Passing by – or bypassing

(Unknown Artist, Two Figures Roll Out a Scroll of Paper with a Landscape Design on It, Watched by a Third: Wellcome Collection)

‘Any good news?’
‘There’s a goldfinch singing in the tree in the garden.’
‘Any bad news?’
(Unrolling forty-foot long scroll): ‘Where should I begin?’

A weird couple of weeks, my daughter’s text read. You might well say so. A new monarch and a new Prime Minister. Mutterings, stray black ties, then confirmation that London Bridge had, indeed, fallen. Some things since then, I gather, have gone extremely well, as smoothly as many years of rehearsals and preparations and a large wad of public money could make them; others seem be going extraordinarily badly. It was sobering, for instance, to hear of people threatened with arrest for being in charge of blank sheets of paper, not so long after British expressions of outrage and disbelief at the same phenomenon on the streets of Putin’s Moscow. By degrees, quite reasonable displays of decorum and respect began lapsing into absurdity: the often excruciating media coverage was predictable, perhaps less so some of the cancellations and closures: football matches, kids’ fun runs, bicycle racks, condom vending machines, guinea pig awareness week. . .

Since then, we’ve had the unedifying spectacle of a government clearly in hock to the fossil fuel industry, now augmented by the reckless vandalism proposed, first, by the latest Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, perhaps the most preposterous appointment in an era notorious for such appointments; second, a frankly disgusting mini-budget, focused solely on shovelling yet more money into the hands of those already stinking of the stuff. Never fear, the proles will pay. And their progeny, of course, unto the second or third generation.

The weather has changed, most evidently the early mornings: Harry the cat exchanging the briefest of greetings with the outside air before drifting back upstairs to the bedroom while I pull the back door discreetly shut; and the butter harder to spread. I note with just a touch of disquiet that the next Nicolas Freeling book I shall read—and here a footnote to ‘good news’, three Van der Valk novels in the nice green Penguin jackets—is titled Gun before Butter.


And there was The Queue. I read that a quarter of a million people chose to queue for many hours to pass the Queen’s coffin. Millions more watched the television for hours, although at least as many millions, probably more, got on with their lives in various other ways. As for The Queue: I’ve read explanations of the several credible reasons for people being there but, though Elizabeth II had been on the throne for almost the whole of my life and my mother died at much the same age as the Queen, the one never reminded me of the other (nor was there any grandmotherly resemblance) and I feel no need for a version of ‘something larger than myself’ that involves a huge crowd – the sight of one, even on a screen, still brings me out in a rash. And I am, anyway, I suppose, of the sizeable constituency that admired and respected the late Queen for the way she fulfilled her role while believing that the role itself was past its sell-by date and that this should really be the juncture at which the whole issue is debated, from the ground up (especially from the ground up). But I suspect that substantial elements of the country are neither willing nor able to engage with such matters.

In the Victorian cemetery where we walk, we skirted a wedding in full swing when we were there a while ago, a mass of people on the steps of the building, anyway: cameras, hats, smart clothes, excited chatter. A little earlier on that same afternoon, a funeral had, I think, just finished. We were passing what seemed to be the aftermath of a wake, two or three staff in the late stages of tidying the outdoor venue, sweeping up, rearranging tables and benches. And that near-miss was probably funeral enough for me for a while.

I was, I recall, rather more exercised by the possibility that I’d confused, at some stage, Norman MacColl, editor of the Athenaeum, with Dugald Sutherland MacColl, painter, critic and Keeper of prestigious galleries (the Tate and the Wallace Collection), but also wanting to check on that other connection between moonrise and ‘Henri Beyle who wrote as Stendhal’. Was I in fact thinking of Stonehenge in another context? Fairly specialised concerns, to be sure, but then a lot of people have interests that would fall under that heading for a majority of passers-by.

That’s the crucial point about passers-by, of course. They pass by. As do I, in a great many circumstances, as do I.

Toiling optimists

(Thomas Fenwick, Late Autumn Landscape: University of Edinburgh)

A new month, the first of the meteorological autumn. On 2 September 1774, the naturalist Gilbert White observed that: ‘Many birds which become silent about Midsummer reassume their notes again in September; as the thrush, blackbird, wood-lark, willow-wren, &c.; hence August is by much the most mute month, the spring, summer, and autumn through. Are birds induced to sing again because the temperament of autumn resembles that of spring?’[1] Birds here, particularly the bluetits, are certainly singing, though a little warily. Still, who would not be wary just now?

The trees in the parks had already been misled into thinking that autumn had arrived. The weather generally has dried again, with a warm, slightly unhealthy feel to the breeze. The constants remain. . . constant – that is, the workmen, still, after months, making those thunderous noises of drilling and hammering that you associate with the beginnings of a job like that, not the late stages. Surely by now it should be no louder than the seductive murmur of a paintbrush on skirting-board or garden fence, the feathering of a soft broom, the occasional faint squeal of a cloth on clean glass. As well as the workmen, of course, the howl of ambulance sirens and the relentless overhead roar of damned aeroplanes, each one shaving just a little more off the lifespan of homo sapiens on this earth.

As for the news—from time to time, the Librarian, referencing the late Leonard Cohen just a little too appositely, will inquire, in passing: ‘You Want It Darker’? My response is most often ‘God, no!’ while, inside my mildly floundering but at-straw-grasping mind, another refrain runs: ‘It’s not dark yet but it’s getting’ there.’[2] Really, monsieur D.? Not there yet? O, optimist! But that was, of course, twenty-five years ago, which can make all the difference in the life histories of failed states.


What do you find to boast of in our age,
To boast of now, my friendly sonneteer,
And not to blush for, later? By what line
Do you entrain from Mainz to Regions saner?
Count our achievements and uplift my heart;
Blazen our fineness. Optimist, I toil
Whilst you crow cocklike.

So Ford Madox Ford began a poem, ‘Canzone à la Sonata’, dedicated to ‘E. P.’, that is, Ezra Pound, then in Giessen, the German town in which Ford stayed while pursuing a madcap scheme to secure a divorce from his wife under German law by qualifying for citizenship of that country. It was the setting for the famous ‘Giessen roll’, Ford diving headlong to the floor and writhing about in agony in response to the archaisms in Pound’s new collection of poems. The poem’s title indicates its target: ‘canzone’, a poetic form, not a style. It guys, as Ford often did, the conventional picture of the inspired and youthful lyric poet, and queries the price of exclusion paid by the optimistic singer. His inquiring ‘By what line/ Do you entrain from Mainz to Regions saner’ alludes to the poetic line but also employs an image that Ford would recur to often: the use of the railway journey as intersection of illusory stability, permanence, stasis and radical circumstantial alteration, whether in personal relationships or the larger configurations of history. Indeed, a poem called ‘In the Train’ occurs four pages earlier than ‘Canzone’ in the published volume, High Germany. By early 1912, in fact, Ford was perfectly aware of the threat from Germany, though his own history of involvement with that country was already immensely complicated and soon to become more so.


Optimist –  so many shades of meaning, interpretation, claim or confession there. People with their glasses half-full, half-empty – surely, just order another drink, to be on the safe side. The word defines not only individuals but eras: ‘It is difficult to think of an important Edwardian optimist’, Samuel Hynes wrote. ‘So that if “Edwardian” is to be used as an adjective identifying a literary tone, that tone must be one of social awareness and anxious concern.’[3]

More positively, it can evoke recovery, rebuilding, resurgence. Doris Lessing, remembering her arrival in Britain in the early 1950s, wrote: ‘There was still that post-war effervescence, the feeling that suppressed energies were exploding, the arrival of working-class or at least not middle-class talent into the arts, and, above all, the political optimism, which has so completely evaporated.’[4] More upbeat too was Margery Allingham’s view of her detective, Albert Campion, seeing in that extraordinary individual the virtues of the ordinary man (which, of course, enabled him to perform the feats of detection and deduction that qualified him to serve as her central character): ‘The optimism of a healthy mind is indefatigable, however, and as time went on even Campion began to see the events here recorded from that detached distance so often miscalled true perspective.’[5]

I am, of course, keeping my own optimism firmly within bounds: a true perspective in a healthy mind, as they say. Possibly.


Notes

[1] Gilbert White, The Illustrated History of Selborne (London: Macmillan, 1984), 94.

[2] Bob Dylan, ‘Not Dark Yet’, Track 7 on Time Out of Mind (1997).

[3] Samuel Hynes, ‘Introduction: A Note on “Edwardian”’, in Edwardian Occasions: Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), 8.

[4] Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade (1997; London: Fourth Estate, 2013), 280.

[5] Margery Allingham, Death of a Ghost (London: Penguin Books, 1942), 176.

Striding, gliding, sliding into autumn

(Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Shower at Shōno: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

‘She can’t be completely stupid’, the Librarian says, in a rare moment of optimism, ‘she went to Oxford.’ And for a moment I almost wish I could find in that a good knockdown argument. Alas.

The heat, which changed many individual patterns of behaviour, was succeeded by several days of rain, which didn’t, and then by something balanced, pleasant, relaxing – or it would have been had the workmen in the neighbouring house, who have been there for months now, not chosen one morning to drill directly into my head. They showed too a remarkable willingness to persist, to graft, I suppose, thus refuting the latest reports of the witless witterings of—good grief!—the odds-on favourite for the leadership of the Conservative Party and thus, under our generally nineteenth-century political arrangements, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Upstairs—and sometimes downstairs too—I bother archivists, occasionally in this country but far more often in the United States. The happy result of this is that, even as I pour a drink in the evening, goods news sometimes arrives from the Midwest or the west coast. An archivist has unearthed a previously unlisted letter from Ford Madox Ford to a publisher, a literary agent, a New York hostess, a budding author. I scrawl a message of heartfelt gratitude. Librarians and archivists may yet save the world.

Downstairs, I linger over Robert Lowell, Lafcadio Hearn and Mary Midgley. Dear Cal is of course his usual unfailingly cheerful self and emphatically not a daddy’s boy. ‘He was a man who treated even himself with the caution and uncertainty of one who has forgotten a name, in this case, his own.’[1] Hearn shuns the usual ragbag of common sense and scepticism by numbers: ‘I hold that the Impossible bears a much closer relation to fact than does most of what we call the real and the commonplace.’[2]

And Mary Midgley—I remember, a few years back, seeing an interview with, or brief statement from, the Green Party Brighton MP Caroline Lucas and Sophie Walker, then leader of the Women’s Equality Party. I found myself thinking, quite explicitly, My God! If we had people like that in charge of this country, there might be some hope. It wouldn’t be the complete bloody basket-case it is. Mary Midgley was a person like that: hugely intelligent, well-informed, intellectually curious. I read her memoir because my curiosity was piqued by the highly enjoyable volume by Benjamin Lipscomb, The Women Are Up To Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022),[3] one of those valuable books which, like those of the wonderful Sarah Bakewell, are able to convince me—at least while I’m reading them—that I understand philosophy.


Midgley discusses, at one point, the idea that thought, like life, occurs in complex patterns, linked together, which have to be sorted out and dealt with on their merits. ‘This does not mean that our work is impossibly complicated. It does not mean that we cannot know anything until we know everything. Human cultures contain all sorts of convenient ways of breaking up the world into manageable handfuls and dealing with one part at a time. And we can keep continuously developing these ways so that they can correct one another. In this way, quite a lot of the time we do get things right. Attending to the background pattern of questions and answers does not tip us into a helpless relativism. But it is perfectly true that this approach does stop us hoping for a universal scientific formula underlying all thought. We cannot, as Descartes hoped, find a single path to infallible certainty. But then luckily we do not need to.’

Indeed. I confess, though, that one of my favourite moments in the book is an account of a discussion group which included Carmen Blacker, later a distinguished Japanese scholar. ‘It was Carmen who supplied me with the best example I have ever met of the diversity of moral views. When I raised the topic of conflicting customs, “Oh, I see”, she said. “Like, there’s a verb in classical Japanese which means to try out one’s new sword on a chance wayfarer?”’ Midgley later used this in an article with that name.[4]

Light rain, the faintest murmuring, and a soft soughing in the branches and leaves above the fence. Harry the cat is crouched at the open back door, snuffing up late August early evening English air. He has noticed, I think, that my method of serving his teatime bowl approximates more and more to that of Henry James’s butler, as recalled by Ford Madox Ford:

‘His methods of delivery were startling. He seemed to produce silver entrée dishes from his coat-tails, wave them circularly in the air and arrest them within an inch of your top waistcoat button. At each such presentation James would exclaim with cold distaste: “I have told you not to do that!” and the butler would retire to stand before the considerable array of plate that decorated the sideboard.’[5]

We are sliding into autumn. There is an acknowledged cost-of-living crisis. But then, come to that, there is a crisis in every area of public life, from education to social care, from farming to transport, from library provision to news media to the raw sewage fouling our coastal waters. Given our current electoral system, there’s little we can do at present: turn down the heating a degree or two, hope for a mild winter—and do our level best to resist trying out new swords on chance wayfarers.


Notes

[1] Robert Lowell, Memoirs, edited with a preface by Steven Gould Axelrod and Grzegorz Kosc Faber & Faber 2022), 18.

[2] Lafcadio Hearn, ‘The Eternal Haunter’, in Japanese Ghost Stories, edited by Paul Murray (London: Penguin Books, 2019), 33.

[3] Benjamin J. B. Lipscomb, The Women Are Up To Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022).

[4] Mary Midgley, The Owl of Minerva: A Memoir (London: Routledge, 2007), 72, 160.

[5] Ford Madox Ford, Return to Yesterday (London: Gollancz, 1931), 14.

Date, notable; roadworks, less so

(Ford Madox Brown, Work: Manchester Art Gallery)

Our road is finally being resurfaced: the most immediately local excitement in a long time and a teasing reminder of what it could be like were there not—as there usually are—bloody cars parked bumper to bumper on both sides of the road. I say it’s being resurfaced: that’s the advertised plan, anyway. It was advertised once before but the designated two days coincided with the heat wave, more, two of the hottest days on record, so they very sensibly postponed the work.

Yesterday, then, there was a good deal of noise, and a nifty vehicle kept whizzing up and down the road, with no discernible purpose that we could see, until we finally realised that the whizzing was probably the point. An open road, a nippy vehicle and endless fun to be had. So today was, is, presumably The Day. There’s been a bit of coming and going but no sign of any actual resurfacing yet.

The pavements – and every pedestrian path hereabouts – are in a parlous condition, offering plenty of opportunities to  break your neck or at least an ankle; but, as is well established, pedestrians are very low down the food chain. Roads, on the other hand – and yet, getting on towards lunchtime, a car just passed along what I supposed was the still-closed road – and I’m beginning to wonder.

Meanwhile, today is the 4th August, a date written in very large letters in the minds and margins of most students and scholars of modern history. Fordian scholars too, aware that he slipped that date into the text of The Good Soldier some sixteen times. Right up until 1914, of course, it’s just a date. Even on the day itself, it hasn’t happened, at least in Britain, until 11:00 p.m.

Fifty years earlier, the younger sister of Violet Hunt (novelist, suffragist, partner of Ford Madox Ford for ten fraught years) was born. Venetia Margaret Hunt, usually known as ‘Venice’, was named after Ruskin’s famous work, The Stones of Venice (1851-53) and Ruskin became her godfather. On the same day in 1899, poet and short story writer Walter de la Mare married Elfrida Ingpen, at a a private ceremony in a Battersea church.[1] The year before the Great War, D. H. Lawrence’s sister Ada was married to William Clarke, 4 August 1913. On the portentous day itself, the novelist Julian Barnes’ grandparents were married, Stanley Spencer’s sister Florence had her birthday and Siegfried Sassoon’s, his ‘impetuosity’ probably having made him the first War poet to have enlisted, his Army Medical done and dusted on 1 August , so ‘at the official outbreak of War on 4 August he was in ill-fitting khaki.’[2]

(Siegfried Sassoon via the BBC)

It has always been, in fact, a popular day for birthdays in the arts: Percy Shelley and Walter Pater, W. H. Hudson and Knut Hamsun, Louis Armstrong and Witold Gombrowicz.

Some years after that war, the poet and maker David Jones stayed with his friend Helen Sutherland at Rock Hall, Northumberland. He made his third trip there on 4 August 1931. At the start and end of each visit, Jones would be driven past the Duke of Northumberland’s castle. Helen told him this was on the site of Lancelot’s castle, Joyous Guard – and the supposed place of his burial. ‘With this association in mind’, his biographer Thomas Dilworth wrote, ‘Jones referred to the church at Rock as “the Chapel Perilous”, the place of terrifying enchantment that Lancelot enters –­ an episode in Malory that reminded him of his experience at night in Mametz Wood.’[3]

Looking back now, I’m struck by a sentence in the ‘Preface’ to Jones’s poem, written nearly ninety years ago: ‘Just as now there are glimpses in our ways of another England—yet we know the truth. Even while we watch the boatman mending his sail, the petroleum is hurting the sea.’[4]

As for that resurfacing – cars are passing and parking often now. The closed road has been thoroughly unclosed. The sun is beating down on the same surface. The workmen have packed up and gone, nifty vehicles and large vans alike, having left undone those things that they ought to have done. There will be, of course, no explanation. Still, the renewed quietness enables me to hear more distinctly Harry the Cat prematurely yowling for his tea. Every cloud, silver lining, sunny side of the street, all that.


Notes

[1] Barbara Belford, Violet: The Story of the Irrepressible Violet Hunt and her Circle of Lovers and Friends—Ford Madox Ford, H. G. Wells, Somerset Maugham, and Henry James (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 29; Theresa Whistler, The Life of Walter de la Mare: Imagination of the Heart (London: Duckworth, 2003), 89.

[2] Letters of D. H. Lawrence II, June 1913-October 1916, edited by George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 38 n; Julian Barnes, Nothing to be Frightened of (London: Jonathan Cape 2008), 28; Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer: A Biography (London: Harper Collins, 1991), 55; Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet. A Biography (1886-1918) (London: Duckworth, 1998), 180.

[3] Thomas Dilworth, David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet (London: Jonathan Cape, 2017), 140-142.

[4] David Jones, In Parenthesis (1937; Faber 1963), ix.

On a postcard, please


Blackberrying again: working our way down bushes on the slopes of the park, filling plastic containers, taking them home, rinsing the fruit in a colander, transferring them to compostable bags and sticking them in the freezer. It seems, oddly, like a blow on behalf of the ordinary universe. As are the hot air balloons, going over so early some mornings, as they have done for years. And, as I have done for years, I step outside and stare up at the sky and feel a strange sense of reassurance, of confirmation, of a fitness in the world.

We have stepped, or been forced, outside of all that. Our recent pleasures have included quite ridiculous weather and quite ridiculous politics. Or, more soberly, terrifying weather and terrifying politics, two areas intimately linked, of course. There have been hot summers before, 1976, 1911, and droughts, such as 1921, 1911 again – and 1976, again. But in recent years, it is no longer in a metaphorical sense, or even a hyperbolic one, that we say: the world is on fire. Set against this, of course, is the continuing failure of governments to meet the urgency of need with priority of response. If major heart surgery is needed, sticking a plaster on the patient’s thumb strikes some of us as less than adequate. But there is also the massive disconnect, the stolid denial that individual actions can make any difference – while the careful sorting of paper, cardboard and plastics for the weekly collection somehow co-exists in the same single life with a steely determination, and a conviction of entitlement, to fly to three holiday destinations every year.


Walking on one of the quieter paths in the Victorian cemetery, we pass a wedding reception at the Underwood Centre, several dozen guests in a woodland setting. In the midst of death we are in life. It is odd, to say the least, to know, or at least to suspect, that after so many centuries of progress, if you can call it that, of achievement, if that’s what it is, we are living in an age of extinction, an age in which things will not simply slow down or even go backwards but will just stop and die. We don’t want to think of such things… and the vast majority of us  – manage not to

 04:28 – and the cat feels it’s time to begin discussing breakfast. The workmen won’t be here to plague us for another three and a half hours. But there’s the light – and the birdsong. ‘All winter long’, William Maxwell wrote to Eudora Welty in June 1979, ‘I worried because there were no birds, and now there is such a racket you can’t hear yourself think.’[1] (Not long before this, he’d written: ‘In some ways the most beautiful journeys are the ones you don’t take’, which are the journeys I’ve been enjoying for a while now, liking them more and more.)

‘In this weather’—Maxwell again, this time in the summer of 1953, ‘one needs astonishment in the head to keep the heat out.’[2] That afternoon, listening to the rain on the windows, I was struck by the consciousness of what I was doing and the moment in which I was doing it: listening to the rain. It was late in the hottest day ever recorded in this country, the bulletins said, the hottest anyway since the day before. Fires were reported all over the United Kingdom, in London, South Yorkshire, Leicestershire. Our temperate northern climate, forsooth.

All those weary years, those decades, in which the warnings were given, the recommendations made, the figures presented – and nothing done and nothing done and nothing done. It would have been so much cheaper then, more manageable then, the future infinitely strengthened and sweetened then. But we had no influential figures equal to the task. Nor have we had any since. And, looking at the poor creatures now, with their paucity of ideas and their disgusting gestures at policy, it’s painfully evident why we have declined so fast and so far.

‘It does no good to regret history’, Samuel Hynes remarked, ‘all we can do is to try to understand it.’[3] That seems reasonable enough, though forces here, there and everywhere want something quite other. Why understand it? Here’s the version we like – why not go with that?


As Sarah Churchwell recently remarked, ‘The past has consequences in the present regardless of whether we know what happened in it; learning the history makes those consequences intelligible.’[4]

The other day, in an attempt to prevent the Librarian’s determined misquoting of a couple of lines in Dirty Harry, I played her the clip: at the end, the wounded man, maddened by the uncertainty about whether Harry has fired five shots or six, says: ‘I gots to know! I gots to know!’

Yes, I think I suffer a little from that compulsion. Is there one left – or is it already empty?

Answers on a postcard, please – but then you may as well recycle them.


Notes

[1] Suzanne Marrs, editor, What There Is to Say, We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), 348.

[2] What There Is to Say, We Have Said, 35.

[3] Samuel Hynes, ‘Introduction: A Note on “Edwardian”, in Edwardian Occasions: Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), 11.

[4] Sarah Churchwell, The Wrath to Come: Gone With the Wind and the Lies America Tells (London: Head of Zeus, 2022), 11.

Walking early, falling surely


We are walking early to avoid the heat – not ‘The game is afoot! Into your clothes and come!’ early; and not recent Southern European heat –we’re talking, rather, of very warm English days and returning at more or less the time scheduled for the cat’s morning snack (not breakfast: that’s a separate issue).

Already, in the smallish park en route to the cemetery, there are people with dogs, plus a few without dogs and occasionally those displaying neither dogs nor signs of motion. They sit or lie on the grass and don’t move at all. Perhaps they are hoping that history—especially rancid and rancorous of late—will pass them by.

News from Ukraine and the United States, and such features as the interview with the admirable Maria Alyokhina, may put this country’s constant troubles and relentless decline into perspective but those troubles are serious enough.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/11/pussy-riot-maria-alyokhina-putin-crimes-hitler-years-of-resistance

At present the news media—predominantly right-wing in the UK—is convulsed by another struggle for the Conservative Party leadership. Because the only required quality in senior government ministers was unquestioning agreement with Boris Johnson, there is, unsurprisingly, little evidence of talent, ability or intellectual strength among the candidates. There are, indeed, only variations in unpleasantness. Though a surprising number of Tories have suddenly discovered ‘integrity’ in the past week or two – how to pronounce it rather than how to practise it – all these Prime Ministerial hopefuls agree that trafficking refugees to Rwanda, or some other country with a dubious record on human rights, is a damned fine idea. Then, too, most of them beat the familiar drum of delusional tax cuts, confident that the unreflecting will go no further than recognising this too as a damned fine idea. To those of us who’ve noticed the collapse in public services and recognise the reasons for that collapse—and who remember the recent history of Britain’s railway system and its energy sector—it’s a little less fine.

Refugees, immigration, the right to protest, voter suppression, public services, education, climate emergency: in a country that had not lost its senses, people like these with the views they have on such issues would simply and rightly be regarded as reprehensible individuals. As it is, one of them will soon become Prime Minister of this country, backed by a vote of well under 1% of its population. 

Still, I’ve begun reading the estimable Sarah Churchwell’s The Wrath to Come: Gone With the Wind and the Lies America Tells – which will educate me but not, I suspect, cheer me up that much. One of its central questions, ‘What the hell happened to America?’, I’ve voiced myself, though not as often as I’ve applied the same question to my own country.


Deceptively, the sky is a pure, untroubled blue (or rather, troubled only by the repeated aircraft trails). The parasol is up; butterflies and bees are busy about their daily dealings. The  hammering of workmen pauses every so often to allow for the solo wails of ambulance sirens. But a little later, quiet is restored, the makings of a simple dinner – and the birthday champagne – are in the fridge, the cat is settled in a large earthenware pot in the garden. All is right, you might say, with the world – always excepting a significant number of the people in it and the damage they do.

Á votre santé!

Pouring a drink for Cassandra


‘Did you say something?’ the Librarian asked as the forty-fifth runner in the space of a couple of hundred metres passed us, panting infectiously. I said I might have briefly referred to the runner but wasn’t aware of having said it aloud. ‘Yes’, she said, ‘I thought it was one of the sounds you make.’

One of the sounds. We were out for lunch—‘Here we go, out into the world’, said the Librarian, who is prone to doing that sort of thing, the front door gaping as we stepped onto the pavement. Along the park’s lower path, under the railway bridge, over the river, up between the flats, through the grounds of St Mary Redcliffe, where Samuel Taylor Coleridge married and Thomas Chatterton turned up some likely manuscripts, across the hill and up to the high road from which steps cut down to the harbourside, another footbridge, then along by the river for a mile, dodging runners, watching the paddleboarders, the dogs, the photographers, then on to the Underfall Yard, the patent slipway presently unoccupied.

Lunch. I recalled Patrick White relating, in a letter to Ninette Dutton, his attendance at a lunch given by James Fairfax for ‘the visiting American millionaires’. ‘Madame Du Val cooked the lunch. Most unwisely they chose to give us omelettes. I went into the kitchen afterwards to see her and she said, “I’m fucked!” She looked it too, after eighty omelettes. I said I was fucked after one; I find cooking an omelette a highly emotional experience. Some of the elderly maids standing around seemed rather shocked.’[1]

You don’t need to be an elderly maid to feel shocked, if not surprised, just lately. And going out to lunch was quite a while back now, with half a dozen or more blog posts begun and abandoned or left for dead since then. ‘The world is too much with us’, William Wordsworth observed, not in 1802 burdened with appalling news (let alone social media) but more concerned with that ‘getting and spending’ which lays waste our powers and blinds us to the natural world and our connection to it: ‘We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!’[2]

Writing to a couple of archivists, always in search of Fordian letters, I can’t quite bring myself to wish them a happy Independence Day, in case they suspect me of blackest humour.  Independence from the tea-swilling Britishers two and a half centuries back, but not now from their own religious and political extremists. It might be no more welcome than an American congratulating me on the fantasy glories of Brexit and the election of a government clearly intent on removing my democratic rights and safeguards.

The sense of threat from America’s gigantic lurch back into the dark feels very real: oddly, it might seem, given that I’m white, male, of an older generation, not gay – and not in the United States. But recent developments are an attack on humane and civilized values: the threat is not, or will not for long be, confined to the obvious targets. That discredited supreme court may be ‘over there’, but those who make reassuring noises about how it can’t happen in our Disunited Kingdom are dangerously naïve – or just dangerous. We too have our fair share of religious zealots, miscellaneous lunatics and neofascists and, while many Americans no doubt thought It Can’t Happen Here, it has happened there or is happening there.

Advice of the day: think of the worst that could reasonably be expected to happen then double it. More. Invite Cassandra round, pour her a drink and listen to what she has to say. If she says: ‘O dark, dark, dark. They all go into the dark’ or if she mentions ‘end of days’– listen closely.

‘I was wrong to forget’, Marguerite Yourcenar has her emperor Hadrian say, ‘that in any combat between fanaticism and common sense the latter has rarely the upper hand.’[3]


Notes

[1] Patrick White, letter of 13 April 1975, Letters, edited by David Marr (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994), 455.

[2] Wordsworth, ‘The world is too much with us’, 1802 sonnet in William Wordsworth, edited by Stephen Gill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 237.

[3] Marguerite Yourcenar, The Memoirs of Hadrian, translated by Grace Frick, with Yourcenar (1951; Penguin Books, 2000), 198.

Seventy years and more


Thinking of Queens, as you do on some weekends, I couldn’t help recalling the story of Dylan Thomas taking part in a public reading during the Second World War. The Queen Mother, who’d been in the audience, expressed a wish to meet the performers. Dylan’s wife Caitlin was at a nearby pub with friends, growing fretful at Dylan’s non-appearance. ‘Somebody explained to her that he was talking to the Queen. Caitlin said, morosely, that she did not approve of Dylan spending so much time with all these old queens. “But it’s the English Queen,” the friend explained. “English queens,” she grumbled, “Irish queens, American queens, it’s all the same. They’re bad for Dylan. They upset him.”’[1]

Indeed, Thomas was hardly unusual among male writers in feeling uncomfortable around gay men: individual ambivalences or smokescreens aside, it was surely sometimes connected with the history of English suspicion that writing was somehow ‘unmanly’ (long list of candidates: the French, the Aesthetic Movement, Decadents, Oscar Wilde, Edward Carpenter). ‘It was [W. E.] Henley and his friends’, Ford Madox Ford asserted, ‘who introduced into the English writing mind the idea that a man of action was something fine and a man of letters a sort of castrato.’[2]

There have been official celebrations in this country, anyway, Elizabeth II having acceded to the throne seventy years ago. I’d guess that a minority of people hated all the razzamatazz, a larger minority revelled in it, more people dipped in for a programme, a party, a bit of social media – and, for another large group, it really didn’t register much at all. A couple of days off? Okay!

My knowledge of royal history is patchy, stronger on some incumbents than others but still largely a series of notes and scraps. I see that fifty-five years back from that accession, the great jubilee pageant of 1897 turned London into the imperial metropolis, according to G. R. Searle. ‘The refronting of Buckingham Palace, the widening of the Mall, the construction of Admiralty Arch, and the building of the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace were similarly intended to create a theatrical setting suitable for monarchical pageantry and imperial celebrations’, he observed, adding that, ‘in the music halls the irreverently Radical tone commonly found in the 1870s and early 1880s had been largely replaced by the end of the century by open displays of patriotism.’[3]


A bit further on – royally speaking – and King George and Queen Mary were present at the wedding, in the Chapel Royal, 11 May 1920, of Oswald Mosley and Cynthia Curzon, ‘as were the King and Queen of the Belgians, who had been flown across the channel in two two-seater aeroplanes specially for the occasion.’[4] Then, on 4 April 1924, the royal couple opened the ‘most striking imperial spectacle of the period’, the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium, where ‘[t]he material and symbolic aspects of Empire were neatly blended by a life-size model of the Prince of Wales sculpted in Canadian butter.’[5] Apparently, he was on horseback (and in a refrigerated case, luckily).

In my lifetime, there have been jubilees of various precious stones and metals: sapphires, rubies, gold. The silver jubilee year will still be vivid in a great many current memories, with its mugs for schoolchildren, street parties and a great deal of bunting, though, as Lavinia Greenlaw observed of June 1977, ‘England was no longer England, at least not the England it persisted in believing itself to be.’[6] Multiply that now by, what, ten? A hundred?


But lately I have the Virgin Queen rather more in mind, having just read Alan Judd’s splendid novel, A Fine Madness, inspired, as it announces at the outset, by the life and death of Christopher Marlowe—‘“Reality lacks reality,” he said more than once in later years, “until it is imagined.”’[7] Though the book’s present is nearly thirty years after Marlowe’s death, it looks back to Thomas Phelippes’ work with Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster-general. Phelippes, who narrates the novel from confinement in the Tower, in the course of his questioning by an emissary from James I, was indeed a linguist and cryptographer, instrumental in deciphering the coded letters involved in the Babington plot, a breakthrough which led to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (mother of the present king, not an ideal situation for Phelippes).

Sir Walter Ralegh crops up in the novel because of his association with freethinkers and Marlowe’s possible connections with that group through his acquaintance with Ralegh. In the year of Marlowe’s death, 1593, soon after his own release from prison, Ralegh entered his new home, Sherborne Castle, on the banks of the River Yeo, a 99-year lease at £200 per annum. This was a gift from the queen and, as Charles Nicholl remarks, ‘The transaction was finally signed by her in July 1592, shortly before his despatch to the Tower. She did not withdraw this last favour, one infers, because she meant Sherborne to be his place of exile.’ Elsewhere, Nicholl comments that such motifs as the ‘golden world’, the idea of ‘chaste’ colonizing, the idea of ‘virgin territory’ as related to the ‘Virgin Queen cult – spring in general from [John] Dee’s occultist musings on the new British Empire (as he was the first to call it).’[8]

(British School; c.1594; Ashmolean, Oxford)

One of my favourite Dr Dee snippets is that the only one of his astrological interpretations ‘of any length that survives concerns his pupil’, Sir Philip Sidney. It was a 62-page nativity ‘which made several tentative predictions. He foretold that Sidney would enjoy a wonderful career between the ages of fifteen and thirty-one. Then he faced mortal danger from a sword or gunshot injury which, if survived, would inaugurate even greater glories and a long life. Sidney was killed in battle in the Low Countries on 17 October 1586, aged thirty-one.’[9]

There is always a temptation to compare historical periods, not always resisted even by those that can reliably distinguish apples from oranges. The first Elizabethan age glitters extraordinarily brightly yet it was not, as Henry James might say, all gas and gingerbread. The cryptographers, spies, torturers and executioners were kept as busy as the explorers, playwrights and privateers. And, as Stephen Alford observed, ‘the heightened vigilance of Queen Elizabeth’s advisers was in fact potentially corrosive of the security they craved. It is a cruel but perhaps a common historical paradox. The more obsessively a state watches, the greater the dangers it perceives. Suspicions of enemies at home and abroad become more extreme, even self-fulfilling. Balance and perspective are lost. Indeed such a state is likely as a consequence to misconceive or misunderstand the scale of any real threat it faces.’[10]

No historical parallels there, to be sure, and ‘“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.’ But that, of course, was through the looking-glass.[11]


Notes

[1] Constantine FitzGibbon, The Life of Dylan Thomas  (London: J. M. Dent, 1965), 97.

[2] Ford Madox Ford, Ancient Lights and Certain New Reflections (London: Chapman and Hall, 1911), 241-242.

[3] G. R. Searle, A New England? Peace and War 1886-1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 39.

[4] Nicholas Mosley, Rules of the Game: 1896-1933; Beyond the Pale: Memoirs of Sir Oswald Mosley and Family (London: Pimlico, 1994), 24.

[5] Martin Pugh, ‘We Danced All Night’: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars (London: The Bodley Head, 2008), 400, 401.

[6] Lavinia Greenlaw, The Importance of Music to Girls (London: Faber & Faber, 2017), 114. Ford wrote a piece entitled ‘A Jubilee’ but that was a review of Some Imagist Poets: Outlook, XXXVI (10 July 1915), 46-48.

[7] Alan Judd, A Fine Madness (London: Simon & Schuster, 2022), 62.

[8] Charles Nicholl, The Creature in the Map: Sir Walter Ralegh’s Quest for El Dorado (London: Vintage, 1996), 45, 311-312.

[9] Benjamin Woolley, The Queen’s Conjuror: The Life and Magic of Dr Dee (London: Flamingo, 2002), 9.

[10] Stephen Alford, The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I (London:  Penguin, 2013), 11-12.

[11] Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, in The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, edited by Martin Gardner (London: Allen Lane, 2000), 206.

Noted

(George Cattermole, The Scribe, Cooper Gallery)

I am working on a footnote. It’s a note to a Ford Madox Ford letter, one that was previously published but which needs a few emendations – and some footnotes. Lots of footnotes. I realise that not everybody loves footnotes: if you do, there is no possibility of excuse or explanation – it simply means that the rest of the world is out of kilter, is missing out on a huge expanse of the world’s fascination, beauty, richness. A section headed, austerely, ‘References’ – that’s a man on a barstool, guarding his pint; a heading of ‘Notes’ holds out at least the promise of a welcome, offers of drinks, snacks and stimulating conversation.

My footnotes to this long letter are, necessarily, extensive. Some were worked out weeks or even months ago, added to the typed draft before the working notes, scraps and scribbles were discarded. I’m on the last footnote, a complicated one involving—as well as Ford, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis—at least two serial publications, a couple of published volumes, a couple of other letters cross-referenced and some explanatory background. With a note like this, you could pack a picnic and set off for a day’s walk; you could write about it to friends in distant countries to whom you have, these days, too little to say. Armed with such a note, you could set out to seduce the man or woman of your dreams, your fingers resting lightly on their wrist as you murmur: ‘Listen to this. . .’

I’ve almost finished it but momentarily glance away in contemplation – you know that moment when the film script reads: ‘He [or, more likely, she] glances away, thoughtful, rapt, absorbed.’ When I look back at the screen – something has happened, yes, Something has Happened and my notes – all of them – have gone, have been inexplicably replaced by 1s and 2s, some bloody binary code that laughs – that jeers, maniacally and electronically – at my painfully crafted footnotes, that says, in effect: ‘Nothing lasts. Transience! All that was solid melts into air. Do it all over again. Begin again.’

So I begin again. There is no moral lesson here. Back it up? I was sure I had. No doubt there were positive things to do, steps to take. I found none of them. When I looked online, it told me to press keys and open menus that the latest version of Word might have allowed me to open. I had that version on my laptop – but the file was open on my desktop upstairs, with an earlier version. Save or not save? Copy, revise, delete? What are you thinking? I think we are in rats’ alley where the dead men left their bones. . . .

(Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Umbrellas, National Gallery)

In fact, by way of contrast, I’m now thinking about mackintoshes, naturally enough, since I was reading Evelyn Waugh, who writes of Lucy Simmonds and her friend Muriel Meikeljohn: ‘They had shared a passion for a leading tenor, and had once got into his dressing-room at the Opera House by wearing mackintoshes and pretending to be reporters sent to interview him.’[1] That set me wondering about how often literary mackintoshes signal comedy, absurdity or general strangeness, something slightly off (and this without so much as an explicit lingering over Dylan Thomas’s imagined press interview in which he would claim to have come to America to continue his ‘lifelong search for naked women in wet mackintoshes’).[2] When Enid Bagnold went to Marburg for three months, she recalled that: ‘There was something called a “Bummel”. I have stored the word and perhaps it doesn’t exist. It seemed to mean men walking up and down the street in the evening, wearing mackintoshes and looking for girls.’[3] The word did indeed exist. Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men on the Bummel had appeared in 1900 but the ten-year-old Miss Bagnold might well have missed it, then and later. German for ‘a ramble’, the word is enlarged upon by the narrator in the final paragraph: ‘“a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started. Sometimes it is through busy streets, and sometimes through the fields and lanes; sometimes we can be spared for a few hours and sometimes for a few days. But long or short, but here or there, our thoughts are ever on the running of the sand. We nod and smile to many as we pass; with some we stop and talk awhile; and with a few we walk a little way. We have been much interested, and often a little tired. But on the whole we have a pleasant time, and are sorry when ’tis over.”’[4] Which, yes, sounds very like the outline of an entire life of a certain kind, while still in close contact with the comic mode.

Women, mackintoshes. Less than fifty years after Charles Macintosh had patented his process of waterproofing cloth with rubber, the Reverend Francis Kilvert, who certainly liked girls—on occasion quite young ones, in that particular nineteenth-century way—and wrote of them often, arrived at the Chapel on Septuagesima Sunday, St Valentine’s Eve, 13 February 1870, in ‘the hardest frost we have had yet’, and recalled that ‘my beard moustaches and whiskers were so stiff with ice that I could hardly open my mouth and my beard was frozen on to my mackintosh.’[5] Plenty of ice; plenty of facial hair.

Footnote: There’s a neat metafictional touch towards the end of Waugh’s ‘Scott-King’s Modern Europe’ where the author reflects on the genre of the story he is writing: ‘This is the story of a summer holiday; a light tale. It treats, at the worst, with solid discomfort and intellectual doubt. It would be inappropriate to speak here of those depths of the human spirit, the agony and despair, of the next few days of Scott-King’s life. To even the Comic Muse, the gadabout, the adventurous one of those heavenly sisters, to whom so little that is human comes amiss, who can mix in almost any company and find a welcome at almost every door – even to her there are forbidden places’ (387-388).

In The Heart of the Country, Ford Madox Ford considers ‘an English country-house party’ on ‘a really torrential day’. Think, he says, ‘of the intolerable boredom of it. There is absolutely nothing to be done.’ If you’re not in the mood for a mechanical piano, more letter-writing or flirting in the drawing-room, there is just the persistent rain. ‘At last something really exciting occurs. Two self-sacrificing persons, the son of the house and his fiancée, having in desperation put on shiny mackintoshes and sou’-westers, stand, wind-blown and laughing figures, putting at clock-golf on the lawn just beneath the billiard-room window.’[6]

(‘Joyce’s Dublin’ via The Irish Times)

In a less privileged setting—1904 Dublin—we might hear this voice: ‘Golly, whatten tunket’s yon guy in the mackintosh? Dusty Rhodes. Peep at his wearables. By mighty! What’s he got? Jubilee mutton. Bovril, by James. Wants it real bad. D’ye ken bare socks? Seedy cuss in the Richmond? Rawthere! Thought he had a deposit of lead in his penis. Trumpery insanity. Bartle the Bread we calls him. That, sir, was once a prosperous cit. Man all tattered and torn that married a maiden all forlorn. Slung her hook, she did. Here see lost love. Walking Mackintosh of lonely canyon.’[7]

Back at the kitchen table, work proceeds on those other footnotes, on a grander scale and in a more determined vein. As for that final note: when it’s done you’ll be able to charter a boat with it . . .


Notes

[1] ‘Work Suspended: Two Chapters of an Unfinished Novel’, in Evelyn Waugh, The Complete Short Stories (London: Penguin Books, 2011), 281.

[2] John Malcolm Brinnin, Dylan Thomas in America (1955; New York: Paragon Press, 1989), 14-15.

[3] Enid Bagnold’s Autobiography (from 1889) (London: Century, 1989), 33.

[4] Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat; Three Men on the Bummel (1889, 1900; edited by Geoffrey Harvey, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), xx-xxi, 324. The book was published in late Spring; Bagnold was born in 1889 but her birthday was in October, so ten not eleven. . .

[5] Francis Kilvert, Kilvert’s Diary, edited by William Plomer, Three volumes (London: Jonathan Cape, 1938, reissued 1969). Volume One (1 January 1870—19 August 1871), 34.

[6] Ford Madox Ford, The Heart of the Country, in England and the English, edited by Sara Haslam (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2003), 204-205.

[7] James Joyce, Ulysses (1922; London: The Bodley Head, revised edition, 1969), 560.

Archiving the opposites


I was thinking about opposites: or no—‘I would meet you upon this honestly’—for some reason, remembering the opening of Easy Rider, which I saw twice soon after its release, once straight and once. . . not, probably recklessly taking advice from a friend of that time (‘You have to see it stoned, man, otherwise you’re just wasting time and money’). The opening sequence has the soundtrack of a Steppenwolf song, its refrain being: ‘God damn the pusher’. I was reminded of it only because of its opposite, not curse but benediction, since I was thinking, after an exchange of emails yesterday and this morning: ‘God bless the archivist.’

That sentiment is common enough among researchers, I know. There is darkness; an archivist fiddles with the solar system and – there’s light. Accept the miracle, send the lavishly grateful email, know your place in an ordered universe. . .But I was thinking about opposites.

‘I reacted violently against him at first on the grounds that he was a militarist. But I soon found that if he was a militarist, he was at the same time the exact opposite.’ This is the Australian painter Stella Bowen writing, not long after his death, of her partner of ten years and father of her child, Ford Madox Ford.[1] When she met him in 1917, he was in uniform, as almost all Stella’s other friends and acquaintances at that time—poets, painters, dancers, musicians, translators—were not. The least likely candidate for an organisation such as the British Army, one might think, yet, when he was given a commission, he wrote to Lucy Masterman, ‘I can assure you, for what it is worth, that it is as if the peace of God had descended on me—that sounds absurd—but there it is! Man is a curious animal.’[2] Indeed.

(Stella Bowen, ‘Ford Playing Solitaire’)

Opposites are routinely employed or deployed in all manner of writers’ work and are integral to some. F. O. Matthiessen wrote of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘inveterate habit of stating things in opposites’, while Guy Davenport noted of John Ruskin that he ‘quite early began to use the digression as a major device of style, and later saw in his infinitely branching digressions (Fors Clavigera is a long work of nothing but) “Gothic generosity” – the polar opposite of classical restraint.’[3] Of Penelope Fitzgerald, fellow-novelist Julian Barnes wrote: ‘Many writers start by inventing away from their lives, and then, when their material runs out, turn back to more familiar sources. Fitzgerald did the opposite, and by writing away from her own life she liberated herself into greatness.’[4] Reflecting on her Booker Prize winning novel, Offshore, Fitzgerald remarked: ‘It was a pity that the title was translated into various European languages with words meaning “far away” or “far from the shore,” which meant the exact opposite of what I intended. By “offshore” I meant to suggest the boats at anchor, still in touch with the land, and also the emotional restlessness of my characters, halfway between the need for security and the doubtful attraction of danger. Their indecision is a kind of reflection of the rising and falling tide, which the craft at anchor must, of course, follow.’[5]

(Thomas Rowlandson cartoon , ‘Walking up the High Street’: Messrs Johnson and Boswell in Edinburgh)

The idea of the opposite is indispensable to the firm contradiction of a prevailing trend or assumption, as essential a tool in the biographer’s or historian’s bag as a plunger in a plumber’s. Adam Sisman’s absorbing book on James Boswell observes of the famous trip to the Hebrides that this was, for most Britons, ‘still a wild and exotic region, one of the least explored in Europe. The Grand Tour was very much the fashion in the mid-eighteenth century, but the route directed the sons of the aristocracy to the sites of classical European civilization. Johnson and Boswell, by heading for the barbarian North, were going in the opposite direction.’[6] (The story-board for the animated short, ‘Sam and Jim Go Up Not Down’, is currently in draft form.) The great historian Fernand Braudel was also in a contradictory mood when he stated that, between 1350 and 1550, Europe ‘probably experienced a favourable period as far as individual living standards were concerned.’ Manpower was relatively scarce after the ravages of the Black Death. ‘Real salaries have never been as high as they were then.’ And he adds: ‘The paradox must be emphasized since it is often thought that hardship increases the farther back towards the middle ages one goes In fact the opposite is true of the standard of living of the common people – the majority.’[7] Moving on (chronologically), Alexandra Harris suggested that ‘The Georgian revival was in important ways precisely the opposite of Little Englandism: it was an investigation of England’s cultural relations with Europe and an effort to promote an audaciously international version of Englishness.’[8] If that’s the case, we clearly need another one.

The saying that ‘opposites attract’ will be true enough, no doubt, in many instances; but so too will the assertion that ‘opposites repel’, more so than ever at the current juncture when societies and nations seem to have cracked down the middle or lost their collective minds. Some ideals are being held so fiercely that they are breathlessly expiring; but then, as Robert Musil wrote: ‘Ideals have curious properties, and one of them is that they turn into their opposites when one tries to live up to them.’[9]

Sometimes. Still, God bless the archivist: that statement will brook no opposition.


Notes

[1] Stella Bowen, Drawn From Life (London: Collins, 1941), 62.

[2] Ford Madox Ford, Letters of Ford Madox Ford, edited by Richard M. Ludwig (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), 61.

[3] F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941; New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 3; Guy Davenport, ‘Ruskin According to Proust’, in The Hunter Gracchus and Other Papers on Literature and Art (Washington: Counterpoint, 1996), 334.

[4] Julian Barnes, ‘The Deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald’, Through the Window: Seventeen Essays (And One Short Story) (London: Vintage, 2012), 4.

[5] Penelope Fitzgerald, ‘Curriculum Vitae’, in A House of Air: Selected Writings, edited by Terence Dooley with Mandy Kirkby and Chris Carduff (London: Harper Perennial, 2005), 478.

[6] Adam Sisman, Boswell’s Presumptuous Task (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2000), 89.

[7] Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th – 18th Century. Volume I: The Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible, translated from the French; revised by Sîan Reynolds (London: Fontana Books 1985), 193, 194.

[8] Alexandra Harris, Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (London, Thames & Hudson 2010), 70.

[9] Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike (London: Picador, 1997), 247.