The knock-on effect of a new hat, and it's not good

the book:

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M.Delafield

published 1930

January 22nd:... Feel that life is unendurable, and decide madly to get a new hat. Customary painful situation between Bank and myself necessitates expedient, also customary, of pawning great-aunt’s diamond ring…

Visit four linen-drapers and try on several dozen hats. Look worse and worse in each one, as hair gets wilder and wilder, and expression paler and more harassed. Decide to get myself shampooed and waved before doing any more, in hopes of improving the situation.

Hairdresser’s assistant says, It’s a pity my hair is losing all its colour, and have I ever thought of having it touched up? After long discussion, I do have it touched up, and emerge with mahogany-coloured head. Hairdresser’s assistant says this will wear off “in a few days.” I am very angry, but all to no purpose…

January 23rd: Very uneasy about the colour of my hair, which is not wearing off in the least. Think seriously of keeping a hat on all through lunch, but this, on the whole, would look even more unnatural… Dear Mary, always so observant, gazes at it in nerve-shattering silence [then says] she cannot imagine why anybody should deliberately make themselves look ten years older than they need. Feel that, if she wishes to discourage further experiments on my part, this observation could scarcely be improved upon…


The Diary of a Provincial Lady is another of those books (see also the previously featured I Capture the Castle and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) which you can re-read every few years, always funny and entertaining, always to be relied on to cheer you up. It is a very clever and funny book, apparently artless but deft and beautifully written. The Lady herself is a bit wistful about her bohemian and literary past in Hampstead, when she shared a flat and went to parties – she is now the wife of a country agent, living a life of perfect respectability, loving her children and dealing with the servants. But she still has literary leanings – she mentions that she was ‘perfectly able to talk most intelligently [about Virginia Woolf’s Orlando] until I read it, and found myself unfortunately unable to understand any of it.’

Orlando featured in
this blog entry, as does Vita Sackville-West, who turns up in the diary later:

August 31st: Remember that V. Sackville-West and I once attended dancing classes together at the Royal Albert Hall, many years ago, but feel that if I do mention this, everybody will think that I am boasting – which indeed I should be – so better forget about it again, and in any case, dancing never my strongest point, and performance at Albert Hall extremely mediocre and may well be left in oblivion.

The photo is from Cornell University Library and can be found on Flickr.


  1. Laughing out loud at this - thanks Moira! And it's going on the reading list.



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