Thursday, December 3, 2015


Running away from Basil was bad enough.
Worse, she had to dress in a shower
curtain to do it...
Why do I like the put-upon heroines of The Canon best? I've given this question lots of thought and I think I've got an answer.

I do not love martyrs. Can't stand them. So, yes, there's a bit of groaning when Emily Araminta Sarah denies herself of the pleasures of life because little brother must go to medical school--unaware that he's grinding big sister into the dust--or when she harries off from an RDD without securing the last month's wages.

But for the most part, the heroines didn't choose to be orphans or living with elderly aunts or poor or working night duty or mugged on the Tube. It just happened.

It's what The Great Betty does with her heroines when they get on their beam ends that I like so very much. Here's an excerpt from The Promise of Happiness (or Becky and the Baron, the Hot, Hot Baron):

"The dog whimpered gently and she slowed her steps, and said: 'Sorry, Bertie.' Without the animals she could have got away much faster, but the thought hadn't even entered her head. They had been her solace for two years or more and she wasn't going to abandon them. She began to whistle; they were together and hopeful of the future; she had a pitifully small sum in her purse, the clothes she stood up in, by now very wet, and a comb in her pocket--there had been no time for more; but she was free, and so were Bertie and Pooch. She whistled a little louder..."

Whistling. Hope. Better days ahead.

They do come.


  1. Yes, the world is not their oyster. ― But the heroes will find they are above rubies.
    That is a beautiful excerpt ― the beginning of one of the most beautiful stories.
    The next time I read it I will read more meaning into Becky's whistling and pay it the attention it deserves.
    The meaning may have escaped me before...
    Thank you!

  2. Is that a poisonous snake around her wrist to go with the shower curtain? It did not find mention in the novel. Unless its name is Nina van Doorn. ;o)

  3. I just read 'A Tale of Two Cities' for the first time, despite having heard the story summarized many a time and oft. I really enjoyed it. I thought Sydney Carton made an admirable martyr: no whining, just sees a need and gets on with it. I concur absolutely that Betty's heroines don't typically volunteer for their troubles, as true martyrs do, but I do think some of them - including, forgive me, Becky - are awfully wet about putting up with abusive family.