Margery On Men

‘She was very fond of men.’

Margery Sharp is an unusual lady novelist in that she frequently writes from the male perspective.

There are several types and stereotypes of men throughout her pages–but there is a recurring theme of male disposition that she chooses to tell her stories through, or have featured as a principal character. Sane, sober, and sensible are her men (frequently irritable with just cause); intelligent, not wealthy but comfortable; and they often have some annoying or perplexing or elusive female that has been thrust into their care.

For more on each book named, see the Bibliography page.

Mr. Porritt is vastly troubled by his unpredictable niece, Cluny–and finally gets her off his hands by sending her out into ‘good service’ in the country. (Cluny Brown)

Simon Brocken has The Foolish Gentlewoman, Isabel Brocken–his widowed sister-in-law–who worries him with her quixotic schemes.

Mr. Partridge, a kindly middle-aged man of rather odd habits, takes young Lisbeth under his wing in ‘Harlequin House‘.

Mr. Joyce in ‘Martha in Paris’, ‘The Eye of Love’, and ‘Martha, Eric, and George‘ could write a book on the care and feeding of Martha.

Martin Lillywhite assumes the role of protective guardian and chief worrier over the future of a young and tender debutante in ‘Lise Lillywhite‘.

Margery Sharp could be perhaps likened to her character Louise Datchett–‘she was very fond of men.’ She almost always portrayed them sympathetically–even the irresponsible and illegal among them. There was Ronny, for instance, in Harlequin House. He couldn’t keep a job, landed himself in jail, and seemed to give no thought to the fact that his hardworking sister went to great pains and trouble to help him have a decent life.

‘It was rather his misfortune than his fault,’ says Margery, ‘that he could not live on grass or worms or dew, but needed corned beef and bread, to say nothing of overcoats and bedding..’

Soon enough he comes under Mr. Partridge’s rancorous eye.

“You ought to have been a bulb,” said Mr. Partridge thoughtfully. “Or some kind of vegetable.

Dear Mr. Partridge–his only interest is to look out for Lisbeth.

Professor Pounce (‘Stone of Chastity‘) is lovable in a different sort of way. He’s a true eccentric, and not interested in anything but his pet project–writing a monograph on the legend of The Stone. But for all his scholarly peculiarities and loopy behavior, we like him immediately–as per Margery’s description of him here: ‘The sensations of the Professor on reading [about the Stone of Chastity] are impossible to describe. He felt (he afterward told his friend Professor Greer) a distinct prickling at the roots of his moustache, as though the individual hairs were erecting themselves one by one; but he carried no mirror, and this ancillary phenomenon had to go uninvestigated while he eagerly turned the journal’s subsequent pages.

In Andrew Carmel (Cluny Brown) we have the stereotype of the heir to the country house, who, in spite of his best efforts and interest in The European Situation, is gradually growing into his role as country squire much as he would finally grow into a suit that is now out of date. Sharp, in a familiar theme that is woven through her books, faces off traditional England with the non-traditional new element–in this case a Polish refugee. Or, old-fashioned English chivalry meets Continental quick thinking:

‘”Right,” said Andrew. “At the moment I’ve an overwhelming impulse to hit you.” 
Mr. Belinski at once did the most sensible thing possible. He got into bed.’

In one of her later novels, The Faithful Servants, Sharp gives us an entire cast over three generations of her favorite recurring male stereotype: the long-suffering, dull but honest trustees of The Copstock Foundation. They dutifully hand out money from a charity to needy women servants, who teach the gentleman, in turn, a saucy lesson or two about the lives of the poor serving class in London.

And, finally–in Tobias Sylvester, (The Gipsy in the Parlor) from a household of like-minded men, we have the most prosaic outlook of all:

“Dear father, dear brothers — I’m to be wed Tuesday two weeks. Wednesday two weeks expect me home. The young woman sends her respects, and I have got a ram.”

2 thoughts on “Margery On Men

  1. Pingback: Harlequin House | Margery Sharp

  2. Pingback: The Faithful Servants | Margery Sharp

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