Friday, November 30, 2012

The 1862 Shilling Deep Green

This week I reread Where is Susan? and my curiosity was aroused. Susan and Midge are chased around Venice by two people that they meet on the plane: a "beautiful Russian spy" who goes by the name of Miss Smith, and William, a young man who is taken ill during the flight. Susan suspects that something has been hidden in their luggage, perhaps secret information in the form of a micro dot. However, it turns out that all the fuss is about a rare stamp, an 1862 one-shilling Deep Green. William had been entrusted with it by his uncle and was bringing it to an avid philatelist called Count Foscarini. Miss Smith is working for an unscrupulous rival dealer and is after the stamp, claiming that she can sell it for double the price being paid by the count. William shocks Susan and the Carmichaels when he tells them that the stamp is worth £900. Miss Smith, apparently, can sell if for one thousand eight hundred. Last year, while rereading A Job for Susan, I became doubtful about the alleged value of some of the coins that Susan was on the look-out for and did a little research. You can read the results here. I was also in doubt as to the alleged value of this "rare" stamp and decided to check that out too. After all, in 1968, when the book was published, you could buy a house in Britain for the nine hundred pounds in question. I visited british-stamps.co.uk and found that an 1862 shilling Deep Green was on offer, reduced from £175 to £125, a far cry from the astronomical prices casually tossed around in Where is Susan? I also visited e-bay and found that someone had bid as high as £425. This price is vastly over-inflated, but again nowhere near the claims made in the story. It is estimated that £1,000 at the time of decimalization in the UK would be equivalent to £14,000 today. Conversely, the £125 price tag for the stamp today would be equivalent to around £8 at the time the story was set. So, we can conclude that, like the claims in A Job for Susan that a 1954 half crown was worth £12,000, the alleged value of £900 for this Victorian stamp is nonsense and the idea that someone would offer double is beyond belief. We can only speculate as to why these blunders occur. First of all, there are the exigencies of the plot. A larger valuable item could not be so discreetly slipped into Susan's hand luggage. A stamp is the ideal treasure for this situation. Moreover, a trip to Venice is very expensive. Miss Smith, for instance, flies out, checks into a swanky hotel and seems to throw a lot of money around. William also spends a lot of money at restaurants and treating the girls to lavish meals. No company would finance all this for a stamp that was only worth £8. Therefore, the stamp has to greatly increase in value for the plot to make sense. But part of the attraction of Jane Shaw's work is her sense of the ridiculous. If you stop to think about it, part of the premise of the plot is laughable. That these stamp dealers would invest so much money and employee hours on this one stamp is a joke. That the Russian spy would go to such lengths as drugging William on the plane in this normally respectable business of stamp dealing is also quite funny. I suspect it all comes down to the author's inimitable sense of humour.

Jane Shaw Quiz 99

What is Charlotte's latest craze in Susan's Helping Hand?

The answer to Quiz 98: Jane Shaw attended Park School in Glasgow.

Quote of the Day

Mrs. Mallory was sorry about Penny's collar-bone, but she quite obviously thought that it had been broken in a good cause. "Traces of a Roman villa right there at St. Ursula's Court," she said. "It's wonderful! Of course, there are amazing excavations at Silchester, and I've seen the Roman villa at Lullingstone, in Kent, but to have one of our own!"

From CROOKED SIXPENCE, Chapter 16, Happy Ending.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Places in Jane Shaw: Venice

In Venice, Susan's favourite attraction is the horse sculptures at St. Mark's. She takes endless pictures of them. Here we can see the horses and the bell tower or Campanile. This photo links to a site here, where you can purchase this print by Tom Wurl in a number of forms, from a framed print to greetings cards. Very nice.

Willow Green Mystery

A "cleaned up" scan of the frontispiece of Willow Green Mystery, the only one of the three Thomas books set entirely in England.

Jane Shaw Quiz 98

Which school in Glasgow did Jane Shaw attend?

The answer to Quiz 97: Stella's real name is Socks.

Quote of the Day

"Susie, don't look now, but can you see what I see?"
"Not the spy!" said Susan, losing interest in her ice-cream.
"Worse---"
"It couldn't be worse---"
"Well, it is. The Gascoignes."
Susan shut her eyes. That was a sight that she didn't want to see.

From WHERE IS SUSAN?, Chapter 7, Venetian Plumbing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sara's Adventure

A rare glimpse of Caroline's sister Vanessa and her husband John from the 1953 short story, Sara's Adventure.

Jane Shaw Quiz 97

In Venture to South Africa, the Elliot children unwittingly buy a stolen pony that they name Stella. What is Stella's real name?

The answer to Quiz 96: Guy Fawkes night is celebrated in Susan's Trying Term.

Quote of the Day

"There's a nice easy-going atmosphere about this country that I like," said Sara, as the little train kindly waited at the next station for an old peasant to go back home and fetch a basket of eggs she had forgotten. "Fancy a B.R. train waiting for you to go home and collect eggs!"
"It might be a nuisance, this kind of thing, if you were in a frantic hurry," Caroline said reasonably.

From BRETON ADVENTURE, Chapter 12, They Meet a Man of Mystery.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Susan's Kind Heart

A "cleaned up" copy of the cover of SKH. This is an unusual cover because it was the only time that a Jane Shaw book had advertising slogans on the cover and also the only time that the cover did not depict a scene from the story.

The book is also one of the hardest to find in its original cover. It can be purchased quite cheaply on Kindle or in the Bettany Press edition. But if you want the original first edition, you have to be prepared to pay well over one hundred pounds for it. SKH, A Job for Susan and Northmead Nuisance are among the rarest and most expensive of Jane Shaw's books. The rarest, and the only one that I haven't been able to track down at all, is The House of the Glimmering Light. Published in 1943 and never reissued after the War, very few copies will be available today. All I have managed to learn about it is that it is a war story set in Oban and the two main characters are called Noël and Angela.

Jane Shaw Quiz 96

In which book do Susan and the Carmichaels celebrate a "belated" Guy Fawkes night?

The answer to Quiz 95: Jane Shaw's favourite author was Jane Austen.

Quote of the Day

When Charlotte got home that day after lunching with Julian Creel - really, what those kids let her in for - she found the house deserted ... and with a very strange look about it. She walked from the hall to the sitting-room... there was certanly something funny about the house ... something missing? ... She went up to her room to take off her coat - all her pictures had gone! She ran quickly round the house, yes, all gone! What an extraordinary thing!

From NO TROUBLE FOR SUSAN, Chapter 15, The Goose Green Gang.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jane Shaw Quiz 95

Who was Jane Shaw's favourite author?

The answer to Quiz 94: In Highland Holiday, Uncle Thomas is working on a cure for the common cold.

Quote of the Day

Betty was beside herself, and went about mumbling to Podger or to Eleanor or to herself if no one else would listen, "We've a chance of the Shield - I'm sure we have: we've won hockey, and we're equal first in dramatics; we're almost certainly bottom in Loyalty - no other House could possibly have collected so many disorder marks - but we can't be sure. Then there's the History Essay - I don't know about that---"

From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 11, The House Shield.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Archetypes in Jane Shaw: The Eccentric Aunt

Illustration: Aunt Lucy arriving at St. Ronan's in Susan's School Play.

Literature is full of archetypes. For instance, for every Holmes there is a Watson, and this is particularly true of juvenile literature. I grew up reading The Three Investigators and The Hardy Boys. In T3I, Jupiter was the brainy boy, and his rapid deductions always had to be explained to Pete and Bob. Pete was always very slow to get the point, Bob often caught on in the middle of Jupe’s explanation and sometimes even finished off his reasoning for him. In the Hardy Boys stories there was Chet Morton. Overweight and lazy, he was always dragged reluctantly into his friends’ adventures. But he served a useful purpose. In every story, he had a new hobby, and this hobby always conveniently tied in with the latest case the boys were working on. If they were up against a magician who was somehow able to smuggle top secret documents out of the country, Chet would just happen to be taking a correspondence course on amateur conjuring. Both Chet and Pete were always looking for a way out, reluctant to face danger, but always proved to be loyal and steadfast when it came to the crunch. This was particularly puzzling in the case of Pete, who wanted to be an investigator but always claimed that he “drew the line” at the more bizarre adventures the boys became embroiled in. Nevertheless, these archetypes play a key role. When it comes to the plot, they act a bridge between the brainbox and the reader. If you can follow the whiz kid’s theories, you can identify with him, but it you can’t, you can take comfort in the fact that you only got part of it, like Bob, or really haven’t much of a clue, like Pete. They also provide a great deal of comedy. Many a boy would chuckle when Jupiter would give a wordy explanation and Pete would look perplexed and say “Can you repeat that in English?” And, in the case of Chet’s hobbies, they help the reader to learn something new. I would say that a good story for children has to teach readers something. Without T3I and the Hardy Boys, how else would I have found out that a mynah bird can be trained to talk even better than a parrot, that in Iceland people have a patronymic instead of a surname or that Alice Springs is located in the exact centre of Australia?

The reluctant friend, who’s either too lazy or too sensible to get involved, or is just a bit of a coward, is one of the most common archetypes in children’s stories. And the works of Jane Shaw are no exception. In the Susan series there are the Carmichaels, especially Midge, who try to keep Susan out of trouble or dissuade her from her quirky ideas. In Crooks Tour we find Julie and Fay pointing out to Ricky that her obsession with crooks is totally unfounded. The more sensible Caroline is constantly in strife over Sara’s ramblings and offbeat notions. Alison is often surprised by Dizzy’s unusual takes on life, although in this case the prose and dialogue are more toned down.

But here I would like to analyze another archetype in more detail: the eccentric aunt. The dotty aunty is found in many books. Again, I first came across this phenomenon in the Three Investigators stories, with Jupiter’s Aunt Mathilda always eager to put her nephew and his friends to work around the junkyard and her catchphrases like “Mercy and goodness and sweetness and light!” But the first real dotty aunt that I came across was the Hardy Boys’ inimitable Aunt Gertrude, their father’s unmarried sister. She was obsessed with cleaning the house and spewing reams of moral advice to her nephews and lecturing them on every conceivable topic.

But what about Jane Shaw? Surprisingly, aunts do not play as big a role as we might expect from an author who, to the casual observer, never hesitated to use archetypal characters. In the Caroline and Sara stories, the role that would normally be assigned to the eccentric aunt goes instead to Caroline’s older sister, Vanessa. In Highland Holiday, there is no aunt, as Jane’s mother is dead. It is not until The Crew of the Belinda that the first aunt is mentioned, in the form of Aunt Mattie. However, the dreaded Aunt Mattie’s only role in the story is to drive the younger girls to try to set the house on fire and then bolt to Loch Lomond, and we never actually meet her. The Moochers stories do not involve aunts apart from the long-dead Great-Aunt Katherine. It is only in the Susan series, which began in 1952, that we are introduced to Aunt Lucy Carmichael. The later Penny series had no eccentric aunt, nor did Venture to South Africa, Crooks Tour and the Northmead novels. The only other aunt, and the only truly oddball one, was Dizzy and Alison’s Aunt Sophie.

In the first book of the Susan series, Susan Pulls the Strings, we are told that the Carmichael children’s mother has been dead for several years and that they are looked after by their maiden aunt, Lucy, the sister of Uncle Charles and Mrs. Lyle. In her late thirties, Aunt Lucy has apparently given up all hope of having a family of her own and keeps house for her brother and helps to raise his children. She comes across in this story as a little bit eccentric. Having come under the influence of her new neighbour and close friend, Miss Pershore, she has developed a love for highbrow culture. She wishes to replace the nice paintings in the house with awful modern art. Even the Christmas cards the children send are not safe, as she buys cards with reproductions of modern paintings rather than holly or red-breasted robins. And we are told that this is just the latest in a long history of eccentricities. Prior to becoming a culture vulture, Aunt Lucy had got caught up in a craze for hand-loom weaving, making clothes for the children out of some strange prickly material. These clothes caused so many rashes that they had to be cut up and used as cloths for mopping the floor. Then she went vegetarian. Her young charges were saved from this by measles, which their aunt mistook for a rash caused by their diet. This craze was followed by an attitude that was later a much criticized trait of Selina Gascoigne’s: allowing the children to do what they liked in order to develop their characters. It was only after Bill had carved up an old clock and threatened to take his pen-knife to the piano that his father intervened and put an end to this idea. Aunt Lucy was inspired for this particular experiment with what Bill describes as “a book by some wizard schoolmaster”. This restlessness is shared by Charlotte, who flirts with a number of hobbies and careers in the earlier books, ranging from nursing to cookery to archaeology, before she finally settles on art. It appears that this changeability is a trait of some of the Carmichael women. However, it is a trait that weakens and eventually falls by the wayside as the series progresses.

Aunt Lucy changes a great deal in the subsequent stories, becoming more motherly and “normal”. The only odd thing about her in the later books is that it takes her a long time to get it into her head that Susan and her cousins do not like the Gascoignes. Apart from that, she does nothing that could be described as eccentric except when she “punishes” Susan and Midge for their bad marks in French by packing them off to Brittany for the summer in Susan’s Kind Heart.

Why Aunt Lucy’s eccentricity did not survive into the second story and beyond is not clear, and we can only speculate about it. There are two possibilities to consider: that the reason might have been editorial or that it could have been due to the plots of the stories. Regarding the former, as has well documented, Jane Shaw’s editor at Collins remarked that her characters were becoming caricatured, although this comment only came much later on in the late 1950s when the Susan series was already well established. But concerns might have been raised earlier on about the caricaturing of an already shopworn stereotype. There was already Susan the busybody, the lazy Midge and the snobbish Gascoignes, so it might have been deemed too predictable to maintain the dotty aunt. As for the plots, one possible reason is that there was no room in an already crowded picture to accommodate an eccentric aunt. The Susan stories are multi-layered and never have a single plot thread. In Susan’s Helping Hand, along with the Folding Letter and the Mad Collector there is the mysterious Belle. In No Trouble for Susan, there is the bookshop, the theatre, Timmy the Terror and Mrs. Gregson’s impending eviction. Many minor characters are involved. In some stories, such as Susan’s Kind Heart and Where is Susan?, there isn’t even any room for Bill, who has to stay at home to keep the number of characters down. Another explanation could be that after her bad experience with Miss Pershore, Aunt Lucy learned her lesson and decided not to rush into any new fads without careful consideration. Or it could be that as she has a more maternal role in the Carmichael household, it would be difficult to portray her as a responsible guardian while at the same time indulging in eccentric behaviour. As the series progresses, Aunt Lucy becomes more motherly, always making sure the children are in time for meals and constantly insisting that they go to bed early. As the series draws to a close, she makes fewer appearances and has less of an impact on the stories. As mentioned above, she is briefly seen in the middle of the series as a bit of a “traitor” because she accommodates the Gascoignes, inviting them to Arran and promising to look after them while Selina is away for a weekend and foisting them on Susan and her cousins. But even that melts away and we are told in Susan and the Home-made Bomb that she has finally realized that the Carmichaels and Gascoignes are not going to be friends.

So we can see that Aunt Lucy starts out as an eccentric aunt, but this characteristic fades away in the later stories. She is a likeable character and much loved by readers of the Susan series, but she is not the archetypal eccentric aunt.

The other aunt that features in the writings of Jane Shaw is Dizzy and Alison’s Aunt Sophie. On the first page of Anything Can Happen, Alison states this quite clearly when she says that even Aunt Sophie’s fervent admirers have to admit that she is “as mad as a coot”. She then goes on to say that as that sounds a bit harsh, it would be better to describe her as “eccentric”. But even that isn’t quite accurate because there is “nothing straws-in-the-hair” about her. Aunt Sophie is considered a bit dotty because as soon as she receives a cheque from her publishers (she’s a writer of whodunits) she flies off to the ends of the earth. At the beginning of Anything Can Happen, she invites Dizzy and Alison to go to Paris. When the girls arrive, their aunt announces that she has given up the flat she had rented and moved into a hotel. The reason given for this is that she would rather enjoy authentic Parisian cuisine than stay cooped up in her flat cooking for herself. She then produces a list of restaurants and tells the girls that they will be visiting them in turn. Throughout the visit, she is often distracted and unexpectedly announces that she will be holed up in her room for a day or an afternoon because she has just thought up a new story to write. She also amazes Alison by announcing that she is going to introduce her to a young man. But, apart from providing some light comedy, she does not play any major role in the development of the story after she gets the girls to Paris and introduces them to Pierre.

Aunt Sophie resurfaces in Nothing Happened After All. Again, it is she who suggests and finances the trip to South Africa. But, like Aunt Lucy in the Susan stories, her role is far less prominent in this second book, and for the same reasons. The girls are introduced to several of their relatives in Johannesburg and inevitably end up spending more time with their cousins and their friends than with Aunt Sophie, the other adults and a host of minor characters. Again, Aunt Sophie’s full potential had been used in the first story and to have her crying out that she had found a new idea for a book every time that she saw a mountain or a person passing in the street would have lost its appeal. In the way that she is portrayed, she is a fun character who provides the means for the girls to travel abroad and is used very effectively by the author.

So, we can see that although Jane Shaw used many archetypal characters in her work, the dotty aunt was one that she tended to shy away from.

Jane Shaw Quiz 94

In Highland Holiday, what is the project that Uncle Thomas is working on?

The answer to Quiz 93: St. Ronan's colours are grey and royal blue.

Quote of the Day

Only stopping for a word of thanks to the concièrge who, in spite of her apperance, really did seem to have an angelic side to her character, we hurried into the street. There were Pierra and Alain, looking anxious. They seized our hands and shook them joyfully. It was a delightful reunion.

From ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, Chapter 8, The Eavesdroppers.

The Vaporetto

I'm currently rereading Where is Susan? In Venice, Midge loves riding up and down the river on the vaporetto, the water bus. She thinks it's a great way to go sightseeing because it doesn't involve walking. The girls go up and down the river three times before Susan manages to persuade her to get off and go to St. Mark's. I came across this photo from 1965, so I imagine that this is the model of water bus that they took.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jane Shaw Quiz 93

What are St. Ronan's school colours?

The answer to Quiz 92: Midge and Susan are pursued by a "Russian spy" in Where is Susan?

Quote of the Day

Kay muttered crossly that they would end up like that goody-goody sanctimonious crowd in Spike's. Judy looked very solemn and anxious, and Gail thought to herself that while a large number of house marks was part of her campaign, being gated certainly was not. A fine thing it would be if she never saw Micky. Honestly, boarding-schools! The sooner she was away from this one the better....

From NORTHMEAD NUISANCE, Chapter 1, New Girls.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Buried Teasures 8

The frontispiece from Crooked Sixpence, a scene from Chapter 3, Fair Waved the Golden Corn. The children offer to help Mrs. Greenwood with her household chores and harvesting. Penny is pleased that there is no combine harvester because she prefers "the old ways best". However, when she begins gathering the stooks of corn and sees that it is actually very hard work, she is forced to "eat her words". But her corn gathering career is short lived and she is later sent to help Mrs. Greenwood in her home.

Jane Shaw Quiz 92

In which book are Susan and Midge pursued by a woman that they imagine is a Russian spy?

The answer to Quiz 91: Le Singe, the notorious underworld figure, is a character in Looking After Thomas.

Quote of the Day

Ricky nodded. "Yes, it's true! Look!" and she opened the blue velvet box and showed the pearls lying on their bed of satin.
"Well, there's a thing," said Julie.
"I should think so!" said Ricky. "But as I came along in the underground or Métro or whatever they call it, I worked the whole thing out-"
Julie had got her breath back again. "Oh, you did, did you-"
"Yes, and this is how I worked it out-"
"Another crook?"
"Well, yes - but honestly, Button, I can't think of any other explanation. You see-"
"Wait until we've had some lunch then," Julie interrupted. "I'm too weak for one of your crook stories at the moment."

From CROOKS TOUR, Chapter 8, The Crook and the Pearls.

The Magic Basket: The Witch

Here's an illustration from one of the Griselda stories, The Magic Basket, published in the Collins' Children's Annual in the 1950s. Here we can see the witch making her escape after snatching the basket from Griselda.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jane Shaw Quiz 91

Which Jane Shaw book features the underworld figure known as Le Singe?

The answer to Quiz 90: in addition to her writing, Jane Shaw sold books at the Children's Bookshop in Johannesburg when she lived in South Africa.

Quote of the Day

Caroline rose lazily from where she was lying, half buried in the sofa cushions.
"Come on, little shrimp," she said to Sara. "They want to talk about us behind our backs."
Sara showed a disposition to argue against leaving this most intersting discussion, but Caroline led her away. "Gosh, Caroline," she was saying before the door shut beind them, "d'you think they'll take us? What fun it would be-"

From BERNESE ADVENTURE, Prologue.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Matchmakers illustration

An illustration from the 1959 short story, The Matchmakers, the only short story set in South Africa. Tina's plan is to pretend that she is drowning so that James will rescue her.  However, it turns out that  in the strong current of the stream, no acting is required.

Jane Shaw Quiz 90

Besides writing her stories, what was Jane Shaw's other occupation during her many years in South Africa?

The answer to Quiz 89: Ricky from Crooks Tour has an adventure at the Printemps department store in Paris.

Quote of the Day

"Oughtn't he just to have a tiny bit of something if he's starving?" said Mike. "I'm sure I read somewhere that starving people should only be fed a spoonful at a time-"
Before the Elliots could put their scanty views on the treatment of starving horses into operation the pony seized the loaf of bread and polished it off in a wink.

From VENTURE TO SOUTH AFRICA, Chapter 8, Enter Stella.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jumble Sale

An illustration from Jane Shaw's last short story, Jumble Sale, published in 1963. Lindy is breaking and entering to retrieve Mark Lamont's pots, which have been sold to her future brother-in-law Tim. This story forms part of what I like to call the author's Mature Phase, when her characters became more realistic and grown-up. This phase began with Family Trouble, her short story published in 1961 and continued with the unpublished The Picture, a review of which can be read here, and the present story, Jumble Sale, in which Lindy, besides wanting to be a bridesmaid, also looks ahead, imagining that Mark Lamont might make a good husband. Next year, the author published Anything Can Happen, featuring her oldest leading characters, Dizzy and Alison. However, the Mature Phase was short-lived, ending in 1965 with the publication of Nothing Happened After All. As her career wound down, she returned to the Susan series and contributed to the Collins Spitfire books for younger readers with Paddy Turns Detective and The Penhallow Mystery, using the pen name Jean Bell. Why the Mature Phase was so short is hard to fathom because the Dizzy and Alison books are high quality writing, as is Jumble Sale, the only story featuring Lindy and her friends Jill and David.    

Jane Shaw Quiz 89

Which of Jane Shaw's characters has an adventure at the Printemps department store in Paris?

The answer to Quiz 88: In The Crew of the Belinda, the forgers are making counterfeit five-pound notes.

Quote of the Day

Belinda had first swum into the Macfarlanes' ken as a broken-down life-boat, purchased by an enterprising young uncle and converted by him into a most adequate little house-boat. It lay in a small bay on Loch Lomond, near the village of Luss, and there Uncle Archie had spent many of his frequent rests from the arduous study of medicine at Glasgow University.

From THE CREW OF THE BELINDA, Chapter 4, Belinda.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Italian Primitive

An illustration of yesterday's Quote of the Day. Jennifer Harding holds the painting that has been hit by Pea-green's home-made bomb. Using the same plot device as Susan's Trying Term, it turns out that a valuable painting is hidden under a "gloomy study of highland cattle". Gabrielle is sure it is an Italian Primitive and worth a fortune. This illustration gives us a rare glimpse of Charlotte and Bill, and Gabrielle with her much villified ponytail. Susan looks fine, although at this point of the story she has had her eyebrows and eyelashes burnt off in the bomb blast and her face is covered in burn cream! But it's a happy ending, the burns notwithstanding. You can see the original highland cattle painting by clicking here.

Jane Shaw Quiz 88

In The Crew of the Belinda, what are the forgers making?

The answer to Quiz 87: Pierre is the young Frenchman who befriends Alison and Dizzy and at the end of Anything Can Happen, he surpises Alison by expressing a wish to see her again in London and write to her.

Quote of the Day

"Carried away?" cried John. "You'd think I was making it all up! I heard them, I tell you, and I'm sure they're going to rob the hotel."
Jill, who had slid under the blankets again, said, "You were sure that Louise was in the pigeon-loft."
John treated this unkind answer with the contempt it deserved. He threw one of Penny's pillows at Jill.

From TWOPENCE COLOURED, Chapter 8, Looking for Louise.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jane Shaw Encyclopedia: Mrs. Weatherby

Mrs. Weatherby is a resident of Wichwood Village who makes quite an impact on the pages of No Trouble for Susan. When Susan and the Carmichaels start to run the bookshop for Louella, Mrs. Weatherby is one of their first customers. Described as a local busybody and loathed by children and adults alike, she is angry to discover that Louella has placed the store in the hands of children rather than calling on her to help. Describing herself as a bookworm, she cannot understand why Louella has never shown interest in forming a partnership with her, as she has often hinted. Mrs. Weatherby is disdainful of academic achievements, complaining that Louella’s assistant Mrs. Telford’s B.A. degree does not automatically qualify her to work with books. Mrs. Weatherby believes that she was given a solid background in literature by her father, who read her the works of Kipling, Dickens and Sir Walter Scott. This is in stark contrast with the children of Susan’s generation, whom she sees as interested in devouring only “comic strips and television”. While delivering this diatribe in a booming voice as other customers look on, Mrs. Weatherby is attacked by Timmy the Terror and his gang, who lower garlands of holly onto her head. In the melee that follows, Mrs. Weatherby’s hat is knocked off and crumpled, revealing that her hair is full of curlers and pins. Other customers, who have often been on the receiving end of the boisterous woman’s sharp tongue, are amused, but noting the children’s embarrassment, help her out of her turmoil. Storming out of the shop in anger, Mrs. Weatherby reiterates her allegation that Susan and the Carmichaels are unfit to run a book shop. Next day she returns and complains that in all the confusion she lost her brooch and is highly suspicious when the children tell her that it hasn’t been found. She then reports the matter to the police, claiming that the brooch is extremely valuable. It turns out that the brooch was lost at the theatre, and Susan finds it and takes it to Joe Taylor, the local policeman. However, when Joe telephones her and suggests a reward, Mrs. Weatherby claims that the brooch is only of sentimental value and offers only half a crown. Mrs. Weatherby, despite all of her moral lecturing and posturing, is not above trying to take advantage of a situation. At the theatre, when there is a huge mix up over seating, she claims that she has thrown her ticket stub away but that she was sure that her seat was in the middle of the third row. However, her husband steps in and says that their seats are actually in Row K and more to the side. Her husband is described as a mild little man, providing a comic contrast to his large, booming wife. Mrs. Weatherby is one of Jane Shaw’s most memorable characters, but only appears in one book. Although she is a little bit sinister and threatening, most of her appearances in the story are for comedic purposes and she is remembered fondly by many readers.

Jane Shaw Quiz 87

In the Dizzy and Alison stories, who is Pierre?

The answer to Quiz 86: the purpose of Operation Nuisance is for Gail to get herself expelled from Northmead.

Quote of the Day

"Selina has a great friend at the National Gallery," Gabrielle said, "he's absolutely the authority on the cleaning and restoring of old paintings. Why not take it to him and he'll have all that muck properly cleaned off and be able to tell you what the picture is. But I think," she added, "that you'll find it's one of the Italian Primitives."
Don't tell me," Midge muttered under her breath to Susan, "that one of Selina's friends is going to come in useful at last?"

From SUSAN AND THE HOME-MADE BOMB.