The Provincial Lady Goes Further

Date of publication
For Cass Canfield
Published reviews
Linnell, John. ‘Novelists and "Fictioneers". The Bookman; Dec 1932; 83, 495; Cook, Marjorie Grant. ‘The Provincial Lady Goes Further’. The Times Literary Supplement, no. 1605, 11 Mar. 1932, p. 810; Armstrong, Anne. ‘New Novels: The Provincial Lady Goes Further’. Saturday Review, Nov. 1932, pp. 480–81; ‘New Novels: The Provincial Lady Goes Further’. The Times, no. 46276, 28 Oct. 1932, p. 17; ‘Notes for the Novel-Reader: Fiction of the Month’. The Illustrated London News, vol. 181, no. 4884, 26 Nov. 1932, p. 848; Holtby, Winifred. ‘Novels of the Year’. The Bookman, Dec. 1932, pp. 171–72.
At the opening of this volume, which starts on 9 June, the Provincial Lady (PL) has published a book. Robin, Vicky and Mademoiselle are encouraging; Robert says that it is funny, but does not look amused. Various friends write to say how astonished they are that she has written a book, and her neighbours become suspicious that she might put them in a future book. A letter from a reader suggests that her book is harmful to art and morality. The family's finances are not improved as yet, and the PL resorts to asking her literary agent when she might expect to see some income. When a cheque does arrive, it is much larger than expected and the PL begins to think of taking a flat in London. Vicky asks to go to school. Mademoiselle is distraught at the prospect. Rose (Vicky's godmother) is asked for advice, and the neighbours ask whether Vicky is really to be sent away. Rose advises school and suggests two that the PL might visit. A plan to go to London, visit Rose, inspect schools and get a permanent wave is made. Mademoiselle recovers slightly from her crise de nerfs, but there is an emotional conversation about the possibility of Vicky leaving for school. The PL is invited to join a literary club and to attend its next International Congress, shortly to be held in Brussels; she decides to attend. A distant new neighbour, Mrs Callington-Clay, visits unexpectedly while the PL is covered with fluff after going through the linen cupboard. Mrs C.-C. reminds her of Pamela Pringle, now on her third husband, who the PL met once many years ago. Pamela now lives nearby and the PL agrees to visit. The visit to Rose in London takes place. They inspect the first school, which is large, cold, institutional and unsatisfactory. The PL has a successful permanent wave. A second school, which is nicer, is visited but there is too much focus on handicrafts and the table manners of the pupils let it down. Rose and the PL attend a literary party, where she is appalled to meet a connection of Jahsper, met in volume 1. A letter from Pamela Pringle arrives, inviting the PL to call. A third school, at Mickleham, is visited and found to be entirely satisfactory. Rose and the PL go out for the evening with a Canadian friend of Rose and his American friend; it is a highly enjoyable evening and they all get a little drunk on champagne. The literary conference in Brussels is starting, and the PL travels by train and boat; thankfully the crossing is a smooth one. At the hotel, the PL meets her old friend, playwright Emma Hay, who is eccentric in dress and over-generous with accessories and introduces her to several Balkan writers. The conference takes place but the PL finds it hard to focus on the speeches; this is followed by sight-seeing which is rather exhausting and a reception at the town hall. Emma introduces her friend repeatedly to the same Italian writer. A banquet and dancing concludes the event, none of which our heroine enjoys; the whole event leaves her feeling middle-aged. The PL and Emma travel back together and they argue about the PL's commitment to domesticity, but are reconciled later. Back in London, Rose has found the PL a suitable flat in Doughty Street. They go to see it and the PL signs the lease for a three-year tenancy. Returning home, she finds it hard to tell Robert about the flat, and Cook gives notice. The PL goes to visit Pamela Pringle in her large house; Pamela has many male guests and remains very beautiful, although the PL is glad to see that all her children wear spectacles and have straight hair. Robert is finally told about the flat and is kind but gloomy about it. Robin is sent home from school early because of another boy's jaundice. After a painful discussion with Mademoiselle, it is agreed that she will leave her post and Vicky will go to school in September. No replacement cook has been recruited. The family is persuaded to book a holiday in Brittany. Mademoiselle leaves and a holiday tutor (eventually nicknamed Casabianca) is appointed to come with them. After much packing and preparing, the family achieves St Malo, and travel on to St Briac. The weather is very wet and the sea turns out to be twenty minutes from the hotel. The bathing is cold, but the children enjoy it and they get on well with Casabianca, who is very effective. The holiday is enlivened by a medical emergency on the beach (safely resolved), a dance at the hotel (Robert does not attend but the PL dances with Casabianca), Vicky falling into a hole in the hotel floor, and an unsuccessful visit by Robert and the PL to the casino. Back at home, a temporary cook is employed and the weather is wet and cold. The PL visits London to sort out her flat and meets the Viscountess again. Felicity Fairmead, a friend of the PL that Robert actually likes, comes for a convalescent visit. They go for a picnic, and Vicky meets a dog which they eventually adopt - Kolynos. There is a national economic crisis, and Robert is eloquent on the topic. The family and Felicity spend an intolerable Sunday at home. Preparations start for the children to return to school; the PL takes Vicky to London and Casabianca departs. Vicky is left at school, very happy. The PL stays on in London with the intention of writing. She attends a literary party with Rose, which of course is awkward and dull. But more invitaitons come, from Emma, the Viscountess, and Pamela Pringle, now in London. The PL visits her first, and Pamela pours out the story of her life and several marriages; it becomes clear that she is having an affair now. Coming out of Pamela's flat into a cold wind, the PL meets Lady Boxe, by chance. The PL tries to write, but is distracted by domestic issues and interruptions. Then Rose volunteers her to go to Hertfordshire to speak at her niece's WI meeting. After this, Rose is elusive and when the friends do meet they quarrel, but make it up. The PL is disappointed to find out she is overdrawn again, and then comes down with a head cold just in time for a dinner party at Pamela's, a socially painful event. Pamela telephones late the next night to ask for an alibi for that evening, which stimulates a night of catastrophic imaginings. Robert writes to say that he wishes his wife would come home and she consequently covers the furniture in dust-sheets and prepares to return. First, however, she must lunch with Pamela and visit a clairvoyant with her. At the PL's club, Pamela eats nothing and tells her all about all the men who are in love with her. The clairvoyant issues a mixture of platitudes and unlikely predictions to the PL, and tells Pamela that she will never have peace in her life. The PL returns home on 7 November, and Robert announces that he has missed her. There is then a gap until 13 April; the family are still in a tense financial situation. Casabianca is back for the Easter holiday. Felicity comes to stay again, after a number of letters and telegrams re-arranging her plans. The two women go to visit an author, Charlotte Volley, at her invitation; she lives with a companion, Miss Postman. Miss Postman is voluble in her praise of Miss Volley, who she calls Carina, and the PL implies in her diary that they are a lesbian couple. Lady Frobisher invites the PL and Robert to dinner to meet Lord and Lady Blamington. Lord Blamington turns out to have been Bill Ransom, who the PL once had a close relationship with. Robert is pleased, because the Frobishers have good claret, but unmoved when the PL tells him that Bill asked her to marry him several times. The PL goes to Plymouth to get her hair done, undertakes tedious domestic shopping but cannot run to a new dress. At the dinner, the PL notes that Bill has kept his figure but lost his hair, and they discuss the past a little. There is a political discussion but the PL is unable to be frank about her left-wing views. Bill's wife is very glamorous. Bill suggests that she and Robert should visit them in Kent, but the PL knows this will not happen. The next day, discussing the evening with Robert, he tells his wife that the green dress she wore makes her look tawdry, which distresses her for the rest of the day. Casabianca and the children prepare to return to school. Mademoiselle arrives for a visit. The PL continues to speculate on the possibilities emerging from her meeting with Bill, but her romantic imagination is repeatedly quashed by domestic matters. Mademoiselle and Casabianca do not get on; a picnic which is already tense is made worse by wet weather. The PL's literary agent chases her about her next book and she decides to return to London. Mademoiselle and Casabianca both leave, and the children return to school; the PL returns to Doughty Street. Back in London, she receives invitations from Rose, Emma Hay and Pamela Pringle, who continues to involve her in her romantic entanglements. She attends Pamela's cocktail party where, under the influence of drink, the PL talks extensively and confidently with strangers, and has to get a taxi home. The PL feels guilty about her social life, when she is supposed to be writing, but finds time to visit Vicky at school and go to Emma's literary party, where the PL's conversational gambits are unsuccessful. She also visits Robert's Aunt Mary, who clearly disapproves of most aspects of the PL's life. She is then asked to be on the organising committee for a Time and Tide party, for which she buys a new frock. The party is very successful and the PL acquits herself well in her speech. The Viscountess invites the PL to a lunch party in Buckinghamshire and she drives there with Rose; they get lost and arrive part-way through lunch. After lunch, the PL is dragged unwillingly round the garden, much to the amusement of her friends. Robert arrives to take the PL and Vicky to Robin's sports day. At lunch, they meet Pamela Pringle with a young man, Hipps, who proves to be an artist, and agree to go to his exhibition later. Robert tells the PL he has committed her to doing a turn at the village concert next month. Later, at the gallery, the pictures are incomprehensible and Hipps inconsolable because Pamela has not shown up. Vicky arrives by bus, and they all go to Robin's school. PL attempts to get some information about Robin's progress from his form-master; they all enjoy the day. Back in London, Pamela suggests that she might visit them in Devon, and the PL tries to get on with some writing. She is commissioned to write an article on Modern Freedom in Marriage, but the usual domestic interruptions occur even in London when someone offers to clean her telephone and the window-cleaner puts his arm through some glass. Rose and Felicity visit, but do not get on. The PL goes to a dinner party, invited by Helen de Liman de la Pelouse who she has met through Pamela. Conversation is, as usual, difficult, although one of her neighbours at dinner is polite and interesting. After dinner, she is plied with questions about Pamela, and makes up some quite interesting answers. The PL decides to return to Devon and is pleased to see her home again. Robert is told about the Modern Freedom in Marriage article and supplies extensive suggestions. The PL notices a tendency towards day-dreaming in herself. Our Vicar's Wife calls to ask about her concert turn and they go to visit some new neighbours and call on Miss Pankerton; Our Vicar's Wife asks her to fetch a bicycle part from London the next time she goes. The concert takes place - the PL recites a narrative poem about Dick Turpin - and is a success. On returning home, the PL and Robert are astonished to find all the lights on and Pamela Pringle in their drawing-room with several strange men. They stay for drinks and one of them plays the piano until the party breaks up at about one in the morning. The PL finds that Pamela has used her dressing-table, and left it in a distressingly untidy state. The volume closes on 13 July with the PL preparing for the children's return home and dealing with Cook's request for extra help, while thinking that she would like to go to America.
comedy education marriage motherhood writers