Saturday, 25 July 2015

William and Estelle Faulkner

Excerpt from a letter to my mother, in Notting Hill, from my father, in Oxford, Mississippi, dated October 14, 1959

The Alumni House
University of Mississippi

Wednesday October 14, 1959

Dearest Jay

I did not see Falkner [sic] in the end, but only Mrs Falkner: but this was beyond all reasonable expectation.  The Connection is made, & if ever Falkner wants a platform, I think she’ll fix it.  But I don’t suppose he ever will.
         He has lived here all his life.  The house is simply beautiful.  White as usual, built of wood on Kentish ply-board lines, the usual tall wooden portico pillars, cedars surrounding.  The tall, airy, high-ceiling-rooms and the slender wooden bannisters & the weathered timber floor all joined in a lovely unity.  They were burning cedar in the fireplaces, & the aroma spread through the house.
         Falkner stands for absolute negro equality, for the new South, for the American south in a way.  Like an Irishman he savours and chews over the intolerable inescapable marvellous memories of his childhood & his past, but could not, I think, be called backward looking in any way.  He is unsentimental, and is no longer fighting the civil war, as so many of them are in a fatuous Golf Club kind of way, claiming association and identity with virtues & graces they never had & never will have except by bogus proxy – and yet the picture over the sitting room fireplace in Falkner’s house is the picture of Robert E. Lee…
         Mrs Falkner, Mrs Estelle, is 58, delicate, survivor of two husbands, fragile, once a Southern Belle, and an absolute No 1 knock-out with more sex-appeal in pure concentrated quite irresistible form than all of Hollywood added together & multiplied by six.  She was adorable, and, of course, quite impossible I suppose.  She does not vote, ON PRINCIPLE: and what the principle is, as you watch her holding her cigarette between her fourth and little finger, her hands moving exquisitely on the fulcrums of her thin brown wrists, as you watch here alert, lovely head, and take in the lace and the fragrance, what the principle IS, who can tell?

         I liked her.  A knock-out. Once an alcoholic I seems, and her sister a crook.  Oh Jay, you should have been here.  To hell with California, interesting like Selfridges: but here, the interest is like Chartres or Dublin.”

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