First Edition of Mrs. Henderson and Other Stories; Warmly Inscribed by Francis Wyndham
Mrs. Henderson and Other Stories.
Item Number: 59038
London: Jonathan Cape, 1985.
First edition of this collection of stories. Octavo, original cloth. Inscribed by the author on the front free endpaper, “For Caroline with lots of love from Francis.” Near fine in a near fine dust jacket with a touch of wear. Jacket painting by Jane Human.
The five stories in this second collection by the author of Out of the War are magical and unsettling. How will things end for Henderson after he slips out of the school window to go home to his beauteous, his mysterious mother, who, he assures his friend, has a perfectly serviceable penis? What force lies within Horus, the Egyptian falcon god, treasured by a general, sold after his death by his younger son, repurchased by Jack, "The Half Brother," and sold again by the younger son after Jack's death? Jack, a fantastic athlete, drunkard and womanizer, madly superstitious ("Did you hear a terrible crash in the middle of the night? That was me, touching wood"), turns up again in the novella "Ursula." The title character, Jack's sister, travels home to England for his funeral from New York, where she lives in Harlem with a black actress and indulges in fuzzy-minded egalitarianism, championing blacks that even other blacks repudiate. Her arrival serves to reintroduce characters we have met before, here fully realized. "The Ground Hostess" tells of a man who, to deflect the attentions of two friends, invents a double romance for himself a woman because the female friend thinks he's gay, a man because the male friend thinks he's straight. In due course, these conjured-up spirits take on flesh. "Wyndham’s fiction stands in the tradition of social comedy that goes back through Henry James to Jane Austen, with this difference: Wyndham writes about the lives of privileged and even titled people, but he is drawn to outcasts and odd ducks, adolescents, lonely women, addicts, eccentrics, and idlers" (Alan Hollinghurst).