127. 9 February 1998 [ES] (RS II; Jeremy on Ravel; Humphrey Burton)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Thanks for yours of (I now see, with a guilty start) 18 January, I swear I began a reply on St. Schubert's Eve (ah, bitter chill it was). But various vicissitudes supervened. Rather like black holes, in a way, or at least quite hard to emerge from: But Enid is rather better now, and I'm surviving (perhaps the best I can hope for). Or so I supposed until rather recently, when I started receiving some rather encouraging letters (as in the sample enclosed) and proposals for radio programmes.

   So the Shakespeare boxes were duly unlocked as you kindly suggested, regardless of the Pandora parallels. Vol. II should be restarted quite soon. But I need a kick-start, not to say .lust a kick; so before the ceremonial unlocking I asked Yale for a key, so to speak, in the shape

of a contract. Still, I can't bother or badger them unduly while they're still brooding, dove-like wings outspread, over my big Brahms book.

   Now: what of your own plans and projects? Last I heard, you and I were both lying doggo (as, it is said, Lord Catto did on a certain state occasion). But emerge with me: frisk and frolic in the spring sunshine.

   Then back to the study again, back to pen, and paper. Olives are succulent, grandchildren are grand – and also often agreeably small, incidentally, as the song says: Bedenkt wie klein ist die Olivenfrucht und wird um ihre Gütedoch gesucht. But we too have things to say; we and our writings, not to say livings, are far from finished yet. So let our watchword ever be Excelsior.

   Thanks for the kind comments about Jeremy, who though not quite at the supreme sainthood level of Christopher is really quite sound as well as entertaining. He was on the radio the other day for an hour or so, choosing and chatting about favourite music, including that lovely last scene of L’Enfant et les Sortilèges with its final sweet Oedipal cry of 'Maman'. I believe that Jeremy loves it so much (as do I, perhaps for the same reason) because of its discovery that despite his devastating depredations (méchant! méchant!) the child remains redeemable (il est bon, l'enfant, il est sage). I found myself wondering how that engaging girl I met at your party (when's the next? party, I mean) is progressing with her promised and much-needed boob on Colette, that best of librettists for Ravel or for anyone. And how is the Contessa?

   If you're writing to Christopher you might mention that I had lunch with Humphrey Burton the other day. I knew Humph's father, as he knows my son; a cosy confraternity. When he was a little boy he went to the Zoo with his step-brother Anthony and came home excitedly announcing that he'd see an anthonylope. He's still making animal wlsecrackers, so to speak, such as 'What do you call a camel with three humps?' And the snappy catch answer is: Hump three.

   All this reminds me rather dolefully that the aforesaid vicissitudes, domestic and other, constrained me to turn down, to my distress, a dinner invitation from dear Diana. But I'm hoping for fairer fortune in the coming year, and looking forward to a future in which, as another song says: Things are looking up,/the future seems OX,/things are getting better, better,/better every day. In springtime, perhaps, as sketched in that adorable Schumann symphony 1, where the only pretty ringtime is illustrated on the triangle.

   Farewell for now,

   Yours Eric