30. 19 March 1989 [NM] (TLS review; Sams-style; Vickers and Hamilton on Shakespeare's Will; Florence; Baudelaire and Wilde)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs. Mathew’s letters)

My dear Eric,

It's two months since you last wrote, and I've written you many letters in my mind since then, but, due to a general health slow-down, never managed to get them on paper.

   Then I found myself reading a review in the TLS which was so vivid and interesting, and fraught with such quick lines that it could only have been written by you, and I looked up and so it was. Who but you would deplore a Shakespeare not for all time - and then delight in it? But what I delight in even more than what you say, is your elliptical way of saying it, skipping a slow step or two, with that same 'nimbleness of foot and tongue' your speak of, it's a dance (only every other inch a king... we pluck this flower, manageability... and then from so satisfyingly pronouncing these versions neither Shakespeare nor great, neither history nor a cycle, you're off à la Eric Sams 'but never mind'... Your last para., (crammed crimson with blood and hellfire) is a joy.

   Now Eric I know I'm a pest. I was so lucky to see this, and will see anything else you write in the TLS. But please could you sometime take the trouble to photocopy me all the other reviews in Encounter and elsewhere? I have a positive need to read you. May God reward any such efforts, and I certainly will if ever I get the chance.

   I don't want to ask for a letter while your eyes are dim. Are they any less baleful? Eclipsed? Did you get round to central vision in Bates? La voce non è più quella - it's happening all the time on all fronts. But other voices come.

   Charles Hamilton: Prof. Brian Vickers, and the Librarian of the Francis Bacon Library in California who is a Shakespeare expert, are both unconvinced about the Will. Do you still think Hamilton right on this? He was very convincing to me. But perhaps there are many Elizabethan writings that look just like Shakespeare's? The will is extraordinarily like the More pages, and now he says these are Marlowe's. To me that destroys everything he's written. What about Edward III as holograph? (NB What are the possibilities of writing by cassette so you don't have to use your eyes?)

   I am gradually seeing Christopher's TV series (on a small black+white loaned TV and still they come through). I loved the Tchaikovsky. Not the Segovia (whom I know too well, but not because of that, I mean the techniques). The gentle art of not irrelevantly filling in images but keeping to the strict austere line is so difficult. (Remember Hugo? 'Défense de déposer de la musique le long de mes vers'.) Yes I think Christopher is very serious, and loving, and understanding, a beautiful artist. His Carmen too was great, the opposite of that awful film I saw which was one long tourist view of Spain, set to Bizet. No drama left. And a girl without passion, all she ever did was to open her legs. In Christopher's I found the joys of team-work. It reminded me that if I have another life I would like to be a musician playing with others. Even the best I can do - a simple tune at the piano, à deux mains with a grand-child, is a joy. Shall I ever hear your Schubert duos?

   Let's keep the possibility of your visit with the other Erik in our minds. Who knows? Yes it breaks my heart that my Bechstein is so little used. My mother was a wonderful player, my grand-daughter (aged 18) has her touch, but has given it up.

   How sad your mother's spring has broken. Tho' again so beautifully put, and the beauty is not just on the surface, there's an understanding in it that makes it possible to accept that a spring should break. After a life well lived.

   I can understand the sustenance you get in contemplating this autograph. What is this TV film on music cipher? Anything written about it that I could see? What is the Shakespeare script? Do tell me more. AndHamlet?

   Florence alas is not what she was. Her centre, which used to be alive with real people, eating in cheap delicious popular restaurants is now all for tourists with boutiques and little else. And they've idiotically dug up the Piazza della Signoria to hunt for a few Roman remains. But the light is still here. So come when life allows. The invitation will hold out as long as I do.

   Baudelaire always a love of mine. Hypocrite lecteur... I've been reading the biography of Oscar Wilde. Very moving, such a fine, generous, loving spirit and a true poet – in prose, fallen because he loved much and chose so badly, as those who love much do. Into the hands of the pettiest of the so called virtuous. There are links with the fallen Bacon. Both blamed for what everyone did – though the others were more careful to conceal it.

   I wonder if Duckworth is really selling out. It's part of the general picture, so sad. My book: I really enjoy this cutting, know it to be right, can't see why I didn't see it before. But unfortunately I'm not getting on very fast as I have no margin of strength. Having had these breathing difficulties all my life, the heart is beginning to protest, and I have to go much slower than I'd like.

   Dear Eric, keep in touch but telepathy will do till you're better. I do hope you are improving. Dialogue with you is one of the real pleasures of a life, at present somewhat limited. I doubt if I'll make it to UK this year, but we'll see. Every good wish to yourself and work.

As ever