There's a word
somewhere around impresario and entrepreneur that describes women who ride
herd on maverick writers. Whatever the word (and it's lost with all the
others that probably came up while I was playing truant up the spinney
with Sam Bagley), the best example
I know is Violet Hunt.
"She was so precocious she got middle-aged spread when she was sixteen,"
said Ellie, looking up from her flageolet practice. A week after getting
knocked down it was discovered that she had a fractured pelvis. I've been
putting in some illuminating grape-eating in the geriatrics ward, the only place where
they had a bed. Mary is 100:
"Young men were very
earnest when I was a girl. You had quite a job sorting out the
free-thinkers. Excuse me, I used to say, my bloomer elastic has just
broken. If you're not going to take them off, have you got a pin, please? That's how I
Ellie has been dipping into Arthur Mitzener's biography of Ford Maddox
Ford, "The Saddest Story",
my last Maggie present, which she also uses as a back rest.
"Ford's life was brought to a climax
in the latter part of 1908 by two major events..."
The first of these was his editorship of The English Review, the second
Violet Hunt. She talked "practically continuously" and had the
uncontrollable impulsiveness of a
middle-class Moll Flanders or Molly Bloom.
Filling in the frightening details he quotes Iris Barry:
"Chattering with sublime disregard for practically everything, distraught golden hair,
obviously a beauty of the Edwardian era, Violet Hunt often proved
disconcerting... for the way she pounced..."
Can't you hear the crack of the whip, the pounding hooves and to hell with
"Early in 1907 she had a very brief affair with Somerset Maugham. At the
same time she found her old friend Edward Heron Allen suddenly showing
signs of amorousness..."
When Ford left Violet for Stella Bowen, "she tracked them
down in Bedham and hung over the fence of their cottage watching them..."
But worst of all, and what makes living in Hampstead so hazardous for the
"His gloomiest expectations were confirmed by the publication in 1927 of
Violet Hunt's 'The Flurried Years' with its indiscreet description of
their love affair..."
Who needs climaxes?
Thanks anyway, Penelope (PO Box) for the photograph and the manuscript
which I think is really excellent of its kind. Go ahead and finish the
novel. I can't make Thursday and in fact will be busy on a screenplay for
the next few months. Pick out the tune starting on the D string of your guitar as
D, E flat, F natural, G, A, D... D, E flat, F natural, G, A, B, D, B, D... To
fit: "I'll never be the same there is such an ache in
my heart," and so on in the
key of D major. You'll find Al Bowlly singing it on Ace of Clubs ACL 1147
- though you probably know that he's dead and can't help you, either.
Who said "time is the great healer"? I remember
- old Norman. Well, maybe so, but I'm going to devote the rest of my life
to Maggie whether or not we ever meet again. She's no violent hunter and
her writing, intended for oblivion, is totally unmalicious and mostly
"Water creeeeeeeees!" we used to yell, with H E Bates's gypsy girl,
whenever we passed the cress beds.
I'll plant one in Allen Water when I buy her the dairy farm. This new film
could easily be the starting place.
"Don't talk about it until the contract's signed," the man said. The power
of the pen is getting a little inverted. Somebody in television told a secret friend of
mine: "You can't use Jack any
more. You never know what he's going to say about you in his next column."
"Say what you like about us," Maggie told
me in Brussels last July.
"I'll always defend you. I know how important your writing is to you."
They don't come like that any more than once in a lifetime. So why does a
woman leave home?
"You remember when I used to cry because I couldn't play the violin?" This
was her last cross-channel explanation before she changed her telephone number. "It's something to do with that."
love with their spare time and sex is a therapy. There's a word somewhere
between fulfillment and despair and I'm damned if I know what it is yet.
When I finally grow as old as Rupert Brooke was at 21, I might just
possible accept that:
"...flesh is flesh, was flame before:
And infinite hungers leap no
In the chance swaying of your dress;
And love has changed to kindliness."
(The Guardian, Saturday 3 February 1973)