I’m currently, and slowly, reading Personal Pleasures by Rose Macaulay, one of the books I bought under Project 24. It’s a collection of paeans to the m
any and various delights Macaulay encounters in life – from believing to disbelieving, from doves in the chimney to improving the dictionary. It’s a hodge-podge, or perhaps a hotch-potch, and certainly good fun. It does feel a little over-written compared to Macaulay’s novels, with elaborate expressions and fanciful imagery. You can imagine Philip Sidney penning it, whilst not musing on Astrophel and Stella. Having said that, Macaulay delights in pulling the rug from under your feet, and each section has a little turning-point where she considers the flip-side.
This isn’t really a review of the book – that would be foolish, since I’m not even halfway yet – but I thought I’d treat you to one of the sections which tickled me. AND this prepares you for some Macaulay news coming later in the week…
An exquisite peace obtains: a drowsy, golden peace, flowing honey-sweet over my dwelling, soaking it, dripping like music from the walls, strowing the floors, like trodden herbs. A peace for gods, a divine emptiness.
And Innocence, thy Sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busy Companies of Men. . . .
Society is all but rude
To this delicious Solitude.
The easy chair spreads wide arms of welcome; the sofa stretches, guest-free; the books of gleam, brown and golden, buff and blue and maroon, from their shelves; they may strew the floor, the hairs, the couch, once more, lying ready to the hand. “I am afraid the room is rather littered….” The echo of the foolish words lingers on the air, is brushed away, dies forgotten, the air closes behind it. A heavy volume is heaved from its shelf on to the sofa. Silence drops like falling blossoms over the recovered kingdom from which pretenders have taken their leave.
What to do with all this luscious peace? It is a gift, a miracle, a golden jewel, a fragment of some gracious heavenly order, dropped to earth like some incredible strayed star. One’s life to oneself again. Dear visitors, what largesse have you given, not only in departing, but in coming, that we might learn to prize your absence, wallow the more exquisitely in the leisure of your not-being.
To-night we shall sleep deep. We need no more hope that you “have everything you want”; we know that you have, for you are safely home, and can get it from your kitchen if you haven’t. We send you blessing and God speed, and sink into our idle peace as into floods of down.
But you have unfortunately left behind you, besides peace, a fountain pen, a toothbrush, and a bottle of eye lotion with eye bath.