How to start: I confess I really enjoyed this book. I brought it along during a three-week vacation and loved slipping away from the rudimentary demands of camping to a world of high-class English society and the author’s sophisticated use of words. L.P. Hartley has an interesting biography.
Quotes: “From being my enemy the summer had become my friend: this was another consequence of our Norwich shopping. I felt I had been given the freedom of the heat, and I roamed about in it as if I was exploring a new element. I liked to watch it rise shimmering from the ground and hang heavy on the tops of the darkening July trees. I liked the sense of suspended movement that it gave or seemed to give, reducing everything in Nature to the stillness of contemplation. I liked to touch it with my hand, and feel it on my throat and round my knees, which now were bare to its embrace. I learned to travel far, ever father into it, and achieve a close approximation with it; for I felt that my experience of it would somehow be cumulative and that if it would only get hotter and hotter there was a heart of heat I should attain to.”
“One remembers things at different levels. I still have an impression, distinct but hard to analyse, of the change that came over the household with Lord Trimingham’s arrival. Before, it had an air of self-sufficiency, and, in spite of Mrs. Maudsley’s hand on the reins, a go-as-you-please gait: now everyone seemed to be strung up, on tip-toe to face some test, as we were in the last weeks at school, with the examinations coming on. What one said and did seemed to matter more, as if something hung on it, as if it was contributing to a coming event.”
“Now the thought of the farmyard had lost its magic for me: it was as dead as a hobby that one has grown out of.”
“Also I knew we should not have the Litany, as we had had it last Sunday: this also was a great gain. Less than ever was I in a mood to repent of my sins or to feel that other people should repent of theirs: I could not find a flaw in the universe and was impatient with Christianity for bringing imperfection to my notice, so I closed my ears to its message and chose as a subject of meditation the annals of the Trimingham family emblazoned on the transept wall.”
“He indicated a row of small dark canvasses, set deep in heavy frames. (…) I didn’t like the look of the picture or its feeling; pictures, I thought, should be of something pretty, should record a moment chosen for its beauty. These people hadn’t even troubled to look their best; they were ugly and quite content to be so. They got something out of being their naked selves, their faces told me that: but this self-glory, depending on nobody’s approval but their own, struck me as rather shocking - more shocking than their occupations, unseemly as those were. They had forgotten themselves, that was it; and you should never forget yourself.”
“How everything else had been diminished by [the Ted and Marian relationship] and drained of quality! - for it was a standard of comparison but dwarfed other things. Its colours were brighter, its voice was louder, its power of attraction infinitely greater. It was a parasite of the emotions. Nothing else could live with it or have an independent existence while it was there. It created a desert, it wouldn’t share with anyone or anything, it wanted all the attention for itself. And being secret it contributed nothing to our daily life; it could no more be discussed than could some shameful illness.”
“We talked a little of my journey and of what I had done in life: both subjects that were easily disposed of. For conversational purpose, an ounce of incident is worth a pound of routine progress, and my life had little incident to record.”