Irishwomen, Friends and Scholars
Chapter 5 - Success 121
Chapter 5 Success The Tide Turns Helen’s The Wandering Scholars was published on 28 April 1927; within three days it had reached the best-seller list along with books which had been out for weeks and already well reviewed:1 I’m still in the mood when I can’t believe it’s me … Blackwell[’s] has been sold out again and again … A review … that winds up ‘possibly the greatest, and certainly the most delightful book that has been written on the Middle Ages.’ … I’m clean drunk myself. I expected so little, and I’m gasping like when you first go into the sea.2 It went into a second edition in August and a third in December – an extraordinary success for an academic book.3 Reviewers appreciated the verve with which Helen tackled an obscure topic, leavened by the wit of her writing style: ‘Miss Waddell’s gaze[,] bent for years on crabbed medieval manuscripts, puzzling out deletion and palimpsest, has never frozen into the scholar’s stare. It has always kept human, kept its sense of beauty, its sense of fun, its sense of tragedy.’4 Eileen Power identified The Wandering 1 The Observer (1 May 1927); HW to MM [5 or 12 May 1927], WP, box 11. Two weeks later it shared the best-seller list with Virginia Woolf ’s To the Lighthouse (The Observer [15 May 1927]). 2 HW to MM [17 May 1927], WP, box 11; see Frank A. Clement, review of WS, The Outlook (28 May 1927). 3 David J. Hall, ‘Helen Waddell: Some...
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