Monday, June 11, 2018


"...Many of the stories, particularly those set in Simla, shared the high spirits of Departmental Ditties. Simla was Rud's Illyria, a place where everyone fell in love, usually inappropriately; where identities were mistaken; where tricks were played on the self-regarding and the unwary; and where there were occasional glimpses of a darker undertow. A number of these stories features the machinations of the witty widow, Mrs Hauksbee. Based partly on his own mother and partly on a Mrs Isabella Burton, she was an early example of Rud's lifelong fascination with strong, self-determining, older women and would soon become one of his best-known characters. 'Kidnapped' contained an admiring résumé of Mrs Hauksbee's powers, describing her as 'the most wonderful woman in India' with 'the wisdom of the Serpent, the logical coherence of the Man, the fearlessness of the Child, and the triple intuition of the Woman'. (Simla must have had its fair share of would-be Mrs Hauksbees, and Rud's first readers no doubt enjoyed the tease of trying to guess her true identity.)

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