Noel Streatfeild Margery Fisher - Essay

Margery Fisher

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A Vicarage Family [is] the first of three fictionalised autobiographies … which give Noel Streatfeild's many readers, young as well as adult, an insight into the source of her material and her humour. It is risky to claim this first tale of life in an urban vicarage at the turn of the century as a source of style as well, for it is not clear whether the unmistakeable Streatfeild dialogue, the chatter for instance of the three Fossils in Ballet Shoes, was based on a genuine family mode of speech such as appears in the "story" of the vicarage which was in fact written after the early children's stories. Anyhow it is evident that Vicky, the middle sister of three, always in and out of trouble, is not only an amused but not altogether partial portrait of the author but also the origin of many of the bright, cheeky, determined, self-conscious little girls who process through the story-books, while there are many instances of behaviour in artistic Isabel and beautiful, spoilt Louise which are reflected in other characters—even, suitably exaggerated, in nasty little exhibitionists like Dulcie Wintle. The third-person narrative seems far more suitable than a straight autobiographical approach since it is clear that Noel Streatfeild is not analysing her own character so much as presenting it, with humour and a certain novelist's detachment, within a family and social context. This is, in fact, the account of a way of life—of the contrivances and triumphs of a family chronically hard-up, of the obligations of being a vicarage child, and of the unsquashable nature of intelligent high spirits. (pp. 3136-37)

Margery Fisher, "Life Styles," in her Growing Point, Vol. 16, No. 2, July, 1977, pp. 3134-40.∗