A minor triumph recently: I finally secured a nice copy (an excellent edition) of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes; or The Loving Huntsman.
It’s taken about a year to achieve this. Over a year, actually, plus a month or two.
I was, and remain, committed.
Lolly Willowes is a story of struggle, privilege, humiliation and personal retribution (which looks very much like vengeance, though it is not). There is a cool intelligence in the writing, a wry and discerning mind behind the prose. A rarity, even now. Even today. Possibly always.
Lolly Willowes (or The Loving Huntsman) also has the best narrative portrait of the Devil I’ve ever come across:
To be this – a character truly integral, a perpetual flowing of power and cunning from an undivided will – was enough to constitute the charm and majesty of the Devil. No cloak of terrors was necessary to enlarge that stature, and to suppose him capable of speculation or metaphysic would be like offering to crown hi with a few casual straws. Very probably he was quite stupid. When she had asked him about death he had got up and gone away, which looked as if he did not know much more about it then she did herself: indeed, being immortal, it was unlikely that he would know as much. Instead, his mind brooded immovably over the landscape and over the natures of men, an unforgetting and unchoosing mind. That, of course – and she jumped up in her excitement and began to wave her arms – was why he was the Devil, the enemy of souls. His memory was too long, too retentive; there was no appeasing its witness, no hoodwinking it with the present; and that was why at one stage of civilization people said he was the embodiment of all evil, and then a little later on that he didn’t exist (1999: 220-221).
Forgive and forget. Who doesn’t need that, once in a while?
Who doesn’t crave it, the reprieve of disremembering just the right thing, at just the right moment, so that everything (present, future and past) will be alright. Will just turn out that way?
Pick and choose, overlook. Exonerate.
That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Speaking especially of the Devil himself.
Warner, Sylvia Townsend. (1999). Lolly Willowes or The Loving Huntsmen. NYRB: New York.