Born in London in 1909, Jean Lucey Pratt was a bookseller, a cat-lover, and a hopeless romantic who longed for her diary to be posthumously published. Her first entry came in 1925, its opening sentences reading, “I have decided to write a journal. I mean to go on writing this for years and years, and it’ll be awfully amusing to read over later.” It is safe to say that she kept to her word, over the course of six decades filling 45 exercise books with stories of her love interests, her cats (dozens of), her successes and her failures, and, of course, the war, and in 2015, they were finally published for all to read. This entry came in 1932, when she was 22.
The Diary Entry
Saturday, 5 March
Peter (Gus) – I cannot bring myself to admit I am in love with him, for I don’t know how much is sheer animal sex and how much true affection.
That at times I am terribly fond of the little blighter I mustn’t deny. I have messed around with him so much and taken him so much for granted that it is a little alarming to believe that I am growing to care.
He is weak and selfish and terribly affected, and at times irritates me beyond endurance, but I am thinking far too much about him to ignore facts. He is clever definitely, and interests me: who couldn’t be thrilled with the designer of my Chelsea Arts Frock? It is a dream, a miracle, something that completely transfigures me and which is of course so eminently pleasing to one’s vanity. But then he is so ridiculously young for his age, and I am afraid of what he may become now that he is going on the stage – he is so easily influenced.
At times I am consumed with a terrible lust for power. Power over men, power to make that light come into their eyes like I have sometimes seen with Peter’s when they look at me. That is the beast in me. I doubt whether anyone suspects it. ‘The Wee Bear’ says Peter. ‘Something soft and fluffy.’ Me. Me! Soft and inoffensive and wholly ineffectual – Christ! Is it any wonder I lust for power?
In the 1930s, Jean took part in the Mass Observation project, in which the diaries of approximately 500 “ordinary” people were gathered and archived on a monthly basis. Some of those diaries, Jean’s included, later appeared in three books by Simon Garfield, all pseudonymously: Our Hidden Lives (2004), We are at War (2005), and Private Battles (2006). It was only in 2015 that Jean’s diaries were published more extensively, and under her own name, in the fantastic A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt, also edited by Simon Garfield.
Diary entry excerpted from A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt, edited by Simon Garfield and published by Canongate Books in 2015. Reprinted by kind permission of Simon Garfield.