Thursday, April 12, 2007

The apparent benefit of embracing

Un interlude

George Du Maurier, the Punch illustrator (1865-1896), was a Frenchman who, like his younger friend Henry James, settled in England. As Henry James became a fictional character in Colm Tóibín's novel The Master, so he becomes again in David Lodge's novel Author, Author! Lodge describes James's friendship with Du Maurier, including James's frequent visits with Du Maurier's family:
[Du Maurier's children] were a good-looking and high-spirited brood. Beatrix, the eldest, was a real beauty, who had only just "come out" when Henry met her, and being squeezed into a broom cupboard with her during some boisterous game of Hide and Seek, pressed up against her sweet-smelling, gently yeilding form in the dark, had been one of the more remarkable sensations in his experience, and one which helped him to understand the ecstasy that lovers apparently derived from embracing. He watched with fascination as she opened like a flower to the warmth of a developing social life.

Du Maurier himself was brazenly prejudiced in favour of beautiful women. He kept two plaster models of the Venus de Milo in the house—one on the mantlepiece of the studio-living-room, and another on a pedestal at the angle of the staircase—as icons of his devotion to the ideal female form....

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