From Canon Patrick Thomas
Sir, - It was a great delight to read the feature about
Barbara Pym (
24 May). I was amused by the comment that "a committed Pym
reader is more likely to be a woman than a man."
Barbara Pym was my father's first cousin, but I was not aware of
this until he unexpectedly mentioned it when I was in my mid 20s.
"Your grandmother read some of Cousin Barbara's novels," he
remarked. "She thought they were most peculiar, and so we don't
talk about them."
My grandmother was a formidable old lady, whose favourite
reading was Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, and the naval
narratives of Alexander Kent. I did not dare confess that I too had
read some of Cousin Barbara's novels, and had really rather enjoyed
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Carmarthen SA31 3BU
From Dr Bernard Palmer
Sir, - May I please add a brief postscript to Kate Charles's
admirable feature in last week's issue?
Being myself a keen Pym fan, and recalling those splendid free
"commercials" that appear in many of her novels, I wrote to her in
the autumn of 1978 (as the paper's then editor), inviting her to
contribute a short story to that year's Christmas issue.
She accepted my invitation enthusiastically, and we embarked on
a friendly correspondence to discuss various points of detail (such
as the question of a suitable illustrator).
The story duly appeared in the issue of 22 December 1978. It
included all the customary Pym touches - and reintroduced some of
her former characters, such as Mark and Sophie Ainger, and their
cat, Faustina. The story was republished in the posthumous Pym
anthology Civil to Strangers (Macmillan, 1987).
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