11 October 1998 (Busoni, Goethe-Willemer)

Dear Erik,

  Many thanks for your letter, which I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave largely unanswered, at leas for the nonce (waht's a nonce, I wonder?). We're in a rather pickle here, what with Various Vicissitudes. [...]

   Meanwhile I quite agree that Dante Michelangiolo Benvenuto Busoni, from Firenze, was prima facie more Italian than German. That promising sketch look (let's face it) more the latter, though. And as to the nationality if the blood in his veins, I'm less sure. As the dialogue goes in One-Way Pendulum, a great play written by my ex-comrade N. F. Simpson (the theatre of the absurd somehow has to have an English representative)

A: Do you have any gipsy blood?

B: I'm not sure... But there's a little bottle upstairs in the bathroom cupboard... Might that be it, do you think?

   For the rest, I'm mightily impressed by Erik Werba (who must be even older than I am). But in a long life I've never managed to find the actual evidence (as distinct from her own claims) showing that Marianne von Willemer contributed the least line to the Diwan. Have you looked at that question? In the first edition of Im Gegenwärtigen Vergangenes, incidentally, the words are tiresomely attributed to 'M.W.'! That appeared in 1849; it ought to be in the Gesamtausgaben and their various reprints. I expect I can find it and send you a copy, if you like, as soon as I get a chance.

   Allegra sounds a delightfully determined little person. It took me some time to work out that children constitute a sort of knee-high republic with a voice and a vote of its own, usually representing a powerful anti-parental party whose main slogan seems to be 'IT'S NOT FAIR!!!'.

   Love to all, as ever,