Tuesday, 27 December 1994

Buntingford Jugs

Fiction ~ short story
Published December 1925
Approx. 5,000 words
(First read 27/12/1994) 

Mrs Aylwin is a Benson Type No. 7:
... comely; she could also have been called buxom.  Her age might have been forty-five, but it was fifty, and she found fifty a very pleasant age to be.  She had been a widow for ten years, and these ten years had been the busiest and far the happiest of her life.
Her pleasure is to collect antiques and bric-a-brac, anything from Aubusson carpets to 'ornaments made of shells'.   The sole teeny-weeny fly in this rich, creamy ointment is her friend and fellow aficionado Mr Anthony Coleham who will insist on proposing marriage.  Did I say 'teeny-weeny'?  In fact:
He was a large man, pleasantly furnished with flesh, and filled a chair beautifully.
In an effort to win over his reluctant inamorata, Mr C begins a campaign to buy up every piece of Buntingford ware on the market ~ this happens to be Mrs A's latest collecting fad ~ with a view to making a wedding present of it to her.  The story has its charms, but is promising only up to the dénouement when it sadly comes rather unknotted.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

THE CRITICS
 
Brilliant literary talent distinguishes the handsome Christmas Number of the Windsor Magazine, stories of outstanding novelty and interest being contributed by Horace Annesely Vachell, E. F. Benson [etc. etc.]
~The Grantham Journal [UK], 12/12/1925

George's Secret

Fiction ~ short story
Published 21st November 1894
Approx. 1,800 words
(First read 27/12/1994)

My original 1994 review of this one was a tad dismissive:
A fishing story.  Picture this: I'm sitting in my London club on a dreary afternoon in November at the tail end of the 19th century.  All inside is snug as a bug; I've just had a splendid lunch.  I pick up The Sketch and find in it a new story by 'that Benson cove'.  "Jolly good," I think to myself; "he's always good to pass an idle moment."  I embark on George's Secret ... and after no more than two minutes I'm sound asleep.
I re-read it last June (2013) and actually found it quite funny.  It's the simple tale of a chap who, having never fished before, goes at it like a bull angling for Dresden figurines, and ~ much to the displeasure of his pals ~ has stupendous beginner's luck.  When he introduces 'Art' to his technique, the streak fails.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

By the Sluice

Fiction ~ short story (spook)
Published in The Tatler, 25th March 1927
Approx. 4,700 words
(First read 27/12/1994) 

The first of three spook stories to be found in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).  [EFB?] goes to spend a weekend with his friends Louis Carrington + wife.  Louis is a bank manager and it turns out his sub-manager has mysteriously gone missing after embezzling a 'paltry sum' from the bank.  The usual kinds of ghostly happening come to pass (including a phone-call from the beyond), all enveloped in a thick fog for added atmosphere, until the mystery is revealed.  Actually quite a good story of its type ~ the motivation for the sub-manager's initial crime is discreetly swept under the carpet so as not to detract from the spookiness.

Boxing Night

Fiction ~ short story
Published in The Tatler, 30th November 1923
Approx. 5,700 words
(First read 27/12/1994) 

In this one it's Hugh Grainger who gets to tell the story, which is of two sisters living in an isolated farmhouse in Romney Marsh who both dream the same premonitory dream, which comes to pass ... kind of.   You couldn't really call this a 'ghost story' because there aren't any actual ghosts in it, just premonitions.  As Hughie says:
Ghosts, clairvoyant visions, true presentiments, and dreams are all glimpses of the unseen [...]  Such messages and messengers come from we know not where, and we know not how they come, but certainly they do come.  Often the very act of communication appears difficult: those beyond the ken of our normal perceptions find it hard to get into touch with us, and often the messages get distorted or bungled in transit.
Boxing Night deals with one such distorted message.  Not a bad story at all.  Available in The Technique of the Ghost Story (1993) and in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994), but sadly not available online at present.

Atmospherics

Fiction ~ short story
I have a feeling that this story made its world début when it was broadcast on the BBC in December 1928, read by E F Benson himself.  It was first published in The Radio Times on 28/12/1928
Subsequently collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories
Approx. 1,700 words
(First read 27/12/1994)

Our nameless author goes to spend a weekend with ... well, with himself, basically ~ at Mayor's Orchard, which is the house of his friend Harry Armytage, in the Cinque Port town of Tillingham.  He takes with him to show off his 'new toy': an Ad Astra wireless set.  Having rather failed to impress his pals, persistence pays off when ~ as if by magic ~ he tunes in to scenes from King George II's visit to Rye-I-mean-Tillingham as they are happening.  That's it.  Fred briefly re-used the idea (sort of) in his opinion piece Magic White and Black (1934) and, possibly, in another story I haven't succeeded in pinpointing yet.

See also: The Confession of Charles Linkworth (1912).

Monday, 26 December 1994

M.O.M.

Fiction ~ short story
Published December 1915
Approx. 3,600 words
(First read 26/12/1994)

M.O.M. bears a passing resemblance to Saki's earlier Filboid Studge (1910): it tells the tale of a young chap who invents a wonder drug ('My Own Mixture') which, he claims, will cure everything from gout to intemperance, in spite ~ or more likely because ~ of its vile taste.  And lo! he makes a killing with it.  That's all there is to it, really.  Benson seems to have had a particular interest in, and slightly ambiguous attitude toward, the plethora of fads that were apparently the order of the day in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain ~ just think Lucia'n'Daisy with their gurus, their callisthenics and all the rest of it.  Sadly only available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).  Well, perhaps not all that sadly ~ it's not really up to much.

Mrs Andrews's Control

Fiction ~ short story
Published September 1915
Approx. 3,200 words
(First read 26/12/1994)

Mrs Henry Andrews and her husband live in extreme happiness and comfort together at Oakley¹.  Mrs is a chronic faddist: having worked her way through every diet in the book, she moves on to matters psychical.  Cartomancy, Christian Science, astrology, palmistry, and (her husband having now joined her) finally they hit on automatic writing².  Sadly, though they produce reams and reams, none of it is intelligible.  Success arrives when they decide to hold a pencil together rather than one each.  A 'control' by the name of Pocky quickly 'comes through' and makes himself useful, advising Mr A on his investments, etc.  But what is this? ~ 'the German war' breaks out³, Pocky becomes 'patriotic and truculent', changes his name to Pocksky and throws his weight behind the Russians before the author administers the coup de grâce.  A thoroughly fun read, Benson at his satirical best.  Available online here (in The Countess of Lowndes Square and Other Stories) and in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).


¹ EFB's novel The Oakleyites appeared in the same year: it too featured a Mrs Andrews much like this one ...
² Psychography is the technical term, apparently.
³ The actual term EFB uses: luckily it never reached Capri.  I know, I know, I'm unkind to him on this subject, and it's utterly uncalled-for.

The Simple Life

Fiction ~ short story
First published in The World and His Wife, July 1905
Collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories, 1994
Approx. 1,800 words
(First read 26/12/1994)

The whole story can be summed up by the first sentence:
The Duchess of Shrewsbury was sitting in a small, wooden sort of shelter on the lawn of what she called her cottage near Goring (which, however, has battlements and a tower), without any shoes and stockings on, because she was leading the simple life.
Castle Goring, Sussex
Whether you read it as a typically Bensonian fleck of light-hearted satire on the self-delusions of the rich, or a savage attack on the sheer extravagance and bone-bloody-idleness of the Edwardian élite*, is up to you.  I'll merely say that though Fred's stories do occasionally suffer from near- or total plotlessness, he does usually manage to work in a climax of sorts.  Here he doesn't: at the end of The Simple Life birds scour about the garden looking for worms.  Symbolism? ~ nah, not likely.  For those who like their reading untaxing and fun.

* The latter is pretty unlikely.

The Fall of Augusta

Fiction ~ short story
Published 24th May 1922
Approx. 2,400 words
(First read 26/12/1994)

Augusta Plaice ('for such was her incredible name') and Alethea Frisque ('for such was her incredible name') are a pair of rival social climbers.  Mrs P believes that her 'stupefyingly select' dance will be the crowning glory of her glitteringly successful season "for there was somebody coming before whom she would make her lowest curtsey" and, perhaps even more pleasurable than that, she's to have the joy of turning La Frisque away when that personage inevitably gate-crashes.  Alas! owing to her own myopia, and to a plot contrivance whereby EFB stretches the laws of coincidence far beyond snapping-point, she accidentally ends up violently snubbing one of the Prince's most intimate friends.  Highly contrived fluff, available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

The Adventure of Hegel Junior

Fiction ~ short story
Published in (probably) the Christmas Number of The Illustrated London News, 21st November (or 21st December) 1901
Approx. 3,700 words
(First read 26/12/1994)

'Hegel' ~ so nicknamed because he's a 'philosopher' ~ is one of a trio of Edwardian loafers who go on a golfing holiday to Ireland.  One day he sets off walking along the cliffs to go and visit a young lady he's got his eye on.  He gets caught in a storm and has a near-death experience.  That's it, in a nutshell.  Obviously one doesn't generally embark on a Benson short story anticipating that anything profound will happen, and sure enough the business of having a young hero with a philosophical bent turns out to be pretty much a red herring: nothing profound happens ~ or is said ~ and the story ends on the usual trivial note.  Collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994), for those with the patience. 

Sunday, 25 December 1994

Noblesse Oblige

Fiction ~ short story
First published in the Windsor Magazine, December 1917
Collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories, 1994
Approx. 1,900 words
(First read 25/12/1994)

Mrs C is the wife of a retired solicitor living in a 'quaint, huddled, red-roofed little city', a spit away from "Dear old [Hatchings] Castle!  What a lot of delightful memories swarm into my mind when I see it!"  Needless to say, her memories of being entertained by the noble Hatchings family owe more to imagination than fact.  But lo! noblesse obliges on this occasion, saving Mrs C's face when she's invited to a garden party at the Big House.  An anecdotal and insubstantial tale of a narrowly averted social gaffe arising from a case of mistaken identity, but diverting nonetheless. 

QUOTABLES 
Mrs Coplestone was chiefly remarkable for her large stores of opulent reminiscences, which bore no very close resemblance to the facts on which they were so insecurely founded.
She lacked the fearless irresponsibility of the more magnificent sort of liar, and when you blew off the copious froth of her memories, there was always some minute sediment of truth at the bottom of the glass, which did not fly into the air like the rainbowed bubbles which overlay it.

Mr Carew's Game of Croquet

Fiction ~ short story
Published 5th March 1924
Approx. 2,400 words
(First read 25/12/1994)

Mr Jocelyn Carew is a bit of a rara avis in EFB's output: a social-climbing man, kind of a cross between Lucia Lucas and Georgie Pillson.  Benson neatly sums him up in one sentence (and in a joke which I'm pretty sure he used more than once):
It had been said of him that his age varied in inverse proportion to the number of countesses present.
Brilliant.  Anyway, Mr C arrives in 'the country' (in fact only Richmond ... or somewhere like that) for a house party while the rest of the mob are out at Henley, having been asked to entertain the Duchess of Whitby, who he's never met, until their return.  Wandering about the garden he comes upon an elderly lady he takes to be the said Duchess: "In addition to being a duchess, she had everything a duchess ought to have ~ height, distinction, charm of manner, and above all, this delightful friendliness."  The two embark on a lengthy and rather hot game of croquet, which is briefly interrupted by 'a rather shabby-looking little lady.  Mr Carew quickly settled that she did not matter.'  I don't need to say any more, do I?  The story is available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994) and is a hoot. 

If (comme on dit) you enjoyed this story, you're sure to like The Sister of the Baroness (1910) by Katherine Mansfield.

An Entire Mistake

Fiction ~ short story
Published 16th January 1904
Approx. 1,800 words
(First read 25/12/1994)

Another wafer-thin ~ and ever-so-slightly risqué à la 1904 ~ anecdote about two society hags staying at Aix for their husbands' healths.  The pair of them decide to 'elope' together for a few days to escape their 'disgusting' spouses and delectable French maids.  And lo! when they sneak back for a change of clothes they find ... well, I don't need to spell it out, do I?  Benson stories don't really get any 'liter' than this.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

A Comedy of Styles

Fiction ~ short story
Published in The Windsor Magazine, February 1914
Approx. 3,000 words
(First read 25/12/1994)

The 'styles' in question are the so-called English and International ones of ice-skating circa 1914.  (EFB, himself a keen skater, was naturally a devotee of the first.)  Now it's not absolutely necessary to go armed with an ability to picture the difference between them to appreciate A Comedy of Styles.  What you will need is a liking for very flimsy comedy-of-errors romances ~ by far from Benson's finest hour.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).




THE CRITICS
A very amusing story of winter sports in Switzerland from the witty pen of E F Benson.
~The Southern Reporter, 29/01/1914

Saturday, 24 December 1994

Dodo and the Brick

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Home, March 1923, as The Brick¹; collected in Fine Feathers (1994)
Approx. 5,000 words
(First read 24/12/1994)

Dodo's ~ for it is she ~ 60th birthday ball is on the horizon.  The passing years have made her no less insufferable, though Benson would disagree.
The somewhat remarkable exploits of her youth were already growing legendary; she had had her heyday before the golden girls and boys of the present generation were born [...]  She combined somehow the wisdom of experience with the dash of the adventuring pilgrim, and the golden youth flocked around her.
Yeah, whatever.  Delicia Brick ("It sounds like a racehorse running into a stone wall"), meantime, is a social-climbing parvenue who would chew her own arm off to be invited to said ball.  Needless to say, our ageing windbag is having none of it.  Needless to say, also, it ends with that old Bensonian chestnut:
'Dear Mrs Brick [...]  How perfectly delightful of you to dispense with the formality of an invitation and look in on us.'
Exactly how many times did EFB use this particular joke?  Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.
The story is available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994)¹. 

¹ Why Mr Jack Adrian, the editor of Fine Feathers, saw fit to retitle this story, if it hadn't already been retitled by someone else, I've no idea.

THE CRITICS
Another amusing episode in the career of Dodo.
~Cork Examiner, 08/03/1923

Complementary Souls

Fiction ~ short story
Published September 1925
Approx. 4,500 words
(First read 24/12/1994)

An incompatible American couple divorce, then remarry; finding they're still incompatible, they re-divorce; she moves to London; he moves to London; by an amazing coincidence they turn out to be neighbours ...  A highly contrived and not especially entertaining morsel of vaguely satirical whimsy.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

Friday, 23 December 1994

The Defeat of Lady Hartridge

Fiction ~ short story
Published 23rd April 1904
Approx. 2,900 words
(First read 23/12/1994)

Lady Mabel Hartridge and her husband 'Tit-bits' have just spent a gruelling time being entertained at the New York and Newport homes of Mr & Mrs Cyrus S. Vane (for an idea of Mrs V see Mrs Murchison in Mammon & Co. ~ 'She spoke in a shrill, piercing voice, audible without effort above the pounding of the donkey-engine'.)  On parting, the Vanes press the Hartridges to visit again whenever they're in the USA.  While inwardly vowing 'never under any circumstances would she set foot in this continent again', Lady H accidentally returns the invitation.  With the grim inevitability of short stories, needless to say Mr & Mrs V turn up in London nine months later*, at which Mabel is heard to say:
... I absolutely refuse to [...] take in her and her husband [...]  nobody has people to stay with them in London.  It isn't done.  Think what a frightful nuisance it would be!  People from elsewhere stay in hotels.  That is what hotels are for.
In the note of 'finished insincerity' she writes to tell them her 'poky little house' is sadly full, she tries to fob them off by inviting them to someone else's ball.  Mr & Mrs V, brutish Americans though they may be, realize they're not wanted and ~ fairly subtly ~ have their revenge.  The Defeat of Lady Hartridge is Society Benson at his best: very funny.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).


*There may be some kind of symbolism at work here.  Or there may not.

Fine Feathers

Fiction ~ short story
Published March 1914
Approx. 4,300 words
(First read 23/12/1994)

Fans of Mapp and Lucia will love this one.  Set in the little country town of Riseborough, it tells the story of  Mrs Altham and her arch-rival Mrs Amy Ames, 'a comely toad' and 'not well off' but nonetheless the Queen of Society.  Mrs Altham comes into a colossal fortune and decides, in a masterstroke of spite, to rent Hinton, the former home of Sir James Westbourne, who happens to be Mrs Ames' cousin ~ a thing Amy couldn't conceive of in her wildest dreams.  Mrs Altham, with her husband as more-than-willing accomplice, duly move in and make their best efforts to 'become county'.  Well, remember how Mrs Mapp-Flint felt when she moved in to Grebe, cut off from all the 'news'?  Added to this are the fact that Hinton is a 'great barrack' of a place, she's terrified of her inherited servants, and Mr A realizes he can't stand the discomforts of shooting, largely because
... the bathroom was an immense, chilly apartment, half a mile away from his bedroom, and the bath, put in by Victorian plumbers, let water slowly steal away with moribund gurglings into a sort of sieve at the bottom of a huge grey coffin ...
But by far her bitterest pill is that she cannot get Mrs Ames to come for a weekend of having her nose rubbed in it ...  A pure delight from start to finish: EFB at his very best.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

Julian's Cottage

Fiction ~ short story
Published August 1931
Approx. 5,700 words
(First read 23/12/1994)

A straightforward tale of a gentleman's gradual descent into chronic miserliness.  Its sole message seems to be that Avarice is a Bad Thing.  Still, it's light-hearted enough.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

Bootles

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Black and White, 26th March 1904; collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994)
Approx. 3,700 words
(First read 23/12/1994)

Bootles begins with the immortal lines:
Lady Maizie Ferrars took a cigarette from the gold box by her and lit a match on the sole of her very high-heeled shoe.  She had masses of the most beautiful golden hair, all quite genuine in both quantity and colour ...
A few lines later she says to her pal Mrs Grantham:
Think of your first marriage.  No doubt it was made in heaven and all that, but it was not quite ~ quite at home under terrestrial conditions ...
Then of her own husband:
... he adores me!  If I have a headache, he asks me, so to speak, whether a few large pearls would do any good.  So much nicer than pills, you know, and they always cure it at once.  And when it is cured, he gives me some more to prevent it coming back.
Well anyway, Maizie is a kind of Dodo-on-acid, surely one of EFB's all-time most gelid, corrosive, noxious heroines ... but unlike Dodo she's actually funny (at times).  She's hooked herself an adoring and utterly blameless* rich American husband (Bootles), who she treats like dirt ...  A totally immoral and (yes, let's say it) utterly misogynistic little story ~ but great fun.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

*Apart from the fact that he can't see her for what she is.

The Jamboree

Fiction ~ short story
First published in The Tatler, 1st December 1922
Collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories, 1994
Approx. 3,100 words
(First read 23/12/1994)

In which arch-bitch-and-snob and Victorian-to-boot Caroline Lady Camber spars with her thoroughly-modern new American niece-in-law Margaret over a 'jamboree' to be held by the latter.  Caroline will not have it that her former home shall be the scene of young gels with bobbed hair, young chaps in their braces, the stars of the Ballet Russe, etc. sitting on cushions on the floor drinking cocktails and laughing, etc.  When her aunt (no relation to the new Lord Camber [Tony] and certainly none to Margaret) dies she insists that the jamboree be called off.  To keep the peace, Tony and Mags agree to this, but go ahead with it all the same, never imagining that the old dragon might actually show up in the middle of it.  It goes without saying that the dowager Camber ends up thoroughly bested. Quite a jolly jape.

QUOTABLES

Opening sentence:
Caroline Lady Camber took it almost as a personal insult when her nephew, who, on the death of her husband, had succeeded to the title and the house and the impoverished estates and the famous Camber pearls, succeeded to the pigs also by his marriage with Margaret Joicey, daughter and heiress of the Chicago millionaire.
More on our delightful 'heroine':
Caroline had an apt and acid wit and a soft, dreamy, meditative way of saying the nastiest things, which made them doubly telling, and her murmuring enunciation when she realized that the pearls would no longer be worn by her was peculiarly venomous.  "So suitable," she said, "that Margaret should have the pearls, for 'Margaret' means 'pearls', does it not?  And the pigs!  Isn't there some text about pearls and swine?"
A smidgeon of social commentary:
[...] while Margaret stood for the present in the society of today, Caroline Camber quite as typically stood for the past, and for the order of things that had vanished.

 

Thursday, 22 December 1994

James Sutherland, Ltd.

Fiction ~ short story
Published December 1902
Approx. 6,400 words
(First read 22/12/1994)

About 95% dry-as-dust and, to one who has never come anywhere near understanding how the stock market works (or what the point of it all is), utterly incomprehensible.  The only good moments it has are when EFB is describing the literary outpourings of the hero (Sutherland):
He constructs on the gigantic scale: heaven, earth, and the things under the earth, are grist to his insatiable mill, so that with so various a feast spread afresh about every six months, it is no wonder that myriads of guests besiege and clamour for dinner tickets.  [etc.]
Anyway, the point I wanted to make was: To what extent, when painting characters such as these (Sutherland is far from the only hack writer in EFB's output), was he merely lampooning the likes of Marie Corelli ... and to what extent was he sufficiently self-aware as to recognize that he was, to a certain degree, lampooning himself
The story is available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).  For more Bensonian stock market shenanigans, try Mammon & Co.

The Eavesdropper

Fiction ~ short story
Published 19th March 1924
Approx. 2,400 words
(First read 22/12/1994)

Elizabeth Alston, a lady in the full flush of middle age, is regretting having accidentally married a man fifteen years her junior ~ well, she was a widow, and flattered.  One day, during a house party, she inadvertently eavesdrops on a highly compromising conversation between him and a certain Dinah, herself trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man ...  An entirely 'straight' story, slight but effective.  Benson had already covered the age-gap theme at full-length in his novel Sheaves (1907).  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories.
[To fans of this type of scenario I recommend Love (1925) by Elizabeth von Arnim ... oh and Sheaves (1907) and Adjustments (1923?) by E F Benson!]  

Miss Maria's Romance

Fiction ~ short story
Published 25th November 1899
Approx. 4,700 words
(First read 22/12/1994)

Ageing spinsters Jane and Maria Chermside live in quiet gentility in a cathedral town.  Jane, the elder, is something of a tyrant; her sister, who reads far too many novels, one day receives a letter from a secret admirer ...  Light, charming, fun.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories.

Wednesday, 21 December 1994

My Friend the Murderer

Fiction ~ short story
Published October 1895
Approx. 5,800 words
(First read 21/12/1994)

One of EFB's earliest published stories.  Despite being a fairly humdrum crime anecdote (set in Greece*, where else?), I'm sure Mr O. Wilde & Co. would've loved it and instantly spotted a 'fellow traveller' in Benson.  The fruitiest bit of homoeroticism is worth quoting in full ~ the narrator's talking about his Greek pal of the title, who's been on the lam for a while [my italics added]:
He got up and stretched himself after his meal, and for a moment I really thought his head would go through the top of my tent, and, standing on a chair, I measured him against the pole.  He was just over six-foot-six.  "Yes, you have grown," I said, "and your tunic is getting too short."
Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994)

* No, not that Greece ~ just plain ordinary 1890s Greece.

The Five Foolish Virgins

Fiction ~ short story
Published 25th March 1925
Approx. 2,800 words
(First read 21/12/1994)

An Amy Bondham story ~ for the others click on the appropriate tag below.  In this one our blood-sucking social-climbing heroine and patroness of the arts purloins a rival's up-and-coming young playwright and suffers a humiliating soirée when he reads from his latest meisterwerk at it.  She's ultimately rewarded for her efforts, though.  A charming bit of Lucian nonsense, available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

'Complete Rest'

Fiction ~ short story
Published 10th January 1923
Approx. 2,400 words
(First read 21/12/1994)

Another Amy Bondham story ~ for the others click on the appropriate tag below.  This one tells the tale of the social-climbing Mrs B's party clashing with that of the Countess of Rye ~ which she hasn't been invited to.  Rather than suffer the indignity of hosting a party at which only the dregs of society ~ those not invited to dear Peggy Rye's grand affair ~ will be present, Amy cancels her own soirée and orders herself a spell of 'complete rest' at her house in Harlow ...  Starting to sound familiar? ~ once again, EFB recycled this plot in Lucia in London, to great effect.  Lucia fans will enjoy revisiting it in 'Complete Rest'.  The story's available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

The Lovers

Fiction ~ short story
First published in The Tatler, 15th November 1922
Collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994)
Approx. 2,300 words
(First read 21/12/1994)

An Amy Bondham story.  (For others of these click on the appropriate tag below.)  Mrs Bondham is a very close relative of Lucia, the main differences being that the former is honest (at least to herself, anyway) and less pretentious.  In this comic story she decides to further her 'career' by adopting a chaste lover in the form of Stephen Merriall.  Excruciating hilarity ensues when, at a house-party, they are given communicating rooms ...  Does this sound familiar? ~ it should if you've read Lucia in London, in which EFB recycles the plot even down to the exact name of the 'lover'.  Still, it's a fun little story, available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

The Exposure of Pamela

Fiction ~ short story
Published August 1924
Approx. 5,400 words
(First read 21/12/1994)

'Fred' at his desk
Benson recycled the theme and characters of this story ~ ageing author is ousted from the public's attention by the rising star of his young author nephew ~ in his novel Alan (1924).  A very bittersweet tale.  Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).

Professor Burnaby's Discovery

Fiction ~ short story
First published in The Storyteller, June 1926
Collected in Fine Feathers and Other Stories, 1994
Approx. 6,750 words
(First read 21/12/1994)

Christopher Heaton and his wife own a hotel on the Nile in Egypt in 1919.  Business is bad so they decide to organize the biggest scam in the history of Egyptological scams: the discovery of the Queen of Sheba's tomb.  Luckily for Christopher, he just happens to be a dab hand at forging antiquities, etc.  Well, that's the premise of it.  The tone is ~ I think ~ meant to be light; but the whole thing is sadly somewhat leaden, and is about 5,000 words too long.