Tuesday 11 January 2011

Personal Pleasures

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...

'Departure of Visitors'
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.

Fair Quiet, have I found thee here,
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.


  1. Ah, this echoes my mother's saying of "company and old fish -- both begin to smell after three days." It really cracked me up coming on the heels of the holidays, and I didn't even have to host this year! :)

  2. Susan - I do like that expression! Of course, I love having guests to stay, hope none read this and think I don't :) But I still seem to be at the stage of life of staying on people's sofas - bring on the guest bed stage!

    Mystica - might be another one you'll find hard to track down, I'm afraid... but best of luck!

  3. Have you read JB Priestley's Delight, Simon? A more robust and masculine version of the same idea.

  4. Mary - funny you should say that, I almost mentioned him in the blog post. I haven't actually read Delight, but I have read Modern Delight - the one done for charity (I think) a few years ago, with many different authors and celebrities contributing a 'delight' of their own.

  5. So true! And of course it goes in reverse as well; when I've been visiting someone, however much I loved it, there's such a profound relief upon getting back home. I also love the contrast between the floweriness of most of the passage with the sudden down-to-earthness at the end. Wonderful!

  6. Eva - I know! However much I've enjoyed visiting someone, I always want to be back in my own bed...


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