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The Pleasures of Poverty

Barbara​ Everett

6 September 1984
A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Letters and Diaries 
by Barbara Pym, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £12.95, July 1984, 0 333 34995 4
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... The BarbaraPym story is possibly better-known than any of her novels, widely though these are now read. During the decade after 1950 she brought out half a dozen books, which were well received and found a steady ...

Being splendid

Stephen Wall

3 March 1988
Civil to Strangers 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 388 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 333 39128 4
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The Pleasure of Miss Pym 
by Charles Burkhart.
Texas, 120 pp., $17.95, July 1987, 0 292 76496 0
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The World of Barbara​ Pym 
by Janice Rossen.
Macmillan, 193 pp., £27.50, November 1987, 0 333 42372 0
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The Life and Work of Barbara​ Pym 
edited by Dale Salwak.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 333 40831 4
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... After a lonely visit to Poland in 1938, BarbaraPym complained in a letter that ‘I honestly don’t believe I can be happy unless I am writing. It seems to be the only thing I really want to do.’ In a 1978 broadcast printed in the latest ...
6 March 1980
... authors have died in the course of Britain’s current and by now customary hard winter. V.S. Pritchett writes, nearby, about one of them, and I would like to write about another – the novelist, BarbaraPym. To think of her in relation to a literary world, with its apparatus of publicity and reward, gives a sense of incongruity, but, of course, there’s a tale that hangs on the connection – the ...

A Secret Richness

Penelope Fitzgerald

20 November 1980
A Few Green Leaves 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 333 29168 9
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... In this, the last novel we shall have from BarbaraPym, it is Miss Grundy, a downtrodden elderly church-worker, who says that ‘a few green leaves can make such a difference.’ The phrase echoes a poem which the author loved, but found disturbing ...
6 May 1982
An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... BarbaraPym’s posthumous novel, An Unsuitable Attachment, begins with an echo of Pride and Prejudice. Rupert Stonebird, an eligible bachelor, has just moved into a middle-class neighbourhood. Two of its women ...

Costa del Pym

Nicholas Spice

4 July 1985
Crampton Hodnet 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 333 39129 2
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Foreign Land 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 352 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 00 222918 8
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Black Marina 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 157 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780571134670
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... In a letter to Robert Liddell dated 12 January 1940, BarbaraPym speaks well of her progress on a new novel, Crampton Hodnet, which she finished later that year, but which has only now surfaced for publication: ‘It is about North Oxford and has some bits as good ...

Ladies

John Bayley

4 September 1986
An Academic Question 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 182 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 333 41843 3
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A Misalliance 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 191 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 224 02403 5
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... one or the other of the quality Sunday papers included a feature on the elderly, and if it could be shown that they were being ill-treated or neglected so much the better.’ Yes, that’s authentic Pym, with the true depth of exuberance in it: what Philip Larkin accurately called her ‘innocent irony’ – innocent because not just seemingly innocent. In another writer it might be malicious or ...
19 October 1995
À la PymThe Barbara Pym​ Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... On 23 April 1977 Philip Larkin came to lunch at BarbaraPym’s cottage in Finstock, near Oxford. She and her sister had only been living there a short while, after Pym’s retirement from her post in Fetter Lane as assistant editor of Africa; and it was Larkin’s first and, as it turned out, his only visit. After her years in the wilderness, Pym’s novel Quartet ...

Damp-Lipped Hilary

Jenny Diski: Larkin’s juvenilia

23 May 2002
Trouble at Willow Gables and Other Fictions 
by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 571 20347 7
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... that lurks within me’. Her presence, for Booth, is confirmed as he remembers that Larkin ‘conducted an interminable fussy-solicitous correspondence with his mother, and relished the works of BarbaraPym and “Miss Read”’. As if reading BarbaraPym were not evidence enough, Booth suggests that Larkin also retreated into the feminine in face of the war (didn’t want to go into the Army) and ...

One Thing

John Bayley

22 November 1990
Jean Rhys 
by Carole Angier.
Deutsch, 780 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 233 98597 2
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A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara​ Pym 
by Hazel Holt.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 333 40614 1
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... she hated the picturesque Devon cottage found for her after the end of Max, where she drank as much as ever. Still, when she died there in 1979 she had become a grand old lady of the English novel. BarbaraPym died a year later at her cottage in Oxfordshire, having thoroughly enjoyed her retirement from a London office, and having also been rediscovered and made famous after years of being rejected by ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: What Writers Wear

26 July 2017
... and ‘legendary’ is not the word everyone would use to describe all these writers, but she sets the mind going along interesting lines about others who might be given the same treatment: BarbaraPym, beneath whose twinset beat a passionate heart; Anita Brookner with her neatly tailored outfits and the fine-spun auburn up-do exuding poise and sadness; and all the others who in various ways ...

Superchild

John Bayley

6 September 1984
The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... that, and Rousseau, and Chateaubriand, and Stendhal in La Vie de Henri Brulard, and Newman and Ruskin and Hardy – all the way down to Anthony Powell in his Memoirs and the just published diaries of BarbaraPym. Indeed this contribution to the state of the art by a humbler sister in the fiction business – and appearing posthumously in the same way – might well have aroused Virginia Woolf to envy and ...

Anglicana

Peter Campbell

31 August 1989
A Particular Place 
by Mary Hocking.
Chatto, 216 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 7011 3454 2
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The House of Fear, Notes from Down Below 
by Leonora Carrington.
Virago, 216 pp., £10.99, July 1989, 1 85381 048 7
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Painted Lives 
by Max Egremont.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 241 12706 8
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The Ultimate Good Luck 
by Richard Ford.
Collins Harvill, 201 pp., £11.95, July 1989, 0 00 271853 7
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... of charity to Miss Bates), and do not exclude the problems of homely, limited lives from the arena of the soul’s struggle. Agnostic readers probably feel easiest with them when they are funny: BarbaraPym pleases by her disengagement, by avoiding a charismatic or the enthusiastic tone. Mary Hocking is not at her best in this mode. She is better on the larger themes of dying and the remaking of ...

Tea or Eucharist?

Anthony Howard

3 December 1992
The Faber Book of Church and Clergy 
edited by A.N. Wilson.
Faber, 304 pp., £17.50, November 1992, 0 571 16204 5
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High and Mitred: A Study of Prime Ministers as Bishop-Makers 1837-1977 
by Bernard Palmer.
SPCK, 350 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 281 04594 1
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... the modern church leader – until real life played an unfair trick and produced Dr John Spong, the ultra-trendy Bishop of Newark, USA, thereby making satire almost impossible. Only John Betjeman and BarbaraPym stood gallantly with their fingers in the dyke upholding a vision of the dear old ecclesia anglicana as it once was. A.N. Wilson’s anthology, however, rides nobly to their rescue. It is a ...

Stepchildren

Elspeth Barker

9 April 1992
Stepsons 
by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... its contrast with the violence it depicts. For the reader as for the boys the pain would be unbearable, were it not for the occasional respite with the aunts, who might have strayed from the pages of BarbaraPym; their gentle, feline malice is a balm to the spirit. It is not surprising that Liddell should be the author of a critical study of Miss Pym, and of a memoir of Elizabeth Taylor and Ivy Compton ...

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