Vainglory

Ronald Firbank died on this day in 1926. And rejecting the received wisdom that one should never begin a sentence with the word “and”, the English writer set it at the beginning of his whole career, said conjunction opening his first novel, Vainglory, which is reissued next week:

“And, then, oh yes! Atalanta is getting too pronounced.” She spoke lightly, leaning back a little in her deep arm-chair. It was the end of a somewhat lively review.

On such a languid afternoon how hard it seemed to bear a cross! Pleasant to tilt it a little…Her listener waved her handkerchief expressively. She felt, just then, it was safer not to speak. Tactfully she rose.

On a dark canvas screen were grouped some inconceivably delicate Persian miniatures.

She bent towards them. “Oh, what gems!”

But Lady Georgia would not let her go.

“A mother’s rôle,” she said, “is apt to become a strain.”

Mrs Henedge turned towards her. “Well, what can you do, dear?” she inquired, and with a sigh she looked away sadly over the comparative country of the square.

Lady Georgia Blueharnis owned that house off Hill Street from whose curved iron balconies it would have seemed right for dames in staid silks to lean melodiously at certain moments of the day. In Grecian-Walpole times the house had been the scene of an embassy; but since then it had reflowered unexpectedly as a sympathetic background, suitable to shelter plain domesticity – or even more.

Not that Lady Georgia could be said to be domestic….Her interests in life were far too scattered. Known to the world as the Isabelle d’Este of her day, her investigations of art had led her chiefly outside the family pale.

“It is better,” Mrs. Henedge said, when she had admired the massive foliage in the square, and had sighed once or twice again, “to be pronounced than to be a bag of bones. And thank goodness Atalanta’s not eccentric! Think of poor Mr. Rienzi-Smith who lives in continual terror lest one day his wife may do something really strange – perhaps run down Piccadilly without a hat…Take a shorter view of life, dear, don’t look so far ahead!”

“I was thinking only of Monday.”

“There will be eleven bridesmaids besides At’y!”

“They will look Satanic.”

“Yes; it’s perhaps too close to picture them!”

“I don’t know, yet,” Lady Georgia said, “what I shall wear. But I shall be very plain.”

“The cake,” Mrs. Henedge said, beginning to purr, “is to be an exact replica of the Victoria Memorial.”

“Do you know where the honeymoon’s to be spent?”

“They begin, I believe, by Brussels—”

“I can hardly imagine anyone,” Lady Georgia observed, “setting out deliberately for Brussels.”

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5 comments

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