125. 12 October 1997 [ES] (Meetings with editors; projects and essays)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat.

   Thanks for yours. Yes, RS is out in paperback and in the Yale catalogue; and Schumann and Wolf are out in the Faber catalogue. I'm sitting back to see if I sell. But I've done little else except Elgar, though I have been preparing pieces on comparative spellings. These however are freely said to be too technical and specialised, i.e. boring. So much for Shakespeare studies; poeta nascitur, non fit for publication.

   I too enjoyed Charles – and Rimbaud. The first two lines of Bateau lyre sound distressingly à propos. And every time I turn on my television set, which is no doubt far too frequently, I see the superannuated features of my college chum Olivier Todd talking (interminably) about Camus. I've avoided the same fate myself; Charles very kindly proposed that he and I should script and front a TV programme or two, but I had to explain that I was too old. I was even nervous on steam radio; an apparently incurable knocking noise in the studio was eventually traced to my knees.

   I think there's rather more to the chess computer than you concede. Beating the world champion at his own game can't be all that negligible. No doubt we created it, and (in certain respects) in our own image; but that's how God (they say) created us, and no one seems to think any the worse of us on that account. On the contrary; it's reckoned to be rather a recommendation.

   [...] I'm having lunch with various editors – Faber last week, Stanley Sadie (Macmillan-Grove) tomorrow, Robert of Yale later this month, to tell them about my present predicament and prospects. Meanwhile I'm marking time; not so much as time has marked me, but still quite seriously. As ever, though, your message is heartening - and of course reciprocated. We should both rise serenely above any and all adversity. I like the thought (your own. I'm sure) that only the Muses bring youth. And perhaps only one is needed as emissary and general representative, namely Polyhymnia. It has been very sweetly sung that


Time slays with his scythe

All things but hers,

  All but the blithe



   Still, Polyhymnia sounds and seems a bit remote. It isn't somehow the kind of name one could give one's daughter, or indeed any dearly loved person; it could easily be misconstrued as radiating austerity. So could the equally misleading picture enclosed, of your friend the Comtessa. Where's the engaging person I ventured to engage in conversation, at your grand Bacon-coming-out party? I can't remember ever seeing so many clever and charming people in one and the same place. What has become of that very promising book on Colette I was told about? Better, I bet, than Olivier on Camus, which is inordinately long; La Peste personified.

   Best, as ever,

   Yours Eric