The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft by George Gissing


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Page 3

My house is perfect. By great good fortune I have found a housekeeper no
less to my mind, a low-voiced, light-footed woman of discreet age, strong
and deft enough to render me all the service I require, and not afraid of
solitude. She rises very early. By my breakfast-time there remains
little to be done under the roof save dressing of meals. Very rarely do
I hear even a clink of crockery; never the closing of a door or window.
Oh, blessed silence!

There is not the remotest possibility of any one's calling upon me, and
that I should call upon any one else is a thing undreamt of. I owe a
letter to a friend; perhaps I shall write it before bedtime; perhaps I
shall leave it till to-morrow morning. A letter of friendship should
never be written save when the spirit prompts. I have not yet looked at
the newspaper. Generally I leave it till I come back tired from my walk;
it amuses me then to see what the noisy world is doing, what new self-
torments men have discovered, what new forms of vain toil, what new
occasions of peril and of strife. I grudge to give the first freshness
of the morning mind to things so sad and foolish.

My house is perfect. Just large enough to allow the grace of order in
domestic circumstance; just that superfluity of intramural space, to lack
which is to be less than at one's ease. The fabric is sound; the work in
wood and plaster tells of a more leisurely and a more honest age than
ours. The stairs do not creak under my step; I am waylaid by no unkindly
draught; I can open or close a window without muscle-ache. As to such
trifles as the tint and device of wall-paper, I confess my indifference;
be the walls only unobtrusive, and I am satisfied. The first thing in
one's home is comfort; let beauty of detail be added if one has the
means, the patience, the eye.

To me, this little book-room is beautiful, and chiefly because it is
home. Through the greater part of life I was homeless. Many places have
I inhabited, some which my soul loathed, and some which pleased me well;
but never till now with that sense of security which makes a home. At
any moment I might have been driven forth by evil hap, by nagging
necessity. For all that time did I say within myself: Some day,
perchance, I shall have a home; yet the "perchance" had more and more of
emphasis as life went on, and at the moment when fate was secretly
smiling on me, I had all but abandoned hope. I have my home at last.
When I place a new volume on my shelves, I say: Stand there whilst I have
eyes to see you; and a joyous tremor thrills me. This house is mine on a
lease of a score of years. So long I certainly shall not live; but, if I
did, even so long should I have the wherewithal to pay my rent and buy my
food.

I think with compassion of the unhappy mortals for whom no such sun will
ever rise. I should like to add to the Litany a new petition: "For all
inhabitants of great towns, and especially for all such as dwell in
lodgings, boarding-houses, flats, or any other sordid substitute for Home
which need or foolishness may have contrived."

In vain I have pondered the Stoic virtues. I know that it is folly to
fret about the spot of one's abode on this little earth.

All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to the wise man ports and happy havens.

But I have always worshipped wisdom afar off. In the sonorous period of
the philosopher, in the golden measure of the poet, I find it of all
things lovely. To its possession I shall never attain. What will it
serve me to pretend a virtue of which I am incapable? To me the place
and manner of my abode is of supreme import; let it be confessed, and
there an end of it. I am no cosmopolite. Were I to think that I should
die away from England, the thought would be dreadful to me. And in
England, this is the dwelling of my choice; this is my home.



III.


I am no botanist, but I have long found pleasure in herb-gathering. I
love to come upon a plant which is unknown to me, to identify it with the
help of my book, to greet it by name when next it shines beside my path.
If the plant be rare, its discovery gives me joy. Nature, the great
Artist, makes her common flowers in the common view; no word in human
language can express the marvel and the loveliness even of what we call
the vulgarest weed, but these are fashioned under the gaze of every
passer-by. The rare flower is shaped apart, in places secret, in the
Artist's subtler mood; to find it is to enjoy the sense of admission to a
holier precinct. Even in my gladness I am awed.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 28th Feb 2020, 13:25