Mapp and Lucia
The novels feature humorous incidents in the lives of (mainly) upper-middle-class British people in the 1920s and 1930s, vying for social prestige and "one-upmanship" in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery. Several of them are set in the small seaside town of Tilling, closely based on Rye, East Sussex, where Benson lived for a number of years and (like Lucia) served as mayor. Lucia previously lived at Riseholme, based on Broadway, Worcestershire, from where she brought to Tilling her celebrated recipe for Lobster à la Riseholme.
"Mallards", the home of Miss Mapp—and subsequently Lucia—was based on Lamb House in Rye. The house had previously been lived in by Henry James and had a garden room overlooking the street (unfortunately a German bomb destroyed the Garden Room in World War II. The rest of the house is now a National Trust property.)
The novels, in chronological order, are:
- Queen Lucia (1920)
- Miss Mapp (1922)
- Lucia in London (1927)
- Mapp and Lucia (1931)
- Lucia's Progress (1935) (published in the U.S. as The Worshipful Lucia)
- Trouble for Lucia (1939)
The first three books concern only the protagonist named in the title; the last three feature both Mapp and Lucia.
In 1977 Thomas Y. Cromwell Company reprinted all six novels in a compendium called Make Way for Lucia. The order of Miss Mapp and Lucia in London was switched in the compendium, and a Miss Mapp short story called "The Male Impersonator" was included between Miss Mapp and Mapp and Lucia.
"Desirable Residences", one further short story featuring Miss Mapp, and previously having seen only one magazine printing in Benson's own time, was discovered by Jack Adrian in the 1990s and included in his collection of Benson stories, Desirable Residences. A slight oddity about this very short piece, is that the town of Tilling was called Tillingham in the original printing, according to Jack Adrian's introduction to his collection. The characters of Miss Mapp and Diva Plaistow are clearly recognizable, however, as are their desirable residences. Miss Mapp, for example here lives in "Mallards", the fictional Lamb House that was always the Queen Castle vied for by Mapp and Lucia.
The character Susan Leg, appearing briefly in Trouble for Lucia, first appeared as a major character in Benson's novel Secret Lives (1932), which is similar in style to the Mapp and Lucia books.
There are also four other books based on the same characters written by other authors.
Tom Holt wrote two sequels, published by Macmillan and Black Swan, which are written in a style and esprit of the originals. They are:
- Lucia in Wartime (1985)
- Lucia Triumphant (1986)
Guy Fraser-Sampson has written two additional novels the first published by Troubador, the second by Elliott and Thompson Ltd with a third one promised:
- Major Benjy (2008)
In the chronology of the novels set in Tilling this sits between Miss Mapp and Mapp and Lucia. The writing is in a more contemporary style than Benson and Holt's while retaining the typical plot devices of the earlier books. The book contains a number of minor character errors and the events in connection with Quaint Irene's maid Lucy do not tally with Lucy's story as it appears in Miss Mapp. However there is a delicious episode in connection with a cake baking contest which is entirely true to the spirit of the original novels.
- Lucia on Holiday (2012)
The TV series
The TV series based on the three 1930s books, produced by London Weekend Television, was filmed in Rye and neighbouring Winchelsea in the 1980s, and starred Prunella Scales as Mapp, Geraldine McEwan as Lucia, Denis Lill as Major Benji Flint, and Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie. There were ten episodes, (which aired in two series of five) broadcast on Channel 4 in 1985 and 1986.
References and sources
- Benson, E. F.: Desirable Residences and Other Stories, Selected by Jack Adrian. Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-212304-1. Reprinted from Good Housekeeping, February 1929.
- Benson, E. F.: Secret Lives, 1932
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