51. 27 June 1993 [ES] (Bacon's 'haiku')

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Not too sad, for some of us, that the days start to shorten. I agree with Goethe: ist die Nacht das halbe Leben/ and die schönste Hälfte zwar. Besides, I can't abide the sultry ultra violet ray. As son Jeremy wrote on a summer-school holiday postcard, 'Like father, dislike sun'.

   Thanks for yours of 21 June. Yes, I have seen Scoufos in the London Library, but somehow couldn't make much progress with it. I'll try again.

   As to Vickers, my memory is a bit hazy; but I seem to recall that Robert sent me that book in its first version and I said that it seemed to be at least two books, both enormous. I'm now better placed to sympathise; I'm doing exactly the same myself; my present print-outs are similarly seen to be suffering from severe elephantiasis.

   It's hard to find sufficient time to write a short book; and getting harder. .

   But what I felt, and reported, about Vickers was that his two books were addressed to (a) loonies like Freudians and (b) people like himself, i.e. academics of two different kinds that happen to hate each other; both more factions than facts, like religion. Thus it was clear from this first version that he is a committed believer in 'memorial reconstruction', which is even madder than Freud.

   The published text, which seems to be reduced by about a third (and still runs to some 500 pages) is confined to (a), which I fear has no real interest for me at all, and no special merit that I can discern. Vickers is much better, I find, when boxing at his own weight and taking on his own rivals such as Wells and Taylor, who have been so much more successful than he has. He's even been forced to live and teach abroad, in exile from Oxford as George Steiner is from Cambridge. The Vickers I respect is the writer of the only informed critical review of the Oxford Shakespeare, in particular its preposterous treatment of Pericles. That's what he ought to be doing; castigating the Establishment. But he thinks he ought to be a leading member of it, which cramps his style and my appreciation.

   As you'll have gathered, anything I say about you and Vickers is going to be less than objective. But here goes. First, I don't agree with his strictures on your text, which however may well have to be shortened, or Baldocked, if only because Bob's the boss. What I'd do is to substitute actual exempla for some of the argument (the latter has to be docked because otherwise it will get longer, like my own abridgements). If you want to say that Bacon understood poetry, why not give some instances from his own prose, which has always seemed to me ultra-poetic in both rhythm and imagery.

   From memory (I've been debooking recently to acquire Lebensraum, with consequent gain to jumble sales and Jeremy; and I seem to have forgotten to save my Bacon – essays, that is –  except for a reprint edition of the 1597 text)



    That seems to me far more significant than what Emerson etc thought, which (according to English common law, at least) is not evidence.

   In that section (50, p.2) the transition to the Italian establishment and the mention of the only Italian writer seems to me, as a non-Italian, rather unmotivated. Why not go Vico, Addison, Emerson, in date order?

   I think I had better stop there, for the time being; otherwise the bundle will be too big for the post. I'll resume next week. Meanwhile I've ventured to make some suggestions for shortening etc, since I fear that can't be avoided. Coraggio!

   I note your sound advice about culling roses. Trouble is, they're in rather short supply hereabouts; and my maladroit attempts to pluck them produce effects hardly distinguishable from a sudden sharp attack of arthritis.

   Saluti, as our friend Christopher says,

   yours as ever Eric