Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mapp & Lucia & Herman

The Mapp and Lucia series by E. F. Benson contains so many quaint, droll, and hilarious lines that it's hard to choose a favorite, but I have picked out a few:

from Mapp and Lucia
"It was always wise to be polite to mimics" (39.)

from Queen Lucia
"Mrs. Quantock, still impotently rebelling,
resorted to the most dire weapon in her armoury, namely sarcasm. . . .

"Lucia had a deadlier weapon than sarcasm,
which was the apparent unconsciousness of there having been any" (74).

from Miss Mapp
" . . . the rain falling sad and thick . . . " (197).

Last year, I shared these novels with my former professor and current facebook reading friend, Herman Wilson. We agreed that one of the best thing about Benson's villagers is that they are not merely laughable, they are also lovable, even when they are misbehaving! Herman wrote:

"I've just left Miss Mapp, the dominant force in the society of Tilling (that delightful English village) and Miss Mapp, the book, with all the delightful "lesser" residents of the village. A pleasant, delightful read. The people are real to me, their concerns with the various aspects of their inter-mingling are real to me, their biases are real to me, and Benson's language is delightfully and sarcastically real to me.

"Throughout I found passages I wanted to share with you, but there were so many that I choose this one from the last part of the novel (just after Miss Mapp told the Contessa that she knew of the forthcoming marriage--the highest bit of gossip in Tilling): Miss Mapp spoke of her "two eyes" and the Contessa added "And a nose for a scent." Then Benson comes thru with a descriptive statement: "Miss Mapp's opinion of the Contessa fluctuated violently like a barometer before a storm and indicated Changeable." A barometer and Changeable--what a delightful and powerful image for Benson to plant in my mind. Love it.

"I am now ready for my journey to London to be with 'Queen Lucy' in Lucia in London. Yes, I ordered the missing novel. I just could not leave the Queen in her little village; I wanted to see her again in a large metropolitan area. I'm sure Benson will provide me with much pleasure again: his people fascinate me, but his beautiful and effective control of his language almost overwhelms me as a result of the precision he has as he takes me along on a pleasant journey."

Thanks Herman!

Last month, I included the following passage from Andrea Levy's Small Island, in which she describes the street view of a London house demolished by World War II bombings: "A house had its front sliced off as sure as if it had been opened on a hinge. A doll's house with all the rooms on show. The little staircase zigzagging in the cramped hall. The bedroom with a bed sliding, the sheet dangling. flapping a white flag. A wardrobe open with the clothes tripping out from the inside to flutter away. Empty armchairs siting cosy by the fire. The kettle on in the kitchen with two wellington boots by the stove . . . " (304 - 05).

I couldn't help thinking of Benson's similar, though much less distressing, description of the unexpected pleasure of making one's way down a village street blocked off from traffic, past houses undergoing repair: "Tilling did not mind this little inconvenience in the least, for it was all so interesting . . . while foot - passengers, thrilled with having entire contents of a house exposed for their inspection, were unable to tear themselves away from so intimate an exhibition" ( Mapp and Lucia, 181).

And this from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: "We stared at the house for a while. The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture" (139).

Cross - Section from
This Old House: A Day in Five Storeys
by Leo Hartas & Richard Platt

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