The secondary impulse [of each person] is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness — C.S. Lewis, Experiment in Criticism
Dear friends and readers,
As tomorrow evening we go out to Kennedy Center for a (free!) 1950s concert in the Great Hall around 6, dinner at the Terrace Cafe, and then around 8:30 the Million Quartet Broadway show (different cast), and at the last, say around 11, the usual ball (but we haven’t been for some 4-5 years) again in the great hall, with two bands on either side on stages, one modern nightclub and rock music to dance to, and the other, Strauss walzes (alternatively), perhaps I had best think back this evening, near midnight.
Most significant is probably that I stopped teaching as of this summer and will not return. A thirty-year stretch with an 8 year or so break in which I did have two small children, one to care for (aged around 2) and one just born. I call them Caroline and Yvette here. This does not cause as much change in my daily pattern as it seems, but rather frees up time I would have otherwise spent preparing for teaching, reading papers for literary work I try to keep fulfilling, congenial, purposeful for myself. After all the teaching schedule itself never took more than 2 long 3/4 days.
Emotional and financial changes I’ve been affected include my mother’s death. I had begun to visit and phone her regularly again and was planning partly to take over my aunt’s care-taking position, when unexpectedly my mother collapsed and died. Partly she had lost the will to live when she saw her limited options (and my aunt told her “no more” of this continual dependence and demands when my mother refused the option of the retirement home). Also unexpectedly she left me a goodly sum of money, not endless, but enough to make us feel far more comfortable, a cushion as others might put it, and enough to enable us for the first in years to spend money on needed renovations and new cars, take a few trips. We mean to share some of it with our daughters over the next four years. (Not to make them wait until they are old and cannot use it if they should need or want it sooner.) My family is otherwise whole again. We see Caroline regularly and have grown very fond of our two cats, Ian and Clary.
In terms of time, these changes too affects my hours, and it’s been very satisfying for me to clear out and make my attic into a usable space and re-organize my room and books. I never had the time while I was teaching. I am more at peace when my surroundings are tidy, airy, to my eyes in a state I can feel is respectable.
As part of this re-vamping of my space, I did do something I have slightly ambivalent feelings about: I threw out a huge pile of folders stuffed with paper I had written personal letters and emails on, and several large fat loose-leaf notebooks of diary entries. These took up an enormously amount of floor-space in my attic. While I inveigh against great writers burning or other people burning great writers’ diaries and letters, I got rid of mine. I am not a great writer, but I was attached to some of it, and saw it recorded my life during the 1980s and before I got onto the Internet, but some of it I did not want anyone to read lest it hurt or pain others. My first entry of all was about my Caroline aged around 1 and 1/2, and a rocking horse I had gotten her. They were not book journal entries but autobiographical strictly. They were in mood very like my blogging here on the Net (I carry on all these absorbed exertions partly to cope with depression), and except that I am nowhere as intimately revealing or personal here as I was there, this blogging on the Net since early 2005 is a continuation (see, e.g., rescued-from-virus old blogs).
I have made new schedules for myself (plans, daily routs, hopes, dreams of future longer pieces) as well as made new sections on my website for women poets and Winston Graham, expanded my Jane Austen sections, had a good paper on the film adaptations of Trollope’s novels published, as well as several reviews, given successful papers, gone to conferences and enjoyed myself. A major disappointment was the Winston Graham online society — they seem to be at worship of the stars of the 1970s film series, and an attempt to start serious talk about Graham as a historical fiction writer resulted in a bully harassing me, so I spoke back and got off. There is no constituency for a genuinely respectful approach to his written work in group settings.
That does not mean I will not try to write Elizabeth’s story as well as return to a much revised or changed book on Jane Austen films perhaps next year. I’m working on an edition of Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde for Valancourt, and this has re-galvanized me to want to finish my e-text edition of George Anne Bellamy’s autobiography on my website. It is a delight, a kind of dream come true, to find myself spending my time on later 18th century women writers, French as well as English in social settings, sharing experiences reading fine books and good films with other people. I even hope to return to translation.
My admiral is well and we live alongside one another, nearby or together most of the time. This central fact of my life, the key enabler, has not changed. Nor do I want it to.
As I wrote in my book, che farò senza il mio ben?
We’ve become quite the HD opera goers — I love it almost as much as he does — so with our play and event going, the gym (when his body is up to it), walks our lives continue.
I have a good radio in my room nowadays too (it was my mother’s). It even has an audio-cassette player and at night if I could get up the ambition, I could listen to good books read aloud by great readers once again. I am listening to NPR right now as I type this. Haydn’s string quartet, Opus 54, No 1. Is there anything better? No.
Much to be happy about. Yvette wrote a blog listing all she felt thankful for this past Thanksgiving; I rejoice over the same things.
One of my very favorite of her blogs is Getting Your Geese in a row and I’ve gotten some of my geese in a row here tonight.