The Real Mrs Miniver

The Real Mrs Miniver by Ysenda Maxtone Graham Read Free Book Online

Book: The Real Mrs Miniver by Ysenda Maxtone Graham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ysenda Maxtone Graham
in Wellington Square.’

Chapter Three
    Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  Only in two kinds of earth
    Can poets bring their songs to birth –
    In sorrow’s rich and heavy clay,
    Or else (and here’s the rarer way)
    Out of the loamy light caress
    Of an abundant happiness.
    Therefore, best critic and best friend,
    To you these doggerel thanks I send
    For each delightful day, each charming year
    Your presence has ensured for me, my dear.
    Dedication ‘To A. M. G.’, from Betsinda Dances
    M RS M INIVER IS a portrait of a woman in a cloudless marriage. When Joyce began to write it, fifteen years into her marriage to Tony, the paradise she depicted was for her a paradise lost. But the very fact that it was out of reach made her perception of it all the sharper, and it is to Mrs Miniver we must look for a flavour of the first blissful ten years with Tony. She put her finger on the small but intense daily pleasures of marriage, the eye to catch, the pocketful of pebbles, un-understanding.
    â€˜Tell me,’ said Mrs Miniver, ‘weren’t you with an uncle of mine in Singapore – Torquil Piggott?’
    â€˜Piggy!’ exclaimed the Colonel, beaming gratefully, and plunged into reminiscence. Thank God for colonels, thought Mrs Miniver; sweet creatures, so easily entertained, so biddably diverted from senseless controversy into comfortable monologue: there was nothing in the world so restful as a really good English colonel. Clem caught her eye across the table. It seemed to her sometimes that the most important thing about marriage was not a home or children or a remedy against sin, but simply there always being an eye to catch.
    As she walked past a cab rank in Pont Street Mrs Miniver heard a very fat taxi driver with a bottle nose saying a very old taxi driver with a rheumy eye: ‘They say it’s all a question of your subconscious mind.’
    Enchanted, she put the incident into her pocket for Clem. It jostled, a bright pebble, against several others: she had had a rewarding day. And Clem, who had driven down to the country to lunch with a client, would be pretty certain to come back with some good stuff, too. This was the cream of marriage, this nightly turning out of the day’s pocketful of memories, this deft habitual sharing of two pairs of eyes, two pairs of ears. It gave you, in a sense, almost a double life.
    Mrs Miniver had long ago discovered that whereas words, for her, clarified feelings, for Clem, on the whole, they obscured them. This was perhaps just as well. For if they had both been equally explicit they might have been in danger of understanding each other completely; and a certain degree of un-understanding (not mis-, but un-) is the only possible sanctuary which one human being can offer to another in the midst of the devastating intimacy of a happy marriage.
    Relatives have said that ‘When Tony and Joyce were first married they were so in love that when their first son was born they neglected him completely.’ This seems unlikely: there are too many photographs of Jamie (born 1924) being hugged. But she certainly handed him back to his nurse the moment he started crying. As Joyce herself wrote of her grandmother’s old-fashioned behaviour, ‘They all did it. It was the way things were.’
    Her babies were born at home: she was modern and brave about childbirth. Twenty-seven years after the first event she described the astonishing pain: ‘“Stick to it as long as you can,” said my doctor, “but there’s no need to get to the stage of biting sheets.” “ Me, bite sheets?” I remember thinking in arrogant astonishment; but a few hours later I saw what he meant.’ She breastfed her children, but after that she felt she had done her share of hard work, and handed over to Nannie.

    With Jamie in 1929
    Tony and Joyce’s first home was a small Georgian house in Walpole Street,

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