7 September 2021
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‘You as a child; how pretty. How people change; still I would know you anywhere. Quite in the nude. That has the advantage that you can’t be dated by your clothes. Your school lacrosse team … and your first dance dress. Empire style. Clothes were pretty that year; nice high waists and simple lines.
But let us turn back to the Victorians. The fascinate me. There is a je ne sais quoi about them, a subtlety; they might have strange experiences, commit strange deeds, and say nothing. They are proud, reserved, self-contained. Your Aunt Geraldine looks like a mermaid, your Uncle Frank, behind his moustaches, seems to brood on strange lands. Had to leave the country suddenly? That would account for it, I suppose. Poor Uncle Frank. Did he have to be long away? It was hushed up? That always takes a little time, of course.’
from Rose Macaulay, ‘Album’
Personal Pleasures is a 1935 anthology of 80 short essays (some of them very short) about the things Rose Macaulay enjoyed most in life. Her subjects include:
- Bed (Getting Into It)
- Booksellers Catalogues
- Christmas Morning
- Driving a Car
- Not Going to Parties
- Shopping Abroad
While each essay can be read on its own as a short dose of delicious writing, the collection is also an autobiographical selection, revealing glimpses of Rose’s own life, and making us laugh helplessly with her inimitable humour.
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By 1935, when Personal Pleasures was published, Rose Macaulay (1881-1958) was a well-established novelist, reviewer, columnist and feminist wit. She was part of the ‘intellectual aristocracy’ of England, but was also passionately interested in travel, driving, everyday life and its foolishnesses. Her most well-known novel is The Towers of Trebizond (1956). She was made a Dame of the British Empire in recognition of her services to literature in 1958.
You may also be interested in …
What Not. A Prophetic Comedy is Rose Macaulay’s 1918 novel of a future eugenicist England, suppressed for potential libel, after which it vanished from sight. This novel was a significant influence on her friend Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Non-Combatants and Others. Writings Against War, 1916-1945 is an anthology of Macaulay’s excellent First World War pacifist novel, her anti-war journalism from the 1930s and 1940s, and her heart-breaking short story of the Blitz, ‘Miss Anstruther’s Letters’.
Potterism: A Tragi-Farcical Tract is Macaulay’s 1920 novel of truth, lies, slander and the British press.
Dreaming of Rose. A Biographer’s Journal: Sarah LeFanu’s memoir of researching her biography of Rose Macaulay, while juggling the demands of teaching and broadcasting. For life writers, lovers of biography, and those interested in the nooks and crannies of Macaulay’s life and work. To be published in September 2021 alongside Personal Pleasures.