Barbara was making good progress with her novel, which she finally decided to call Some Tame Gazelle (having rejected Some Sad Turtle as being too reminiscent of soup.) It was, of course, 'for Henry' and as Archdeacon Hoccleve he displayed all the selfishness, insensitivity and arrogance that Barbara felt she saw in the original. But, because Barbara was still fascinated by Henry, the Archdeacon comes through triumphantly as a marvelous eccentric, with great charisma and one who, in spite of his faults, the heroine Belinda/Barbara could not help loving faithfully even after he had been married to another woman for thirty years. She deliberately took all the main characters directly from life, since this was to a be a roman a clef for her own particular circle. Thus she herself was Belinda, Hilary was Harriet, Henry was the Archdeacon, the hated Alison West-Watson was Agatha, Jock was Dr. Nicholas Parnell, Honor Tracy was Edith Liversidge, Count Roberto Weiss was Ricardo Blanco and Julia Pakenham (because of a rather matronly figure) was Lady Clara Boulding. She circulated chapters among her friends as she wrote them and they were all enthusiastic. Quite early on, in July 1934, Jock had written:
Henry and I think you are a very great novelist and implore you to continue your story -- we long to know more about Barbara and Hilary and the Archdeacon's family and Miss Tracy and Dr. Liddell. Henry thinks you are far greater than Miss Austen. I don't quite agree, though I place you well above the Brontes. We have read your story aloud to each other to West-Watson, to Mr. Barnicot and to Henry's sister Betty. Henry's mother, present on the last occasion, thought it very clever of the little girl Barbara to think of all that.
The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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May 22, 2013
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