by John Radcliffe)
|notes on the text|
Take of English earth as muchMason goes on to write of this story (p. 236):
As either hand may rightly clutch...
... Lay that earth upon thy heart,
And thy sickness shall depart!
...in substance it is saying that it is morally better to splash about in the mud hunting, than to sit on committees trying to improve the world...Midmore was, of course, taking refuge from the world of London avant-gard left-wing intellectuals, known as the 'Bloomsbury Group', such people as J. M. Keynes, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and Lytton Strachey, to which Kipling was violently hostile, seeing it as self-indulgent, subversive, and morally loose. In those years before the Great War he had railed and written against liberal and radical tendencies in British politics, perceiving them as endangering the security of country and Empire in a dangerous world.
...there is a charge of triviality and silliness made. And the picture, exaggerated and without any sympathy, is not too far away from the world of Orage and Middleton Murry as seen in Kathleen Mansfield's journals... Kipling, it must be said, knows it well enough to write a letter for Frankwell Midmore in his unregenerate days that is a passable imitation of a minor Bloomsbury "witty" letter. But he goes too far all the time, especially after he has shown that that Midmore had got involved with "the Immoderate Left"....Angus Wilson goes on, though, to note that:
His other point has some validity, but once again he thumps it into the story until he almost breaks the fabric. It is this: a good deal of the high-minded talk and cultural concern and social reform of the London intelligentsia turns out simply to be a life of promiscuous sexual affairs covered in romantic talk ... It is the plain man's case against Bloomsbury.
...the picture of Sussex village people, notably here a greedy libidinous cheerful old farmer, is excellent, and its natural setting superbly done.J M S Tompkins comments (p. 51):
This is one of the 'iceberg' stories, much of it is below the surface. Midmore is a secretive man; we hear what he does, but little of what he thinks. It is not even pointed out that all the suppositions of his 'bright' letter to his mother after his aunt's funeral are reversed by the end of the tale. Even the 'peasants who do not utter' have uttered with force and point ... But when Midmore laughs, the process breaks surface for a moment:See also KJ 118/16 and 153/10, for reports of discussion meetings on this and other Sussex stories.
'For a few seconds the teachings of the Immoderate Left, whose humour is all its own, wrestled with those of Mother Earth, who has her own humours...'
Midmore laughs again at Mr Sydney's domestic arrangements. Natural lust, taken with cheerfulness, it seems, is more wholesome than the cerebration and fornication of the Immoderate Left.