February 21, 1934
Arthur La Motte replies to my chance note; his firm and flowing hand writing is a surprise in view of his age, which I imagine must be well up in the sixties. He says, "Beckie, poor thing, let that unspeakable bum get away with every cent she owned & she's now financially broke, but seems to be glad of it!" Well, why not? The maternal instinct had to be satiated somehow, and she now enjoys whatever rewards are due a martyr. But it was hard on Esther's blood pressure, I'll bet. More of you, Arthur, if Social-consciousness ever gets into print.
Some more Galsworthy:
"He had seen in his time so much of the inscrutibility of Providence, that he had given up classing it as benevolent, even in his sermons. On the other hand he had seen so many people by sheer tenacity defeat many misfortunes, and many other people, defeated by their misfortunes, live well enough on them afterwards; he was convinced therefore, that misery was over-rated, and that what was lost was usually won. The thing was to keep going and not worry." "Here's French culture in excelsis; quick intelligence, wit, industry, decision, intellectual but not emotional aestheticism, no humor, conventional sentiment but no other, a having tendency - mark the eye; a sense of form, no originality, very clear but limited mental vision - nothing dreamy about her; quick but controlled blood."
"Now here's an American of rare type, tip-top cultured variety. Notice chiefly a look as if she had an invisible bit in her mouth and knew it; in her eyes is a battery she will make use of but only with propriety. She'll be very well preserved to the end of her days. Good taste, a lot of knowledge, not much learning."
"See this German! Emotionally more uncontrolled and less sense of form than either of those others but has a conscience, is a hard worker, great sense of duty, not much taste, some rather unhandy humor. If she doesn't take care she'll get fat. Plenty of sentiment, plenty of good sound sense too. More capacious in every way."
"Here's my prize Italian. She's interesting. Beautifully varnished, with some feral, or let's say - natural, behind. Has a mask on, prettily shaped, prettily worn, liable to fall off. Knows her own mind, perhaps too well, gets her own way if she can, and if she can't, gets somebody else's. Poetic only in connection with her senses. Strong feelings, domestic and otherwise. Clear-eyed towards danger, plenty of courage but easily unnerved. Fine taste, subject to bad lapses. No liking for Nature, here. Intellectually decisive, but not industrious or enquiring."
"Here I shall have my prize English specimen. (Dinny) --- Here we have a self-consciousness, developed and controlled to the point when it becomes unself-consciousness. To this lady Self is the unforgivable intruder. We observe a sense of humor, not devoid of wit, which informs and somewhat sterilises all else. We are impressed by what I may call a look not so much of domestic as of public or social service, not to be found in our other types. We discover a sort of transparency, as if air and dew had got into the system. We decide that precision is lacking, precision of learning, action, thought, judgement, but that decision is very present. The senses are not highly developed; the aesthetic emotions are excited more readily by natural than by artificial objects. There is not the capacity of the German; the clarity of the French woman; the duality or color of the Italian; the disciplined neatness of the American; but there is a peculiar something - for which, my dear, I will leave you to discover the word - that makes me very anxious to have you in my collection of cultures."
"Now look at this pre-war Russian; more fluid and more fluent than any of the others. That woman must have wanted to go deep into everything and never wanted to stay there long. I'll wager that she ran through life at a great pace, and if alive, is still running; and it's taking much less out of her than it would out of you. The face gives you the feeling that she's experienced more emotions, and been less exhausted by them than any of the others."
"Here's my Spaniard; perhaps the most interesting of the lot. That's woman brought up apart from man; I suspect she's getting rare. There's sweetness here, a touch of the convent; not much curiosity, not much energy, a lot of pride, very little conceit; might be devastating in her affections, don't you think, and rather difficult to talk to?"
"Do you think age in families has any points to it at all, Uncle?"
"What is age? All families are equally old, in one sense. But if you are thinking of quality due to mating for generations within a certain caste, well, I don't know - there's certainly 'good breeding' in a sense that you would apply to dogs or horses, but you can get that in any favorable physical circumstances - in the dales, by the sea; wherever conditions are good. Sound stock breeds sound stock - that's obvious. I know villages in the very North of Italy where there isn't a person of rank, and yet not one without beauty and a look of breeding. But when you come to breeding from people with genius or those exceptional qualities which bring men to the front, I'm very doubtful whether you don't get distortion rather than symmetry. Families with military or naval origin and tradition have the best chance, perhaps - good physique, and not too much brain; but Science and the Law and Business are very distorting. No! where I think 'old' families may have a pull is in the more definite sense of direction their children get in growing up, a set tradition, a set objective; also perhaps to a better chance in the marriage market; and in most cases, to more country life, and more encouragement to taking their own line, and more practice in taking it. What's talked of as 'breeding' in humans is an attribute of mind rather than of body. What one thinks and feels is mainly due to tradition, habit and education."
"You believe then in the passing on of an attitude to life rather than in blood."
"Yes, but the two are very mixed."
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