• Maud points the way to a Theodora Keogh story, published in 1957, called “The Man Who Loved Old Ladies .” It’s a short-short story, easily readable online, and it’s interesting to place it in tandem with another short-short story, Katherine Mansfield’s “The Young Girl“, especially in the way both stories close.
Keogh is a new author to me — I hadn’t heard of her before reading an obituary that ran in the Telegraph this January — but Maud, who along with others is agitating that Keogh’s books be brought back into print, can tell you more.
Mansfield’s story, by the by, is included in the Angela Carter-edited anthology Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, put out by Virago in the ’80s. The collection’s out of print but you can still pick up a used copy dirt cheap.
• Lately, I’ve been re-reading David Copperfield as my before-bed, literary-cup-of-Ovaltine book. Last night I hit the chapter called “My First Dissipation.” It’s such a funny set piece and can be read as a stand-alone excerpt if you start here, where David first decides to have a few friends over to his new apartment for dinner (Mrs. Crupp is his landlady).
A taste of the dissipation:
I began, by being singularly cheerful and light-hearted; all sorts of half-forgotten things to talk about, came rushing into my mind, and made me hold forth in a most unwonted manner. I laughed heartily at my own jokes, and everybody else’s; called Steerforth to order for not passing the wine; made several engagements to go to Oxford; announced that I meant to have a dinner-party exactly like that, once a week, until further notice; and madly took so much snuff out of Grainger’s box, that I was obliged to go into the pantry, and have a private fit of sneezing ten minutes long.
I went on, by passing the wine faster and faster yet, and continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine, long before any was needed. I proposed Steerforth’s health. I said he was my dearest friend, the protector of my boyhood, and the companion of my prime. I said I was delighted to propose his health. I said I owed him more obligations than I could ever repay, and held him in a higher admiration than I could ever express. I finished by saying, ‘I’ll give you Steerforth! God bless him! Hurrah!’ We gave him three times three, and another, and a good one to finish with. I broke my glass in going round the table to shake hands with him, and I said (in two words) ‘Steerforth -you’retheguidingstarofmyexistence.’
Personal aside: Whenever my book club meets, there’s inevitably some point in the evening where we all start making plans to go on a trip to Cuba together, or Budapest, or else, you know, start a bowling team. So the “made several engagements to go to Oxford” bit hits home.