Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mr Lamb shed some light on the rejection of the face

for our auguress

Some don't come here so much as they used to; you remember how they were frightened, that they could be accused of looking at what they like, on the one hand, or felt excluded by the persistence of youth, on the other. Guilt and abandonment can make for a dicey strait in blogwriting, and yet we were blithe enough to risk it. But you were here back then; you remember, we talked about a city of coffee, adopting our literal experience as a metaphor to allay these impressions. We still desire that city, and after some 400 posts, we can give more credit to desire than we had expected. 

But we did disturb nice people, all pursuing a driving interest in expenditures, being misdirected here by lapse of judgment. All their urgent, exquisite passions had been invented to escape this page, until some whiff of our seeming acquisitive then set an unintended trap.

We unintendingly portray this flight to a possession of the exquisite, or to its idolatry, as to a Faustian barricade against the face. We've discussed this, in our comment bars; and so, famously, did Charles Lamb in one of his last essays. But the face is always there, as a dynamic marker of experience.

When I married, I gave my bride a picture of a face: an Ansel Adams original of a farm woman behind a worn screen door. It cost an approp-riate lot, then, and today it would be priceless. We, too, believed in fine things, but she very much did not like this portrait. She feared it was about her. 
We should have been so lucky; and I should have understood her better.

Competence to age is supplementary youth; a sorry supplement indeed, but I fear the best that is to be had .. And now do just look at that merry little Chinese waiter holding an umbrella, big enough for a bed-tester, over the head of that pretty insipid half-Madonna-ish chit of a lady in that very blue summer-house. 

I have always known, it would be difficult to stake a position for the cultivated life through the presentation of picture after picture of a seemingly privileged countenance. But these are not undeserving visages, for not having been painted on porcelain. Their existence, moreover, is contingent; its quality is contingent; its longevity is contingent. Those contingencies, to say the least, are exciting and morally compelling. 
Yes, I would hold the face with the care I might extend to a tea-cup; yes, I would celebrate its expression; yes, I would drink from it. Four hundred postings, still under development.


Bob Dylan
Most of the Time
  Rare and unreleased
Columbia Records/Sony, 2008©

Charles Lamb
Old China
  The Last Essays of Elia
Jonathan Bate, editor
Oxford University Press, 1987©


  1. what our vision grants us we refuse to receive innocently, faultlessly- guilelessly. Your trip has been a broad expansive one thus far, the less traveled way to be sure, but with desire as a surprising companion it has to be it less lonely. smugness is less companionable- but easier to introduce to fellow travellers. there is much to commend itself here as I see it. It is difficult to look at loss without seeing our own pained expressions reflected-I think that must be part of the rub.Your readers will return and exit based on their own desire and reflection. Gaye

  2. I'm not going to taint your generous attentions to the page with extended comment, but here again, we find shrewd guidance between the lines. Now, go post for us an Ingrès we can understand. :)

  3. I think Me might be overIngres, at the moment. this is a beautiful essay.

  4. Mais ton Ingrès était très cher. :)