Less Is More

Today the weather was cold and wet. For Jackie this meant continuing her planting between frequent showers. For me it meant ironing and finishing reading Muriel Spark’s classic gem, ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. Even the World Cup cricket match between South Africa and the West Indies was rained off.

The short novel tells the story of a progressive, idiosyncratic, and rebellious teacher at odds with the ethos and management of a traditional girls’ school of the 1930s. Her style is spare, insightful, and elegantly simple. Ms Spark favours lean, lucid, language, lightly telling her tale. In case there is anyone who has neither read the book nor, like me, seen the 1969 film starring Maggie Smith, I will reveal no more of the story.

My copy is the 1998 Folio Society version with illustrations by the late Beryl Cook. The cloth-bound covers feature a design by Peter Forster.

Despite being a great fan of the artist and her particular comic style I have my doubts about the choice of her to illustrate this work. Miss Brodie is as romantic as she is zany, as ultimately tragic as she is stimulating.

The last pair of these illustrations is what in a different kind of publication may be termed a centrefold.

Cook has, of course captured the exuberantly comic nature of the book, but, I think, neither the author’s lightness of touch nor her sensitivity to her characters.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Can You Identify Lord Byron?

Yesterday evening I finished reading

Is there such a thing as a Gothic Comic novella? If so, this is one. It is a rollicking prose gambol, lightheartedly satirising the writer’s contemporaries. There are numerous references to the works of his friends and acquaintances. Peacock loved playing with words, using some in a ridiculously pompous way, and probably inventing others. We may not understand all this nonsense that has been in print for more than two hundred years, but it will definitely provide fun. I won’t give away the story, but I will say that I understand that the author was once torn between two women, and there is possibly an autobiographical element to it.

As can be seen above, my edition is from The Folio Society of 1994. The work was originally published in 1818.

Marilyn Butler’s scholarly introduction sets Mr Peacock in place with his fellow writers.

The book comes in a slip case stamped with gold lettering. It is bound in cloth with one of the artist’s designs.

Mr Forster’s numerous exuberantly grotesque illustrations romp through the pages.

One character represents Lord Byron. Can you identify him?

This afternoon we visited Mum at Woodpeckers in Brockenhurst. We were able to see for ourselves that she is happily settled in.

As we approached the village I saw the potential for this shot in the distance. Jackie was driving at 30 m.p.h. I grabbed the camera, wound my window down, waited for a gap in the speeding undergrowth, took aim; and boy, was I chuffed at the result.

On our return I grabbed another image on the move, this time through the windscreen. It was only when I came to upload the picture that I noticed the dog.

These oaks viewed from Hordle Lane demonstrate that, despite the warmth and sunshine, they are still bereft of foliage.

Late this afternoon Sam, Holly, Malachi, and Orlaith, having arrived in England from Perth, Australia, checked into a nearby caravan site, then came to visit us. While we were enjoying a takeaway Indian meal from Forest Tandoori, Mat, Tess, and Poppy joined us. The jet-lagged family repaired to their caravan and the others stayed the night with us. I finished the pinot noir; others drank red wine or beer.