Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Letter to Roger Fry

You never know what you will find in the pages of The Bright Side, do you? That's because my mind (and reading material) is full of this and that, and at odd times, I think, hmmm....I liked that particularly, I think I'll share it.

Well, I love Virginia Woolf's letters. I think if one is to appreciate her properly, one must read her letters...they are performances of course, but wise and witty and malicious (ooooh, did she love to gossip and she seemed to have a poor opinion about...well, many people) they are charming and delightful and I don't know, somehow satisfying.

Anyway, there were plenty to choose from, but I decided to go with the one she wrote to Roger Fry...because I think it encapsulates a Virginia letter...all the parts. Here we go!

Oct. 17 1921 Hogarth House, Richmond

My dear Roger,
Your letter arrived precisely one hour ago, and here I am sitting down to answer it. Whether the answer will be sent is, of course, another matter. Your last - slightly tipsy, very brilliant, sympathetic, inspiring and the best you ever wrote, - sent me flying to the inkpot, but when I read my production and compared it with yours my vanity as an author refused to be pacified. I can't endure that you should write so well. If you want answers let your letters be like bread poultices; anyhow, I tore up what was, I now think, the best letter I ever wrote. Would you like it if I dashed off a little sketch of the eclipse of the moon last night, which entirely surpassed your great oil painting of the Rape of Eurydice - or whatever it is?

You will say that you don't have eclipses of the moon on the shores of the Mediterranean. Well, its true we have been having the devil of a time - the influenza. Leonard refusing to go to bed; Nelly [Boxall] like a hen run over, but unhurt, by a motor car; Lottie [Hope] something after the pattern of an intoxicated Jay: the house ringing with laughter and tears. Do other people go on like this, I sometimes wonder, or have we somehow (this includes you, by the way) slipped the coil of civilisation? I mean, we've jumped the lines. There you are bathing naked with 50 prostitutes; yesterday we had Goldie [G. Lowes Dickinson] to tea. I do my best to make him jump the lines. He has written a dialogue upon homosexuality which he won't publish, for fear of the effect upon parents who might send their sons to Kings: and he is writing his autobiography which he won't publish for the same reason. So you see what dominates English literature is the parents of the young men who might be sent to Kings. But Goldie won't see this -- having a mystic sense, in which I am deficient. He was as merry as a grig, though; and had forgotten whatever it was -- the ruin of civilisation I suppose -- that used to distress him.

Tonight we go to Weybridge go dine with Mrs Forster and read an address upon article 22 of the Convention. Wells has asked us to a party. George Booth has asked us to another. Life, as you see, whizzes by with incredible rapidity, and its all I can do to coin to my arm chair in Richmond, and add page upon page to a story [Jacob's Room] which you won't like but will have to say that you do. That reminds me of the Nation; of Murry; of Sydney, of a thousand things which I long to say but can't see how to get in on this sheet of paper. Murry has bred in me a vein of Grub Street spite which I never thought to feel in the flesh. He has brought out a little book of those clay-cold-castrated costive comatose poems which he has the impertinence to dedicate to Hardy in terms which suggest that Hardy has adopted him as his spiritual son. Thank God, he is soundly drubbed in the newspapers. But his article on you has drawn his fangs for ever; he has no sting: all one hopes is that he may bite each one of us in turn before he is finally discredited and shuffled off to some 10th rate Parisian Cafe, where you'll find him, 20 years hence, laying down the law to the illegitimate children of Alaister Crawley [Aleister Crowley, the famous Satanist], Wyndham Lewis, and James Joyce. Eliot says that Joyce's novel [Ulysses] is the greatest work of the age -- Lytton says he doesn't mean to read it. Clive says -- well, Clive says that Mary Hutchinson has a dressmaker who make me look like other people. Clive has cut his hair, drinks wine only once a day, says eggs and sausages is his favourite dish, and comes to Richmond to confess his sins -- after which, I suppose, he sins them worse than ever. But he is trying to reform.

Love to Nessa -- I don't write to her on principle. Nor do I read over what I have write to you: but now, send me another.


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