Be curious, ask the right questions and be willing, no be grateful, to listen through all the stuff you don’t think you need to hear. To be a writer is to listen, to make connections, to be invisible, leaving the words to do their work.
The most imminent obstacle, the most oppressive stone laid upon our vitality and its struggle to live was of course father. I suppose hardly a day of the week passed without our planning together: was he by any chance to be out, when Kitty Maxse or Katie Thynne came? Must I spend the afternoon walking round Kensington Gardens? Was old Mr Bryce coming to tea? Could we possible take our friends up to the studio–that is, the day nursery? Could we avoid Brighton at Easter? And so on–day after day we tried to remove the pressure of his tremendous obstacle. And over the whole week brooded the horror, the recurring terror of Wednesday. On that day the weekly books were given him. Early that morning we knew whether they were under or over the danger mark–eleven pounds if I remember right. On a bad Wednesday we ate our lunch in the anticipation of torture. The books were presented directly after lunch. He put on his glasses. Then he read the figures. Then down came his fist on the account book. His veins filled; his face flushed. Then there was an inarticulate roar. Then he shouted . . . “I am ruined.” Then he beat his breast. Then he went through an extraordinary dramatisation of self pity, horror, anger. Vanessa stood by his side silent. He belaboured her with reproaches, abuses. “Have you no pity for me? There you stand like a block of stone . . . ” and so on. She stood absolutely silent. He flung at her all the phrases about shooting Niagara, about his misery, her extravagance, that came handy. She still remained static. Then another attitude was adopted. With a deep groan he picked up his pen and with ostentatiously trembling hands he wrote out the cheque. Slowly with many groans the pen and the account book were put away. Then he sank into his chair; and sat spectacularly with his head on his breast. And then, tired of this, he would take up a book; read for a time; and then say half plaintively, appealingly (for he did not like me to witness these outbursts) : “What are you doing this afternoon, Jinny?” I was speechless. Never have I felt–that unbounded contempt for him and of pity for Nessa–could be expressed.
That, as far as I can describe it, is an unexaggerated account of a bad Wednesday. And bad Wednesdays always hung over us.
“He says the best way out is always through
And I agree to that, or in so far
as that I can see no way out but through…”
A poem by Robert Frost
A look at the texts in W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, including Thomas Browne’s Hydrotophia or Urne Buriall, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and François-René de Chateaubriand’s Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe.
Quote from The soul of bread