The Woman’s Journal, December 1927

Magazine Review by Jane V:
Cover portrait – The Countess of Cromer, by Philip A. de Laszlo MVO

Serials

Life of Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, Duchess of York by Lady Cynthia Asquith

This is a disorganised instalment of a much longer biography, illustrated by photos. It is rather oily in style.

Old Pybus – Warwick Deeping (‘instalment of Warwick Deeping’s latest and greatest novel.’ Father/son relationships spanning three generations. Old Pybus has been disappointed by his two sons who didn’t fight in WW1 and has cut off all contact with them, retiring to become the doorman at a country hotel. (He has photos of them on his mantle-shelf, calling them ‘my sons who died in the war.’) The son successful in business has a son who, after Eton and Oxford, doesn’t wish to enter the family business preferring to try his luck at writing fiction. He is seduced by his own poetic imagination (giving rise to some quite excruciating passages of purple prose by WD.) Young Pybus seeks out his grandfather to solicit his support for his plans. He ‘wants to be himself’. Old P is inclined to support him. Young P’s father however, offers financial support for two years while young P gives it a go. WD launches into the ‘nature/nurture’ argument, which was de rigeur at the time, as old P is inclined to believe it is nature which decides a person’s qualities, although he concedes that ‘something is put in’. (Mendelism). Lance admires his grandfather as ‘a person who does simple and beautiful things’ (Arts and Crafts movement?) Several sets of unrelated people are introduced who will probably join the main story later: sister struggling to maintain blind (through accident, not war) brother and a local hearty land-owner type. (I gave up at this stage!)

Octavia – Margot Oxford (Margot Asquith, Countess of Oxford, second wife of Herbert Asquith, PM) Described by the editorial as ‘the brilliant first novel’. A tale of fox-hunting and adultery (Jilly Cooper?) among the huntin’ set who are surrounded by servants and horses. Men who go to Eton and then into the armed forces and emerge as duffers, partnered by women who read and learn, whose station in life forces them to marry these duffers.

Articles

Christmas and what it means to him by the Reverend Dick Shepherd. A long-winded homily.

Personality – by Stacy Aumonier, an author renowned for his character writing in short stories.

True Womanhood – what it means to be a woman byRebecca West. It is imagined that educating women will result in a ‘blurring’ of the sexes, making women more masculine and men more feminine. This is rubbish. This view is about power. Women need just as much education and as many opportunities to do their job as men need to do theirs.

Short Stories (illustrated with line drawings)

All the king’s horses – Katharine Brush. Tale of poor hopeful in Hollywood deluding herself into thinking the star of the film studio is in love with her. Cruelly let down. This story directly addresses the reader (as though to make sure they are ‘with’ the narrator).

Gifts for the Magi – Pauline Stiles. The general manager of the Malay Rubber Corporation, now back managing office in UK, shy, lonely, unmarried, befriends the single woman and her young son who live upstairs in his block of flats. They are in constant fear of being evicted because the boy has a dog, which is not allowed. The man sees toys in a Christmas shop window and, on impulse, buys an armful. He takes them and offers them to the boy. Romance blossoms.

Do be kind – Geoffrey Moss. Farquhar, man about town on low income, relying on invitations from those better off, is looking for ‘adventures’ (women!). He inveigles his way into a group at the casino and attempts to ‘get off with’ a young girl in the party. He invites her to walk on the beach. She agrees and takes his arm. She remarks particularly on the sounds and the smells of their surroundings. He is sharply disillusioned when he tries to kiss the girl. She takes fright, shouts at him and back s away. He has misjudged her willingness to walk with him. She reveals she is blind and had thought he was just being kind.

The high price of silver – Louise Kennedy Mabie. Noel, a girl living in reduced circumstances with her mother who is desperate to maintain status, is invited to the wedding of a rich girl who is a childhood friend. The story opens on the sweeping staircase of the soon-to-be-wed girl’s house. Kit Fielding, the girl’s brother is watching our heroine descend the stairs and she is loving the feel of the velvet cushioned banister and the house’s general air of opulence. She affects to dislike Kit Fielding. She needs an outfit for the wedding which is difficult when silver stockings, which she desires, cost 17/- a pair. She tells her mother that she is thinking of getting a job. Her mother is aghast. Mother plans to dye a pair of the girl’s shoes silver. They will be ‘practically, but not really, silver’. (This is a catch phrase of the story.) Our feisty heroine has been sent to a lesser school than the bride and it was there that she learned from what she was taught, what she couldn’t do, that is, all the things she could never aspire to. She is unwilling to accept Kit’s courtship because of his money. Her mother urges her to reconsider but, says the girl, Kit’s ‘point of view is Ferrati.’

She goes shopping in the rain for clothes she can wear to the wedding but, failing to find anything in her price range, she rashly buys three bunches of flowers to give to her mother, thus spending all the money she has. Dispirited and wet, and feeling faint (on two pieces of toast for breakfast) she bumps into a man wearing a shabby raincoat. ‘Her umbrella leaks; it’s spirit is broken’. He introduces himself as John, offers to buy the flowers she has dropped and takes her to Billy’s sandwich bar to eat a sandwich and drink a cup of coffee. Billy’s bar ‘it steamed – it smoked – it shovelled!’ ‘The working world,’ John says, ‘will breathe into our ears.’ He then drives her home in his ‘Fairy’ – a make of small car. Noel quickly falls for John.

Cut to the denouement: ‘John’ is revealed as Kit in disguise; Noel’s mother and he had dreamed up this plot. Noel loves Kit as ‘John’ – and seems quite happy to accept the money and the emerald she is next seen wearing as she sweeps down the staircase on the day of the wedding.

The plot requires a degree of ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ – how come Noel doesn’t recognise ‘John’ is Kit; how come she so quickly falls for ‘John’ and appears quite ready to accept Kit when his identity is revealed. The story reads as though a chunk has been excised just before the final part. The psychology is a bit mixed up but the writing shows rhythm and style and the dialogue is realistic and lively. This is a young writer who probably went on to greater things.

Who dealt? (The worst game of bridge ever played) – Ring Lardner. This is a monologue, spoken by a new wife at a bridge party at the home of childhood friends of her husband’s. She talks non-stop, only half concentrating on the game which she doesn’t actually remember how to how to play and embarrassing her husband as she talks about him in front of him. She reveals that he has written a short story which she found hidden away. The story was rejected by a magazine. It tells of a disappointed love affair between childhood sweethearts. The girl had married his best friend instead. The reader realises the awful faux pas the woman has made long before she does – if she ever does! It turns out, of course, that the hostess is the husband’s old flame .

Being a monologue this is not strictly a short story perhaps, but it is well constructed and gives pleasure to the reader as s/he quickly realises the true situation.

Writers mentioned in Woman’s Journal

Margot Oxford – Margot Asquith, Countess of Oxford, second wife of Herbert Asquith, PM. She was extravagant. Lived in penury in later life. Wrote to earn. As a girl she loved riding and horses and hunting.

Lady Cynthia Asquith – daughter-in-law of H. Asquith. She was secretary to J.M Barrie.

Geoffrey Moss – Major Cecil Gilbert McNeill Moss, 1885 – 1954, soldier and writer, Bestseller in his day. E.g. Isn’t life wonderful made into a film in 1920s. Critics of his time found him ‘sentimental and old-fashioned’. He was sympathetic to Germany after WW1. Thursby (1933)

Katharine Brush, American – 1902 -1952, became known in 1920s – wrote for magazines Cosmopolitan, Harpers Magazine. Placed ninth bestseller of 1930s. Was ‘keen observer of contemporary American life.’ Young man of Manhattan – was made into a film. Red headed woman – film 1932 starring Jean Harlow.

Pauline Stiles 1930s writer – New footprints: old places; The crooked stick; Lovers must live; The mote and the beam and the Dr Will books.

Ring Lardner 1885-1933 – sports columnist and short story writer admired by Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald. 1916 epistolary novel You know me Al – humorous. Elmer the great, made into a film; June moon (co-authored). He was also a composer and a lyricist. He wrote down speech as he heard it spoken so creating real dialogue and real characters.

Louise Kennedy MabieThe lights are bright and Four bells deemed worthy of preservation by scholars in USA (therefore still available) in Forgotten Books print.

Stacy Aumonier 1877-1928. Short story writer (85 stories/six novels) reckoned good by Galsworthy. Came from a family of visual artists, he also painted. He wrote and performed sketches on the stage. Rebecca West was a friend. His writing shows humour and close observation of character.

Book Review section: recommendations by Countess of Oxford

‘People the well-read woman will be reading this month.’

Two vagabonds in Albania – Jan and Cora Gordon – non-fiction, travel.

Notes on democracy – H.L. Menchen (who also wrote Defence of Women).

General book review

Written by Beatrice Kean Seymour who especially recommends Flamingo by Mary Borden – relations between US and UK as shown in two couples, one English, one American, who meet in US.

Gallions reach – H.M Tomlinson. ‘Stirring narrative, peopled with real flesh and blood men.’

Kitty – Warwick Deeping – girl marries above her station. ‘Sensitive characterisation’ as girl bravely holds her own. ‘Insight, tenderness and humour.’

The hotel – Elizabeth Bowen. ‘A clever study of not very nice people in a hotel on the Riviera. Scenes, dialogue and characterisation are amazingly good. One for the library list.’

Young Orland – Herbert Asquith. Story of an illegitimate son who leads an ordinary life until his death from wounds in battle. I did not believe in any of the women!’

The courteous revelation – Dudley Carew. ‘Character relives scenes from his childhood. An unusual novel.’

Death comes for the archbishop – Willa Cather. Priests in New Mexico, set between 1851-1888. Quiet, reflective book dealing with effect of Washington’s war on the Navajos and the Indians’ struggle against the white man. ‘Emphasis is on the beauty of the lives and characters of the two priests and the love and respect which they aroused in the hearts of all the people, red or white, with whom they came into contact.’

Miracle boy – Louis Golding – history behind the frescoes and wood carvings of a black raven perched on the shoulder of a yellow-haired youth in an Austrian village. Deals with superstition among the Austrian peasantry.

The silent queen – Seymour Leslie. Recreation of the 90s – ‘brilliant background for an excellent novel’ but it’s as though the author ‘forgot to write the novel’.

I said the sparrow – Ruth Brockington. ‘Not enough background. Only three protagonists.’ Author has ‘good eye for people and dialogue’ but the book ‘has a narrow theme.’

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Home

Three piece suite £17.5.0

Siloluxe vacuum cleaner – cylinder being used by maid in illustration

Bent-Apex Automatic clothes washer 20/-. Gas powered.

Health & Beauty

Ovaltine brings restful and health giving sleep (nerves), ‘Builds up brain, nerve and body.’ 1/3, 2/-.

Baldness cures – 2,000 doctors, scientific research – free booklet and £1,000 guarantee of success. White’s Electric comb to cure thinning, dull hair. 10/-; creams for same.

Slimming tablets – and cream to apply to the body!

‘My life was ruined by superfluous hair, Send coupon.’

Fearsome underwear: corsets to make your eyes water!

‘Elasto cures through the blood’. Pills for varicose veins, arthritis, thrombosis, rheumatism, hardened arteries etc etc.

Wild claims for cures for epilepsy/corns etc.

Fashion

De luxe lined leather coat for 6 ½ guineas.

Paper patterns for making clothes at home.

‘The importance of velvet’.

Home earning

Confectionary made at home.

Knitting machine for making socks. Sales guaranteed. (£312 in 3 years for socks)

[All adverts testified to (apparently)! No trading standards then. Such quackery, such snake oil, and supposition of gullibility of the (female) reader.]

[The January issue promises four complete stories by: Albert Payson Terhune, novelist and dog lover (!), Pamela Frankau, Beverley Nichols and Ethel Mannin (author of Pilgrim) ]

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2 thoughts on “The Woman’s Journal, December 1927

  1. They are! They give us an amazing insight into social and domestic life in the late 20s as well as the expectations and attitudes of the class of women who read them.

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