Thursday, November 26, 2009

Damned by Faint Praise

I found this book club newsletter today:

If you haven't read Monica Dickens (great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens), you'll be pleased to know that her books are "always acceptable". I know that values have changed, but was there ever a time when that was high praise?

I'm afraid to say that I have sent a lot of Monica Dickens novels to be "recycled" (i.e. turned into road surfacing material) during the last few days. Like many middlebrow novelists who were incredibly popular in their time, Monica Dickens' books have no value today, as the supply far outstrips the demand. This is a great pity, as what I've read of Dickens compares favourably with many contemporary writers of popular fiction.

Monica Dickens was an interesting character. She was born into a privileged background and went to St Paul's Girls' School, but in her youth she chose to become a domestic servant and gained an insight into life "below stairs". I wonder if her great-grandfather's writing influenced this eccentric decision?

In the 1970s, her Follyfoot children's novels were succesfully adapted for television. I was going to include the title sequence of the programme, but that was before I discovered the magic of Richard Shireby and his electronic organ, playing Follyfoot's memorable theme tune:


John Self said...

I'd be much more interested in a writer deemed 'only sometimes acceptable'.

Lucille said...

Just as my energy was flagging you put a spring in my step with Follyfoot.

Jim Murdoch said...

We got a set of Follyfoot DVDs for my wife's granddaughter last Xmas (and had to watch them before they were sent). My wife is an American and so never grew up with the show. I have to say I was surprised how much I enjoyed what I've always regarded in my head as something of a girl's programme. She thoroughly enjoyed them too.

At the moment we're working our way through Sapphire and Steel. Surprisingly scary for a kids' programme. The one I'm curious to see again actually is The Owl Service. I think I was a bit young for it then because I don't recall enjoying it that much but I know others who speak fondly of it.

Steerforth said...

Jim, Sapphire and Steel wasn't a kids' programe (despite the silly title sequence from Anglia). It was shown around the same time as Coronation Street.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I seem to recall going through a Monica Dickens phase as a teenager.

I suppose it was inevitable that her illustrious forbear would be a hell of an act to follow!

However she was impressively prolific and obviously popular in her time. Don't remember Follyfoot, but then I was more of a 1980s child.

Steerforth said...

I was a bit young for Follyfoot, however I know the theme tune from my Geoff Love TV Themes album. It's a corker.

Grey Area said...

It's amazing how a single piece of music can worm it's way into your conciousness.

Follyfoot was on ITV, and along with magpie - was frowned upon by my resolutely working class parents who 'wanted something better' for their children - and that meant the BBC. It still gives me a frisson of something...forbidden and mysterious.

We were also not allowed to wear denim, until the Duchess of Kent was photographed in jeans in my mothers Daily Telegraph.

Liberty London Girl said...

What a shame. I love Monica Dickens. I have a shelf of her books which i still read. They are such fascinating windows into a completely different time. LLG

Steerforth said...

That's the thing LLG - Monica Dickens could write. She wasn't just trading on the family name.

I hate being instrumental in the destruction of her books, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that the print runs were huge.

I hope that an imaginative publisher will see an opportunity to introduce Monica Dickens to a new generation of readers.