IVY COMPTON-BURNETT, English novelist, born (d: 1969); Published as “I. Compton-Burnett,” all her many novels, which have been called “morality plays for the tough-minded,” are satires of the least attractive aspects of human nature as found among the nobility and landed gentry of the late-Victorian world. They are very strange and very intelligent novels by a very strange and intelligent woman. Compton-Burnett lived most of her life in a “romantic friendship” with Margaret Jourdain, a woman several years her senior and a well-established scholar and expert in 18th century furniture.
There was no question in the Jourdain/Compton-Burnett household as to who was numero uno. Jourdain talked and Compton-Burnett listened. Even when the novelist’s fame far exceeded the scholar’s, no one entered their sanctum sanctorum without paying court to Jourdain alone. They had no sexual contact with each other, nor with anyone else, Jourdain believing that only men experienced sexual desire and Compton-Burnett explaining that they were “essentially a pair of neuters.” When Jourdain died, the novelist was almost sixty, but her subservience and dependence never ended. She continued to talk with her friend” I say, what do you think? Do you like it? Would you advise me? What shall I do?” Strange. Fascinating. Eerie. Like her novels.