Hugh Ashton

Hugh Ashton
La Lucia

The temptation to resurrect Emmeline Lucas seems to be irresistible. Hugh Ashton has now joined in the sport, contributing yet more episodes to the saga begun by E.F. Benson in 1920 and carried on long after his death by a bevy of Luciaphil authors.

Delightful episodes they are, too. La Lucia is one of four novellas, each the size of a Georgie Pillson watercolor—a small canvas brimming with all the spite and pettiness, domestic espionage and inductive reasoning we’ve come to expect from Tilllng and Riseholme society.

You can start anywhere and be plunged into familiar Benson territory. Mapp at Fifty sees Major Benjy bungling his wife’s birthday present. A Tilling New Year introduces the mah-jong craze with its attendant pungs and pitfalls. The Italian sailor Paolo makes a reappearance in Mapp’s Return. And those who prefer pre-Tilling days will find plenty of gossip à la Riseholme in La Lucia.

Nor do the characters disappoint, wherever they reside. Elizabeth Mapp-Flint still lays down the law at the breakfast table; the Padre still affects a Scots brogue; Piggy and Goosie still gambol about and scream the latest news into Mrs. Antrobus’s ear trumpet. Georgie continues to fuss over his bibelots and Lucia to play the Moonlight Sonata when not directing the personal affairs of everyone in her orbit.

And who but Mrs. Weston could deliver this speech without pausing to draw breath: “I do declare that is just like the handle of a jug that Mr. Weston used to have, which he inherited from his aunt, the one who used to live in Hastings and who married the man who invented a new kind of safety-valve to go on railway engines, and which he broke one afternoon when he came in from playing golf with the Vicar.”

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