Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym
01. Her beautiful love which had given her such happiness would be turned into a sordid intrigue.

Excellent Women
001. …for I had observed that men did not usually do things unless they liked doing them.
002. There was usually something rather forbidding about his manner so that women did not tend to fuss over him as they might otherwise have done.
003. …comfortably upholstered elegance…
004. I thought, not for the first time, how pleasant it was to be living alone.
005. I had an idea that I might ask her in to coffee sometime but hesitated about it because I did not quite know how to convery the impression that it was not, of course, to become a regular thing.
006. No answer seemed to be needed or expected to this question and we laughed together, a couple of women against the whole race of men.
007. …this was a situation I had not experienced before, and my training did not seem to be quite equal to it.
008. Christina Rosetti poem: Better by far you should forget and smile, than that you should remember and be sad…
009. ‘Ah, well, we aren’t meant to be satisfied in this world,’ said Sister Blatt; ‘perhaps that’s what it is.’

No Fond Return of Love
001.  There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual.
002.   [Our protagonist, Dulcie, goes to meet her neighbour at the conference, Viola.] ‘It’s an unusual idea having a conference of people like us,’ said Dulcie. ‘Do we all correct proofs, make bibliographies and indexes and do all the rather humdrum thankless tasks for people more brilliant than ourselves?’ She seemed to dwell on the words almost with relish, Viola thought, as if she were determined to create an impression of the utmost dreariness.
003.  [They go down to supper and the woman helping with the soup is named Jessica Foy—Dulcie knows she’s the librarian from a well-known library and it impressed. I love the idea of a librarian being intimidating simply because she works in the Bodleian or the British Library.]
004.  [Miss Foy asks Viola what she researched with the speaker there and Viola said it was just an obscure 18th century poet.] ‘You were lucky to find one so obscure that not even the Americans had “done him”,’ commented Miss Foy dryly. ‘It’s quite serious—this shortage of obscure poets.’
005.  [Viola says to Dulcie that perhaps she’d get married.] Dulcie: ‘I might, but even if I did marry I don’t suppose my character would alter much.’
‘You would not allow yourself to be moulded by any man,’ said Miss Foy, in a satisfied tone, ‘and neither should I.’ Dulcie turned away to hide a smile. [She’s glad to have something in common with her heroine. I can identify with that.]
006.   [Commenting on the attendees:] ‘Yes, too many eccentrics,’ said Miss Foy, realising that her own greatest pleasure in life was a tricky item of classification or bibliographical entry.
007.   [Later Viola awakens Dulcie to whine about her love life (or lack thereof). Dulcie gives her some platitudes before drifting off] What a pity we can’t make a cup of Ovaltine, was her last conscious thought. Life’s problems are often eased by hot milky drinks.
008.  Next morning Dulcie was conscious of a tramping of footsteps past her door, almost as if the place were on fire and people were hurrying to safety. It was some time before she realised it was nothing more alarming than enthusiasm for early morning tea.
009.  Then Dulcie thinks it would be difficult for Viola to listen to a lecture given by her former crush.] But in this she may well have been wrong, not having experienced the power of the tie that shared academic work can forge between two people.
010.  That was the worst of trying to be helpful, [Dulcie] reflected; so often one did the wrong thing.
011.  She guessed that they would soon go out, probably in search of the much-needed solace of a cup of tea.
012.  ‘Oh, that’s all right. It’s better when people say what they really think.’
‘Is it? How could we ever carry on with our everyday life if we did that?’

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