In January of 1932, Barbara Pym was diligently studying English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, honing her craft eighteen years before publication of her debut novel, Some Tame Gazelle. It was around this time that she was thinking deeply of Henry Harvey, a fellow student two years her senior whom she had affectionately chosen to call Lorenzo, and in her diary she chronicled her pursuit of this elusive young man—moments that would later be woven into her novels. After three ardent months of admiring Lorenzo from afar, he finally acknowledged her with a moment of his attention. The following diary entry captures Pym’s feelings on that unforgettable day.
29 April. Oh ever to be remembered day. Lorenzo spoke to me! I saw him in the Bod. and felt desperately thrilled about him so that I trembled and shivered and went sick. As I went out Lorenzo caught me up – and said – ‘Well, and has Sandra finished her epic poem?’ or words to that effect. He talks curiously but very waffily – is very affected. Something wrong with his mouth I think – he can’t help snurging. I was almost completely tongue-tied. I said ‘Er – No’. He asked me if I was still keeping up the dual personality idea – he had caught me out. ‘But you don’t know who I am’ I said. ‘Of course I do’ replied Lorenzo. ‘Everybody does’. Oh Misery or the reverse! Then I said, ‘By the way I hope you don’t mind my calling you Lorenzo – it suits you you know’. ‘Oh does it – how awfully flattering!’ He snurged and went on up the Iffley Rd while I walked trembling and weak at the knees into Cowley Place.
Should you wish to read more of her diary entries—and really, you should—I recommend picking up a copy of the completely charming A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym. You will not regret it.
Diary entry excerpted from A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym. New York: E.P. Dutton. Used by kind permission of the Estate of Barbara Pym.
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