E. du Perron
Oxford, 12 oktober 1929
21, Warnborough Road,
Dear Mr du Perron. (The other does not come naturally yet - so I'll wait a while till it does - .) - I got in a short while ago feeling a trifle tired after a very full day. Three things happened to keep the good old equilibrium: first, the loveliest sunset in the world. Secondly, some flowers some one had sent - & thirdly your letter - which, I believe, gave me most pleasure - & could have maintained the equilibrium all on its own. - I wonder quite what is in those two books. At lots of points were strings of women's names - & I cursed my ignorance of the Dutch tongue. Will you please translate one for me? Choose yourself - but don't alter anything. - I'll bear it cheerfully, whatever it is. -
I probably detest half - or seven eighths - of the people I meet too. - but I don't think we're right in doing so. Poor devils! Lots of them have a lot to put up with. - As for the quotation from Gide, his point of view has its merits - but God knows I refuse to let it get into my bones. It probably is true - but I won't believe yet. I did for four years - but that did no good & lots of harm - to myself & to ‘the others’ - & so I'll give the new philosophy a fair chance to show its soundness. The British love of cricket, you know - which is merely the sportsmanship & fair play we begin to learn when we leave our cradles. - But my sense of humour loves ‘je prétends que s'il y a quelque chose de plus méprisable que l'homme, c'est beaucoup d'hommes.’ Tout à fait délicieux. As for the rest, I incline to believe in a ‘total’. Non pas ‘exquis’ mais un petit peu moins sordide. It is merely natural to play the game better if you happen to have near you some one you esteem & love - or some one whom you can't esteem but whom you love all the same.
Mon Dieu, Norge, - c'est un des ‘granzommes’? Pourtant ..... my Belgian friends are relatively new. They are mainly students of Liège University with a scattering of young writers - & one Mme Gevers whom I know slightly - & for whose novel Ceux qui reviennent I have the greatest esteem. Try & read it. George Adam came in third for the Prix Verhaeren, I think. He was over in England a short while ago. - Then there is his friend De Keersmaeker who has a useful little aeroplane. (A propos, he came in second in the last Bruxelles - Paris contest). That's all. - I like them - for we're all young - & help each other a lot. - I am to meet Roger de Leval & the Princesse Arnimm who are very friendly with the Sitwells - but Roger de Leval's poetry sometimes gives me a pain - so probably I shall not be too enchanted. - Over here in England there are so many like him (according to the impression George gives me of him) - & I shun them like the plague. - For I too demand of a person that he be true. - Which reminds me of something I wrote last night after a rather boring evening spent over at St. Hugh's. In the first line there is a reminiscence (that came instinctively) of a well-known poem that goes: -
Your plan about coming to England is ----- perfect. Only ----- next spring ----- is ----- a ----- long ---- way ----- off.
I shall look out for a complete Rossetti on Monday - & get some snaps of Oxford for you to know it a little now. -
Roland Holst is right in a way. We, of course, live in separate houses - & there is a certain amount of conventionalism whereby too free intercourse with the men is forbidden. However, when one researches as I, for instance, one is as free as the winds of heaven - more or less. - I've an old friend at Magdalen (where was the Prince of Wales - this is Magdalen's boast so let us not omit it) - Fellow of his college & a Double-First - & there is little difficulty about going round together. However, I'm not an undergraduate - so praps there's where the freedom lies. - The Oxford type of man does not particularly appeal to me really. He is usually somewhat shallow - that is, the aesthetes - or pedantic - in fine. He is not to my mind a ‘tête bien faite’. He lacks sympathy for the most part - & tends to treat every thing that is with perfect (or so he thinks) cynicism. He is just a trifle foolish - usually through not enough hard bangs from life - & not enough knowledge of all classes of people & all types of mind - & all kinds of nations. - Humphrey, my Magdalen friend, is a good soul - but he irritates (!) me often (I'm sorry but I told you I am perhaps more like you than you imagine).
Of course, lots of them are profoundly interesting as lots of the women (for Oxford gets the pick of the brains of the country) - only too often that broad sympathy & delightful understanding through wide experience is lacking. - I remember writing an article on ‘Pedants’ - which I based mainly on Humphrey. I'll let you have it some day. -
You others tend to have that broad sympathy even if you are naturally book-worms. Perhaps your democratic ways account for that. Or your temperament. England is a very snobbish country.-
Don't worry, my dear. I shan't be able to give any more lectures for a while. To be frank, I like it immensely. When I have my doctorate - or before, if I decide as I am perhaps likely to do, that too much University life is bad for one. - I hope to lecture in some University. I nearly was appointed at Durham - but twenty-two is a rottenly babyish age. - I shall be going back to Durham in the middle of November - & with luck I shall become ‘Fellow of the University of Durham’. - Praps after Xmas I may go on to London. - as I'm a trifle too fond of moving round I want to stay long in this Oxford. - At the club of the British Federation of University Women, London, where I shall reside, are no undergraduates - thank God! - & there one can lead a sane normal independent existence - & see as much of man as one desires!! - As for hugging them indiscriminately, I think one arrives at the point of thinking that although it often does lots of good (yes, I admit that, too) - it more often praps does a deal of harm. At eighteen or nineteen or twenty - or even twenty-one - that may be well - but afterwards - Besides, one gets to the point of not wanting to embrace every man - or even a few - but just very occasionally - This should lead on to a discourse on love - but I won't attempt it. For one thing I respect it too much. For another, it may be that our views are quite divergent. For us, there is one man - & love is not merely passion but something much more solid - esteem & respect & friendship - as well as passion. I don't think I've found it yet - for I'm hoping that the ‘universal harmony’ will accord me something very complete & very lovely. -
I had a feeling you were called ‘Edouard’.
- Thank you again for helping to keep the equilibrium, Eddy. (Three cheers! It comes naturally, after all!!)
Origineel: Den Haag, Letterkundig Museum