Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Barbara Pym

Short biographies are available at The Barbara Pym Official Home Page and The Barbara Pym Society of North America. And a list of some full-length biographies, scholarly studies and articles appears here .

The following quotations are taken from Barbara Pym’s A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym. (NY: E.P. Dutton Inc, 1984), which, if you’ve enjoyed this author’s fiction, is a must-read.

27 August 1933
I was reading the diaries I kept when I was 15 and 18, and profoundly depressed by them – I’m glad time goes on.

26 January 1934
I went out to the Bodleian in my little grey suit with a red hankie knotted round my neck. I sat reading – Chaucer and the Roman poets – when Lorenzo came and sat down beside me. I did not speak to him but we smiled at each other. I found it difficult to work.

14 August 1936
Last Monday I had a letter from Jonathan Cape – saying that he was interested in my novel Some Tame Gazelle and thought he might be able to offer to publish it if I would make some alterations. They are quite minor ones – so I hope I shall soon be able to send it off again. And then – I dare not hope too much, but it would be marvellous if he took it.

19-21 April 1940
How differently one behaves now though on a melancholy evening! Instead of the abandonment of tears and the luxury of a good cry one thinks philosophically about what is the best thing to do – to smoke, get ready for bed, read a nice light novel and then sleep a long sleep. It is always better in the morning.

16 October 1943
A very melancholy day, but in some ways a satisfying one. Because I’ve really faced up to the fact that Gordon doesn’t really love me as I love him and will never ask me to marry him when he is free.

28 October 1955
Perhaps to be loved is the most cosy thing in life and yet many people, women I suppose I mean, know only the uncertainties of loving, which is only sometimes cosy when one accepts one’s situation (rarely perhaps).

29 April 1958
A Glass of Blessings
published on 14April. Only 3 reviews up to 29April, none wholly good. My humour deserts me when I am dealing with romance, I am tone-deaf to dialogue, am moderately amusing. Reviewers all women. Young?

24 March 1963
To receive a bitter blow on an early Spring evening (such as that Cape don’t want to publish An Unsuitable Attachment – but it might be that someone doesn’t love you anymore) – is it worse than on an Autumn or Winter evening?

26 September 1966
After the dentist went to the Wimpole Buttery. A delicious creamy cake tasting of walnuts. Now Skipperless one begins to understand ‘compensatory eating’. Better surely now to write the kind of novel that tells of one day in the life of such a woman.

31 August 1970
It seems unnatural not to be writing bits for novels in one’s notebook. What sort of novel could I write now?

19 June 1972
The position of the unmarried woman – unless, of course, she is somebody’s mistress, is of no interest whatsoever to the readers of modern fiction. The beginning of a novel?

28 June 1975
When I wrote Some Tame Gazelle I didn’t know nearly as much about village life as I do now.

28 October 1977
James had rung to say that Quartet is on the Booker shortlist. Caroline Blackwood, Paul Bailey, Jennifer Johnston, Penelope Lively, BP and Paul Scott.

18 May 1979
Summer at last! (What one has stayed alive for?!)


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