She sat rather glumly looking at her own hands, her chin drawn in as though suffering from indigestion, or a surfeit of English.
– Patrick White
The Vivisector, p. 317.
I am, as it were, at sea. The most difficult part of packing books is deciding which ones I am most likely to want to read or refer to in the near future. Should Vita Sackville-West’s Joan of Arc go in the suitcase, or Kafka’s Briefe an Felice? Ought The Book of Memory make the two-month voyage by boat in a box, or Ovid’s Tristia or the Teubner Odyssey? Alas – but one of the many problems in shaping one’s ‘old course, in a Country new’.1
Compounding these difficulties, I accidentally purchased The Old English Baron, The Vampyre, and Melmoth the Wanderer – I justify the frivolity (and added baggage) with feeble flutterings about my invalid mind in need of distraction and repose. This sort of mental hypochondria has helped me overcome the guilt of many an ill-judged book-purchase before, and I do not think it will fail me now. (Although how the Gothic is supposed to help strengthen my intellect I have not, as yet, discovered; at least it’s not Ann Radcliffe.)
- Is there meant to be a pun, do you think, on course and corse? Probably. You with the Arden Lear ready to hand, yes, you in the back, sir: would you mind checking the notes for me?
Also, I was going to be terribly pretentious (in the manner of Gissing) and write ‘eheu’ for ‘alas’; congratulate me, please, on my restraint. [↩]