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The Whole Week Seems Blown As A-Rod, Michael Phelps Under A Cloud HOT!


I think that this feigning, this ceaseless pretence of interest inmatters to me supremely boring, was what wore me out more than anythingelse. If the reader will picture himself, unarmed, shut up for thirteenweeks on end, night and day, in a society of fanatical golfers--or, if heis a golfer himself, let him substitute fishermen, theosophists,bimetallists, Baconians, or German undergraduates with a taste forautobiography--who all carry revolvers and will probably shoot him if heever seems to lose interest in their conversation, he will have an ideaof my school life. Even the hardy Chowbok (in Erewhon) quailed at sucha destiny. For games (and gallantry) were the only subjects, and I caredfor neither. But I must seem to care for both, for a boy goes to aPublic School precisely to be made a normal, sensible boy--a goodmixer--to be taken out of himself; and eccentricity is severelypenalised.




The Whole Week Seems Blown as A-Rod, Michael Phelps Under a Cloud



The hours my father spent at home were thus hours of perplexity for usboys. After an evening of the sort of conversation I have beendescribing one felt as if one's head were spinning like a top. Hispresence put an end to all our innocent as well as to all our forbiddenoccupations. It is a hard thing--nay, a wicked thing--when a man is feltto be an intruder in his own house. And yet, as Johnson said, "Sensationis sensation." I am sure it was not his fault, I believe much of it wasours; what is certain is that I increasingly found it oppressive to bewith him. One of his most amiable qualities helped to make it so. I havesaid before that he "conned no state"; except during his Philippics hetreated us as equals. The theory was that we lived together more likethree brothers than like a father and two sons. That, I say, was thetheory. But of course it was not and could not be so; indeed ought notto have been so. That relation cannot really exist between schoolboysand a middle-aged man of overwhelming personality and of habits utterlyunlike theirs. And the pretence that it does ends by putting a curiousstrain on the juniors. Chesterton has laid his finger on the weak pointof all such factitious equality: "If a boy's aunts are his pals, will itnot soon follow that a boy needs no pals but his aunts?" That was not,of course, the question for us; we wanted no pals. But we did wantliberty, if only liberty to walk about the house. And my father's theorythat we were three boys together actually meant that while he was athome we were as closely bound to his presence as if the three of us hadbeen chained together; and all our habits were frustrated. Thus if myfather came home unexpectedly at midday, having allowed himself an extrahalf-holiday, he might, if it were summer, find us with chairs and booksin the garden. An austere parent, of the formal school, would have gonein to his own adult occupations. Not so my father. Sitting in thegarden? An excellent idea. But would not all three of us be better onthe summer-seat? Thither, after he had assumed one of his "light springovercoats", we would go. (I do not know how many overcoats he had; I amstill wearing two of them.) After sitting for a few minutes, thus clad,on a shadeless seat where the noonday sun was blistering the paint, henot unnaturally began to perspire. "I don't know what you two think," hewould say, "but I'm finding this almost too hot. What about movingindoors?" That meant an adjournment to the study, where even thesmallest chink of open window was rather grudgingly allowed. I say"allowed", but there was no question of authority. In theory, everythingwas decided by the general Will. "Liberty Hall, boys, Liberty Hall," ashe delighted to quote. "What time would you like lunch?" But we knewonly too well that the meal which would otherwise have been at one hadalready been shifted, in obedience to his lifelong preference, to two oreven two-thirty; and that the cold meats which we liked had already beenwithdrawn in favour of the only food our father ever voluntarily ate--hotbutcher's meat, boiled, stewed or roast... and this to be eaten inmid-afternoon in a dining-room that faced south. For the whole of therest of the day, whether sitting or walking, we were inseparable; andthe speech (you see that it could hardly be called conversation), thespeech with its cross-purposes, with its tone (inevitably) always set byhim, continued intermittently till bedtime. I should be worse than a dogif I blamed my lonely father for thus desiring the friendship of hissons; or even if the miserable return I made him did not to this day lieheavy on my conscience. But "sensation is sensation". It wasextraordinarily tiring. And in my own contributions to these endlesstalks--which were indeed too adult for me, too anecdotal, tooprevailingly jocular--I was increasingly aware of an artificiality. Theanecdotes were, indeed, admirable in their kind: business stories,Mahaffy stories (many of which I found attached to Jowett at Oxford),stories of ingenious swindles, social blunders, police-court "drunks".But I was acting when I responded to them. Drollery, whimsicality, thekind of humour that borders on the fantastic, was my line. I had to act.My father's geniality and my own furtive disobediences both helped todrive me into hypocrisy. I could not "be myself" while he was at home.God forgive me, I thought Monday morning, when he went back to his work,the brightest jewel in the week.


I arrived at Gastons (so the Knock's home was called) on a Saturday, andhe announced that we would begin Homer on Monday. I explained that I hadnever read a word in any dialect but the Attic, assuming that when heknew this he would approach Homer through some preliminary lessons onthe Epic language. He replied merely with a sound very frequent in hisconversation which I can only spell "Huh". I found this ratherdisquieting; and I woke on Monday saying to myself, "Now for Homer.Golly!" The name struck awe into my soul. At nine o'clock we sat down towork in the little upstairs study which soon became so familiar to me.It contained a sofa (on which we sat side by side when he was workingwith me), a table and chair (which I used when I was alone), a bookcase,a gas stove, and a framed photograph of Mr. Gladstone. We opened ourbooks at Iliad, Book I. Without a word of introduction Knock readaloud the first twenty lines or so in the "new" pronunciation, which Ihad never heard before. Like Smewgy, he was a chanter; less mellow invoice, yet his frill gutturals and rolling R's and more varied vowelsseemed to suit the bronze-age epic as well as Smewgy's honey tongue hadsuited Horace. For Kirk, even after years of residence in England, spokethe purest Ulster. He then translated, with a few, a very fewexplanations, about a hundred lines. I had never seen a classical authortaken in such large gulps before. When he had finished he handed me overCrusius' Lexicon and, having told me to go through again as much as Icould of what he had done, left the room. It seems an odd method ofteaching, but it worked. At first I could travel only a very short wayalong the trail he had blazed, but every day I could travel further.Presently I could travel the whole way. Then I could go a line or twobeyond his furthest North. Then it became a kind of game to see how farbeyond. He appeared at this stage to value speed more than absoluteaccuracy. The great gain was that I very soon became able to understanda great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning tothink in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning anylanguage. Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are huntingfor it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it,are not reading the Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle. Thevery formula, "Naus means a ship," is wrong. Naus and ship bothmean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, as behindnavis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender masswith sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English wordintruding.


Meanwhile, on afternoons and on Sundays, Surrey lay open to me. CountyDown in the holidays and Surrey in the term--it was an excellentcontrast. Perhaps, since their beauties were such that even a fool couldnot force them into competition, this cured me once and for all of thepernicious tendency to compare and to prefer--an operation that doeslittle good even when we are dealing with works of art and endless harmwhen we are dealing with nature. Total surrender is the first steptowards the fruition of either. Shut your mouth; open your eyes andears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have beenthere or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come atall. (And notice here how the true training for anything whatever thatis good always prefigures and, if submitted to, will always help us in,the true training for the Christian life. That is a school where theycan always use your previous work whatever subject it was on.) Whatdelighted me in Surrey was its intricacy. My Irish walks commanded largehorizons and the general lie of land and sea could be taken in at aglance; I will try to speak of them later. But in Surrey the contourswere so tortuous, the little valleys so narrow, there was so muchtimber, so many villages concealed in woods or hollows, so many fieldpaths, sunk lanes, dingles, copses, such an unpredictable variety ofcottage, farmhouse, villa, and country seat, that the whole thing couldnever lie clearly in my mind, and to walk in it daily gave one the samesort of pleasure that there is in the labyrinthine complexity of Maloryor the Faerie Queene. Even where the prospect was tolerably open, aswhen I sat looking down on the Leatherhead and Dorking valley fromPolesdan Lacey, it always lacked the classic comprehensibility of theWyvern landscape. The valley twisted away southward into another valley,a train t


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