The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield
January 3rd.--Hounds meet in the village. Robert agrees to take Vicky on the pony. Robin, Mademoiselle, and I walk to the Post Office to see the start, and Robin talks about Oliver Twist, making no reference whatever to hunt from start to finish, and viewing horses, hounds, and huntsmen with equal detachment. Am impressed at his non-suggestibility, but feel that some deep Freudian significance may lie behind it all. Feel also that Robert would take very different view of it…
Vicky looks nice on pony, and I receive compliments about her, which I accept in an off-hand manner, tinged with incredulity, in order to show that I am a modern mother and should scorn to be foolish about my children.
Hunt moves off, Mademoiselle remarking, "Voilà bien le sport anglais!" Robin says: "Now can we go home?" and eats milk-chocolate…
Robert and Vicky return late, Vicky plastered with mud from head to foot but unharmed. Mademoiselle removes her, and says no more about le sport anglais.
observations: There was a long tradition of a big post-Christmas hunt – or meet – in rural England, often on Boxing Day, but here in the New Year. Part way into the season, this was a very sociable affair, with non-participants joining in at the beginning as the horses, riders and hounds collected at some central point. Fox-hunting was banned in the UK from 2005 – a very controversial move by a Labour Government. The legislation was undoubtedly rooted hugely in class-consciousness as well as the more obvious animal rights concerns. It is widely believed in the UK that the law has been completely ignored, and that hunting has continued as before, but brazenly under a false description, as drag-hunting, in which animals are not the quarry. Recent court cases have proved instructive.
Vicky is about 5, and obviously very good at riding, though showing no signs of getting much of any other kind of education. Mademoiselle the French governess is something of a stock figure in books of the time, and the French might reasonably object to their portrayal in English novels generally, except that it is hard to imagine the French caring one little bit.
Links on the blog: The Provincial Lady is a favourite book and very much a blog repeat offender: eg here and here, or click on a label below. One of last week’s Christmas entries featured the Radlett family in Nancy Mitford’s Pursuit of Love – they all went out hunting to a seasonal meet a few days after the Christmas presents/wicked parents events.
The picture is from the State Library of Queensland, via Flickr.