BRACERS Record Detail
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"Wed. My Darling—Your dear letter this afternoon was a great happiness." "History has in it a wonderful alchemy for what is hot and violent in passion."
There are four typed versions of this letter:
The first two are similar in text, missing the same two sentences. However, the second one also contains the text of the first paragraph of document .200343, record 19354. The latter two are literary versions, contain much less text, and are signed with BR's pseudonym initial "L". Both are from the same typing — .200164 is the ribbon copy and .052401 is the carbon. Both are numbered 54, pages 76-7.
BR TO CONSTANCE MALLESON, 28 AUG. 1918
BRACERS 19352. AL. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 18689; next letter, BRACERS 19354
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon
My Darling —
Your dear letter2 this afternoon was a great happiness. I do so understand all you felt by the sea.3 It must have been wonderful beneath the moon. Herea one can’t escape by the way of nature, but I escape by history, which is another way — and by reading of strange quiet places, the Amazon4 or the Himalayas.5 History has in it a wonderful alchemy for what is hot and violent in passion: it makes one so conscious of the difference between mere self-assertion and real constructiveness. Timur and Genghis Khan6 were, at the moment, greater conquerors than Alexander or Caesar,7 but they cared only to make a noise, and the world quickly became as if they had never lived. The problem of greatness is to combine the calm of the sea under the moon with the energy of Timur. Then energy leads to actions that bear fruit; but when there is no calm combined with it it only leads to frantic violence. I try to make calm come into my spirit by consciousness of the great stretches of time and space, and by the abstract world which is timeless and passionless. When I lose hold of those things I become frantic, as I was a fortnight ago — like an engine off the rails, with all its force suddenly turned to destruction. It is much harder here, where there is no beauty and one never sees the horizon. And yet it is in some ways easier: one’s life has no detail and no hurry, so that if one can surmount worries one has great mental freedom. — Dear Love, nothing would ever make me unkind to you except the feeling (which will come now and then) that you can’t be wanting me any longer. But underneath that and its agitation there is always that other deeper love for you, the one that belongs with the stars and the world of calm. The calm that I struggle after is not of inaction or lack of feeling, but where all feeling is free and large — and when I have achieved it best I love you most, because then I love you with my whole purpose, and as if my love were part of the very life of the universe; and I feel you too, then, eternal in some way I find hard to explain: I mean that the essence of you, which I am loving, is something transcending the individual and belonging to the essential being of the world.
Becket was not at all a C.O. He was Archbishop, and in those days Church and King were quarrelling all over Europe. So he quarrelled with Henry II and refused to give way. His murder10 produced horror (largely superstitious) throughout Christendom, so Henry II had to give way to the Pope11 about all the points in dispute. There was no right or wrong in the quarrel: it was like the present war. It was all part of the same business as Canossa.12 The Pope finally won throughout Europe, about 1300 (Dante’s time).13 Then there was a schism, with 2 rival Popes14 who cursed each other, and therefore could not both be infallible. Then there was a Pope, John XXIII,15 so wicked that he had to be deposed by a General Council (about 1413; the same Council that burnt Huss after giving him a safe-conduct).16 , b As Gibbon puts it:17 “The graver charges were suppressed; the Vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest.” All this diminished the prestige of the Papacy and prepared the way for the Reformation. But in the earlier Middle Ages, the Church, bad as it was, stood for civilization and learning, and was at least as good as the Kings and Emperors. Henry II was a great imperialist. He invented King Arthur, as a legendary hero to unite Celts, Saxons, and Normans.18 He “discovered” his tomb at Glastonbury.19 He was also a reformer. Father of Richard Coeur de Lion and of John (of Magna Charta).20 Died refusing to render homage to God (1189), because he felt God, as feudal overlord, had failed to carry out his part of the contract.
The people in Italy who took the side of Emperor against Pope were called Gibellines.21 , c When the Pope won, they fled. (ca. 1250).d Napoleon and Mirabeau both came of Gibelline Florentine families.22 Innocent III23 and Frederick II24 (Hohenstaufen) are the greatest people on the 2 sides in this fight. Frederick is amazingly interesting.
<on a separate sheet>
“On Paying Calls in August”25
By Cheng Hsiao (A.D. 250).
When I was young, throughout the hot season
There were no carriages driving about the roads.
People shut their doors and lay down in the cool:
Or, if they went out, it was not to pay calls.
Now-a-days — ill-bred, ignorant fellows,
When they feel the heat, make for a friend’s house.
The unfortunate host, when he hears some one coming
Scowls and frowns, but can think of no escape.
“There’s nothing for it but to rise and go to the door”,
And in his comfortable seat he groans and sighs.
The conversation does not end quickly:
Prattling and babbling, what a lot he says!
Only when one is almost dead with fatigue
He asks at last if one isn’t finding him tiring.
(One’s arm is almost in half with continual fanning:
The sweat is pouring down one’s neck in streams.)
Do not say that this is a small matter:
I consider the practice a blot on our social life.
I therefore caution all wise men
That August visitors should not be admitted.
[document] The letter was edited from the unsigned, twice-folded, single-sheet original in BR’s handwriting in the Malleson papers in the Russell Archives. Immediately following the document is a single, twice-folded sheet in BR’s hand with a short paper, “The Single Tax” (101 in Papers 14), on one side and the Chinese poem “On Paying Calls in August” on the verso (document 200342). BR surely sent it to her at or about this time. Papers 14 incorrectly states the “accompanying” letter is dated 28 August “1917”.
you felt by the sea Colette had spent a few days’ holiday with her mother at St. Margaret’s Bay near Dover. She wrote in her letter of 25–27 August: “the windows are wide open to the sound of the sea” (BRACERS 113153).
Amazon Ottoline lent BR H.M. Tomlinson, The Sea and the Jungle (1912) (Ottoline to Tomlinson, 3 June 1918, BRACERS 122079); he also read H.W. Bates, The Naturalist on the River Amazons (1863) (see Letter 9).
Himalayas BR wrote Gladys Rinder two days earlier: “Tell Bob Trevy I love his book about Thibet” (Letter 84, which also quotes from the book). Robert C. Trevelyan (1872–1951), an old Cambridge friend, had sent him this work by the Japanese Buddhist monk Ekai Kawaguchi: Three Years in Thibet (Benares and London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1909).
Timur and Genghis Khan Timur (1336–1405), of Turco-Mongol descent, founded the Timurid Empire (1370–1405) in Central Asia. He married into Genghis Khan’s family. Khan (c.1162–1227) was a Mongolian warrior ruler who unified the tribes of Mongolia. The Mongol Empire lasted rather longer (1206–1368).
Alexander or Caesar In his short, spectacular reign as Macedonian king after 336 BC, Alexander (356–324 BC) destroyed the powerful Persian Empire and extended Macedonian control over Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Persia and even into the Punjab. Of Alexander, BR wrote several decades later: “The effect of Alexander on the imagination of Asia was great and lasting” (HWP, p. 221). Gaius Julius Caesar (100–44 BC), the ruler of Rome, had conquered Gaul (modern day France). He was assassinated, but the changes he set in motion turned the Roman republic into an empire, which lasted until the fifth century in the West and (as Byzantium) as late as the fifteenth in the East.
glad you told Priscilla Colette had written: “Last night, on a sudden impulse, I told Priscilla all about you. So now she knows everything, and understands. I’m so very glad I told her” (BRACERS 113153). Colette was vacationing with her mother, Priscilla.
more about Eve Colette had already written twice about Evelyn Walsh Hall (on 20 Aug. 1918, BRACERS 113152, and 25 Aug., BRACERS 113153), an actress and recent acquaintance of Colette. Hall was a great admirer of BR. See the note to Letter 78.
Becket … His murder Thomas à Becket (c.1118–1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162–70, Christian martyr and saint, was murdered in his cathedral on the instructions of Henry II. Colette had visited Canterbury during her holiday, prompting her to ask BR “what sort of person Becket really was and what his attitude would have been if he were alive today” (BRACERS 113153).
Henry II … give way to the Pope Two years after Becket’s murder, Pope Alexander III (Orlando Bandinelli, c.1105–1181, elected pope 1159) absolved Henry II (1133–1189, ruled from 1154) of any guilt in the Archbishop’s death. In return, England’s first Plantagenet monarch agreed through this Compromise of Avranches (1172) to limit the jurisdiction of civil courts over the clergy and to restore other ecclesiastical powers and privileges. These had been restricted by the Constitutions of Clarendon, enacted by Henry II in 1164.
Canossa BR later described the situation. In 1077 Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (1050–1106) “decided to seek absolution from the Pope. In the depth of winter, with his wife and infant son and a few attendants, he crossed the Mont Cenis pass, and presented himself as a suppliant before the castle of Canossa, where the Pope [Gregory VII] was. For three days the Pope kept him waiting, bare-foot and in penitential garb. At last he was admitted. Having expressed penitence and sworn, in future, to follow the Pope’s directions in dealing with his German opponents, he was pardoned and received back into communion” (HWP, pp. 415–16).
(Dante’s time) Dante, 1265–1321, great Italian poet and one often cited by BR.
schism, with 2 rival Popes The period from 1378 to 1417 in the Roman Catholic church when there were two, and later three, rival popes, each with his own college of cardinals and administrative offices.
John XXIII Baldassare Cossa (c.1370–1419) was pope during the Western Schism (1410–1415) and is now officially regarded by the Catholic Church as an antipope.
Council that burnt Huss … safe-conduct The Council of Constance, 1414–18, settled the problem of too many popes by requiring that all resign. Martin V replaced them. “John Huss” is the anglicized name of Jan Hus (c.1369–1415), a Czech Christian reformer and defender of John Wycliffe (c.1320–1384), his spiritual mentor, against the charge of heresy. It was King Sigismund who had granted Huss the safe-conduct, but he was involved in the Council. BR later called the Council’s proceedings against the pope “creditable”, but maintained his view that, in disregarding the safe-conduct, the treatment of Huss was not (HWP, p. 483).
Gibbon puts it The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776–88; Russell’s library), 6: 605. There’s a tick beside the passage. BR quoted it correctly from memory, except for “graver” where Gibbon wrote “most scandalous”.
Celts, Saxons, and Normans The Celts were the people living in Britain at the time of the Roman conquest. The Saxons appeared around the 5th century AD from Northern Europe. The Normans were from Normandy and conquered Britain in 1066.
invented King Arthur … tomb at Glastonbury Henry II patently failed if he cultivated the Arthurian legend in order to stabilize his kingdom, for his rule was hampered not only by Church–State conflict, but also Welsh uprisings and rebellious family members. According to a medieval account as questionable as accounts of the ancient British king himself, Henry was informed about the location of Arthur’s grave by an old bard. Glastonbury Abbey henceforth became an important pilgrimage destination, with both the monks and the Plantagenet dynasty maintaining a vested interest in the emerging cult of Arthur. Despite doubts about the authenticity of the supposed burial site (and the inscribed cross which adorned it), archaeological evidence from Glastonbury confirms that there was settlement there during the Arthurian period (c.600 AD).
Richard Coeur de Lion and of John (of Magna Charta) Richard (1157–1199) ascended the throne on the death of his father in 1189. Richard died with no heirs. His brother John (1166–1216) succeeded him.
The people in Italy who took the side of Emperor against Pope were called Gibellines. The Ghibellines’ bitter enemies in their protracted struggle to extend the dominion of the Holy Roman Empire were the Guelfs, who eventually secured the papacy’s temporal authority in Florence and elsewhere in the Italian peninsula. These rival medieval factions also corresponded to competing German princely houses — the Ghibellines representing the Hohenstaufens, and the Guelfs, the Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria.
Napoleon and Mirabeau both came of Gibelline Florentine families. Napoleon’s Ghibelline ancestors were exiled from Florence in the twelfth century and settled in Sarzana, to the northwest, before moving to Corsica in the late-fifteenth century. The Florentine origins of the Comte de Mirabeau are mentioned by the French revolutionary statesman in his memoirs, which BR had been reading in Brixton (see Letter 48). Although the pro-Ghibelline Riquettis (or Arrighettis) supposedly established themselves in Provence after being banished from Florence in the mid-thirteenth century, the family’s medieval genealogy may be spurious (see Justin H. McCarthy, The French Revolution [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890], pp. 425–33).
Innocent III Pope Innocent III (1198–1216). BR calls him one of the great men of the thirteenth century and the first “great Pope in whom there was no element of sanctity” (HWP, p. 443). He ordered the great crusade against the Albigenses, he deposed Raymond, Count of Toulouse, and he called for the Germans to depose the Emperor Otto, which they did.
Frederick II Frederick II (Hohenstaufen) (1194–1250), Holy Roman Emperor (1220–1250), was judged by BR to be “one of the most remarkable rulers known to history” (HWP, p. 443). In 1931, to his future third wife, he wrote that the Emperor Frederick II “has always fascinated me” (BRACERS 20278). (Perhaps it was because of his versatility in many areas, and he was both civilized and brutish.) BR’s interest in Frederick endured for decades. In 1955, upon receiving the Silver Pears trophy, he pointed out that the Pears Encyclopaedia had no entry on Frederick II. That was soon remedied.
“On Paying Calls in August” Copied from Arthur Waley, A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (London: Constable, 1918; Russell’s library; BR’s presentation copy to Colette, Russell’s library addition [see Letter 78, note 26]), p. 57. The title there is “Satire on Paying Calls in August”. BR spelled “Nowadays” and “someone” in his own way.
Record last modified 2022/10/03
Created/last modified by duncana