55. 3 October 1993 [NM] (Freud; Nupen's film on St. Francis vs Zeffirelli's)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

3 October 1993


- I nearly wrote, 1593, as that's when I'm living these days!


Ceci dit, dear Eric,

I have thought of you lots of times, but don't seem to get down to writing the letters I carry in my head.

   But must write you a line as I hear you've finished and given book – that's Hamlet is it? to Baldock. Wonderful news. When will you know more?

   I was delighted to hear that you were moved by Christopher's unbelievably beautiful film – what little I've seen of it. It will have meant a lot to him. I love the pictures and I think the singer is perfect – do you? I like the so expressive stillness of his rather unusual face. And so much else. What an odyssey it is to make such a film!

   I have just seen its antipodes. St Francis - Brother Sun and Sister Moon - by (can't remember his famous name, ending in elli, he did Romeo and Juliet). It is – with all perfection – everything I think a film should not be. To put it briefly: centrifugal. Everything is digression, distraction, inessential elegance, down to Tuscany itself, which is just like the very affected recherché post-cards we see nowadays, costing three times as much as the others, which make one flee to a normal post-card, or to those very prosaic old-fashioned sepia ones. Aside from which I don't believe he knew what St Francis was about. Then one turns to Nupen and it's pure essence. But mind you, so are half a dozen steps by Fred Astaire. The key to any art: pure, tho' of course invisible concentration. Tell me what you think.

   About Vickers' book, which I finally read. I do find it brilliant and immense fun, and I plan to make a précis as a warning to my last grand-child, just emerging into the world of literature. I don't quite follow your remark: why shouldn't Marxists and Freudians and feminists have their Shakespeare? (Then, why shouldn't the Oxford memorial reconstructionists have theirs?) Well, they will of course, but they are such crazy Shakespeares, and someone must point out to these lop-sided intellectuals the difference (tho' perhaps they'll never see it) between alert, sensitive, intuitive but thorough analysis towards understanding a play – and monomanias fetched from the back of beyond and projected onto the 'text' – consisting of largely of non-ideas, since what they glory in is that things have no meaning. Which doesn't prevent them from laying down a law, that in each case theirs shall be the only meaning. The brilliant ones like Eagleton seem to have the gift for destroying a student's critical faculties.

   Again, ceci dit, I do find a curious lack in Vickers' book, much as I admire it. I feel there is another side to the medal, that these people, Freud included, were all trying to say something, that there is more to them (tho' I can't be bothered to study them and find it out). But it should also have been seen, if only to give more weight to the vision of their folly. I often get this feeling of another side to the medal, tho' not with you. When you've pronounced I feel that the subject has been completely exhausted.

   I'll be reading more of your musical understanding, which I found very attractive. But my mind's too full of Bacon just now.