Sunday, 13 April 2014

PBOTD 13th April: Joanna Cannan - They Bought Her A Pony

In They Bought Her a Pony (1944), Joanna Cannan's heroine, Angela Peabody, moves out to the country. You'd expect, if Angela were a conventional pony book heroine, that she would not have a pony but would long for one and would acquire one, before going on to beat the local girls at the gymkhana, most of whom were rich and not, therefore, terribly good riders.

Collins, 1944, 1st edn, illus Rosemary Robertson
However, in this book, it's Angela Peabody who's rich. Very rich indeed. Her family's money is however lately acquired and Angela is hopelessly over-indulged (it's interesting to see this model being used in Joanna's daughter Diana's later book Three Ponies and Shannan, where Christina though indulged is not spoiled). We do see a little of a better Angela: before they move, she buries her little model horses in the window box so they can't be thrown out.

Alas, this is only a temporary retreat into the determined pursuit of right that is the lot of the pony girl. Angela is an object lesson of what too much money allied to too little sense can do. Angela wants a pony, so Angela gets one. She does not have a world-beating pony. She thinks she does. The riding school owner who sold the Peabodys Flash knew perfectly well that Mr Peabody was the sort who thinks the more expensive something is the better it must be: accordingly he sells Mr Peabody a very expensive bad pony. 

Collins, 1960s reprint
When Angela and her parents move into their expensive new house, which they have done up in that way that shrieks new money and automatically makes the rest of the neighbourhood despise you, Angela is still firm in her opinions. She has the best pony, and she's going to win everything.

Collins, 1972
Then Angela meets the bohemian Cochranes. Unbrushed, chaotic and not by comparison with Angela, terribly well off, she patronises them. How can they possibly be as good at riding as she is? But Angela learns, as we know she must, that money doesn't equal talent: it might be able to buy you flattering opinions, but not actual prowess.
Collins, 1971
They  Bought Her a Pony  was one of Joanna Cannan's more widely published works. It was first published in 1944, reprinted several times with a slightly less elaborate cover, and then appeared in two Collins anthologies, Three Great Pony Stories (1971) and in the next year's  Vanguard Book of Ponies and Riding.

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For much more on Joanna Cannan, see her page on my website.

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