The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

the end of English letters

April 9 [1937]: VirginiaWoolf’s The Years and F. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pine to See the Peep Show read at once—what with rain and fairies and walloping bells at Oxford and Missie dying of love for Teacher with a dash of beans and fish with the lower middle class—impress one again with the constipation of English letters. They copy this sentence 100 times—‘England is Jolly, Tea is Good, Rain is Nice, Oxford’s Heaven, Teacher is Peachy, I’ll be Buggered.’ Then they make their individual curleycues, Miss Woolf with air and sea and esprit at her command, others with mere patience and paper. The same things happen to the same families only it’s Ron instead of Don and Winnie instead of Binnie. I do not know whether on this small island only a few patterns are possible in life for a writer to record, or whether people, well-read on their own fiction, dare not allow their lives to step out of fiction’s prescribed patterns. It’s a conventional country, after all.

—Dawn Powell, Diaries1

  1. Cf. ‘…she is wittier than Dorothy Parker, dissects the rich better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, is more plaintive than Willa Cather in her evocation of the heartland and has a more supple control of satirical voice than Evelyn Waugh, the writer to whom she’s most often compared’: review of a biography of Dawn Powell (NY Times). []


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