‘Reading Good Vivid Fiction’: The New Panacea

Lustige_Naturgeschichte_oder_Zoologia_comica62 via Wikimedia Commons

letter to the daily mirror 17 sep 2014dmWell, really!

The Revd William Tovani had been pleasurably pondering the subject of his sermon this Sunday. Wednesday was the perfect day for this: the deadline was not imminent and he could mull over various possibilities at leisure.  He usually attempted to base the sermon on the bible readings allotted for the day, but just occasionally some event in the village, or even at national level, demanded a response from the pulpit.

 Dr Pryce Jenkins was really a prize ass, wasn’t he – as the son of a vicar, he should have known better, but perhaps it was all that rugby that had addled his brain. Of course, everyone needs an avenue of escapism, particularly those actually at the front. And he himself was partial to a glass of whisky at the end of a long day.

But to say that perfectly healthy, safe, young females needed to spend their time with their noses buried in twopenny novelettes to avoid Reeling, Writhing and Fainting in Coils was arrant and indulgent nonsense.

The traditional Christian response – and even Dr Freud (who seemed to have made a special study of hysterical women) would agree with him on this, he felt – was to channel all this nervous energy into  something useful. Let them run soup kitchens in the East End! Or, if they were looking for a physical outlet for their energies, it was not too late to offer their services to the farmers to help with the crops.

Righteous anger was a great spur to oratory – even if the next day he would have to tone it down before launching it on his genteel congregation…

4 thoughts on “‘Reading Good Vivid Fiction’: The New Panacea

  1. I wonder how true to life this was? From what I’ve read today, Young women were busying themselves handing out White Feathers to men not in uniform, encouraging them to enlist and to fight.

    Whether this was bravado, or misguided, I wonder how many of them who handed out white feathers to a young man who was subsequently killed in action?

    • Thank-you, E. I think it is true enough that some women who, a generation earlier, would have been swooning around and suffering from melancholia and ennui (like Elizabeth Barrett Browing), did indeed have a tendency to moon about the place feeling sorry for themselves. Some of them, like Vera Brittain, of course had good reason to be depressed, with brothers and potential husbands coming to be numbered among those at the front who were killed in action.
      I have been wondering about the white feathers and whether they were handed out in a village our size. I have tentatively come to the conclusion that they were probably not, after all every one knew each other and would have to go on living with each other no matter what. That is a bit different from handing out feathers to unknown men on street corners in London. But I would be interested in information either way.

  2. What tosh Dr Pryce Jenkins was spouting. I would imagine that the female population in the valley would have been more concerned about where the next meal was coming from or if the weather be Ok for harvesting tomorrow – and how would they manage to do the harvest without their menfolk. Perhaps Rev Tovani would give a hand in the fields!

  3. Thanks Win – I agree! Although one can think of vicars here in later years who would have been quite happy to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, I don’t somehow think William Tovani would have been happy doing so. In India, it is called ‘izzat’, the idea that anything you do below your caste demeans you, but I don’t think this attitude was confined to the Orient and I am guessing that, as his father was a domestic servant (albeit to an aristocratic Scottish millionaire) William would have preferred not to get his hands dirty…

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