12 March 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

France is a remarkable country. It is I suppose the most civilised country in the world. Book shops swarm in Paris and the newspapers are written in a way that English people would not stand for one moment. There's practically no police news. True, they did write about Landru's execution, but so well it might have been de Maupassant! They are corrupt and rotten politically, thats true. But oh, how they know how to live! And there is always the feeling that Art has its place, is accepted by everybody, by the servants, by the rubbishman as well as by all others as something important, necessary, to be proud of, Thats what makes living in France such a rest. If you stop your taxi to look at a tree the driver says "en effet cet' arbre est bien jolie" and ten to one moves his arms like branches. I learned more about France from my servant at Menton than anywhere. She was pure French, highly highly civilised, nervous, eager, and she would have understood anything on earth you wished to explain to her - in the artistic sense. The fact is they are always alive, never indifferent as the English are. England has political freedom (a terrific great thing) and poetry and lovely careless lavish green country. But Id much rather admire it from afar. English people are I think superior Germans (10 years hard labour for that remark). But its true. They are the German ideal. I was reading Goethe on the subject the other day. He had a tremendous admiration for them. But all through it one felt "so might we Germans be if only we knocked the heads of our police off". Its fascinating to think about nations and their significance in the history of the world. I mean in the spiritual history.
[To Dorothy Brett, 9 March 1922.]

My dear Mr Gerhardi,
   Please do not think of me as a kind of boa-constrictor who sits here gorged and silent after having devoured your two delightful letters, without so much as a ‘thank you'. If gratitude were the size and shape to go into a pillar box the postman would have staggered to your door days ago. But Ive not been able to send anything more tangible. I have been - I am ill. In two weeks I shall begin to get better. But just for the moment I am down below in the cabin, as it were, and the deck, where all the wise and happy people are walking up and down & Mr Gerhardi drinks a hundred cups of tea with a hundred schoolgirls is far away. But I only tell you this to explain my silence. Im always very much ashamed of being ill; I hate to plead illness. Its taking an unfair advantage. So please let us forget about it. . .
   Ive been wanting to say - how strange how delightful it is you should feel as you do about The Voyage. No one has mentioned it to me but Middleton Murry. But when I wrote that little story I felt that I was on that very boat, going down those stairs, smelling the smell of the saloon. And when the stewardess came in and said "we're rather empty, we may pitch a little" I can't believe that my sofa did not pitch. And one moment I had a little bun of silk-white hair and a bonnet and the next I was Fenella hugging the swan neck umbrella. It was so vivid - terribly vivid - especially as they drove away and heard the sea as slowly it turned on the beach. Why r I don't know.It wasn't a memory of a real experience. It was a kind of possession. [To William Gerhardi, 11 March 1922.]