LEAR AND LORD PETER IN THE POOL OF LIFE
We had now arrived in the heart of the big city, and as usual it was almost a heart of darkness. But it looked like a big city, there was no denying that. Here, emphatically, was the English seaport second only to London. The very weight of stone emphasised that fact. And even if the sun never seems to properly rise over it, I like a big city to proclaim itself a big city at once.
|Photo by EP
|Portrait of Dorothy L. Sayers.
Sir William Oliphant Hutchison. NPG
It was its comparative proximity to Milford Hill that induced Lord Peter to lunch at the Minster Hotel rather than at the White Hart or some other more picturesquely situated hostel. It was not a lunch calculated to cheer his mind; as in all Cathedral cities, the atmosphere of the Close pervades every nook and corner of Salisbury, and no food in that city but seems faintly flavoured with prayer-books. As he sat sadly consuming that impassive pale substance known to the English as ‘cheese’ unqualified (for there are cheeses which go openly by their names, as Stilton, Camembert, Gruyère, Wensleydale or Gorgonzola, but ‘cheese’ is cheese and everywhere the same), he inquired of the waiter the whereabouts of Mr. Crimplesham’s office. (Whose Body?, 1923)
After Easter, which threatens to be far from springlike, we open at the Young Vic for a London run that has already been extended by a week. As I muse by the fireside … on the show and Lear and the journey still ahead, I leave you with one of the marginalia in Keats’s Folio copy of King Lear:
How finely is the brief of Lear sketched in this conference [Goneril and Regan’s discussion of Lear’s rejection of Cordelia] – from this point does Shakespeare spur him out to the mighty grapple – ‘the seeded pride that hath to his maturity blowne up’ Shakespeare doth scatter abroad on the winds of Passion, where the germs take buoyant root in stormy Air, suck up lightning sap, and become voiced dragons—self will and pride and wrath are taken at a rebound by his giant hand and mounted to the Clouds—there to remain and thunder evermore …