On a brilliant June day, the riverside lawns and architecturally diverse buildings of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, were looking their best as the ALS delegates arrived. The Barbara Pym Society was hosting the ALS AGM at the author’s old college to celebrate the centenary of her birth. In those days, it was women-only, but is now fully co-educational. Elizabeth Llewellyn-Smith, the former Principal, welcomed us; she noted that Dorothy L Sayers’ Gaudy Night and Pym’s Jane and Prudence portrayed Oxford women’s colleges similar to St Hilda’s. She then handed over to Jenny Uglow, President of the ALS, to open the AGM which was conducted in a brisk and friendly manner.
Next, Eileen Roberts explained how the BPS grew out of the centenary celebrations for St Hilda’s in 1993, when a group of fans decided to set up a society for Pym. Clemence Schultze then spoke on Barbara Pym, an Unashamed Reader. Always an avid reader, Pym had precocious literary tastes: at the age of sixteen she composed a novel in the style of Aldous Huxley. The Oxonian note was maintained by some light hearted readings from Crampton Hodnett.
After lunch, we returned to hear James Booth, Emeritus Professor at Hull, and a leading Larkin scholar, deliver the keynote address on Larkin and Pym: an Elective Affinity. After a reception on the lawns, we finished with dinner, followed by the customary readings offered by members of the various societies represented. And, on Sunday morning, themed walks around a gloriously sunlit Oxford (including the Botanic Gardens and the Bodleian) made a memorable close to the weekend.