Humor Satire

Barbara Pym and the Novel of Manners by Annette Weld (auth.)

By Annette Weld (auth.)

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Initially imbued with the glamour and elegance of the mysterious portrait in the National Gallery, he becomes demystified, even gains a name, Geoffrey. As we step into his consciousness for the story's denouement, instead of secretive trysts and romantic subterfuge, we find a bland suburban existence, a distracted wife, and company coming for dinner. Riding home on the evening train he probes his motives for approaching the mysterious lady of the restaurant. 'She had looked rather interesting, but whatever could they have said to each other?

Instead of the wartime life of codebooks and secret documents that she had imagined, Crispin had retired from the diplomatic corps five years before to live quietly with his sister in a nearby village. When she had recovered from the first shock Laura found herself grieving not so much for his death, as that could make no practical difference to her, but for the picture she had of him. The remembrance of her wonderful imaginings about his journey made her feel foolish and a little desolate, when all the time he The Early Work - Poems, Stories, Radio Plays 43 had been perfectly safe in an Oxfordshire village, his life as dull as hers.

These are the works that first enlist Pym's fans, the ones which establish her consistency and satisfy all the criteria for something 'very Barbara Pym'. Examined chronologically, this group exhibits characteristic themes and intents, but shows little evidence of artistic growth or change, or of labored efforts toward perfecting her craft. As Philip Larkin notes: All six of Barbara Pym's novels (published between 1950 and 1961) open on to [her] world from different angles: England in the 1950s, and the lives of youngish middle-class people, educated rather above the average and sometimes to a background of High Anglicanism, who find for the most part that the daily round, the common task, doesn't quite furnish all they at any rate do ask.

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