Friday, September 28, 2018

life is very narrow without glasses OF GIN AND TONIC/ Larkin - letters to Monica (1965-66)

23 April 1965
In train Hull-King’s Cross
St George’s Day

Dearest bun,
I am reduced to writing in the train, wch won’t suit my hand, as I’ve always found it difficult. Sometimes I wonder if I really hear all I fancy I hear. On the radio yesterday I fancied I heard
Ring a ring a roses
A coronary thrombosis
A seizure! A seizure!
All fall down.

This was at breakfast ... soon after I was reading that a symptom of an approaching stroke is ‘inexplicable tiredness.’ Oh hadn’t we the gaiety. […]

It’s been a busy week, of course — I sometimes think I should take a day off a week to catch up with things like Tax returns. I suppose if I didn’t drink when I got in it wd save time, but life is very narrow without glasses OF GIN AND TONIC. The thought of the situation at home is also depressing. I shouldn’t mind Mother being left alone if I thought Kitty [L.’s sister] wd visit her regularly & ring her up, but I’m extremely doubtful if she would. It is this attitude of ‘Well you can ring us up if you get a telephone & there’s a bus if you want to come & see us’ that I find so graceless & unkind. I don’t know where the justice of it is. It’s no use blaming Mother for having produced children who can’t live with her: she has always done the best she could, considering her ghastly parents. I can’t blame Kitty for finding Mother impossible to live with — I do myself — but I do think they might regard it as a duty to go to see her regularly and even take her out. I do. [...]

25 April 1965
32 Pearson Park, Hull

Dearest bun,
I am just consuming the last of my Lindt rabbit — a v. emotional Sunday, in that two large gins at lunch were accompanied by good jazz, then tapes of “Scrapbook for 1940”: now I am letting “Solomon” roar out (buggers below away) — ‘Ye harps & timbrels sound!’... The Scrapbook completely destroyed me — I think under this unemotional frustrated frustrating exterior there is all the emotion I have never expressed, ready to be released by alcohol & the cheapest possible appeal, like AEH [A. E. Housman] & ‘Soldiers of the Queen’. (…)
Now the blessed second side — ‘How vain were all I knew’ — oh, dearest bun, you are the only one who appreciates what I am on about!
God. [...]

21 May 1965

Many thanks for your lovely card, wch brought you very close in spirit (I sound like a Methodist youth club leader writing to his affianced girl) — a lovely picture. The Bayleys [John Bayley and Iris Murdoch] have arrived — IM is obviously regarded as the clou de la saison & everyone fights to sit by her. I walked over to the lecture with her yesterday & was amused when we got to the hall that she whipped out a comb & gave a few vigorous tugs to her 5" locks. She has the look of a plump unhappy little girl. [...]

14 August 1965
21 York Road, Loughborough

Eric White was very nice about the Arts Co. prize: [Given to L. for The Whitsun Weddings (£250 for ‘the best book of original verse by the living poet published from July 1962 to June 1965’). Subsequent to its publication, on 5 May 1965, L. was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.] he loves breaking confidences. He said the judges began with a long list of books wch on his invitation they reduced to about 20. Then he told them to try again & got them down to 12. Then he said: ‘Well, this is taking rather a long time, is there any one book you think clearly merits the prize?’ They all thought mine did, but hadn’t liked to say so! Oh dear, how conceited I sound. Forgive me. I’m written out now — shall never write anything else.

It’s misty tonight, like autumn. You notice round the street lamps. It hasn’t been a bad week, though Mother slid quickly back into her old depression. Home too is a wonderful place for realising the awful perspectives of time. How different my life is from everyone else’s! as if it ran on a different mainspring. Loughborough is a dump. I think of myself ‘coming home at holiday time’ just like the aimless undergraduate of 25 years ago — I am more aimless, really. He at least had his head full of ‘wanting to write’.

I can’t think what book I gave you! ‘Burrow Construction and Maintenance’? ‘How to Live on Two Lettuces a Day’? ‘Some Rabbit Songs’? I didn’t mean to leave the Salinger, but I’d finished with it. I bet you’re engrossed in it. I think “Seymour: an Introduction” is almost unreadable, & a complete flop. It tells me nothing about Seymour — is it meant to conceal, or reveal?

16 January 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] I feel rather low: work has a number of nasty angles at present, the OBMV [The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Ebglish Verse. L. was editing the book until its eventual publication in May 1973.] seems a fearful burden, & in general I find things depressing. Our last Sunday was very nice: we were in good form, not too tired, very friendly & loving. I am beginning to feel I need to lead the life of a semi-invalid: much more rest. I had a ghastly day on Friday: an awful inaudible Yank talking about computers with Brenda & Burnett-Hall, the two chief inaudibles in Hull. After lunch I went back to my room & lay in a chair for an hour, doors locked, curtain drawn. People, as you say, are exhausting. Oh God! they are.
It is peaceful sitting here in the dreary afternoon light, both fires on, sky outside grey & drab, but I wish you were here. I was very touched when you said you thought of me when you saw a picture of a beautiful landscape! I too think of you when I see or experience anything particularly nice (or nasty, as the case may be!) — our spirits are joined, I think, in a way it wd be impossible to separate.

28 April 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] Well, Leavis was no great strain, no more than anyone else, but what a ghastly little man! He seemed to me rather like a Beckett who’d read Lawrence & wasn’t Irish: a compulsive talker — one of the bores of the century, I’d say — and really a typical Oxbridge don, cocky, smart, full of petty cattiness. Oh dear. And what a bore. ‘I live on my nerves,’ he told me early on, then later in the afternoon round it came again: ‘I live on my nerves.’ I don’t wonder Cambridge, or Downing, can’t stand him at any price, except for electing him to Faculty & asking him to give the Clark lectures. I’ve never met a man so full of himself. Stupid little sod, the ideas rattling in him like peas. No, a typical don, one who likes being a don, full of tricks to make the students laugh, and venomous enough to make A. L. Rowse sound like Hotspur. God. I’ve not met a sillier man for many a long day. Didn’t you think he was silly? I’m awfully glad to reflect that I don’t possess a single book by him. Not a single book. [...]

30 April 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] Leavis’s resentment at being attacked is a bit ingenious in view of his own continual stream of adolescent venom.

21 May 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

A dull evening, too cold without a fire & too warm with one. My disappointment turned more to peevishness: the town seemed particularly oafish and tiresome this afternoon, & hot... I started out well prepared against a chilly wet day, so that by 3 pm I was sweating & itching. Couldn’t get served at lunch, couldn’t buy a mouli cheese grater, all shops seemed utterly cheap or bourgeois, no High & Dry, no crystal heart lettuces — I felt all I wanted was small tins of baked beans. No books in any shops — Smith's all guide books, Brown's all novels called Peg o' my Heart or My Panda Chums — no Beverley on Maugham [Beverley Nichols: A Case of Human Bondage (A Memoir), 1966], or any novels I have recently seen reviewed along the lines of ‘the constant pornographic titillation becomes wearisome’, such as The Nightclerk, or The Microcosm. [...]

2 June 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] Have spent the evening reading the first 200 or so pages of TH for the book [Hardy’s poems for the Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse] — well, reading and skipping. I have marked a good many, though one or two, that I consider almost too much mine — or yours — I have left unmarked. It’s a strange experience: old TH can tweak the heartstrings more unerringly than anyone, yet I haven’t actually been tearful tonight, as I so often am. Perhaps the best ones are later, or I am insensitive. Of course it brings you close to me, as you always are, dear, though to be close in such a context is rather a bittersweet experience. Aren’t I writing cornily tonight! Perhaps I should scrap this sheet. No, I’ll stuff it in. It’s just that when I read Hardy my thoughts turn to you, in love. Wasn’t that article queer! I’ll be sorry if he really had a reason to be sad. I thought he was good precisely because he saw the sadness of life in the abstract. [...]

4 June 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] I'm putting in the markers thick and fast now — the book would be half Hardy if I had my way. ‘Crocus root’, ‘Hack of the Parade’ ‘Sally I see thee’, ‘Everybody else, then, going’, ‘Pet fowl come to knee’ — they come crowding in. I don’t know how I shall ever sort them out. Do you know ‘An Anniversary’? Page 441. Very powerful.

[...] Sunday It’s about 1 pm, and I’ve just poured out the Sunday gin. Do you like the photograph? It’s a good example of a novice’s error — exposure geared to the background instead of the subject. It makes you look like something out of Moberly & Jourdain. Doesn’t the background look like a different picture, stuck on? ‘I became aware that a rabbit in a flowered dress was looking busily at a bed of lettuces a little way to the right — it wore what appeared to be sunglasses, as a kind of disguise, but these did not impede its swift working. Curiously, when I glanced again in a few minutes, I could discern no rabbit, and no lettuces...’ This is ye onlie trewe coppie, so if you want one, send it back & I’ll have one made. I do: want one, I mean.

[…] *first, because I’ve always thought TH a non bastard, & secondly because I should hate him to have some reason for being gloomy — I thought he & he alone saw the inherent misery of life. If it is true I shall have to fall back on Barnes for the decency, & who for the second? Myself, perhaps. Still, there are some odd poems in the Hardy canon — autobiographical stuff one can’t account for. I don’t think I could ever write poems like that — one must make everything clear, present a picture or a story, not mutter about things you don’t want known. I can’t quite swallow that Midnight on the GW is about this son, either. It just isn’t the kind of poem one wd write about someone one knew anything about, do you think so?
*’Concerning Tryphena Sparks’, in ‘Providence and Mr Hardy’ by Lois Deacon and Terry Coleman, a book that floated many conjectures about Hardy’s life and relationships.

11 June 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

11.20 pm — have just upset a large tumbler of white wine over the carpet — all I had left, too! Awgh! Awwghgh! Have got out the Glenfyddich, or however you spell it, in compensation.
Sunday Dull morning; I feel dull, depressed too, I suppose. I read the Hardy book yesterday & it depressed me rather, seeming to show as it does the shortness and sadness of life. There is a lot in it.
I do look forward to seeing you. I have been very unhappy all this year & still am — all this Hardy stuff seems to underline it. I agree about camels drinking.* With me it’s rather different — I feel this isn’t natural to me, or kin — I don’t know why we can’t live our lives like everyone else. Reading abt TH binds me to you deeply, yet if the story is true he is just another writer — I find this depressing. Almost like DHL, really! ‘One sloughs one’s sicknesses in books.’ i.e. one retells real events to one’s own advantage ogh ogh. Darling, will you write again? If not, I’ll meet the 4.33 at 6.13 at St P’s. You’ll be in plenty of time. I love you, dear rabbit — Philip

*Monica had written in a letter dated 5 June 1966, from 1A Cross Road:
“Are you writing to me? As you wrote a fortnight ago, how silly our lives are. Darling, do feel lonely & wish for you. We had a nice time last weekend, but no, I can't say I do feel the happier for it; why should I? Well, I suppose I do in that it is one more nice time to add to all our nice times, but it’s over now & that doesn't make me happy, it isn’t like camels drinking, is it?”

13 October 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

My dear,
It’s only with difficulty that I bring myself to lay down C. S. Lewis’s “Letters”, & write to you. You know I meant to bring them on holiday. They are really most interesting, (a) because of his odd private life (b) because he is an English teacher (c) because he is of our time. By the first I mean only that at an early age — about 25 — he took to living with the mother of a friend of his who had been killed, & her daughter — Mrs Moore — and referring to her as ‘mother’ & the house as ‘home’, although he had a home & a father (not a mother) in N. Ireland. He kept this up till his early 50’s, doing housework & putting up with Mrs Moore, who was not bookish or clever or even particularly agreeable. There is no hint that the daughter came into it. What can have led him into such a strange association?
It’s a nice life, being good at being fond of books. You watch him golloping them down, & getting a living out of it, & finding more books to gollop. I wish I could have done it. I don’t think I really liked books, not old books anyway. I could never feel that Chaucer was as real as the Daily Mail, & so I was never an academic. He became a Fellow of Magdalen at abt 27. The President said a lot of Latin over him (him kneeling on a red cushion & everyone standing round) for abt 5 minutes, then stopped. No one had told him what to do. After a moment he ventured ‘Do fidem’, wch seemed to go down all right. Of course he’d understood 2/3rds of the Latin, but even so I think it was pretty sharp of him. I have got about halfway, just up to 1940: not too much religion so far.

30 October 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

My dear,
I have put the mauve sheets on the bed, which means it’s a month since you were here & the bed came. They look very pretty — I shall have to wear the mauve pyjamas to match. This has been an odd day: I went ‘in’ in the morning to clear up some work, and after lunch was about to dash off a short note to you when I was seized with a desire to see you — I leapt into the car (at 2.45!) and drove into the greying West. Well, of course, it was all very silly: when I reached Bawtry I realised I had only 26/- & needed lots more petrol — and if by any chance you shouldn’t have been there... It was four o’clock and mists were beginning to gather, so I turned round and came home. It would have meant six hours driving for 2 hours meeting! Yet if I’d had plenty of money I might have persisted. I got back here about a quarter to six, having spent the afternoon driving 100 of the dullest miles in the neighbourhood. A misguided impulse, yet I did want to see you: not about anything, just as a comfort. I wonder if I’d have found you in, if I’d arrived about 5.45? Perhaps you’d have been alarmed at a caller. Shall I try to call in on my way home on Thursday? It won’t be for very long — an hour, perhaps. But I know I shall long to overshoot L borough and come to see you. Will you be there, about seven, six or seven? Or will you be at some theatrical production?

I feel rather scared these days, of time passing & us getting older. Our lives are so different from other people’s, or have been, — I feel I am landed on my 45th year as if washed up on a rock, not knowing how I got here or ever having had a chance of being anywhere else. Indeed, when I think of being in my twenties, or my thirties, I can’t call up any solid different image, typical unshakable. Twenties... 1942 to 1951... Thirties... 1952 to 1961... Of course my external surroundings have changed, but inside I’ve been the same, trying to hold everything off in order to ‘write’. Anyone wd think I was Tolstoy, the value I put on it. It hasn’t amounted to much. I mean, I know I’ve been successful in that I’ve made a name & got a medal & so on, but it s a very small achievement to set against all the rest. This is ‘Dockery & Son’ again — I shall spend the rest of my life trying to get away from that poem. [...]

22 November 1966
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] My suit has come — v. dull. Haven’t worn it yet. The button-holes are cut out & machined on one side only in best Monty Burton style. What am I paying money for? It is school-master grey, dull, dull, dull. Shall wear it at once: it needn’t flatter itself it’s going to be my ‘best’ suit. Shall wear it tomorrow at the departmental reps, tea party, & the Vernon Watkins dinner, & the Vernon Watkins lecture, & the Vernon Watkins evening after, chez Rees the French ... Then the Vernon Watkins lunch on Thursday, & the Donini presentation, & the Donini dinner, & the Donini lecture ... I feel like cutting my throat with a blunt cunt, as I find Dylan Thomas said. (I don’t think that funny in the way most people wd, but I think it mildly funny all the same.)

[…] I’ve never thought Lichfield was at all pretty — hellish unending mouth filling, nose filling, ear filling traffic, cathedral denuded by Cromwell (was it?), town all garages & tea shops & knocked down slums, not a single decent hotel. There’s a sort of pond, isn’t there, & an old-style bow-windowed double-fronted chemist.

Philip Larkin - Letters to Monica

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I've been the one and only secretary of my own sensations. Cioran, misc

We are so lonely in life that we must ask ourselves if the loneliness of dying is not a symbol of our human existence.

Only those are happy who never think or, rather, who only think about life's bare necessities, and to think about such things means not to think at all.

• One of the biggest paradoxes of our world: memories vanish when we want to remember, but fix themselves permanently in the mind when we want to forget.

Bach: a scale of tears upon which our desires for God ascend. […] If there is anyone who owes everything to Bach, it is certainly God.

• In each letter I send to a Japanese friend, I have got into the habit of recommending one or another work by Brahms. She has just written that she is leaving a Tokyo clinic where she was taken by ambulance for having excessively sacrificed to my idol. I wonder which trio, which sonata was responsible. It doesn’t matter. Whatever induces collapse is thereby deserving of being listened to.

Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.

How important can it be that I suffer and think? My presence in this world will disturb a few tranquil lives and will unsettle the unconscious and pleasant naiveté of others. Although I feel that my tragedy is the greatest in history—greater than the fall of empires—I am nevertheless aware of my total insignificance. I am absolutely persuaded that I am nothing in this universe; yet I feel that mine is the only real existence.

A stroll through Montparnasse Cemetery. All, young or old, made plans. They make no more. Strengthened by their example, I swear as a good pupil, returning, never to make any myself — ever. Undeniably beneficial outing.

• I ponder C., for whom drinking in a cafe was the sole reason to exist. One day when I was eloquently vaunting Buddhism to him, he replied, “Well, yes, nirvana, all right, but not without a cafe.” We all have some mania or other that keeps us from unconditionally accepting supreme happiness.

• The more one has suffered, the less one demands. To protest is a sign one has traversed no hell.

• According to a Chinese sage, a single hour of happiness is all that a centenarian could acknowledge after carefully reflecting upon the vicissitudes of his existence. . . .

Music is everything. God himself is nothing more than an acoustic hallucination. […] Except for music, everything is a lie, even solitude, even ecstasy. Music, in fact, is the one and the other, only better.

• Only those moments count, when the desire to remain by yourself is so powerful that you'd prefer to blow your brains out than exchange a word with someone.

• When people come to me saying they want to kill themselves, I tell them, “What’s your rush? You can kill yourself any time you like. So calm down. Suicide is a positive act.” And they do calm down.

Read day and night, devour books—these sleeping pills—not to know but to forget! Through books you can retrace your way back to the origins of spleen, discarding history and its illusions.

• Whenever I happen to be in a city of any size, I marvel that riots do not break out everyday: Massacres, unspeakable carnage, a doomsday chaos. How can so many human beings coexist in a space so confined without hating each other to death?

• For animals, life is all there is; for man, life is a question mark. An irreversible question mark, for man has never found, nor will ever find, any answers. Life not only has no meaning; it can never have one.

• To be “happy” you must constantly bear in mind the miseries you have escaped. This would be a way for memory to redeem itself, since ordinarily it preserves only disasters, eager — and with what success! — to sabotage happiness.

History: a context in which the capital letters decompose, and with them, the men who imagine and cherish them.

• Everything I have undertaken, everything I have expatiated upon all my life is inseparable from what I have lived. I invented nothing. I've been the one and only secretary of my own sensations.

Emil Cioran; Goodreads

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Опыт тоски — это обостренное сознание времени/ Cioran, from interview (1986)

Западногерманский писатель и журналист Михаэль Якоб взял это интервью (на французском языке) в 1986 г., по-немецки оно опубликовано в 1994-м. Здесь переведено по книге: Cioran. Entretiens. Paris, 1995.

— Что если начать с вашего румынского детства? Вы его хорошо помните?

— Я его прекрасно помню. Я родился в Решинари, карпатской деревне, в 12 километрах от Сибиу-Германштадта. Ту деревню я любил больше всего на свете. В десять лет я покинул ее, уехал в Сибиу, поступать в лицей, и в жизни не забуду день, даже час, когда отец увез меня оттуда. Мы ехали в двуколке, я плакал, всю дорогу плакал, потому что чувствовал: мой рай закончился навсегда...

— Вас, можно сказать, буквально оторвали от родной земли?

— От земли и от всего первозданного мира, который я так любил, и от тамошнего чувства свободы. Я оказался в Сибиу, довольно крупном австро-венгерском городе — пограничном, с множеством военных. В нем — и, надо сказать, вполне мирно — уживались три национальности: немцы, румыны и венгры. Как ни странно, потом это не забылось: мне и теперь тяжело в городах, где говорят лишь на одном языке, меня тут же берет тоска...

— Вы и позднее не раз отрывались от почвы?

— Да, много раз. Сначала я был вынужден расстаться с детством. А потом и со своей жизнью в Сибиу. Чем он оказался для меня так важен? Тем, что в Сибиу я пережил свою главную драму, она потом длилась много лет и оставила во мне след на всю жизнь. Все, что я позднее написал, придумал, развил, все мои метания уходят корнями в ту драму: примерно в двадцать лет я потерял сон. Помню, как я часами расхаживал по городу — Сибиу очень красивый город, немецкий, построенный в средние века. Так вот, я выходил из дому в полночь и просто бродил по улицам, где было лишь несколько проституток да я, и больше никого, тишина, захолустье. Я часами шатался по улицам, как тень, и все, что я потом написал, передумано тогдашними ночами. Моя первая книга, «На вершинах отчаяния» [1934 год, на румынском], относится как раз к тому времени. Я написал ее в двадцать два года, написал как завещание, потому что решил покончить с собой. Но остался жить. Никаким делом я тогда не занимался, и это было самое важное. Ведь поскольку ночами я не спал, а разгуливал по городу, то днем мало на что годился и работать не мог. К тому времени у меня уже был диплом, я закончил философский факультет в Бухаресте и прочее, но я не мог служить учителем: попробуйте после бессонной ночи паясничать перед школьниками, мороча им голову тем, что вас совершенно не интересует. Вот из тех ночей и сложился потом мой взгляд на мир...

— Страдающий бессонницей по-другому переживает время?

— Абсолютно. Он живет в другом времени и в другом мире, поскольку нашу жизнь можно переносить лишь при одном условии: благодаря перерывам. В конце концов, для чего люди спят? Для того, чтобы не просто отдохнуть, но и забыться. Тому, кто встает утром, проспав всю ночь, кажется, что жизнь словно бы начинается заново. А для того, кто не сомкнул глаз, ничего не начинается. В восемь утра он ровно тот же, что в восемь вечера, и это неминуемо переиначивает весь взгляд на вещи. Думаю, именно по этой причине я никогда не верил в прогресс, никогда не дурачил себя подобными бреднями...

— И тоска эта составная часть особого, другого переживания времени?

— Именно. Тоска всегда связана со временем, с ужасом времени, страхом времени, откровением времени, сознанием времени. Те, кто не чувствителен к времени, не чувствует и тоски; жизнь можно переносить, только если не сознаешь, как убегает каждый миг, иначе ты пропал. Опыт тоски — это обостренное сознание времени...

— А почему вы приняли решение писать по-французски?

— Я решил никогда не возвращаться в Румынию. Для меня там все кончилось, все было, в самом точном смысле слова, уже в прошлом. Шел 1936 год, я жил тогда на море, неподалеку от Дьеппа, пытался переводить Малларме. И вдруг сказал себе: «Нет, это не для меня», — и тут же решил перейти на французский. Как ни странно, до того времени я не слишком интересовался французским, зато очень налегал на английский, даже учился в Сорбонне, готовился стать преподавателем английского.
Писать по-французски — как я совершенно внезапно решил — оказалось куда трудней, чем можно было подумать. Это была настоящая мука. Свою первую французскую книгу я переписывал четыре раза, от вида букв меня уже тошнило. Закончив «Уроки распада», я сказал себе, что не вижу больше ни малейшего смысла так изводиться. «Горькие силлогизмы» написались по инерции. Я не мог взять в толк, зачем составляю фразы и т.д. Но, как бы там ни было, дело шло, к тому же Полан [Полан Жан (1884—1968) — французский писатель, главный редактор авторитетного журнала «Нувель ревю франсез» в 1925-1968 гг. (с перерывами)] все время просил меня дать ему что-нибудь для «НРФ». Чтобы потом казнить себя за это, я согласился, дальше нужно было держать слово, и так я попал в шестерни. Я полностью принял свое положение на обочине. Я оставался совершенно не известным, но, в конечном счете, это было не лишено и своих прелестей. Да, годами вести писательскую жизнь, жизнь писателя без читателей, видеться лишь с несколькими людьми и больше ни с кем, — это, конечно, не всегда приятно в плане практическом, зато это было временем настоящего писательства: как будто пишешь для себя одного...

— Вы говорили, что больше не пишете. По-вашему, так будет продолжаться и дальше?

— Не знаю. Но, может быть, я вообще больше не буду писать. Я с ужасом смотрю на все эти каждый день выходящие тома... на авторов, выпускающих по книге, а то и по две в год... это какой-то психоз. Сам для себя я не вижу больше смысла писать, надо все-таки уметь вовремя остановиться. Меня это уже не захватывает. Нужен хотя бы минимум воодушевления, нужно чего-то ждать. Так что я говорю себе: ты достаточно препирался с миром и с Богом. Хватит.

Перевод с французского Бориса Дубина


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

мир перевернул меня/ Cioran - Écartèlement (1979)

Эпиктет: «Счастье — не в достижении и не в наслаждении достигнутым, а в отсутствии желаний». Мудрость определяет себя через противоположность Желанию, поскольку стремится поднять нас над обычными разочарованиями, равно как и над разочарованиями непоправимыми, ведь и те, и другие неразлучны с желанием, ожиданием, надеждой. Прежде всего, она хочет уберечь нас от главных жизненных разочарований — в этом смысле, мудрость совершенствуется в искусстве не уступать «жребию», а то и переигрывать судьбу. Из всех древних дальше всех в подобном искусстве пошли стоики.

С приходом христианства мудрец перестает быть примером. Он уступает свое почетное место святому — мудрецу периода потрясений, почему и более доступному для понимания масс.

Только что прочитал в биографии Чехова, что больше всего рукописных помет он оставил в книге Марка Аврелия.
Деталь, которая разом озарила для меня всё.

Что-то от меня зависит, а что-то нет, но как это разграничить? Я не возьмусь.
[...] Невозможно знать, когда и в чем ты свободен, а когда и в чем закрепощен. Если всякий раз доискиваться до точной природы своих действий, дойдешь не до конца, а до головокружения. Из чего следует, что если бы проблема свободы воли имела решение, философии незачем бы стало существовать.

Фокусничанье с важным видом, вот что такое философия. Но, в конце концов, все на свете фокусничанье, кроме слов, относящихся к тому порядку утверждений, который обычно не решаются пускать в ход, поскольку питающая их достоверность неподначальна разуму и существовала задолго до того, как человек взялся за ум.

В молодости я мечтал перевернуть мир. Теперь я в возрасте, когда о переворотах больше не мечтают: мир перевернул меня. А что лежит между двумя этими крайними точками? Можно сказать, ничего — или всё: неописуемая убежденность, что ты не тот и никогда уже не будешь прежним.

Каждый уходящий уносит с собой целый мир: разом умирает всё, совершенно всё. Высшим судом смерть узаконена и реабилитирована. Так уйдем же без сожалений, поскольку после нас не остается ничего. Единственная и неповторимая реальность это наше сознание: упраздняется оно, упраздняется и все остальное, даже если мы знаем, что, говоря объективно, это неправда, и как на самом деле мы ничего не берем с собой, так ничто и не исчезает вместе с нами.

В парке — табличка: «В соответствии с состоянием (возрастом и болезнью) деревьев будет предприниматься их пересадка».
И здесь конфликт поколений! Простой факт существования, даже растительного, и тот отмечен знаком гибели. Нет, дышать можно, только если забываешь, что ты жив.

Кажется, в Китае существует (или, скорее, существовало, настолько это отдает прошлым) такое тонкое удовольствие для самых изощренных, как внимательное прислушивание к тиканью часов. Подобная — на первый взгляд, столь материальная — поглощенность Временем есть, на самом деле, упражнение высоко философское, предаваясь которому достигаешь чудесных результатов в настоящем, именно в настоящем.

Так называемые простые люди, не желающие думать о конце, в общем правы — особенно если посмотреть, на что похожи те, кто лишь этими мыслями и занят.

Мы забываем о теле, а вот тело о нас не забывает. Проклятая память внутренностей!

Неповторимость любого существа неотрывна от его собственной манеры заблуждаться.

Первейшая заповедь — невмешательство: пусть каждый живет и умирает, как считает нужным, словно ему выпало счастье не походить ни на кого, быть этаким священным идолом. Оставьте ближних такими, каковы они есть, и они ответят вам признательностью.

У любого больного больше мыслей, чем у так называемого мыслителя. Болезнь это разделение целого, стало быть — рефлексия. Она всегда отрезает нас от чего-то, а порой и ото всего. Даже последний идиот, пронзенный чувством острейшей боли, тем самым возвышается над собственным идиотизмом, он осознаёт свое чувство и, почувствовав, что это он страдает, становится выше своего чувства, может быть, выше себя самого. Точно так же и животные должны обладать тем или иным уровнем сознания в зависимости от болезни, которой мучаются.

«Злословие, — провозглашает Талмуд, — грех столь же тяжкий, как идолопоклонство, кровосмешение и убийство». Допустим. Но если можно прожить жизнь не убивая, не ложась в постель со своей матерью и не кадя золотому тельцу, то как вы ухитритесь протянуть день, не ненавидя своего ближнего и себя в его лице?

Все-таки это чудовищное, хотя и переносимое унижение — нести в себе кровь народа, который никого и никогда не заставил о себе говорить.

Даже не в стихотворении, а в афоризме — вот где слово превыше всего.

В конце концов, старость это наказание за прожитую жизнь.

Если бы я ослеп, больше всего меня, думаю, удручало бы то, что я не могу теперь до полного одурения смотреть на плывущие облака.

Все утро какое-то странное самочувствие: желание высказаться, строить планы, диктовать заповеди, работать. Бред, восторг, упоение, неукротимый подъем духа. К счастью, скоро наваливается усталость и возвращает мне благоразумие, призывает к порядку, к обычному ежеминутному ничтожеству.

В повседневной тоске нет никаких желаний, даже охоты плакать. Другое дело — тоска, дошедшая до края: она побуждает что-то сделать, а плач — тоже действие.

По шумерской мифологии, потопом боги наказали человека за то, что от него слишком много шума. Хотел бы я видеть, что они с ним сделали бы за нынешний гвалт!

Время, соучастник губителей, плевать хотело на мораль. Кого теперь возмущает Навуходоносор?

Китайская пословица: «Стоит одной собаке залаять на шорох, и десять тысяч собак превратят его в гром». Для эпиграфа к любому рассуждению об идеологиях.

Любая утопия, становясь реальностью, напоминает похабный сон.

Эмиль Мишель Чоран – Разлад (Écartèlement, Paris, 1979)//

Фрагменты книги. Вступительная заметка и перевод с французского Бориса Дубина

Monday, September 17, 2018

Глоток кофе и сигаретная затяжка/ Cioran, misc

Цитаты из дневников, интервью и книг Чорана:

Мне нечего сказать людям, а всё, что говорят они, меня не интересует. И при этом я — человек, несомненно, общительный, поскольку оживаю только среди других.

• Чем больше читаешь — а читаю я слишком много! — тем чаще говоришь себе «нет, не то», а «то самое» опять улетучивается из книг, которые одну за другой поглощает твоя лень.
Ведь «то самое» нужно найти в себе, а не вовне. А в себе находишь одну неуверенность да рассуждения по поводу этой неуверенности.

• Из писателей я могу читать только самых больных, тех, у кого каждая страница, каждая строка освещена болезнью. Я ценю здоровье как усилие воли, а не как наследство или дар.

• Россия! Я всем существом тянусь к этой стране, которая превратила в ничто мою родину.

• Д., которому я рассказал, что вот уже тридцать лет живу в номерах и умудряюсь нигде не пускать корни, с гордостью еврея назвал меня «вечным гоем».

• Два величайших мудреца древности, идущей к концу: Эпиктет и Марк Аврелий, раб и император. Не устаю возвращаться мыслью к этой паре. Самое слабое и недолговечное у Марка Аврелия — от стоицизма, самое глубокое и прочное — от его тоски, иными словами — от забвения всяческих уроков. (То же самое — у Паскаля).

Глоток кофе и сигаретная затяжка — вот мои настоящие родители. Теперь я не курю, не пью кофе и чувствую себя обездоленным сиротой. Меня лишили достояния: яда, того яда, который давал мне силу работать.

• Я думал, что стану пьяницей. Я был почти в этом уверен. И мне нравилось состояние бессознательности, эта безумная гордость пьяницы. И я много любовался обычными алкоголиками в Решинари, которые каждый день были пьяны, пьяны, пьяны. Среди них был скрипач, который проходил мимо меня и играл, я бесконечно им любовался. Все люди работали в поле, а он был единственным на улице, кто приходил со скрипкой и пел. Я тогда бесконечно восхищался им, это был единственный интересный человек во всей деревне. Все что-то делают, и только он один веселится. Но через два года этот пьяница умер. Это был единственный человек, который что-то понял, осознал.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Why can’t one stop being a son without becoming a father? / Larkin - letters to Monica (1964)

10 February 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

Well, I am still at home — my cheerfulness of yesterday was followed by a feverish spell. Today I felt better, but stayed in: Betty came for an hour both morning & afternoon & I prepared papers for my higher-pay sub-committee tomorrow week. After she’d gone I had supper (does ‘supper’ derive from ‘soup’? It ought to) & washed vest & pants, but this sent up my temperature & made me feel rotten. I don’t know what I shall do tomorrow. With all this I have no cold. It must be some inner germ. The bloody B-H’s [the Burnett-Halls, L.’s neighbours at 32 Pearson Park] have contributed to the day with long horn & piano sessions afternoon and evening — sometimes they seem to play both simultaneously and bang doors. Splendid. I can’t really grumble, because it’s under my bedroom, but if I wanted to go to bed it would be fearful.

**In comments: “The Whitsun Weddings” carried the line ‘My litany would employ’.

On 7 February Monica wrote: ‘ “Litany” is too specific — how often is the Litany said, anyway? very seldom — “liturgyI am sure is the word that ought to be there. I shd have said this before, you’ll say, but I did not know what the book was to include, you were very cagey abt it so I stopped asking [...] I’m naturally not happy abt “Talking in Bed” because it will cause so much talking here, in & out of beds, & indeed elsewhere — what do you think yr Mother relatives will make of it?’
Later impressions of TWW and the Collected Poems have ‘My liturgy would employ’.

30 March 1964
21 York Road, Loughborough
I have done up your little gift — hope it reaches you. There is a poem inside [poem missing] wch I hope you won’t throw away with the wrapping. It is absolutely unique — I have burnt the draft & forgotten it already.
I am reading KM’s letters to JM [Katherine Mansfield to J. Middleton Murry] — she calls him ‘the Great Poet of our time ... I whisper “Oh, my Wonder” ...’ Awgh. You don’t say that to me. Ogh ogh. Shuold lock yuo in the Scurley if you did.

Now it’s Tuesday, and I suppose this can’t be any more than a note if it’s to go today. Awful weather, fit to make you cut your throat. Why do I at 41 have to spend my ‘holidays’ at home? Why can’t one stop being a son without becoming a father? Why is my life so devoid of active grape-bursting enjoyment? [...]

** In comments:
The short letter [dated 22 April 1964] from L. crossed with a 20-side letter from Monica to L., also dated 22 April 1964. Both letters followed a traumatic weekend in Hull, when Monica in her anguish over further revelations about L.’s affair with Maeve was physically sick. Monica’s letter, completed on 24 April, ends:
‘Well, I thought I was being very calm & sensible last night, but the letter gets more raving & hysterical, it seems, read today, as it goes on. Well, I will send it and believe that you will be able to forgive its faults of raving and of boring going on & on about the same thing; I think what it says is true, but the way it says it is tiresome, droning on and on.’

25 April 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

I do wish I could ring you up. It’s Saturday, about 8: I've had Judy’s Australian, rested, had a bath, & ought to have supper, but don’t want it at present. I’m not ‘not eating’, exactly, but I think of you alone & want to get in touch with you. I feel alone myself, of course! not that I’d mind normally, but the general shock & unhappiness weigh heavily. Oh, I do wish I could get in touch with you & cheer you, as I know I could, or at least comfort you.

I had your long letter this morning - it’s in the kitchen at present: I almost avoid it because of the pain it contains. Darling, I don’t think you’re mad or odd. I shd tell you if I did, no doubt giving you something more to swallow. I think when I first knew you you were (irritatingly) frighteningly sane. Now you are labouring under the burden of too much solitude & my cavalier treatment of you, & your domestic misfortune & unhappiness. But who thinks you're mad, or odd? Only you, surely. I think you have, through no fault of your own, an unhappy life - I’m afraid it is through some fault of mine. (…)

I do hope you are better. No tears, no reproaches could have shamed me more than your being sick. I feel quite awful, as if I had, well, kicked something to death — I’m not, I hope, being melodramatic: kicked something & seen it vomit as a result, perhaps. You know I feel I ought to take care of you — I have always felt this since your parents died, and it has caused enormous conflict & worry in me, that from time to time I’ve tried to explain, in that I did not ask you to marry me — I think I am mad & odd too: sometimes I am tempted to say how much I’m affected by sex fear & auto-erotic fantasies, & how I feel normal emotional relations & responsibilities a terrible strain, I mean a big tiring strain. I don’t want to bore you with such things — only don’t assume that I’m wise & ‘mature’ compared with you: I’m infantile & cowardly & selfish, too frightened to make a will even. I’ve been afraid that my ‘support’ of you was in fact a covert weakening of you, a kind of paralysis, & a cheating you of a happy life. I engaged your emotions & refused to satisfy them — an action, as G.B.S. [George Bernard Shaw] says, for which I know no polite name.

[…] Sunday, about 3. Dull day, not the weather which is painfully spring-like. I got up, etc., wrote home, cleaned the car after a fashion, went for papers and a pint, had lunch — all rather like last Sunday, except that the sun is shining. Actually I keep falling asleep!
I thought I might add to this, but I feel a bit weary of my explanations today. I’m sure my letters were all right — I can always write. Doing’s what I’m bad at. Not that they were insincere — why should they be? I’m always very fond of you, and you are easier to write to than anyone.

[Monica is same age as L. – born 7 May 1922]

12 May 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] Well, I was a bit saddened by your fat letter, but no need to apologise, no reason why I shouldn’t be saddened. I thought your letter quite sane & collected. I wish I could reply more fully, as you deserve, but I know I have only about 2 pages in me: in a way you make me sound more romantic dramatic than I am, wch is almost more crushing than deflating abuse. My situation seems to me a little squalid, a little contemptible, more than a little infantile, on one side of it, & a bit pathetic & frightening on another — I suppose so much of life really has gone, the ‘young romances’ I never had at the proper time, the normal-age marriage, house, children, laying hold of life as you might say: I still don’t want them or am frightened of them or something, but they haunt me, the fact of their being irrevocably lost is unsettling and probably lies behind some of this. How silly it all sounds! But as I may have said, earlier, our great bond is at present the part of my life I am at times — just at times — not even most times — in revolt against. Or, if revolt is too strong a word, then a bit tired of. In theory, at any rate! Doesn’t sound very impressive, does it? It doesn’t impress me, anyway. I don’t know why I go on about it, when I feel so dispirited. And I do know that I am very lucky to have you & your patience instead of some less generous person, less funny & individual person.

19 May 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] The TV men [From Patrick Garland’s Monitor film of L.] are after the Arundel tomb in Chichester — I hope to God it’s there & I didn’t dream it. They want to know if it’s freestanding, or against a wall. I hope all my descriptions are accurate — jointed armour, stiffened pleat, little dogs. I’m quite likely to have invented them. Do you remember it? I expect you do: total recall. [...]

23 May 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] I had your letter this morning: I am ashamed to have behaved so inconsistently. I wasn’t angry with you, just miserable. What happened was simply that Mother quite innocently asked if I could spend a week at home in August to facilitate her own holiday arrangements, & this threw me into a fury of despair about the way I do the same things every year, & not adventurous things either; every Christmas, every Easter, every Whitsun, when other people are enjoying themselves I am stewing at home in a rage of irritation & boredom. I needn’t elaborate. We had the usual ‘home’ scene — tears etc. — Where you came into it was that my unhappiness about ourselves got caught up in it (…)

6/7 June 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

This is exhausting — the pattern is one of fatigue & boredom, standing about while they ‘set up’, then short periods of intense fright while they film. So far it has been Wednesday in the Library; Thursday in the fish dock (up at 6), a ruined chapel, & my flat; Friday over the river at Barton; Saturday in my flat with Betjeman; today we are supposed to be on the ferry, but the weather looks unpromising. Betjeman is very nice: he was much taken with Virginia, has brought his teddy bear Archie, also a girl called Lady Elizabeth Cavendish [Betjeman’s long-time companion]. He thinks Uncle Alfred’s water colour is a De Wint! I let him find an enlargement of you in King’s Norton wch I had got that morning & he identified it instantly. [...]

8 June 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] I’m writing at 9.15 a.m. — they are ‘coming for’ me at 10. Today we ‘work the graveyard’ — i.e. shoot about 2 mins of В. & I talking among the graves. It will take about 3 hours, I expect. Then this afternoon I have a Library Comm! Never have I prepared less for one. My rabbit, my burial ground — I suppose it is nice to have them filmed, but I know you’ll understand that they seem less mine now. In fact I feel less mine now, if you follow me. I shall be glad when I see the whole caravan of sound, lights & cameras disappearing up the road towards London.
I had your letter this morning — I’m sorry you had such a wretched weekend. The thought of being the cause, or partly the cause, makes it worse. I think we both have very curious characters or upbringings or something, that render us quite incapable of managing life — what is Dockery & Son but what you’re saying? Funnily enough, it isn’t our bond — our bond is more the things we like, and our friends, &, I think, the extreme gentleness of our natures (you may not think I am g. but I do). I wish it did bind us more in one way. Well, scripts for you, graveyard for me. Please try to keep more up, dear — I wish I could come & see you.
Many kisses
Later — Everything cancelled! No graveyard today. This is turning into a film about Betjeman.

5 August 1964
21 York Road, Loughborough, Leics.

Dearest bun,
Back from Lichfield, [where the Larkin family graves are] wch was pretty hellish — hacking long grass away from graves in a temperature of about 8o°, and flies... And even on early closing day the town is rendered HIDEOUS by cars, lorries & motor bikes: it’s quite the foulest cathedral city in England. We went into the cathedral & got turned back on account of there being an invisible inaudible service on somewhere. The tea at Angel Croft Hotel was dingy & doughy. The drive there and back took about an hour — hardly any frights, but so hot. When I got back, I watered some flowers in the garden, wch were looking limp, then I sought out two bottles of Guinness as I thought I was looking limp myself. My father’s parents’ house has been divided into two — hair stylist & turf accountant.
I was terribly hot last night. I lay thinking how nice it would be to have you beside (or under!) me, & not to be drunk, or tired, or watching the clock, just gathering your great smooth hips under me & shoving into you as I felt inclined. How rarely this has happened! It didn’t happen last night, either. At least not for me, & I hope not for you [...]

Friday I feel out of spirits this morning partly because my mother seems to be resuming her normal whining panicky grumbling maddening manner which infuriates me, partly I am just tired of being here I suppose (everything gets boring after a week)…

13 October 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] I'm sorry you are feeling so awfully low — it is silly for me to express sympathy when it is my fault, I suppose. How utterly unsatisfactory life is. I think this is a grim time of year. In theory it is beautiful, and is I suppose, but people are so full of energy after their summers of foreign travel & doing nothing. I don’t mean I’m not sympathetic, of course, dear — it’s just that I feel hypocritical, talking as if you had an attack of ’flu, when really I am denying you happiness & have for over 10 years. Of course your life is very unhappy anyway. All alone, & not able to go to the Clarendon! Not that I go much, or have one to go to. My dear, I do wish you felt well, let alone happy: I don’t like the sound of your rheumatism and paralysis.
[…] I’ve finished my little poem about the sun: ["Solar"] it’s the sort of thing anyone could write, and indeed it ought to be much longer & deeper & altogether better, but one can’t be on one’s high horse all the time.

13 December 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] Well, all aboard for Monitor. I see good old Obs. gives space to this joke Yank charlatan & not to yuors turly. In retrospect I hate the film: my comments seem silly or uninteresting, Patrick’s direction 1958 Tony Richardson-&-water. Hull D. Mail rang up to ensure it actually showed Hull people in Hull! [...]

16 December 1964
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] I saw the film, as I hope you did, & wasn’t slain by it, but it was interesting to note the cuts, wasn’t it? I see our H bomb bit went. ‘Ay, well, naw use lukin on’t dark side.’ Sods. Glad the ‘another evening gone’ bit was kept. The general opinion here seems to be of disappointment — I’m thought of as funny, you know. Still, you don’t get taken seriously by arsing about, do you. [...]

31 December 1964
Loughborough, Leics.

[…] Later — within half an hour of 1965. I had to wash up & then slept in the armchair a bit. I suppose we can wish ourselves a moderately happy New Year! It would be very wrong to say 1964 had been anything but a good year for me, materially, but as you know I have a very deep sense of unhappiness, or something, that seems more convincing than literary success. I suppose if one isn’t actually dying of cancer or angina one is in fact riotously happy. Let’s settle for that!
I’ve got your card out & got it out on the mantelpiece — what’s the rabbit doing? fondling his own harmless face? [‘The rabbit fondles his own harmless face’ — in closing lines of Tennyson s ‘Aylmer’s Field’.] Eating something, more like. I don’t expect rabbits have much sense of New Years — they haven t a sense of occasion in that way. I’ve put the wireless on & found a curious unhappy waltz I know but can’t give a name to. Now the Watchnight Service! From Scotland would you credit it — why is this all a prerogative of the Macs? [...]

Philip Larkin - Letters to Monica

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Originality is being different from oneself, not others. / Larkin - letters to Monica (1963)

19 January 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] I feel full of poetry myself, except when I sit down with pencil and paper. Am currently doing one* from the death of my mother’s friend before Christmas. [...]

*‘Long Last’, written 3 Feb. 1963, in 1988 ‘Collected Poems’.

10 March 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] I had time only to scribble you a note on Thursday, was it, before going to London — my spirits didn’t greatly improve there (…)
Home & got drunk, or half drunk, alone in the flat. Heard little of interest, except that (…) S. Plath gassed herself. She had had a mental breakdown once before, & is supposed to have feared another, while, as far as I can see, making certain of it. Ted had cleared off, not enjoying the symptoms. [...]

I still feel pretty depressed, I must say. Every now & then I open the little trap door in my head & look in to see if the hideous roaring panic & misery has died down. It hasn’t, & I don’t see why it should — I mean, the only change in my life wd be to have something to be miserable about.

9 May 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull

Dearest bun,
Just hearing the wild ravings & quarrellings of Bob, Fraser & Goacher about Pound on the Third. [BBC Third programme] What a clamour! What larks! I didn’t get in at the start, but I don’t think it would have been any clearer if I had. Are you listening? Quite good fun, so I hope you are. Nobody criticises E.P. for being literary, wch to me is the foundation of his feebleness, thinking that poetry is made out of poetry & not out of being alive.

13 June 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[...] It’s duller today, and cooler: a kind of fine rain-mist blowing. The chestnut candles are dying, and the huge trees shift in the dusk. For once this has been a fairly empty week, but I haven’t felt any inclination to write poetry. As a matter of fact I sent off my collection to Faber’s on Tuesday. Provisionally called “The Whitsun Weddings” (TWW) it comprised 33 poems. Some are very thin, in fact I might knock out 2 even now. It’s a poor harvest for 9 years, in fact I think it’s definitely worse than the L.D. It has nothing like “If”, “My Darling” or “Maiden name”, poems that give the impression of having plenty in hand. The poetic quality is diluted. Too many depend on mere sentiment. It’s all very depressing. But then, what isn’t? [...]

31 August 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull

Dearest bun,
It’s nearly 10 — evening eaten away by bath, supper, washing up, bedmaking, tidying. (…)
I sent off “Jill” today. The introduction is mostly “Lions & Shadows”* stuff about Norman, Kingsley & Bruce. God knows what they’ll think — I’ve cut out Norman’s surname [Norman Iies, L.’s former tutorial mate at St John’s in the early 1940s], but in a way this seems to make it worse. (…) Some points I had deleted — including the rabbits! but I put them back for your sake. (…) I was surprised at your eye for grammar & construction – I cd read these things a hundred times & not see they are wrong, but as soon as you point it out I see it. Perhaps a bit of the awkwardness you object to is my style. Leave it alone, now.** […]
Think of Cox when you feel depressed. The great editor, laughing like a dog about to puke.

*L. thought that his introduction to the reissued (by Faber) “Jill” was influenced by Christopher Isherwood’s “Lions and Shadows: an Education in the Twenties” (1938), a lightly fictionalised memoir much admired by L.

**Monica had written, in a letter dated 29 August 1963, from Haydon Bridge:

‘Dearest, I must be quick, because I want you to get the enclosed Jill stuff at once.
I wanted to read through the 2nd half of the book again, because the clumsinesses seemed thicker in the 1st part & I wondered if I had grown negligent; but I hadn’t, it is simply that once we get to Jill the writing becomes more confident; most of the 2nd & 1/2 are misprints or mis-proofreadings.’

There follow nine pages of questionings, corrections and comments, products of a very close reading.

16 October 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[...] I’ve just finished reading “An Unsuitable” [by Barbara Pym. L. was reading the typescript, not published until 1982.] — very much the mixture as before, except for a large cat called Faustine and a clergyman’s wife who is besotted with it. Reminded me of you a bit! A rather watery ‘nice’ heroine called Ianthe, & an excursion to Rome (first foreign parts in her books, I think), and a girl called Penelope, described as ‘a PreRaphaelite beatnik’, who again reminded me of you in an intangible way. She is sexier than Ianthe, whom I got rather sick of, all this English gentlewoman crap, & sherry rather than gin & tonic, and ‘good’ furniture. Perhaps you are thinking you sound like a mixture of the two? Ogh ogh. I don’t know why Cape should have refused it: perhaps it is just insufficiently original to compensate for the slightly-cloying flavour. Originality is being different from oneself, not others. [...]

28 November 1963
32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] Actually I was astounded by K’s assassination* — I doubt if I experienced great personal sorrow — but this feeling was succeeded by disgust.

*J. F. Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963.

Philip Larkin - Letters to Monica

Thursday, September 06, 2018

...there does seem to me something sad in life/ Katherine Mansfield (1923)

. . .You see that big nail to the right of the front door? I can scarcely look at it even now and yet I could not bear to take it out. I should like to think it was there always even after my time. I sometimes hear the next people saying, "There must have been a cage hanging from there." And it comforts me; I feel he is not quite forgotten.

. . .You cannot imagine how wonderfully he sang. It was not like the singing of other canaries. And that isn't just my fancy. Often, from the window, I used to see people stop at the gate to listen, or they would lean over the fence by the mock-orange for quite a long time —carried away. I suppose it sounds absurd to you—it wouldn't if you had heard him—but it really seemed to me that he sang whole songs with a beginning and an end to them.

For instance, when I'd finished the house in the afternoon, and changed my blouse and brought my sewing on to the verandah here, he used to hop, hop, hop from one perch to another, tap against the bars as if to attract my attention, sip a little water just as a professional singer might, and then break into a song so exquisite that I had to put my needle down to listen to him. I can't describe it; I wish I could. But it was always the same, every afternoon, and I felt that I understood every note of it.

...I loved him. How I loved him! Perhaps it does not matter so very much what it is one loves in this world. But love something one must. Of course there was always my little house and the garden, but for some reason they were never enough. Flowers respond wonderfully, but they don't sympathise. Then I loved the evening star. Does that sound foolish? I used to go into the backyard, after sunset, and wait for it until it shone above the dark gum tree. I used to whisper "There you are, my darling." And just in that first moment it seemed to be shining for me alone. It seemed to understand this . . . something which is like longing, and yet it is not longing. Or regret— it is more like regret. And yet regret for what? I have much to be thankful for.

. . . But after he came into my life I forgot the evening star; I did not need it any more. But it was strange. When the Chinaman who came to the door with birds to sell held him up in his tiny cage, and instead of fluttering, fluttering, like the poor little goldfinches, he gave a faint, small chirp, I found myself saying, just as I had said to the star over the gum tree, "There you are, my darling." From that moment he was mine.

...It surprises me even now to remember how he and I shared each other's lives. The moment I came down in the morning and took the cloth off his cage he greeted me with a drowsy little note. I knew it meant "Missus! Missus!" Then I hung him on the nail outside while I got my three young men their breakfasts, and I never brought him in until we had the house to ourselves again. Then, when the washing-up was done, it was quite a little entertainment. I spread a newspaper over a corner of the table and when I put the cage on it he used to beat with his wings despairingly, as if he didn't know what was coming. "You're a regular little actor," I used to scold him. I scraped the tray, dusted it with fresh sand, filled his seed and water tins, tucked a piece of chickweed and half a chili between the bars. And I am perfectly certain he understood and appreciated every item of this little performance. You see by nature he was exquisitely neat. There was never a speck on his perch. And you'd only to see him enjoy his bath to realise he had a real small passion for cleanliness. His bath was put in last. And the moment it was in he positively leapt into it. First he fluttered one wing, then the other, then he ducked his head and dabbled his breast feathers. Drops of water were scattered all over the kitchen, but still he would not get out. I used to say to him, "Now that's quite enough. You're only showing off." And at last out he hopped and, standing on one leg, he began to peck himself dry. Finally he gave a shake, a flick, a twitter and he lifted his throat— Oh, I can hardly bear to recall it. I was always cleaning the knives at the time. And it almost seemed to me the knives sang too, as I rubbed them bright on the board.

. . .Company, you see— that was what he was. Perfect company. If you have lived alone you will realise how precious that is. Of course there were my three young men who came in to supper every evening, and sometimes they stayed in the dining-room afterwards reading the paper. But I could not expect them to be interested in the little things that made my day. Why should they be? I was nothing to them. In fact, I overheard them one evening talking about me on the stairs as "the Scarecrow." No matter. It doesn't matter. Not in the least. I quite understand. They are young. Why should I mind? But I remember feeling so especially thankful that I was not quite alone that evening. I told him, after they had gone out. I said "Do you know what they call Missus?" And he put his head on one side and looked at me with his little bright eye until I could not help laughing. It seemed to amuse him.

. . .Have you kept birds? If you haven't all this must sound, perhaps, exaggerated. People have the idea that birds are heartless, cold little creatures, not like dogs or cats. My washerwoman used to say on Mondays when she wondered why I didn't keep "a nice fox terrier," "There's no comfort, Miss, in a canary." Untrue. Dreadfully untrue. I remember one night. I had had a very awful dream— dreams can be dreadfully cruel— even after I had woken up I could not get over it. So I put on my dressing-gown and went down to the kitchen for a glass of water. It was a winter night and raining hard. I suppose I was still half asleep, but through the kitchen window, that hadn't a blind, it seemed to me the dark was staring in, spying. And suddenly I felt it was unbearable that I had no one to whom I could say "I've had such a dreadful dream," or—or "Hide me from the dark." I even covered my face for a minute. And then there came a little "Sweet! Sweet!" His cage was on the table, and the cloth had slipped so that a chink of light shone through. "Sweet! Sweet!" said the darling little fellow again, softly, as much as to say, "I'm here, Missus! I'm here!" That was so beautifully comforting that I nearly cried.

. . . And now he's gone. I shall never have another bird, another pet of any kind. How could I? When I found him, lying on his back, with his eye dim and his claws wrung, when I realised that never again should I hear my darling sing, something seemed to die in me. My heart felt hollow, as if it was his cage. I shall get over it. Of course. I must. One can get over anything in time. And people always say I have a cheerful disposition. They are quite right. I thank my God I have.

. . . All the same, without being morbid, and giving way to—to memories and so on, I must confess that there does seem to me something sad in life. It is hard to say what it is. I don't mean the sorrow that we all know, like illness and poverty and death. No, it is something different. It is there, deep down, deep down, part of one, like one's breathing. However hard I work and tire myself I have only to stop to know it is there, waiting. I often wonder if everybody feels the same. One can never know. But isn't it extraordinary that under his sweet, joyful little singing it was just this— sadness ? —Ah, what is it ? —that I heard.

Katherine Mansfield - The Canary
From “The Doves’ Nest and Other Stories” (1923)
Illustration - "First Light" by Harold Harvey (1874–1941)

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Youth! Why didn’t I have one?/ Larkin - letters to Monica (1962)

18 January 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[…] Well, dear, how have you been this week? I should like to stroke your little rabbit brow & large rabbit hindquarters. I do hope you aren’t getting influenza or a cold. Everyone here seems to have had a dose at some time or other. Not me so far: cabbage & carrots. Virginia [a miniature figurine of a rabbit, given to L. by Monica] is v. enthusiastic - well, not exactly that, because it’s so obvious, isn’t it? but she thinks she has come to a sensible ménage. I can see her ears over a pile of books as I write.

[…] Today my head cleaner who has been off for a long time came in & resigned. Nerves, & quarrel with the rest of the cleaners. Shall have to promote the chief quarreller, I’m afraid.

[…] Are you still remembering your time here? I thought it was a great improvement on anything we have done before, except that the bed wd take a bit of getting used to, from a sleeping point of view. It was so nice of you to be grateful for breakfast wch I should have got anyway! These mornings I’m not having bacon every day, as a matter of fact - don’t like a big meal at the beginning of the day. A man doesn’t need bacon.

23 January 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[…] It was lovely to have such a long letter from you yesterday: I read it drinking sherry after I got in at night. I grinned at your ‘lecturing to rule’, and applaud it, only it’s a miserable situation that produces it. It’s hard for me to tell what lecturing well & lecturing badly is, really: plenty of simple boiled-down takable notes, plus a bit of inspiration-cum-cleverness at start and finish is how I’d do it, I suppose. Thank God I don’t have to.
[…] I don’t really want income, as it is taxed so heavily. […]

11 April 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[...] I thought your little house seemed (how fond I seem of that word!) distinguished and exciting and beautiful: [Monica had bought her terraced cottage in Haydon Bridge in late 1961. The River Tyne flows alongside the back of the house] clever of you to have found it, bold of you to have furnished it in Rabbit Regency: it looks splendid, and it can never be ordinary with the Tyne going by outside. Others may have Swedish glass, or Swedish forks, or Finnish clap-boarding, or theatre in the round round the corner, or a Picasso, or stereo hifi, or a split-level living area - you have a great English river drifting under your window, brown and muscled with currents! [...]

3 May 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[…] Did I say Brinnin [J.M.Brinnin, American poet, author of “Dylan Thomas in America”] had asked me if I wanted to visit U. of Connecticut next spring? I’ve said no, though whether it’s wise to go on being so negative I don’t know. ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’ On the other hand, I just don’t see myself lecturing there, do you, if I don’t lecture here. It wd give me a nervous breakdown.

6 May 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
After all my searching for something that stood up & said your name (one handbag was labelled ‘Monica’ but I didn’t think you’d like it) I didn’t buy anything - at least I did, but it’s a silly dull thing - you’ll probably get it on Tuesday. [Monica’s birthday present] You’d some narrow escapes, though. I lingered over a tiny brooch-watch, enamelled, but thought it wouldn’t survive burrow-life long. Then there was a watering-can, & a ‘George II silver spoon’. It isn’t till one really searches the shops that their paucity is laid bare. Or perhaps mine. A silver corkscrew & bottle opener might have been sensible - and I also turned over some Wedgwood candlesticks, but ‘clutterin’ yerself up’ came to my mind. Anyway, if any of these things please you, do let me know. I did really search.

Well, spring comes with your birthday, and I love to think of you as somehow linked with the tender green shoots I see on all the trees and bushes [drawing of rabbit] - linked in one practical way, perhaps - but also by your ever-fresh love of the real stuff of life, the beauty and comfort of it.

10 May 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[…] I wonder what you have bought yourself! and fancy having a roast turkey. Jolly good, as Robertson would say. I don’t regard the advent of 40 with much cheer, but there’s nothing to be done. I feel very much with T.H. that I was ‘a boy till 25, a young man till 40’ - was it? It seems hard to be no longer young when one hasn’t done many of the things young people are supposed to do. Anyway, I don’t think I’d mind being no longer young if it didn’t mean being nearer death. I dreamed last night that T. S. Eliot was dead. [...]

23 May 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[…] How pretty you looked on Sunday in your blue smock frock (funny word, like “Hausfrau”), or whatever you call it; ay, marry, and out of it (with a Pox) - it was a splendid meeting, day, encounter, & I hope you were as happy as I was. I had meant to say something about holidays, but never got round to it. What does the future matter when the present is so fine? I wish holidays didn’t need so much arranging. It is all right taking them, but arranging is the devil.

[…] Thursday now, & a less agreeable evening - have crossed out all I wrote last night and more, cursing & bored and raging. I am no good, all washed up, can’t even write a bad poem, let alone a good one. Thank you for your Worcestershire card this morning: I am sure you are loving the hamster, it sounds heavenly. [Monica was looking after the Craik family’s pet hamster while they were on holiday (see “About Larkin”, No. 11, April 2001, for “Presents from Monica” by Roger Craik).] Where do you keep it when you are out? Is it in a box, or cage? Or do you find it in your slipper when you come in? What do you give it to eat? Do you think it misses the Craiks, or ‘knows’ you? [...]

I’ve finished Stanley Spencer [Maurice Collis: “Stanley Spencer: a biography” (1962)]: a fascinating book, do read it if you have a chance: perhaps I’ll save it for ya. Although he was something of an ass in practical affairs, & wd have been hell to deal with, I find him very sympathetic with his genuine indifference to success and love of solitude & ‘low’ things like weeds and kitchen chairs. I never realised he went to China once! It had no effect on him. He wrote that after a session at Cliveden with Lord Astor, saying ‘Yes yes, very interesting, yes’ he was relieved to get back home where all his selves could reemerge ‘like children let out of school’. Don’t I know it! Don’t you! ‘Oh! What a good idea!’ Band of elastic. [...]

6 August 1962
21 York Road, Loughborough, Leics.
[...] Isn't it a sad shock about Marilyn Monroe? [Died 5 August 1962] “The People” made her sound very dopey, but I was shocked all the same. “The Mirror” said her fan mail had shrunk from 8,000 to 80 a week! I’m sure Hollywood is a ghastly place to work in for anyone like her, everyone wanting to screw you and get a cut for doing it, nobody really helping you. Did you see, by the way, the story in “Time” about Cary Grant receiving a telegram from a paper asking ‘HOW OLD CARY GRANT’ to wch he replied ‘OLD CARY GRANT FINE HOW YOU’? Ogh ogh. How old Wm Gull. How old Dr Pussy.
I am reading my ‘home’ books […]
I can’t say I feel on top of the world here — Mother’s friends all seem to have just died, or had a stroke, or a fall, or been widowed, or be having ‘deep ray’ treatment, or in the mental hospital - no reason why they shouldn’t, in the driving rain of time that will bring us all down in the end. A few more years shall roll. Still, it is a sad atmosphere - don’t know what I should do if it weren’t for “The Archers” & other forms of unreality.

12 August 1962
21 York Road, Loughborough, Leics.
Dearest Bun,
Just a few words before bed - I don’t know how it is, but I seem to have very little time here - it’s all eating or washing up. I must say that after a week of it I begin to feel for my father in his retirement - it is a dreadful life. I remember him holding up some implement or other at the sink and saying ‘That’s the third time today I’ve washed this!’ And it was, and I expect I’ve washed it three times a day myself, 15 years later. I wondered what he would have thought, to see me washing the same old colander, the same old saucepans, the same old cooking knives and forks - laughed, I should think. You may say there’s nothing very awful about all this, but all the same I think there is - I feel it as awful, anyway.

Home is a sad place, anyway [see the poem dated Dec. 31 1958]: I find so much from the last 20 years, and before: your letters, other letters, back to the telegrams about my Schools results, letters about “A Girl in Winter”, school magazines — I feel I’ve done nothing with that fat fillet-steak part of life, 20 to 40, and now it’s gone. And I haven’t done anything with it because I’m too spiritless and cowardly and talentless. People live a lifetime a year compared with me.

We went to church tonight, wch was all right in a way — ‘the passionless Sundays after Trinity’. (What a lovely poem that is! The only good one in the book, I’m thankful to say, since the book is ungettable.) [‘The book’ was John Meade Falkner’s (1858-1932) “Poems”, published posthumously (c.1933) and hard to find.] A sermon on ‘Beware false prophets’, but a dull one. I thought he was going to start on Bertrand Russell, or the Dean of C. [The Dean of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson, known as the Red Dean.] [...]

Tuesday Last day here — feel consumed with boredom and irritation. There is an Irish-Polish family moved in next door, with several toddling children who take it in turns to maul the kitten. Every time I look out of the window I see one of them pulling it about - I would forbid all pets by law, & all pet shops: licensed suppliers of torture-material. Why doesn’t it scratch their stupid little eyes out.

Oh dear, I really haven’t time to finish this, if I’m to get it off this morning — I think my life at Hull is almost totally unreal - playthings like telephones and committees, Sc of course I live alone — so any prolonged contact with things & people such as only home provides sends me into a frenzy of irritation. It was always so, especially when I lived at home — I was really only happy either out of it or in a dream world of cigarette cards, i.e. poetry. Of course, one may have to stick it, but should one embrace it? I don’t think other people embrace what they hate. [...]

29 September 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[…] Well, of course, I do understand and agree with what you say, when you say how we are wasting our lives.* When I say I wish we could talk more easily about ourselves, I mean just that; I mean it seems strange not to, and I think it’s something of a barrier between us, or a failure between us - it’s difficult to know precisely what I mean: I don’t say I want to bore you with my feelings, or be bored, so to speak, by yours, but I have a curious feeling that in some ways we are not in sympathy & this keeps us off any kind of discussion that might reveal the fact.
[…] I can’t say how badly I feel about the way we are wasting our lives: it terrifies me, and gets worse every day. [...]
I understand, in a way, about not wanting people despite being lonely, but of course I behave badly about people. While I was writing this page Binns [lectirer in English at Hull] rang up, compelling me to dinner on Thursday - now, earlier in the morning I was thinking how I had put the Binnses off, at last, by seven years of non-return of invitations, despite some open hints on their side. Seems I haven’t, quite. And I do think you dislike people more than I do, not that I like them enough to have them in the house, ogh ogh ogh.[…]

*In a letter from Haydon Bridge dated 26/27 September 1962, Monica had written:

“You know how you are often trying to talk to me about us, & I always start to cry so you can’t; I wish I didn’t, but it just makes me cry to think of it, so I try not to think of it - all the same, I’m sorry, because I think you ought to be able to say something without tears from me, & indeed I wish I could talk about it without tears. Nevertheless I do think abt it sometimes, and today is a day that has made me think of it - the summer going, unused, the beauty of the scenery, unused. It made me very conscious of what a short time we are here for, & how little of that time we have left, you & I; it isn’t much, and for all we know it might be very short, & I wish I could spend what is left with you, or more of what is left than I do spend. I can write this, just, but I’m sure I couldn’t say it - I am not in tears, but tears are behind my eyes, making eyes & head ache. If once I start thinking of reality, all the sad things lock to mind at once, & all the impossible difficulty of life, the way I just scrape along, never, never being in control of the situation, never doing anything properly, & I can hardly bear it. I live so foolishly, too; wasting hours in lazy inertia, doing nothing, or thinking sadly & pointlessly, always worried abt things undone & my inability to get on with them; and I do rely on drink more than I like, I really have to have my tipple, now, & sometimes I drink a lot, tho’ not, I think, as badly now as I did just after my parents died.”

4 October 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
You must think me awful, as if I deliberately set out to upset you — I’m so sorry: it isn’t that*.
You know, I expect you do want to be reassured, but I always fall into the habit of thinking you are more assured than I am: you have such a strong, seamless character — not vague, shifting and gullible like mine — and you have a — really, I wd swear it — stronger personality than mine: you aren’t given to bursts of temper or vindictiveness but are much more level and firm than I. For this reason I am always feeling I deserve a denunciation from you — I always feel morally inferior, not only relatively in the way I have behaved but absolutely in comparing ourselves. And of course I do feel terrible about our being 40 & unmarried. I fear we are to turn slowly into living reproaches of the way I have dallied and lingered with you, neither one thing or the other. This leads me to spells of wanting to explain & defend myself, wch appears like brutal & gtatuitous attack to you, but wch are really products of miserable self accusation — I feel like Murry, always my bete noire, without your being KM. And then again I hope if only we could achieve, I don’t know, a kind of self-encouraging intimacy, it wd be so easy for us to marry. But this may be a fancy on my part — people are different, after all. [...]

*Monica had written in a letter dated 1 October 1962. from Haydon Bridge: ‘I wish I were better — I’d like to be able to talk more. I think I could have, when we began, perhaps; but I never know what you are thinking, and thinking of me [...] Anyway, I accept, don’t I, & without private reservation or grudge, that you don’t like me enough to marry me; then it seems rather unkind for you to want to tell me so, & perhaps tell me all the things that are wrong with me.

23 October 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
Dearest rabbit,
The nights are fairly dark now, aren’t they! I am home in the dark, clutching my bottle of gin and my lemon. After drink, supper, & a bemused gassed doze I sit up and try to improve, or make less bad, my two current poems, "Toads Revisited" and "Sunny Prestatyn", about the poster we saw at Tweedmouth. Neither is very good, or very elevating.
I did go out on Sunday, & for the brief time I was free of cars and motorbikes enjoyed myself a lot. The cottage gardens are all purple and red & gold, & the hedges full of hips & haws & elderberries, & now and again a pale pink wild rose. I stopped at Wawne & poked about in the churchyard, turning up chestnuts in the grass, & noting George Beulah, who had outlived two wives before dying in 1909. All three have identical tall stones. When I was there, a woman called that if I was going into the church, wd I be careful to shut the door, as the heating was on. I hadn’t really intended to, but thought I would, as the heating was on! I was glad I did, because it was all decorated for Harvest Home! Really very thrilling, & funny, the lines of cabbages and cauliflowers, piles of tomatoes in little stone niches, a box of dates (!) on the harmonium, celery up the aisle, chrysanthemums everywhere, a big sheaf of corn, then on the table a bunch of black grapes, a pot of honey (homemade), and a loaf, specially baked I should say. I don’t think I have seen a church so decorated for years, and the shock of it was tremendous — of course I thought of you, although rabbits would be unlikely to take part in such a ceremony, or at least not in the way intended. You would have liked it. I left them a pound, and shut the door carefully — all I harvest is money, but they were welcome to some of that. [...]

13 November 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
Having somewhat recovered from a trodden-worm feeling...
Thursday. I ought to be out at a lecture tonight, but aren’t. There’s a limit to what flesh & blood can bear. I may have to go to another one tomorrow! Hell! My own recital went off, I can’t say well, but anyway it’s over now. I feel rather trodden-worm again. [...]
It’s rather cold here, though dry enough for the time being. The moon has been enormous about 6 p.m., like a huge low luminous saucer. I think I shall add another blanket to the bed.

18 November 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
[...] This reminds me of Angus Wilson, who as I said was nice, in a Hoffish way (‘how can he be?’), but a colossal fool, as Baudelaire put it (‘Not only a colossal fool, but demoniacally possessed’ — he was speaking of George Sand) — Wm Golding the only living novelist (is he homo? I didn’t know), & the like. [...]
I don’t remember you being drunk especially, but we do drink rather a lot — I know I urge it, but it leaves me feeling slightly ashamed afterwards: progressive decline in self-criticism. And a bit liverish into the bargain. [...]

6 December 1962
32 Pearson Park, Hull
Dearest bun, […]
We haven’t had much fog today. I am glad you aren’t in London, it sounds so dangerous. Is your flat warm enough? I expect you are sitting in your bedroom. The winter is wretched*. I get few imaginings of frozen ponds, low red suns, bright lights down long passages; I have a sense of melancholy isolation, life rapidly vanishing, all the usual things. It’s very strange how often strong feelings don’t seem to carry any message of action.
I have put on the Enigma, now Britten is over. How often Owen evokes ‘dark’ and ‘red’, dusk and crimson, like dreadful sunsets on winter afternoons in 1916 & 1917. [...]

*The winter of 1962-3 was the worst for many years.

26 December 1962
21 York Road, Loughborough, Leics.
Dearest bun, […]
Thank you too for your nice cards, I also had a card from Dr Pussy depicting a shooting scene, and there was another one from some anonymous friends — anonymous friends with long ears and vurry Bellies, I reckon. Your card of old style greetings was extremely stylish — a Karin Press card, like those I found in Heal’s, and designed by Robin Jacques, Patsy’s pal. Well, he can design a Christmas card all right, I’ll say that for him.

I suppose I can look back on Christmas day without rancour by now, but it is a trying time and no error. All went reasonably well until tea as you can imagine — except that I did the entire washing-up, saucepans and all — but from then on it was a question of down, gorge, & to some extent down, spleen. My lady sister, spurred on by my hints of expectation of supper, produced the left-overs from tea about nine. No coffee of course. The glass-dish was up to standard — it seemed to incorporate cubes of sponge bathmat at a lower stratum. Rosemary was interrupting and correcting everyone, and (at the age of nearly 16) insisting on her usual childish games. Honestly I don’t think I did anything I wanted ALL DAY except go to the lavatory. Their presents to us were miserable, average cost 10/3d. Mine were opulent, average cost 27/-. I gave Walter [Walter Hewett, Kitty’s husband] "Life At The Top", [John Braine, Life at the Top (1962)] — hoping to annoy Kitty by giving them a book to keep, and a novel, and not a very good one — ogh ogh ogh. Anyway, he seemed to like it. I like Walter.
Life has otherwise been much as usual, made ghastly by the medieval cold — honestly, I believe it is worse than nineteenth-century cold: the fire is all very well, but there needs solid accompaniment of two-bar heaters — and there’s only one, awwrrghgh! only one. My bedroom is like a refrigerator. Mother’s electric blanket broke, & I have ‘mended’ it, so she may be practising suttee involuntarily before long. I get the coal in, damn & blast it. Today I went a walk in the snow. A young chap tried to give me a lift, but I declined, on the grounds that I was walking for exercise, at wch he broke into great guffaws of laughter: ‘Lovely! Jolly good!’, slamming into gear, quite pleasantly though.

Loughborough seems good after Hull: on Christmas Eve there was a Stilton in the bar at the Kings Head, at lunchtime, for all comers. I met Rex there on the Sunday night — he had kindly come in, though he wasn’t well, nor was Liz who hadn’t come — and we were the oldest people in the packed bar by a long way: but all well dressed and well-behaved. Youth! Why didn’t I have one? I’ve always been aged about 65.

Mother asks me particularly to send thanks to you for your pretty card —holly & the ivy. I think she sent you one.

Judy has had an article turned down by “History Today”. Bridget says half the girls at Benenden are doing bust-reducing exercises, and the other half bust-enlarging ones. That seems terribly symbolic of life, really, doesn’t it? There is no news of going to Mo* — I suspect this is on the way out, like Max in the Archers. This is a short self centred letter — see you soon. Love dear xxx Philip

[*Judy Egerton and her daughter Bridget, who was at the independent girls’ school Benenden. Mo was an American friend.]

Philip Larkin - Letters to Monica

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