E. du Perron
Oxford, 24-25 oktober 1929
Thursday - Midnight. -
This is as certain Durham moments. Last night Lady Pamela Bourne: tonight some friends of Humphrey & of Humph's friends - who are now my friends. Four were ‘vrais’ - & the other a very insincere young lady - but then she is childish although she is as old as myself. Mostly music - which we took as it presented itself & did not turn it into something purely intellectual by sound discussing its merits & construction. - A rather dear soul brought me home - & he too was ‘vrais’. - And now I wish to God I might weep or do something to remove this horrible lump deep down in my throat - which comes with the moments of universal harmony. It would be good to depart now - to feel myself gently slipping away into my harmony - with my jolly old lump in my throat - & a magnificent swell of hope in my heart. - But I must go on for a long time yet. I'm not afraid as I used to be. Things will right themselves eventually right till the end. I shall go on being desperately lonely inside in spite of my many good friends - & of the many ‘points de contact’ I manage to find. - Life seems to be a constant striving after something out of reach: the something comes close at last, but another something looms beyond. And so on. Then I shall depart this flesh - & be absorbed in my jolly old harmony. - All that ought to cheer me immensely - only it seems to be so hellishly sad tonight. - I am as strong as a lion - but just very occasionally the awful emptiness of things strikes me hard. I believe in man's power to faire franc jeu - & to see all things moving together to form the universal harmony - but I - I - where shall I find something to satisfy me completely? I think of my academic ambitions - & they perhaps will satisfy me most - for they require effort - & I get magnificent satisfaction after effort. But all that is relative. My literary ones? Perhaps something more satisfying here - for I might make things easier & simpler for a whole lot of the ‘others’ - for given up trying to satisfy myself in the ordinary ways: love, friendship, work - for they are merely relative. If I might give my life - or something I attach more importance to - for the whole world - I should perhaps then be happy. Christ must have had really a topping time in spite of the physical pain. Imagine knowing that a mere sacrifice of your life would probably simplify things for millions of poor devils to come afterwards. (for undoubtedly Christianity is the solidest of social philosophies - even if Christ is for one, as for me, merely a magnificent man). - I have always considered myself the most selfish of individuals - & other people think I am extremely otherwise - for knowing my great fault I strive like hell against it. -
I'm turning into a regular theologian. My apologies. Were I at home, I should now proceed to do two things: first imbibe quantities of Martini & Sauterne - & then - were you there - I should ask you to take me in your arms to help me to find the universal harmony quickly - & I should find it - then I should sleep & arise tomorrow forte comme un lion as ever. -
But I'm not at home: I'm merely in our charming Oxford. So I'll do a little Spanish (I'm learning for Rotrou who is my subject of research) - & sleep alone.
All this you will understand perfectly - as I should understand if you had said it. -
So now to the Spanish. Tomorrow will being its usual series of delights - & I shall be well content unless I meditate on the ‘vide’. - But I shan't, so help me o my good old universal harmony. -
I think men & women are the most delightful, wretched poor, dear sweet creatures that ever were.
Friday, 9 a.m.
I could have written most of that this morning. I suppose, looking at things in the thin October sunlight, that I am suffering from too much bustle & fleeing about. Good, I shall have to continue till the end of the week in that wise - & then I'm going to retreat a little. I'm just longing to be alone for lots of hours on end - to get deeply sunk in my work - but here one can't. - It's all very jolly - & I am well content in spite of my grousing. - I'm going to frame the petit monsieur gros & put him near - to remind me that at thirty things will be much simpler.
Friday, 9 a.m.
My harmony has gone wrong somehow: it often does. For one thing, the exteriorally agitated life of Oxford has left me so far little time for book-study (which, God knows is a comfort - & gives one the possibility of training to know oneself to the full - & thereafter something solid to hang on to.) - Secondly, I am hesitating between continuing at Universities for a doctorate - & rolling off somewhere for more of the jolly old really practical life. - Thirdly, I could kick myself for being so disgustingly sentimental in my letters to you: just what any French girl would do - & I should despise her. However, I had promised to be ‘vraie’ - but in future I am going to be a real stoical Britisher - & remember that my business in life must pivot round fantasy - & that with a very little effort I can be the most accomplished detached ascetic - ( which has a few good points.) However, we promised to be ‘vrais’ - & God knows I've enjoyed myself immensely & been deliciously happy for rather longer than usual - & all because I've found somebody else to esteem highly (in spite of your ‘dirty habits!’ !) - which has made the ‘harmony’ a little solider. This in itself is a lot to me - & I am used to not expecting more than a hundredth part of what I want. I feel stronger - strong as the jolly old lion (we'll have it in the masculine today) - & I'm ready to go back to the ‘book-study’. The spectacle of the little boy (for I am sometimes almost one too) thanking the Universal Harmony for a little chunk of added strength - & of real happiness - normal happiness - is a trifle sad. You know, he's ever such a stoic really. He's had some nasty buffetings to put up with - but he has grown by degrees stronger - & will be able to do without lots of things that some of ‘the others’ would be lost without. He doesn't mind what happens - as nothing more terrible than certain things that happened a few years ago can come again. Like things may recur - but then he is ready to face them & bear them & vanquish their sting - since the encounter will not be new. - Besides, he is so bucked that U.H. has given him somebody else to esteem & admire - that - well, - c'est déjà beaucoup. -
I have that ghastly sensation of not ever being able to grasp the very intangible - & what would be satisfying - something. It is the sensation of an immense yearning of all of one towards complete possession of the U.H. - It is very impersonal in a way. For instance, Christ's act - his death, he believed for the adoucissement des maux of the world - ought to be it - in a relative way. - Heaven knows how anything but death, the ‘grand luxe’, would get me to the absolute stage - the complete & consummated U.H.
- I am pleased about one thing, my Edward. From being the most finished of egoists, I have learnt I [am] fond [of] the question of the others. It used to be a sort of stoical self-imposed devoir - but now since we are creatures of habits, it has grown into me - & I am enjoying the joys of ‘the others’ & feeling their hurts - just in so far as to leave one with enough reason to - continue to direct things along the lines of the U.H. - & it is this sense that I am directing all the time - that keeps one ‘seule’ - & at heart an individualist - just as much as you are. -
All is well. I've got some work to do. -
Edward, I would like to cry on your front. -
At that point I enjoyed myself reading - then somebody barged in & wanted to take me to coffee - but I put my foot down & read on. Then Suzette & I raced out for a bus to take us to a lecture - & I felt about three years old in the sunlight running like a couple of young dogs. Suzette does not like the rain - or running. The lecture was mediocre - which made me a trifle hilarious - but as it started then to hail (tomber de la grêle) my hilarity was not on cynical lines. - In fact, I should have liked to laugh on your front, my dear Edward. -
Somebody came to see me at that point - & I am fit for nothing more. The somebody was what we call a ‘cat’ - & really it has been depressing. However, Suzette & I are going out - & though I feel at the moment neither like weeping nor like laughing - & certainly not on anybody's front - not even on one's own - that will get put a little more right outside with the sun & the ‘vraie’ Suzette. -
Isn't it awful when outside things because of their horrible pettiness shrivel one up - & make one absolutely weary? - However --
I shall be happy to have you in England with me. The weather still continues fine (in spite of the few bits of grêle that fell: I think God, who sometimes is no gentleman, was dissipating a before-lunch bitterness by trying to pot at people that he could see through the cracks of the aged heavenish floor down in a street of Oxford.) -
My dear Edward, I would like to laugh & cry on your front.
Do you think I'm the most impossible young Britisher you know? - That - in the hopes that you will say something nice.
Origineel: Den Haag, Letterkundig Museum