Many years ago, I was at a conference in Oxford, feeling quite pleased with myself. My paper had gone well, I had made friends, I had spoken at Oxford! At the end of the day, I sat down next to a new acquaintance to await the last plenary talk. “Have you read Forever England?” My seatmate asked. I had not, but I was full of that anxious mix of adrenaline, confidence, and fear, so, to my regret I said “I heard it’s not very good.”
Alison Light was seated directly behind me, not seven inches back.
I was so ashamed that I think it deterred me from reading not only Forever England but also her more recent book, Mrs. Woolf and the Servants which I have finally finished, to my delight.
I think, in retrospect, I know, what—beyond callow youth and idiocy—made me dismiss the first book: Light is a more of an historian than a theorist and it would have been fashionable for me to look askance at a book chronicling forgotten conservative women writers between the wars. Ironically, this is the very kind of book that will be useful to me in upcoming projects.
I’ll write about Mrs. Woolf and The Servants in a future post, but before I do, I wanted to offer a little apology to the world for having been such a dope in front of the writer.