Less Than Angels- A Novel by Barbara Pym - 1955
“What would this Man? Now upward will he soar,
And little less than Angel, would be more;
Now looking downwards, just as griev'd appears
To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears.
Made for his use all creatures if he call,
Say what their use, had he the pow'rs of all?
Nature to these, without profusion kind,
The proper organs, proper pow'rs assign'd;
Each seeming want compensated of course,
Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force;
All in exact proportion to the state;
Nothing to add, and nothing to abate.” From Essay on Man by Alexander Pope - 1733
Works by Barbara Pym I have previously read
Some Tame Gazelle - 1950
Excellent Women - 1952
Jane and Prudence - 1953
A Glass of Blessing - 1958
Earlier in the month I acquired four more of her novels, in Kindle Editions, for $1.95 each. Besides Jane and Prudence, A Glass of Blessings, Less Than Angels and No Fond Return of Love.
Born - June 13, 1913 - Oswestry, England
Died - January 11, 1980 - Oxford, England
Barbara Pym is among the best chroniclers of a now lost, maybe lost when she was writing, world of curates, vicars and women whose lives are bound up the social world of post World War Two England, with rationing, the return of service men and endless meeting for tea. No one has children out of wedlock, of course. Many have small “private incomes”.
The more I read of the work of Barbara Pym, the deeper my appreciation becomes. I know of no other writer who makes such brilliant usage of adverbs in describing the manner in which a characters says something, revealing much about their feelings. The people in her novels read classic English fiction and poetry.
In a bit of a departure from my previous reads of her works,the male characters in Less Than Angels are anthropologists rather than clerics and vicars. As potrayed all of the anthropologists work in sub-Sahara Africa. Interstingly anthroplogists by job requirements leave their English homes while clerics stay. Both are involved in education, neither produce anything concrete. The anthropologists do seem a bit patronizing in their reports of their findings.
There are a few romances, no extreme emotions among characters as it would be “un-English”.
As I pass my 22nd Month on lock down in Metro Manila, going out only to see a doctor about a broken arm, I wondered the people in Pym’s books would deal with the pandemic, my guess is with great strength and a “stiff upper lip”
I will next read No Fond Return of Love.