35. H. F. Scott-Stokes to Harrod, 22 June 1927
22 June 1928
My dear Roy,
Many thanks for your kind and touching letter, "and which" I nevertheless quite soberly disagree with on one point - I mean of course the architectonic end. (I write lazily on my knee after a day of apple-picking - hence the worse-than-usual scrawl). I entirely agree with you in attributing all my rare felicity to my hasty and imprudent marriage, but on the day on which I engaged myself to it I abandoned the only great and conscious plan I ever formed - I mean, to go back to India for India's good - and the longer I live (said he heavily) the more sure I am that the only true happiness lies in making the best of things as you find them, and enjoying to the full the present hour - at once a disgustingly Christian or `resigned' philosophy and a disgustingly pagan or hedonistic one. I married more or less by accident, I took to industry out of pique at my father-in-law's contemptuous unbelief in my capacity to do any good at it, and I became a Liberal, I think, out of sheer bravado in the face of a municipal electorate who had resolutely rejected every Liberal for fifteen years; and I attribute my comparative success in these three fields - in so far as it is due to anything but sheer good luck - to my temperamental preference for an up-hill fight and my fixed determination in each case that if I could I would succeed; or if you like to a lack of imagination and a recognition of accomplished facts and a readiness to make the best of things as they are. Nothing could be more petty in a way than my business circumstances - all attention to detail and smoothing the squabbles of ignorant women - and my local politics, and yet by giving my whole mind to them I have derived a very real satisfaction from them both. I have I confess a kind of secret ambition or presentiment of greater things to come, but if I go down to the grave as nothing but an unknown tradesman and the 247th mayor of a petty provincial town I shall go to it without regret - see the autumnal lines which I wrote here a year ago, for my 31st birthday -
And you, my dear and gifted friend, one in the front rank of the finest side of a very honourable profession - and full of other interests which may lead you off on all sorts of unknown paths. I can believe that sometimes the whole thing seems dreary and cut-and-dried and your colleagues a miserable set of pedants, and .... has bred contempt in you for all the unique surroundings in which you live. But sure I am that life holds many surprises in store for you and all of us; and reflect, my dear fellow, on the enormous amount of innocent pleasure which you are in a position to give your friends who visit you in Oxford; and as to your colleagues - well, consider the colleagues you would have in any other walk of life! And the great thing is to get away from them at times; to which end (as well as to many others) I most heartily commend marriage to you, even if it seems impracticable. "The object of all ambitions, said Dr.J., is to be happy at home" - most true; & the first step therefore to set up a home! But, lord, how I lecture you!
Lines for the birthday of a middle-aged man
The apples cluster,
The swallows muster
The South is calling -
The orchards mellow,
And brown and yellow
The leaves are falling -
Decay holds sway.
But the fewer the leaves the clearer the sky,
The tree that bears must wither and die,
The mist must bury the sun.
And thou and I, though we die to-morrow,
Sorrow we may, but weak our sorrow -
The best of our work is done.
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