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Reminiscences of Barbara Pym and her family

by
31 May 2013

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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 them.

PATRICK THOMAS
The Vicarage
4 Penllwyn Park
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).

BERNARD PALMER
151 Rickstones Road, Witham
Essex CM8 2PQ

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