By Michael Cotsell (auth.)
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Extra resources for Barbara Pym
It begins, It was a wet Sunday afternoon in North Oxford at the beginning of October. The laurel bushes which bordered the path leading to Leamington Lodge, Banbury Road, were 38 Barbara Pym dripping with rain. A few sodden chrysanthemums, dahlias and zinnias drooped in the flower-beds on the lawn. The house had been built in the sixties of the last century, of yellowish brick, with a gabled roof and narrow Gothic windows set in frames of ornamental stonework. A long red and blue-stained-glass window looked onto a landing halfway up the pitch-pine staircase, and there were panels of the same glass let into the front door, giving an ecclesiastical effect, so that, except for a glimpse of unlikely lace curtains, the house might have been a theological college.
The Harvey affair established in her writing the centrality of the theme of disappointment and its overcoming through fidelity to memory (in 'Beatrice Wyatt' we read that Hughie is too young 'to have a nice lumber room mind like Beatrice' - MS 6/1-3, fo. 172). It would be mistaken, however, to see the affair as an explanation of all the subsequent fiction, for what the novels of this period conclusively prove is that, when the emotion over Harvey was dominant, Pym was not a successful novelist.
It was almost a relief to know, to see it there, the long, greyish caterpillar. Dead now, of course, but unmistakable. It needed a modern poet to put this into words. Eliot, perhaps. (ch. 4) It should be clear that Eliot is not being taken wholly seriously. The Archdeacon is, in fact, a modernist: he has picked up the taste for Eliot and for the poetic tradition that Eliot had marked out. By comparison, Belinda's taste is shamefully unregenerate: her criteria are sentimental and populist. Some Tame Gazelle thus carries on Pym's debate with Harvey about modernism.
Barbara Pym by Michael Cotsell (auth.)