The first is, frankly, job stress—during the lockdown, my employer offered an early retirement plan that many people enthusiastically accepted and, of course, they did not rehire. Now that the job market is heating up, others are leaving in droves, and those of us left behind are struggling to fill the void. After working two people’s jobs all day, I am disinclined to move the couple of inches from my work computer on my dining room table to my home computer on my sofa and produce deathly deathless prose. But I guess I’m going to have to get over this, because the situation is only going to get worse, not better, and I don’t want to stop writing.
The second reason is that, as many of you aficionados know, there is only one more volume in the Abbey Girl series to go, and I have been dragging this out deliberately. I hate to leave the Abbey World! I have greatly enjoyed my Abbey Girls project, writing about each book in reading order and foWherecusing on the elements of the folk-dance world that Oxenham describes so well. I have been immersed in this world for a long time, first reading and puzzling over the books for many years and then drafting the essays for some time before I even started blogging. I liked the discipline of the sequenced reading and writing, and Oxenham’s world gave me great pleasure and comfort during a trying time.
Well, I don’t think I’ll ever be quite done with EJO—after all there are another fifty books in her oeuvre, some of which have loose connections to the Abbey World, and I haven’t read them all yet. Many of these other books also have folk dancing references, which was the main thing that brought me to EJO in the first place, though I have stayed with her for additional reasons. So I’m sure I’ll have occasional EJO posts in the future.
I have several new projects in mind that some of you Gentle Readers may find interesting—and some will not, and will bid me farewell! Alas and adieu and thanks for your company.
The first project is that I have been translating back into English the first French translation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility: Raison et Sensibilité; ou, les deux manières d’aimer (Reason and Feeling, or, the two ways of loving). Produced in 1815 by Swiss-French Isabelle de Montolieu (1751-1832) and without Austen’s knowledge, it is, as de Montolieu calls it, a “free” translation—meaning that she changed up quite a lot, especially the ending. She may thus have the honor of being the first person to write fan fiction! It is an important book not because it is a good translation—it’s not good and, in particular, it’s not funny—but it is still used today without attribution which explains why Austen has not been popular with Francophone readers.
There are 52 chapters in this book, which would theoretically, if both you and I have the stamina, take us through a year of weekly posts. I have to conquer some WordPress formatting issues before this project can begin, however. Also some fear. Zut! It is a big project.
Where I am likely to turn more immediately is another reading challenge that might appeal to EJO fans—the Barsetshire novels of An almost exact contemporary of Oxenham, Thirkell (1890-1961) wrote romantic and satirical books about English country and county life in the fictional county of Barsetshire originally created by Anthony Trollope. She published 28 books in this series—slacker! only 28!—and her stories take her from pre-war England through the war to the challenges of post-war life. I came to these books when I was quite young—my mother collected them—and they formed my first source of information about life in England pre- and post-World War II. Thirkell is funny, clever—and a terrific snob. Further, unlike Oxenham, who rarely let the real world impinge on her characters, Thirkell expresses the confusion and sometimes despair of the upper class coming to terms with significant social change. She is quite the social historian, albeit from one point of view. It will be interesting to visit Barsetshire with her, although again I am a little anxious—will the novels hold up? It’s been about thirty years since I’ve read them. (Dear Reader, since I penned that last sentence, I have been galloping through the novels and I will say that they are just as enjoyable if not more snobbish than I thought. We’ll have some fun!)
There is nothing in these two projects for my folk dance-oriented readers, I’m afraid, though I have some projects in mind for you further down the road, God willin’ and the crick don’t rise. So if you don’t stay for this part of the journey, check back farther along the road!
Next week I promise to discuss the last book in the Abbey series, Two Queens at the Abbey. Soon thereafter, I’ll start with Angela Thirkell’s first Barsetshire novel, High Rising (1933). We’ll meet Mrs. Morland, Thirkell’s avatar, who, to support herself and her four sons, writes the successful mystery series about a fashionable dress designer, Madame Koska. We’ll also meet another character said to be modeled after the humorist and writer E.V. (Edward Verrall) Lucas, the brother of Perceval Lucas, who was one of the four young men on Cecil Sharp’s demonstration morris team who were killed in the First War.
So, like playing the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, it really all does come back to folk dancing!