Is it Time for Another Rosamond Lehmann Revival?

 

‘The Gipsy’s Baby’ by Rosamond Lehmann (1946) – 192 pages

When Virago republished all of her novels in 1982, there was a major Rosamond Lehmann revival. Is it time for another revival?

Rosamond Lehmann is sometimes considered a women’s romance novelist. Yes, her novels usually dealt with the close relationships of her characters. However she captured the emotional life of her women and men with such intensity and vivacity that guys would do well to read her too just as some real men read and enjoy Jane Austen. Lehmann used her own happy and unhappy romances and marriages to give her stories and novels more depth and feeling and humor than most writers achieve.

Rosamond was born in 1901 and brought up in well-to-do circumstances. Her first novel ‘Dusty Answer’ was published in 1927 and was a best selling scandalous success. Alfred Noyes lauded it as “quite the most striking first novel of this generation”. ‘Dusty Answer’ was an intense unhappy love story told with sparkle and verve, the type of story Rosamond Lehmann specialized in perhaps based on incidents from her own life.

There is a steady enduring quality to all of Lehmann’s early work. She followed ‘Dusty Answer’ with ‘A Note in Music’ and then she wrote the two novels ‘Invitation to the Waltz’ and ‘The Weather in the Streets’ which center on one heroine Olivia Curtis. If I were starting over to discover Rosamond Lehmann, I probably would begin with ‘Invitation to the Waltz’ which was called “a perfect novel” by her biographer Selina Hastings.

Mel u, editor of The Reading Life wrote the following of ‘Invitation to the Waltz’ and Rosamond Lehmann: “Her narrative methods are a mixture of devices, many of the sentences, even in the lesser novels, are pure gems.  The middle chapter of ‘Invitation to the Waltz’ is just hilarious, a perfect presentation  of the persons at a country dance.  The depiction of the pretentious young poet down from Oxford made me laugh out loud as I marveled at what a wonderful scene I was witnessing.“

And here is a quote taken directly from ‘Invitation to the Waltz’:

Advice to Young Journal Keepers: Be lenient with yourself. Conceal your worst faults, leave out your most shameful thoughts, actions, and temptations. Give yourself all the good and interesting qualities you want and haven’t got. If you should die young, what comfort would it be to your relatives to read the truth and have to say: It is not a pearl we have lost, but a swine?” – Rosamond Lehmann, ‘Invitation to the Waltz’.

Her strong literary career continued with two excellent fine novels in the ’40’s and early ’50’s, ‘The Ballad and the Source’ and ‘The Echoing Grove’. Like Graham Greene, Rosamond Lehmann not only had a strong literary reputation, but also her novels were best sellers. Her novels are straight-forward, accessible, and easy to enjoy.

Around the time of her daughter Sally’s death at 24 in 1957, Rosamond’s profound grief led her to take up psychic spiritualism, and both of her only two later works, the autobiography ‘The Swan in the Evening’ and ‘A Sea-Grape Tree’, were written under this psychic influence. If a reader wants to fully appreciate the fiction of Rosamond Lehmann, he or she should probably avoid these two late works.

I recently read all the stories in ‘The Gipsy’s Baby’. This collection was first published in 1946 and these stories are prime Rosamond Lehmann, but I would still start with the early novels which are quite short anyhow.

Let the second Rosamond Lehmann Revival begin.

 

Grade:   A

 

10 responses to this post.

  1. Oh yes! Well I love Rosamond Lehmann, and I believe I have read all her fiction as well as her autobiography Swan in the Evening. A Rosamond Lehmann revival would be wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi heavenall,
      I’m happy to hear there is another who has read all of the work of Rosamond Lehmann. I may have missed ‘No More Music’ and I intentionally missed ‘A Sea Grape Tree’, but I have found the rest of her work superb and very enjoyable.

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      Reply

  2. I’ve only read Invitation to the Waltz which I enjoyed very much. Would happily read more. Are you thinking about a RL reading week or something?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Annabel,
      If you read and enjoyed ‘Invitation to the Waltz’, you really must read ‘The Weather in the Streets’ which is a follow-up with the same characters.
      A Rosamond Lehmann week would be a great thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  3. Please set up a reading week, Tony, and I’ll happily join in. I’ve bought a few of her books based on your recommendations over the years but not yet read them.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. What a great piece on Lehmann! I love Invitation to the Waltz and think you should organize a reading week (as others suggest).

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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