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T F Powys: Mr. Weston’s Good Wine

This is an old-fashioned allegory though more C S Lewis than John Bunyan. Though allegories do seem somewhat out of place in the 21st century, this one is told with humour and a degree of subtlety and works well, particularly if you are into English nostalgia.

The story starts with Mr. Weston, purveyor of good wine, and his assistant, Michael, arriving in a small English country town to sell their wine. They soon move on to a local village, Folly Down, where they seem to have detailed information on all the inhabitants. It soon becomes apparent that Mr. Weston is God and Michael is the archangel of that name and that they have come to help the afflicted and punish the wicked. Powys gives us a rich cast of characters. There is the Reverend Grobe who has rejected God – quite a revolutionary thing to do in those days (1923) – as his beloved wife Alice was killed while saving their daughter, Tamar. Tamar, who is now grown up, still lives with her father, even though he resents her for inadvertently causing her mother’s death. Tamar is in love with an angel. Indeed, it was trying to rescue a card with a picture of an angel on it, that caused her mother’s death. She is now in love with the angel on the Angel Inn sign.

The other inhabitants all have their special features. There is the landlord of the Angel Inn, Mr. Bunce, who blames God for everything that is wrong, and his sweet daughter, Jenny. There is Squire Bumby and his badly behaved boys who chase every woman and have already caused the death of Ada Kiddle and are now chasing her two sisters. There is the malicious gossip, Mrs. Vosper, and the angelic Luke Bird. Finally, there is Mr. Grunter, the church clerk and gravedigger, incorrectly blamed for chasing the girls and deemed a simpleton but who is the first to recognise Mr. Weston for who he really is.

Powys has great fun poking fun at the foibles of all the inhabitants of Folly Down and, indeed, at Mr. Weston and Michael. Mr. Weston is tired of his work and would happily die, just as he administers death to others, but he has a job to do and he does, tying knots, settling scores and making sure everything is in its place. Old-fashioned, yes, but very readable.

Publishing history

First published 1927 by Chatto & Windus