E. du Perron
Oxford, 28 oktober 1929
Read first. Note dates.
Samedi 28 octobre - 18h1/2
My dear Edward, -
I am glad that this afternoon's letter is as it is. I'll tell you what happened exactly. I was busy entertaining some guests when I was urgently called out by another visitor - &, having settled that, I saw your letter lying - & read it. I felt rather numb & feelingless after it - & decided I'd better get back to my guests & be a true stoical Britisher, before the U.H. got completely overturned. Then the piano came - & I played jazz songs - & made everybody laugh. When I was alone, I decided that something had snapped - that I should not write any more to you - which would be perfectly simple as somehow you had ceased to exist for me. - Then I said ‘Good God!’ - & decided that Oxford had turned me really horribly sentimental - & then I laughed when I thought over the whole affair - so delightfully idealistic, what! - No, there was no need to say adieu - since there had never been any real ‘bonjour’. - Besides I am too interested in psychology to let you go yet. - The best thing to do - seemed to be to ask you to come immediately - say next Friday or Saturday (at the latest...) (beginning of November) - so that we could put things in their real proportions. - I may love you, I may not (probably not -: your letter has rendered me absolutely reasonable & cold & sane). - One thing. It seemed right for me then to be more often than not the child with you. Now it is right for me to be the woman. I felt before as though you were usually older & safer than I: now I feel that I am the stronger of the two - & that I can direct the future game (whatever you may say as you read this.) - I have been seven times engaged - & this means many ‘relatifs bonheurs complets’ & many hurts, so, seeing my possible love is merely based on fantasy - mostly based on fantasy - I ought to be able to dissuade myself easily. - The choice thing is that I see at least one hundred faults in you, my dear Edward. I don't by any means think you're perfect - in any way. You almost disgust me at times. - And yet I would have given anything to have you near me always - for though I too do not believe in Tristan et Isolde (I am perhaps a very great deal older than you imagine - as much a savante femme charmante as a c.f.s. - remember for future use), I do not believe either in Tourgunieff & Pauline Viardot. - However, I do not think you would have found love with me, a thing that demanded separation after a while if it was to continue. You poor devil! What queer unsatisfying women you must have known! Why, I believe that even you could be kept demanding more & more & more!
Supposing I had come to be your wife, do you think I should have let you get satiated? Never in the world. ‘Suzette says’ she never will understand me completely - that she feels there is still always something to discover - that I am eternally ‘unexpected’ without being fickle & changeable. - And do you think if I love you I should let you solve the enigma? Yes, there would be perfect sympathy - but since we are merely human & full of imperfections, I should have made you feel that there was always something just a little out of your reach - which would prevent satiation. I should have altered my rôles so that you would have found in me at least ten women - & Good God! what more could even a ‘pacha’ desire? I should have satisfied your body - & your mind - & your bit of soul - & I don't think you would have wanted to write long letters to another female. And if you had, I should have departed to another man (not with the intention of giving myself to him for if I loved you I should want only you - but with the purpose of making you miss me - even - for man is feeble - of making you jealous. - And, great heavens, you would have loved me loved me for ever! I am not being optimistic - but merely reasonable - & basing my assertions on my experience. My dear Edward, do you really imagine that I think you more difficult to ‘conquer’ than - the others? Not a bit. And even having said all this - & warned you - I shall have you if I want you - but, O my God, shall I want you - even if I love you - when all my Britishness will fight against it?
- What happened to the woman to make you marry her? Was she going to have a child? I thought one merely left women in that state ... - If you married her because of that, you must be either very weak, my dear Edward, or very altruistic ... I incline to the former ...
The day that seemed to you ‘cruel et vide’.... That's what happens to me when you don't come & say ‘bonjour’...
Well, I've had a delightful fifteen days or so - wouldn't have done without them for the world - & I certainly don't mind what happens now. I am used to not expecting the bonheur absolu - et, mon Dieu, c'est déjà beaucoup de jouir d'un peu de bonheur relatif. -
My sense of humour does not desert me on these occasions. I am heartily tickled at the idea of possibly being in love with a man I've never seen - & who certainly is not a paragon of all virtues, bless him! - & of possibly not at all being in love with him. - As for the ‘microbes extrêmement fragiles’ - Edward, good heavens! - is the plain ordinary flame of sexual passion which daylight disperses love for you? In that case, I've loved at least a thousand men - if mere desire of their bodies is love. - Do you think I would dream of marrying a man whom I merely loved in that way? Good God, never. Do you think I attach much importance to that? It can be quite satisfying for a time - but rather palls afterwards. No. If I ever decide to marry (& three men are at the moment waiting for me to decide!) I shall need a grandfather, a father, a brother, a lover, a dirty love rolled into one. L'élu, le mari - quite. -
All that brings me to this conclusion. Come immediately if you can - & we shall see. I shall hope to be très britannique - or très peu britannique - according to whether I know I love you or not - & according to my conception then of ‘franc jeu’. It will vary according to circumstances. - You may be surprised to find me more childish - or more a woman - than you expected (for as yet I don't know what rôle to adopt in the event of your coming: that will depend on you). I may hate you. I may accept you as a friend, or I may love you - & God help us if I do - & have mercy on us! Tourguniev & Pauline ... Poor Edward ... Les microbes fragiles ... God ... Microbes fragiles don't make one give up everything at necessity - or be - happy. - It's a pity you're married. I should very much have liked to try my skill - & if I loved you, teach you to love me in the same way - completely & for ever. - After seven fiancés one is not as naïf as one might be. Though my conception of love demands all kinds of nice little ideals, it also believes in the use of passion. Had I given myself to you, my body would naturally - through love - harmonise more or less with yours - but I should have seen that the ‘more or less’ became ‘completely’ by bringing into service all the delights that only experience teaches. I should have thanked my stars for my seven fiancés - because all the things they had taught my body could be yours. - Do you still think my sincerity ‘childish’, my dear Edward? - I had promised to be ‘vraie’...
Life stretches before me - & I am stronger than three hundred lions - & shall amuse myself immensely - whilst amusing ‘the others’. - I shall be mostly ‘moral’ (for I have worked out this problem - I decided it is sanest or most reasonable to be moral) - but go to the devil occasionally to add a zest to things. -
- You see you have made me a trifle impersonal & stoical tonight. I do not at the moment want you to take me in your arms & satisfy me body & soul - though, were you here, I might change. -
Come over to Oxford, Edward, next week-end if you can - straight away - the day you get this if possible. If I'm to teach you what one feels like at twenty-two, I must insist on the spirit of adventure right from the beginning. - Mrs Sutton can take you when you like - but demands £2-12-6 for a bedroom & sitting-room (she insists on the sitting-room because of St. Hugh's idea of what is convenable) for a week - & breakfast, + fires. So that would mean about £3.0.0 in all.
|Chambre et 7 petits dejeuners||3.0.0|
+?? for any extra amusements
|Then Anvers-Londres-aller et retour||1.15.0|
|*'||7.6.0 in all.|
- Come & we'll put things right at once. Much better, my dear. -
Try & let me know by return of post - or come immediately (O my dear man, do please). Everything will be ready, in case, (but there must be no ‘in case’ - please, Edward) from Wednesday onwards. - forget your trente ans - & do as I would do under the circumstances.
I'm afraid I've got a trifle hurt in this process, why o why did you get married, my dear love?
I've just reread this ‘vendredi’ letter - & feel as though I should like to take the little girl in my arms and tell her it will be the U.H. somehow in the end! -
To be purely reasonable, I think all this ought to come in useful for ‘Here, sirs, find music’. When it's finished & published, I'll send you a copy - though I feel it ought to be dedicated to some one else - my mother - sounds very moral. She happens to be the finest person I know. In any case, such a dedication would be very original in these disillusioned days.
Vendredi 25 octobre - 23h. -
My dear Edward,
A magnificent idea! Why not come at once to Oxford!!! Do! I asked Mrs Sutton - the lady of the house - about rooms, etc. - & she said you might possibly have one here. She ought not to charge more than 35/- a week for a room & breakfast - for although I pay St. Hugh's at the rate of £8 a week, about 6/8 of that seems to be merely for the honour of considering myself a St. Hugh's woman. That would be simpley topping! I have my sitting-room over at St. Hugh's but never use it - breakfasting here with Suzette - just the two of us, of course - & spending most of the day out. However, we've just hired a piano - & are going to turn our breakfast-room into a sort of general sitting-room. All this is great fun. The woman (Mrs S.) has some ghastly pictures up - & we are wondering how we could tactfully get her to take them down - as we are wondering too whether we can afford a topping Van Gogh we saw in a shop today. However we'll have the piano in any case. It's coming in the morning - & as for the Van Gogh, - we must consider the matter deeply. - Do come at once if you can. You will have your room - & breakfast with Suzette & me - & then we can work together either in the sitting-room (you can get on with the roman & I with dear old Rotrou) or come with me to Bodley ( where you will be left perfectly to yourself) - & then we'll have coffee together in the student's haunt - & then we'll do some more reading (I shall have to - as I have hardly had time to breathe so far) - & then we'll lunch in a quiet little place I know at 2/- each (on my hard-up days, you'll have to lunch alone - so that I may be economical & feed at St. Hugh's) - & then I'll take you into some nice quiet green leafy parts of Oxford - or show you buildings - or ask you to translate one of the ‘contes’! - & then we'll have tea at the ‘Cadena’ - & then home praps till dinner time when we'll dine somewhere (or you alone - see above) - & then a theatre or anything you like - or more reading or talking. - Come, dear. Come, come, come, - say at the end of next week - at the beginning of November - & go to Paris afterwards. I've neglected ‘les autres’ - they're beginning to cry out about my very short correspondence, - so be just & never mind about old Malraux, etc. - Suzette won't bother you - & nobody else if your prefer it so. After dinner. We might go to all sorts of things together. It would be awfully jolly. - Come & stay at least a week - but, of course, if you can, go on staying until November 18th - & then come to Durham with me - but of course, that's too far ahead. I'll see that the chambre is chauffée - & shall pray the U.H. to send lots of sun. - Come, come, come - do - please. - You'll forget you're past thirty - & be a petit garçon again. And if you don't want to go out, just don't - as I often don't either. And if you want to be alone a lot - be alone a lot - as I often want to, too. -
Now, isn't that the most magnificent idea? Come, Edward.
|Bed & breakfast for 1 week - mettons||1.15.0|
+ theatres, etc.
You could be quite comfortable - very modestly, of course, for that sum,
|Anvers - Londres - aller et retour
(pour 15 jours, je pense)
|Londres - Oxford - aller et retour||10.0 environs|
+ theatres, etc.
Now if you stay longer than a week it really would be more economical - étant donné le prix du voyage!! -
Come - as soon as possible. I'm impatient to know the man I've liked since I read the ‘historiettes’. - If you don't, perhaps we'll die off - etc. etc - & then - No, do please do come. -
I'll suggest the possibility of you wanting to come soon to Mth Sutton so that she will see about a room being in readiness in case you do - & send everybody to the devil for while you're here. If you're an old old man, very sage & very disillusioned, I'll treat you like a respected grandfather. If you are like what you sound I'll accept you at once as a jolly old brother (I never had one - & so you would be doing me a good turn ... I've a brother-in-law, though, & he might be jealous) - & we'll have the jolliest time ever. I'll be as vraie as I can so that you'll get a good impression of England - & I'll show you some of the things I've written - & and we'll talk and read and see Oxford together. - I'm getting really impatient at this point. - Do you know I think England would do you a lot of good at the moment. It did George good. I had told him often before he came that we were really rather a nice race - & he was persuaded of it when he came! You see, our sort of general honesty (my apologies!) is refreshing to you poor disillusioned continentals. We can be such children (as you will gather from my letters sometimes!) which does one good. - My dear, do hurry up. Because of the paradox between the petit monsieur gros & the very charming man of the photos, I give up the problem of what you look like - so whatever you are like, it will come as a great shock. And you won't be humiliated because you must have about seven centimetres more than me! And I'm not thin by any means! -
Isn't it going to be topping? Don't make me fall inl love with you, though, - because that would not be a happy ending - that is not a too happy ending (for I believe I'd be as happy as three lords if I loved you, my dear absurd Edward - even if I couldn't have you) - only we'll avoid sentimental complications (even though you think they are ‘rayons de soleil’ in the cavern: so do - or rather did - I!) - so that I can teach you our good friendship - which is the loveliest thing that ever was - & can & does exist in England between men and women - & nowhere else in Europe to my knowledge in such jolly old perfection. -
- Let me know at once. You will get this on Monday - so that I can have a reply on Wednesday. Put everything off - & remember your long, past youth (!) & clothe yourself in the spirit of adventure & come & see Jon (short for ‘Jonathon’ - I was always that at college) who is half a man & half a woman - & who would so much like to shake hands right away - as she - he - hates not knowing anyone thoroughly he - she - likes. -
Come, Edward. Just pile a few things into a case - because I hate being kept waiting - & I am dying to see how fat you are. (You know you're far far vainer than I, my dear Edward). - When I see you I shall shout ‘Three cheers’ (mentally) - decide quickly whether you're to be my grandfather or my brother - not hug you (no, no, no. It is so simple in letters - but I should die rather in real life - naturally!) - & then we'll start to have the jolliest time imaginable. I can't possibly not like you - for you have been ‘vrai’ in your letters, haven't you? - & you must slightly resemble the gentleman of the snaps. What made you go fat? - Do you know, Edward, I shall be horrified praps when I see you because of all the ‘vraie’ things I have said. - You'll help me not to be horrified, won't you? And you won't ever refer to ‘hug’ will you? - or I shall die of embarrassment. -
You see, it's you ‘chère enfant’ that's writing tonight. Do you know, it's perfectly lovely the way one changes one's character - according to whether one feels very vrai, vrai, relatively vrai or pas vrai du tout. Do you know what I'm wishing? I'm wishing that I could get this letter to Belgium before those two awfully amorous ones. Yes, it was that. (This is the last straw - but I'll not destroy your idea of my vrai-ness supposing it kills me!) Pure amorousness - not ‘sale’ - I wanted terribly to be near you - to be in your arms, close to you. - Do you know I got all funny, too - panted & wanted to sob & had a lump in my throat - so that it was really unpleasant. - I mustn't talk about this again - or it will come back! - & you will think me a sentimental child - which I'm not. Do you know it's perfectly glorious being so vrai! The more I am vrai, the more I go on being vrai - until I actually tell you I want to be near you! It's awful. But the awfullest thing will be when you come - & I have to face it out. We'lll laugh, won't we, Edward dear? For you've understood, dear, haven't you? - & you would prefer me to be always & absolutely vraie, wouldn't you? -
Come, come, come - as soon as possible. It would be an enormous pity to wait - for it will get colder.
I wish you'd measured yourself so that I might see just how fat you really are, you dear foolish old Edward. -
I kiss Edward with Oscar & the Swiss professor (not them but you) twice on the forehead (this for the grandfather) - & shake hands (this for the brother). -
Oh, do come - please - Edward.
That's a fat letter, isn't it? It was meant to be a short note. -
I wish I knew whether I'm grown-up or not. I never do know really. - Your fault. You shouldn't be so old.
Origineel: Den Haag, Letterkundig Museum