Sunday, 5 January 2014

PBOTD: January 5th, Josephine Pullein-Thompson - Plenty of Ponies

The New Year's supposed to be a time when we all make resolutions on how we are going to improve our characters, or at least it was. These days, New Year's resolutions generally centre on losing a few pounds, or the hope that a couple of hugely enthusiastic sessions in the gym will offset the vast mass of chocolate you've eaten over the holiday period.

Armada version from the 1970s
The Esmond family, on the other hand, want to improve their characters, for they have been ruined by too much money. Once, they were decent sorts, who muddled along in a cottage, doing things for themselves, but then their professor father made a lot of money and now they have a big house, people to look after them, and a pony each. There are lots of Esmonds, so that means Plenty of Ponies. After a particularly disastrous time out with the local hunt, when the Master informs the Esmonds they have lovely ponies they simply do not deserve, the family resolve to go on a campaign of self improvement.

Armada paperback from the 1980s
This they do in a rather hapless fashion, and you can't help but feel sorry for those who are the objects of their attentions. However, the Esmonds are able to overcome the awful and stultifying effects of Too Much Money, in the end.

Collins first edition, 1949
Too Much Money was a bit of a theme in pony books, and even today, you will find it is the rich girl whose ponies are handed to her on a plate who's the baddy. The Esmonds are an early (1949), and more nuanced version, because they know they're ruined. Those who followed usually had to have it pointed out to them by the noble poor able to see their sins, or else continued their own pigheaded, money-stuffed way, effortlessly providing a continual hate figure for the righteous.

Plenty of Ponies was first published by Collins in 1947, and was illustrated by the excellent Anne Bullen. Armada, the paperback division of Collins, published two paperback editions. One had a cover with a truly hideous picture of the backward seat, which the author must have loathed, as she was an enthusiastic proponent of the forward seat. The later Armada took a slightly odd deviation with a photographic cover which features one pony and one girl. There were other editions: a Collins Seagull edition with the same cover as the first edition, and a Lion hardback in a slightly alarming yellow, but which does at least feature more than one pony.


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Read much more on Josephine Pullein-Thompson here.

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