20. 30 April-3 May 1988 [ES] (more on detraction; music; Leopardi)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

[30 Apr]


Dear Hayat,

   as I may well already have observed, you are a sweet saintly soul, full of forbearance though sorely tried. I catch the occasional flash of masterful fire, gently suppressed in your letters but allowed free play in your book pages. I tremble for my admired mentor C. S. Lewis, so sharply counter attacked with his own cactuses and duly deflated into pitiful drooling idiocy. I don't much agree with him in that judgment but I shall defend to the death his right to exercise it (if Voltaire hadn't said that it would be necessary to invent it, and actually I don't think he did).


[3 May]


More like a diary than a letter, but there are so many distractions. No wonder one's distraught. But as to detractions I seem to have been saying that we all have a perfect right to announce that some slices of Bacon are not to our taste (for example his Christianity is not greatly relished by me otherwise an admirer). I'm sure it's always salutary to say that so and so has got his facts wrong, and to correct them accordingly: but you sometimes seem to me that others have got their opinion wrong, and to chide them accordingly. Of course I admit, and have never wittingly questioned, your perfect right to say whatever you wish. But the publisher's reader in me can't help thinking hat A's opinion about B's opinion about C are not the stuff of saleability, however justly held and elegantly expressed.

   For the rest, I'm rather off song at the moment


          La voce del cantor

          non è più quella


I must be in one of my periodical (nowadays mild) depressions. But they're much alleviated by hearing, and coaching, the Italienisches Liederbuch, and reading, alas without complete comprehension, the great Leopardi, patron saint of the downswing, who exerts a calming influence, ove per poco il cor non si spaura.

   Winterreise was as ever uplifting and restorative. So lifelike to stagger off with an icy landscape accompanied by another penniless and eccentric musician. And nice Roger Vignoles has become a world-class duo-pianist since I first met him, some years ago now.

   I'd hope to have a chance of a meeting and a talk when you're in town. I have some rather nebulous plans for a TV programme in June (about music and cipher, of all things) and I'm off to America on 4th July, appropriately enough: but I'm sure that time can be found or made for all such special and auspicious occasions.

   Warmest good wishes meanwhile,

   yours Eric