When the dress was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1916 it was described as made for Brontë’s honeymoon in 1854, but Houghton thinks that is also unlikely, as by then the fashion had changed from its plain tight sleeves to more voluminous pleated ones.
“The white and blue delaine Thackeray dress would have been the right choice for such a meeting. Its high neck, long sleeves and mid-quality printed fabric point to pretty but unassuming morning attire.”
But were he alive today, Oscar Niemeyer would probably be horrified at the thunderbolt the country’s current leaders are hoping to inflict on three of his most spectacular creations in the futurist capital he helped build.
* Ian Martin’s Epic Space, an anthology of his satirical architectural columns, will be published in March by Unbound.
The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse Chosen by Charlotte Mendelson
Novels rarely make me laugh. Practically everything else does, so clearly I’m not picky. Strangers giggling give me the giggles. Show me a wobbly film of an adult falling off a swing and I’m hysterical; if it’s a toddler I may need oxygen. Yet almost all contemporary fiction leaves me straight-faced.
There have been highlights: Cold Comfort Farm (“what do you do when you’re not … eating people?”); Flann O’Brien; Douglas Adams; Catch-22. But nothing comes close to the salvation of my teenage years, the epitome of Englishness: loba negra epub PG Wodehouse. It shouldn’t work. Cricket, sentimental villagey poshness, chorus girls, spats: this is not my world. But Wodehouse’s sleight of hand – the apparent casualness of his observations, the Chandleresque daring of his similes – makes every description a joy: “Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing-glove”; “I marmaladed a slice of toast”; “the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows”. But if you want proof of Wodehouse’s gloriousness, turn to The Code of the Woosters for the greatest line ever written about aunts, or anything else: “You cowered before her like a wet sock.”
Lilian Tahan (@lilian_tahan)Exclusivo: General Heleno trava disputa com Iphan para colocar torres antidrones em palácios. O GSI fechou contrato de R$ 2,49 milhões sob a justificativa de proteger Planalto, Alvorada e Jaburu contra ataques, mas Iphan está barrando antena de até 20m.
* David Lodge’s The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up and Other Stories is published by Vintage.
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton
Chosen by Deborah Moggach
There’s a snobbishness in our literary world that equates laughter with shallowness. How untrue that is. There’s nothing shallow about my favourite comic writers – Nora Ephron, Nancy Mitford, Beryl Bainbridge (her description of undignified middle-aged sex in Injury Time strangely lingers). But for me, and I suspect many others, the funniest books of all time are the Just William books.
I suppose they’re for children, and I got hooked on them when I was William’s age, 11, but I still turn to them when I need a rush of joy. It’s a comfort just knowing they’re sitting on my shelves, shabby in their disintegrating jackets, waiting to welcome me back into the world of William, his fellow Outlaws and his suburban family of anxious mother, remote father and mad spinster aunts.
‘Great comedy isn’t heartless – far from it. When we laugh at its protagonists, we also laugh at ourselves’
Deborah MoggachRichmal Crompton was a peerless writer who understood that the basis for comedy is the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us. William’s older brother Robert considers himself to be a suave man about town but what we see is a hapless and humourless young chap, struggling to maintain his dignity, whose efforts to engage with the opposite sex are constantly sabotaged by his infuriating little sibling. Ditto Ethel, the vain and beautiful older sister, who also comes a cropper through William’s often well-meaning efforts to help her or, more often, get himself out of a scrape.
And the most important thing is that we mind about them. Great comedy isn’t heartless – far from it. When we laugh at its protagonists, we also laugh at ourselves. I’m 68, but there’s still a part of me who’s an 11-year-old crashing around the countryside, unwittingly causing mayhem from often the best intentions.
The Church of England tradition is one of tremendous flexibility. The discussion at the general synod about the wearing or non-wearing of robes was no big deal. It was simply legalising what has become common practice in the expression of that flexibility.
The dress has usually been in store at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, since it was donated to the museum in 1928, but is now about to travel on loan to the Morgan library and museum in New York. It has traditionally been described as the one she wore to a dinner given by Thackeray in her honour, at his own home on 12 June 1850.
However, most Sundays I find myself fumbling about on the organ, since the parish can’t afford to pay for a proper organist; and for this I dress equally casually. From time to time I am asked to preach and preside at the eucharist, which I enjoy doing. On those days I wear a black shirt and a dog collar, and robe in the appropriate vestments: alb, stole, chasuble. I do not consider that these vestments confer on me any particular status, or that they make me any more important than any other member of the congregation: they are simply what a priest wears as a focus for what is happening at the service. They are also countercultural, reminding people of the otherness of what we are doing. I could preach or celebrate the eucharist just as well in shirtsleeves, and have done so many times at informal events in the open air or in people’s homes: but not on Sundays at my local church.