I return to this summer idyll painting time and time again-Stanley Lewis' Hyde Park painted in 1931. Lewis was inspired by Seurat's La Grande Jatte. Painted in the forefront- a self portrait, along with little girl & hoop,Lewis' niece, and the young mother was Lewis' then girlfriend. How storybooklike the scene, yet 1931, perhaps a little vapid, it was a lull of sorts. What were the realities of day such as this in 1931? Hyde Park carries its subjects and viewer away- all taking advantage of a beautiful day, with crowds clustering together and drifting away in their own thoughts. Great wars, great crashes, great losses- the before of this decade-the after.
1931. Virginia Woolf was midstream in her brilliant literary career with ten slight years in front of her genius work-Mrs. Dalloway. To the Lighthouse & Orlando had already been published along with A Room of One's Own- exploring a woman's role in a literary world, in a world of her own making. A feminist was born. Her inability to face a second war gave way, she filled her pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse-drifting away on her despair. She wrote this to her husband:
I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been
1931. The Great Depression entrenched itself into the American landscape and it reverberated to the continent. It would hover until the second war entered. The Brits had lost a generation in the First World War. The reference- lamenting the death of Britain's future leaders, artists, poets- its great men. The loss of a way of life that never returned-a loss of innocence. Disillusioned with their own country, American artists flocked to Europe seeking all the erudition they saw lacking in the States. World War II would see their exodus from Europe and return.
1931. Ernest Hemingway, so full of bravado, wrote of the chaos of war and his own a participation as an ambulance driver. His life and work kept him just on the edge-the brink. He had already written The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. It would be ten years before he would write For Whom the Bell Tolls, opening wide the wounds of war. His words were raw- excoriating & years of pushing them to the surface with a pen wore on him. What he endured, what he sensed could be endured filled his work and it culminated in his own suicide just short of his 62nd birthday. He left no note.
but -Papa did write this in 1954-
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.