Sunday, October 30, 2011

Readings: A Brit with Wit

While processing the collection referred to in this previous post, I made a happy discovery in one of the folders containing the correspondence of the deceased professor of English whose papers they are. The letter was from one of his friends, acquaintances, or colleagues among the literati. (I should have made a note to myself to remember the name. It may have been Harold Nicolson, but I’m not at all certain of that.) At any rate, the letter included high praise for the recently published novel, The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark. Since I have always make it a habit to check out writings praised by persons whose opinions I have reason to respect, I borrowed the novel from the library. I finished it the other day and I'm happy to report that it was a delight. A book jacket blurb from a reviewer at The Atlantic sums it up perfectly: “She probably could not write a dull line if she tried.” I agree. I couldn’t put it down.

Since one could excerpt almost anything in the book in support of this statement, that is precisely what I have done. This is one of the “bachelors” in question, providing another with an anecdote of his misspent youth:

“I got a young woman into trouble at the age of eighteen,” Walter said. “Daughter of one of our footmen. He was an Irish fellow. The butler caught him reading Nietzsche in the pantry. To the detriment of the silver. Of course there was no question of my marrying his daughter. The family made a settlement and I went abroad to paint. My hair turned white at the age of nineteen.”

One certainly does not marry the daughter of a Nietzsche-reading Irishman!