Kon­rad Muller

A Good, Or­di­nary Wine

The London Magazine - - NEWS -

writ­ten in 1909 and it an­tic­i­pates Eliot’s world of Prufrock and ‘Por­trait of a Lady’ both of which were writ­ten over the fol­low­ing six years. The tale opens with in­de­ci­sion:

Three times within a quar­ter of an hour – shift­ing the while his pos­ture on his chair of con­tem­pla­tion – had he looked at his watch as for its fi­nal sharp hint that he should de­cide, that he should get up.

White-Ma­son is fully aware that ‘if he did call on Mrs. Wor­thing­ham and find her at home he couldn’t in jus­tice to him­self not put to her the ques­tion that had lapsed the other time, the last time, through the ir­ri­tat­ing and per­sis­tent, even if ac­ci­den­tal, pres­ence of oth­ers.’ Al­though she hadn’t ar­ranged to ‘keep that day for him’ he felt the beck­on­ing of wealth and ex­pec­ta­tion. How­ever, upon ar­rival at the pol­ished and pros­per­ous home of the rich widow, a home which bore the ‘gloss of new money’ and the ‘glare of a piece fresh from the mint’ he en­coun­ters a friend from long ago, an older time: Cor­nelia Rasch. Af­ter that lady has taken her leave White-Ma­son is left in a Prufrock­ian cir­cle of Hell as he counts time:

Shall I now or shan’t I? Will I now or won’t I? Say within the next three min­utes, say by a quar­ter past six, or by twenty min­utes past, at the fur­thest – al­ways if noth­ing more comes up to pre­vent.

He leaves and pays a visit to the mod­est Twelfth Street apart­ment of Crapy Cor­nelia which has no ‘swag­ger­ing re­pro­duc­tions’ but just the care­fully cho­sen and re­tained mo­men­tos of an old world set of be­liefs. As he ‘dropped into the other chair by her fire’ he leans back to gaze at the flame:

I can’t give you up. It’s very cu­ri­ous. It has come over me as it did over you when you re­nounced Bog­nor. That’s it – I know it at last, and I see one can like it. I’m ‘high.’ You needn’t deny it. That’s my taste. I’m old.

These late tales of­fer a pro­found in­sight into a mind that has come to terms with both achieve­ments and loss, pub­lic recog­ni­tion and pri­vate aware­ness of its cost.

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