Arthur to John, June 19, 1947
532 Arbor Road
June 19, 1947
When under the spell of the feelings of genuine and sincere pleasure at seeing you, I volunteered to resume writing to you, I did not take into account the crowding demands upon my time which make leisure the scarce commodity it is. I often bewail the loss of the art of letter writing. Besides your good self, there are a number of folks at distant points who could contribute to my happiness and satisfaction if only I could repay them in similar currency. As a matter of fact, I have some reason to believe that I write more letters than most of my contemporaries. One difficulty with launching a correspondence with you is that I know from experience how extended our letters may become. Some of those "sixteen pagers" can be formidable time consumers howbeit they are fun both to compose and to receive replies thereto. What I suppose I can do, is to utilize evenings in hotel rooms when I am on business trips. The only thing this will encroach upon is some book-reading. Inasmuch as I shall never get caught up in that department, a few hours stolen from reading will probably make little difference.
Yet this matter of getting "caught up" bulks larger the older I get. I have established the practice of sharing my reading time somewhat systematically between a "must" list and a "hit or miss" list. The "must" list for 1947 has included "Moby Dick", "Don Quixote", War and Peace", Vol IV of Newman's "Life of Richard Wagner", and Walter Savage Landor's "Classical Conversations". Not too bad a consumption in a little over six months -- especially when you add an ungodly pot-pourri of "hit or miss" like "The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith", Barrie's "Farewell Miss Julie Logan", Goodspeed's "How to Read the Bible" (or did Moffatt write that?) and forty thousand detective stories, of which I am a pitiful addict. As I look over the foregoing I realize I should never have tried to enumerate the "hit or miss" titles, as they multiply out of all reason. C. S. Lewis has had a big play from me in the past six months. "Screwtape Letters", "The Problem of Pain", "This Awful Choice" stood out especially! Also a bloke by the name of Eddison, two titles in particular "Mistress of Mistresses" and "The Worm Ouroberos". Also Francis Simpkin's "Life of Pitchfork Ben Tillman" and de Votop "The year of Decision" and Minnegerode's "Life of Aaron Burr". I must mention the autobiography of the Bishop of Durham, Hensley Henson.
But this is an altogether vain endeavor. Better abandon the subject of last winter's reading and in the future perhaps just mention what is "current and choice".
As we talked that evening at Esther's, I think I mentioned (at some length) the Art Centre which in our little suburb has been such a time consumer. I found myself (by some mysterious process) god-father to a music group. This took the form of a Choral Society of some sixty voices. We had our first concert Saturday night June 14th and I was very much gratified with the excellence of the performance and the enthusiastic reception. We set high standards from the very start; did all top-drawer stuff, and made no concessions to present day bad taste. God preserve me from ever taking myself too seriously, but if I can say so without sounding to pompous, I might speak of it as a genuine contribution to the cultural life of the community, especially if we can keep it up and demonstrate a little vitality and capacity for growth. When one contemplates the vast sea of cheap tawdry meretricious music and literature, the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" is just as sadly needed in the aesthetic field as is the morality of Christianity in the ethical field. I think it is demonstrable that both are valid instances of the operation of the Holy Ghost. Beethoven, Brahms and Bach, Isaiah, Paul, and Swedenborg who shall enroll in one list all the prophets of the Almighty?
It was a very real pleasure to meet the second of your two sons who have come to the eastern part of the country. They are outstandingly fine youngsters and you must be enormously proud of them. I was quite sincere when I urged Dick to include in his plans an occasional trip to Cheltenham, and next fall I will renew the invitation with definite hopes he can accept same.
You spent some time with Joe, I believe. You can have no conception of the feelings of relief and satisfaction which I feel over the present situation there, in contrast to the way things were last summer. It was my first close-up contact with mental trouble. The only previous experience I had had ended not so happily. A dear good friend landed in the madhouse some ten years ago and will never emerge. But Anne's recovery was so perfectly splendid that I can truthfully say that it has been one of the bright spots in my life. We all have to meet and grapple with grief and tragedy, so it is a real blessing when (as sometimes happens) the story has a happy ending.
Tell me about yourself. What do you do? What do you think about? What are you reading? If you want to start a fight, all right. I'll fight with you. But I'd just as soon not. Let's see whether it is really necessary to get into some extensive debate - I dunno - maybe something of the sort is good as a stimulant. Just at the moment I am feeling rather mellow. Shall we keep it that way or do you have different ideas? Its up to you!
With kindest regards
Your affectionate brother
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