Date of publication
Dedicated to the Editor and the Directors of Time and Tide, in whose pages this diary first appeared
Cook, Marjorie Grant. ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’. The Times Literary Supplement, no. 1507, 18 Dec. 1930, p. 1084; Mais, S. P. B. ‘New Novels: Miss Delafield’s Witty Tale’. Daily Telegraph, no. 23581, 12 Dec. 1930, p. 6; ‘Novel Notes: Diary of a Provincial Lady’. The Bookman, Jan. 1931, pp. 276–77; ‘Notes for the Novel-Reader: Fiction of the Month’. The Illustrated London News, vol. 178, no. 4788, 24 Jan. 1931, pp. 142.
The first volume of the Provincial Lady novels focuses mainly on our nameless protagonist's domestic life in rural Devon, where she lives with her husband Robert, a land agent. They have two children, Robin (mostly away at prep school in this volume) and Vicky, who is cared for at home by Mademoiselle, a French governess. A housemaid and Cook complete the servants caring for the family. The book famously opens with the planting of the winter bulbs, and our heroine negotiates Women's Institute meetings, an outbreak of measles, the prolixity of Our Vicar's Wife and, above all, the awful high-handedness of Lady Boxe, who is both a neighbour and Robert's employer. The characteristics of the family are established: Robert is unemotional and taciturn, Robin is kind and playful, Vicky dynamic and assertive, Mademoiselle emotional and skilled with her needle. The Provincial Lady does occasionally get away from home, visiting her friend Rose in London, where she utterly fails to visit a celebrated Italian art exhibition, and joining Rose in the South of France for a fortnight in the sun. Her preoccupations with her wardrobe begin in this novel and recur throughout all four books, and her financial precarity is well-established here. The novel ends with a party held by Lady Boxe described in highly satirical terms.
comedy marriage motherhood