Three years ago, I read and love Jerome K. Jerome’s The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886) – brief thoughts here. At that point Hesperus were also promising to republish Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl (1891) by ‘Jenny Wren’ (a pseudonym, of course) but it never appeared… and then, years later, it did! And my brother bought it for me for my birthday. I read it quite some time ago, and of course forgot to write about it (I need to come up with an abbreviation for that, I say it so often. My online reading group have similarly come up with acronym HIU for ‘have it, unread’ since we were writing this about nearly every book anyone else mentioned.)
Jenny Wren’s riposte to Jerome is in much the same vein, albeit from the female’s perspective rather than the male’s. It doesn’t have quite his edge of brilliancy, but her views on love, bills, afternoon tea, children and dogs etc. are all diverting and fun. I can best explain by example, and here she is on the topic of train journeys:
Then again your fellow passengers are not always all that can be desired. Often they are neither pleasant in themselves nor interesting as a study. I travelled with an awful old lady the other day. She had six small packages with her in the carriage, besides her handbag and umbrellas and half the contents of an extra luggage van. The long-suffering porter who had looked after her boxes and finally put her in the train was crimson with his exertions. The generous lady, having searched several pockets before finding the necessary coin, bestowed on him a threepenny piece for his trouble! “Thank yer, mum,” he went off muttering grimly, “I’ll bore a ‘ole in the middle and ‘ang it round my neck.”
This good dame never ceased to worry all through the journey. She pulled her things from under the seat and put them up in the rack, and then reversed their locality. At each station she called frantically to the guard to know where she was and if she ought to change. Finally, when we reached our destination, it was proved that she had taken her ticket to one place and had her luggage labelled to another; and there she was, standing on the platform gesticulating violently, while the train was steaming off with her belongings. What happened I do not know, for I was hurried off by my friends; but I should think it would be long before she and her luggage met again.
Fortunately she never knew how near she was to her death. If ever I had murderous intentions in my heart, it was on that journey north.
I wonder if E.M. Delafield ever read this?
It’s all joyful nonsense, of the very best sort – and I think would be enjoyed by anybody who likes to laugh at the silly foibles of life, preferably those evinced by other people. I can imagine each chapter of this book being a separate newspaper column, and they’re diverting in the way that the funniest section of a Sunday newspaper magazine is diverting. And with the added advantage of being from the 19th century, you can even feel fairly cultured whilst you read them.