Monday, 21 September 2009

the element of lavishness

continuing on the letter writing...

i'm currently reading the element of lavishness, the edited letters of william maxwell and sylvia townsend warner and they are fabulous. i could go on and on about them but instead i'll give you a couple of examples (using titus's p161 method to yield the following)

Warner to Maxwell, January 4th, 1966

We are both sympathetic to your views on violent games. When Valentine had been finished in Paris, the height of elegance with a skull on her dressing table and everything fashion demanded of her, her parents went mad and decided she must have a course at South Coast College of Domestic Science. There she was called upon to play hockey. since she did not know how to play hockey she was put to keep goal (I do not follow the reasoning). There she stood, detached as a heron, all scorn and misery, till she saw twenty two beefy young women rushing towards her, brandishing hockey sticks. She cast down her stick, and RAN for her life.

Warner to Maxwell, January 24th, 1966

...I shall worry about you, not that I want to. But i am convinced it is very dangerous to have anything to do with the law. I think you should carry a little bunch of sweet herbs to ward off jail-fever, and a foot-warmer in case there is a power cut while you are considering your verdict, and some kind of sustaining meat lozenge for the same reason and a small foam rubber cushion. Two months, good God, with intermittent sessions hereafter. I hopes at least you have some of Wordsworth's sonnets at heart; since there will be no advertisements to read and translate and versify and set in canon and mentally embroider in cross stitch. You will have my prayers and i will write to you regularly.

They maintain this arch and playful tone throughout there letters, with real poignancy at the end of warner's life as her ill health bears down upon her. it's a real insight into a different, vanished world and the beautiful language of both is a joy to read.

further on the letter writing subject i was listening to if you're reading this a documentary on letters written by soldiers to be read in the event of their death. it'd bring a tear to a glass eye. worth the listen.

1 comment:

Roxana said...

oh, swiss, what a delightful read - indeed. could it be that we have lost that spirit completely? :-(
(and i needed a breath of joyful air after reading your last black poems :-)