E. du Perron
Oxford, 19 oktober 1929
xix. x. xxix
My dear Edward, -
I suddenly thought with horror yesterday, ‘What-ever will that man think of my writing so much to him?’ - Horror - for an instant - & then I remembered that we are broad-minded young people - & this morning the new letter put things right - that is, we both want to write quite a good deal. - That's that. - The snaps ... I like the ton-ton, your attitude towards la Vie de Bohème Oscar - le type d' ‘indifférent’ bohémien - sur les photos au moins - la photo du petit garçon qui consulte le vieillard - the sad tale of the Muse et la Madone - et surtout et surtout les cygnes qui font rire le petit garçon - A propos de la Muse et la Madone. I like our British conception of love. We ‘flirt’ more than you others - but our flirtations are deliciously simple - almost childish - & are restricted to youthful kisses & hugs that do one good when one is very young. Then love. I think I told you that we believe in loving one person a very great deal - & if we marry that person, we rest loyal till the end. (This is another side of our idea of playing the game.) Besides, the Englishman would be horribly frightened at anything approaching melodrama (as might arrive if he had a maîtresse as well as a wife) One doesn't have a maîtresse as well as a wife in England - first, because it never enters the head of an Englishman to do so (et je connais bien mon pays et ma race) - & secondly, because his love for his wife includes a good deal of genuine friendship as well as conjugal affection. - The Englishman is usually a virgin when he marries. This is absolutely true. As I said above, the notions of sportsmanship which are inculcated into him from his earliest childhood leave him a little horrified at anything that is not ‘sain’ - & for him love & marriage go hand in hand - & anything else would not be ‘sain’. For instance, on reading Adolphe he says to himself, ‘But why the devil didn't the count marry his lady if he wanted to live with her?’ (You know the man whose mistress Adolphe got in tow with). - I remember being profoundly horrified at the French system of maisons publiques. Of course, they exist in England - but, call it hypocrisy, if you like, I prefer our unsupervised brothels to your state-supervised ones. - Your young men of twenty are already versed in everything that appertains to what they call ‘amour’ - which, to my English mind, is a poor sort of substitute for our magnificent ‘love’. L'amour français seems to turn one into a weak-kneed wretched sort of creature - whereas ‘love’ - our English love - makes one strong. -
So much for ‘love’: Everybody tells me to read Le Grand Meaulnes - & I haven't done so yet. Melle Molino, my French friend here at Oxford, knows the other two books you mention - & speaks of them as being ‘simples’ & ‘vrais’. - Which reminds me of my novel. Unfortunately, you have not rightly interpreted my hieroglyphics: the title is not & never would be ‘Here, Sins & Music’ - which would be possible with any of the Huxley - Beverly Nichols - Frankau group - but not with me. The real title is ‘HERE, SIRS, FIND MUSIC’ - which alters things a great deal. Knowing me a little you will at once understand it. I am persuaded that contemporary cynicism is all wrong - & I would talk a little of my ‘universal harmony’ - pains of necessity, the messes one gets into in life - but show the harmony running through to the end - provided there are a few people that try hard to get at it. The title was suggested by the words of a historian of Eisenach, Bach's birthplace. ‘Claruit semper vitas nostra musica’, he wrote first in honour of his city - & then he proceeded to form an anagram on these words - thus ‘I senacum en musica’ (Here, sirs, find music’) & ‘en canimus’ (‘listen, we are singing’.) - I've got to point out the harmony of things - do a creative work - & not a destructive one. -
Mme Gevers writes under her own name. Her novel is not about the war. -
Finally, Oxford. Last night I got in round about midnight feeling horribly worn out with the ‘social life’ of Oxford. I determined that today I should get back something solid - to my own little personal life - & I'm beginning well by being ‘vraie’ with you. You have rather mistaken notions about Oxford. I see you imagine it to be rather like an overgrown ‘lycée’ where all the students are treated as very little girls & boys - & made to conduct their lives according to the pattern set for them by a number of narrow-minded stoical professors. - In a University such as ours, there are people of all ages, temperaments, races & tastes - & even the Fresher of eighteen does exactly as he likes. He attends lectures if he so desires - or he does not - just as he pleases: he lives strictly according to his personal bent - For the Freshers, there are one or two restrictions - such as the rule of getting back to college somewhere before 11.15 p.m. - the rule of not visiting men alone in their rooms, etc., etc. - which really does not interfere at all with things. If one wants to have a ‘tête à tête’ with a man, there are cafés & restaurants - & the English mind does not see the likelihood of sexual intercourse taking place - or of nights spent together. You understand? We believe in control - in thinking twice or more than twice before making a decision. No, Oxford is the home of free-thinkers & aesthetes among others - the free-thinkers & aesthetes will not stand close supervision. Besides including all sorts of representatives of our aristocracy, it includes the choicest brains of England - & do you for a moment imagine that the Heads of colleges could treat these people in the way you think? - Therewithal the ‘vieux seigneurs’ are themselves the most liberal of thinkers - who themselves have lived hectic lives at certain moments, have been the maddest of modernists & so forth. - No, it is all rather delightful: our reunions at all hours, our ‘tête à tête’. - The only flaw is that one hasn't much time for one's own personal meditation & work. For that reason, I chose to go to Durham first where I could build up a fairly sound philosophy of life on which to place a vigorous social one. I am glad of it, now. -
Thank you for thinking me a ‘charmante femme savante’. I am perhaps too a ‘savante femme charmante’ - tout en étant toujours plus ou moins sincère. - I have learnt the art de plaire à tout le monde à peu près without foreswearing my principles. -
I would like you to read the Requiem of Humbert Wolfe - an ex-Oxford man & one of our greatest modern poets. You will like it. I'll go down this afternoon to Blackwell's (the loveliest of book-shops) & see if they have it in stock. -
Goodbye, my dear, for now. I like you very much indeed.
I forgot to see about Rossetti - but will do that too this afternoon. -
P.S. This small anecdote will illustrate the broad-thinking of the ‘vieux seigneurs’. Prince Chichibu came up to Oxford some time ago (he was very friendly with Humphrey) - & when he went to say bonjour to the principal, he added, ‘My name means “Son of God”. Perhaps you would prefer me to adopt another while I am at Oxford.’ The principal returned rather drily: ‘Oh, we are used to having the sons of great men at Oxford.’ - Isn't that lovely? -
21 Warnborough Road, Oxford.
I don't know what on earth has happened to the translation. It hasn't been returned - so it hasn't yet appeared. - If they return it now, I shall feel ‘squashed’. P.P.P.S.
A plus tard mes articles, etc. Better to consecrate my correspondence for the moment to ‘human’ interests purely - for I want you to know me - as I would fain know you - the man as well as the writer. - Besides, I have very few of my things here at Oxford - & time is passing at a diabolical speed. - And there are so many writers - & so few ‘men’ = ‘têtes bien faites’ pour reprendre le mot de Montaigne. One needs sympathy at this stage more than literary notions - which so many others are ready to pour out. - On that basis, the literary notions will prove more interesting, pas?
P.S. final. - Same day. I'll hie off to the photographer's. I am dark, have brown eyes, & quite an agreeable countenance although I'm not by any means beautiful. I am 5 feet 2 ins. in height - which for us is rather on the small side - as our Amazons are usually about 5 ft. 6 ins. - I am quite strong-looking - although I seem to be losing my youthful plumpness. George says I have a ‘visage lumineux’ which reminds me of the Muse et la Madone. - A lot depends on what I wear. Pullovers of ‘Fair Isle’ pattern make me feel really English - & evening gowns of the latest mode with trailing arrangements down the back turn me into a gracious lady, far removed from dogs & rocks & sea & wet-sand & pullovers. -
Do you know, I'm liking this correspondence immensely. ‘The others’ wait while I write to you. Will do them good. -
Origineel: Den Haag, Letterkundig Museum