140. 12 March 2001 [ES] (e-mail, he-mail, female; Elgar's ciphers; Bad Quartos disasterisked)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for your card of 5 March. Christopher has indeed been in touch with me. With typical generosity, he sent me a copy of his latest film, which I'm sure will be yet another work of genius; but alas my video has broken and I much fear that, like the wheel of the wagon in the song, it ain't gonna turn no more. Other dear friends do their best to keep me going, and I'm much cheered by their efforts. Thus a recent postcard of a much-loved cat announced that it had suffered a sex-change (no doubt into something rich and strange: it was sold as Henry but is now Henrietta) and had had its androgynous-sounding award of e-mail (a cross between he-male and female?) renewed, or should that be remewed, with the impressive address of miaow dot tom. No doubt it's now very adroit with the mouse, which is more than I am.

   My latest is two civil service reunions next week, beginning with a sort of thanksgiving lunch to commemorate the life of our dear dead friend John Garcia by regaling his widow and their clever children with tales of what he once said and did (for example his famous cri de coeur, when he thought he was alone and unobserved – 'why can't I behave normally?'). Another chum writes to ask whether I'd heard that Elgar enciphered his enemies into the Demons' Chorus in Gerontius, a work of which the composer Stanford had spoken disrespectfully ('it reeks of incense') and had hence been so to speak immortalised as SATANFORD. I'm an ODIN man myself, partly because I prefer that music, and I'm in the rather strong position of an amateur who can concentrate on his favourite works.

   Which reminds me that the Hugo Wolf celebratory festivities start with his birthday tomorrow (when he'll be a mere 141 years old). So I'd better make shift to answer your question about surviving Quartos. Discounting so-called source-plays and apocrypha, I take the total tally to be as shown on the attached sheet, with so-called 'Bad' Quartos marked with an asterisk. But I think they might now be all dis-asterisked with no disaster risked; and I'm happy to say that the tide is now slowly but perceptibly on the turn. There'll be a lot of reputations (of such queer fish!) left washed up on the shore, I reckon.

   Farewell for now.

   Yours as ever Eric