E. du Perron
Oxford, 23 oktober 1929
For heaven's sake, read this impersonally, my dear Edward - & regard it (for the moment) as an Oxford woman's metaphysical and sentimental orgy. - That can do no harm. -
xxiii. x. xix. - 19h.
My dear Edward, -
The young one is again very British & stoical - & will now reply to your letters in logical fashion.
1. I love the snaps - & am willing to give all the cupboard room I possess to lodge them.
2. I am interested in your ‘fatness’. You don't look at all like the left-hand side gentleman of the rhyme-sheet. Does it bother you? I know lots of methods for getting thin (this to keep the ‘human’ interest alive in our correspondence (cf. 1)!! You are really handsome in Roland Holst's over-coat - although I like you best with ‘Oscar’ & the Swiss professor. Look, I'll show you how to get thin - & then you'll be happier about it.
3. Le suicide ... I'm sorry about your father ... Yes, seriously, I might possibly commit suicide were it not for a number of people who would be rather bothered because of that - & bothered not only sentimentally (they would get over that) but in more practical ways. - I have never seen any one dead (which probably accounts for my light attitude towards the physical horror of death) - except that once I saw the still muffled up form of a young man who had just been drowned - (See ‘Harmony’ - which is based on this experience.) - I remember the awe which possessed me for a while afterwards - but I returned soon to my normal attitude towards death.
4. Your wife. I should imagine her to be a rather ordinary but pretty & superficially cultured woman - whom you had imagined to have lots more in her than she really had - or who had probably been quite a suitable ‘parti’ (according to the French idea of marriage. There is something in it: that is, it would be foolish to imagine that two people of different social positions - or different intellectual ones - could be really happy together. However, to my mind, real love usually does not depart from these two factors.).
5. Mes sept fiancés. I broke off the last affair six months ago. I began at eighteen - being more interested in dogs & sea before that - although I believe I had certain delightful little fairy-stories to myself - very occasionally - before that. No, I really don't think all that bothered me before eighteen. - I used to ‘flirt’ (nasty word) a lot in the old days: I think I explained what is our conception of flirtation. I don't now - as I don't usually want to - & if I do, there are usually certain things that made me draw back - either moral scruples (for sometimes even youthful exuberance of spirits in this regard causes a lot of bother for some person or persons). In short, I don't think it's quite ‘franc jeu’. This after a lot of mental probing.
6. Bon. I shall call you ‘Edward’ till the end.
7. Three cheers! I'm awfully glad you were awfully glad I didn't weep. If I hadn't sent that terrible epistle this morning I should send you a monstrous hug through space. - And another one for understanding my preference for Durham.
8. I should be as HAPPY AS THREE LORDS if you come soon to see me. What on earth does it matter what you look like - whether you are as fat as - anything - or equally thin? I don't care. What I like is you. Now if you have not been ‘vrai’ in your letters, I might not like you - for I like the man who has been writing to me. But supposing you have not always been ‘vrai’ (& that would destroy the balance, my dear Edward, for I have been always ‘vraie’ [what a paragon of all virtues, don't you know!]) then I would still understand. I'm only afraid of one thing. You talked one day of not always being interested only in the clean side of things. Now, I'm broad-minded. Suzette says so - the most broad-minded woman she knows (I'm being frank - so understand: all this will help you to know me better) - only, although a man can tell me all about his secret vices - (for instance, one confessed to being a masturbator) & not by any means lessen my opinion of him but rather make me admire his sincerity, - yet - I am just a little afraid that you - O, you understand, don't you, Edward? - You see, when you like anybody, you want him to be - strong - in the general sense. Some kinds of ‘saleté’ I forgive freely - but others I detest & abominate. All that fits in with my idea of ‘franc jeu’. A person for me may be ‘good’ who, according to the ordinary moral code is a thorough rotter. - You understand, my dear? -
9. And now for your projected visit to England. What I should like would be for you to come to Durham round about the 24th of November. I have to go up on the 18th - to sit an exam, - which is rather important as if the impression I give is a good one I shall be elected ‘Fellow of the University of Durham’ (be it added, this is the highest honour any University can give its children). Of course, my general acquisitions will count for a lot - but the ‘vieilles barbes’ of Durham insist on this examination - & one never knows what might happen. Now, if you could manage to come on the last day of my examination we could have a perfectly delightful couple of days more together in Durham - pay a flying visit to some very ‘vrais’ people in Sunderland nearby, if you liked - people of your own age & very liberal, therewithal - & then come down to Oxford - where I should hope to keep you as long as possible. I told you I shall be going to London on Dec. 7th - & then over to Belgium. Tell me what you think of all this.
10. Your ‘Questions pratiques’: -
|1.||I know the Dover-Calais route but not the Ostende one. Yes, the former is all right - & lasts merely an hour or so.|
|2.||London-Brussels is 165 Belgian francs single, I think. - London-Durham third class single (there exists only ‘First’, & ‘Third’ in England - & nobody travels ‘First’ as ‘Third’ is very comfortable) - is about £1.14.0, I think. Durham-Oxford should be about the same. Oxford-London is 5 or 6 shillings single.|
|3.||Living in England is more expensive than abroad as you know. For instances, I pay for seven weeks' residence at St. Hugh's £55 - which means merely board & lodging. Bed & breakfast in a hotel costs anything from 8/6 upwards - but a room somewhere would mean much less. One can get a perfectly normal lunch for 2/- or so in a perfectly normal restaurant - but of course prices vary according to one's demands.|
|4.||You would go from Dover to London - & then from London to Durham (London to Durham is about a four or five hours’ journey - but you would see a lot of England - & Durham-Oxford would take you through the Middle of England). The journey is very simple. Dover-London is merely a question of an hour or two. Our railway service is good.|
11. Clothes. - Don't bother about a ‘smoking’. It's getting colder - but please come therewithal.
12. A ‘garret’ is a ‘mansarde’. I'll try & find something suitable.
13. 'C'est napolitain, persan, arabe...’ Suzette says I am the most un-British - & yet the most British - person she has ever met.?? Somewhere in the early 18th century, I had a French ancestor. Also there was the rebel to the throne who had his head cut off because he really had to stick to his principles.
Don't be afraid of death. I'll come, if you'll have me, & kill all the devils that want to eat you up & slaughter wholesale all the angels if they annoy you by their prudishness. Let me be there, dear. You won't mind at all - & if you're afraid awfully much, I'll come too - so we can compare notes, if we find things have not finished & that there is some sort of conscious existence (which, of course, I don't for a minute imagine). -
The ‘Variétés’ you sent has just arrived. I haven't had time to study it as I want to go on writing to you: only it reminds me of the impression I had when I received your works - the fairy-tales.
No, no, dear, I can't see how things will change if we see each other. First, I don't mind if you're a petit gros monsieur - & the real ‘you’ can't be very different from the one in your letters. I'm the same as in my letters - & people like me usually even if I don't care too much for them. - I'm only afraid you'll think me awful for writing what I did this morning - & which I meant then - & which I go on meaning. It's curious. Don't imagine for a moment that I am a silly romantic young thing: I'm not. Only, I don't know. I only - would like you to be near me - which is perfectly terrible seeing I've never seen you - & sounds too idiotic for words. I estimate people by their ‘vrai'-ness - & don't bother much about anything else. I'm afraid, too, I might go & think too much about you - & you being married. All this is quite mad - but I can say this seeing you aren't there to make me blush as red as a beetroot. I'm fairly old in my head - have had an enormous lot of experience in my twenty-two years - so that I am permitting myself the delight of telling you just what I feel. God knows what I shall do when I see you. Probably we'll laugh - & then - heaven knows. - Aren't we two cheerful idiots? The truth is, - life is too damnable an affair to do without being ‘vrai’. And although all my Britishness persuades me I am mad to - fall in love with - your letters (there! That's that! - in spite of what you may say) the pleasure is too great. I've never been so happy for ages. - You know, my dear Edward, your age puts you at an advantage. Most men I like in a maternal way (I mean, those I like) but I can't look up to them somewhere. With you, I feel - right - that is, although I want to protect you from everything that hurts you (I wish I could operate on you to remove this awful fat that bothers you) & although you make me feel very maternal at times, - yet - I don't know - when I am tired I should like you to be there to put things right - for you understand so well everything. - Yes, I'm on the way to falling in love with you. Good God! Besides the deep sympathy & friendship, the jolly old mutual understanding. - God. God. God. I couldn't possibly say it. It would be too awful. - I told you this morning I actually gave huge sobs over your letters - &, my God, if you'd been here. I - you - would have embraced all the beastly suffocation away. -
I've had to say all that so as to go on being ‘vraie’. - And you'll understand. -
You are wrong in believing that there are many Englishmen who have a wife & a mistress at the same time. Take, for instance, my case. Supposing you are married, supposing I decide when I see you that my instinct is right - that - I love you - what will happen? Merely this. You shall never know that I love you. - That is normal with us. - Franc jeu, you know. - I shall smoke twenty cigarettes straight off. Thank the Powers that Be for having known you - & decide that I owe them an extra moral effort - which, with their help, I shall make. -
I am ashamed of myself - honestly. I think it's quite the most stupid thing I've ever done, - one of the most stupid, rather. Never mind. We're trying to be all the time ‘vrais’. -
Now something really interesting. The Oxford Women's Magazine is publishing your ‘historiettes’ in a week or two. This magazine appears four times a term - & has an enormous circulation - among the educated classes. I'm glad. -
I'd better wind up at this point. I should like to stay in tonight - but - as usual, there is something. Monday night, the ‘Poetry Club’ - (quite amusing) - Tuesday night the ‘Playhouse’ (where they do all sorts of very interesting plays - Greek, Russian, etc. etc. - in English, of course) - Wednesday night the English Club (Sir Nigel Playfair is speaking on ‘A National Theatre’ tonight) - Thursday night, pictorial art, Friday night, politics - Saturday night, the theatre & Sunday night, general entertaining. The afternoons are the same - & the mornings. I should like to stay in tonight. My Durham mind hates this eternal gadding about - which though quite interesting leaves me - if the others - groping back to my solid philosophy of life. -
Goodbye now - & don't accuse me of being a young fool. I've enjoyed it immensely (there I am as Epicurean as you) - & I've merely said what I think. - Do you know, whatever happens, we ought to have a really jolly old time!! - Tell me what you think of the Durham idea - & ask as many more questions as you like. Meantime I'll find out more about a room just opposite 21 Warnborough Road - where you might stay if you come from Durham to Oxford. Particulars later.
Origineel: Den Haag, Letterkundig Museum