23 November

23 November 1920

Villa Isola Bella, Menton, France

And about Poison. I could write about that for pages. But Ill try & condense what Ive got to say. The story is told by (evidently) a worldly, rather cynical (not wholly cynical) man against himself (but not altogether) when he was so absurdly young. You know how young by his idea of what woman is. She has been up till now only the vision, only she who passes. You realise that? And here he has put all his passion into this Beatrice. Its promiscuous love not understood as such by him, perfectly understood as such by her. But you realise the vie de luxe they are living - the very table, sweets, liqueurs, lilies, pearls. And you realise? she expects a letter from someone calling her away? Fully expects it? which accounts for her farewell & her declaration. And when it doesn't come even her commonness peeps out - the newspaper touch of such a woman. She can't disguise her chagrin. She gives herself away . . . He of course laughs at it now, & laughs at her. Take what he says about her 'sense of order' & the crocodile. But he also regrets the self who dead privately would have been young enough to have actually wanted to Marry such a woman. But I meant it to be light - tossed off, & yet through it - oh - subtly - the lament for youthful belief. These are the rapid confessions one receives sometimes from a glove or a cigarette or a hat. I suppose I haven't brought it off in Poison It wanted a light, light hand - and then with that newspaper a sudden . . . let me see lowering of it all - just what happens in promiscuous love after passion. A glimpse of staleness. And the story is told by the man who gives himself away & hides his traces at the same moment.
I realise its quite a different kind to Miss Brill or the Young Girl (she's not ‘little', Bogey; in fact I saw her big, slender, like a colt). Will you tell me if you see my point at all? Or do you still feel its no go? [To J. M. Murry in Collected Letters, 1920]