Indirections: A Memoir 1909-1947
Chapter Thirteen — Lesley
When Colin went to work with Professor Schubart in Berlin, he boarded with a family who soon became very close to us. The father, Dr Zuntz, head of a large hospital, was a highly respected man of good Jewish family whose traditions went back to the Enlightenment. A well cultivated mind, upright, deeply humane and conscientious; a tender humorous lovable man who embodied some of the best qualities of civilized Germany, its wisdom, its scrupulous integrity. His wife — we always called her the Frau Dr — was Christian, a Lutheran East Prussian of the blond bald type who could still look lovely in the rich tenderness of her eyes and smile; she was both intellectual and deeply pious. Their three children had had the best education Germany offered; Colin thought the whole family by far the best educated and most cultivated he had ever met. Günther the eldest was a classical scholar and teacher of great accomplishment, actively concerned in educational reform; Dora — Dodo in the family — was an art historian, and Leonie, the youngest, a linguist of formidable range who played the violin well — all were good musicians.
With the Nazis in power, the state counted the Zuntzes not Germans but Jews: their future looked black, their immediate livelihood in peril. One by one they visited England at Colin's invitation, and before long Dora got engaged to his elder brother Brian, whose quiet pointed wit seemed a foil to the brilliant gaiety and waywardness of manner which played over her intelligence and the wonderfully compassionate devoted tenderness she poured out on all her friends; I saw her as a dark red rose rich of scent, Etoile de Hollande. The two families had much in common. The Zuntzes, who took in science and music, were perhaps page 249closer to the centre of German intellectual life than the Robertses to that of England — or was English intellectual life more exclusively literary than German? The atmosphere of loving gaiety that both families spread round them was irresistible; each in turn quickly won my love and devotion; and I trembled and feared for them — far more acutely of course for the Zuntzes. Their great gifts ought to have assured them of a welcome anywhere. Günther with difficulty managed to find work in England, and a good many years later became Professor of Hellenistic Greek at Manchester.
Leonie too found work of sorts, with greater difficulty, being a woman; at length she became a proof-reader at the Clarendon Press in Oxford, in ancient languages; having Latin Greek Hebrew and Arabic and one or more earlier language (besides the usual modern European ones), she was able to proof-read securely in other early languages which she did not know, especially those in cuneiform script. This is a strange accomplishment, not very common, and proportionately valuable. Leonie's job was thus safe enough, but it was a mechanical one, and she had never had to do work of that kind for any length of time before. Being a musical, impulsive, warmly generous girl, she fretted and came to hate the Work, whose monotonous tedium seemed to prey on her and consume her; yet there seemed no chance of her getting other more congenial work in that time of apprehension and drawing in and suspicion of foreigners. With her beautiful vitality and lovingness of nature she made good friends, but no one sprang to marry her — or no one she could accept. Or was she, without knowing it, in some way married to the lost past? Dr Zuntz had stayed on in Berlin as long as he could; although in danger of dismissal and of physical violence he refused to abandon his patients and his hospital and seek safety abroad. A series of strokes laid him out; only then he had to give up and come to London, where he died soon afterwards.
It was with Leonie and Dora, Colin, Brian, Rosemary and Hal that I first went to Glyndebourne to hear Mozart, in June 1936. I forget if it was that year or later that Figaro was played by Mariano Stabile, a robust splendid singer and an equally good actor; although not young, he sang with more genuine fire than any other Figaro of the many I have seen, in part because I have page 250seen no other who understood so clearly that Mozart made Figaro a revolutionary figure (it was not for social reasons that Mozart became a Freemason), and that 'Se vuol ballare' is an implicit revolutionary song. The Countess that year was Aulikki Rautawaara, a blond Finn of great beauty, nobly statuesque and serene if at times she seemed a little too much the pure cold northern beauty; she sang her cavatina in the second act with such tender desolate sadness that my bones wanted to melt with her; she sang for us all, a lament for the beauty and love that our world seemed about to trample out for ever, to trample out perhaps in us. The Glyndebourne gardens on the south slopes of the Downs seemed an embodiment of Mozartian qualities, but anglicized, softened a little as gentleness subdued wit. Glyndebourne was an ideal and a symbol, a more rarified Salzburg, beautiful and precious, but a little unreally precious, in that Mozart lived in the world and was of the world and his music cannot be felt and understood to the depth in isolation from the world. For Mozart the worm was in the wood, the mine working beneath the battlements, all his life.
Other friends besides the Zuntzes were involved in Europe. Henry Fellows married a French girl, Reggie Howlett an Italian from Milan, partly German by descent, whose family was strongly anti-fascist and so also in constant danger. Leila was fair, plump, effervescent, lively-minded, and of warmth and devotion to match Reggie's sanguine generosity; the lasting stability and happiness of their marriage seemed a symbolic resolution of the tragic divisions of Europe.
These divisions affected everyone differently. Grandfather, Emily and Kate, Aunt Agnes and the de Beers, Colin and I, suffered them in flesh and bone. Without ceasing to be a New Zealander, I had become a European. James and Ian (it seemed to me) felt them intellectually, an affront and an outrage, but not in the same way as inward experience. To most New Zealanders they were simply the condition of the world, now worse, now better, in no way special, part of the usual disorder of things outside the sensible stable English-speaking countries.
Bettina, for whom individual people were everything, hardly page 251followed politics, which I think was not very real to her; when she married, she accepted her husband's point of view. They had met on a ship returning to New Zealand. He was an engineer from Canterbury College, Archie Hamilton, who had spent some years building a road from northern Iraq to the Persian border; with Bettina's help, he wrote a book about it soon after their marriage, which Fabers published as Road Through Kurdistan — and were to keep in print for some thirty years or more. He was rather older than Bettina, a resourceful practical man who had designed a new kind of adaptable bridge to suit the rough conditions of the country he had to work in; as the Callender-Hamilton bridge, it was to be used later in New Zealand, India, Britain, and many other countries. Sympathetic interest in the people he was working with led him to support the Assyrians and the Kurds and, with other men who knew the country, to try to press their claims upon unresponsive British governments. Bettina gave herself up entirely to Archie and his life, in whole-hearted love and devotion. No one could have picked Archie as a likely object of such selfless ardour, nor did he seem to respond to it outwardly — none of us got much from him at first. He was tallish, rough-hewn, rather abstractedly quiet, solemn and slow to smile, not at all young in manner and conversation; his views seemed conventional and his interests limited — in that way he did not outgrow his New Zealand background; his opinions about the Near East were those of his kind, military and practical men, good-heartedness constricted by a certain naiveté.
He and Bettina hovered about London for a year or two, until their first child Mary was born in the Chilterns; then the War Office sent them to Alexandria, where their eldest son was born — Bill, my godson; later they were in Acre. At last they returned to England, and while Archie set up as a consulting engineer they settled at Badger's Mount, a few miles from Sevenoaks on the North Downs. Although Bettina gave up practising medicine when she married, she did not cease to be a doctor, and since her family never exhausted her gift of love and compassion, she naturally came to doctor and to mother a succession of the poor, the sick, the elderly who lived nearby, and to delight in their children — all children flocked to her. page 252Bettina's house would always have been home to me — even though a home where I would be too restless to stay long, and I came to love that country both for itself and because it was hers and her children's.
I did not know, I cannot tell yet, on which count works of art are more precious to me; rather, I cannot separate the two aspects, because works of art are to me whole and single, living beings and strongly wrought works in one. Country and painted landscape, people and portraits, figure paintings, music and architecture and states of mind, belong to the same reality: the world is rich, and must be known in its fulness, not thinned out by analysis. I had few friends then among painters and sculptors who saw it as a single living body, or were able to say so. The two artist friends whom I saw most at that time were Frederick Page the musician (later the first professor of music, at Victoria University College, Wellington), who was in England steeping himself in painting hardly less than in music, and Evelyn Poison the painter, a graduate of the Canterbury School of Art, for whom thought came only in feeling, whom the world tossed continually in a riot of colour, form, sound.
Fred and I had met when Dr Galway invited him to give his first piano recital in Dunedin; he was now at the Royal College of Music, studying under Vaughan Williams — who some years later sat for a portrait by Eve. I was sitting for her now, many long sessions, at Dorothy Davies's flat in Horbury Crescent, Bayswater; every quarter hour or so I was allowed to get up, stretch cramped limbs, and eat some of the delectable chocolate fudge that Eve made to bribe me. Fred would sometimes play Dorothy's good Bechstein while Eve painted. The portrait was gloomily like me, and I told Eve it would finish my chances in the marriage market, whereupon Fred christened it 'Maidens Beware!'*
* See portrait reproduced on the cover.
Ever since I had met Enid and Alfredo Cianchi I had been deluged with talk about the state of the world and the powers and responsibilities of science and scientists. Alfredo's Italian eloquence enveloped one on all sides, as if one were the target of a ring of shining waterfalls, gracefully arching and descending vehemently on one's head. I drank it in thirstily, news of a field of knowledge almost unknown to me; very slowly I began to sort out what Alfredo was saying into facts, theories and opinions. Meanwhile, he and Enid and their three children had to live. Her family were troubled and sceptical, but they did their best. Her father Uncle Reuben on a visit to London bought them a large ugly house in one of the respectably ugly red-brick streets of what was dignified as part of Hampstead— Greencroft Gardens in lower Hampstead, on the wrong side of Finchley Road.
The house was not however altogether unsuitable. It provided Alfredo with a big top floor which he used as a workshop, and soon overloaded with machinery. There he began to manufacture what was, I think, his first commercially successful invention, an electrical device which used lights instead of sound for the benefit of the deaf; he called it Sordoviso, 'deaf-seeing'. It proved to be adaptable to a variety of uses, some of which must have surprised the inventor at first, so that it turned out to be valuable and in the end profitable.
Alfredo's hope was that all his inventions should serve the page 254cause of peace and harmony in the world; as a scientist he believed he had power for good or evil, and wished to be sure that it should be used only for good. He was not content to be a neutral inventor; he had ideas about the place of science in society, the uses to which it ought to be put, the danger of it in the wrong hands. He wanted other people to share his views and to act on them. So he thought of writing a book to set out his ideas.
It was partly to help him with that that he employed Joy Scovell as secretary; and Enid, the children and their nanny were all soon so devoted to her that they came to think of her as almost one of the family. I was drawn close to them now as Alfredo told me more and more about his ideas, and asked me to help him with the book in which he proposed to set them out. He read very widely in scientific literature of all kinds and in general philosophy from Bergson and Alexander to Whitehead and Russell; he went to lectures and meetings on scientific matters; he met and talked with scientists whenever he could. A scientist, to him, was by definition a good man, it was inconceivable to him that a scientist could be a bad man, or even morally neutral, simply pursuing a common human inquiry. I had to disentangle his meaning from his words and then rephrase the argument; but then I often failed to convey what he meant, so that we had to start again. All this was a valuable exercise in ingenuity and in following ideas far removed from those which usually concerned me. We worked on the book by fits and starts over a longish period, but it did not advance far.
What I could follow I sympathized with, often agreed with. My reading at that time, I noticed, revolved through distinct cycles. I read hungrily, drawing on the London Library, often to the limit of ten books at a time, and sometimes got through several a week, as when I was staying at Heathfield, where there was little to do except read. So long as I was attached to the Egypt Exploration Society, at Amarna or in London, my reading turned in part on ancient history, thought and religion; Colin's reading and thinking influenced mine all the time, that of James and other friends a little; and I read new poetry everywhere as a matter of course, besides much else in a variety of journals, especially Middleton Murry's monthly Adelphi (which ran for twenty years or more from its beginnings in 1923). If for a few page 255months I immersed myself in history, I would then be led to philosophy and religion, and from that after another few months to poetry; and this cycle repeated itself. I read novels too, especially those of the great Russians and of recent English writers, Virginia Woolf, Lawrence, Forster; and a few plays, but I preferred to see them on the stage first. I recall reading history and philosophy at Heathfield on dark days and long evenings when, as often, Uncle Arch was out on his affairs. Thanks to Colin, I continued to read Plato; it was at Heathfield that I first attempted the Timaeus. I have never read so much as in those years, never again having had so much time.
Nearly everything I read forced on me in one form of other the questions, What am I? What must I do?, which rang through me hollowly, and I had no answer. When my father took us, Lel and me, on a tour of Ireland for ten days by charabanc, the questions become more immediate. It was the summer of 1935; I had with me Yeats's Collected Poems of 1933, which I already knew well, and read again on the spot everything associated with the places we were seeing; Dublin, Glendalough, Gort and Coole, Knocknarea, Ballysodare, Ben Bulben, Sligo. Here was the work of a living poet which sounded like sea surge in my ears and haunted me no less than that of any of the great dead; here were the ordinary everyday towns, hills, streets and houses which he had lived with and made legendary so that they could never again be mere commonplace, however dull the daily light that fell on them, however humdrum their future. Dublin was a dreary third-rate town. The eighteenth-century houses in Merrion Square and Parnell Street, the best we saw, were sound but undistinguished, monotonous in dark drab red brick; trees in the parks were small; the people poor. Cork was unbelievably poor, with a poverty I had not seen anywhere else in Northern Europe; one saw it in Naples, but side by side with great splendour and wealth, and of those grey slatternly Cork showed not a trace. The countryside was full of detail; but it was Yeats's imagination, working on what he found, that made Ireland rich, dramatic, and noble. What did words do to cast such light upon the world? how did the poet forge such words? is a poet born or made? and how must he live? These and other questions I continued to put to myself— as I felt — aimlessly and vainly, because page 256I could not answer them, and in any case whatever answer I might give hung clearly on one condition: 'We receive but what we give.' And what had I to give? I could not tell. There was no answer; but having come so far, I told myself now, I had to go on, trying to write poetry, preparing myself to write.
One thing I needed was some continuous quiet time to ruminate and read and (I hoped) write, free of the daily demands of family and friends, which made concentration and continuity of thought and feeling impossible. I must go and live by myself in the country for a month or two, and see what came of that. At the end of 1935 I felt free to do so. Kate left for New Zealand, Lel went to spend the winter with Hilda Hallenstein and her brother-in-law Edgar Halsted on his yacht at Gibraltar; Aunt Agnes Was going to Spain, Emily, Elespie and Dora to Switzerland for winter sports. And James was soon to leave for China, his decision made: he was going into action; while I continued on my apparently drifting, fruitless course. I felt it keenly when we said goodbye a week before Christmas at Piccadilly Circus, after lunching together, and in a rather matter-of-fact tone, with a half wry expression, he hoped that my 'literary plans' would go well; while I wanted to take him in my arms and exchange a word of blessing, and could not.
I found a cottage at Treligga, on the north coast of Cornwall, between Tintagel and Port Isaac. It was remote but easy to reach. Eastward the land rose to the wide bare uplands of Bodmin Moor; to the west, not half a mile away, high broken cliffs fell to the sea. The stone cottage was small and old, one room below with a kitchen annex (hardly more than a lean-to), and one above, dunny down the little garden. A double bed took up most of the bedroom; you had to bend down to see out of the very low window. The cottages and garden plots of the small village fitted close together like a jigsaw puzzle, crouched low as if to offer no resistance to the huge winds that swept across the land.
Gone to ground, I sat down to read and write and walk, living as simply as possible — but as always in so-called simple conditions mere living takes time; I had to heat water and cook on an page 257open fire and a small stove. I read Rilke, the Duino Elegies and Nene Gedichte, the Old Testament and Robinson's History of Israel, stories of Hans Andersen, von Hugel's letters, some Chaucer, poems by Pasternak, the Polynesian Mythology, Chinese Testament; I did not get a newspaper. Walking every afternoon the weather allowed, but seldom far in those short days when dark fell so early (at midwinter it was dark by 4.30), I soon felt myself becoming part of the spare wintry country, its sunken stony lanes and low hedges, the bare fields, rough poor pasture, headlands and cliffs and rocks where the sea licked, heaved, raged unceasingly.
* See 'Genesis' in Disputed Ground, for some of the fragments
On the last day of January 1936, I heard that Lel had fallen ill while staying with Hilda and Edgar at Gibraltar, had had an operation, and suffered much pain. More letters and telegrams showed that her progress was very uncertain. A week later, far earlier than I wanted to, I returned to London. Aunt Agnes, who had been in Malaga, had already gone to Gibraltar, and Emily soon followed.
So began three years of illness for Lel, of waiting for me. I did not simply wait, all that time. But I was nearly always at hand, on call, to be ready if needed; what I did otherwise was conditional, depending on that. And Lel's illness went on; she improved, she relapsed, seemed much better for a time, but was never well. The medical diagnosis seemed to waver between a tuberculous bowel, and colitis. Accompanied by bouts of diarrhoea, it was a very painful, exhausting, weakening illness. The wounds caused by the first operation, at Gibraltar, never finally healed — so at least I understood.
Emily brought Lel back from Gibraltar by sea at the end of March; she could walk a little, looked well, sounded cheerful and had a good appetite. After rest and examination at a nursing home, Dr McCarron pronounced her fit to go away into the country to recover her strength. So, a month later, she and a nurse and I went to stay at an inn at Churt in Surrey, where Enid and her children were staying. Friends and relations came down for the day; I walked with them and alone in the lovely May weather in woods of pine and larch, over open heath, and along lanes deep in flowers; I spent a few days in Oxford, others in town. I had now put together a collection of poems which I was trying on publishers, always with the same result, but soon Tomorrow, the Christchurch fortnightly which had started two years earlier, accepted three of my poems and printed them. That gave me hope, assuring me of at least some interest in my work. But it was publication in England that counted, in England that reputations were made.
Lel seemed to improve a little, until an attack of diarrhoea page 259forced her to return to town. Consultations; Dr McCarron called in the surgeon who had examined Lel when she arrived from Gibraltar, Mr Harper, a handsome imposing man who looked all calm authority and quiet confidence. The operation had been more serious than the doctors expected, they declared that the condition of her bowel was clearly tuberculous, they doubted whether that could be cured entirely. Lel needs, they said, above all fresh air and sun and good food; after some time in the country it would be best for her to go to New Zealand for about a year. They would not tell her about her condition nor, yet, about going to New Zealand, which would be too hard a shock. Dr McCarron would not commit himself about Lel's recovery, but said she had a good constitution. It was decided that I must take a house in the Chilterns for the summer, as soon as she was well enough.
I continued to write, read, meet friends and relations, and to steep myself in London. Emily took me to hear the philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev at a World Congress of Faiths. He read a paper in French, which he pronounced not very well. He reminded me of portrait heads of Socrates; biggish head, big brow, nearly bald on top, with a great wave of dull grey hair at each side covering his ears; short nose, moustache, beard, but cheeks clean-shaven; the eyes deep-set under black brows, heavily ringed and wrinkled round, as if in fierce activity their intense gazing had ploughed up the face and created for themselves a frame of rings and furrows of darkened skin (an almost volcanic effect: you see it in some of Rembrandt's faces). I had read a little of his work, and from now on read most of his books as they were translated, until his very rich autobiography Dream and Reality came out in 1950. He had lived his age as men seldom live their own time — live it and write about it. He conveyed the character of it with strong feeling for its depths, with rare verisimilitude; I had met in very few writers an experience which seemed in that way adequate to our time.
It was at this time, in London, that I got to know Emily as an adult. When I was young she had been a much-loved, almost adored aunt. Because she lived far away, in Pymble near Sydney, page 260and did not come often to Dunedin, her visits were rare, precious occasions. Now I began to know her as a woman, to see her as herself. My childhood and boyhood view of her had not been wrong. She was all I had felt her to be. Hers was a strong deep and generous nature, keenly responsive to all kinds of people in the complexities of their beauty, their hopes, sufferings and follies, and to all that was going on around her. When she gave love, she gave her whole self. So it was when she married. But her husband Arthur soon showed himself a sour, disapproving man; he turned away from her; he resented her friends — she made friends everywhere — and wanted to forbid them the house. He took to drink, and at length drank himself to death, for which Emily later blamed herself in bitter self-accusation.
To be in Europe again now delighted her; she revived as in a second youth; she was just fifty. She sent Elespie, her only child, to finish her schooling in London — I often took Elespie back to Highgate after Sunday supper at the de Beers'; she was boarding at Channing House, which had been Rosemary Roberts's school. Then she left school, and spent almost a year with Emily and Grandfather seeing England and Europe. Elespie was very like her mother, gay, friendly-hearted, lovable and lovely, although still girlishly large, a series of bulges, always afloat on a wave of laughter, always dabbing herself somewhere with powder and carefully painting and repainting.
Emily spoke beautifully, with a kind of unconscious pride, in a voice light and yet deep which often took on the ringing tone of a tragic actress and arrested one by its powerful resonance. She would strike poses, half laughing at herself. Sometimes she laughed deeply, catching her breath and half choking with delight, at other times she would break into a whinny like the spray blown from the crest of a wave. She was not lovely like Kate, but handsome in a classically mature way that expressed her strength and depth of nature; small, very upright, her head set proudly and hair loosely gathered in a knot behind — brown hair that had been so thick and long when she was young that its weight sometimes gave her headaches.
She could be very scornful, and sometimes intolerant, and sometimes unjust; she used to laugh at Dora and at Esmond, although fond of them, for what she thought their funny ways, page 261their taking such care of themselves, their softness, for Dora's excessive washing, Esmond's love of comfort — forgetting that at the same time Dora was an experienced climber who had roughed it both in New Zealand and in China, and Esmond a tireless walker with a large appetite for Scottish moors and for sight-seeing in Rome and elsewhere, at which he regularly outlasted all his juniors. Emily's feeling for the ridiculous, her sharp sense of humour and her irony then grew extreme, and Were at times misdirected; they were turned on me too, later.
Unlike Kate, again, she had no sense of clothes, and would not spend money on herself — she was as careful over money as Kate was careless and extravagant. She and Kate could never understand money. Grandfather was much to blame that he did not even try to teach them to manage their own affairs - I think he held a rather patriarchal view of women; they were always in hopeless confusion about their accounts and investments, seemingly incapable of taking in the simplest matter that one tried to explain. My father tried and was frustrated — but he was not the most patient of men; later, his partner Mr Thompson, a kindly, endlessly patient traditional family lawyer, tried too; he liked and enjoyed them both and was never put out by their failure to follow. I tried time and again, when they asked, since my father had virtually forced me to understand, in face of my resentment and distaste — and how grateful I am to him now.
More and more as she aged Emily's mind took surprising leaps from subject to subject, quite arbitrarily to all appearance, as if no connected train of thought were at work. When you met her, or spoke to her by telephone (and I used to think that the family addiction to long-distance phone calls must ensure the profit of the New Zealand telephone service) she would start invariably with the weather, go on to whatever was uppermost in her mind, and then dart from subject to subject, interspersing more connected talk about her grandchildren or the life of Rembrandt or a new recipe or getting the house painted with exclamations reflecting her reading of the morning paper, the New Statesman, the Manchester Guardian Weekly — 'And Abyssinia!' (with despairing emphasis), 'And that McCarthy!', 'And the Albanians!', 'And Manapuri!' But she cared; she thought and felt; she did not live in an artificial segregated pale of culture far from the page 262real world; I think she saw how frail civilization is, and how direly threatened.
Just as Kate would have looked elegant even in rags, by the way she wore them, Emily at her most down-at-heel was always a lady, quite unconsciously and entirely without stuffiness and formality. With her carriage and her noble voice she took on as she grew older the air of a grande dame, only the more (it seemed) as she suffered the pains of age and resented them and met them as best she could. In her late eighties she still loved to entertain a friend to lunch, although in her slow half-blind muddling way it took her two days to prepare, and exhausted her. Both she and Kate cooked excellently. Kate's plain cooking was rich enough, with a spice of her own elegance about it; when she tried more lavish dishes, she usually followed the conventions of the voguish cookery books or of friends. Whereas Emily seemed to invent, and you were not always sure if her inventions would come off; when they did they were quite her own. Her house was often crowded with trays full of walnuts that one would be called on to help her shell. She made an inimitable light firm walnut cake, thin and plain — but you were quite likely to bite on fragments of shell in it. She also pickled prunes in rum and distributed them to friends, although for years she did not eat these herself; the bottles were hung with paper labels on untidy bits of string. For parties in winter she made a heisse Glühwein which I think was an old family recipe, red wine spiced and heated.
Now in London, as well as wanting to see and do and enjoy all she could, Emily was ready to give all the time needed and all her affection to caring for Lel, and helping me decide what was best to do. She came with me to inspect a house I had found in the Chilterns, near Great Missenden, and came also to a house-cooling (Reggie's term) which I gave before leaving St Edmund's Terrace — she loved parties. At this one I mixed friends and relations, New Zealanders and English; Dora came, and the very handsome very social Tossie Renwick (she was a Paterson from Dunedin, Bessie's younger sister) with her son John; Joy, Rosemary and Hal, Dora Roberts, Reggie, the young classical scholar Dale Trendall (who was soon going to Rome as Assistant Director of the British School), Fred Page, James page 263Courage and his younger sister Pat; only Ian, Colin, Jack and Leonie could not come, and James was of course in Peking.
It was with Fred, I think, that I first met James Courage. His family had a station at Amberley, and of course knew the Thompsons. He had gone from Christ's College to St John's, going down just before I went up. Now he was living in London and writing; his first novel had come out a few years earlier; we soon became friends. He was living in a block of flats in Belsize Avenue, with an unobstructed view over London from higher up than ours, although the foreground was housetops, not the green Park; St Paul's appeared properly set in the midst 6f the city, instead of floating on the edge of it. Jim's flat was rather dully furnished, the rooms lacking air and character, with few books and few and poor pictures. He himself gave little away to begin with, but he not only read novels but read and re-read The Prelude; and he talked well and wittily.
The day of the party I had a long letter from James in Peking. He expected and hoped for war in China, a war of resistance to Japanese expansion. He wrote very hearteningly about my New Zealand poem, although offering much criticism; I had been longing for his opinion. As the party broke up, a sudden violent thunderstorm brought a downpour of rain; the air had been alive with lightning all evening, after two or three very hot heavy damp days. Joy and I caught the rain as I walked across the hill with her. When it stopped, blue flashes of lightning continued for an hour or longer, farther and farther off. The air cooled down, the night grew misty.