This is to tell friends and readers that I had a very good time at the EC/ASECS meeting in Philadelphia. I arrived in time for what was for me a high point of the conference, indeed to hear the tribute paid to my husband was worth a much farther journey. It meant a lot to me to hear someone who had known him praise him in terms which allowed me to recognize my Admiral. There was a second brief tribute to him at luncheon and on the new website he is remembered. See special announcement. People spoke to me of him.
I daresay I enjoyed the panels and papers in ways that reminded me of who and what I am: a literary scholar, a college teacher, a lover of the 18th century. With people who share and value our mutual interests. (I will write separately on the content of those I was able to take notes on on my Austen Reveries blog.) I felt I was among so many friends. A tribe.
To come to my two more specific goals: not to get lost and not to lose it, not to crack up. Well, I was never lost, though I did lose my purple beret (left it on the train) and left behind a lovely long black skirt (which my friend recognized as mine quicker than me and will send on). I always knew where I was and when my train was delayed for two hours on Sunday, I managed to buy a ticket for another train arriving at DC and after an initial confusion (having seen friends on a New York line), got myself to the right line. And I maintained a mostly cheerful demeanor — to the point two different groups of people said I looked peaceful.
I perhaps did say too much now and again: I am a character in a Pirandello play, Six Characters in Search of an Author. I keep looking for my author so as to end my part and let the curtain go down. But I cannot find the author of this play I am acting out to build myself a sort of life, to carry on; he is worse than Godot (of Waiting for Godot fame). On the other hand, I had such good talk with several friends I would not have wanted to be superficial, to make “small talk.” We talked for real.
I’m now thinking I might go to the ASECS meeting in Williamsburg this spring. If a fancy dress is wanted for a ball, I’ve got an elegant 1930s number. . To record concrete happenings:
My train arrived an hour and one half late (!), but my generous loyal (angelic?) friends waited at the station near the top of the stairs for me. We had planned to go out to a good restaurant before going to the first night, but there was no time. (We made up for it the next day by lunching at a fine Greek restaurant.)
My panel went very well (really it did) and The oral/aural experience which included an abbreviated performance of Lovers Vows did function to teach me more about the characters in the play and hence Austen’s characters (Count Cassell is a lout, and we are probably intended to see this quality in Rushworth and thus know why Fanny cannot pretend to credit Mary’s assertion about Mrs Rushworth’s luck), but we do these plays and read aloud 18th century verse to one another to be together in these texts.
By staying with friends in a suburb of Philadelphia (Wayne) I saw more of Philadelphia from the train rides than I had in the several times the Admiral and I had come to Philly for conferences. November is a beautiful month with its variegated colors. I saw from the train (there is nothing as good as a train ride) several of the near-by small colleges (some famous), the pretty towns, and we ate in a fine pub on Saturday night. Sunday I read the New York Times Book Review, regaled by the illustration in the childrens’ book section as the newspaper revved up for Christmas sales. It was a break from the Internet. The world of print is different from the worlds of cyberspace.
The admiral would have enjoyed all of it.
The hardest part was coming home. The admiral and home have been one and the same to me for 45 years now and I found myself crying on the train, then the metro (people did look away), and lastly in the car driving back. He was here when Yvette and I came home from the Jane Austen summer program; he picked me up from the station (driving the PriusC himself) when I came home from Sharp, and the knowledge he was there as ever quickened the intensity and speed with which I would drive the last couple of miles. To get back to him.
The cats had suffered some anxiety. First one of the cats’s central presences had disappeared altogether; while I was packing they followed me about: I was doing something different, very suspicious. Still they don’t like these disappearance acts. When my mother died last year, and since it was so sudden, we had not been able to get someone to stay in the house for the two days we were missing, we found them huddled together under my queen-size bed, for all the world as if only some murderous hostile presence was lurking just outside the bedroom. Caroline says they want stafflings; they want secure companionship. Caroline had been here Thursday to play with said cats, and on Saturday she and Yvette planned a re-organization of Yvette’s room and picked out containers to buy in the container store.
What is life without that companionship, or the lesser-demanding word, friendship?
To a Friend on New Year’s Day
Dear friend, for thee, through ev’ry changing year,
Unchang’d affection draws the tie more near;
Treasure most precious, dearest to the heart,
Increas’d in value as the rest depart.
Tho’ kindred bonds may break, and love must fade,
Friendship still brightens in the deep’ning shade.
Time, silent and unseen, pursues his course,
And wearied nature sickens at her source.
Methinks I see the season onward roll,
When age, like winter, comes to chill the soul:
I tremble at that pow’r’s resistless sway
Who bears the flowers and fruit of life away …
Let me not linger on the verge of fate,
Nor weary duty to its utmost date;
Losing, in pain’s impatient gloom confin’d,
Freedom of thought, and dignity of mind;
Till pity views untouch’d the parting breath,
And cold indiff’rence adds a pang to death …
Let me still from self my feelings bear,
To sympathize with sorrow’s starting tear …
Let me remember, in the gloom of age,
To smile at follies happier youth engage;
See them fallacious, but indulgent spare
The fairy dreams experience cannot share.
Nor view the rising morn with jaundice eye,
Because for me no more the sparkling moments fly.
— Anne Hunter (1802)