Saturday, 12 May 2007

Aunts Aren't Gentlemen


Aunt's Aren't Gentlemen is one of my favourite PG Wodehouse titles. I haven't actually read the book, you understand, but the title sums up pretty much everything I enjoy about Wodehouse.

But that isn't what I'm talking about today. Do you ever come ac
ross a book, through perfectly sensible literary paths, which makes you sit back and think "how on Earth did this become a part of my collection?" The connections which led to purchase are wholly admirable, but... Well, if you have to murmur the title to anyone sotto voce, then that's a sure sign. If there's a ready-made reason for buying on the tip of your tongue - "Oh, it seems strange, but I bought it because..." - then perhaps you're in the same boat as me. How did I ever buy Cordial Relations: The Maiden Aunt in Fact & Fiction?

I've been reading the letters of Joyce Grenfell and Katharine Moore, on and off, for a few weeks - the latter kept mentioning the writing process, and consequent publication, of her book Cordial Relations (while making very clear that the title was Heinemann's idea, not her own). Eventually I capitulated.

The letters are very interesting (have I mentioned them before?) Moore wrote to Grenfell after hearing her criticise a poem on the radio, leaping to the poem's defence. A few tentative missives back and forth, and then the two became correspondents up until Grenfell's death - though never met. Quite like blogging/internet friendships, really. But some amusingly odd letters - Moore often saw Grenfell on stage or in concert, and would write of it afterwards. How strange to see your correspondent on stage; stranger to think your correspondent could be somewhere in an anonymous audience. A fascinating scenario. Would I know if I walked past other bloggers on the street?

Anyway, I then discovered that Katharine Moore also wrote, and was rather intrigued by this volume. Seemed quite an arbitrary categorisation, but also quite an interesting one. Have a brief think - who do you reckon will get in? Of which maiden aunts can you think? Only had a quick flick through so far, but can tell you that the book includes sections on Jane Austen, C
aroline Fox, Emily Eden, Dorothy Wordsworth (hmm, not very maiden, surely), Louisa M. Alcott, Maria Edgeworth, Harriet Martineau; Aunts to the Brontes (where is that pesky accent?), Gibbon, Lamb and Emerson; fictional Aunts in Ivy Compton-Burnett, Saki, Dickens, and, indeed, Wodehouse. What a wonderful selection of people! And a fascinating schema under which to approach them. I look forward to perusing...

And now I can proudly boast the title of this book. Maybe. Any other strange titles you feel the need to defend?

1 comment:

  1. I love the sound of "Cordial Relations" and I may have a companion volume: "Old Maid to Radical Spinsters, Unmarried Women in the Twentieth-Century Novel". Typically me though I haven't actually read it yet.

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