General Impressions

Date of publication
This book is affectionately dedicated to Jean Raven-Hill
Published reviews
C. E. B. ‘Books of the Day’. The Illustrated London News, vol. 182, no. 4907, 5 June 1933, p. 644; Cannan, Joanna. ‘Essays’. The Bookman, May 1933, p. 117; ‘General Impressions’. The Scotsman, 20 Apr. 1933, p. 2; Mavrogordato, E. E. ‘General Impressions’. The Times Literary Supplement, no. 1629, 20 Apr. 1933, p. 275; ‘Shorter Notices: General Impressions’. The Times, no. 46413, 4 July 1933, p. 10.
All pieces previously published in Time and Tide. General Impressions (pp1-65). Collection of comic dialogues between character types (eg A Lady, An Elderly Gentleman, A Person with a Smattering of Science) in different settings: A Country Town House-Agent’s Office A House Removal The Zoo A Tennis Party A Ladies’ Committee Meeting A Country Auction-Sale A Bank The January Sales A Dentist’s Waiting Room A Servants’ Registry Office A West-End Draper’s A Hunt Ball A Second-Hand Clothes Shop An Atlantic Liner (First Day Out) A Children’s Party A Ladies’ Club A Christmas Shopping Centre Men, Women and Children in Fiction (pp67-117). Comic articles on literary representation and the lack of prosaic realism therein. Men: Professional Men (doctors, businessmen); Lovers (agricultural, in a satire reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm); Husbands (young, besotted and inconceivably tolerant of their heartless and eventually adulterous wives, or possessed of “cast-iron stupidity); Fathers (touching and kindhearted, frequently widowers or unhappily married, absent-minded professors or clergymen, and brutes, usually lower-middle class); Criminals (idealised, known by a nickname, attractive to women, either repent or die by the end of the novel). Women: I, in dialect novels, old but wise or malignant, young, passionate and elliptical in speech, serious but unsuccessful mothers, likely to be murdered by the end of the book. II, in historical fiction, thoroughly wicked, early Christian martyrs, unrealistically good, or the repressed daughter of Victorian or Edwardian parents. III, in allegorical fiction, eccentric of dress and hairstyle, repetitive, and often a Mother who is prone to whimsical and inaccurate generalisations. IV, prostitutes, who are invariably generous and kindhearted, strongly associated with the colour pink, terribly similar across many books and always sentimentalised. V, in detective novels, often stereotypes rather than characters, young modern women who do much of the detecting, foreign-sounding sinister older women, wives who tell extensive lies because of their extra-marital affairs or pre-marital secrets, and servants who are highly unrealistic. VI, women involved in love affairs, who rarely show any sense of humour, are focused only on their emotional lives and think of nothing else, or who are modern young women who do “practically nothing except drink, dance and go about with men”. Children: children in books are rarer, and often present an idealised version of the author’s own childhood; they frequently feature in the sort of novel that requires a family tree at the beginning and their early lives are described with too much detail. Fictional children are often very sensitive and incredibly, precociously observant; if sent to school, it is implied, their experiences are likely to revolve around homosexual adolescent experiences. Children can also be used as the focus of a fantasy novel, or to point up the worthlessness of their mother; girls in fiction are often sexualised from an early age. Home Life Relayed (pp119-140). The radio reporter Clarion Vox is giving a running commentary on everyday situations, as from a major event or a sports match. The first scene is 74 Floral Crescent, Highgate, at breakfast, during which Father complains about the bacon at length, daughter Doris spills her tea, and Mother tries to manage everyone’s emotions harmoniously. In the second scene, breakfast is being cleared up, Mother asks Norah the maid to be careful, offending her; Doris is being told off, kicks a table leg repeatedly and knocks over the canary in its cage. Mother orders the groceries by phone, and the laundry van arrives. In the third section, the scene changes to The Laurels, Father’s parents’ house. It is very wet and Grandmama is laying down newspaper over the linoleum. The family from Floral Crescent arrives and they have supper and play bridge, which leads to an argument and Grandpapa taking the cards to play patience. The family settles down somewhat after cocoa. Back at Floral Crescent for the fourth scene, it is Father’s birthday and another very wet day. Father intends to take the family out for a day in the country and will not be deterred; they pack themselves into the open-topped car with a picnic. The final scene is a large railway station; the grandparents have come to see the family off on the boat-train. There is a polite disagreement with a Frenchman over possession of the corner seat, and Grandpapa gives stern warnings about drinking French water. The piece closes with a request for Clarion Vox’s relations to go to Hanwell Asylum, where he is dangerously ill. Studies in Everyday Life (pp141-164). Comic overview of aspects of modern life: Movements’ (political/charitable, including habits of speakers and operations of committees) Looking at Schools (failures of communication between parents and teachers, mothers’ over-estimation of their child’s abilities, fathers’ interests in the school drains) Being Parents (parenting advice, loss of parental infallibility, the difficulty of parents who were brought up as Victorians in raising twentieth-century children) Mr. Fairchild (overview of the character from Mary Martha Sherwood’s History of the Fairchild Family, published serially 1818-1847) The Non-Gardener’s Gardening Calendar (poking fun at the incomprehensibility of gardening tips for those who do not garden) Looking at the Classics (pp165-176). EMD takes as an example a young writer called Vavasour [a great of Sir Hugh Clifford married into the Vavasour family] who, seeking to write a play, draws on Shakespeare and other classics to shape his plays. She shows how dramatic construction can be used to get across any point of view in drama. Another example writer, Cathcart-Symington, can write dialogue but not plot; he can lift a plot from the classics instead. But this may fall foul of the censor as well as being hard to believe for the audience. The Sincerest Form... (pp177-222) Parodies of contemporary writers: ’The Supremacy of Mr Ponds’ - H. G. Wells, The Autocracy of Mr. Parham (1930), itself a satire of press monopolies, spiritualism and chemical warfare. ’Arnold Prohack, Journal 1929’ - Arnold Bennett’s edited Journals were published in two volumes in 1939. EMD satirises his luxurious lifestyle and the distance he has come from the Potteries. ’Super-Superlative’ - possibly a parody of Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel (1929); the associated film was released in 1932. ’Still Dustier’ - Rosamond Lehmann, Dusty Answer (1927) and A Note in Music (1930). ’Platform Sweepers, by Albert Hall’ - parody of a history of a theatrical family. Possibly based on Gordon Craig’s memoirs of his family published in 1930 and 1931. ’Women and Children Last (but journalistic young gentlemen don’t, for very long)’ - Beverley Nichols, Women and Children Last (1931). Skewers Nichols’s misogyny. ’(Not) For Frightened People (as it will only make them feel worse)’ - E. Arnot Robinson, Four Frightened People (1931). ’Portrait of a Dark Circus: a Tale (Two or Three Tails, in fact)’ - Hugh Walpole, Above the Dark Circus (1931) ’Flamboyant, by the author of Pink Post Chaise’ - Lady Eleanor Smith, Flamenco (1931) and Red Wagon (1930) ’Hebraic, by Stern (but not very)’ - G. B. Stern, Mosaic (1931) ’White Wickedness: or, on the Waugh-Path’ - Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief (1932) ’The Greater Britain, by a Greater Briton’ - Oswald Mosley, The Greater Britain (1931) When I’m Allowed to Be... (pp223-269 ’Mother Theresa Makes Her Meditation’. An Irish nun reflects on her family, particularly her brother Jamesie who became a priest and was killed in Manchuria. ’Retrospect’. A widowed woman remembers her sister Francie, who died in Canada and who she now misses more than her dead husband. ’The Generations’. A woman sits in the cathedral and remembers being a bridesmaid there, and how much she and her mother loved each other when she was little - but remembers how daughters inevitably grow away from their mothers. ’Where Have We Got to Now?’ An unemployed ex-serviceman with a wife and baby, goes to ask his wealthy stepsister for a loan. She agrees, after going over his finances, and he realises it will be easier to ask her again in the future. ’The Widow’. A working-class woman reflects on her marriage after her husband’s death, and plans to enjoy herself more in the future. ’End of a Holiday’. A family is returning from their holiday in France. Mrs Harper is on edge, placating her husband’s temper, managing the children and thinking of all that they will have to do when she gets home. ’The Mother’. A widow thinks about her son Cecil, who was different and clever and ran away from home at 15, ending up in America, and whether he is now happy. ’Conversation-Piece’. Two young women discuss their love affairs over a box of chocolates, and wonder why middle-aged people like to dance at parties. ’Men Have No Imagination’. A middle-aged woman remembers an extramarital affair she had, and how her lover told his much younger wife that she was a ‘wrong ‘un’. ’The Night Sister’. A nurse remembers her charming, spendthrift brother, who shot himself because he was in debt. Clearing the debt meant she could not go to college, but continued in nursing after the war. ’Fauntleroy (To A[rthur]. P[aul]. D[ashwood]. [ie EMD’s husband])’ An elderly couple disagree over Fauntleroy, the cat; she dotes on the cat, he thinks it should be kept out of the bedroom. When she dies and their son and family move into the house, the old man comes around to Fauntleroy, an real and tangible connection with the past. ’Question Without Answer’. A demi-mondaine recalls the time she fell in love with one of the men she was living with, and let him see that - only to lose him to another woman.
collected articles comedy short stories