Something ‘Very Barbara Pym’

  • Annette Weld


Pym thought of Excellent Women as her ‘first adult novel’ (MS Pym 98, fol. 75). Leaving behind the familiar settings of country village or university town, she moves this next work to the city, to the London suburb of Pimlico where she herself settled after demobilisation, the death of her mother, and her father’s remarriage. Although living at home had been a pleasant necessity before the war, Pym’s move to London gave the opportunity for a widened comic perspective and brought several new populations under her scrutiny. Some restlessness and dissatisfaction with the predictability of the few years as the unmarried daughter at home appear in her short story ‘They Never Write’ (MS Pym 94, fols 218–29) whose heroine is conscious of her mother’s attempt to arrange for her a match with the new curate:

Quite a sensible idea, thought Abigail detachedly. She was twenty-three years old and had already been down from Oxford two years. Many people in the town must think that her expensive education had been a waste of money, as here she was at home, apparently quite idle, and not even getting married. (MS Pym 94, fol. 224)


Minor Character Fictional World Love Affair Settlement House Narrative Voice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Elizabeth Wilson, Only Halfway to Paradise: Women in Postwar Britain 1945–1968 ( Tavistock Publications: London, 1980 ) p. 149.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Polly Brodie, untitled review, Library Journal, 15 October 1978, p. 2135–6.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Anne Duchêne, ‘Brave are the Lonely’, Times Literary Supplement, 30 September 1977, p. 1096.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Karl Miller, ‘Ladies in Distress’, The New York Review of Books, 9 November 1978, pp. 24–5.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    John Updike, ‘Books: Lem and Pym’, New Yorker, 55, 26 February 1979, p. 121Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Robert J. Graham, ‘Cumbered with Much Serving: Barbara Pym’s “Excellent Women”’, Mosiac 17 (Spring 1984) p. 145.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    John Updike, Hugging the Shore ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983 ), p. 415.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Diana Benet, ‘The Language of Christianity in Pym’s Novels’, Thought 59, no. 235, December 1984, 505.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Robert Smith, ‘How Pleasant to Know Miss Pym’, Ariel 2, no. 4, October 1971, p. 66.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Robert Liddell, ‘Two Friends: Barbara Pym and Ivy Compton-Burnett’, London Magazine, August-September, 1984, p. 61.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    Joyce Carol Oates,’ Barbara Pym’s Novelistic Genius’,in The Life and Work of Barbara Pym,Dale Salwak (ed.),(London:Macmillian, 1987)p.43.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Anatole Broyard, ‘Overflowing Her Situation’, New York Times Book Review 15 August, 1982, p. 27.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Michael Gorra, ‘Restraint is the Point’, New York Times Book Review, 31 July 1983, p. 18.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Daniel Snowman, Britain and America: An Interpretaion of Their Culture 1945–1975 ( New York: New York University Press, 1977 ) p. 84.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Rosemary Dinnage, ‘Comic, Sad, Indefinite’, New York Review of Books, 16 August 1984, p. 16.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Richard Poirier, The Comic Sense of Henry James(New York: Oxford University Press, 1960) p. 23.Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    Henry James, as quoted in F. O. Matthiessen, HJ: the Major Phase ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1944 ) p. 50.Google Scholar
  18. 27.
    Edmund Fuller, ‘Finding a Lifetime Friend in a Writer’s Work’, Wall Street Journal, 20 October 1980, p. 24.Google Scholar
  19. 28.
    Kate Browder Heberlein, Communities of Imaginative Participation: The Novels of Barbara Pym ( Unpublished doctoral dissertation: University of Wisconsin, 1984 ) p. 144.Google Scholar
  20. 29.
    Asa Briggs, A Social History of England ( New York: The Viking Press, 1983 ) p. 290.Google Scholar
  21. 30.
    Hazel Holt, ‘The Novelist in the Field: 1946–1974’, in The Life and Work of Barbara Pym, Dale Salwak (ed.), ( London: Macmillian, 1987 ) pp. 22–33.Google Scholar
  22. 42.
    Tony Kirk-Greene, ‘Barbara Pym 1913–1980’, Africa 2, (1980) p. 94.Google Scholar
  23. 44.
    Barbara Pym, ‘In Defence of the Novel: Why You Shouldn’t Have To Wait Until the Afternoon’, The Times (London), 22 February 1978, p. 18.Google Scholar
  24. 45.
    Riley Hughes, ‘Books’, Catholic World 185, September 1957, p. 473.Google Scholar
  25. 48.
    Rubin Rabinovitz, The Reaction Against Experiment in the English Novel 1950–1960 ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1967 ) pp. 28–9.Google Scholar
  26. 49.
    Jane Nardin, Barbara Pym (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985), preface.Google Scholar
  27. 51.
    Janice Rossen, The World of Barbara Pym, ( New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987 ) p. 37.Google Scholar
  28. 52.
    Anne Tyler, ‘From England to Brooklyn to West Virginia’, New York Times Book Review, 13 February 1983, p. 1.Google Scholar
  29. 53.
    Pico Iyer, ‘Tricks of Self-Consciousness’, Partisan Review 52, no. 3, 1985, p. 289.Google Scholar
  30. 54.
    Anatole Broyard, ‘A Funnier Jane Austen’, New York Times, 1 January 1983, p. 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Annette Weld 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annette Weld

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations