Friday, 15 May 1992

The Return of Dodo

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Lady's Realm, December 1896
Collected in Desirable Residences and Other Stories (1991)
Approx. 5,400 words
(First read 15/05/1992) 

At the end of Dodo the novel (1893) the eponymous witch, having pretty much ditched her fiancĂ© Jack (who'd been pining for her throughout the novel, despite her previously marrying his cousin) at the altar and taken as her second victim-I-mean-spouse the Austrian diplomat Prince Waldeneck, sent herself into a kind of self-imposed exile.  In The Return of Dodo ~ unsurprisingly ~ she makes a triumphant re-entry two years later onto the London Society scene, after being invited to open a charity bazaar¹.  The story deals with this comeback: the success of Dodo and, for the titillation of the Lady's Realm readers, the concomitant failure of her marriage.
I suspect ~ but have no evidence ~ that EFB may have intended this as the opener of a magazine serial².  Dodo is okay in small doses like this, particularly when she doesn't actually show her face till halfway through the story.

¹ It's a great pity she didn't stay in Paris just six more months and attend this ill-fated bazaar, then I might not have had to wade through the two sequel novels.
² For more on this see the entry for the next Dodo story, The Progress of Princess Waldeneck [aka Dodo's Progress], which followed in May 1897 in the same magazine.

A favourite joke of EFB's:
Dodo had been out of England for two years, and it might have been supposed that London, or rather that momentous fraction of it called 'All London', would have entirely forgotten about her.
As I said earlier, the first half of the story, before Dodo turns up, is actually quite good fun.  In this passage Benson has a little dig at the Society charity bazaar phenomenon:
All London had suddenly realized that the greatest of all things was charity, and it had pricked its fingers terribly over the discovery.  Everybody brought little silk bags out to dinner with them, in which they kept their work, and after dinner sewed away diligently at squares of silk bedcovers and embroidered stoles.  [...] Several young men even followed the fashion, and sat them chastely at their needlework in the manner of Penelope, and talked about rucking and tacking.
Finally, EFB slips into Dickens mode with the woman who was to have been the star attraction of the bazaar until Dodo deigned to accept her invitation:
[At the bazaar] no change was to be given, no silver taken, no untitled lady except Miss Anastasia M. Blobs, who was the rage just then ~ she could whistle through her fingers ~ was going to hold a stall [...]

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