Connie was aware, however, of a growing restlessness. Out of her disconnexion, a restlessness was taking possession of her like madness. It twitched her limbs when she didn’t want to twitch them, it jerked her spine when she didn’t want to jerk upright but preferred to rest comfortably. It thrilled inside her body, in her womb, somewhere, till she felt she must jump into water and swim to get away from it; a mad restlessness. It made her heart beat violently for no reason. And she was getting thinner.
It was just restlessness. She would rush off across the park, abandon Clifford, and lie prone in the bracken. To get away from the house… she must get away from the house and everybody. The wood was her one refuge, her sanctuary.
But it was not really a refuge, a sanctuary, because she had no connexion with it. It was only a place where she could get away from the rest. She never really touched the spirit of the wood itself… if it had any such nonsensical thing.
Vaguely she knew herself that she was going to pieces in some way. Vaguely she knew she was out of connexion: she had lost touch with the substantial and vital world. Only Clifford and his books, which did not exist… which had nothing in them! Void to void. Vaguely she knew. But it was like beating her head against a stone.
Her father warned her again: ‘Why don’t you get yourself a beau, Connie? Do you all the good in the world.’
That winter Michaelis came for a few days. He was a young Irishman who had already made a large fortune by his plays in America. He had been taken up quite enthusiastically for a time by smart society in London, for he wrote smart society plays. Then gradually smart society realized that it had been made ridiculous at the hands of a down-at-heel Dublin street-rat, and revulsion came. Michaelis was the last word in what was caddish and bounderish. He was discovered to be anti-English, and to the class that made this discovery this was worse than the dirtiest crime. He was cut dead, and his corpse thrown into the refuse can.
Nevertheless Michaelis had his apartment in Mayfair, and walked down Bond Street the image of a gentleman, for you cannot get even the best tailors to cut their low-down customers, when the customers pay.
Clifford was inviting the young man of thirty at an inauspicious moment in the young man’s career. Yet Clifford did not hesitate. Michaelis had the ear of a few million people, probably; and, being a hopeless outsider, he would no doubt be grateful to be asked down to Wragby at this juncture, when the rest of the smart world was cutting him. Being grateful, he would no doubt do Clifford ‘good’ over there in America. Kudos! A man gets a lot of kudos, whatever that may be, by being talked about in the right way, especially ‘over there’. Clifford was a coming man; and it was remarkable what a sound publicity instinct he had. In the end Michaelis did him most nobly in a play, and Clifford was a sort of popular hero. Till the reaction, when he found he had been made ridiculous.
Connie wondered a little over Clifford’s blind, imperious instinct to become known: known, that is, to the vast amorphous world he did not himself know, and of which he was uneasily afraid; known as a writer, as a first-class modern writer. Connie was aware from successful, old, hearty, bluffing Sir Malcolm, that artists did advertise themselves, and exert themselves to put their goods over. But her father used channels ready-made, used by all the other R.A.s who sold their pictures. Whereas Clifford discovered new channels of publicity, all kinds. He had all kinds of people at Wragby, without exactly lowering himself. But, determined to build himself a monument of a reputation quickly, he used any handy rubble in the making.
Michaelis arrived duly, in a very neat car, with a chauffeur and a manservant. He was absolutely Bond Street! But at sight of him something in Clifford’s county soul recoiled. He wasn’t exactly… not exactly… in fact, he wasn’t at all, well, what his appearance intended to imply. To Clifford this was final and enough. Yet he was very polite to the man; to the amazing success in him. The bitch-goddess, as she is called, of Success, roamed, snarling and protective, round the half-humble, half-defiant Michaelis’ heels, and intimidated Clifford completely: for he wanted to prostitute himself to the bitch-goddess Success also, if only she would have him.
Michaelis obviously wasn’t an Englishman, in spite of all the tailors, hatters, barbers, booters of the very best quarter of London. No, no, he obviously wasn’t an Englishman: the wrong sort of flattish, pale face and bearing; and the wrong sort of grievance. He had a grudge and a grievance: that was obvious to any true-born English gentleman, who would scorn to let such a thing appear blatant in his own demeanour. Poor Michaelis had been much kicked, so that he had a slightly tail-between-the-legs look even now. He had pushed his way by sheer instinct and sheerer effrontery on to the stage and to the front of it, with his plays. He had caught the public. And he had thought the kicking days were over. Alas, they weren’t…. They never would be. For he, in a sense, asked to be kicked. He pined to be where he didn’t belong… among the English upper classes. And how they enjoyed the various kicks they got at him! And how he hated them!
Nevertheless he travelled with his manservant and his very neat car, this Dublin mongrel.
There was something about him that Connie liked. He didn’t put on airs to himself, he had no illusions about himself. He talked to Clifford sensibly, briefly, practically, about all the things Clifford wanted to know. He didn’t expand or let himself go. He knew he had been asked down to Wragby to be made use of, and like an old, shrewd, almost indifferent business man, or big-business man, he let himself be asked questions, and he answered with as little waste of feeling as possible.
‘Money!’ he said. ‘Money is a sort of instinct. It’s a sort of property of nature in a man to make money. It’s nothing you do. It’s no trick you play. It’s a sort of permanent accident of your own nature; once you start, you make money, and you go on; up to a point, I suppose.’
‘But you’ve got to begin,’ said Clifford.
‘Oh, quite! You’ve got to get in. You can do nothing if you are kept outside. You’ve got to beat your way in. Once you’ve done that, you can’t help it.’
‘But could you have made money except by plays?’ asked Clifford.
‘Oh, probably not! I may be a good writer or I may be a bad one, but a writer and a writer of plays is what I am, and I’ve got to be. There’s no question of that.’
‘And you think it’s a writer of popular plays that you’ve got to be?’ asked Connie.
‘There, exactly!’ he said, turning to her in a sudden flash. ‘There’s nothing in it! There’s nothing in popularity. There’s nothing in the public, if it comes to that. There’s nothing really in my plays to make them popular. It’s not that. They just are like the weather… the sort that will have to be… for the time being.’
He turned his slow, rather full eyes, that had been drowned in such fathomless disillusion, on Connie, and she trembled a little. He seemed so old… endlessly old, built up of layers of disillusion, going down in him generation after generation, like geological strata; and at the same time he was forlorn like a child. An outcast, in a certain sense; but with the desperate bravery of his rat-like existence.
‘At least it’s wonderful what you’ve done at your time of life,’ said Clifford contemplatively.
‘I’m thirty… yes, I’m thirty!’ said Michaelis, sharply and suddenly, with a curious laugh; hollow, triumphant, and bitter.
‘And are you alone?’ asked Connie.
‘How do you mean? Do I live alone? I’ve got my servant. He’s a Greek, so he says, and quite incompetent. But I keep him. And I’m going to marry. Oh, yes, I must marry.’
‘It sounds like going to have your tonsils cut,’ laughed Connie. ‘Will it be an effort?’
He looked at her admiringly. ‘Well, Lady Chatterley, somehow it will! I find… excuse me… I find I can’t marry an Englishwoman, not even an Irishwoman….’
‘Try an American,’ said Clifford.
‘Oh, American!’ He laughed a hollow laugh. ‘No, I’ve asked my man if he will find me a Turk or something… something nearer to the Oriental.’
Connie really wondered at this queer, melancholy specimen of extraordinary success; it was said he had an income of fifty thousand dollars from America alone. Sometimes he was handsome: sometimes as he looked sideways, downwards, and the light fell on him, he had the silent, enduring beauty of a carved ivory Negro mask, with his rather full eyes, and the strong queerly-arched brows, the immobile, compressed mouth; that momentary but revealed immobility, an immobility, a timelessness which the Buddha aims at, and which Negroes express sometimes without ever aiming at it; something old, old, and acquiescent in the race! Aeons of acquiescence in race destiny, instead of our individual resistance. And then a swimming through, like rats in a dark river. Connie felt a sudden, strange leap of sympathy for him, a leap mingled with compassion, and tinged with repulsion, amounting almost to love. The outsider! The outsider! And they called him a bounder! How much more bounderish and assertive Clifford looked! How much stupider!
Michaelis knew at once he had made an impression on her. He turned his full, hazel, slightly prominent eyes on her in a look of pure detachment. He was estimating her, and the extent of the impression he had made. With the English nothing could save him from being the eternal outsider, not even love. Yet women sometimes fell for him… Englishwomen too.
He knew just where he was with Clifford. They were two alien dogs which would have liked to snarl at one another, but which smiled instead, perforce. But with the woman he was not quite so sure.
Breakfast was served in the bedrooms; Clifford never appeared before lunch, and the dining-room was a little dreary. After coffee Michaelis, restless and ill-sitting soul, wondered what he should do. It was a fine November day… fine for Wragby. He looked over the melancholy park. My God! What a place!
He sent a servant to ask, could he be of any service to Lady Chatterley: he thought of driving into Sheffield. The answer came, would he care to go up to Lady Chatterley’s sitting-room.
Connie had a sitting-room on the third floor, the top floor of the central portion of the house. Clifford’s rooms were on the ground floor, of course. Michaelis was flattered by being asked up to Lady Chatterley’s own parlour. He followed blindly after the servant… he never noticed things, or had contact with his surroundings. In her room he did glance vaguely round at the fine German reproductions of Renoir and Cézanne.
‘It’s very pleasant up here,’ he said, with his queer smile, as if it hurt him to smile, showing his teeth. ‘You are wise to get up to the top.’
‘Yes, I think so,’ she said.
Her room was the only gay, modern one in the house, the only spot in Wragby where her personality was at all revealed. Clifford had never seen it, and she asked very few people up.
Now she and Michaelis sat on opposite sides of the fire and talked. She asked him about himself, his mother and father, his brothers… other people were always something of a wonder to her, and when her sympathy was awakened she was quite devoid of class feeling. Michaelis talked frankly about himself, quite frankly, without affectation, simply revealing his bitter, indifferent, stray-dog’s soul, then showing a gleam of revengeful pride in his success.
‘But why are you such a lonely bird?’ Connie asked him; and again he looked at her, with his full, searching, hazel look.
‘Some birds are that way,’ he replied. Then, with a touch of familiar irony: ‘But, look here, what about yourself? Aren’t you by way of being a lonely bird yourself?’ Connie, a little startled, thought about it for a few moments, and then she said: ‘Only in a way! Not altogether, like you!’
‘Am I altogether a lonely bird?’ he asked, with his queer grin of a smile, as if he had toothache; it was so wry, and his eyes were so perfectly unchangingly melancholy, or stoical, or disillusioned, or afraid.
‘Why?’ she said, a little breathless, as she looked at him. ‘You are, aren’t you?’
She felt a terrible appeal coming to her from him, that made her almost lose her balance.
‘Oh, you’re quite right!’ he said, turning his head away, and looking sideways, downwards, with that strange immobility of an old race that is hardly here in our present day. It was that that really made Connie lose her power to see him detached from herself.
He looked up at her with the full glance that saw everything, registered everything. At the same time, the infant crying in the night was crying out of his breast to her, in a way that affected her very womb.
‘It’s awfully nice of you to think of me,’ he said laconically.
‘Why shouldn’t I think of you?’ she exclaimed, with hardly breath to utter it.
He gave the wry, quick hiss of a laugh.
‘Oh, in that way! … May I hold your hand for a minute?’ he asked suddenly, fixing his eyes on her with almost hypnotic power, and sending out an appeal that affected her direct in the womb.
She stared at him, dazed and transfixed, and he went over and kneeled beside her, and took her two feet close in his two hands, and buried his face in her lap, remaining motionless. She was perfectly dim and dazed, looking down in a sort of amazement at the rather tender nape of his neck, feeling his face pressing her thighs. In all her burning dismay, she could not help putting her hand, with tenderness and compassion, on the defenceless nape of his neck, and he trembled, with a deep shudder.
Then he looked up at her with that awful appeal in his full, glowing eyes. She was utterly incapable of resisting it. From her breast flowed the answering, immense yearning over him; she must give him anything, anything.
He was a curious and very gentle lover, very gentle with the woman, trembling uncontrollably, and yet at the same time detached, aware, aware of every sound outside.
To her it meant nothing except that she gave herself to him. And at length he ceased to quiver any more, and lay quite still, quite still. Then, with dim, compassionate fingers, she stroked his head, that lay on her breast.
When he rose, he kissed both her hands, then both her feet, in their suede slippers, and in silence went away to the end of the room, where he stood with his back to her. There was silence for some minutes. Then he turned and came to her again as she sat in her old place by the fire.
‘And now, I suppose you’ll hate me!’ he said in a quiet, inevitable way. She looked up at him quickly.
‘Why should I?’ she asked.
‘They mostly do,’ he said; then he caught himself up. ‘I mean… a woman is supposed to.’
‘This is the last moment when I ought to hate you,’ she said resentfully.
‘I know! I know! It should be so! You’re frightfully good to me…’ he cried miserably.
She wondered why he should be miserable. ‘Won’t you sit down again?’ she said. He glanced at the door.
‘Sir Clifford!’ he said, ‘won’t he… won’t he be…?’ She paused a moment to consider. ‘Perhaps!’ she said. And she looked up at him. ‘I don’t want Clifford to know… not even to suspect. It would hurt him so much. But I don’t think it’s wrong, do you?’
‘Wrong! Good God, no! You’re only too infinitely good to me…. I can hardly bear it.’
He turned aside, and she saw that in another moment he would be sobbing.
‘But we needn’t let Clifford know, need we?’ she pleaded. ‘It would hurt him so. And if he never knows, never suspects, it hurts nobody.’
‘Me!’ he said, almost fiercely; ‘he’ll know nothing from me! You see if he does. Me give myself away! Ha! Ha!’ he laughed hollowly, cynically, at such an idea. She watched him in wonder. He said to her: ‘May I kiss your hand arid go? I’ll run into Sheffield I think, and lunch there, if I may, and be back to tea. May I do anything for you? May I be sure you don’t hate me? — and that you won’t?’ — he ended with a desperate note of cynicism.
‘No, I don’t hate you,’ she said. ‘I think you’re nice.’
‘Ah!’ he said to her fiercely, ‘I’d rather you said that to me than said you love me! It means such a lot more…. Till afternoon then. I’ve plenty to think about till then.’ He kissed her hands humbly and was gone.
‘I don’t think I can stand that young man,’ said Clifford at lunch.
‘Why?’ asked Connie.
‘He’s such a bounder underneath his veneer… just waiting to bounce us.’
‘I think people have been so unkind to him,’ said Connie.
‘Do you wonder? And do you think he employs his shining hours doing deeds of kindness?’
‘I think he has a certain sort of generosity.’
‘I don’t quite know.’
‘Naturally you don’t. I’m afraid you mistake unscrupulousness for generosity.’
Connie paused. Did she? It was just possible. Yet the unscrupulousness of Michaelis had a certain fascination for her. He went whole lengths where Clifford only crept a few timid paces. In his way he had conquered the world, which was what Clifford wanted to do. Ways and means…? Were those of Michaelis more despicable than those of Clifford? Was the way the poor outsider had shoved and bounced himself forward in person, and by the back doors, any worse than Clifford’s way of advertising himself into prominence? The bitch-goddess, Success, was trailed by thousands of gasping dogs with lolling tongues. The one that got her first was the real dog among dogs, if you go by success! So Michaelis could keep his tail up.
The queer thing was, he didn’t. He came back towards tea-time with a large handful of violets and lilies, and the same hang-dog expression. Connie wondered sometimes if it were a sort of mask to disarm opposition, because it was almost too fixed. Was he really such a sad dog?
His sad-dog sort of extinguished self persisted all the evening, though through it Clifford felt the inner effrontery. Connie didn’t feel it, perhaps because it was not directed against women; only against men, and their presumptions and assumptions. That indestructible, inward effrontery in the meagre fellow was what made men so down on Michaelis. His very presence was an affront to a man of society, cloak it as he might in an assumed good manner.
Connie was in love with him, but she managed to sit with her embroidery and let the men talk, and not give herself away. As for Michaelis, he was perfect; exactly the same melancholic, attentive, aloof young fellow of the previous evening, millions of degrees remote from his hosts, but laconically playing up to them to the required amount, and never coming forth to them for a moment. Connie felt he must have forgotten the morning. He had not forgotten. But he knew where he was… in the same old place outside, where the born outsiders are. He didn’t take the love-making altogether personally. He knew it would not change him from an ownerless dog, whom everybody begrudges its golden collar, into a comfortable society dog.
The final fact being that at the very bottom of his soul he was an outsider, and anti-social, and he accepted the fact inwardly, no matter how Bond-Streety he was on the outside. His isolation was a necessity to him; just as the appearance of conformity and mixing-in with the smart people was also a necessity.
But occasional love, as a comfort and soothing, was also a good thing, and he was not ungrateful. On the contrary, he was burningly, poignantly grateful for a piece of natural, spontaneous kindness: almost to tears. Beneath his pale, immobile, disillusioned face, his child’s soul was sobbing with gratitude to the woman, and burning to come to her again; just as his outcast soul was knowing he would keep really clear of her.
He found an opportunity to say to her, as they were lighting the candles in the hall:
‘May I come?’
‘I’ll come to you,’ she said.
He waited for her a long time… but she came.
He was the trembling excited sort of lover, whose crisis soon came, and was finished. There was something curiously childlike and defenceless about his naked body: as children are naked. His defences were all in his wits and cunning, his very instincts of cunning, and when these were in abeyance he seemed doubly naked and like a child, of unfinished, tender flesh, and somehow struggling helplessly.
He roused in the woman a wild sort of compassion and yearning, and a wild, craving physical desire. The physical desire he did not satisfy in her; he was always come and finished so quickly, then shrinking down on her breast, and recovering somewhat his effrontery while she lay dazed, disappointed, lost.
But then she soon learnt to hold him, to keep him there inside her when his crisis was over. And there he was generous and curiously potent; he stayed firm inside her, giving to her, while she was active… wildly, passionately active, coming to her own crisis. And as he felt the frenzy of her achieving her own orgasmic satisfaction from his hard, erect passivity, he had a curious sense of pride and satisfaction.
‘Ah, how good!’ she whispered tremulously, and she became quite still, clinging to him. And he lay there in his own isolation, but somehow proud.
He stayed that time only the three days, and to Clifford was exactly the same as on the first evening; to Connie also. There was no breaking down his external man.
He wrote to Connie with the same plaintive melancholy note as ever, sometimes witty, and touched with a queer, sexless affection. A kind of hopeless affection he seemed to feel for her, and the essential remoteness remained the same. He was hopeless at the very core of him, and he wanted to be hopeless. He rather hated hope. Une immense espérance a traversé la terre, he read somewhere, and his comment was: ‘— and it’s darned-well drowned everything worth having.’
Connie never really understood him, but, in her way, she loved him. And all the time she felt the reflection of his hopelessness in her. She couldn’t quite, quite love in hopelessness. And he, being hopeless, couldn’t ever quite love at all.
So they went on for quite a time, writing, and meeting occasionally in London. She still wanted the physical, sexual thrill she could get with him by her own activity, his little orgasm being over. And he still wanted to give it her. Which was enough to keep them connected.
And enough to give her a subtle sort of self-assurance, something blind and a little arrogant. It was an almost mechanical confidence in her own powers, and went with a great cheerfulness.
She was terrifically cheerful at Wragby. And she used all her aroused cheerfulness and satisfaction to stimulate Clifford, so that he wrote his best at this time, and was almost happy in his strange blind way. He really reaped the fruits of the sensual satisfaction she got out of Michaelis’ male passivity erect inside her. But of course he never knew it, and if he had, he wouldn’t have said thank-you!
Yet when those days of her grand joyful cheerfulness and stimulus were gone, quite gone, and she was depressed and irritable, how Clifford longed for them again! Perhaps if he’d known he might even have wished to get her and Michaelis together again.
Connie always had a foreboding of the hopelessness of her affair with Mick, as people called him. Yet other men seemed to mean nothing to her. She was attached to Clifford. He wanted a good deal of her life and she gave it to him. But she wanted a good deal from the life of a man, and this Clifford did not give her; could not. There were occasional spasms of Michaelis. But, as she knew by foreboding, that would come to an end. Mick couldn’t keep anything up. It was part of his very being that he must break off any connexion, and be loose, isolated, absolutely lone dog again. It was his major necessity, even though he always said: She turned me down!
The world is supposed to be full of possibilities, but they narrow down to pretty few in most personal experience. There’s lots of good fish in the sea… maybe… but the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you’re not mackerel or herring yourself you are likely to find very few good fish in the sea.
Clifford was making strides into fame, and even money. People came to see him. Connie nearly always had somebody at Wragby. But if they weren’t mackerel they were herring, with an occasional cat-fish, or conger-eel.
There were a few regular men, constants; men who had been at Cambridge with Clifford. There was Tommy Dukes, who had remained in the army, and was a Brigadier-General. ‘The army leaves me time to think, and saves me from having to face the battle of life,’ he said.
There was Charles May, an Irishman, who wrote scientifically about stars. There was Hammond, another writer. All were about the same age as Clifford; the young intellectuals of the day. They all believed in the life of the mind. What you did apart from that was your private affair, and didn’t much matter. No one thinks of inquiring of another person at what hour he retires to the privy. It isn’t interesting to anyone but the person concerned.
And so with most of the matters of ordinary life… how you make your money, or whether you love your wife, or if you have ‘affairs’. All these matters concern only the person concerned, and, like going to the privy, have no interest for anyone else.
‘The whole point about the sexual problem,’ said Hammond, who was a tall thin fellow with a wife and two children, but much more closely connected with a typewriter, ‘is that there is no point to it. Strictly there is no problem. We don’t want to follow a man into the W.C., so why should we want to follow him into bed with a woman? And therein lies the problem. If we took no more notice of the one thing than the other, there’d be no problem. It’s all utterly senseless and pointless; a matter of misplaced curiosity.’
‘Quite, Hammond, quite! But if someone starts making love to Julia, you begin to simmer; and if he goes on, you are soon at boiling point.’ …Julia was Hammond’s wife.
‘Why, exactly! So I should be if he began to urinate in a corner of my drawing-room. There’s a place for all these things.’
‘You mean you wouldn’t mind if he made love to Julia in some discreet alcove?’
Charlie May was slightly satirical, for he had flirted a very little with Julia, and Hammond had cut up very roughly.
‘Of course I should mind. Sex is a private thing between me and Julia; and of course I should mind anyone else trying to mix in.’
‘As a matter of fact,’ said the lean and freckled Tommy Dukes, who looked much more Irish than May, who was pale and rather fat: ‘As a matter of fact, Hammond, you have a strong property instinct, and a strong will to self-assertion, and you want success. Since I’ve been in the army definitely, I’ve got out of the way of the world, and now I see how inordinately strong the craving for self-assertion and success is in men. It is enormously overdeveloped. All our individuality has run that way. And of course men like you think you’ll get through better with a woman’s backing. That’s why you’re so jealous. That’s what sex is to you… a vital little dynamo between you and Julia, to bring success. If you began to be unsuccessful you’d begin to flirt, like Charlie, who isn’t successful. Married people like you and Julia have labels on you, like travellers’ trunks. Julia is labelled Mrs Arnold B. Hammond — just like a trunk on the railway that belongs to somebody. And you are labelled Arnold B. Hammond, c/o Mrs Arnold B. Hammond. Oh, you’re quite right, you’re quite right! The life of the mind needs a comfortable house and decent cooking. You’re quite right. It even needs posterity. But it all hinges on the instinct for success. That is the pivot on which all things turn.’
Hammond looked rather piqued. He was rather proud of the integrity of his mind, and of his not being a time-server. None the less, he did want success.
‘It’s quite true, you can’t live without cash,’ said May. ‘You’ve got to have a certain amount of it to be able to live and get along… even to be free to think you must have a certain amount of money, or your stomach stops you. But it seems to me you might leave the labels off sex. We’re free to talk to anybody; so why shouldn’t we be free to make love to any woman who inclines us that way?’
‘There speaks the lascivious Celt,’ said Clifford.
‘Lascivious! well, why not — ? I can’t see I do a woman any more harm by sleeping with her than by dancing with her… or even talking to her about the weather. It’s just an interchange of sensations instead of ideas, so why not?’
‘Be as promiscuous as the rabbits!’ said Hammond.
‘Why not? What’s wrong with rabbits? Are they any worse than a neurotic, revolutionary humanity, full of nervous hate?’
‘But we’re not rabbits, even so,’ said Hammond.
‘Precisely! I have my mind: I have certain calculations to make in certain astronomical matters that concern me almost more than life or death. Sometimes indigestion interferes with me. Hunger would interfere with me disastrously. In the same way starved sex interferes with me. What then?’
‘I should have thought sexual indigestion from surfeit would have interfered with you more seriously,’ said Hammond satirically.
‘Not it! I don’t over-eat myself and I don’t over-fuck myself. One has a choice about eating too much. But you would absolutely starve me.’
‘Not at all! You can marry.’
‘How do you know I can? It may not suit the process of my mind. Marriage might… and would… stultify my mental processes. I’m not properly pivoted that way… and so must I be chained in a kennel like a monk? All rot and funk, my boy. I must live and do my calculations. I need women sometimes. I refuse to make a mountain of it, and I refuse anybody’s moral condemnation or prohibition. I’d be ashamed to see a woman walking around with my name-label on her, address and railway station, like a wardrobe trunk.’
These two men had not forgiven each other about the Julia flirtation.
‘It’s an amusing idea, Charlie,’ said Dukes, ‘that sex is just another form of talk, where you act the words instead of saying them. I suppose it’s quite true. I suppose we might exchange as many sensations and emotions with women as we do ideas about the weather, and so on. Sex might be a sort of normal physical conversation between a man and a woman. You don’t talk to a woman unless you have ideas in common: that is you don’t talk with any interest. And in the same way, unless you had some emotion or sympathy in common with a woman you wouldn’t sleep with her. But if you had….’
‘If you have the proper sort of emotion or sympathy with a woman, you ought to sleep with her,’ said May. ‘It’s the only decent thing, to go to bed with her. Just as, when you are interested talking to someone, the only decent thing is to have the talk out. You don’t prudishly put your tongue between your teeth and bite it. You just say out your say. And the same the other way.’
‘No,’ said Hammond. ‘It’s wrong. You, for example, May, you squander half your force with women. You’ll never really do what you should do, with a fine mind such as yours. Too much of it goes the other way.’
‘Maybe it does… and too little of you goes that way, Hammond, my boy, married or not. You can keep the purity and integrity of your mind, but it’s going damned dry. Your pure mind is going as dry as fiddlesticks, from what I see of it. You’re simply talking it down.’
Tommy Dukes burst into a laugh.
‘Go it, you two minds!’ he said. ‘Look at me… I don’t do any high and pure mental work, nothing but jot down a few ideas. And yet I neither marry nor run after women. I think Charlie’s quite right; if he wants to run after the women, he’s quite free not to run too often. But I wouldn’t prohibit him from running. As for Hammond, he’s got a property instinct, so naturally the straight road and the narrow gate are right for him. You’ll see he’ll be an English Man of Letters before he’s done. A.B.C. from top to toe. Then there’s me. I’m nothing. Just a squib. And what about you, Clifford? Do you think sex is a dynamo to help a man on to success in the world?’
Clifford rarely talked much at these times. He never held forth; his ideas were really not vital enough for it, he was too confused and emotional. Now he blushed and looked uncomfortable.
‘Well!’ he said, ‘being myself, hors de combat, I don’t see I’ve anything to say on the matter.’
‘Not at all,’ said Dukes; ‘the top of you’s by no means hors de combat. You’ve got the life of the mind sound and intact. So let us hear your ideas.’
‘Well,’ stammered Clifford, ‘even then I don’t suppose I have much idea…. I suppose marry-and-have-done-with-it would pretty well stand for what I think. Though of course between a man and woman who care for one another, it is a great thing.’
‘What sort of great thing?’ said Tommy.
‘Oh… it perfects the intimacy,’ said Clifford, uneasy as a woman in such talk.
‘Well, Charlie and I believe that sex is a sort of communication like speech. Let any woman start a sex conversation with me, and it’s natural for me to go to bed with her to finish it, all in due season. Unfortunately no woman makes any particular start with me, so I go to bed by myself; and am none the worse for it…. I hope so, anyway, for how should I know? Anyhow I’ve no starry calculations to be interfered with, and no immortal works to write. I’m merely a fellow skulking in the army….’
Silence fell. The four men smoked. And Connie sat there and put another stitch in her sewing…. Yes, she sat there! She had to sit mum. She had to be quiet as a mouse, not to interfere with the immensely important speculations of these highly-mental gentlemen. But she had to be there. They didn’t get on so well without her; their ideas didn’t flow so freely. Clifford was much more hedgy and nervous, he got cold feet much quicker in Connie’s absence, and the talk didn’t run. Tommy Dukes came off best; he was a little inspired by her presence. Hammond she didn’t really like; he seemed so selfish in a mental way. And Charles May, though she liked something about him, seemed a little distasteful and messy, in spite of his stars.
How many evenings had Connie sat and listened to the manifestations of these four men! These, and one or two others. That they never seemed to get anywhere didn’t trouble her deeply. She liked to hear what they had to say, especially when Tommy was there. It was fun. Instead of men kissing you, and touching you with their bodies, they revealed their minds to you. It was great fun! But what cold minds!
And also it was a little irritating. She had more respect for Michaelis, on whose name they all poured such withering contempt, as a little mongrel arriviste, and uneducated bounder of the worst sort. Mongrel and bounder or not, he jumped to his own conclusions. He didn’t merely walk round them with millions of words, in the parade of the life of the mind.
Connie quite liked the life of the mind, and got a great thrill out of it. But she did think it overdid itself a little. She loved being there, amidst the tobacco smoke of those famous evenings of the cronies, as she called them privately to herself. She was infinitely amused, and proud too, that even their talking they could not do, without her silent presence. She had an immense respect for thought… and these men, at least, tried to think honestly. But somehow there was a cat, and it wouldn’t jump. They all alike talked at something, though what it was, for the life of her she couldn’t say. It was something that Mick didn’t clear, either.
But then Mick wasn’t trying to do anything, but just get through his life, and put as much across other people as they tried to put across him. He was really anti-social, which was what Clifford and his cronies had against him. Clifford and his cronies were not anti-social; they were more or less bent on saving mankind, or on instructing it, to say the least.
There was a gorgeous talk on Sunday evening, when the conversation drifted again to love.
‘Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in kindred something-or-other’ —
said Tommy Dukes. ‘I’d like to know what the tie is…. The tie that binds us just now is mental friction on one another. And, apart from that, there’s damned little tie between us. We bust apart, and say spiteful things about one another, like all the other damned intellectuals in the world. Damned everybodies, as far as that goes, for they all do it. Else we bust apart, and cover up the spiteful things we feel against one another by saying false sugaries. It’s a curious thing that the mental life seems to flourish with its roots in spite, ineffable and fathomless spite. Always has been so! Look at Socrates, in Plato, and his bunch round him! The sheer spite of it all, just sheer joy in pulling somebody else to bits… Protagoras, or whoever it was! And Alcibiades, and all the other little disciple dogs joining in the fray! I must say it makes one prefer Buddha, quietly sitting under a bo-tree, or Jesus, telling his disciples little Sunday stories, peacefully, and without any mental fireworks. No, there’s something wrong with the mental life, radically. It’s rooted in spite and envy, envy and spite. Ye shall know the tree by its fruit.’
‘I don’t think we’re altogether so spiteful,’ protested Clifford.
‘My dear Clifford, think of the way we talk each other over, all of us. I’m rather worse than anybody else, myself. Because I infinitely prefer the spontaneous spite to the concocted sugaries; now they are poison; when I begin saying what a fine fellow Clifford is, etc., etc., then poor Clifford is to be pitied. For God’s sake, all of you, say spiteful things about me, then I shall know I mean something to you. Don’t say sugaries, or I’m done.’
‘Oh, but I do think we honestly like one another,’ said Hammond.
‘I tell you we must… we say such spiteful things to one another, about one another, behind our backs! I’m the worst.’
‘And I do think you confuse the mental life with the critical activity. I agree with you, Socrates gave the critical activity a grand start, but he did more than that,’ said Charlie May, rather magisterially. The cronies had such a curious pomposity under their assumed modesty. It was all so ex cathedra, and it all pretended to be so humble.
Dukes refused to be drawn about Socrates.
‘That’s quite true, criticism and knowledge are not the same thing,’ said Hammond.
‘They aren’t, of course,’ chimed in Berry, a brown, shy young man, who had called to see Dukes, and was staying the night.
They all looked at him as if the ass had spoken.
‘I wasn’t talking about knowledge… I was talking about the mental life,’ laughed Dukes. ‘Real knowledge comes out of the whole corpus of the consciousness; out of your belly and your penis as much as out of your brain and mind. The mind can only analyse and rationalize. Set the mind and the reason to cock it over the rest, and all they can do is to criticize, and make a deadness. I say all they can do. It is vastly important. My God, the world needs criticizing today… criticizing to death. Therefore let’s live the mental life, and glory in our spite, and strip the rotten old show. But, mind you, it’s like this: while you live your life, you are in some way an organic whole with all life. But once you start the mental life you pluck the apple. You’ve severed the connexion between the apple and the tree: the organic connexion. And if you’ve got nothing in your life but the mental life, then you yourself are a plucked apple… you’ve fallen off the tree. And then it is a logical necessity to be spiteful, just as it’s a natural necessity for a plucked apple to go bad.’
Clifford made big eyes: it was all stuff to him. Connie secretly laughed to herself.
‘Well then we’re all plucked apples,’ said Hammond, rather acidly and petulantly.
‘So let’s make cider of ourselves,’ said Charlie.
‘But what do you think of Bolshevism?’ put in the brown Berry, as if everything had led up to it.
‘Bravo!’ roared Charlie. ‘What do you think of Bolshevism?’
‘Come on! Let’s make hay of Bolshevism!’ said Dukes.
‘I’m afraid Bolshevism is a large question,’ said Hammond, shaking his head seriously.
‘Bolshevism, it seems to me,’ said Charlie, ‘is just a superlative hatred of the thing they call the bourgeois; and what the bourgeois is, isn’t quite defined. It is Capitalism, among other things. Feelings and emotions are also so decidedly bourgeois that you have to invent a man without them.
‘Then the individual, especially the personal man, is bourgeois: so he must be suppressed. You must submerge yourselves in the greater thing, the Soviet-social thing. Even an organism is bourgeois: so the ideal must be mechanical. The only thing that is a unit, non-organic, composed of many different, yet equally essential parts, is the machine. Each man a machine-part, and the driving power of the machine, hate… hate of the bourgeois. That, to me, is Bolshevism.’
‘Absolutely!’ said Tommy. ‘But also, it seems to me a perfect description of the whole of the industrial ideal. It’s the factory-owner’s ideal in a nut-shell; except that he would deny that the driving power was hate. Hate it is, all the same; hate of life itself. Just look at these Midlands, if it isn’t plainly written up… but it’s all part of the life of the mind, it’s a logical development.’
‘I deny that Bolshevism is logical, it rejects the major part of the premisses,’ said Hammond.
‘My dear man, it allows the material premiss; so does the pure mind… exclusively.’
‘At least Bolshevism has got down to rock bottom,’ said Charlie.
‘Rock bottom! The bottom that has no bottom! The Bolshevists will have the finest army in the world in a very short time, with the finest mechanical equipment.
‘But this thing can’t go on… this hate business. There must be a reaction…’ said Hammond.
‘Well, we’ve been waiting for years… we wait longer. Hate’s a growing thing like anything else. It’s the inevitable outcome of forcing ideas on to life, of forcing one’s deepest instincts; our deepest feelings we force according to certain ideas. We drive ourselves with a formula, like a machine. The logical mind pretends to rule the roost, and the roost turns into pure hate. We’re all Bolshevists, only we are hypocrites. The Russians are Bolshevists without hypocrisy.’
‘But there are many other ways,’ said Hammond, ‘than the Soviet way. The Bolshevists aren’t really intelligent.’
‘Of course not. But sometimes it’s intelligent to be half-witted: if you want to make your end. Personally, I consider Bolshevism half-witted; but so do I consider our social life in the west half-witted. So I even consider our far-famed mental life half-witted. We’re all as cold as cretins, we’re all as passionless as idiots. We’re all of us Bolshevists, only we give it another name. We think we’re gods… men like gods! It’s just the same as Bolshevism. One has to be human, and have a heart and a penis if one is going to escape being either a god or a Bolshevist… for they are the same thing: they’re both too good to be true.’
Out of the disapproving silence came Berry’s anxious question:
‘You do believe in love then, Tommy, don’t you?’
‘You lovely lad!’ said Tommy. ‘No, my cherub, nine times out of ten, no! Love’s another of those half-witted performances today. Fellows with swaying waists fucking little jazz girls with small boy buttocks, like two collar studs! Do you mean that sort of love? Or the joint-property, make-a-success-of-it, My-husband-my-wife sort of love? No, my fine fellow, I don’t believe in it at all!’
‘But you do believe in something?’
‘Me? Oh, intellectually I believe in having a good heart, a chirpy penis, a lively intelligence, and the courage to say “shit!” in front of a lady.’
‘Well, you’ve got them all,’ said Berry.
Tommy Dukes roared with laughter. ‘You angel boy! If only I had! If only I had! No; my heart’s as numb as a potato, my penis droops and never lifts its head up, I dare rather cut him clean off than say “shit!” in front of my mother or my aunt… they are real ladies, mind you; and I’m not really intelligent, I’m only a “mental-lifer”. It would be wonderful to be intelligent: then one would be alive in all the parts mentioned and unmentionable. The penis rouses his head and says: How do you do? — to any really intelligent person. Renoir said he painted his pictures with his penis — he did too, lovely pictures! I wish I did something with mine. God! when one can only talk! Another torture added to Hades! And Socrates started it.’
‘There are nice women in the world,’ said Connie, lifting her head up and speaking at last.
The men resented it… she should have pretended to hear nothing. They hated her admitting she had attended so closely to such talk.
“If they be not nice to me
What care I how nice they be?”
‘No, it’s hopeless! I just simply can’t vibrate in unison with a woman. There’s no woman I can really want when I’m faced with her, and I’m not going to start forcing myself to it…. My God, no! I’ll remain as I am, and lead the mental life. It’s the only honest thing I can do. I can be quite happy talking to women; but it’s all pure, hopelessly pure. Hopelessly pure! What do you say, Hildebrand, my chicken?’
‘It’s much less complicated if one stays pure,’ said Berry.
‘Yes, life is all too simple!’
* * *
1. Une immense espérance a traversé la terre is French and means “a great hope has crossed the world.”
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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States between 1923 and 1977 (inclusive) without a copyright notice.