writers with their large vocabularies, cultural knowledge, and polished prose.  And now I "judge" the perhaps vulnerable woman on the book jacket to be an Englishwoman, alone in Paris in 1910. Promising, indeed!

"She was on the wrong side of the glass, pressed up against it, but trapped by her manners, her sober serious nature, behind this invisible divide. She spent her evenings alone in cheap lodgings reading and sketching in poor light. Her illness last winter... had swallowed francs by the fistful.... Sometimes she felt her stock of bravery had been all used up in getting here at all." page 18

The Cataloging-in-Publication Data from the Library of Congress categorizes the book as "Psychological fiction." I read the first three pages of the book and sample a page or so throughout the book. Robertson writes very well and the later pages appear to be as carefully written as the first.
Here is a link to Imogen Robertson's blog re. this book and some of its historical background:

"Maud felt the strangeness of being on the wide streets of Paris with such a fragmented view..."

"Maud wondered why it had been so important to her to stay in lodgings that could be thought respectable even when she was starving, why she paid the fees at Lafond's to paint the nude with no men in the room. She felt as if she were on a tower of Notre Dame looking down like one of the gargoyles at herself--herself as she had been, spinning in little circles in her sensible black working dress, as confined in her movements as a child's toy, when all around her, experiences and lives which she could not think of, could not admit to knowing, existed just out of sight."

I bought the book. I binge read it. It was a delightful read.

Would I have bought it or even picked it up to consider it if it bore a different cover?
At left is the book jacket design for the U.K. edition.
I'm pretty certain I would have walked right by without a second look.
Here is a link to a fun blog about book covers: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/20/you-can-indeed-judge-a-book-by-its-cover.html

Although the Murder-by-the-Book clerk who had read the book said not, my cursory browse caused me to think the book had a gothic tone.
Having read it I would say that it follows the story arc and hits most of the elements of a classic gothic novel. Here is a fun link shared by a friend of a facebook friend that explains the elements of a gothic novel: http://www.theguardian.com/books/interactive/2014/may/09/reading-gothic-novel-pictures
In The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson:
  1. No "murderous tyrant with scary eyes" but poverty, convention, manners are  tyrants with murderous result beginning in the first book's first sentence with Rose Champion's suicide and their threat to Maud Heighton and her friends. The Morels are indeed "murderous tyrants" and Sylvie's drug glazed eyes are scary.
  2. Maud is or seems to be "a pious, virginal orphan" and while her only fainting may be from hunger, her Russian friend and co-heroine, Tanya, does faint often.
  3.  Robertson does an excellent job of turning Paris, the City of Lights, into a setting that evokes both "a spooky castle" and "a stately home"
  4. Both the Morels are monsters. Opium is a monster. Winter and poverty are also monsters. Maud herself becomes "a ghost."
  5. Written in the 21st Century and set at the beginning of the 19th, it is set in "olden days"
  6. The setting is of course a "foreign land."
  7. The weather is always awful and gets worse until it turns Paris itself into a monster.
  8. Everyone is scary. Scary rich people. Scary poor people. Scary men who think they can force a woman into marriage.
  9. The laws of the land are "brazenly flouted" and even the moral rectitude of those who are Christian helpers of the English ladies in trouble in Paris is flouted when Charlotte helps with Maud's plan for revenge and accepts the stolen diamonds.
The book also has strongly feminist elements, a triad of woman friends, and both a conventional marriage sub-plot and (spoiler alert) an unconventional love story. This book was a sensational read and worth every penny.