03 October

3 October 1920

 Menton, France

[Telegram to J. M. Murry in Collected Letters, 1 October 1920]

We live that we may live. However rich the present may be, it is a preparation. The writer no sooner finishes his book than he begins to discover what he wants to say. The painter puts the last touch to his picture, thinking that next time he will start off at that last touch. We believe, in spite of the youngest novelists, that lovers see their children in each other's eyes...What is the Present when the Future is removed, when life is haunted, not by Death in the fullness of time, but by Death's fast-encroaching shadow?
[. . .] But A Gift of the Dusk is not only a record of suffering - a revelation, rather, of how one is alone in one's agony; there grows out of this sorrowful soil a friendship with a fellow-sufferer, Mary Rolls. It is the gift that each receives. What a moment to clasp hands with love! But the beauty of their relationship is that, although every dreadful circumstance is against them, it is untouched. Had they met elsewhere the outward show would have been different, but that which was essential - their deep sense of intimacy, of companionship, their belief in a kingdom shared - would have been the same. Almost, at this point, we would beg for a little less than the truth - almost we would have had the author lift his book from the deep shadow which - nevertheless - so wonderfully sustains it. But Mr. Prowse knows better. [KM's review of A Gift of the Dusk by R. O. Prowse in the Athenaeum, 29 October 1920]

The garden menagerie includes snakes - a big chap as thick as my wrist, as long as my arm, slithered along the path this morning and melted into the bushes. It wasn't horrid or fearful, however. As to the mice - Marie's piege seems to snap in the most revolting way. A fat one was offered to a marauding cat at the back door yesterday - but it refused it. "Polisson! Tu veux un morceau de sucre avec?"[Trans: Would you like some sugar with that?] I heard Marie[The maid at Villa Isola Bella] scold. She is very down on the cats here; she says they are malgracieux. Yes, she is a most remarkable type. Yesterday afternoon - it was terribly gloomy & triste[Trans: sad] outside & she came in for the coffee tray - & said how she hated Menton. She had lived here 8 years with her pauvre mari and then they'd lived 2 years in Nice where he died & was buried. She said she could bear Nice because il se repose la bas mais ici - Madame - il se promenait avec moi - partout partout - and then she beat her little black crepe bodice & cried "trop de souvenirs - Madame - trop de souvenirs". Oh, how I love people who feel deeply. How restful it is to live with them even in their ‘excitement'. I think for writers, people like you and me, it is right to be with them - but the feeling must be true - not a hair breadth assumed - or I hate it as much as I love the other. As I write that I don't believe it any more. I could live with you and not care 2 pins if people ‘felt' anything at all - in fact I could draw away and be very aloof and cold if they did. I don't know. Its too difficult. [Letter to J. M. Murry in Collected Letters. 4 October 1920]