South Lodge; Reminiscences of Violet Hunt, Ford Madox Ford and the English Review Circle

South Lodge; Reminiscences of Violet Hunt, Ford Madox Ford and the English Review Circle

South Lodge; Reminiscences of Violet Hunt, Ford Madox Ford and the English Review Circle

South Lodge; Reminiscences of Violet Hunt, Ford Madox Ford and the English Review Circle

Excerpt

"OH, my dears! How late you are! I was afraid you weren't coming. . . . I've been so lonely and wretched all day ..."

Violet stood at the dark green door of South Lodge, a frail, witchlike figure, dressed in tattered chiffons, the assembled remains, no doubt, of some of her "fluffiest" frocks of bygone times. It was a warm evening in the summer of 1939. 27th July to be exact: I have found the date in my dairy.

My wife patted her affectionately, as she put up her withered cheek to be kissed, and jokingly protested against her habit of saying we were late when we were invariably punctual. "It's the cook", Violet said plaintively. "I'm so afraid she will be angry and spoil the dinner".

I do not know whether I realized, sub-consciously, that this might be the last time that I should enter South Lodge as Violet's guest, or whether it was the imminence of another war which so filled me that evening with a sense of the past. Perhaps it was Ford's recent death. In any case, as I put my hat down on the bench in the hall and looked up at the drawing of Conrad, with its large, bold signature, at the signed photographs of Henry James, of Cunninghame Graham on horseback, and of Robert Browning, bearded and frock-coated, before turning to follow Violet and my wife into the familiar dining-room, the flood of memories almost overwhelmed me. I could see myself as a callow youth of twenty-two, calling at South Lodge for the first time, being admitted by the redoubtable parlour-maid, Child, being ushered into an Edwardian tea-party over which Mrs. Alfred Hunt nominally presided, with Violet watchfully on guard. For the old lady was queer in the head and when she made a remark it was apt to be more shattering to her auditors than any of the pronouncements of Mr. F's aunt. And now Violet herself was becoming queer too . . . after thirty years. As she wrote of her mother, Violet's "memory for old times was vivid, but it . . .

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