Dr. Jeeves and Mr. Hyde Wooster

We are all, to some extent, Jekyll and Hyde. I don’t mean to suggest that we all make & take potions and turn into insane murderers (I feel sure I would have noticed), but we all have different sides to our selves. Not good vs evil necessarily, but, say, left-brain vs. right-brain.

Left hemisphere throbbing

The writing teacher Dorothea Brande suggests that in order to make the best use of these different elements of ourselves – she is speaking of the creative and critical functions – it is best to consider and develop them separately.

“By isolating as far as possible the functions of these two sides of the mind, even by considering them not merely as aspects of the same mind but as separate personalities, we can arrive at a kind of working metaphor, impossible to confuse with reality, but infinitely helpful in self-education.”

To arrive at the working metaphor: that was my goal. As I have mentioned before, there are few things I enjoy more than a really good metaphor.
Left brain / right brain, however, isn’t much of a metaphor, and it’s hard to visualize for someone who has never seen her brain (and doesn’t much want to).

inner child

The next classic metaphor is the “inner child” – which didn’t really work for me. While my creative side is frequently childlike, it isn’t like a child – and my “adult” self is frequently less than adult!

The thing is, in order to make the best use of the two sides, they need to work together; there needs to be a kind of equality between them. Adult/child is not a relationship of equality.

Yes, the creative side needs to submit to the ordered side’s discipline, or nothing would ever be achieved; but the ordered side’s authority is exercised solely to create the best conditions for the creative side. (Or at least it should be.)

I started considering relationships where this is the case.

Edwardian lady writing (6908558900)

The Governess, I decided, was an excellent metaphor for the ordered side: she governs, she educates, she assesses, she provides encouragement and rebuke as necessary, and she wields her authority for the good of her charge.

The only downside is that governesses do all this for children, and my inner self, etc etc. I suppose it is possible to have a governess for a lunatic (seems like something Chesterton would write) but I’m not sure that I’m that far gone.

Then I had a brain-wave: Jeeves and Wooster. Bertram Wilberforce Wooster is the immature undisciplined creative all-over-the-place person par excellence, and Jeeves’ whole raison d’être is to provide for his every need (if not want) and keep him out of prison, matrimony, and unsuitable apparel.

Books About Town, Book Benches, Jeeves And Wooster Stories

As mentally satisfying as that metaphor was, it still wasn’t quite ‘me’. My ordered side is more a Miss Silver than a Jeeves, and I’d like to think my creative side is less clueless than a Wooster. The Great Metaphor Hunt went on.

Eventually I realized that the metaphors for the two sides don’t have to ‘belong’ together, as satisfying as it would be if they did. I could pair the Governess metaphor with a non-child metaphor. But what?

The creative side really was much harder to pin down, which is fitting, I suppose. After some thought, I settled on the Jester – one of those simple souls who capers about singing songs of joy or sorrow and saying the sorts of things that reasonable people get their heads chopped off for. This is the side of me that laughs at toilet humour and howls at the moon. (I think it is best for everybody if I don’t sing.)

Decamps Les danseurs albanais

Interestingly, I’ve noticed a difference in what I like to wear, depending on which aspect is in the ascendant, or in use, whichever way you like to look at it.
The Governess side of me likes to wear 1930s style clothes: tailored, smart and tidy. The Jester, on the other hand, has a more medieval aesthetic: flowing garments one can move freely in, preferably topped with a funny hat of some sort (with or without bells).

Perhaps I can use that as a way to toggle the two sides. The Governess makes the plans for the day’s work, and then on go the ancestral dressing-gown and the funny hat, and the Jester comes out to play. When it comes time to review and edit, off with the funny hat.

John Ellys Hester Booth as a female Harlequin VA

Do you have recognized sides to your self? Do you have metaphors for them? I’d love to know!

10 New Favourites on the Mystery Shelves

There are few pleasures as unalloyed as finding a new author whose books you enjoy – and nothing more calculated to alloy said pleasures as finding that they have inconveniently died and stopped writing; or that there’s a run on their books at the library the week after you find that you like them.

Here, however, are a few (mostly living) mystery authors whose books I have been enjoying of late – when I can get them. In library shelf order, therefore:

Alan Bradley writes the Flavia de Luce novels, of which there are presently six, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia breaks the usual mould of literary detectives by being an eleven-year-old girl from a family of decayed gentility, who has a passion for chemistry – particularly in the area of poisons. She is precocious without being smarmy, and while her emotional reactions are sometimes hidden even from the reader (I know not why), an afternoon spent with Miss Flavia is generally an afternoon well spent.

Simon Brett has at least four series on the go, of which I have sampled three: the Charles Paris series, the Fethering series, and the Blotto and Twinks series. The Fethering ones are my favourites (featuring a retired civil servant and her considerably less uptight next-door-neighbour), although I also enjoy the theatrical milieu of the Charles Paris novels. I really wanted to like the Blotto and Twinks series, starring an upper-class idiot and his brilliant sister, but they fell a bit flat for me: I don’t much care for books that invite readers to mock their characters or their genre.

Song of the Flame 1930

Duffy Brown also has more than one series on the go, but the one I’ve been reading is the consignment shop series, set in Savannah, Georgia, featuring Reagan Summerside (who starts a second-hand clothes shop in her living room to make ends meet) and her feisty aunt Kiki. Everybody needs an aunt like Kiki, if only to keep life interesting!

Raymond Chandler wrote some of the most classic LA noir/hardboiled detective novels of all time. I wasn’t sure I was going to like his work, since he was so vehemently against the Golden Age mysteries that I love, but I found Philip Marlowe’s voice an enjoyable read. “I gobbled what they called the regular dinner, drank a brandy to sit on its chest and hold it down, and went out on to the main street.”

John McQuade Charlie Wild, Private Detective 1951

Carola Dunn has written 22 novels about the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple, an aristocratic writer who marries beneath her (a policeman, my dear!) and is continually getting dragged into other people’s problems, much to her husband’s annoyance. She’s a very relatable person, and it’s nice to have a detective who doesn’t have serious relationship problems, for a change.

Kathy Lynn Emerson writes the Face Down series, which are notable both for having a strong female lead character in Susanna, Lady Appleton (also with a strong analytical interest in poisons) and for being in tune with their Tudor setting. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a novel, it’s modernity shoved into an ill-fitting historical guise – Emerson doesn’t fall into that trap.

Hans Holbein the Younger - Portrait of a Lady, perhaps Katherine Howard (Royal Collection)

Charles Finch has written seven novels about “gentleman sleuth” Charles Lenox, beginning with A Beautiful Blue Death. The settings are convincing, and I don’t figure out whodunnit (or even exactly what they dun) halfway through and spend the second half saying ‘I thought so’ – always a good sign.

Andrew M Greeley’s detective is a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church – something he knew a lot about as he was himself a priest from 1954 until his death two years ago. He sees both the good and the bad in the church (and outside of it) and Bishop Blackie Ryan has a self-deprecating wit that makes for a very good read. He specializes in locked room mysteries.

Bergoglio Kirchner 2

Georgette Heyer is best known for her Regency romances, but she also wrote traditional mysteries of the Golden Age ilk. They make for pleasant, light reading. I did guess whodunnit on the first page of one, but that might be due to my nasty suspicious mind. (Suspect everyone.)

Catriona McPherson writes the Dandy Gilver series – Dandy being an upper class woman who decides to set up as a private inquiry agent with a bachelor friend of hers. The books are set in the 1920s and provide a good mix of realism and romp, keeping in touch with current events as they do. Dandy makes very good company on a rainy afternoon.


The honourable mention goes to Ashley Weaver. I found her book Murder at the Brightwell, enjoyed it, and then found that she has so far published only the one (still, better than finding a favourite author has died). It’s the first of a series set in the 1930s and is in the style of the Golden Age (with only occasional lapses). It keeps you guessing all along, which is pretty good for a debut novel. I look forward to seeing her second novel once it comes out in October.

So there you have it: ten (and an extra) mystery authors in whose work I have recently revelled. Enjoy!

I'm Back! with a Question

I have had a lovely holiday (apart from the sudden and violent encounter with a bee, in which more than one individual lost their composure) and, as stated above, I’m back with a question.

If you could wear the clothing of any place and period in history, what would it be?


Myself, I can think of three periods I am particularly fond of, all from the Britain of my ancestors.

First (at least chronologically), the early medieval period, once circumstances permitted clothing to be more than purely practical, but before they reached the degree of elaboration which says nothing but I Have Way Too Much Free Time.

Bildnis einer Dame mit dem Schwanenorden, unbekannter deutscher Maler (1490)

Secondly, the Regency era (looks good on most figures), and lastly, the 1930s (elegant, but works with curves).
As you may have noticed, I tend to shy away from eras which had women heavily corseted (delightful as the resulting appearance may be), and nothing on earth would persuade me into an Edwardian S-bend corset.

What about you? Which era, and from what part of the world? What would you wear if you could, and if you can, why don’t you? (Or do you?) And what about you, gentlemen? Your views welcomed!