Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)
|Photo by EP|
|Photo by EP|
This afternoon I decided it would be a treat to hear Bernard Shaw’s play Candida, with Hannah Gordon in the title role, Christopher Guard as the young poet Marchbanks, and myself as the Reverend James Morell. The performance was first broadcast on Radio 4 in 1977 and I find it has been repeated no less than seven times in the last two years on Radio 7 and Radio 4 Extra, without my knowing! My treat was to sit with the afternoon sun pouring through the windows, Shaw’s astringent, witty and sometimes very touching dialogue pouring out of my battered old radio cassette player whilst I finished off my painting of The Allegory of Acquaintance.
Photo by EP
As I listened, and painted, I imagined … well the play of course, all oddly familiar yet coming as a series of dramatic surprises, and Shaw himself walking up the road to our local train station, which, as we know from his diary, he did at least once. And I read the other day in Trent’s Own Case, the 1936 whodunit written by E. C. Bentley not five minutes’ walk from the same station, his Police Detective Bligh describing Shaw as his favourite ‘literature of escape’ – a phrase coined by a gaolbird who recommended Shaw to the detective:
‘And what can that have been?’ Trent wondered.
‘Why,’ the inspector said, ‘Joe meant, and I agree with him, that Shaw takes you right out of the beastly realities of life. I can tell you, after a hard day at our job, with all the spite, and greed, and cruelty, and filthy-mindedness that we get our noses rubbed in, it’s like coming out into the fresh country air to sit down to one of Shaw’s plays. … And there’s never a dull moment. Every dam’ character has something to say; even the stupidest ones. … Who ever had the luck to listen to anything like it in real life? I tell you, it’s a different world.’
The recommendation charmed me and I realized this afternoon how fresh an escape Shaw still is, and the characters all do have something to say and say it so well. True escapism, as I observed only last week in speaking of A. L. Kennedy’s The Blue Book, never lets you go.
And talking of prison and libraries, I’ve been re-reading Oscar Wilde’s letters to the Daily Chronicle, written after his imprisonment, with his plea that prisoners should be provided with good books:
The painting is an attempt at mythography, inspired by Titian, and – as in Titian’s Allegory of Prudence – there will be a Latin motto added by next week. It is a story of another West Hampstead happening: our dog effecting an introduction to one of our notable elderly characters who recounted tales to me of his young and exotic self. I had seen him about the place for twenty-eight years but never spoken to him until Bean introduced us!
|Photo by EP|
You might like to visit the newly styled homepage of Peth’s Staging Post which features a lovely new portrait of Edward by Bronwen Sharp.