Sunday, 12 May 2013

12th May 1933 - Terrick to Mary


Hotel Brice

12th May 1933

Dear Mary Pleasant

Your reason is quite satisfactory.  Formalities are rather foolish in our correspondence - like putting up a notices "You are requested to put out the light before leaving the room" in one's own bedroom.

You are a queer customer - far odder than I am.  Still, as long as our two odds continue to make a pair, I don't complain.

Talking or writing to you is like being in a whispering gallery.  There you whisper something to the wall, the sound travels round until it suddenly strikes something and a voice far more clarion-like than your own proclaims to you your whisper.  Our conversations are the same.  Something I have whispered only to my most innermost soul travels round the limitless world of thought, finds its sounding-board in you, and I am amazed to hear you come out with it.


Do you mean to say that you only got my letter on Monday? I posted it on Thursday, the day I got your second letter.  Please let me know what is the postmark.  I think there may be some hanky-panky going on here.

I can't quite remember but I think it is twenty you are next week - or is it twenty-one.  My brain's undergoing considerable racking as to a suitable souvenir of the day.

I am rather annoyed.  I had a marvellous bathing suite of turquoise blue that was universally pronounced "fascinating" and now some wretch has bagged it while I was at lunch in a hotel in San Remo.  Luckily I have one of Renny's here but it is nothing like so fine as mine.  My body is beginning to get quite a nice colour.  My face and hands have long been coppery.

I am afraid I am here for the season now, so I shan't be present at your garden-party or at your birthday theatre.

I should like to see you perform in Hyde Park. You out not to go to the Aldershot Tattoo it encourages all this old-fashioned militaristic nonsense.  The only moment in my idle school-days that I have any right to look back on with satisfaction was when, on being told I ought to join the corps, I replied that I was too old to play soldiers.

Christianity only became a popular, world religion when it recanted on the most vital point of its doctrine by condoning war.  What would Jesus have said if he could have seen my father and others who called themselves priests of his following going off to the Dardanelles in 1915 to help soldiers by praying to him for victory?

The Church that does that forfeits all right to speak in His name and all claim to respect from the people of the world.  Any movement that daren't stand by it's principles deserves to perish in contempt.

If the world ever does get the peace that it is longing for, it will have to be through some loftier-minded, more steadfast power than the so-called Church of Christ.

In the meantime, I have nothing but scorn for those people who in peace-time declare that war is cruel and wicked, and, directly their government declares war, throw their convictions in the dust-bin and enlist.  If ever I do that, tell me that I am a worm, and tear up all my letters.  In spite of all the excuses I may find, you will only be the whispering-gallery voice of my inmost soul.

I had to look up the number of the sonnet because it interrupted the sense of the letter to quote the part I wanted.  That was the only one of the sonnets that I knew but when I looked up the number I dipped into some of the others and found them so interesting and lovely that I have started at the beginning.  It is amazing how Shakespeare could keep up the flow of such marvellous poetry, line after line, sonnet after sonnet, page after page.

Is it 90? I thought it was 89.  It shows how much interest I take in it now.  anyhow you are not in the same category.  On My 29th it will have lasted for five months.  As I wrote to Paul a little time ago, it makes me laugh to think that I ever confused my other affaires with the genuine article, or that I ever thought that the genuine article would be the same only higher and better.  There is no connection between them at all.

To change the subject, don't you think this is a marvellous saying of Schopenhauer's (or it may be Nietsche):

Halt heilig deine h√∂chste Hoffnung, und wirf    den Helden
Hold holy   thy     highest  hope,       and throw the  hero

in deinem Herzen nicht weg
in thy        heart    not    away

Which might be translated: "Keep your highest hope holy, and follow the hero in your heart".

That contains all that life should be.  What is your highest hope? Perhaps you don't know yet.  Until I was twenty I thought that the greatest thing I could do would be to write great books or plays - but there was the entirely selfish motive behind it that I wanted my name and writings to live so that I should not be forgotten and so, in a way, not die.  In this period I wrote a verse which I have a Hampstead but can only remember vaguely.  It went something like this:

When I have reached the allotted hour
And earthwards falls my withered flower,
I like to think some perfume ...... etc
Will linger on the breezes yet
Sweetening the garden's later day;
That e'en the Gardener my say:
"Some aren't so useless in their way".

But then I suddenly found that the world that I had always taken for granted was not as it should be, and although I had not yet read the Shopenhauer quotation I found myself unwillingly obliged to jettison my ambition as selfish in the face of a loftier conception, and I decided, conscientious little fellow that I was, that I ought to spend my time trying to put the world right.  Investigation of this subject led me to Socialism.  But then I found myself obliged to study economics, a mathematical science, while I am hopeless at mathematics.  And then I almost decided that as man's physical well-being was always entirely relative to the state of civilization at the time, it would be much more important to turn to his mental well-being; which led back to writing.

At the moment I don't quite know whether my highest hope is sociological or literary.

I roared with laughter at the ending to your letter.  You are rather a dear.

Don't forget the snaps in your next letter.

I can't tell if your letter was too kind.  It was highly inconsistent.

My French has already improved enormously since I last wrote.  It only requires a determined attack.

We bathe on excursions nowadays.  The water is beautifully warm, there is no tide and there is a baking sun.  I have got a good rim of sun-burn round the tops of my legs and my waist.  I wish you and Norah would come here.  I am pretty certain that I can get the two of you for the price of one a the Hotel Cavallero and on all the excursions.

13th May

I have found something you may like for your birthday.  I have tried to get something French, but for all I know they may be wearing this kind of thing extensively in England now.  If so all the better.  I have better stop now; you will be waiting for this letter.

Everything here is simply beautiful now.

All the flowers are in full bloom.  The sky and sea are incredible blues.  I spent most of the morning in a bathing suit on the beach.  The girls go about all day in beach pyjamas.  I suppose I am very lucky, but I should, just for one week, like a sniff of dear old England.

I should hate to be an exiled Russian.  How dreadful it must be never to be able to see your own country again!

And how many millions of people would gladly change places with me for a week!

For the first time I appreciate to its full extent Browning's "Oh to be in England now that April's here!"

Do you find that suddenly, in the course of living, you realise the full meaning of something you have once read.  I am constantly finding it.

You are a great person to write to.  I can just jot down any stray thought as well as confess to all my more important ones.  I can see what a relief it must be to catholics to get all their sins and troubles off their chest in a confessional.  If there really is a personal God he is unbelievably good to me; when I flatly refuse to believe in the efficacy of a heavenly Virgin Mary, to send me an earthly one who has the same effects.

Cheerio, old thing.  You needn't be afraid to send your love.  I promise not to misunderstand you.

Love from


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