n English in Africa - "A Spirit that Nursed a Grievance" : William Plomer's "The Child of Queen Victoria"




When William Plomer's was published by Jonathan Cape in 1933, his literary reputation was well established: he was the author of two novels, two volumes of short fiction, and three collections of poetry. In addition, he was widely regarded in British literary circles as a significant talent. Edward Garnett, for example, the reader for Cape and the first person in publishing to recognise the talents of Lawrence and Conrad, wrote in a report on that "Plomer is certainly the most original and keenest mind of the younger generation" (quoted in Alexander 1990, 192). In short, at the time of writing this story Plomer was operating within a milieu dramatically different from the geographical and artistic isolation in which, aged only nineteen, he had written (1925), the novel on which his South African literary reputation rests. Yet one of the many fascinations of "The Child of Queen Victoria" is that it entails a fairly exact reprise, in the realist mode, of the central thematic strand of his first novel: interracial sex or 'miscegenation.' A question immediately arises: what motivated the return to this vexed thematic, and what did Plomer seek to accomplish in this second attempt that, we must assume, he was not able to accomplish in the first?


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