Episodes

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01A Man's World2019120920191210 (R4)

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

First published in 1940, it’s a book which is valuable now for its sharp social history of working life in the early decades of the 20th century, and particularly for its focus on what it was like for women at work in offices.

When the First World War begins, Lucy’s father loses his job at the Stock Exchange and she is forced to leave school as the family can’t afford for her to stay on. So, at 16, she needs to earn a living. But how? Women don’t even have the vote; middle-class women are still supposed to see marriage as their ultimate goal. Rescued by a financial contribution from her godmother, Lucy goes to secretarial college and trains as a secretary. This is the beginning of her initiation into the world of the office.

“It was a new thing for me to have a Luncheon and Tea fund. At first I went to Lyons Corner House and alternated between a cup of soup and a roll (4 pence) and a glass of milk and an unbuttered scone. I looked forward to the days when I should be independent and have steak and kidney pudding and fried potatoes like the older clerks and typists I met there…”

Lucy’s working life begins in an office of the Red Cross, with the melancholy job of notifying the families of those who are wounded and missing in the War. From here, she progresses to a Government office and casts a sharp eye on the men who run it:

“Men in offices are, for the most part, Deadly Bores. They suffer from indigestion and ask you to buy their pills in your lunch hour. They seldom think of their girl employees as human beings at all. What they would prefer, if they were procurable and didn’t cost too much, would be a series of automatic machines, into which you put the week’s salary and took out the letters at the other end. They would prefer these to young women, because you can kick a machine, if you happen to be put out about something, without being hauled into court for assault.”

Astonishingly modern, though a hundred years old, Lucy Malleson’s sharp and humorous account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

02The Disillusion Of Peace2019121020191211 (R4)

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

First published in 1940, it’s a book which is valuable now for its sharp social history of working life in the early decades of the 20th century, and particularly for its focus on what it was like for women at work in offices.

At the end of the First World War, Lucy becomes a secretary in the newly-created Health Ministry, desperately trying to draft in enough doctors to cope with the flu epidemic.

“The influenza scourge was ravishing the country, and we had to get as many doctors as possible back from France in record time. Conditions in the country were unspeakable; corpses lay for days unburied because there was no doctor to sign the necessary certificates. Doctors themselves contracted the disease and died on their feet.”

Having grown up during the War, peace time comes as a shock, and brings with it a strong sense of disillusion. At the age of 20, Lucy must earn a living in a labour market crowded with men returning from the front. She’s not the only woman now forced to compete for jobs:

“The War had brought women all those privileges that the Suffragettes had fought for so fiercely. The army of women who had flooded into offices during the War could not be shooed back to their homes, like a flock of hens…”

Lucy gets a job, and a good one – earning four pounds a week. But in her new role, she sees, and has to turn away, all the men who come to her office desperately hoping for work.

Astonishingly modern, though a hundred years old, Lucy Malleson’s sharp and humorous account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

03A Triumphant Beard2019121120191212 (R4)

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

First published in 1940, it’s a book which is valuable now for its sharp social history of working life in the early decades of the 20th century, and particularly for its focus on what it was like for women at work in offices.

Lucy is forced to leave school at 16 and works during the First World War in a variety of office jobs. But early on she has conceived an ambition to be a writer, and has been sending off poems and stories to magazines, typing away secretly on the office machines in her lunch hour. Then, in her early 20s, she develops an eye condition which prevents her from going to work. Suddenly, for a few months, she is able to stay home and to write full-time. Excitedly, she completes her first novel. At the same time, she receives an unexpected fan letter from a strange woman who has read one of her poems in a magazine. Lucy has been signing her work with her initials only, as people don’t take women writers seriously. Her fan, who has invited her to tea, is disappointed:

“I thought you would be a young man of 27 with golden hair,” she said. I apologised. Neither my sex nor the colour of my hair depended on my own choice, I assured her.”

After repeated rejections from publishers, Lucy is inspired. She decides to take on a man’s name: Anthony Gilbert. And signed by a man, her novel is accepted. But the publishers need a photograph.

“I went to the hairdressing department of the Army and Navy Stores, and inquired: ‘Do you stock wigs and beards?’
An enthralling conversation ensued. As to the wig – what shade? Where parting? Covering or not covering ears? When it came to the beard, it seemed there was yet more choice. I decided on a good square beard. So I paid five and sixpence and a full beard and moustache were ordered.”

Astonishingly modern, though a hundred years old, Lucy Malleson’s sharp and humorous account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

04East End Lives20191212

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

First published in 1940, it’s a book which is valuable now for its sharp social history of working life in the early decades of the 20th century, and particularly for its focus on what it was like for women at work in offices.

It’s 1930, unemployment is rising and making a living is precarious. In the East End of London, people are forced to work on what we would now call zero-hours contracts.

“Dressmaking, trouser-finishing, millinery, cracker-factory work, above all, casual dock labour – all these are seasonal jobs. In bad times – and 1930 was the beginning of the slump – it was common to find machinists and dressmaking hands who only had an average of two days’ work a week. Beyond Stepney lie the Docks, and no man’s living is more precarious than that of the casual dock labourer. It’s desperately hard to get work and when you have got it you must work like a dog without even knowing whether you will be wanted tomorrow.

“You may get one or even two days’ employment in the week, and on the other days you must go down to the Labour Exchange and 'sign on' in order to draw your unemployment pay at the week’s end. But the men who can accept this with equanimity are few. For the most part they will be driven to desperate straits before they apply for Poor Law Assistance. Elderly women are sometimes practically carried to the Relief Office by the parish doctor, because what they are really suffering from is not indigestion or giddiness, but sheer starvation.”

Working as a kind of social worker, Lucy Malleson begins to visit pensioners in the East End of London. Her sharp and compassionate account of these visits creates an unforgettable picture of working-class London life in the 1930s, vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

05The Detection Club20191213

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

As her novels begin to be published, Lucy Malleson’s reputation as a writer grows and she is invited to become a member of “the Detection Club” by the famous Dorothy Sayers.

Becoming a member of this writers’ club involves a highly theatrical ceremony. It stars both Dorothy Sayers and G KChesterton, who is the President of the club, and features a procession with torches, long black robes, and a skull. Lucy gives a humorous description of this peculiar ceremony and looks back wryly at her own somewhat snobbish ambitions as an aspiring writer.

Meanwhile, though, unemployment is growing in the early 1930s.

“By 1933 the Slump had spread like the plague. For the unemployed, the cry of 'Too old at 40' was becoming 'Too old at 30'. One felt most for the men, because as a rule they had families to support, but it was bad for the women too. When nobody wants what you have to offer you begin to doubt your own value as a human being.”

Lucy decides to investigate for herself what it’s like trying to find employment as a secretary, and talks to others who are also looking for work.

“’You see stars at first,’ said one unemployed man to me,’and then you see sense. You realise that there are only a certain number of jobs left, and in every job, like a rabbit in a hole, some other chap is crouched. What you’ve got to do it watch till he’s off his guard and then bounce him out of his hole. The devil of it is everybody’s got the wind up. Everybody’s on guard now.'”

Lucy Malleson’s sharp and astonishingly modern account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

05The Detection Club2019121320191214 (R4)

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

As her novels begin to be published, Lucy Malleson’s reputation as a writer grows and she is invited to become a member of “the Detection Club” by the famous Dorothy Sayers.

Becoming a member of this writers’ club involves a highly theatrical ceremony. It stars both Dorothy Sayers and G KChesterton, who is the President of the club, and features a procession with torches, long black robes, and a skull. Lucy gives a humorous description of this peculiar ceremony and looks back wryly at her own somewhat snobbish ambitions as an aspiring writer.

Meanwhile, though, unemployment is growing in the early 1930s.

“By 1933 the Slump had spread like the plague. For the unemployed, the cry of 'Too old at 40' was becoming 'Too old at 30'. One felt most for the men, because as a rule they had families to support, but it was bad for the women too. When nobody wants what you have to offer you begin to doubt your own value as a human being.”

Lucy decides to investigate for herself what it’s like trying to find employment as a secretary, and talks to others who are also looking for work.

“’You see stars at first,’ said one unemployed man to me,’and then you see sense. You realise that there are only a certain number of jobs left, and in every job, like a rabbit in a hole, some other chap is crouched. What you’ve got to do it watch till he’s off his guard and then bounce him out of his hole. The devil of it is everybody’s got the wind up. Everybody’s on guard now.'”

Lucy Malleson’s sharp and astonishingly modern account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

05The Detection Club20191213

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

As her novels begin to be published, Lucy Malleson’s reputation as a writer grows and she is invited to become a member of “the Detection Club” by the famous Dorothy Sayers.

Becoming a member of this writers’ club involves a highly theatrical ceremony. It stars both Dorothy Sayers and G KChesterton, who is the President of the club, and features a procession with torches, long black robes, and a skull. Lucy gives a humorous description of this peculiar ceremony and looks back wryly at her own somewhat snobbish ambitions as an aspiring writer.

Meanwhile, though, unemployment is growing in the early 1930s.

“By 1933 the Slump had spread like the plague. For the unemployed, the cry of 'Too old at 40' was becoming 'Too old at 30'. One felt most for the men, because as a rule they had families to support, but it was bad for the women too. When nobody wants what you have to offer you begin to doubt your own value as a human being.”

Lucy decides to investigate for herself what it’s like trying to find employment as a secretary, and talks to others who are also looking for work.

“’You see stars at first,’ said one unemployed man to me,’and then you see sense. You realise that there are only a certain number of jobs left, and in every job, like a rabbit in a hole, some other chap is crouched. What you’ve got to do it watch till he’s off his guard and then bounce him out of his hole. The devil of it is everybody’s got the wind up. Everybody’s on guard now.'”

Lucy Malleson’s sharp and astonishingly modern account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

05The Detection Club2019121320191214 (R4)

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

As her novels begin to be published, Lucy Malleson’s reputation as a writer grows and she is invited to become a member of “the Detection Club” by the famous Dorothy Sayers.

Becoming a member of this writers’ club involves a highly theatrical ceremony. It stars both Dorothy Sayers and G KChesterton, who is the President of the club, and features a procession with torches, long black robes, and a skull. Lucy gives a humorous description of this peculiar ceremony and looks back wryly at her own somewhat snobbish ambitions as an aspiring writer.

Meanwhile, though, unemployment is growing in the early 1930s.

“By 1933 the Slump had spread like the plague. For the unemployed, the cry of 'Too old at 40' was becoming 'Too old at 30'. One felt most for the men, because as a rule they had families to support, but it was bad for the women too. When nobody wants what you have to offer you begin to doubt your own value as a human being.”

Lucy decides to investigate for herself what it’s like trying to find employment as a secretary, and talks to others who are also looking for work.

“’You see stars at first,’ said one unemployed man to me,’and then you see sense. You realise that there are only a certain number of jobs left, and in every job, like a rabbit in a hole, some other chap is crouched. What you’ve got to do it watch till he’s off his guard and then bounce him out of his hole. The devil of it is everybody’s got the wind up. Everybody’s on guard now.'”

Lucy Malleson’s sharp and astonishingly modern account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.

05The Detection Club2019121320191214 (R4)

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s and 40s who wrote under the name Anthony Gilbert.

As her novels begin to be published, Lucy Malleson’s reputation as a writer grows and she is invited to become a member of “the Detection Club” by the famous Dorothy Sayers.

Becoming a member of this writers’ club involves a highly theatrical ceremony. It stars both Dorothy Sayers and G KChesterton, who is the President of the club, and features a procession with torches, long black robes, and a skull. Lucy gives a humorous description of this peculiar ceremony and looks back wryly at her own somewhat snobbish ambitions as an aspiring writer.

Meanwhile, though, unemployment is growing in the early 1930s.

“By 1933 the Slump had spread like the plague. For the unemployed, the cry of 'Too old at 40' was becoming 'Too old at 30'. One felt most for the men, because as a rule they had families to support, but it was bad for the women too. When nobody wants what you have to offer you begin to doubt your own value as a human being.”

Lucy decides to investigate for herself what it’s like trying to find employment as a secretary, and talks to others who are also looking for work.

“’You see stars at first,’ said one unemployed man to me,’and then you see sense. You realise that there are only a certain number of jobs left, and in every job, like a rabbit in a hole, some other chap is crouched. What you’ve got to do it watch till he’s off his guard and then bounce him out of his hole. The devil of it is everybody’s got the wind up. Everybody’s on guard now.'”

Lucy Malleson’s sharp and astonishingly modern account of working life is vividly brought to life by Diana Quick.

Reader: Diana Quick
Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Diana Quick reads the autobiography of Lucy Malleson, a detective writer of the 1930s.