You will be glad to know that your letter has not only arrived, but is serving that most worthy of purposes: a bookmark, as I make my rapid way through Howard’s End. A title that is that rarest of things these days: an utter surprise.
I was actually dreading picking it up, since I was sure it was a thing of romance. And like Anne of Green Gables, I find my pen just isn’t right for romance these days. Writing romance, she states with an insight that belies her years (and thus testifies something to the rather more expanded lifespan of her creator) requires a certain type of nib – not scratchy, nor yet too soft. Reading romance, for me, is the same. It is only pleasant on certain occasions, in a mood just so. Perhaps as an antidote to very strong winds. But add just a flicker of fireside and chocolate hob-nobs, and the whole thing will be over-sweetened. Murder and comedy, alas, go well with any kind of baked goods.
Anyhow, I was reluctant, since I thought the last of the roses climbing and tumbling would make Howard’s End too much of a muchness, but as it turns out, it is a bracing little thing on politics! The discovery felt rather like a bite of crisp, tart apple when you were expecting the sweet, mushy flesh of pear. It is littered with bits to be quoted, of course – some on umbrellas, others on the price of coal. My favorite so far must be this:
“He knew that he was poor, and would admit it; he would have died sooner than confess any inferiority to the rich. This may be splendid of him. But he was inferior to most rich people, there is not the least doubt of it. He was not as courteous as the average rich man, nor as intelligent, nor as healthy, not as lovable. His mind and his body had been alike underfed, because he was poor, and because he was modern they were always craving better food. Had he lived some centuries ago, in the brightly coloured civilizations of the past, he would have had a definite status, his rank and his income would have corresponded. But in his day the angel of Democracy had arisen, enshadowing the classes with leathern wings, and proclaiming ‘all men are equal – all men, that is to say, who possess umbrellas’, and so he was obliged to assert gentility, lest he slipped into the abyss where nothing counts, and the statements of Democracy are inaudible.”
Ah, for the happy days when a potato was a potato. And hardly a fluttering of laced breast in sight. But then I suppose dear Forster didn’t care much for breasts – perhaps rather more for lace – or was that some other fellow? I can never remember which ones of our great ones were queer and which where just aesthetical. I think I should read more biographies, they are always full of speculation on the sex side of things. Which is quite another thing from romance, don’t you find, but also tricky in that it need to be taken in just the right amount not to be too overpowering a flavour.
Speaking of potatoes, the funniest thing happened the other day. I was looking out at the lawn, and thinking I should dig up a patch in order to put in a few rows of potatoes, since the Vicar so likes his new potatoes. At the same time, I was worried about what he would say, seeing as he was more of a lawn man than a kitchen garden type. Then I realized that is not something that need worry me, as he won’t be able to make his unhappieness known. And at the same time: I realized, that I don’t have to put in potatoes either. I don’t like them and never have. The Vicar is gone, and I need mash nothing any longer! So I will still be digging up a patch of the lawn, but I will fill it with strawberries instead. Strawberries, incidentally, go well with murder also.
As to our guilty conscience – the cat tumbled it off the table the other day and was almost killed. My men are still on the train on their way to the golf – tell me, will it get any easier once they get there? And how long are they allowed to stay on the green before they are tumbled down the trenches? So far, I read a few lines – am amazed and stunned by the beauty and detail of the language – then I grow faint at the tought of yet another gazillion pages of the same beauty and detail, and I put it down. Will I ever see the end of Parade’s End?
Oh, and adding inslut to injury, I picked up the first volume of A Dance to the Music of Time, and now I cannot keep the two tomes straight. Some are on their way to the course, and some are getting caught smoking, and I can’t for the life of me remember which boy is being a boy which way? It is rather unfortunately like having two lovers of the same height (or weight in this case) – something that invites all sorts of embarassments.
Before I go: would you like me to ship you some plums? My hands haven’t been anywhere near the jamming process of course, but the locals seems to think I need feeding, and decorate my stoop rather like they would the altar in times of harvest. I cannot possibly eat such amounts of preserved fruit, or my bowels won’t know what hit them. I can perhaps put them on a train for you?
With love – but no romance – your Rose