5 Dec 1921

5 December 1921

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dearest Brett,
   Forgive my delay in answering. I wanted to answer bang off, but these last few days have been rather bad ones - tired ones. I haven't been able to do anything but read. Its on these occasions that one begins to wish for queer things like gramophones. It wouldn't matter if one could just walk away. But thats out of the question at present. But no more of it.
   If possible I will certainly meet you in Paris in the Spring near the Luxembourg Gardens. Lovely idea! It shall be done. I hope to have enough money by then to spend a month in Paris. Wouldn't it be thrilling for you to arrive? I love Paris at that time of year.
   Wasn't that Van Gogh shown at the Goupil ten years ago? Yellow flowers - brimming with sun in a pot? I wonder if it is the same. That picture seemed to reveal something that I hadn't realised before I saw it. It lived with me afterwards. It still does - that & another of a sea captain in a flat cap. They taught me something about writing, which was queer - a kind of freedom - or rather, a shaking free. When one has been working for a long stretch one begins to narrow ones vision a bit, to fine things down too much. And its only when something else breaks through, a picture, or something seen out of doors that one realises it. It is - literally - years since I have been to a picture show. I can smell them as I write. [To Dorothy Brett, 5 December 1921.]

I wish you had J.M's real article on Proust. It seems to me not only by far the best thing he has ever done - but really first-chop. We lived Proust, breathed him, talked and thought of little else for two weeks - two solid uninterrupted Swiss weeks. I confess I did not know how important he is until then - I did not feel his importance as I do now, and the marvel is that those books go on breathing after you have put them away; one is never at an end with them. But they spoil one - they spoil one fearfully for other things. I have begun a certain amount of novel reviewing again and oh - the awful rubbish, the shameful stuff they send across! I read it; it seems too bad to blame even - and then I read the reviews and find Shaw Desmond is "capable of a masterpiece, and well on the way of writing one". It is profoundly disquieting to be so out of tune with ones times. I mean that very seriously. The only way to bear the horrid truth is by writing oneself - going on . . .
   I dont intend to live in Switzerland. In spite of the beautiful aspects one cant tolerate the peasants. They are so ugly, such boors, so heavy. Never have I imagined such ankles. It has always been a faint surprise to me the passion of men for ankles - their desire to kiss them - and so on. But now! Oh Heavens! I could go down on my knees to a lovely pair. The ankles of my Ernestine are an anguish to me. They haunt me. Physical beauty - how I love it! How I hate grossness. Here is poor good Jones with her passion for buttoning the food into little tight suet jackets. Suet is an abomination!  [Continuation of letter to Sydney Schiff from 3 December 1921.]