The Diary of a Provincial Lady

July 13, 2015

“Lady Boxe calls… I say, untruthfully, how nice it is to see her…”

In 1930 E.M Delafield was given an assignment by the editor of one of her favourite magazines, Time and Tide. The weekly publication needed some light content in serial form, could Delafield come up with something?

Delafield’s answer was the Provincial Lady, through whose diaries she parodied herself and her contemporaries. The diaries have not only maintained popularity since the first publication in 1930, but here in 2015, almost a century later, readers still find her fresh, clever, modern and very funny.

“Worst fears realised, as to hair.  Dear Mary, always so observant, gazes at it in nerve shattering silence but says nothing”

“… Ladies retire to the drawing-room… Coffee… I perform my usual sleight-of-hand, transferring large piece of candy-sugar from saucer to handbag…”

“Tell Robert by degrees about my new clothes. He asks when I expect to wear them,  and I reply that one never knows”


Colourful characters emerge in the form of her husband Robert, her children, Lady Boxe, Miss Barbara and dear Rose living in London’s infamous West End to name only a few. The style of the diaries is full of personality, very social and Delafield was clearly having lots of fun with it.

In similar fashion to a certain fictional New York columnist and bloggers everywhere today Delafield was writing the diaries speaking directly to her readers, selecting and sharing anecdotes of daily life she felt would have the greatest reach. The entries were crafted to be relatable, conversational and engaging on a weekly basis. If it’s not exactly like catching up over a latte, it’s definitely like receiving mail from your english bestie.

“It turns out later that he has met Lady B., who struck him, he adds immediately, as a poisonous woman. We then get on well together.  (Query: Is not a common hate one of the strongest links in human nature? Answer, most regrettably, in the affirmative.)”

The diaries are a playful expression of her individuality and new readers often remark that she is surprisingly modern. It’s her attitude to life, her fantastic sense of humour and her commitment to show her personality on every page. Will they be saying the same about Candace Bushnell’s diaries next century?

I would recommend this book to everybody, but I would especially recommend it to all writers and bloggers, especially female, and for anyone who likes to keep a journal. I would also recommend this book to anyone, male or female, who likes their reading fresh, clever and witty. If you like the humour of Nancy Mitford or P.G. Wodehouse, you will love Delafield’s Provincial Lady.

The diaries score highly in most reader reviews but there are a few who have it given a bad review where the reader felt it was “too long” or “monotonous”. Though the diaries are presented to us in book format, the traditional home of the novel, the compiled entries of the Provincial Lady do not add up to a novel with a beginning, middle and end, and they never were intended to be read as a novel.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady was originally written as weekly serial and is meant to be ‘followed’ like a blog, or newspaper column. And part of her modern appeal is she knows your busy, and it’s ok if you didn’t catch her last week, or can’t remember the last part you read, she’s not going to leave you behind.

Turn to the Provincial Lady to fill your bitesize chunks of free time, such as daily commute.

“Remove shoes with great thankfulness”  △

The Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M Delafield, book review by Sahron Waugh for The Wild and Romantic


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