Roundhay, Leeds -- John Atkinson Grimshaw -- it does look like this only not in autumn, in late summe with the northern lights
In the last few weeks I've become aware that I'm back to a state of aloneness. It's a kind of awareness, probably brought on by my now having few conversations on the Net with people on listservs. I post to listservs but get few replies and of these only a few are friendly. On Austen-l in particular of the few responses I allow myself to read it's common to find them subtextually hostile (what I write is "amazing" and where do I get such ideas from -- a way of deriding and dismissing what I write as ridiculous because "way out"). I've learnt from painful experience not to respond to these either. This means I post to listservs in the same spirit as I write on blogs: a kind of public meditation, a keeping of notes which I'm sharing with a few others who may read them.
I also have fewer conversations off-list too. I used to have a number of regular correspondents (too many), online friends (never too many), most of whom I developed from contacts on-list. Sometimes this would be developed by meeting the person outside the Net -- say in a conference, or I"d travel and meet someone or a couple of people I had been very friendly with off-list. These meetings were among the more gratifying of my experiences. As the world turns and people grow more weary of, and disillusioned by this new form of communication, people turn away here too. And I am better off not to indulge in fantasies or experience alienation or performative presences. I do read other people's blogs (usually late at night and intermittently, at intervals when I have the strength or longing or awake brains for it), mostly again friends, and each day go over to facebook sometimes as much as several (say 5) times a day to see what's happening or what's being thought by my circle of friends and acquaintances there. Twitter is less satisfying as it's very impersonal and what is to be gotten there is the occasion URL by someone to a genuinely interesting or informative or insightful essay. I follow only a few people (maybe under 20) and to tell the truth, the few essays I've been treated to this way come from Amanda Vickery whom I am said to "follow." I share these with people on facebook or the Women Writers through the Ages list.
I find this aloneness hard to cope with at intervals, but especially late at night. I endure continually a kind of low-grade depression; the way I cope is work. Like Mr Trollope who quotes Macbeth on this: "work physics pain." I've met so many people who tell me that when they are depressed they can't work. It may be their depression is more of a crisis type. Mine is just this basso continuo (or bassa continua) and nowadays it's combined with an awareness I have a number of Aspergers Syndrome traits. I'm too old to be diagnosed and don't know that I could check two problems in all six categories, but I can click a number in three of them. I now know that was the meaning of my identification with Anne Finch and especially how I named my book on her after one of the poems she used as preface to her unpublished manuscript book:
Pleasures, and Praises, and Company with me
Have their Just Vallue, if allow'd they be;
Freely, and thankfully, as much I taste
. . . .
If they're deny'd, I on my Selfe can live
Without the aids a cheating World can give
When in the Sun, my wings can be display'd
And in retirement I can have the shade.
Someone who dislikes me on Wompo told me early on my tone is "grim." It was an accusation but true enough (though not said because it was true). She's too bright to pull the shallow "lighten up" that I used to hear years ago on other listservs, so resorted to this.. Probably the years of correspondences come from the difficulty I have on coming up to Finch's ideal.
Recently too another obstacle to my way of coping is I can't read at night. Or not much. Sometimes not blog. So I've become a faithful follower of Amy Goodman (Demoncracynow.org) and dwell slowly in favorite mini-series. Just now I'm making my way slowly through Downton Abbey, the second season.
Last night I also listened on the radio to the earliest of the Liszt musical pieces from Annees de Pelerinage (the journey to Switzerland) and read an old county book, Suffolk Scene by Julian Tennyson. Tennyson offers the reader his deeply felt personal observations on the county he loves so much, muses on aspects of its culture, on the physical place, its local history and provides real photographs of real places plus older illustrations.
John Constable, Stoke-by-Nayland, from Suffolk Scene by Julian Tennyson
Tennyson includes sections on Constable, Gainsborough, Crabbe. I read a lyric by Crabbe I had never come across before
Yes, I behold again the place,
The seat of joy, the source of pain;
I t brings in view the form and face
That I rnust never see again.
The night-bird's song that sweetly floats
On this soft gloom-this balmy air,
Brings to the mind her sweeter notes
That I again must never hear.
Lo! yonder shines that window's light,
My guide, my token, heretofore;
And now again it shines as bright,
When those dear eyes can shine no more.
Then hurry from this place away!
It gives not now the bliss it gave;
For death has made its charm his prey,
And joy is buried in her grave. :
This morning I was strengthened by Colm Toibin's essay-review of Julian Barnes's Sense of an Ending where he quoted Larkin. Toibin suggests that Larkin's poetry has influenced English letters after him. I liked especially when Larkin writes he wishes "desperately for qualities/Moments like this demand, and which I lack." It is "somewhere becoming rain". Among my favorite poets are 18th century women, one, Charlotte Smith, also from the south, Sussex, but I'll choose this one for this morning:
From Mary Wortley Montagu who did not give way except off stage:
Philosophy could calm the Poet's breast:
But oh! what cure for those who wish in Vain!
What Lesson is it must restore my Rest?
Let others court the mightly Idol Fame;
Let all the World forget Clarinda's Name,
I could lose all that Avarice requires
Of all that Beauty that the World admires,
This only greife I cannot bear or cure,
The firmness of my Soul gives way,
Some pitying Power behold what I endure
The mornings have improved because at along last the light is there by 6. This morning I could make out objects and the cats' forms by about then. I'm not exiled, not in poverty and pain (as was Lady Mary), but do know" the damage" inflicted by sham, derisive words, ostracizing, by knowing myself not to have "qualities/Moments like this demand, and which I lack."
I regret to say I must go now. Two bouts of 75 minutes. I'm showing the concluding scene of Small Island (Paula Milne/John Alexander with Ruth Wilson as Queenie), we talk of the book (with four short talks over the hours), then me on serial storytelling shall tell them of inescapable identities, and my own disillusion when I came to England: a naive dream of a place I had made an identity out of out of books, and how the characters in the book mature this through hard experience -- we'll discuss gender, race, class, money. Then an hour and one half wait to see and talk to a student. I must be mad to agree to this, but last time she came and she really brought her writing and we had a genuine session where I may have taught her something useful.
It does help me to write about these things. It's a form of reasoning with myself.