Monday, November 23, 2015

"Almost" Forgotten Women Novelists - Richmal Crompton


As a young teenager

The photo used for her book covers.

Richmal Crompton 1946

Richmal Crompton (Lamburn) is one of --  "...that generation of women in literature who had earned for themselves the term woman novelist, or simply novelist, as distinct from "lady-novelist" or "authoress".... They were modern in the 1920s and 1930s, very much belonging to the literary world of Maugham, Walpole, Wells and Bennett.... they were not a "school" in any sense and had no more in common than a belief in the novel." Rupert Croft-Cooke (1969)

If I could, I would edit the quote to add "from the 1920's to the 1970's", as some  women writing in the 1930's published into the 60's and '70's.

Eleven of Crompton's forty-four novels for adults, were recently released in mid-2015 by Bello Publishing, which is a digital imprint of Pan Macmillan that focuses on republishing out of print books, which they determine deserve new exposure to the reading world. I liked the covers right away and was intrigued by some of the book descriptions.

I would recommend the three covers below to begin with - for both Crompton's style and her ability to create layered and complex main characters and secondary characters - and for the strong storylines. 

I won't go into specific details of each of the six books I've read to this point, but if you like Daphne Du Maurier, Nancy Mitford, D.E Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, or works like Vita Sackville-West's All Passion Spent, or Barbara Pym's Excellent Women etc. I am sure you will find a lot to enjoy in Crompton's books. 

Her novels are highly expressive, and full of risks; sometimes teetering on the edge of melodrama, but never quite going over the line. Narcissa comes closest to that line. In fact, Hitchcock could easily have done a movie about the main character, Stella. However, the hidden depths of personality flaws in her novels are done so cleverly and with such subtlety that you can forgive some of the Bette Davis-style movie drama. 

Crompton was pro-Suffrage, and apparently involved in the Suffragette movement while in University. I wonder if this may have influenced her to write about ordinary solid middle class women, living ordinary lives which often break apart by the blinded actions of those very women themselves.

Caroline, in the novel of the same name, or Stella in Narcissa, are women troubled by deeply layered and complex psychological problems - and in their fractured minds - from lonely self-absorbed upbringings -  they believe the only way to continue to exist is to build a world where they can fully control everyone within their intimate sphere - all the while holding on to the ideals of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. After the two world wars, life is changing too quickly for them.

Crompton had a keen eye for the frailties of her characters. Nothing went past her unsparing gaze and if you see qualities in her characters that make you uncomfortable, like I did, you know she hit her mark. Despite those unflinching observations,  I also became aware of the deep compassion she held for her characters, which only deepened her work. 

The power of the main character or other adult characters in a number of the novels forces the young adult characters, especially, to face difficult, heart wrenching decisions; mainly because they know any decision they make that goes against the main characters' visions and determinations will have heavy consequences. Some of them cave in and make those compromises. But a number of the younger characters eventually make determined choices to move forward on their own, knowing they must break away in order to survive -  to hold onto their own individuality and to create their own future.

Crompton's work brings back a long ago era, allowing us a detailed picture of the social order in the world her characters lived in - a world that still had a divide between master and servant, and especially between men and women. Yet there is a timeless essence to her work; a familiar universality of the human condition that  resonated strongly me as a "modern" reader.

Richmal Crompton's Typewriter
(University of Roehampton, Archives and Special Collections)

 Brief Bio of Richmal Crompton:

Richmal Crompton (Lamburn); teacher, children's writer, novelist and short story writer, was born in 1890 in Bury Lancashire. Her father was the Rev. Edward John Sewell Lamburn, a Classics Master at Bury Grammar School and Clara (nee Crompton). Richmal attended St. Elphin's Boarding School school for children of the clergy. 

I have not read her children's writing - the most popular being the "William Books", but I have now read six of the eleven adult novels put out by Bello Publishers, and I will buy and read the rest. I can't get enough of them right now! 

Sadly, I can't find her novels in my local library. I wanted to recommend them to other readers. (They do have six books about the Kardashian family, however... if you're interested.) Not funny, I know...

Richmal graduated in 1914 with a BA in Classics, and began to teach Classics at St. Elphin's school. 

One of the really interesting things about Richmal, and so far I can't find much more than the single agreed-upon "fact" of it by biographers etc - is that, she was probably involved or very interested in the Suffragette movement. 

When she was 27,  Richmal moved from St. Elphin's to teach at Bromley High School in southeast London. In 1923, at age 33 she contracted polio and lost the use of one leg. She was forced to give up her teaching career and began to write full time. Within three years of leaving her teaching, her William books and other writings became very successful - enough that she was able to buy a home for herself and her then widowed mother, Clara, in Bromley Common called "The Glebe."

Later, in her forties, Crompton suffered from breast cancer and had a mastectomy. 
She was known to say that she was rather glad she had contracted polio because, from that terrible illness, she was able to create a whole new life which she enjoyed very much.

Crompton never married, but spent a lot of time in the company of many of her nieces and nephews. Despite her disabilities from polio and cancer, during the Second World War, she volunteered for the Fire Service. 

Richmal Crompton died January 11th, 1969 at home in Chislehurst, Kent, Bromley.

Other novels for sale and as e-books by Crompton are:

This is a "Christmas" themed novel

I am reading this one now!

Books from Richmal Crompton's Private Library
(University of Roehampton, Archives and Special Collections)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hoarfrost waxes bolder ...

I woke up very early two mornings ago to a deep frost in my garden. Many of the plants have been cut down, but I was able to get some pleasing shots of the frost here and there. 

"Hoarfrost Waxes Bolder" Photo © Margaret Buffie

Summer is gone with all its roses,
Its sun and perfumes and sweet flowers,
It's warm air and refreshing showers:
And even Autumn closes.

Yea, Autumn's chilly self is going,
And winter comes which is yet colder;
Each day the hoarfrost waxes bolder
And the last buds cease blowing.

Christina Rossetti, "Bitter for Sweet".

Purple Sage "Geode" Photo © Margaret Buffie

Frosted Morning Blues Photo © Margaret Buffie

 Lemon Thyme and Elm Leaves Photo © Margaret Buffie

 Primrose Green Photo © Margaret Buffie

Sun Breathes Away Frost Photo © Margaret Buffie

Thyme Passes © Margaret Buffie

Thursday, September 17, 2015

An Imperious Summons.....

It's always hard to close up our cabin in Northwestern Ontario, especially as we grow older. But as we have to boat in, we make a decision when the days grow short, and the birds begin to gather ready to migrate; that it is time to pull up boats and canoes, turn off the water, put the boat motors away in sheds and pack up for the winter.

I find it heart wrenching every single autumn, but remind myself that we are so so lucky that my grandparents in 1918 and parents (1948) chose to build cabins on this lake and we, as children, climbed the rocks and explored the forest every summer, as our children and grandchildren do now. Me, too, of course as you can tell from my many boreal forest photos!

I read this quote recently at a memorial service for an old timer who spent most of his life at our lake. It really touched me.

"Through the marshes and the forests
An imperious summons flies
And from all the dreaming northland
The wild birds flock and rise."
P. McArthur 

Watercolour Print by Ireart on Etsy

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I've looked at clouds from both sides now...

Clouds Reflected in Lake - Photo © Margaret Buffie

I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it's cloud illusions I recall.  Joni Mitchell 

Note from Margaret: Many of these photos I snapped were shot in the two bays where I paddle my canoe each morning and evening. We all have different horizons to look at every day, but if we look closely we will see that the sky above each horizon changes dramatically every second of every  day. Many of us in our busy lives, hardly notice. 

                      You must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds. 
                                         Henry David Thoreau

Cumulus Blue © Margaret Buffie

Truly, were I every evening to depict sunrise, (or in this case, sunset) and every morning to see it, still I should cry, like the children, Once more, once more! Jean Paul Friedrich 

Magenta Sunset© Margaret Buffie

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. Rabindranath Tagore

Layers © Margaret Buffie

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? — it is the same the angels breathe. 

Mark Twain
Angel's Breath © Margaret Buffie

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.
G.K. Chesterton 

Thunderhead Castle © Margaret Buffie

I wandered lonely as a cloud... 
William Wordsworth

One Cloud © Margaret Buffie

Those clouds are angels' robes. 
Charles Kingsley

Angel's Wings © Margaret Buffie

Angel Robed in Mist and Clouds© Margaret Buffie

The ground we walk on, the plants and creatures, the clouds above constantly dissolving into new formations - each gift of nature possessing its own radiant energy, bound together by cosmic harmony. 
Ruth Bernhard
 Stripes in the Sky © Margaret Buffie

Clouds on clouds, in volumes driven,
Curtain round the vault of heaven.
Thomas Love Peacock

Coming or Going? © Margaret Buffie

The inner half of every cloud
Is bright and shining:
I therefore turn my clouds about
And always wear them inside out
To show the lining.
Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler

Golden Morning © Margaret Buffie 

The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sliver © Margaret Buffie

Fire Smoked Moon at Midnight © Margaret Buffie

Rosy clouds were spread like flowers in the sun's pathway... the singing world of the air hung exulting in the hues of morning and the heavenly blue; sparks of clouds darted up from gold bars along the horizon; at last the flames of the sun streamed in over the earth. 
Jean Paul Friedrich Richter

A New Morning is Born © Margaret Buffie

The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober coloring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality. William Wordsworth

Darkling Clouds © Margaret Buffie

Descent into Night © Margaret Buffie

Ye glorious pageants! hung in air
To greet our raptur'd view;
What in creation can compare,
For loveliness, with you?
   Bernard Barton

Sailor's Delight © Margaret Buffie

A few amber clouds floated in the sky without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a pure apple-green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-heaven. 
Washington Irving

Promises to Come © Margaret Buffie 

Those playful fancies of the mighty sky. 
Albert Smith 

Sky Writing © Margaret Buffie

Drifting © Margaret Buffie

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die....
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Changes Ahead © Margaret Buffie

When we look up, it widens our horizons. We see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries. No differences of caste or religion or race. 
Julia Gregson

A Speck in the Sky © Margaret Buffie

Monday, June 29, 2015

To Weave Her Patterns.....

I have seen nature's patterns while travelling - and in books and online - that show the amazingly intricate designs in nature, particularly underwater creatures such as spectacularly complex ocean shells, reefs etc, and the exotic patterns on birds and fish .... and it is awe inspiring.

My own world is more simple than that - so I explore patterns which I find in my garden and in the natural things I discover at my lake district in NW Ontario. By noticing, and then studying, patterns (that I often saw in my camera(!), I started looking for them with a kind of obsessive eagerness.

I find the smallest and most secret patterns are the most interesting, while those that I don't recognize by eye (until they pop up in my camera) are always the most surprising.

We are all taught patterns made by humans - like those in music, and of course, patterns in mathematics, visual patterns in forms of human art, in language and in other "human created" patterns. But to see them in nature, not created by humans -- but by a complex form of earthly energy (that we still wonder over), is always a miraculous thing for me.

Humans had nothing to do with the creations of the patterns below, but for me they have  allowed me to appreciate and to know deep down, that despite global warming and changes in the environment, nature will adapt - and that those things in nature  - created outside of human skills will always survive, even after we are long gone - creating new and old patterns of  - right down to the sheer perfection of perhaps a newly designed  single feather - or butterfly wing.

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave 
her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric
reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.
Richard P. Feynman

Spider Web Coated in Morning Dew
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

For most of the history of our species we were helpless 
to understand how nature works. We took every storm, 
drought, illness and comet personally. We created myths and
 spirits in an attempt to explain the patterns of natures. 
Ann Druyan

   Black Swallowtail Butterfly wing 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

There is no better designer than nature. Alexander McQueen

Marsh Mushroom
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Goshawk Feather
Photo: © Margaret Buffie 

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir
Gem Studded Puffball
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which 
if we consciously yield to it, will direct us aright. 
Henry David Thoreau

Brown Marsh Mushroom
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Frog  Skin
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

The interpretation of our reality through 
patterns not our own, serves only to make us 
ever more unknown, ever less free, ever 
more solitary. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Wasp's Nest
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.  Lao Tzu
Brown Foliose Lichen 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

I go to nature to be soothed and healed
and to have my senses put in order. 
John Burroughs

Orange Tree Mushroom
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

I consider myself a farmer of patterns. 
Alexander Gorlizki 

Dried Tree  Trunk
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

To understand is to perceive patterns. Isaiah Berlin

Web over the water 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

A repeated shape is not actually the same – 
the more subtle, the more poetic this repeat is, 
the more we feel that resonant pulse. 
Suzanne Northcott 

Arrow Head Rock 
Photo: Margaret Buffie

The only difference is our perspective, our readiness 
to put the pieces together in an entirely different way 
and to see patterns where only shadows appeared 
just a moment before. 
Edward B Lindaman

"Magical creatures" Found Under An uprooted Tree
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

We artists have been affected by patterns in nature 
since day one. Every line we lay to paper and every move 
we make is part of the magical sequence - and the 
line goes where it needs to go depending on one's influences. 
Kristi Bridgeman 

Island reeds
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Interesting phenomena occur when two or more rhythmic patterns are combined, and those phenomena illustrate very aptly the enrichment of information that occurs when one description is combined with another. Gregory Bateson

Slanted Light on Lily Pads
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

In the Egyptian we have no traces of infancy or of 
any foreign influence; and we must, therefore believe 
that they went to inspiration directly from nature.” 
Owen Jones

(Note, while at my lake cabin is in NW Ontario I  love to find feathers lying around in nature - and in this one, I see a First Nations Moccasin in its pattern!)

Baby Loon Feather
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Look deep inside nature, and then you will understand everything better. 
Albert Einstein.

Canadian Anemone 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

All my inspiration comes from nature, whether it's an animal or the layout of bark or of a leaf. Sometimes my patterns are very bold, and you can barely see where they come from, but all the textures and all the prints come out of nature. Diane von Furstenberg 

Hosta Leaf
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Photo: © Margaret Buffie

It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that 
makes the intellect fruitful, and give birth to imagination.
Henry David Thoreau

Tulip Petal
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Cone FLower
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Knapweed with Honey Bee
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Rhythm. Life is full of it; words should have it, too. But you have to train your ear. Listen to the waves on a quiet night; you’ll pick up the cadence. Look at the patterns the wind makes in dry sand and you’ll see how syllables in a sentence should fall.   Arthur Gordon

Sun on Moving Water 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

First Drops of Morning Rain on the Lake 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Some of nature's most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature scale, 
as anyone knows who has applied a magnifying glass to a snow flake. 
Rachel Carson

Very Tiny Snail Shell in the Marsh
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Deep in the time when summer lets down her hair?
Shadows we loved and the patterns they covered the ground with
Tapestries, mystical, faint in the breathless air.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dew On Spider Web in the Grass
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature. August Rodin


Pay attention to the intricate patterns of 
your existence that you take for granted. 

Doug Dillon

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Gypsy Moth Caterpillar 
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Luna Moth Caterpillar (sitting on my camera strap!)
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Very Tiny Marsh Snail Shell
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Snake Skin Shed Sliding Through Rocks
Photo: © Margaret Buffie

Final thoughts from someone I deeply admired:
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. Rachel Carson