I’m missing quite a selection of pages (564-5, 568-9, 572-3, 576-7, 580-1, 584-5, 588-9) which is doubly disappointing because it’s from the end of the diary, when things were gradually beginning to seem more hopeful once again.
However, I console myself by saying that this particular edition will likely be worth millions to loyal Persephone collectors in the future!
Anyhow there’s nothing like reading a wartime diary to help you keep your blessings, bookish and otherwise, counted, so enough of my petty complaints and onto Persephone-ness.
Yesterday I promised to share the quotes from Vere Hodgson’s diaries about the writers whose work brought her comfort, at best, and distraction, at least, during the war years, and here they are.
“Nearly finished the life of Tolstoy — very difficult person. Glad he was no relation of mine. Saints seem as difficult as geniuses — Tolstoy was both, and I don’t wonder his wife gave way to her feelings in her diary.”
April 29, 1941
“I am struggling with the Brothers Karamazov, but do not find myself at home with any of the characters. Must read something about Dostoevsky.”
January 4, 1945
And: “Heard some of Framley Parsonage. Amazing how popular Trollope has become.
It is because there was no income tax, no war, plenty of food and plenty of servants, in his novels!
I love them and feel in another world.”
July 17, 1944
I shared this one out of order because I was struck by the overlap with Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg’s On the Other Side: Letters to My Children: From Germany 1940-1946, which is Persephone No. 75 (2007).
Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg would have been one of the Germans that Vere Hodgson described as follows in Few Eggs and No Oranges:
“It is difficult to reconcile the docility of the average German with the inhuman brutality of others. Now they obey our orders just as they obeyed the Nazis. Are they just flabby robots? And the worst of them — Brutal Thugs?”
April 27, 1945
But Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg was no flabby robot, no Brutal Thug. In fact, she too, in one of the letters that she wrote to her children during the war years, commented on the appeal and consolation that Trollope’s works at this time:
“The only really nice thing is our reading aloud of Münchhausen; Trollope’s thick novels also give us great pleasure.”
January 12, 1941
I’ll have more to say about Wolff-Monckeberg’s letters tomorrow — and still more later in the week when I report back on Etty Hillesum’s diaries, my final Persephone wartime diary read for the week — but in the meantime, I have one more thing to add in relation to my notes about Vere Hodgson’s diaries.
As I mentioned yesterday, one of the inspirations for my Persephone Week, Reading Wartime Persephones was a series of films. One of these, Housewife, 49 (which is how the subject signed her weekly diary entries, with her occupation and age) makes a wonderful viewing companion for Few Eggs and No Oranges, as it, too, considers the experiences of an ordinary English woman coping with wartime shortages, stresses and losses on the homefront. Highly recommended.