Friday, 18 January 2013

Lots of Provincial Ladies

Be prepared for me to be pretty flexible in my Reading Presently project, folks.  I mostly won't be including re-reads, but I will be more inclined to if I'm reading the gift for the first time - i.e. first time in that particular edition, but not first time overall.  And, in the first days of the new year, I re-read E.M. Delafield's The Diary of a Provincial Lady for the umpteenth time, and loved it just as much as ever.  I'm amazed by how consistently wonderfully Delafield writes it, with almost every line making me smile or laugh.  Just flicking through a copy, here is an example, because I feel she should get to say something in this post:
Write letters.  Much interrupted by Helen Wills [the cat], wanting to be let out, kitten, wanting to be let in, and dear Robin, who climbs all over the furniture, apparently unconscious that he is doing so, and tells me at the same time, loudly and in full, the story of The Swiss Family Robinson.
As I say, I've read it many times - this is probably the eighth or ninth time in ten years - but this is the first time I've read the particular edition given to me by (drum roll, if you will)... Thomas at My Porch!  Yes, that adorable man knew that I had something of a collection of Provincial Lady editions, and sent me this beauty:


Isn't it fab?  I was so grateful, especially since it's an edition I've never seen on my bookshop travels in the UK.

Whilst we're here, I thought you might fancy a little tour around my other editions, no?  If nothing else, it'll make you feel better about your own book buying compulsions.  You'll feel a model of restraint and good sense, by comparison.

This is the first ever edition that I bought, having read The Provincial Lady Goes Further from the local library (large print edition - the only E.M. Delafield book they held).  This is the edition I've read most often - in fact, it's always on my bedside table - and the spine has fallen off.  It's all four Provincial Lady books in one, with an introduction by Kate O'Brien.  It would have originally had a lovely dustjacket - like the one pictured in Christine's post here - but mine came, instead, with a cup mark.


Over the years, I've bought up cheap editions of the various books in the series, when I've stumbled across them.  That accounts for this little pile - two copies of The Provincial Lady Goes Further, and one of The Diary of a Provincial Lady - which, interestingly, has a bunch of pages duplicated in the middle, and thus must be worth.... um, nothing.



One of the reasons I buy these, other than because they're simply lovely, is for the fantastic Arthur Watt illustrations:


And then, of course, I have the Virago Modern Classics edition, with Nicola Beauman's introduction.  I couldn't not have that, could I?  But... I suppose I didn't medically need to get this two separate editions of this omnibus, simply for the different covers... (second photo not mine, pinched from Christine's site - because I forgot to take a photo of it, and it's in Somerset.)



And, finally, when shopping in one of my favourite bookshops - Malvern Bookshop in Malvern, Worcestershire - I came across the Folio edition of the first book.  I don't think the illustrator really interprets the book in the way I would, but Folio books are so beautifully produced that I couldn't leave this one on the shelf now, could I?  No.  No, of course I could not.


Ok, dear reader, I know what you're thinking... I don't have the Cath Kidston edition which Virago published a year or two ago!  And you're right, of course.  I imagine one day, when I find it cheaply, I'll add it to my collection.  'Collection' sounds better than hoard, doesn't it?

Well, my name is Simon, and I am addicted to editions of the Provincial Lady.  Thomas is my enabler.  I'm well aware that I couldn't stop any time I wanted to.  I'm not even trying to go clean.   Don't LOOK at me, I'm SO ASHAMED.

(I'm not.  Not at all.)

65 comments:

  1. If only I'd known you wanted the Cath Kidston edition. I didn't care for it - too twee - and I'm pretty sure I gave mine to a charity shop.

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    1. I have to confess, it was the pattern I liked least out of the series Virago did - my favourite is the Angela Carter print, and that's the only one of the series I've got in that edition.

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  2. What a great tour around your wonderful collection, Simon! I love Virago Modern Classics covers, very pretty. I don’t blame you for buying both :) And you made me feel so much better about my five different copies of Les Miserables (I used one of them as a “model” for Reading Presently picture, the one you can hardly see behind the wrapping paper ;)

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    1. Only five! Positively restrained, by comparison ;)

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  3. I admire your thoroughness, Simon. My family thinks I'm bad with multiple editions of certain titles (*ahem* Angela Thirkell) but I am tempted to show them your post just so they know how tame my collection really is ;) As for the PL books, I only have the Virago omnibus and my grandmother's copy of Diary of a Provincial Lady but I could easily be persuaded to collect more copies!

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    1. Ha! Yes, use me as an example of the greater evil, by all means. My family have long since ceased to clamp down on this - although my bro does often ask, after I've bought some books, how many of them I had already...

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  4. I have two copies of the omnibus (you know... just in case there's an emergency...) but I am so envious of your lovely illustrated editions.

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    1. It does add something lovely, doesn't it? I seem to stumble across old editions quite often - believe it or not, this group could be even larger, and demonstrates some restraint!

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  5. It is so hard to let old editions go when a new pretty, first ed, or other collectible one comes along.

    I must finally read the book and see what all the love is about - I bought a copy last year!

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    1. Oh, you must, Annabel! I think, as a mother, you'd probably appreciate it even more than I do. I love it as an outsider; you might nod with agreement!

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  6. Simon, if you really want the edition with the Cath Kidston cover to add to your collection you are very welcome to have mine because I now have that nice,old, compilation hardback. There's slight damage to one page in the introduction, which was there when I got it, but other than that it's in good condition. If you email your address I'll stick it in the post. Thanks for the mention!

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    1. Oh, Christine, I would feel awful taking your edition to add to my already enormous collection - thanks so much, but you hold onto it :) I'll keep my eyes open if I ever stumble across a cheap copy, but I don't deserve a free copy when I've already got so many. Thanks so much, though, it was very kind of you!

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  7. Of course, I had to go and look to see which edition it is that I have (the second of the Virago omnibus) and now I have to think of a good reason why I don't want all the others!

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    1. Haha! You need them ALL, Alex. ALL.

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  8. I'm sure there is medical help you could seek for this Simon. PS what's "book buying"?

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    1. There probably is, but the medical help might cost more than the books...

      Book buying - it's like borrowing them from the library, but you don't get fined when you fail to return them. It's pretty neat, actually.

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  9. Wasn't it thoughtful of Christine to offer up her copy?! I have a CK copy and a first edition but lovely as I am even I wasn't going to go THAT far. But, we're heading out to Toronto in an hour for some recreational book seaching - if a cheap copy pops up, it's yours.

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    1. Ooo. Be sure and report where you went and what you left for me to buy.

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    2. Ha! Just goes to show, Darlene ;)

      I assume there was no luck?

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  10. This post had me smiling. For my own confession, I've had The Provincial Lady on the TBR shelf for a couple of years now and haven't gotten to it. I MUST remedy this sooner than later! (I have the PL in London as well, but haven't come across the others). I had to chuckle at Dark Puss' comment. When my children were small, there was great confusion in our house between the library and the bookstore (since I made them be silent in both). They had trouble with why they couldn't keep the library books forever and they were always offering to pay the librarians. That wasn't as bad as them telling the bookstore clerks that they just wanted to "borrow" their books. Thankfully, we finally got them straightened out.

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    1. Susan! I have never been more certain of anything than that you would love this book. You just will.

      How hilarious about your children's relationship with bookshops and libraries! We very rarely got to buy books, so I was more than familiar with the libraries... getting to keep books was so unimaginable a joy that, when it did happen, I was very giddy! (This giddiness has clearly not abated...)

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    2. Not THAT rarely! You make our 'normal' book-buying culture sound like severe Dickensian deprivation!!!! It's all a matter of perspective!

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    3. I was wondering whether you'd spot that ;)
      Maybe I should have missed out 'very' - but I have many memories of enviously watching parents say "You can buy one book of your choice" whilst I was had to make to with browsing! OH THE DEPRIVATION.

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  11. I have the CK edition which is a little too saccharine for me. I'd love to find older versions but I imagine that would be rather difficult of this side of the pond. Surprisingly, I did find The PL in Wartime at a library book sale, but it is one of those generic bindings (or "rebindings") that US libraries seemed to specialize in back in the 30s/40s/50s.

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    1. Oh, shame - the binding is part of the fun. Good luck with your hunting!

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  12. I understand totally, Simon. My addiction is, of course, D E Stevenson editions.

    My history of Provincial Lady books is as follows:
    1968ish - read Diary, library book, loved it. With pics. Probably vintage.
    1980s perhaps - found a vintage copy of PL in Wartime. Loved it, gave it away to friend in Germany, where I'm quite sure it still has a good home
    Early 21st c.- Bought new edition of illustrated Diary
    2005 - found Virago omnibus edition at book stalls under Waterloo Bridge. (£3.50)
    2007 - gave away Diary to deserving Dessie

    See, I have this addiction under control. I always make sure they have a good home.

    Oh wait, can we call this an Ediction?

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    1. Oh Susan D: Edition? How clever! I love it.

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    2. Thanks Belle.

      I've just realised that my approach to PL is that of a serial collector, as opposed to a multiple and simultaneous collector.

      There are doctors for this, aren't there?

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    3. How rude of me; you coined a word and I misspelled it.

      Ediction. There. I got it right.

      And don't worry, I am sure there are doctors for every condition. But, pray tell, why would we want a cure for ediction?

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    4. Ediction is BRILLIANT. And yours seems to be under control for PL books - although there are a LOT more DES books, so potentially a much more dangerous ediction!

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  13. Oh, I have to add one other thing, as a fellow collector of editions.

    I've lately started creating facsimile jackets for my naked books, cobbling together available jacket art, blurbs, etc. I send the file off to local office supply/print shop and for the investment of a lot of time and 39 cents, I get some very nice new clothes for my books.

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    1. That's a lovely idea! And surprisingly cheap. Might just start doing that...

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  14. Simon, I have a match: the Chicago Academy edition of 'Diary of PL' that Thomas sent you. Thank goodness it has illustrations by Arthur Watts. I also have 'PL in America' by the same publisher with a similar Art-deco cover.

    It makes me happy to see all the different covers that you pictured. I must say my favorite is the Virago with PL sitting at her desk. Such a charmer.

    And I must confess that I too have multiple editions of certain books. That little quirk is what makes us so fascinating, right?

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    1. I love the Mondrian in the corner of that edition - a touch of her attempts at modernity. You can only imagine how cross Robert would be about it!

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  15. They're very lovely Simon - I confess I found the Cath Kidston hardbak for £1 in a charity shop! If I ever find another, I'll grab it for you!

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  16. Another cruel post from Simon. I lust after your collection. I have one & only one of the series - The Provincial Lady, a 1982 Academy Chicago edition with the pink/black Art Deco cover & (hurray!) the Arthur Watts illustrations. It's completely falling apart, because it's a softcover with now-brittle glue holding it together, and I've read it many, many times. Don't see many (any?) of EM Delafield's books in this region's used bookstores. Heaven forbid I ever get to England; can't imagine passing up used book shopping & I know I'd be in envious tears at the selection in comparison to ours locally!

    (Danielle Steele, anyone?)

    Ha.

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    1. Ha! Can you imagine anyone collection multiple editions of Danielle Steele?

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    2. What I wonder is who READS Danielle Steele. No one I know, and I have some friends with decidedly "bestseller-ish" tastes in books. Maybe one day I'll get brave & try one. Maybe she's fab-u-lous, and we're being all snarky for no reason. (Or not!) One of the bookstores I frequent gives them away for free, they have boxes & boxes. But just think, somewhere there's a first edition of her very first book. Maybe a hundred years from now the collectors will be all searching for the copies we so high-handedly dismiss!

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    3. Do Danielle Steeles even go into multiple editions? Surely people just buy the next one to come out, four minutes later?

      But, no, I've never read one - so perhaps they're astonishingly good. I know which side I'm guessing, though... ;)

      Hope you make it to England one day, and buy out all our shops!

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  17. You should start a 12-Step group! I have 5 in my collection, 3 Virago paperback editions, the Cath Kidston, and the one Thomas gave you. Plus The Lady in America, the Lady in Wartime, and 2 editions of The Provincial Lady in London, one a 1933 clothbound. Great minds think alike!

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    1. The Provincial Lady in London? Wait, I haven't got that in my VMC omnibus. Please tell me it's an alternative name for The PL Goes Further.

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    2. You're safe, Susan, it is the alternative title! (Although wouldn't it be wonderful to discover another one?)

      And 'ediction' - amazing! Love that word so much.

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  18. Oh, and Provincial Daughter, which I think only gets me 1/2 a point.

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    1. Heather! Your collection rivals me, that's wonderful :) I should also add on that half a point... and another half for the Provincial Lady on cassette, if that counts - although I have lost half of that. So three quarters of a point.

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  19. I share your ediction Simon, as you know. I only have one copy of the PL (the Virago 4-in1 but not the other beautiful Virago which I envy you) but I have several copies of Pym's Excellent Women, West's Return of the Soldier, Tey's Daughter of Time etc etc. I think it's completely normal, myself.

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    1. This is the danger, Lyn - we all convince ourselves that we're normal, until we start speaking to non-bibliophiles! (The solution, of course, is not to speak to them...)

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  20. Lovely collection. I've got the second of the 2 VMCs but I will certainly have an eye open in future for the first one - charming pic.

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    1. They're lovely choices for covers, aren't they?

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  21. This made me chuckle. Unsurprisingly I also have most of these, although I don't have the omnibus with the Kate O'Brien introduction which I clearly NEED. I now definitely WANT that Chicago Academy edition. It is really worth finding copies with the Arthur Watts illustrations - I wish someone would reprint these.

    We have about 9 editions of The Diary of a Nobody in the house because my partner and I discussed it during our first date, and whenever one of us sees a copy, it gets bought.

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    1. Oh, you definitely need it, Tanya! It's very expensive on Amazon, but turns up quite often in bookshops.

      What a lovely story about Diary of a Nobody! Although perhaps dangerous, because surely you see it all the time?

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  22. I have the earlier of the two VMC editions on my shelves which I really must get down for a long overdue re-read (I have a nasty suspicion that's it's pushing 20 years since I last read it)

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    1. in which case, you definitely need to grab your copy asap, Karoline!

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  23. I've got the fancy pants Cath Kidston edition which I bought before deciding that the price of hardbacks is just ridiculous! Love the Prov Lady and read the first book over and over again, like you. However, I don't think I'll ever re-read the other volumes, just didn't find they had the same magic. Your post has made me want to re-read though - wasn't Helen Wills named after a tennis player of the time?

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    1. That's funny, my favourite is actually the second one in the series - but perhaps that's because I read it first? I re-read them all, but the first two are the most wonderful.

      And yes, Helen Wills is named after a tennis player - which thankfully I remembered when writing this post, and added in [the cat] because otherwise the quotation would have read very oddly!

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  24. I've loved the Provincial lady for years but only read it in the Virago paperback and have never seen the Arthur Watts illustrations, so your penchant for buying lots of different editions has benefitted all of us!

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    1. There we go! I knew it was altruistic really ;)

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  25. Oh, Simon, you have made me feel better about my book buying habits! hahaha! Maybe you'd like to come to Sheffield in June? There will be a talk on The Provincial Lady http://reading19001950.wordpress.com/events/

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    1. oo, maybe... depending on what my finances look like!

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  26. You must surely have come across the "literature abuse" meme? If not, Google it now!

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  27. I think it is hilarious that you used my gift as an excuse to re-read PL. I think I have other PLs in that same edition that might go begging. I will have a look.

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  28. What gorgeous covers! Shamefully I've not read this book but now knowing how much you love it, I'm going to go borrow a copy.
    - Olduvai

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