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.)