93. 1 August 1996 [ES] (Edward III; Leigh-on-Sea; Colette)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours; heartening, as ever.

   Edward III should be winging his way to you, quasi-literally by air mail, before too long. Meanwhile I've been visiting (post card enclosed) the homeland and burying-place of Samses; Leigh-on-Sea in the Thames estuary, where my father moved because (he claimed) he had seen in the churchyard an inscription about Charlotte Sams of this parish, who departed this life c. 1850, aged ninety-three, with the legend 'Her time was short'. My father reckoned that the local air must have been unusually kind to all concerned; and indeed it had a great reputation for its medicinal properties. Sick fish were held up in it, and immediately recovered, just as chronic invalids threw away their crutches after a dip in Leigh creek. I think this was probably unwise, as our creek has never been the best of places to fall over in. But I was one of a small group of enthusiasts who took special pleasure in viewing the incoming tide, our local equivalent of seeing the traffic lights change colour or watching paint dry.

   I met a dear friend who kindly gave me tea and scones; and by way of inching gradually round to a mention of my book I referred to our much-loved local ruin Hadleigh Castle (traditionally built by Hubert de Burgh for his liege lord Edward the Third). But my dear friend turned out to be the Secretary of the Friends of Hadleigh Castle, so I found myself joining that distinguished organisation and signing up to a year's subscription. This is quite like the gambits I play in our chess club; all that happens is that I lose the gambit pawn, without any compensation. All cheque and no check.

   I'm having great trouble with Francis Carr. He freely contradicts himself and then contradicts any notion of contradiction, and so on. [...].

   I much enjoyed the 'Gracias a Dios' story, new to me. And of course I loved the Grayling review, which hits the button. I think you've changed the course of literary and philosophical history.

   I'm writing an encomium for the college of Yashdip Bains in Cincinnati, who has applied for tenure and nominated me as his referee. I shall glow, and his ears will burn. I hope that helps. For the rest, I'm giving up most other commitments; and I've told the even Newer New Grove editors that I don't want to update my Hugo Wolf etc. articles of twenty years ago. I was always against updating even then; I felt rather strongly that things should be done again by different people in their generation. And more recently I've had this view impressed on me in practice by son Jeremy, who translates Moliere, Schiller, etc.

   Judith sounds a great girl; she really has the measure of Colette, whose masterpiece is I'm sure the libretto ofL'Enfant et les Sortilèges, with the matching mastery of Maurice Ravel.

I liked 'I have the cash' etc. But it reminded me of the Housman poem, of which the second stanza runs


Now times are altered. If I care

To buy a thing, I can.

The pence are here, and here's the fair

But where's the lost young man?


This old one is basically back into Brahms, but has agreed to do a bit of N&Q etc. reviewing for old time's sake. And I'm contemplating an Elgar piece; and then perhaps Real Shakespeare II, remembering everything you say, all very salutary, about R2 But I'm still rather against seeking to reverse the natural flow of time. If the first edition doesn't have the deposition scene and the second includes it with the specific assurance that it has been newly added, it absolutely goes against the grain for me to suppose that this actually means the opposite of what it says. 'The deposition and killing' doesn't say that there was a deposition scene, does it? But I'll mull it all over again in good time, and (if I may) reopen our discussion in due course. Meanwhile I'm brooding darkly, dove-like wings outspread, on handwriting problems, Have I tried the enclosed draft out on you already? If I have, pray don't bother with it, or at all if it's a nuisance. Ditto Edward III (here a useful formula is 'thank you for the book, which I shall waste no time in reading'). But if you could spare a moment I'd be grateful for any comments on the enclosure, e.g. how to make it less boring. At the moment it's named 'Gladly', like the teddy-bear belonging to the child who had heard and misinterpreted the hymn 'Gladly the cross I'd bear'. But I really go cross eyed whenever I look at this piece, which I once thought I'd try on the TLS.

   Meanwhile I'm having nice lunches with friends old and new. I promised to be in touch with Charles Nicholl, and I soon shall. I had a great chat with dear Andrew Porter, back here from New York and the New Yorker, and I fear rather discontented. Yesterday was nice John Tyrrell, our Janacek authority. There are also domestic vicissitudes and chores; and our son Richard is staying with us, home on holiday from Japan. Die Mühle klappert lustig weiter.

   I trust you're well, flourishing, happy and busy.

   Best, as ever,

   Yours Eric