Thursday, October 05, 2006

Literary gambolings*

I all of a sudden became consumed with curiosity about the origins of the foreword to the 1977 edition of E.F. Benson's Mapp & Lucia series the other day. I had always idly wondered, but all of a sudden I wondered. This is the one with the particularly horrid, off-base cover. (Lots of those with Benson--ridick.)

The foreword is by Anne Parrish--less ubiquitous and well-known than the Nancy Mitford introduction which followed the reissues into the 1980s. The point being: Anne Parrish--who Anne Parish? At first I thought it might be the American novelist who was the sister of Dillwyn Parrish, MFK Fisher's second husband, both of them distant cousins of Maxfield P. I remembered that passage from MFKF's journal (Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me) about Benson, which was written while she was married to DP: " I slew a literary god--or demigod. I perceived at last that E.M. Forster . . . is but an intellectual E.F. Benson. That is praise--but for what Forster once meant to me, it means damnation indeed."

But I finally did a little more research into A. Parrish, and discovered she died in 1957 (note: AP, like many players in MFKF's life, not really given full shrift in the context of her world, at least in the telling). And given the language of the foreword, it seems really unlikely that it's the same A. Parrish, although she talks about meeting him, experiencing the famous "I am Miss Mapp" comment in his garden room at Rye, and Benson died in 1940.

So I don't know! I've posited the question to the listserv--we'll see what the answer is. Funny literary linkings. I also-renoticed that "The Male Impersonator" story that's usually included in Make Way for Lucia these days was done so at the instigation of Edward Gorey. He once said in an interview that he couldn't really reread the Mapp & Lucia books one more time--he had just gobbled them to bits from overuse. I often feel like that, but find that leaving them alone for a while usually works pretty well--they recharge (as Armistead Maupin noted about porn!). I am in the middle of Mapp and Lucia and it's so delicious I can't stand it.

Unrelated: I've been getting my Dorothy Sayers society literature and am getting more excited about next year's conference. But I'm worried: I don't care about Dante and am not sure how much I'll have to be into this to have fun. We'll see!

*Gambolings...very E.F. Benson. I think Piggy and Goosie gambol.

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