Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Leap, Leapling, Leapt
Well, since we don't really care a great deal for children 'round about the Café, let's turn our attention, shall we, to the rather less fraught situation of those who died today; to, as it were, the Leapts. Not for them any of that "So how does it feel, elderly lady with appliqué sweatshirt, to be only Sweet Sixteen today ho ho ho?" just before a cut back to the studio and banter-filled transition to the weather that is a quadrennial local news staple. No, they're just dead.
That's of interest here only because among them is the perhaps surprisingly comely gentleman we see above, the immortal Mr. E.F. Benson, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and, it must added, by virtue of the Boston Marriage of his mother and the relict of a previous incumbent of the Archbishopric, the son and demi-stepson of two widows of the tenant of Lambeth Palace).
That's the sort of thing that would happen to him, and that he translated into his life's work: ennobling the tradition of the English Light Novel with something approaching genius. Now, it must be admitted that he wrote a very great deal, and only the blindest partisan would claim that the lightning of his inspiration struck consistently, but - oh, but - when it did!
It did, in fact, strike at least six times, creating the whole-world-within-two-villages that is to this day inhabited by the great Legion of Luciaphils, among whom I hope I count more than a few of my own Gentle Readers. I really don't think I can feel, in the long run, entirely cosy with someone who is unprepared to discuss the War of the Chintz Roses or to consider exactly what might be the precise secret behind Lobster à la Riseholme. If you are a friend, in short, of Quaint Irene's and Diva Plaistow's, you are a friend of mine.
There may be a fairly small audience for Benson's somewhat labored ghost stories or his brittle society comedies, but I would wager that there will for a very long time be a happy band of readers of Queen Lucia, Lucia and Mapp, and the others, all equally entranced by the untimely passing of poor Captain Puffin, the distracting question of what will become of Georgie once Foljambe marries, and such weighty matters of state. If by chance, you've not yet started down the road that leads to Riseholme and Tilling (with occasional forays to the seaside and dear, late Aunt Amy's capacious house in Brompton Square), I really do recommend that you do. Riches await, as does the image of two middle-aged ladies setting sail on a kitchen table. Could one ask for anything more?
Mr. Benson left the Garden Room at Mallards for the last time in 1940. I suppose, if we are to look for some meaning in it all, his doing so on February 29 allows us to think that he did so just 18 years ago. Such a piccolo tempo that seems, doesn't it, Caro?