Ivan Fyodorovitch Shponka And His Aunt

Feeling somewhat better today, I still couldn’t face venturing out in this much colder yet sunny weather, but I was able to concentrate on reading another story.

There is more of Gogol’s dry wit in this fourth tale in the Folio Society’s collection than in the earlier ones. As usual his fluid descriptive post is most engaging, especially when describing a woman as “a coffee pot in a cap”, or his image of an embarrassed young man who “sat on his chair as though on thorns, blushed and cast down his eyes” when expected to engage in conversation with the young woman marked out for him by his formidable aunt and her fellow matchmaker, the “coffee pot” mentioned above.

Ivan had joined the army when much younger and this aunt had cared for his inheritance until he returned home. Aunt Vassilissa did her best to carry out her task to the end, including thwarting an attempt to cheat him out of a large portion of it.

This story is more amusing then the first three, although it does feature a dream many would see as a nightmare which has been so

accurately depicted by Peter Sturt.

This evening we dined on roast gammon; Mac and cheese; red cabbage; orange carrots; and green broccoli stems – all of which were perfectly cooked. I drank Mighty Murray shiraz.

Droll Tales 15

“A Courtier’s False Wife” is The Folio Society’s title for the fifth tale of the second Decade of Balzac’s scurrilous series, illustrated by

Mervyn Peake.

Gustave Doré’s publishers prefer “The False Courtesan”,

whereas those of Jean de Bosschère opt for “The Sham Courtesan”.

Once again I think the later publishers have chosen the correct alternatives, because this is the story of the lengths to which the Duke of Orleans has gone in order trick a faithful couple into infidelity – with each other. The lady in question is false to a courtesan identity, not in reality as a wife.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/except that the second Decade is published by New York’s Covici, Friede in 1929. It is America’s first edition thus and is a limited copy. The illustrations are not protected by tissue but the book’s condition is good and it is covered by a cellophane wrapper.