Chapter 343 What’s So Funny About . . .

As promised, I’m posting a few humorous excerpts from E.M. Delafield’s Provincial Lady series. I realize that not everyone has the same taste in humor, but I hope you’ll enjoy these “diary entries” from the books. If, like me, you spend a lot of your time on domestic endeavors only to feel completely awkward in the “real world” away from your home, I think you’ll be able to relate. If, like me, you write a grocery list, return phone calls, and fill out school forms only to wonder in amazement how such activities can fill an entire morning, I think you’ll be able to relate. And, if, like me, you just need a good laugh, and a light-hearted book, you’ll enjoy this one. Here are the excerpts, most of which come from Diary of a Provincial Lady and The Provincial Lady in London.

“March 19 — Cocktails, and wholly admirable dinner, further brighten the evening. I sit next to Editor, and she rather rashly encourages me to give my opinion of her paper. I do so freely, thanks to cocktail and Editor’s charming manners, which combine to produce in me the illusion that my words are witty, valuable, and thoroughly well worth listening to. (Am but too well aware that later in the night I shall wake up in a cold sweat, and view this scene in retrospect with very different feelings as to my own part in it.)”

“November 12 — Home yesterday and am struck, as so often before, by immense accumulation of domestic disasters that await one after any absence.” [She lists in some detail the “immense accumulation of domestic disasters” and then . . .] “Robert reads the Times after dinner and goes to sleep.”

“January 22 — Robert startles me at breakfast by asking if my cold — which he has hitherto ignored — is better. I reply that it has gone. Then why, he asks, do I look like that? Refrain from asking like what, as I know only too well. Feel that life is wholly unendurable and decide madly to get a new hat.”

“June 14 — Later on, our Vicar tells me that he, likewise, has never had time to write a book, but that if he did so, and put down some of his personal experiences, no one would ever believe them to be true. Truth, says our Vicar, is stranger than fiction. Very singular speculations thus given rise to, as to nature of incredible experiences undergone by our Vicar. Can he have been involved in long ago crime passionnel, or taken part in a duel in distant student days when sent to acquire German at Heidelberg? Imagination, always so far in advance of reason, or even propriety, carries me to further lengths, and obliges me to go upstairs and count laundry in order to change current of ideas.”

“June 20 — Go through linen in the afternoon and find entirely unaccountable deficit of face-towels, but table napkins, on the other hand, as numerous as they ever were. Blankets, as usual, require washing but cannot be spared for the purpose, and new sheets are urgently required.”

“June 20 — Look at myself in the glass, and indulge in painful, and quite involuntary, exercise of the imagination, in which I rehearse probable description of myself that Mrs. C-C will give her husband on her return home. Emerge from this flight of fancy in wholly devitalised condition.”

I think you get the idea of the author’s style from these excerpts. It’s funnier in context, but I found this book at exactly the right time for me. I’m still laughing about it and looking forward to reading other works by the same author. I did recently discover that Delafield’s daughter, Rosamund Dashwood, wrote her own book, Provincial Daughter. I plan to track down that title as well.

See you in the stacks!


Filed under Book Finds

4 responses to “Chapter 343 What’s So Funny About . . .

  1. I have to admit that I assumed the writing would be a bit dry, more “provincial”, but she is quite witty and self-deprecating. What a fun read! I can hear her interior monologue, and it doesn’t sound so different from mine at times. After watching the original “The Women” from 1939 last night, along with your post, reminds me that women’s humor transcends time. ~Jeanne

  2. I adore the Provincial Lady! Her abbreviated diary-style sentences accentuate the wryness of her language and observations, and she’s as self-deprecating as compassionately clear-eyed/critical of others. I love knowing that someone so smart and well-read gets just as wild-eyed as I do when there’s no clean laundry. This one was balm for my soul too. I’ll have to find the London volume…

  3. Lauren

    Your blog frequently makes me laugh, and this entry inspired me to hunt down the book for myself. I started reading it this morning, and was laughing out loud on the subway!

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