The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp

published 1937  chapter 3








In the end Julia decided to take single instead of return tickets, and to buy a new dinner dress with the money saved. She also purchased a linen suit, a Matron’s Model hat, and three pairs of camiknickers. She had indeed plenty of these already, but all with policemen embroidered on the legs….

Ten minutes before the train stopped at Amberieu (the time being then twenty-past-six) Julia put on her Matron’s Model and stood considering the effect.

It wasn’t good. The hat was all right in itself, and value for money; but it didn’t suit Julia. Perhaps the events of the previous day had left too many traces: there was a faint old-pro look about her, something hard and cheerful, but a trifle worn.

‘I need my sleep,’ thought Julia, tilting the hat further… it was mushroom-shaped, with ribbon in front, but the angle at which Julia wore it was foreign to its nature. A dowager at a fete, who had been given champagne instead of claret-cup, might indeed have achieved the same effect; only it was not the one Julia sought. She took the thing off, planted it squarely on her head, and tried again.




observations: Should be read with the earlier entries on this book, which explain the plot, and why Julia is trying to look more sober and respectable than her usual self. She is meeting her longlost daughter in the South of France and turns up, cheerful and trying her best, determined not to be common and to impress everyone with her ladylike qualities. Regarding her less ladlylike qualities - if ONLY Clothes in Books could find a picture of the embroidered camiknickers – this is a great puzzle, hard to find any trace of underclothes with policemen on, and even harder to imagine why they existed.






Later Julia buys herself some garters, which are ‘black with silver crescents’, also hard to picture. We can only hope that blog-friend Ken Nye, who has expertise in all areas of past dress and costume might be able to help us. [See this entry  and the comments  below it for an example of his helpfulness].

**** Yes Ken DID come to help, see comments below. ***





Matron’s Models seems to be an imaginary brand.

The Nutmeg Tree would make a terrific TV costume drama, and should be snapped up forthwith. In fact it was turned into a completely-forgotten film, called Julia Misbehaves, in 1948: a Greer Garson vehicle. It’s silly but not bad – Greer Garson plainly enjoyed herself hugely playing someone so unrespectable after her Oscar-winning turn as Mrs Miniver, and with Marie Curie among her other serious roles. Elizabeth Taylor (a few years after National Velvet) is stunningly beautiful and rather wasted in the film – she is certainly nothing like Susan in the book: no hint of Girton there. It was her first adult film, and her first screen kiss, which was a big deal in those days – what a quaint idea that was, it doesn’t seem to apply in a world of 
Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez and Spring Breakers.

Links on the blog: Previous entries here and here. An actual hospital matron here. A startling historical hat here. The whole question of felt hats gets a going over in this scene from Nine Till Six.


The lovely books blog Leaves and Pages is possibly an even bigger Margery Sharp fan than I am, which is saying something - and see Comment below.


The picture shows a matronly hat, but not really Julia’s face: in fact a most respectable scientist called Alice Brown.

Comments

  1. I won't be crossing paths with the book, but the photograph does stir memories of my grandparents, so thanks.

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  2. Brilliant post! Hey everybody - READ THIS BOOK! The Nutmeg Tree is one of the easier Margery Sharps to find, and it is deliciously funny, very witty, and comes with bonus interesting (though mostly happy) ending. And the descriptions of dress (and undress) are endlessly intriguing...

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    1. Absolutely, read this book... and then look for other books by Margery Sharp....

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    2. This enthusiasm is contagious.......good job I've been innoculated! Haha....

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    3. Watch out, we'll hypnotize you....

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  3. They will, too, Col.! Moira - Thanks for reminding me of this. It's not easy to pull off a plot like this I think without the main character seeming either really unlikeable or at the very least too flighty. I'm very glad you mentioned this again and I love that hat - so authentic!

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    1. I know - lots of people write light harmless entertainments, and good for them, but I think Margery Sharp is something more and something special.

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  4. Well, this does sounds interesting and the two earlier blog posts do help. I will add this to my list of non-crime fiction to try someday.

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    1. I'm sure you'll like it if you ever get round to it Tracy. I am now trying to read all her books....

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  5. I have a mental image of a Keystone Cops sort of policeman holding up a STOP sign and blowing a whistle, somehow connected with undergarments. It's *probably* from a Fredrick's of Hollywood catalogue of the 1950's which is at the cottage, and I'm NOT venturing out in the -17C temperatures we're having this morning to fetch it and have a look. The motif does strike me as a sort of "amusing novelty" that would have appealed to a "certain set" in the days of the flappers. Thoughtful of Julia to have realized they wouldn't go very well with the "Matron Model" hat. That HAS to be a name the author made up for the effect. Likely, an editor would have objected to putting her in a "Dumpy Dowager" frock. The garters also sound like a modest replacement for her usual choice. I don't have any garter buckles, but I've got a belt clasp of similar date which is two silver-and-paste crescents that hook together as a fastening. A smaller version would have worked perfectly on garter elastic.

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    1. Thank you Ken - lovely information as ever!

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  6. I found you looking for 'camiknickers'....great website, thank you! I just linked to your article from my Margery Sharp blog.

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    1. So glad you came to visit! I have just been to look at your lovely blog, and will be haunting it some more. It is such a pleasure to find another Margery Sharp fan: what an under-rated writer.

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