in praise of miss. barbara pym with pictures of england by teamgloria


we WEPT at the last page of A Very Private Eye: an autobiography in diaries and letters as Miss. Pym writes her last Christmas Card to Philip Larkin (december 1979) and then there’s a small note, in italics, from her sister, Hilary, or Miss Hazel Holt her literary executor.

she died on 11 january 1980

it was like losing a friend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAso – in appreciation of miss. Pym – some words from her and some pictures of england (which we took this morning on the digital camera while browsing through the pages of old scrapbooks so forgive the quality – they’re snaps of slightly dusty prints from a film camera many moons ago – but they do provide atmosphere – non?)



sunday 28 march 1943
“we sat in the sun and listened to the Messiah. I wrote home, went to the post, pumped up my bicycle, put cotton over the peas. And then lay on a mattress with my face close to the ground, thinking about that poem by Robert Graves, the man seeking lost love…..”

friday 16 july 1943
“After Tea Boat we were FREE – it was a glorious afternoon and a lovely sensation to be able to walk out to the shops – I went into Smiths, got a book to read at the weekend and bought a copy of Tristram Shandy, which I feel will be nice to have about. I also bought apples and cherries and a Radio Times. I spent a happy house lying in my bunk eating and reading a Graham Greene novel.”


24 june 1953
“Reading a biography of Edmund Campion on a Friday over lunch one feels bound to eat fish.”

20th april 1961
“The new Archbishop of Canterbury has a lovely lap for a cat.”


31 october 1971
“Since the closing we have been to St Mary Magdalene’s, Paddington. It had rather good music and quite an amusing vicar (dragging on a cigarette) and curate who live in a startlingly modern clergy house just opposite the church.”

30 january 1977
“I am struggling to get that novel into a fit state to send to Macmillan…….I now rather regret having gone so far with this last one but perhaps we can’t help ourselves. I am really better at making marmalade (very successful this week!) and doing patchwork.”


20 may 1977
“Seeing a handsome Dorset woman at a petrol pump I thought a Hardy heroine of today might well follow such an occupation. Tess for instance.”

21 august 1977
“August is a funny time (not necessarily a wicked month?) holidays and all that, although I always used to like it in the old days in London – summer dresses in the office and visiting American anthropologists and slipping out for tea at the old Kardomah in Fleet Street.”


27 august 1977
Tullia Blundo the Italian girl who is writing a thesis on my novels came. She is a small dark Sicilian (living in Pisa) wearing mauve-tinted glasses – lively and interested in everything. Her word is ‘tremendous’.”

19 july 1978
“Went to London to record Desert Island Discs with Roy Plomley. Lunch (cold salmon) with him at the Lansdowne Club. A vast spacious room. Then listened to the records, a cup of tea, then did recording. Ate with Poopa in the Viking Bar at Paddington Hotel and back on the 8.15 train. Relief to be home and in the country again.”


26 april 1979
“Romantic Novelists’ lunch at the Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly – a curiously deserted hotel, vast ladies’ cloakroom in the basement with marble basins and pink velvet sofas. After, bus to Paddington and had a quiet calm of mind all passion spent tea in the refreshment room on platform 1 before getting the five o’clock train home.”

thank you miss. pym for spending a little while with us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand just because we missed her so very much upon closing the book for the last time (before opening it again to record the nicest bits for You) – we found a digital device lying around (quite Wantonly actually – the device, not us, we were perfectly respectable this morning) and found Miss Pym on Desert Island Discs so we could enjoy her voice drifting into the room as we gazed out on the Hollywood Hills and enjoyed her choices with great Delight.



this is who-we-are-in-RL and yes, that’s a tiny blue nose stud in a pierced nostril (the Idea!)

where were we?

why – on the beach at Whitstable (which is where William has just moved to) several *coughs* years ago (we had no Idea we had such Kennedy Clan teeth!)

why is it Here?

because these early words from Miss. Pym reminded us of what it was like to be at University and to Be (so very) Young.

13 june 1932
“I had a note from Rupert and Miles asking me to go to the flicks. I dashed to Carfax at 7.30 and we went to Goodnight Vienna at the Queener. It was lovely, and somehow appropriate. We sat at the back in the corner and I had two arms around me for the first time in my history. The flick was over at 10, so we stopped at the coffee stall by Cowley Place on our way back. We drank to each other in chocolate Horlicks.”

15 june 1932
“In the afternoon went on the river with Rupert and Miles. We had tea at the Cherwell tea gardens. Much semi-nakedness to be seen on the river. We landed at a bank and Rupert dropped his watch in the water.”

4 september 1933
“Reading Gertrude Trevelyan‘s novel Hothouse. I desperately want to write an Oxford novel – but I must see first that my emotions are simmered down fairly well.”

isn’t she tremendous?!

so glad that Miss. Pym came to stay.



for further reading (as they always say in the British Library when one asks about a particular Subject) – there’s a lovely appreciation here.

and what about our own Further Reading?


we’re half-way-through the splendid Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell (a lovely blog post by The Captive Reader there)

pomfret-towers1and, well, we have a Lot of Writing of our own to do – because who-we-are-in-RL is currently juggling not one but two writing jobs (one is Post-Production on a moving picture, no less) and about to start on a consultancy.

so while she’s out Working.

we sit here in luscious comfort (silk robe, against the pillows) and r e a d


are you having a tremendous Sunday?

do. tell.

9 thoughts on “in praise of miss. barbara pym with pictures of england by teamgloria

  1. All of Miss Pym’s books are ones which, upon completing, I confessed to my inner self I wish I’d written. They’re that good.
    Love from a misty Monday morning on the east side…

  2. Pleasure of reading Miss Pym’s autobiography still awaits me. I am prepared to weep at the end too. At least your nose stud was blue; I can forgive most things if they are blue.

  3. Dearest G
    Were we separated cruelly at some point at the past… The Dandy feels increasingly sure we must have known one and other at some point…
    Barbara. Pym.
    I got the bug in the lower sixth an was unable to kick it… now I must go back and read one again.
    But which will it be?
    *A Glass of Blessings* I think.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    1. you had us at “Lower VI”.

      any chap that was enjoying Miss. Pym when we were all meant to be reading A Merchant Of Venice gets our vote for talking-about-bette-davis post-prep.

      1. Dearest G
        Oh, we did ‘Tony and Cleo’, quite racy really when one thinks back, plus there are all the textual complications.
        The Hollywood infatuation came later, prep time talk was all nouvelle vague, I blame my fleeting association with ciggies on Jean Paul Belmondo!
        Iris Murdoch was, however, always top of the reading list…
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

do say something - do :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s