April - May
I liked the second Focus immensely. The two-monthly idea is excellent; it makes it nice and fat. I think I understood what Focus is, better, in the second number and I think we all did. It seems now to have an air of 'mattering' without being 'important', which is why it was difficult at first because most of the periodical publications one reads have just the opposite appearance. I am sure none of us want Focus to become a vehicle for the exchange of personal reproofs on stylistic matters; but now that the 'as though' business has turned into a thing of Focal comment and that my objection to that phrase has been summarily dealt with, I hope we don't mind if I say, in Focus, what I have to say about it and for ever hold my peace. I know that 'as though' occurs in all writers, good or bad, and I think that the use of it in Shakespeare and by Keats is neither here nor there. Shakespeare's business, we are told, was to hold the mirror up to nature; that is to say, if an ill-instructed Elizabethan used the term 'as though', Shakespeare had to put it in his plays even if (as I am sure was the case) he 'personally disapproved. As for Keats, the best he could do was to hold the mirror up to Shakespeare, so it would indeed be surprising if he did not say 'as though'. 'As though' occurs in all writers but so does 'as if, often in the same paragraph; and what I really protest at is the indiscriminate use of the two phrases. If they have different meanings they should be used in their peculiar contexts; if, as I think, they have no difference of meaning the less precise might as well be discarded. The word 'though' by itself has a concessional sense, to use the formal term, but in 'as though' it has no concessional sense: 'He looked as if he was drunk' means 'He looked as he would look if he was drunk.' Surely 'though' makes non-sense in this expanded version. Still, 'as though' is undeniable current English and I suppose it all comes down to the question of how much current, but unprecise, English we are prepared to accept. I feel very apologetic about all this; I started it and it has landed me in a professional chair which I don't feel at all at home in, so I hope you will forgive me.
I feel I ought also, while I am about it, to make an apology to the Jubilee, which I really did enjoy. Not that the Jubilee would mind – in fact, that was the trouble. It was so obviously a thing in itself that it was quite indifferent to the indifference of individuals. Gordon and I agreed that our anticipatory attitude of haughty disdain had been quite unjustified and mean. We had thought it was going to be a sort of grand Empire Jamboree loud with warbled hymns and forced alleluiahs in which we were expected to celebrate a most inglorious reign and be overwhelmed with insincere public sentiment. However, it turned out that we were celebrating a very real old lady and gentleman going about London in a carriage, and their devious family connections who had suddenly materialized out of the illustrated papers in order to share the fun. The decorative tributes were, as one paper said, 'various and heartfelt' and there was a profusion of fireworks and beacon-fires all very nice to see. The whole thing was very intimate and domestic, considering its size, and remarkably impromptu in atmosphere in spite of all the preparations. After all, we don't have this sort of thing every few months as they do in these foreign countries; and the royal family is a fact of nature and not just a 'tendency' or a 'manifestation'. I shall always be sorry that I didn't allow my mother to hang a flag on the garden gate.
I would be willing to bet that in Deyá you have already got tired of the Daily Telegraph; I admit the supremacy of the correspondence columns but they don't make up for the rest of it which is, in an elusive way, so imitation-genteel, so Piccadilly-shown-to-the-built-up areas, that it isn't bearable for long. I think that, for the refinement of all the tendencies of other papers and for a bland complacency quite its own, the Times is unbeatable. It is very good with breakfast, having a distinct coffee-and-marmalade taste, and is the only thing that stands between me and complete indigestion. Then there is the wireless; I don't know whether you have that. The other evening on the wireless I heard a man sing a song which began 'Do you remember when you first tasted olives?' This suddenly made me think how nice it would be to be in Mallorca; especially as the song went on to say that you didn't like olives at first but after a bit you liked them very much and wanted them nearly all the time: because I have only tasted olives about twice and didn't like them at all but I suppose in Mallorca I should get to like them. However, it appeared that the song was not about olives at all but about love: the man hoped that the woman he was addressing would come to feel the same about him as she had felt about olives. I thought this was a pity; the love-interest in literature spoils a lot of good things. Isn't it true that nearly all books with a love-interest in them would be better without it — I mean, with a love-interest not the main theme? I can only think of 'Nicholas Nickleby', 'Bulldog Drummond' and 'The Merchant of Venice' at the moment so perhaps 'nearly all' is an exaggeration. But I can think of the Elizabethan poets also, who had a great many good ideas but generally spoilt them by having to use them as analogies for some love-situation. There is a very nice poem, from Thomas Weelkes' Madrigals, whose second stanza begins:
The Andalusian merchant, that returns
Laden with cochineal and china dishes,
Reports in Spain how strangely Fogo burns
Amidst an ocean full of flying fishes.
But it ends feebly:
These things seem wondrous, yet more wondrous I Whose heart with fear doth freeze, with love doth fry.
Obviously the poet was much more interested in the Andalusian merchant and Fogo and the sulphureous fire of Hecla in Thule (from the first stanza) than in his own probably imaginary love difficulties; only he had to consider what the public wanted. So let's have more olives and less love.
As for me, I spent part of April with John Cullen in the cottage in Wiltshire and discovered how good the country can be when it really is the country and not just an apology for not being either London or the real country. I wrote a short poem with rimes and a regular rhythm, and have just written another also with rimes but without a regular rhythm. This one is about the cottage and is quite long. I have been wanting to write a poem which I should have really enjoyed writing because I have been feeling rather sorry about one thing and another; although I haven't written many poems with rimes I have enjoyed writing these tremendously now that I have found that the only way I can use rimes is very deliberately, making them look as if they are 'dragged in' and not as if you thought they appeared naturally. The worst use of rimes I know is in Rupert Brooke's 'The Great Lover', where there is no sign of his having enjoyed thinking of rimes and every pretence that the poem is in blank verse, which you could easily think if the poem were read to you for the first time. Rimes are an ornament and to use them in this wrong way would be like a woman wearing jewels so that they appeared to be holding something up.
I don't mind dreams if they are short, both in life and books. Some of the Victorian novelists write dreams which last a whole chapter. This, as in life, I find tiring. I had a good short one a week or two ago. I was walking along the street and everybody was suddenly very disturbed by a car which was travelling very fast on the wrong side of the street, dodging the other traffic with the most hair-raising nearness. It stopped and a man got out. Several people in the crowd approached him and then all at once a lot of revolvers were produced. I tried to slink away but this aroused one or two people's suspicion. A woman followed me and from a distance of two or three yards aimed her revolver at me. I realized I was done for. She shot me right in the stomach. But the curious thing was that it was she who was killed. She reeled and sank down. I was wondering whether I had been killed by the same shot, for there was only one fired, when I woke up and found to my relief that I had not. In the dream I was not in the least surprised that the woman had killed herself by firing a bullet at me. You can never be surprised in dreams; I think that is why I find them boring on the whole, and would much rather not have them. Another thing against them is that they are forced on one. And another thing is that people do not describe dreams truthfully. (Including myself.) The reason for this is that they wish to make dreams appear, not sheer nonsense (which they are), but a comic or marvellous suspension of everyday sense. Dreams are never funny; if they sound funny it is because they have been untruthfully described. Truthfully described, a dream would be something like this: 'A car stopped and a Man got out and began to approach me. As they got further away they raised their hats and the aeroplane glided noiselessly into the air before they could regain it. The little dog ran off barking and I was left alone in the drawing-room with my two sisters,' and so on; which is nonsense and entirely boring.
I would like to end this on a more personal note but I haven't been very Focal lately, or had much to do with buttons, animals or babies. I can only say that I have seen Honor's and Gordon's baby who smiled very nicely, though not altogether for me, and looks like Honor. In school this afternoon the matter of centenaries came up and I asked the class if they knew what famous poet had a centenary this year; when I said 'Felicia Hemans' they looked very blank and asked who she was. It was not until I mentioned the first line of 'Casablanca' that they showed any sign of recognition. I then asked if anybody knew how the poem continued, at which everybody appeared extremely amused. Of course they were all thinking of an unofficial version so I asked one boy what version he had in mind and he said:
The boy stood on the burning deck
With half a sausage round his neck.
I like this one very much; it seems to dispose of the matter. But I am bound to say that I don't know the original poem beyond the second line. I should be very grateful, as they say in the papers, if any reader could supply me with the whole poem. I will end by suggesting that a correspondence be started in the Daily Telegraph asking for parodies of 'Casabianca'. It would be a splendid Sunday school treat for all the country clergymen. I add the following vaguely private reverie in lieu of ending on a specifically personal note.
Myself & Napoleon
When I was younger I used to think that I would one day become a great man. A really great man. Not just in the 'public' sense but in a super-public, history-book sense. Like Napoleon. It was not that I admired Napoleon; admiration would have put him on the same plane as my (hitherto) obscure self, a human plane. Napoleon was a gigantic fact, like the revolution of heavenly bodies, or the sea, toward which an attitude of admiration would be pointless and out of the question.
Now, I realize that I shall never be a great man in the Napoleon sense. I do not admire Napoleon any more than I did; but I still regard him as gigantic, though I should' say now a gigantic accident rather than a gigantic fact; whatever I may manage to be in the way of a fact, is is impossible for me to become a history-book accident. This realization perhaps marks the moment when I may look at the matter of myself and Napoleon in a dispassionate way; for I may now write of Napoleon as in contrast to myself and not, as I once might have written, as somebody to be emulated.
The difference between myself and Napoleon is the difference between indolence and industry. When I was young I was a dreaming person — and for that matter am still, I suppose. (I had to be a dreaming person, of course, in order to dream about becoming a Napoleon person.) Naturally I invested Napoleon with the dreaming quality too; only Napoleon was a dreaming person on a grand scale, an imperialist, cosmic dreamer. For, dreaming being a part of me, I could not conceive of its not being, on a much grander scale, a part also of the person I wished to emulate. I had to make dreaming on a grand scale a part of the fact, or the accident, of Napoleon.
Napoleon-history, of course, encouraged this idea. I read how Napoleon 'dreamed of an Empire in the East'. Now I can see that this is nonsense. Napoleon was far too industrious at being Napoleon (getting up early and so on) ever to have time to dream of an Empire in the East; ever to dream at all, in fact, even in a measly way, much less in a grand way. To make Napoleon romantic in any way is strictly romantic. He was gigantically industrious and a very up-to-date soldier and that is about all. It was the romantic movement in history which made him a grand accident and not just an industrious accident. Indeed the history-Napoleon is only the result of dreaming about the real, the accident-Napoleon, who would not have been anybody if he had himself spent any effective period of time dreaming.
That is why, after all, Napoleon is so helpless; so completely at the mercy of history. That is why I do not now think it is worth while being like Napoleon. He is nobody, for all his early rising and his tiresome marching from end to end of the map of Europe, unless people like me lie in bed in the morning dreaming about him. Honestly I would rather lie in bed till ten in the morning, though I admit this in no spirit of complacency. I would rather sit indoors than go for a walk with the purpose of making reconnaisances, military, botanical or antiquarian. I am at the mercy of nobody, at any rate in holiday-time; least of all of Napoleon, for if he had not happened to happen I could have thought of just as good an accident to dream about. But, as I said, Napoleon is always at the mercy of people like me, and what is more we are doing our best, by trying not to dream so much, to do away with Napoleon. And then the advantage of being us rather than Napoleon will be apparent.
I have a feeling about not wanting to read the others before I have written mine — because the personal advantages of focal association are somewhat lost in the editorial advantages. If any editorial comment on the others is needed at the end I'll appear there in subdued editorial guise. This time I want to come more in among you all. What I mean can perhaps be illustrated in terms of Karl's behaviour with me. Now, Karl thinks of everything, and sometimes, in situations in which I am involved, with an aroused Laura accent, as to say: 'Laura is surely thinking of everything, therefore as a loyal everything-thinker myself, it is my responsibility to share in the burden and help make the situation a success.' And so frequently there is quite an atmosphere of success set up which is very luxurious and which is expressed in such details of social operation as my having the first cup of tea and so on and being left free to beam at the others attentively. The point I am trying to make is that the peculiar social structure of Focus involves a temptation for me to be a sort of Karl to myself; and that I feel there are great working advantages to be had from not always being the first cup of tea.
First of all I want to say that I am extremely worried about Tom and Julie: I've had nothing from them since the last Focus contribution, which really belonged to January. They've been sent the first two Focuses, and my second Leaf, and some letters too, and it's not like them to go into disappearance for such a long time. So I'm worried: I've just sent a cable. The only thing that has happened from America has been the publication of my ill-tempered deliberately shabby little poem Americans which I wrote a year ago for a rather nice young man called Ward Ritchie who has a press in California. He printed it beautifully, with forthright red adornments, and now I am feeling somewhat shamefaced — on his account, not the poem's — because, without any suggestion of a whine, he has written to say how much he liked the Leaves, which I sent him, and how much he would have enjoyed being their printer. It was through Ward Ritchie, by the way, that the whole German situation arose here. He came to the village about four years ago, looking for the Seizin Press, mentioning my name and Robert's, and met the German called Herpes, who said, 'Oh, you mean Graves' press.' When he found us he was surprised to see me, having got the impression that I was no longer concerned. Which of course 'started a thing with Herpes, who said, 'If a woman expects personal recognition she shouldn't live with a man in the same house.' This went on to other subsequent bitter remarks, until one angry night Robert strode up to the village and into the Café and slapped old Herpes' face. Whereupon all the Germans in Deyá were infected with a 'strong injured German-colony disease which has been passed on from one season's German colony to the next in true post-war spirit. The only exceptions are Herr Schwarz and Fraülein Strenge, our now good neighbours, and even with them it has only been during the last year that international happiness has been achieved. But we are now the best of local comrades, and there are presents, and the rising fall of little shame-jokes at Pudenda Corner as we prepare to part of an evening on our return from the Café: Pudenda Corner is a bend in the road just before their house where shame-jokes seem to join up rather as Alice and Nicholas and Lydia do to greet us on our return home. (Lily has become Lydia since she and Karl moved into C'an Torrent — it having been 'decided that she is something of a princess. Pudenda Corner began with Honor and Gordon toward the end of last year.) The presents go something like this: from Herr Schwarz to me, one bottle of black glass, with stem of intestinal corrugations — for wine or orchids; one pale pink-mottled glass giraffe; to Robert, ancient coins, also one sofa cushion worked in wool by himself; from me to Herr Schwarz, two pencil drawings, one of an egg-shaped woman which he has used as a frontispiece for a manuscript book of original erotic ditties; also one flowery composition, of pieces of stiff coloured paper of various colours; from Fraülein Strenge to us, many cake things, and from us to Strenge three plates and one gold ring, all Mallorquinische. Also, Karl and I are translating Herr Schwarz's autobiography for Seizin publication: it should be said that we are prospering into a yearly Seizin list under the general kindly protection of Messrs. Constable. This autumn there will be EPILOGUE, my storybook, James' poems and a few other things. For native production, meaning printing my hand, there will be little books of moral purport, called 'Seizin Homilies' and now and again a Leaf.
I ought to mention here the Emmerich crise. Emmerich is a lively diabetic German woman of dignified age and appearance, but very rudimentary in vocal aned social refinements. I am pretty good at imitating sounds, and my new bicycle noise has been favourably received, but neither I nor anyone can imitate Emmerich (unless perhaps John could if he were here). And it is a great strain not to be able to imitate. The first person to break down under this strain was Srafilein Strenge: in Palma one evening she• was quite hysterical about Emmerich, having been bandied about the whole morning by Emmerich in a state of woeful liveliness because some long-expected friend who was to pass through Deyá on an excursion had indeed passed through with a wave of a hand from her car. 'We'll protect you,' we said. 'We guarantee a chastened Emmerich on your return.' So Karl spoke to Emmerich: Fraülein Strenge was in a very nervous condition, we must all be delicate with her. Karl returns: Emmerich has bristled to tears. Robert rushes to Emmerich, having asked me to write down a what-to-say series. Robert returns: he assures us everything has been smoothed out. Result: Emmerich rushes to Fraulein Strenge on her return for consolation — who seems not to mind so much now. Compensation: Emmerich is cold to us.
We had a bad week over Lawrence's death: it was so difficult to know here what had happened, what was happening: therefore rushing back and forth between here and° Palma to get the latest reports. I felt it a lot, though my relations with T. E. had always been rather thin: that passage in the letter which Robert published as an obituary really grew out of the question of the thinness of our relations. I remember T. E. admired my London flat because it had 'the order of a General' about it, but we never got much further than an exchange of irrelevant compliments; and latterly neither had any compliments left. I don't see how his own end could have been otherwise: violent and inarticulate. But it was a pity; he had a strength and a purity and a humility which could have served a more intimate, intrinsic system of values than that represented by the British Empire. This is nothing against the British Empire' which, as every-one knows, I enough love in my foolish worldly way. But no one would claim for the British Empire that it was intrinsic, and it's a pity when a really good man goes extrinsic. In fact, about that letter which Robert published, written in all naked extrinsic humility, I said when I read it: 'It's the vainest letter, I think, I've ever read.' In fact, I have at times been angry about T. E.
Once I wrote to him, about some criticism he made of our subjects and our manner of treating them: 'We both feel that you are playing a quite unnecessary game of simple-mechanic with us — and you make it difficult for us to play this game with you, as a game, because you do not stick to the simple-mechanic attitude all through, being severe with us on points of style in a manner not strictly that of the simple mechanic. Having laid us low in this very unfair way, you give us a final stamping-on by requiring us to conform to Air Force technicalities; so we are quite lost. If we were not so lost we should refer you to any number of hand-books of ours on logical procedure.' And another time (very angry): 'About your protective colouring. That belongs to the generation with which you strategically identify yourself — a pseudo-generation, of people too timid to go either hack or forward. It is a soft, neither dead nor alive generation; the people who belong to it, congenitally, quiver about in fussy little attitudes that are not attitudes either to themselves or to reality but merely neurotic affections. The pity is that, although you do not belong congenitally to this pseudo-generation and although its mannerisms may certainly form an incognito social habit for some one who wants to avoid immediate historical detection — the pity is that you should have lost your sense of self in the process of tailoring yourself to that style. Never be governed by your tailor — in everything else but clothes he is bound to be a fussy fool. For instance, if you are quite simply, quite decently woman-shy, he will take note of your shyness in dressing you but somehow make it look like a flippant manly indifference to the existence of women.' Nevertheless —and because — I felt it a lot.
The Posada-Cura situation was finally cleared for a general entry for June 1 — after my getting really furious and making certain public statements about the Cura libellous in tone but true in what is called point of fact, and Gelat's involving all the high clerical powers in the Island in the negotiations. The chief pleasure is that while money is to be paid for his getting out, not he but his bishop will get it. His name is Jordi, and there is a rhyme here about Jordi's. Shrugging your shoulders you say, 'Jordi he was, Jordi he will be, and a fine Jordi he will go on being.' And then Honor and Gordon were to arrive before the end of May — with Julian and Mary Phillips; and it was irritating not to have the Posada ready for them. Karl and Robert and I had to slave to make the Villa Vieja, where George Ellidge and Mary Burtonwood had disdainfully lived, into something that Mrs. McCormack would call 'worthy' — until, the Posada should be ready. But this wasn't so difficult as it might have been, because there had been a rotation of old and acquired objects going on at Canellun and C'an Torrent to make spring-cleaning no mere bland whitewashing event: many things transformed into a ticketed Posada surplus, temporarily Villa Vieja. We have been teasing away at C'an Torrent until it is more Canellun than it used to be in its rented days. Karl sleeps there now, and has his workroom there with a brave new type-writer, and the big room is more gracious, and I use it as a workroom for my more bookish operations. At Canellun, too, there have been intense cultivations; the pressroom for sitting about, also the Mes-quida cosseted to admit of little mulberry tables and lace. All this took a wearying lot of time, but with summer so late new garden things were impossible and some seasonal manifestations were neces-sary. But the blackberries are now flowering, and finally the camelia, and there have been strawberries at last, and the roses are at last over, which always means progress. And there is a new promise for path-gravel, and when the masons are finished at the Posada the stone garden tables will at last stop leaning like wheels at rest all over the garden.
There is something so thriving about Honor, and Gordon seems to have a new kind of concentration on particular nice things to do and say, and Julian is surprisingly particular too, very unpublic for a baby; and Mary Phillips is a pleasure, she has a wistful way of offering cigarettes• and somehow imparts to café assemblage a sweet savour of modest waysideness, And Joan the nursemaid is very kind and full of gallant chatter, and I think a partiality for white roses only and platinum rings only is something to be admired, as any mood of 'What can possibly come after rough labour but elegant repose?' Very English.
Between Solomon and Nicholas there is now a definite nose-toying rite, also Nicholas sits habitually on Solomon's barrel and looks down into it annoyingly, to Solomon's infuriating non-annoyance. Alice, however, still withholds her consent from Solomon, and for punishment she keeps the two new black kittens away from home, in wild namelessness. And every time we go to get them she has changed them to some still more inaccessible place, though she finally shows us where they are, by a sort of dream strategy of misleading us with crazy care to one seeming-right place after the other until, when we come to the real right place, we are too exhausted to believe. Nicholas and Lydia are friends in a rather conventional way and dispose themselves in picturesque attitudes of embrace (preferably on Karl's bed), but there is a hollow feeling about it. What does really worry me is that Nicholas like dear dead Money seems to have a weak chest — which makes me forgive him his disgusting greediness, perhaps due to an instinctive realization of the need for reserves. Alice cannot bring herself to eat out of the same plate with him — she was always a clean, dainty, leisurely eater, picking out distinct patches of food with her paw and bringing them correctly to her mouth.
Robert is to divulge the Easter kid-banquet; but he won't say that he ran from the slaughter-and-skinning sight in the garden, just behind the vermouth-plant hedge. Jaime the butcher is radiant at his work, it is the same radiance he has with children, anatomical exquisiteness. I must say I prefer this dissection nakedness to surface nakedness, which always seems rather nowhere. I remember my pleasure once when a car overturned several years ago near our previous Deyá house and a man had his thigh not disastrously split open: the sight was so much more located and worthy than mere outer leg. Robert tends to go in heartily for antiquarian reports, but perhaps he has omitted to tell about tricks in the old days for getting taxable commodities through the Palma toll-gates. A man with a pig in his cart throws a cura's robe over it. 'What have you there?' 'A sleeping pig.' The toll-keeper, seeing what seems to be a sleeping cura, grins and lets him through. And I suppose the Plugs are mine to divulge. They were here for two months — Communists centred in Paris, directed from Moscow. She was dull-idealistic about it, he dull-knowledgeable; but the chief thing was the impression of complete absent-mindedness as to what kind of life the world was living around them, like people with a low capacity for vital attention. An associated note in my diary reads, 'I think about Communism as humdrum dignity, like fairly good grammar.' Perhaps this makes it clear why they were called 'the Plugs'; at any rate there's no specific reason.
Karl has made a beautiful new address book; and he is going to order all the bullfighting notes and clippings. And there is a new rurally excellent sheep-gate at the village end of the Canellun expanse. And there has been some sordid talk about the advantages of a car, scotched by Gelat's acquiring an impressive new black one ever at our service. And then, reconstruction of old wills upon the passing on, in one way or another, of erstwhile beneficiaries. I should also mention that the dress stuff which Maisie gave me for Christmas, which I call chauve, is at last a dress with crystal buttons and faintly rustled Mallorquin skirt-hack; also another Christmas dress stuff, with the Honor Christmas sleeves, into something subdued-nice, as to say, 'Inci-dentally I have a new dress on.' By 'chauve' I mean a colour not brown, as by 'colt' I mean 'beige', a slatternly word like 'suit'. Also there have been some rings, beseechingly cheap because of the Credito Balear bank crash, diamondish, but in a contralto rather than soprano sense. And some necklaces brought by Honor: white cornelian from Maisie, and a low-glinting garnet string, and from Lucie a blue chenille one clutched with steel purse-rings, and a green-feeling glass one of old bobbin beads — and a gilten scent flasquette. Also from Maisie a roseate brooch. From Honor and Gordon some shy new records. Still no direct Focus from either Maisie or Lucie, but I'll release letter-fragments. John Cullen has held himself over entirely to some indefinitely next reappearance.
For work, some poems and some translation and some EPILOGUE additions, and some bookish exercise at my C'an Torrent table, for which I have bought a priestly ex-lectern. For dreams, several persistent ones about Hitler, in which he sweated to assure me that he had no secret purposes. Alas, no. And indeed all the secret purposes grow in Italy nowadays. For weather, great dimness and reluctance of spring-into-summer, as if the burden of persuasion to proceed seasonally- were on us, no longer on nature. But by San Juan, the village fiesta (June 24), there should be full force without polite arguments between us and nature as to who should go first; I have bought Isabel and Josefa new sprigged dress stuff for this. There are slight hopes of John's and Lucie's coming, but a resigned feeling also of not. James' coming this summer seems a perhaps open matter. This week has a particular fiesta in Gordon's birthday, and there have been whispered concoctions. For reading: all Jane Austen over again, the feeling is, quite a good bath even though not much water; Maria Edgeworth, too Irish and liquid for my taste; Mrs. Oliphant's 'Makers of Jerusalem', with history very clear as a slow living of life; and a nice irresponsible book, 'Nat Wedgewood, Jockey'; and Harriette Wilson's memoirs, which should be consulted in relation to Casanova for clarification of the obscure distinction between sex and love. Haven't I said anything about my friendship book, which has all the names alphabetically, and blanks left between for developments?
Something I fear has perhaps gone wrong about Harold Edwards, who has been a gentle helpful friend with me: that is, things didn't go very well between him and Lucie and John, and so when Honor telephoned about meeting him he was cross with her, and rather cross about Deyá. Lucie and John were as little happy with him as he with them, and I feel regretful about it all, and it seems possible he will not write again. Most distressing have been the traitorous machinations against Gelat to prevent his using the water for the electricity, at the moment when the turbine has just begun sending us a beneficent unwavering light. One night last week he was on the point of violence: I have never seen him like that before. But we feel great confidence in the foolishness and legal ineptitude of the opposition.
Sunday: Ortega, Lalanda, Barrera, with the best set of bulls I have ever seen in Palma (Villamarta). It was the first time Honor and Gordon and Karl had seen a full-fledged corrida. I was rather nervous about Ortega, as my special hero. He did only moderately with his first bull, a, pretty moderate bull, having failed to develop a muleta-sense in it, but in his second he was so intimately transcendent that it all seemed already here on paper. Lalanda and Barrera were excellent, but for me remained behind with the day — an excellent one.
t was Mary's first bullfight, but she was decent about the horses. By this I don't mean Hemingwayan, which ill-mannered breeziness no decent aficionado could understand, but a sense of proportion: the horse becomes something very small, the bull gigantic, the matador is all-elastic, the picador a giant bogey of the bull that explodes and vanishes, the branderillero invisible. Sensitiveness to such quantative variations is the basis of all social, and critical, decency.
The second Focus we enjoyed much. I like the effect produced by your using chance bits of letters, with cross references, such as my reference to Honor's and Gordon's contributions. We haven't had any more politics since last. They are wisely reserved for the winter months after Christmas. Even Mr. Thompson has started putting his own garden in order, which has been going to ruin since Mrs. Thompson has been bed-ridden. It's much better policy too, because he has a nice face, and it's only when he starts talking that you begin to feel. If he concentrates on his garden, he may get quite a lot of supporters.
Summer is still variable, between full Jubilee and frosty intervals. It started so nice this morning that Lucie could think of nothing better to do than spend the whole day ironing muslin curtains in the kitchen: and I've been doing odd jobs, so as not to seem a wastrel by comparison. But there was a sharp frost the other night, followed by another, which has sadly lowered the potatoes. I hear it was all over the country so there'll be a shortage of earlies. This will be good news for Spain and the Channel Islands. Do they export here from Mallorca? If so they'll be able to keep up their prices. It'll also kill most of the plums, and of course any tomatoes that were rash enough to be out of doors yet. There have been lovely tulips in the garden, some we call Jubilee tulips, waved and crinkly and striped scarlet yellow and green, and others neat and plum-shaped, streaked white and mauve, white and crimson, others creamy white with thin red edges to the petals. Bulbs and wild woodland things now more or less finished and we're waiting for summer excitements.
The chief outside thing lately has been the repairing of the chapel, which is in full swing. It's a nice building, practically a house potentially, having two floors above the groundfloor, a ladder up to the first, and a staircase from first to second. The B. W. end is weatherboarded and the weather had got in and rotted everything, as we discovered when putting in some windows, so it's being quite a big job. There's a brick path leading to it from the house, half of which was made by Len and Jane When they were here for 'Easter, which makes it a kind of annexe. Robert would like the top room which is formed in what they call a cradle roof: the floor at the foot of the roof, plaster laid vertically up the ashlarpieces, then sloping inwards to the tiebeams: there used to be a plaster ceiling laid beneath these, but it has gone, and is now open to the tiles at the top. It has been used as a granary for ages and to prevent the grain trickling through most of the elm floors was covered with from 1 to 2 inches of concrete, which I had to shovel off and lower in basketfuls on a rope. There was just about a ton of it, and it had caused dry rot in some places by excluding the air. There are several antiquarian or decent features — fourheaded windows made of brick, moulded beams etc.: but lots of muddle caused by rebuilding and alterations. When it's all waterproof and sound we must start thinking what it's for: I shall probably work there, except when too cold, and the groundfloor is already workshop and potting shed.
I like the sound of the Posada, partly as a corresponding thing: the feeling about getting control of a right building is very nice: also that should be a good house for friends, Lucie, funnily, has only just been inside the chapel, never upstairs. She doesn't like things till they parole, like small plants I preserve, which she scorns till they flower.
We have lately made friends with a very decent old man called Mr. Smith, the head of the local Quaker fraternity, and his niece who is very fond of cats. They came to tea here and walked round the garden, and we went to tea there and walked round the garden. The respective cats were admired (Miss Buck has only one, but very large), and Mr. Smith showed me his photographs taken in India, those very small ones faded almost out of sight, and made me bring home an attaché-case full of views taken in Switzerland where he went by aeroplane a few years ago. He seems to have been a kind of missionary in India and B. Africa, chiefly interested in boys. Quakers are pretty good generally: a big thing round here, much better than the church people.
You asked some time ago about . Yes everything points to him being odd, and in a way he is. His wife is very nice, and the more you talk to her the better. He is around as if in fun, though she thinks rather a lot of him. He thinks he is a man and the master of the house. But she is one of those with enough energy to humour this ('and really not to mind it) and at the same time is 'obviously the main person. For instance he spends a lot of time in the garden, she controlling the house: but the gardener always refers to it as her garden, and looks upon him as some sort of a pet. At the same time he has points that come nicely sometimes, and it's remarkable what a long way he has managed to get from the flaky pastry of his early home.
It was nice when Honor, Gordon, Maisie came over the other day, though absurdly cold. When Lucie wrote she said that I was sending a little picture, but it wasn't dry in time. It's still not quite dry, and by now I sometimes think it's not worth, but I know you would like getting it, even if it isn't much itself. It's very spring evening, with church and all: perhaps Alice will like it in the cellar. Bo I'll send it as soon as it's quite dry; it's almost small enough to go as a letter: I hope you don't have bother with it. Perhaps it will go as a muestra sin valor.
We arrived here in bad weather. This was nice in a way because we had been promising ourselves a consistent battering and so had been perhaps a little inclined to think of Deyá as a holiday place in lush Mediterranean tradition.
The Bathing!' we had told one another.
'The lemon blossom and ripening figs and roses and the olive terraces looking wet with sunlight!
Rather like an advertisement for La Baule. And then there was rain and wind and a flood over the Galva Road and wood fires and bendy trees. That learnt us!
We had had a rough trip. In the bay it was so rough that there will soon be a lot of people in South Africa telling other people that everyone was sick except them and the captain, or them and the second officer, or them and one of the stokers, or, perhaps, only them. Apart from the roughness nothing very much happened except a young missionary bound for Uganda. He was good-looking, anxious to be human. He told us that he had among his luggage in the hold a lot of muslin frocks for dressing negresses in. They had been given him by the women of one of the 'ham' towns — Birmingham, Nottingham or Sheringham. He showed me a Grammar book from which he was learning the language they speak in Uganda. It seemed strange. The first sentence I saw was 'The sharp knives killed them.' And then in brackets 'Rats – understood.' The missionary was not yet able to explain why rats should be understood in such a case. I turned to another page and found a very interesting paragraph which explained that it is etiquette to give a reassuring answer to every question, even though it may not be strictly true. And then one can add the true part afterwards if necessary. For instance, if you are asked 'Did you have a good night?' you are bound to say 'Yes, a perfect night.' Then, if you wish, you may continue, 'But I didn't sleep a wink.' Quite easy to grasp. I grew so proficient in this rule that when the missionary asked me if I had felt ill in the Bay I was able to reply at once, 'No, not at all. But I was sick all the time.'
When we left here in January, Deyá was quite still. But now it is very busy. Turbines, Posada, talk of things to be done in Canellun, Gelat looking preoccupied and yet alert. We are going into the Posada when it is ready for living in. Meanwhile we are at Villa Vieja which has become quite a new and friendly thing suddenly. We have Mary Phillips with us. Mary and I were at school together. It is pleasant to know exactly what a person can look like in a Gym tunic and still admire her, and nearly to have been killed by her suitcase in a fit of dormitory rage and still feel friendly. Mary likes Deyá and is impressed by its kittenish 'beauty' tricks — especially the colour of sunset on the mountains. We are all looking forward to being in the Posada, where we shall be able to look at the sea when we feel like it.
Laura's clothes are lovelier than ever. Silk waistcoats, collars of old lace, close-fitting dresses with nice old Mallorquin patterns. I have begged her to devise some really frumpy costume that she can wear at least once a week. (Badly fitting coat and skirt, large shoes, hat with a feather and two black bead pins, a string bag). Bo that one will not be forced to say 'How nice you look' quite every evening.
The village bakery was not here the last time we were in Deyá. There is a most proficient-looking machine for mixing and a very large oven. Unfinished ensaimadas lie in oily, snakelike shapes. They are flicked on to -a wooden slab, twisted twice with what can only be described as a 'deft' gesture — and that, Senors, is how it is done. We have ordered a daily supply of baker's things which we have to fetch from the old Café every morning. The other day I took down the basket as usual, packed it with good things — buns, a bottle of goat's milk corked with a cabbage leaf, a kilo of cherries, material for a new blouse — and set off, a Deyán Red Riding Hood, for a short walk before breakfast. But the basket was so heavy that I had to leave it behind a tree, and when I came back both the tree and the basket had disappeared. I scuttled to and fro for a long time and, at last, there was the basket with the tree in front of it. And an old man musing, obviously, on the verge of taking this rich discovery home to his wife and children. When I arrived he looked very put out. We greeted each other politely. But I hope I don't see him again for a long time as I In not at all sure that we are really on terms of 'Buenas'. Mary and Gordon have gone for a walk in the Pinewood, and to bathe. I am writing this in my temporary workroom with the close mountain view that is a little too impressive. Julian is in the garden roaring with laughter, I am told, at the coincidence of his meeting with a fly on its travels round the hood of his pram. Soon there will be café gathering — Laura, Robert and Karl — and letters and Orange d'or.
It is nice to be back.
There happened to be a lot of incisive alterations of my Deyá life in the course of the last two months. The first and also the most important one was that I left my old house, C'an Gelat, for C'an Torrent. The reasons were that a lot of running about between us was going on, with wasting of time and energy on all sides. So, on April 25, I left the Villa, which still is in my rent, as a refuge in case friends should come who then need Can Torrent. As I said, it was April the 25 at 2 p.m. when old Sebastiãn, the gardener of Canellun, came with Poloni, the donkey, to fetch my things. I remember everything quite well, no wonder: it was raining puppies, as one used to say in Germany on such occasions. We were all three, Poloni, Bebastian and me, pretty impatient, which was quite understandable on Poloni's part, it is no joke, standing for a quarter of an hour in even a milder kind of cloud-burst. But, leaving the typewriter, we marched off, and I enjoyed it very much walking through the rain. I much less enjoyed the effect the rain had on the watercolour of my typewriter table. Sebastiãn was sitting on it, so his behind was nicely dark brown, in spite of his brown corduroy trousers, brown were also to a certain extent the contents of my trunks, and later the tiles in C'an Torrent's entrada; one should think all that for a bad omen, or perhaps better the other way round, because five minutes later it stopped raining and golden sunlight flooded over Deyá's mountains, showing proudly how green they still were, in spite of the season.
From then on, intensive but often interrupted work began in C'an Torrent. Almost every day Laura and Robert came over for several hours and everything became skilfully moved; until it landed on its proper place. Stuff went to the modista and came back as curtains, mats spread themselves on the floors, bookshelves appeared, pictures and stuffs adorned the walls after a long, long wandering from one place to another, and every day we agreed 'Now it's lovely.' And the very next day found everything changed again. But the end-effect was really lovely. So is my workroom, with the black Queen Mani - Monbada over the mantelpiece, and 3 old silhouettes, with hunters and houses and trees, distributed on the walls, ruled by the Canellun entrada picture Laura did which made a journey into this room.
Another thing I never before enjoyed was the going for fittings and getting things and paying things at the modista; about two months ago I got the idea of a corduroy suit; when it was finished, I thought it foolish, because the warm weather was in expectation. Only, we expected it almost for two months. And first had Honor and Gordon and Julian to come for the expectations to be fulfilled. So Margarita the modista had to hurry, to get my new trousers and jacket for the bullfight ready, and there was still another dressmaker busy with getting ready a new shirt of mine, spotted, with very blousy sleeves (I think perhaps too flowing for my style of stature), also for the bullfight. And there are still three shirts to do, Laura helped me choose the stuffs.
At the bullfight I made the funny discovery that, after the first bull entered the plaza, I fell into an almost sleepy trance; I noticed everything, but it could not quite touch me, exactly as it was with the two former corridas I saw last year. This time, besides, I saw for the first time the famous horse with outhanging entrails, and I was shocked that I wasn't shocked; it was quite clean and business-like. Have I said this funny thing about going into a trance, it isn't really so remarkable because of everything that goes on how much do I hold in brilliant memory? A lot of which doesn't even wear gaudy colours of a bullfight to assist me?
This is my second try at Focus, the first one was all self-deprecations and Laura scolded me, saying it was ungenerous to others to be ungenerous to myself. It happens with me like that sometimes with a pan in my hand, a temptation to make a miserableness to enjoy, and I agree it is not fair. My second effort was no great success, so I think I'll add a letter I wrote to someone (still a friend with me, but no longer with Laura and Robert) as it contains certain unmiserable feelings of mine.
Dear ---- Thank you very much for your kindly letter of a month ago. Yes, I'm still in Deyá, and I'll stay there, si Dios quiere. And why, after all, should I leave this beautiful bit of an island? I found friends here, and fully satisfying work. Besides, the chap who wanted me to go to Africa with him is still in Germany, fighting desperately and hopelessly against the well known German windmills, one more in the army of German 'Knights of the triste figure'. You mention my last better [sic], my God, that seems such a long time ago, centuries may have passed, for what I feel about it.
First I'll answer your questions, I always was a conscientious letter-writer. My future: as I said before: is Deyá. I couldn't imagine my leaving here, away from my friends, away from this landscape, where every path, every tree is wellknown and rather looked at as another kind of good friend. And what I feel about the world? I do not even try to think about it, I'm quite busy with trying to understand myself. Of course without success, but as I said, it keeps me busy, and so I don't care a damn about the world.
What I did in the last months? Not very much, I read some easy books, learned a few words more English, did some typing, a few walks, very little bathing, slept quite well and liked my food tolerably. Besides I moved from C'an Gelat into C'an Torrent.
If I were able, I would try now to say something about me. But, alas, or, thank God, I'm not able. So, all I can say is that it seems to me quite possible that time, as you said, passes very quickly and yet days or even minutes are sometimes very long, to an almost unbearable extent. I cannot imagine that anywhere time could pass so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time as here in Deyá.
I'm glad that you are quite well, the same of me. I delivered your regards carefully at the right places, everybody thanks. Laura and Robert asked me to put the following words in for you. They thank you for your greetings but they say they cannot feel it them to send return greetings in any sense of communication. Their feelings are the same as when you left, they say: a great wish for your future well-being, but every other previous warm feeling toward you frozen by the memory of those few ungracious days. They say it is something they cannot forget, or reconcile with any notion of friendship they hold — and that they thought you understood that their own sensibilities in this respect were at least as strong as the motives which led you to press matters.
And now I think I'll finish for to-day. I hope I shall hear this time a little sooner from you. But I do not want you to break good habits for bad ones. And so I'll wait patiently for an answer, even if it takes you another half-year. Oh, yes, I write in English, in order to learn it and because I don't care a bit about the Fatherland's beautiful language; they.... Goetz von Berlichingen III, Act II, scene I. You do know your Goethe, don't you?
I return with many thanks your wishes for good luck — love.
As Solomon is a big dog he has to have exercise every day, which means that have exercise every day too; and now everyone tells me how well I am looking, even tradespeople in Palma. Karl says that I was an old man six months ago and now am a youth again: I think that's exaggerated but I certainly feel very well and very grateful to Solomon. Another thing is that I haven't been doing any steady writing work for a long time now, only occasionally poems, and Isabel and Josefa do many of the odd jobs about the house that I used to do, and so I'm living a very easy life without being bored by the easiness. The only trouble with Solomon is that he chases sheep when he gets the chance.
We passed into summer on April 9th: I choose this because it was the last date on which Laura had a fire in her work room. Nature has been happening so busily ever since, that it can be taken for granted that everything summerish is in full flower now — the rose, the lily, the pink, wild convolvulus, wild cyclamen, wild crimson gladiolus; or on full wing — the swallow-tail butterfly, the nightingale, the midge; or on steady crawl — the slug in the strawberry bed, the green scarab beetle, the tourist. Two English gentlewomen tourists crawled by the house the other day talking in the loud, free tones that a foreign landscape invites.
Poor man, he made the marmalade.
He got it either scorched or burnt; it was not bad.
That reminds me of the two English gentlemen tourists whom I met in the ante-room of the British Vice-Consulate in Palma when I went to draw my pension. One gave his name to the clerk as Captain Mittens (I think) and was the sort of shortish, grey-haired, baggy, bumbling fellow whom one might invent if one was only allowed to draw in semi-circles and flattish curves, and the other was a tall, tight-lipped, tailored chap whom one might invent if one was only allowed to draw in squares and oblongs. His name was something like Major Fotheringay-Hannibal, D. S. 0. Both wore regimental ties. The Major said nothing; the Captain wanted to scrape acquaintance. So, pointing to the Major's tie, he bubbled: 'Excuse me, Sir, I observe that you belong to my old corps, the Sherwood Foresters.' It was clear that the Captain's tie was 'scarlet and green, and the Major's red and royal blue; so I expected a terse retort. It was even terser than I expected, a practically monosyllabic 'Scotsguards.' By the way, do you know why the Sherwood Foresters are nicknamed the Cholmondeleys? Because they call themselves 'Sherwood Foresters' but their Regimental Colours and their cap-and-collar-badges read 'The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment': and, similarly, the proper spelling of Cholmondeley is Marjoribanks.
There is quite a lot of turismo again in the island, in fact most of the hotels seem to be full, so this is a justification for our repairing the road to the sea, a big stretch of which was swept away in the cloudburst of Sept 29th, 1933; it is being done now and care is being taken to make it flood-proof this time. Canellun has lately acquired a long thin stretch of olive and pine land which runs up from the road just by the Moll to that Gustave-Dorésque group of rocks that one sees directly above one across the valley from Canpabo; called the Roca de sa Assa. Assa because there is a lot of rough grass up there of the sort they cut for asses. The olive trees are good ones and two of the pines are the pine-kernel sort. On Easter Sunday the whole Gelat family came to lunch at Canellun, to eat a roasted kid with Laura, Karl and me. It was a fine meal. Besides the kid, with mashed potatoes and broad beans, we had soup; salad with cold artichokes and tunny; curried chicken-rice with sultanas, peas and mushrooms; a huge cake from the village baker; and champagne. Afterwards we played seven-and-a-half.
Herr Schwarz gave me a bronze sesterce of the Emperor Claudius, a very handsome coin with an idealized head on the obverse and the usual titles, and on the reverse the Civic Garland which he won for his victory over the Britons, with the legend OB CIVES BERVATOS, (for saving his fellow citizens). I showed it to Gelat saying that this was the first man to conquer and civilize the English and that he brought Mallorquili slingers with him. I did not have to explain slings to Gelat. He said, 'They have been forbidden in Deya since the brother of the Madonna of Cas Pintat, as a boy, knocked out the eye of a Valldemossa man who was passing in a cart.' He said that the sling had been in general use among men as well as boys until twenty or thirty years ago, and that some of the men were dead shots with it. He was pretty good himself once. He told us of the famous case of Ban Marsal. Two bandits from Palma decided to rob a rich house in the village of Ban Marsal and took one of the inhabitants into their confidence. He pretended to be ready to help them, but secretly warned the villagers. The bandits were ambushed near the village, the villagers forming a circle about them, and though armed with revolvers were despatched with sling-stones without being able to wound a single one of their opponents.
May has been -odd. Cold weather, mists on the mountain, little sun. And restless. Nobody here has been able to do much work, what with rearranging Canellun and Ca'n Torrent, not feeling well, and one very bad week waiting for news-bulletins about T. E. The Café radio-set couldn't be trusted to get the message, but we twice got mangled ones which were worse than nothing. Honor's and Gordon's arrival coincided with a cloud-burst that washed away some of the repair-work on the road, but not much. They brought out, among other things, a collapsible two-seater boat for use on the Cala. It ought to provide a lot of pleasure and looks safe. It weighs only 40 lbs, so it claims. Karl has long day-dreamt of having such a boat. Laura has made very hard rules about it: she says that if ever there is any nervous talk of 'Is it calm enough for boating?' it will be confiscated. That is, it must be an obvious boating day, to avoid nervous speculation.
Besides the Mesquida mulberry tables, there is a big new round one for Ca'n Torrent, to seat six or seven, with three legs, of ash. Ca'n Torrent, which is no longer to be dedicated to strangers but used as an annex of Canellun, has got more likeable now with alterative care, new mats, candlesticks, china, pictures etc. The pictures are late 18th century hand-painted birds — Dodo, Balearic cranes, Hoopoe — and a late 18th century hand-painted picture of Mani-Monbada, Queen of the Congo. Then a series of three eighteen-thirtyish Mallorquin silhouette pictures, exquisitely cut, white paper on brown — hunting-party scenes of funny men near a funny house in a funny wood of olives, weeping willows and palms. One has a gun, another a dagger. They shoot a bird on a tree. It topples down. A little pig and a rat, acting as retrievers, bound forward.
For the third year in succession a young pomegranate has been planted in Canellun garden and then died. We said to Gelat, 'Let's try something else next year — a cherry or a plum.' 'No,' he said angrily, 'let's see who tires first, the pomegranate or I.' Then suddenly Louis Golding turned up, addressing Laura as 'my dear lady' and talking about his novels and their construction and the obtusity of critics, and reaching greedily for the Sunday Times to see what sort of advertising his new book was getting. He explained the 'my dear lady', when quizzed by Laura about it, as the result of having searched for words all morning. But he drank whiskey and coffee quite pleasantly with us and sent a copy of Five Silver Daughters which he thinks his best, though misunderstood by James Agate. What struck us most forcibly in it was an extraordinary woman who annulled somebody's furrows, and who was also like a large warm bath. But this is not meant nastily: he was rather sweet with us.
The custom of writing about the place where Don Bernardo's drains smell is a sound one. I shall say that this was where a nanny-goat butted Solomon in the stomach because she thought he would go for her kids, though he hadn't seen them, and Solomon seized her by the udder and I feared the -worst, but he wasn't using his teeth really, only his mouth, so no tragedy ensued. And I shall say too, that this is where a cat which Karl says looks mended (it has queer markings) suddenly scratched Solomon in the face because she thought he would go for her kittens, though they were inside a neighbouring house -- and I had to save him from three desperate further assaults, punting her off, as she charged, with my alpargatas. Both stories are true, but the scenes lay elsewhere, not at the place where Don Bernardo's drains smell.
A queerie wrote to me from Philadelphia the other day: 'Dear Sir, I have no intention of bothering you with useless missives. I have taken the liberty of sending you one of my own sonnets. What should be done with it, I do not know. I leave that matter up to your own personal sense of honor. I mean no insolence by that last sentence. Perhaps, the sonnet might interest you and I'd be delighted to be of some assistance if you need any. Yours sincerely, Sidney W……' add the sonnet he enclosed, if nobody minds, following the dictates of my own personal sense of honor.
Down the starlit ways, the sun is long since gone
While melancholy yesterdays sound agèd, seréd, chimes,
And soullness fools are ground to misting, martyred stone,
Muttering their ancient melodies, melodies, in rhymes,
And sending rusted swords to losing, wardened times,
Letting the almoner, the pardoner, walk on alone,
Telling their careworn tales to the wielding
Done, Telling their beads in allied, ancient, laic tone.
No grasping hand can wipe away the hardened stain,
Nor change the grayened, golden loveliness of grain,
No sententious fool can break the moltened chain,
Nor change the everlasting, moving, sunlit plain.
The hand that moves has never changed the place
Nor changed the travened plenitudes of space.
Sidney's are generally queer. We had one at Deyá last year. Only a Sidney could have achieved Neraeid. The Sidney's are a race apart, just like the Jordi's: it is said of the Jordi's here that they have no 'left-hand', i.e. no finesse. My mother, now aged 77, writes from Wales on the subject of our local Jordi: 'What a horrid experience with the village priest. I hope he will be removed as soon as possible. A man like that brings religion into discredit.' Severe words, but merited.
Histoire or Conte: Castor, the postman, was brooding one Sunday evening over the address on a small postal packet. It came from Barcelona. 'Not for Deyá,' I said, coming into his office and looking over his shoulder. 'No,' he said dully. 'No, for Palma,' I said. 'Two unfortunate lovers must be passing a miserable week-end waiting for this little packet.' 'Do you know the people?' he asked. 'Never seen the name before in my life,' I admitted, 'but look, the end of the packet is open and we could easily see whether I'm right.' We peered into the packet and observed a little glass bottle containing tablets marked: 'Oxygenated antiseptic tablets, made in Germany'. 'You see,' I explained, 'it was marked fragile and urgent and the name was obviously an assumed one and the address is the Hotel, Palma.' He was much impressed by my intuition and powers of deduction. 'Poor miserables,' he sighed.
Before Jubilee week happened both Honor and I were very anxious to dissociate ourselves from it in London and wished that we could go away like everyone else said he was doing. Right up until Jubilee Day itself we persisted in a detached and slightly superior attitude. We felt that we couldn't trust ourselves to remain unemotional. We also felt that if we sacrificed our dispassionate rationalizings in Paultons House to the idea of going out and being emotional with everyone else we would later regret it and be rather shamefaced. But it didn't happen that way, because the Jubilee turned out to be a very sane thing after all and we unrepentantly enjoyed all that we saw of it. I saw more than Honor because we had no nurse then and she had to be in at night to feed Julian. I went several times to the west end of London where all the main streets were closed to traffic and filled with thousands of people determinedly marching, fifty abreast, to the next plaice. It was very strange to hear all those scuffling feet moving along an otherwise almost silent Piccadilly. The good thing about it all was that it was serious and quite unhysterical. If the King and Queen hadn't been particularly liked it would all have been very hysterical, but as it was there was nothing to be hysterical about. It wasn't a case of being trumpet-blown into a twenty-four hour patriotism. It was far more true, a kind of expression of permanent feeling about two particular people. James came in to dinner one evening shortly afterwards and he agreed with us that he felt bad now about the way he had been ready to look down his nose.
Now we are back in Deyá again which means, actually, back in sanity. Friends in London envy us going to 'Majorca' which to them is a kind of correlation of blue skies, palm-trees, lotus-eating and sub-tropical moonshine. Most of them regard it as a romantic interlude, a respite from sordid reality, whereas truly it is a clear reality between the shabby interludes of London life. Both Honor and I, however, make many good things out of living in London aided by memories of and letters from Deyá. But the fact remains, and is now presented more clearly than ever, that England is a muddle and Deyá is clear.
New things we have found in Deyá are the turbines which Laura has written about, the lovely Posada which we are moving into quite shortly, a nice café drink called Orange d'Or and Robert's green trousers. They are made of a type of green cottony stuff which you can buy here and of which I already have a shirt. He came up to the house the other day wearing the trousers, and there was a sort of teapartyish pause during which he grew very nervous lest I should have a pair made too. However, the trousers remain particular to Robert, and he seems relieved. Altogether Robert is very colourful this summer.
Deyá dialogue: Honor (approaching the old Café and pausing to stroke two cats which are playing on the pavement):
Good morning, Madonna.
Madonna of the old Café (smiling benignly at Honor and cats): Good morning, senora. Cats.
Honor (smiling at the Madonna): Yes, cats.
Madonna: Yes, cats. (pause) Taking the sun.
Honor: Yes, cats. Taking the sun. Four ensaimadas, please, and one measure of milk.
We brought out some gramophone records for Laura in response to a telegram received in London reading 'Gramophone records love.' One of the records is called 'I can't dance, I've got ants in my pants.' Now, whenever ants are mentioned — and there are plenty in Deyá now — someone is sure to say something about ants in their pants. The response is becoming what Laura calls a 'prodigalism', meaning an automatic rejoinder made to a particular statement — as 'Oh, the prodigal son' when reference is made to filial sin indulged or similar contingencies.
I feel that I ought to say something about Julian who is now nearly two and a half months old and developing in every way, but I think that Julian news is more Honor's concern. He has overcome all of the great many prejudices I had about babies in general and one's own in particular, and that's about all.
I would like to give a little focal thanks to Maisie for trying very, very hard to get me a job with the B.B.C. and then, when she had got it for me and I had decided against it, for trying just as hard to give me a smooth exit leaving an open door behind me. There is a chance that something may turn up for September, and I thought it worth taking this risk in order to get to Deyá now. It is a great problem, this tangle of jobs, money, where to live and what to do for the best. There is a life for Julian to be thought about. If only we could assure it by living and writing as we want to live and write.
We have brought a nurse with us called Joan Durham. She is a nice girl and very good with Julian, but she has a loud, vigorous voice with which she attacks your ear-drums as though it were a rake. She is very self-opinionated and given to selectiveness on the grand scale, piling great masses of varied objects into two categories one of which she likes and one of which she does not like. There is never any compromise about her, which is a good thing in a way, though tiring. She says some nice things, such as — discussing a man to whom she was once engaged — 'He was the sort that wouldn't put his hat on unless you handed it to him.' She said, of marriage, 'I always say that a man shows you his good parts before marriage and his bad parts afterwards.' And of bullfights, 'Of course, they toy with him a bit first, don't they?' 'Yes,' said Laura, 'Persistently. Until he begs for death.' We all went to a senior bullfight last Sunday; each matador did one very good faena. I thought Lalanda best with the cape and Ortega with the muleta. It was all very exciting, but it takes a long time to be critical and to distinguish good from showy. That which most appeals to the novitiate aficionado is like Cochranised Russian Ballet, while one is less susceptible to more concentrated work. Next month we are going to see Belmonte fight in Palma and I am much looking forward to it.
We arrived in Palma amidst clouds and a little rain and spent the next five minutes on a bench on the Quay waiting for our luggage to come ashore. After this someone came up and took the bench away from beneath us, so we walked about and Honor and Gordon told Julian that the last time he was there in January it was much finer, but of course he was hardly able to corroborate this. After going through the customs, where 'para el niño' seemed to act as a password, we had coffee and ensaimadas at the Alhambra and watched a very fashionable wedding party drive past. On the journey back to Deyá, Honor and Gordon, sitting on either side of me, could not hear each other speak against the noise of the camion. At the many places of interest this became a little confusing, and I occasionally heard two conflicting stories apparently referring to the same piece of the coast. When we reached Valldemosa Gordon showed me where Chopin and George Sand lived and Honor told me the story of the unfortunate Santa Catalina Thomás at exactly the same moment.
Deyá when we arrived was very lovely — all red rock and silver olive trees which I am told were planted many hundreds of years ago by the Moors. Karl met us and took us up some stone steps to the Viña Vieja. The backs of my legs ached all the way up. It is surprising how soon one gets used to the rough paths and steps, I don't notice them at all now. Laura and Robert and Karl had lunch with us. Honor has described Laura and Robert very truly and yet left something over for one to find out for oneself.
Since then we have been down to the C'ala for picnics and to bathe in the surprisingly clear sea and also to collect large round stones for the steps of the Posada. Gordon and I went into Palma the other day where we went over the Cloisters of the Monastery of S. Francisco and I got hit on the head by the bucket over the well. We also looked for a long time at fascinating buttons and rings and lace sleeves and chose a ring which Gordon brought back for Honor, who was unable to leave Julian.
Deyá is a lovely place in which to stay and everything about it is much nicer than I had imagined, which is unusual in this world.
Malcolm Thompson, who lives in Barcelona, wrote the following: 'I like Focus because it so directly opposed to everything one meets and sees nowadays In ordinary life. Have you really the courage to go all the way back and try to build a society on the old principle of gnothe seauton or is it something less profound?—or more profound? Also couldn't you, in Focus at least, be momentarily explicit instead of always so safely withdrawn in implicitness? Must one go to Deyá to have it out with you? I fight against believing in your cats, birds, buttons and waistcoats and beads because — well, for pages and pages of because.
Malcolm is a smoothly thoughtful person who came to stay once with the Dug at C'an Torrent. He has a way of keeping uninvolved which is not unfriendly because you feel he is like that with everyone — the more uninvolved, the more friendly he seems. The Dug is a longer story: some other time.
The following is from a letter of Maisie's written on Good Friday,at Aberystwyth. Tim is Maisie's child.
'Everyone was very willing that I should take things easily but when our working year approached its climax in mid-February it became impossible for me to avoid a twelve-hour day and their good intentions and mine had to be pushed into the future. And have been perpetually tired — letting what leisure hours I have had drift by me. Now the B.B.C. have decided to give me two senior educational assistants. The point of the senior is that it rules out James, though James is probably the best quality chap I know in school-mastering.
Honor looks lovely now — even with that damned fringe hiding her forehead. It was good that she had so little trouble and that she felt well so soon afterwards. But we might have known that of Honor — that she'd take the whole bloody business in her stride.
I have never told you about my flat. It is not right but is becoming so. My yellow silk curtains are lovely, but they cut the blue carpet badly. When I can afford it I shall change it — but not yet. My bedroom has shiny green curtains of theatrical fireproofed satin, which is surprisingly lovely. There is a silver curtain of the same stuff in the little downstairs diningroom which has yellow walls. Lucie liked it, she said.
Tim has been with me since April the first for his holidays in charge of the governess who comes from 10 to 6. He is an engaging creature — very blithe and free, and a surprisingly good conversationalist. I am writing on these rather mean little pages torn out of a note-book, sitting on a log in a field across which Tim is careering in pursuit of a puppy and a Siamese cat. We are at Joyce Forde's kennels and have just lunched off roasted apples and hard-boiled eggs. The kennels are deserted by the canine race and now serve the Fordes as a week-end cottage. As Tim says, they were made for 'hugeous' dogs', The dogs have been gone for twenty years, but their ghosts still frighten the rabbits away, which is good for the garden. The estate belongs to an ancient lady who cures haemorrhages with Joseph of Arimathea's wooden bowl. Did Robert know that the said Joseph paid a visit once to his native Wales (Robert's, I mean)? The stuffiness of that old lady's house 1 shall always remember with terror. She has a remarkable bosom made of newspapers — which she wears as a preventative of pleurosy.
Laura, I'm being a very unsatisfactory chap. What am I to do? My grandfather took to his bed about my age and lived in it till he was eighty, reading astronomy and bullying his sons. I think perhaps I might do the same or something like it if, like him, I had a private income. But there is nothing much wrong except the perpetual tiredness.
The black silk petticoat has made a charming frock, with Robert's pinkish buttons down the back of it. I'm going to have my photograph taken in it. The stuff is lined with a bright pink satin and falls in stiffish folds. I like wearing it very much.
'Have the McCormacks left yet? I was having my hair washed the other day when suddenly I became aware of her voice from the next compartment. But the voice turned out to belong to a Miss Stormont.
About James and schoolmastering, John said not to mention this in Focus, but I'm sure James won't mind; even, I think it will be a help when James and John and Lucie meet again. John said that James was slightly schoolmasterish in quick impression, but in no adverse categorizing spirit ('neither us nor James had enough to form'); in fact, Honor said the same thing, and tenderly enough, in the same breath as how well he sings. There was a nice homely photo of James in his 'last letter —'digging the drive at Marten' — which makes me feel it would be a good thing all round for James to look nice and homely digging somewhere at the Place for John and Lucie, just as John mentioned about Len. No one should really mind my divulgings, it makes social relief. In the same spirit I told Honor and Gordon that John and Lucie, while liking their flat, had thought some things odd, perhaps wedding presents, adding that perhaps they thought some things odd at the Place. Gordon said he didn't much like woollen flowers. But it was interesting to them to work out what things in their flats they themselves admitted odd, and what not. And interesting to me too. In taste-things I would be pretty sure to click to almost anything of John's and Lucie's pictorial ways, whereas with Honor and Gordon they are only beginning to stabilize their pictorial ways, so that what seems odd is part of the fluidity, whether in mantelpieces or clothes. But Honor certainly dresses in very apt post-Tudor ways now.
Also in James' last letter: 'I'm glad you read P. G. Wodehouse; I never seem to be able to find anybody who does — I mean except people who don't read any other sort of book as well. If you haven't read "Heavy Weather" will you tell me? I would like to send it as it is an 'awfully good one.' Just now we've been reading 'Blandings Castle', which is rather poor, but the feeling is as with some friend: you like him too much to be continually pressing him to do his stuff, and you take it as rather a compliment that he is dull with you for long stretches.
It's a pity we can't afford illustrations, as James at dig, and John's chapel and tulip explanations. And my new gloomy pencillings.
Lucie wrote on the necklaces occasion:
'I am sending two, you can send back the one you don't like, but perhaps you won't like either, though I do hope so.'
I like them both. The steel and chenille one is really more of a dress trimming, which is the way I rather incline to think of a necklace. I have twisted the chenille one slightly but it will untwist if you prefer. Beads are nearly all old ones off my grandmother's bobbins. I like those little plain glass wheels, two only. I hope the necklace is not too small, but these were all the beads I had which would give a green feeling. John is sending a small picture. Honor and Gordon came over on Sunday with Maisie, it is nice when they come, I like them both very much. Looking at the beads again they seem very meagre but somehow they have something for me and I find you can only thread beads on a string; I've tried all sorts of ways with beads but I always have to undo them and put them into single file
You didn't say how the dog — yes, you did, I'm wrong. It sounds a nice dog, only I don't know that kind, but anything bull-dog is always near my heart.
John says, have you read "A Handful of Dust"? Evelyn Waugh or "Harriet" can't remember who by – it is an old police-recorded story, about 1880. And one we are reading now, "The Semi-attached Couple" by Emily Eden.
'I must stop for the post but must just say that my being a very illiterate writer might mean I wouldn't be writing for Focus.
Karl had something in his suppressed self-deprecatory Focus about a feeling 'of poverty, keen writers all about with more authentic property-holdings in available material.' I hope these various hesitancies will dwindle away naturally in time, it makes me feel crude in my urging, as one would feel crude to find oneself saying to someone, as if he were unborn, 'Come on, live, I know you can do it,' when all you mean is that, isn't he coming to the village this afternoon, or, what about some buttered beefsteak at the Alhambra?
I'm glad to say the Movement work Len and I did together goes into the first EPILOGUE. (I'm wondering whether John will be able to manage the cover-difficulties of EPILOGUE.)
This is from Len, some time ago:
'Been saving up to write you a good letter so long now I forget what to say except I've thought of things a lot with no writings to prove it, so now as long as you and Robert are fine and fettle that's the main thing.
'Things were in an odds and evens and let them sort out, it has been with me: like: after I wrote got movement script from John the Focus came later all the time I was all out on a film musical thing that now has completely fizzed out almost to a legal fight over some twisting the producer wants to try on me. But never mind a brand new scheme is looming up must have something to pretend I'm onto film stuff. The fizzed out thing would have been good entertainment: pity, no just as well. Well never mind that movement work was something good fixed especially all that exactness that went into it. It means a lot that someone can sort things out especially someone who you know during meals or who you knew during meals and may easily renew the meals.
Focus is on its way isn't it. I'm a swine at feeling I can't do anything like writing if I'm expected or semi going to: because only if it was for utter strangers to see or only carefully for no other one to see except those who helped to make up the book would it stop making me not write like a tongue in my head.
I would like if the next two capitalist film things fall through I'm on to lash out about, why isn't there a place with a few lights in a room and a camera of 10 quid for all blokes who want to push their bits of comps and photo them, each have a space and camera in turn arranged and all technical advice light camera and space free, pay for film stock and light juice about 2 pounds anyone could rake that up and have a piece of their own uncommercial endeavours. Open to all comers main purpose to get enough stuff done to serve purpose of standard of comparisons if not of values. (Needs explaining in more detail what I mean.) Nebucaneezer might have considered it. Jolly big lumps of duff to you and R. then. 'Robert couldn't resist James' Casabianca challenge.
Here are five:
The boy stood in the dining hall
Whence all but he had fled.
In one hand he held a cup of tea,
In t'other a piece of bread.
'This is my 50th cup of tea,
My 60th piece of bread;
Just one more crust before I bust.'
And that was all he said.
There came a burst of thunder sound
The boy — oh, where was he?
Ask of the maids who mopped him up,
From a sea of bread and tea.
The boy stood on the burning deck
His feet all over blisters;
And when his knickers were burned away
He had to wear his sister's.
The boy stood on the burning deck
With a bottle of whiskey round his neck.
His mother would not let him go
Because she loved the whiskey so.
The boy stood on the railway-line,
The engine gave a squeal;
The fireman put his shovel down
And scraped him off the wheel.
The by stood on the tramway line,
The conductor rang his bell;
The tram went on to Islington,
The boy went down to Hell.
I myself recall the following two lines from my childhood and have made up the other two to round them out:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Eating peanuts by the peck;
And to the bos'n's mate he boasted:
'I love them madly when they're roasted.'
Unfortunately there is a little more to be said about 'as though'. I can't agree that Shakespeare made use of terms he personally disapproved of in the rummy 'artistic' sense James suggests. If he used 'as though' in a loose as-if-ish meaning, it was surely because such verbal flexibility was dictated by the colloquial atmosphere of the passage. I would say that 'as though' was perfectly legitimate in familiar speech, which is capable of carrying homely intonations for which formal writing is too cool: 'as though' is intonational, as 'as if' is not. Which brings us to a point that has not yet been made: that 'as though' carries a heavier stress of peculiarity, and with this an intonation of semi-improbability or ridiculousness or extravagance which 'as if' in its simpler syntactical serviceability does not. 'As though', that is, is an instrument of ingenuous rhetoric as well as of syntax. I don't think the accusation of unprecision is relevant, or the pointing of the concessional sense of 'though' in a term so well- grooved by centuries of honest daily usage. It had its start long ago in some burning rhetorical instance, and we should not try to split this of all atoms. Indeed I can almost imagine it. 'He looked as if he were going to turn into a sword-fish — though we all know that this is a quite impossible thing for anyone to turn into. Yes, as if he were going to turn into a sword-fish, as though that were possible. Yes, he looked as though…' Then I can't agree about James' spelling of 'rhyme' as 'rime'. Both 'rhyme' and 'rhythm' come from the same Greek word, and there is sufficient difference in spellings to make this deviation from etymological uniformity unnecessary. Until about 1560 there was only 'rime', which was then altered on classical models to rithme, rythme, rhythm or rhythme. In mediaeval Latin rithmi denoted accentual verse, and as similarity of terminal sounds was a feature of this, rithmus came to have the sense of 'rime'. Soon after 1600, probably to distinguish between 'rhythm' and 'rime', the form 'rhyme' began to stabilize. 'Rime' did not begin to be quaintly revived until 1870. Not a good date, and I don't like the literary associations. And it seems to me especially to avoid in view of the existence of 'rime' meaning hoar-frost.
As for the correspondence columns of the Daily Telegraph, no, James, they're not nearly so good as those of the Daily Mail, and as for the Times, perhaps that's useful in London, or it might be even here for a few distinct mornings on stilts (I don't quite know why stilts), but for this particular newspaper run the D.T. seems reasonable enough in its world tentativeness.
At the stop-press hour, such a nice letter came from Jane:
Yes it is a long time. I've had it in my mind to write ever since your letter to Len, but there are always distractions. Even when I have no lessons up here the girls are practising and writing against the gramophone makes writing even more difficult than I find it ordinarily.
'I'm still teaching dancing. It is a very nice job compared with office work although hard on the stamina sometimes. I found fresh interest this year in the Cuban Rumba which is a lovely stomp dance very pelvic and extremely difficult to learn, so that it hasn't turned out popular and I don't teach it much though Len has learned it awfully well and I dance it a lot with him when we can find a Rumba on one of the 50 stations on our wireless set. When we can't we use a record; we've got a very fine collection of Rumbas now, but I always find the music more exciting when there's actually an orchestra. The best we get on the set is Castillano's of the Cabine Cubane in Paris. I've seen him dance too and he was wizard at it. Muriel Simmons (whom I work for) is retiring at the end of June and in September I am starting with another and bigger school in Knightsbridge with as many of my old pupils as I can get together.
'We continue to live at the Barn though there was a lot going on about moving this summer. I lost interest in it because of the dilapidated state of the walls and the difficulty of keeping clean and felt I wanted change. But I set about it last month and we repainted the lower room lilac the bedroom white and the rest is to be done some neutral colour by easy stages. With new hangings and cushion covers it is now looking very nice. My lovely Mrs. Brazier's daughter comes in three times a week to keep it clean. Len is very busy on yet another brand new idea and is filling the place with yards of celluloid and the house stinks practically permanently now of amel aceytate.
Last week I met Kanty in Piccadilly Circus looking better than I have ever seen her. She talked of a job as interpreter at a hotel in Madrid. She is just back after spending some months in Málaga with a family she apparently didn't think much of. I haven't seen her again, I suppose she has left again for Spain.
'We spent Easter with Lucie and John at the Place and it was very nice with the garden ripening. Len worked at a brick path and I transplanted onions, a surprisingly tedious job; it took so much longer than you could possibly account for.
'A pupil is arriving in ten minutes and I must tidy and have my tea before he comes. Love to both.'
I ought to explain about Kanty: she is a friend from the old St. Peter's Square days. A sculptor by calm, but by economic perturbation someone hither-thither. She laughs in a girl's way, and has troubles in an old way, and we are all fond of Kanty — though often it is difficult to trace or characterize her activities.
A letter just received from Michael Roberts, for whom we are about to make another exception to our anti-anthology principle, ends: 'I hope you managed the local priest successfully: the annoy-ing thing about an injury is, to me, not so much the injury itself as the black annoyance that insists on setting in, like gangrene in a wound, and poisons all the system for a moment. Some people can quarrel, with exhilaration and enjoyment, no poison at all, like a French peasant woman haggling. I can only do that about trivial things, and when I am in the most offensive good health.'
The typing of this Focus is being done in joint efficiency of distribution by Karl, Honor, Mary, Gordon, with Robert helping to check. The next Focus will appear in three months; this doesn't mean a three-months rule but, rather, heavy work ahead.