Ian Brin­ton

Henry James Comes to Terms

The London Magazine - - NEWS -

‘As you grow old,’ she said, ‘the cor­ners of your mouth droop. Peo­ple imag­ine you are sad. In fact you might be per­fectly happy. It can be dis­con­cert­ing when peo­ple are too solic­i­tous. I make an ef­fort.’

She wore dresses with flo­ral prints. Her hair was tied up in a bun, but there were al­ways wisps of es­cap­ing grey hair. I watched her as she ob­served me. Doris’s eyes were cool and blue, but when you stood close to her you felt, em­a­nat­ing from her, a kind of re­fined heat.

Doris Less­ing was a veg­e­tar­ian and a good cook. She was close to her burly son, Peter, who lived with her and found his mother’s hang­ers-on amus­ing. She had a small, warm writ­ing room in her loft. It was car­peted in cream and over­looked Gold­ers Green ceme­tery. She was a speed reader. When I gave her a book she fin­ished it in half an hour and gave it back. Less­ing thought she was en­light­ened. She had a large cat with great wide eyes. She thought Bri­tain was full of rea­son­ably civilised, de­cent peo­ple. She ad­mired Mal­colm Mug­geridge. Less­ing thought plas­tic was a won­der­ful, pre­cious ma­te­rial that we would miss.

She asked me: ‘Do you want to be a writer?’ ‘I am not sure.’ ‘Shall I tell you how to be a good writer?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Write.’ She said.

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