Wealth in pony books - again
I've had a very interesting email on pony books, heroines and wealth, and I'm going to quote from it directly - it was in response to my earlier post about a poor but nasty pony book heroine:
... an impoverished pony-owner being resentful and bitter and never reforming is the obnoxious Charlie Dewhurst in Three Ponies and Shannan. This seems to me to be the exact opposite of the classic pony book. Charlie Dewhurst should be the heroine; she has a lot in common with other pony book heroines. Like Misty in Jackie won a Pony, Jingle used to pull a cart before taking up a career as a riding pony. Charlie is the daughter of a country parson, and they are always poor, although the families are generally happy (as in A Stable for Jill and any number of Lorna Hill novels). In a traditional pony book, the fifteen pound Jingle would triumph over the three hundred pound Serenade. Although Christina does not win the jumping she does prove herself to be as good as any poor groomless child as she wins The Best Turned Out Pony Class. Charlie never reforms, but perhaps Christina is allowed to be the heroine because she is humble and resents her father's wealth? In a pony book, it seems a character is allowed to be wealthy, provided they do not enjoy it and instead treat it as something shameful.I had thought when making the original post about Christina, but had not thought as far as Charlie, who is the complete opposite of the same author's Augusta, heroine of I Wanted a Pony, the book written immediately before Three Ponies and Shannan. Augusta is poor, has vile, rich cousins, who, with their expensive ponies, she defeats on her cheap Daybreak. It's interesting that DPT turned the convention on its head with her next book.
I wondered as I was writing that last sentence just how much of a convention had emerged by the point DPT was writing. Of course, her mother, Joanna Cannan, had Jean, newly poor with wealthy, though not wholly unsympathetic, cousins, and her heroes in We Met Our Cousins soon realise the error of their fussy ways born of the rigidly correct upbringing of a wealthy London child. MM Oliver's Sea Ponies is concerned with rescuing the ramshackle farm from a dastardly landlord, and of course Black Beauty has its own examples of the misery caused by the exercise of fashionable money without sympathy, so I suppose it's true to say that the idea of wealth untempered by understanding was alive and well by the 1940s.
I'm not sure, though, about wealth being only acceptable if it's treated as something shameful. Christina is indeed embarrassed about her wealth and how easy it makes things for her. The Esmonds in Plenty of Ponies aren't ashamed of their money, but do see that although money has made their lives easier, it hasn't had much of an effect on their characters. The Holbrooks (although adults Major and Mrs appear in the Noel and Henry series) I think are noblesse oblige personified: they are obviously extremely well off, but not concerned with status; they want to help people, but not in an obtrusive or smothering way. Captain Cholly-Sawcutt in Jill is out of the same mould.