Published in 1930, Diary of a Provincial Lady is the gently satiric fictional diary of an upper-middle-class lady living in a Devonshire village. In a witty and self-deprecating tone, the Provincial Lady (PL) records her daily struggles to keep her little household afloat and her sanity intact. PL copes variously with a parade of unreliable housemaids, a lazy husband, two adored but mischievous children, and a condescending aristocratic neighbor.
As for many families in Britain between the wars, PL is chronically short of funds. This sometimes requires dire measures such as related on January 22:
“January 22: Customary painful situation between Bank and myself necessitates expedient, also customary, of pawning great-aunt’s diamond ring, which I do under the usual conditions, and am greeted as an old friend by Plymouth pawnbroker, who says facetiously, And what name will it be this time?”
And when life on the domestic front and the Women’s Institute meetings become just too much, there is always retail therapy:
“Feel that life is wholly unendurable, and decide madly to get a new hat.”
Hysterical and surprisingly relateable (housemaids not withstanding). Modern update: Bridget Jones Diary.
WHO WROTE IT
E.M. Delafield is the pen-name of Edmee Elizabeth Monica Dashwood (1890-1943). She and her husband lived in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur before settling in the village of Kentisbeare in England. Dashwood wrote multiple novels, a collection of short stories, and three plays. Diary of a Provincial Lady was her most successful novel. The novel was borne of a request by the editor of Time and Tide, a literary and political weekly, for some “light middles” in serial form.