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Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1519

First published: 1921

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Locale: England

Principal Characters:

Miss M., a midget

Mrs. Bowater, her landlady

Fanny Bowater, Mrs. Bowater’s daughter

Mrs. Monnerie, Miss M.’s patroness

Mr. Anon, a dwarf

The Story:

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(The entire section contains 1519 words.)

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First published: 1921

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Locale: England

Principal Characters:

Miss M., a midget

Mrs. Bowater, her landlady

Fanny Bowater, Mrs. Bowater’s daughter

Mrs. Monnerie, Miss M.’s patroness

Mr. Anon, a dwarf

The Story:

Miss M., a perfectly formed midget, was born to normal parents and in pleasant surroundings. Until her eighteenth year, she was brought up in seclusion. Then her mother died, followed shortly thereafter by her father, and tiny Miss M. was left alone in the world. Her godmother offered to take her in, but the girl, having inherited a modest fortune, decided to take lodgings instead. She made her first humiliating excursion in public when she moved to her new home.

Her lodgings were in the home of Mrs. Bowater, a stern woman, who nevertheless had a great affection for her small roomer. At Mrs. Bowater’s, Miss M. met Fanny, the daughter of her landlady. A teacher in a girls’ school, Fanny was both charming and clever. Because of the friendship between the two, the midget became involved in the love affair of Fanny Bowater and the curate, an affair which ended with the curate’s suicide when Fanny rejected his suit.

After a time, Miss M. began to go out in society. She became the friend of Lady Pollacke, whose friendship she was never to lose. At their home, she met the wealthy Mrs. Monnerie, the youngest daughter of Lord B. Mrs. Monnerie took such a fancy to the tiny girl that she invited her for a vacation at Lyme Regis, a fashionable watering place in Dorsetshire.

Before she left on her vacation, Miss M. accidentally met a new friend, Mr. Anon, a deformed and hunchbacked creature only a few inches taller than she. Unaware of the ways of the world, Miss M. introduced Mr. Anon to Mrs. Bowater, who approved of him in a grudging way. They saw each other frequently, and Miss M. once solicited his aid when she wanted to secure money for Fanny while she was away at Lyme Regis. Soon after they returned from their holiday, Mrs. Monnerie invited Midgetina, as she called Miss M., to visit at her elaborate townhouse in London.

Miss M. accepted the invitation and became another prized possession that Mrs. Monnerie could exhibit to her guests. In London, she met the niece and nephew of her patroness. Percy Maudlen was an ill-mannered, languid youth whom the small girl disliked. Susan Monnerie was a pleasant person of whom Miss M. became very fond. After a visit of six weeks, Miss M. returned briefly to Mrs. Bowater’s townhouse. There she received a letter from Fanny, begging her to try to use her influence with Mrs. Monnerie to secure a position for Fanny as a governess. During Miss M.’s stay with Mrs. Bowater, she again met Mr. Anon, who declared his love for her. The midget told him that she was not able to return his love.

Before long, Miss M. returned to London, where her pampered way of living did much to spoil her. During her stay, Mrs. Bowater came with the news that she was going to South America to nurse her sick husband, a sailor. Shortly afterward, Miss M.’s solicitors informed her that her small inheritance had dwindled because of the gifts and trifles she had bought and because of her loans to Fanny. When Miss M. confessed her troubles to Sir Walter Pollacke, he consented to become both her guardian and financial adviser. Meanwhile, Miss M. had not forgotten Fanny Bowater’s request. Through the little person’s persuasion, Mrs. Monnerie found a place for Fanny as morning governess and invited the girl to stay with her.

Mr. Anon wrote and proposed marriage, but Miss M. was horrified at the idea of repeating the performance of Tom Thumb and Mercy Lavinia Bump Warren. Then it became evident that Mrs. Monnerie was no longer amused by her little charge, for Fanny had become her favorite. To celebrate Miss M.’s birthday, Percy Maudlen planned a banquet in her honor, but the party was a dismal failure so far as Miss M. was concerned. The menu disgusted her, and when Percy proposed a toast, Miss M. responded by drinking down her glass of chartreuse at a single gulp and staggering drunkenly down the table. In this condition, she hurled at Fanny a reference to the unfortunate suicide of the curate.

Such actions deserved punishment. Mrs. Monnerie sent Miss M. in disgrace to Monks’ House, her summer place in the country. One afternoon Miss M. saw the caravans of a circus passing the gate. Because she knew that she could no longer count on Mrs. Monnerie for support, Miss M. was desperate; she suddenly decided to hire herself to the circus. The owner engaged her to ride a pony in the ring, and she agreed to appear for four nights for fifteen guineas. She also told fortunes. She was a great success, the most popular attraction of the circus.

Her solitude during the day at Monks’ House was interrupted by the arrival of Fanny Bowater. Fanny seemed to know of her escapades at the circus, and the two quarreled violently. Then Mrs. Monnerie arrived. She was in a high state of excitement over the news of the midget who was so popular at the circus. She had even made up a party to attend the performance on the last night. When Miss M. flatly refused to perform, Mrs. Monnerie sent her, like a child, to bed.

At the last minute, Miss M. felt that she must appear at the circus to keep her contract. Setting out on foot, she encountered Mr. Anon, and they went on to the circus together. Although he tried to persuade her not to appear, she exhibited herself in the tent; in her disguise, she went unrecognized by all of the members of Mrs. Monnerie’s party except Fanny. Mr. Anon was determined that he would take her place in the riding act. He put on her costume and rode into the ring. Thrown from the pony, he died in Miss M.’s arms.

Through a legacy from her grandfather, Miss M. became financially independent and settled down at Lyndsey with Mrs. Bowater as her housekeeper. One night Miss. M., however, disappeared mysteriously, leaving a note saying that she had been called suddenly away. She was never seen again, and her memoirs were eventually presented to the public by her faithful friend, Sir Walter Pollacke.

Critical Evaluation:

MEMOIRS OF A MIDGET is a highly original novel that mingles poetry and social criticism. Exquisitely written, it has an unfailing charm and interest. The careful and exact use of the proper perspective throughout the thoughtfully executed work is remarkable. Nor can the reader fail to note the veiled criticisms of society that the author puts into the mouth of tiny Miss M.

Two gardens in MEMOIRS OF A MIDGET are of interest because in them Miss M. has her most memorable experiences. One garden is the forested, flowered area at Wanderlore, her family home in Kent. The other is the wooded park near Mrs. Bowater’s home.

During her childhood, Miss M. enjoys the company of small animals and insects in the family garden. Here, too, she searches the treetops looking for Paradise, the first indication of her awareness of something beyond her small world. She also learns about death for the first time when she sees a dead mole. Later, when she is living at Mrs. Bowater’s house, Miss M. discovers that the woods nearby are an excellent place for viewing stars. The dark sky spangled with stars gives her a feeling that a great Being is in charge of the universe. She is surprised to learn that the sense of peace and order she gains there is not shared by Fanny, who dislikes the spot when she visits it with Miss M.

In these woods, Miss M. becomes acquainted with Mr. Anon. She finds him unattractive in appearance but pleasant to talk with; however, because she has led a sheltered life, she disbelieves him when he tries to explain to her that the world includes evil as well as good. At a later date, Mr. Anon tells her of a happy land in which people are so small that they are almost invisible. He also declares his love for Miss M.

After Mr. Anon’s death, the grief-stricken Miss M. recognizes serious flaws in herself. The remote area of the woods where this self-discovery occurs seems ugly to her, as she seems to herself. She tries to commit suicide by eating the poisonous berries of the nightshade plant. Changing her mind, she prays to God for help.

Miss M. survives to find peace again and to complete her memoirs. Then she disappears. Walter de la Mare does not tell the reader where she goes, but perhaps she travels to a land where people are small enough to be almost invisible and large enough to be happy.

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