Cecily Sidgwick biography - Chapter 11 - 'The Happy Valley' - In Other Days (1915)

Portrait of an unknown man by an unknown hand in Cecily's album - any suggestions as to sitter or artist gratefully received.
Portrait of an unknown man by an unknown hand in Cecily's album - any suggestions as to sitter or artist gratefully received.

 

 

The novel, In Other Days (1915), is hard to find, presumably because it was published at a difficult time in the War, and is rarely referred to. Yet, of all Cecily’s novels, it is the one that showcases best the enticing bohemian life-style enjoyed by the community of artists in both Lamorna and Newlyn during the pre-War period. Furthermore, unlike in None-Go-By, the artists, upon whom characters in the novel were based, are, for the most part, easily worked out. Accordingly, Alfred Munnings, Laura and Harold Knight, Thomas and Caroline Gotch and John and Houghton Birch, amongst many others, can be recognised within its pages, giving some fascinating new insights into their personalities, as well as glimpses into their homes and studios and way of life. When Herbert Thomas first reviewed it, he said that it was the book that he had always expected Cecily to write, and, as a supplement to the accounts of Laura Knight and Munnings, it is invaluable.

 

Written before the War, Menwinion (as Lamorna is again called) is referred to as ‘The Happy Valley’ - a phrase said to be employed by the artists living there and, certainly, one used by Laura Knight in her autobiography. The principal characters in the story are the artist, Simon Cloudesley, his wife, Anne, and daughter, Rosalind. In the early years of his marriage, Simon had an affair with one of his models - "She was a beautiful model with sweet, treacherous eyes, red lips, abounding vitality and about as much moral scruple as a monkey. Women avoided her and men lost their heads over her." (p.170) Overcome by "the red flower of passion", Simon left his wife, leading to unwelcome publicity and scandal. She and her baby daughter were then taken under the wing of a wealthy relation, Sir Lucius Tuft, at Iceton Park - the name indicating the chilly conditions under which they were forced to live and the perpetual frosty atmosphere. When Rosalind comes of age, she persuades her mother to break away from their dull life under the control of mean-spirited Sir Lucius, and they settle in Menwinion, chosen because Rosalind had befriended on holiday Jasper and Lamorna Knox, two artists who now lived and worked there. Jasper and Lamorna, of course, featured in Cecily’s earlier novel, Lamorna, when Lamorna was said to have been brought up in a dilapidated Cornish cottage, but here they are clearly intended to represent Harold and Laura Knight, ‘nox’ being the Latin for ‘night’.

 

Cecily describes the art colony thus, with some typical deprecatory comments about her husband and herself:-

 

"The artist community at Menwinion had sprung into existence rather suddenly. Lamorna Knox could remember when she lived in her current home as a child but then it had been a tumble down row of cottages. At that time the only other house besides the fishermen’s cottages had been the little one perched on the cliff and now occupied by John Larch, the landscape painter and his family. When the Cloudesleys came, there were about ten new houses set here and there in the valley, some with studios attached and some owning or renting big isolated ones. One house had no studio because it had been built by a harmless elderly couple, who did not paint at all and had no business amongst painters. The man wrote incomprehensible books on matters such as Solipsism in its Relation to the Absolute Idea and the woman wrote quiet novels, when she was not gardening or housekeeping. They were both as blind about pictures as some people are deaf about music, so it seems surprising that a little society of painters should have taken them to their hearts as friends. But painters, like gardeners and sailors, are good-natured, simple folk, curiously fastidious and uncertain in their likings one moment and easily pleased the next. At Penryn [Newlyn], about three miles from Menwinion, there was a much larger colony and a school of painting that brought students of both sexes into the neighbourhood." (p.94-5)

 

The cottage that Anne and Rosalind Cloudesley take is clearly the separate part of ‘Oakhill’ occupied before the War by Joey Carter Wood, as Cecily explained. "The cottage taken by Mrs Cloudesley for three years was the end one of four that had formerly been inhabited by cottagers. The other three had been turned into what houseagents call a gentleman’s cottage, for Jasper Knox, and he lived there with Lamorna, his wife. Their cottage had a bathroom and water on in pipes. It also had tiled fireplaces, a hot linen cupboard and a housemaid’s pantry. In fact, it had the comforts but not the drawbacks of villadom: for though the indoor arrangements had been altered to suit modern ideas, its charm remained. Moreover, the floors were uneven, the rooms rambling, the walls thick, the ceilings low and the windows small. It still looked like a row of small whitewashed cottages, well lifted above the main road and sheltered from prying eyes by the flowering shrubs that hedged the narrow front garden. Once upon a time, Mrs Cloudesley’s cottage had been the most important of the row. It was taller than the rest and larger than they had been when three separate families lived in them. It had a sitting room that was small for a villa but big for a cottage, a tiny dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms and a fourth room the size of a convenient cupboard. Formerly, you could only get water by dipping a can or pail into the stream that gurgled past Jasper’s garden. But when the alterations were made in his cottage, this end one had been given a water tap at the same time, so that now you only had to take your can into the back yard. Beyond the yard was a small vegetable garden and beyond that a field in which the last tenants had dug borders and planted flowers." (p.77-8) At the Knoxs’ suggestion, the Cloudesleys made the larger bedroom upstairs their parlour, putting an old Persian rug on the stained floor, and used the sitting room downstairs as their dining room. All the woodwork they painted white, and they put up colourful curtains.

 

Cecily used the name ‘Hendra’ for the ‘Trewoofe’ area of Lamorna, the group of properties at the top of the valley, which included ‘Oakhill’, ‘Trewoofe House’, ‘Trewoofe Orchard’ and ‘Rosemerrin’. The latter property, which had recently been built by Benjamin and Belle Leader, featured in the story as ‘The House in the Wood’ and was available for rent, as its owners were said to be away in South Africa for a while. Prior to the house’s erection, this wood, which was known as Merlin’s Wood, had been a favourite place for locals to walk in during bluebell or daffodil time and it also contained a most attractive clearing, where one could sit enveloped by silence - "a place of mighty moss-green giant boulders, golden green in sunset lights [in the] evening and guarded by tall thickly serried trees" (p.170). Clearly, the fact that the wood and the fogou, which was one of most interesting ancient sites in the locality, now had become private property annoyed some. 

 

Cecily calls Alfred and herself in the novel the Orchards (after their home, ‘Trewoofe Orchard’). They are present in a number of scenes, but do not feature prominently, as she admits that "they lived a little apart from the community in some ways because they were older and knew nothing about pictures" (p.195). However, on one occasion, when there was a discussion about money, the view was expressed that "Money was a convenient tool but not an end in itself, and when it came your way, you were wasting your chances if you did not use it. Mr Orchard, who was old and presumably wise enough to know better, took this view with all the resources of a sophistical dialectic, but Mrs Orchard said that he could do so lightly because he had married a miser. Her definition of a miser in her present surroundings was one who paid bills when they came in and never overdrew a banking account. She was considered rather odd." (p.151)!

 

Cecily was clearly aware that there was a danger of upsetting members of the artistic community in both Newlyn and Lamorna, either by including them and their foibles in too much detail or by leaving them out altogether. Accordingly, at one stage in the narrative, she comments, "From the painter colonies of Menwinion and Penryn, some figures will come to the front of the stage so that you shall see them plainly while they play their parts in this story...; while many others must remain with a crowd in the background. They are there, coming and going, leading their own lives, a little multitude making an atmosphere. Some were celebrated, some obscure, some were poverty-stricken, some were prosperous, some worked hard, others idled. But you can only see them in the mass, featureless and impersonal." (p.149).

 

The great change between living in a big house full of servants to looking after oneself in a small cottage took the Cloudesleys a bit of adjusting to. Rosalind, for instance, had never been in a kitchen before, and did not know how to make coffee, let alone cook. Indeed, she was prepared to subsist, as she had heard other impoverished artists did, on just cocoa and herrings. However, the Knoxes soon arranged for them to have a morning maid to do the dirty work, such as cleaning the stove and the fires, which appeared to be the normal arrangement for the less well off in the valley. It was not long before their domestic situation was not only under control, but far more pleasurable than their previous existence.

 

The artists, with whom they initially fraternised, are Jasper and Lamorna Knox, who come across as a delightful kind and caring couple, John Larch, a well-known landscape painter, and his wife (the Birches), a newly married couple, the Eastwicks (the Leaders, after Benjamin’s middle name ‘Eastlake’), and the Mainwarings (the Munningses). Mainwaring was known to his friends as A.B. "He painted hunting scenes as well as any man alive, if not better, was a keen sportsman, a great reader and could wake the dead with a song." (p.151). Mrs Mainwaring (i.e. Florence Carter-Wood) was described as having an appearance that "suggested the princess who couldn’t sleep on a pea" - i.e. that she was very sensitive. There is also a brief reference to taking tea with the Furzes (the Heaths), and the Littles (most probably, Charles and Ella Naper - nappies/smalls?), so that Robert and Eleanor Hughes and Algernon Newton and his wife seem to have been omitted.

 

Dan Merivale, whose name continues the ‘Happy Valley’ theme, is a promising young artist, who has to survive on a small income of £100 per annum, but, as he provides the romantic interest for Rosalind, he is probably a construct, in the main. He was tall, thin and well-mannered; "He seemed to enjoy everything, work, play, rain, sunshine, the early dawn, the frosty nights and perhaps more than anything the moonlight when it fell full and soft on the hills." (p.94). Previously, he had studied in Paris for several years, but he had never attended the art school in Penryn. He had come to Menwinion to be close to Jasper Knox, whose work he admired, and he had built himself a rough studio in a field behind Hendra Farm, which contained a motley selection of furniture.

 

"There were not many chairs in the room but there was a sofa, a model’s throne and the floor. The studio was a workshop and did not pretend or attempt to be anything else. It had none of the elegant properties Rosalind, who had often read thrilling descriptions of studios, expected to find. It looked to her like a bare barn-like room with stacks of canvases leaning against the walls and a good many untidy brushes, paints and rags on a side-table and two or three beautiful pieces of furniture that seemed to her as irrelevant there as they would have been in a cow-shed. Mrs Orchard, for instance, was sitting on a Louis XV gilded chair brocaded with pale pinks and the tea-cups were on a buhl table." (p.109).

 

This is likely to be a description of the studio of Robert Hughes, given that this was situated to the rear of ‘Trewoofe Farm’.

 

One of the principal artist ‘characters’ in the story is Veronica Teal, who is so outrageous in her dress, actions and views that she is probably a construct as well, albeit Herbert Thomas seemed to indicate in his review of the book that he had been told that she was based on someone, whom he did not know. Whilst Dorelia John raised a few eyebrows with her unconventional wardrobe when she visited the colony in 1913, she will not have scandalised people as much as Veronica, and, although the artist, Hannah Gluckstein (1895-1978), who always insisted on being called Gluck, did cause outrage, when she stayed with the Leaders in the autumn/winter of 1914, by dressing as a man and striding through the village wearing, for instance, bright red jockey breeches, a cloak and a black homburg hat, it is difficult to believe that Cecily could, in the time-frame, have incorporated her into the story, given the Preface is dated November 1914, unless she had paid a visit earlier. Anyway, Veronica, who "believed her own leitmotif to be modernity", always aimed to shock with her outfits, both in their design and in their vibrant colours, and she talked of free love and was all for divorce if one fancied a change. She was the only one who made it clear that non-painters were not welcome and did not belong, describing the Cloudesleys as "little people with no great aim in life and nothing whatever to do". (p.132). However, her own art was unsatisfactory. "Veronica had never done a hard steady week’s work in her life and never ground at those foundations of her art that are as necessary to fine achievement as bones to a body. She was one of those unsatisfactory people you find cumbering the ground in every art who think an exalted mood will carry them to the heights without the drudgery bigger folk find indispensable. She expected her performances to be as splendid as her emotions and never learned that an inflated soul is not the same as an inspired one." (p.138).

 

Finally, there is Simon Cloudesley himself, who comes down to Penryn to paint, without realizing that his family have moved into the locality. Despite his deplorable conduct towards his wife, he had now risen to the top rank of painters, with a number of sychophantic admirers calling him ‘Master’. He too will be a construct, but Cecily clearly incorporates into the novel the reaction that she witnessed to the presence of Augustus John in the colony in 1913. In a letter to Ella Naper, written over twenty years later (28/6/1935), Alfred Sidgwick recalled how John had been ‘worshipped’ during his stay, adding "It was thought a great event by all our friends there." Accordingly, Cecily, having mentioned that Cloudesley on Show Day was surrounded "both by painters and by people who love a lion", commented, "Somehow or other the news that he was a lion had spread although many persons who were dying to hear him roar had not heard his name till yesterday" (p.145). Even Lamorna Knox called him the greatest living painter, bar Sargent, and said that she had felt more honoured by his criticism than by anyone else’s praise, whilst A.B. commented, "I’d black his boots for him any day, with pleasure. I’m humble in his presence.", a remark which drew laughter as everyone "wanted to see what A.B. looked like when he was humble." (p.158). The lesser artists made themselves look faintly ridiculous. "The men hung round Simon Cloudesley as if there were virtue in his glance, they dressed like Simon Cloudesley, they lowered their voices in his honour, they drank and smoked with him, they played with him, they walked and bathed and dined with him, they treasured his sayings, they extolled his art, and one man who had been a vegetarian began to eat beef in the hope that it would assist him to paint like Simon Cloudesley." (p.211-2). Cecily herself, though, as Mrs Orchard, was in no hurry to visit anyone so lionised, particularly as she had never heard of him before, saying that she hated "a pose", and that she was glad "no one wants to sit at the table while I write and see how I do it".(p.196).

 

Cecily describes Menwinion as "a community that, with few worldly goods, still manages to enjoy life more than most people" (p.236). It was also full of camaraderie and "when anyone in the community had a success, everyone rejoiced with him, and when he was in a hole everyone combined to pull him out." (p.143). The way of life that the artists had developed was not only very sociable, but also intellectually stimulating:

 

"Life at Menwinion was full of little gaities because the people settled there were like the three curates in Shirley, always in and out of each other’s houses. The men and some of the women worked hard in their studios all day but about dinner-time, they met, some here, some there, had soup, meat and tart together and afterwards one of those soul-inspiring discussions that Mr Orchard, who was sixty, said he had not found anyone ready for since his undergraduate days. If one got hold of a book that impressed him, it went the round and the ideas in it led like Faust Manager’s Drama from Heaven across the world to Hell. Sometimes the talk was technical and only to be understood by painters, but more often it boldy and inconclusively played around those problems that concern us all but which rarely come to the surface. Probably no one changed his opinions, perhaps no one went away a whit the wiser, but then they did not meet and talk to such ends. They were friends at the end of a stern day’s work and they enjoyed sitting round a log fire together in comfortable chairs with a little light but not too much, and a little mental energy but not too much, drifting from small to big talk, if it happened so but never of set purpose, and by instinct knowing that the ultimate issue of such intercourse should at its best be rest and harmony." (p.113-4).

 

Cecily indicated that there were a group of some three or four households, who met most days of the week and called themselves "the family". Often, they would have tea together on the rocks in the cove. (p.184). The Birches, the Knights, the Sidgwicks and the Leaders are likely to be members of "the family". However, there were often much bigger tea parties on the rocks by Carn Dhu, where there were deep rock pools in which people could swim. Laura Knight’s painting hut was near here, and Cecily provides this description of it. 

 

"Lamorna’s hut was a small wooden shanty that she had put up on the face of the cliff and found useful all through the summer when she was painting near it in the open air. She kept everything there that she wanted herself for her work, and most things that her friends wanted for their picnics. The cliff rose behind it clothed with bracken, gorse and heather from which weather-beaten granite rocks stood forth triumphantly: while below it even the short mountain grass soon failed to hold its own and the rocks were left bare to the foam and thunder of winter seas. This afternoon the sea was blue and smiling, gulls were on the wing, the smoke of big liners could be seen on the horizon and the Lizard Point was too clear to please the weather prophets." (p.235). 

 

She also describes the scene, as the locals drifted down to the cove at the appointed time for one of these legendary picnics, which everyone, particularly the artists’ young families, enjoyed so much. "As they all walked towards the cove, other people joined them or were overtaken, and when it came to straggling in single file along the rough narrow pathway over the rocks, the procession looked as long as a school crocodile". Having found a relatively comfortable spot to sit in a well-known sheltered area, the women in the party spread the splits with jam and clotted cream in Cornish fashion, whilst the men made a fire of sticks and dry bracken collected off the cliff, so as to boil water for tea. This was then taken around the various scattered groups, who read, chatted or sunbathed on the rocks or dipped in and out of the pools.

 

Whilst the attractions of the cove and the nearby cliff scenery were endless, and the Cloudesleys are depicted scrambling along the cliffs, "eating their lunch high above the turquoise seas, listening sleepily to the beat of the waves against the rocks and discovering the fragrance of miles of flowering gorse in hot sunshine", Cecily never ceased to tire of describing the beauty of the top of the valley, particularly in springtime. (p.118)

 

"It was a brilliant March day, warm in the sun, cold in the wind. The gorse and the blackthorn were both out spreading the wild copse and common of the valley with a shimmer of white and gold. The old bracken still lay in patches of ruddy brown, primroses were just beginning shyly and the short grass of the open places had not put on its summer hues yet. The sky was clear and deep with little white clouds scudding across it, larks were singing and in the distance sounds of men at work in the fields reached Dan and Rosalind as they made their way. The air was scented with herbs and fresh from the sea but sheltered by the lie of the low hills and by old, long-neglected trees. In some places, the trees were of a great height and girth, making a gloom over the huge moss-granite rocks strewing the earth and edging the little stream. Once they crossed the stream by way of an immense rock standing in its middle and soon after they came to a rough granite wall, quite low but built close to the water on its further side. Then they navigated a swamp full of wild peppermint scenting the air and so on to a stretch of open common lonely and beautiful....At the end of the valley, they came to the high road and the little granite cottage the Orchards had lived in before they built for themselves [i.e.’Vellensagia’]. Dan crossed the road and struck across another stretch of wild land in which cattle were grazing but which was hardly pasture. There were fields of yellow flag in the marshy parts of it, scattered clumps of gorse and bramble, and the young leaves of great sheets of wild hyacinths. Then came hilly pasture land, again one or two walls to climb, a solitary cottage and beyond it the valley of the daffodils. They grew on either side of a stream that legend said had run red for three days with the blood of the Danes when Athelstan drove them back to the sea. The daffodils were hardly out yet but their buds were yellow and some were half open." (pp.98-100)

 

The story also contains a lengthy and amusing account of what the artists termed a ‘beano’, held in the big room at the Hotel in the Cove, known as the "trippers’ room", as it was reserved for the "car-loads" of people who came out from Porthlew every Friday for cream teas. Unbeknown to Sir Lucius and Lady Tuft, who had made an unwelcome visit to check up on how Anne and Rosalind were faring, it was a fancy dress ‘do’ and Cecily describes some of the costumes. "Rosalind had borrowed a Pierrot’s dress from Lamorna and looked young and pretty in it. But she had one black and one white leg with her decidedly short skirts...John Larch had got himself up as a blind beggar with a patch over one eye, Jasper and Lamorna were Red Indians in dresses Lamorna had made and trimmed with feathers, Mrs Mainwaring made a bewitching Incroyable, her husband looked like Lord Dundreary and Marjorie with side curls and a flowered muslin walked straight out of Cranford. But the sensation of the evening was made by Mr and Mrs Eastwick, a handsome, lately married young couple, who arrived as the ancient inhabitants of the underground dwelling-place of primeval men that is one of the sights of the neighbourhood and is in their garden. Shouts of laughter and appreciation greeted their entry while Lady Tuft sat still but rigid with horror and discomfort. For Mr Eastwick was six feet three and he wore a wild red wig, moccasins of sackcloth sewn with string, and a rough tunic of sackcloth, also sewn with string, sleeveless and ending above his knees. He brandished an axe with a formidable head. His wife’s raiment was as scanty as his own and she had done her hair with a top-knot like one of E.T.Reed’s prehistoric savages in Punch. She looked as good as gold and as young as spring but there is no denying that her pretty arms were bare to the shoulder and her pretty legs bare to the knees; barer than Lady Tuft’s were in a bathing dress when she issued from a machine on Cromer sands." Finally, there was the shock of a staged entrance by Veronica Teal. "She was dressed as a child, a Futurist short-clothes child. She wore a wig that she had dyed herself to a metallic screaming green. She had dyed her eyebrows green too and painted green shadows near her nostrils. The rest of her face was a thick powdered white, but her lips were as scarlet as Jezebel’s. She wore a short white sleeveless tunic splashed with blobs and waves of black, and black shoes cross-gartered on her bare legs with black ribbons." (p.251-3) There were thirty-six all told at the ’beano’, including a couple of models from London.

 

As might have been anticipated, it was Munnings, or A.B., who was at the forefront of the revelries. He was the first to get up to make a speech, and then got on his feet again and sung the ditty, ‘Landlord, fill the Flowing Bowl’, and, as glasses were refilled, everyone sang the first chorus. 

 

 

Landlord fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over.

Landlord fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over!

For tonight we’ll merry-merry be,

For tonight we’ll merry-merry be,

For tonight we’ll merry-merry be,

Tomorrow we’ll be sober.

 

However, A.B. then got everyone up and dancing round the table as he sang the repeated first line of the other verses, and all sung the choruses.

 

Here’s to the man who drinks water pure and goes to bed quite sober.

He falls as the leaves do fall,

He’ll die before October.

 

But here’s to the man who drinks whisky clear and goes to bed quite mellow.

He lives as he ought to live,

And dies a jolly good fellow.

 

Here’s to the maid who steals a kiss and runs to tell her mother.

She’s a foolish, foolish thing.

She shall not get another.

 

But here’s to the maid who steals a kiss and stays to steal another.

She’s a boon to all mankind.

She soon shall be a mother.

 

"When a new course of the dinner came in, they sat down and ate it but in between they perpetrated speeches, sang songs, drank healths" and generally made a lot of noise (p.254-5). Interestingly, though, at the end of the dinner, the ladies were expected to remove themselves for a while, "for though the Menwinion artists thought themselves the sworn foes of convention, they never gave up the peculiar British one of sex separation after meals" (p.256). Later, there was dancing, and one of the Juno-esque London models cast off her Japanese kimono to cavort around in a scarlet bathing dress, whilst Veronica Teal transformed herself by appearing in a demure black evening gown.

 

There are also a number of descriptions of events in Newlyn, such as the crush on Show Day in the Passmore Edwards Gallery, and parties held at ‘Wheal Betsy’ at the top of Chywoone Hill by the Gotches (called the Cowpers, after Thomas’ middle name ‘Cooper’) and at Trewarveneth (called Trevider), which had been Stanhope Forbes’ old home and which, having been occupied by the Knights and Munnings for some time, was now rented by Richard Copeland Weatherby, known as ‘Seal’, and Geoffrey Garnier. As Weatherby came from a wealthy family, he is probably the "plutocrat" Mr Renshaw in the novel.

 

Cecily describes Thomas Gotch, who was a good friend, as follows, "Mr Cowper had once played King Arthur in a historical pageant and that ought to tell you all you need to know about his looks. You see him tall, spare, blue-eyed and with a short golden beard: a humourous, kindly man who painted like Fra Angelico and had an unexpected practical side to him, so that when he built his house he could see that the chimneys and the plumbing were properly done." (p.149-50). She also records a conversation that she had with Gotch about the difference between artists and writers. "Painters do not depend as writers do on the great heart of the public for an income. "With us one swallow makes a summer", Mr Cowper once pointed out to Mrs Orchard", meaning that the sale of one big work could cover a whole year’s expenditure (p.146).

 

Cecily shared an interest in gardening with Caroline Gotch and passed approving comment on the garden at ‘Wheal Betsy’, "with its magnificent views of the bay, its attractive ups and downs and its carefully tended shrubs and flowers", but they both knew too well their gardens’ deficiencies (p.156).

 

The Cowpers’ home was one of the ‘hospitable centres’ in Penryn, and it appeared to be standard practice for artists to repare there for lunch on Show Day in between sessions looking at the paintings on view in the Passmore Edwards Gallery. "Mrs Cowper always began by saying she would have a small party and ended with a big one....The dining-room was a reasonable size and had big sunny windows with a wide view of the bay. There were fine pieces of old furniture in the room and some good old silver on the table. The house seemed full of light, warmth, daffodils and gay friendly people." (p.150).

 

In relation to Trewarveneth, which, ever since the departure of the Forbeses, had been a party venue, Cecily commented, "The studio at Trevidor, a sitting room opening out of it and some bedrooms on the first floor had been added to the old farmhouse by Mr Stanniforth (Stanhope Forbes), a distinguished painter and the head of the Art School in Penryn: and he had lived in them for some years with his wife and son but was now in his own house on the other side of Penryn Hill. There was a sheltered flower garden into which ths studio at Trevidor opened and the three young men who were giving the dance had lighted it to-night with Japanese lanterns. Otherwise the preparations had been simple. Mr Renshaw, who was living at Trevidor, worked in a studio on the quay, so the one at the farmhouse was easily cleared and all through the winter and spring had been the scene of many revelries. Such canvases as he kept there were stacked against a wall, a big fire was lighted, the floor was swept and powdered and refreshments were set out in the adjoining room. As Mr Renshaw was one of the plutocrats of the community, he had hired a young man from Porthlew to play for dancing, but he had not provided programmes. They would have been too formal for the spirit of these festivities and so would compulsory evening-dress. If you preferred to dance in tweeds and knickerbockers, you did so, if you were in the mood for a masquerade, you masqueraded. If the others wore fancy costumes and you came in swallow-tails, no one minded. All you were asked to do was to live and let live." (p.126-7).

 

Mr Renshaw is likely to be ‘Seal’ Weatherby. No names are given to the other two men, who were holding the dance, but they are likely to be Geoffrey Garnier and Harold Harvey. The only other different artist featured by name is a Mr Jackson, who is described as a gossipy young man. However, some of the young female students are not given a good press. "Two of the girls were of a type that Rosalind had never met before and never wished to meet again, bold of eye, noisy, foolish: girls who came from decorous homes but thought the last note of modernity was to throw away all decorum. She had watched their manners indoors and had not been surprised to come on them kissing their partners in the garden." (p.137-8)

 

The boredom of a Cornish Sunday, when no sketching and few other activities were acceptable to local Methodists, was solved by holding gatherings, and generally, it was felt better to have these in remote Lamorna, away from prying eyes. Cecily stated,

 

"It was the Law, unwritten but unbreakable, that every Sunday Penryn came to Hendra and Menwinion. Sometimes, in summer, a herd drawn from both colonies arranged an expedition elsewhere: and sometimes the Cowpers or Trevider did not come to Menwinion because Menwinion had gone to them. But there was always coming and going on Sundays, and Mrs Larch, for instance, never knew in the morning how many people she would have entertained at luncheon, tea and supper by the end of the day." (p.168).

 

The passage in the book that was most quoted in reviews was Cecily’s moralising conclusion to Simon Cloudesley’s predicament, possibly because of its reference to orgies!

 

"The traditional artist’s life, that curious blend of hard work, orgy, and simplicity, its exclusions and wide lines, had all cast their spell over him in their time but wore thin as he found his strength and reached his highest level. Especially the orgies had lost their youthful glamour. To dance until dawn with models and their like in scanty costume, to ruffle it with men all more or less drunk and noisy, to rouse the night and sleep the day no longer seemed to him an essential part of that fuller life that makes the artist such a superior creature to the tame domestic Philistine. As the years went on, he gave himself so wholly to his work that without definite intention his life became methodical in certain ways. He slept at night because he wanted the best of himself by day, he had few associates because he often changed his quarters, and he would not go into ordinary society because its claims and attentions exasperated him. He needed freedom and loneliness for his work, he wanted companionship in his leisure hours, and while he had lived the life of the Wandering Jew, he had longed for hearth and home, for wife and child, for the sanity and peace in which his mature work could develop safely.

 

In all the Arts there are men and women who never come to this serenity and to the end of their days find the fulfilling of their temperament in the abandonment of Law. They get inspirations from disorder and find order to be sterilising. By nature they are vagabond. Some are only irregular in their lives, some appal every clean, honest soul by what they do and yet leave work to the world in which the honest and the clean rejoice humbly. There is no denying this and the problem of it strikes at the roots of thought. Unhappily the evil they do spreads like a pest among the weaker-kneed and gives rise to a gospel of debauch without a harvest of genius. Because a man who can paint drinks, his followers drink, though they can’t paint and when a poet celebrates vice in exquisite verse, the young men of his school go suddenly to the devil but give their generation nothing but a base example. This will go on as long as genius is infirm and poverty of mind is ape-like....The giants of the human race are as various in their nature as in their works and it is as stupid and untrue to say that a temperate man cannot be great as it is to say that an intemperate man cannot thrill the most innocent amongst you with the fruits of his intemperance." (p.207-8)

 

As always, there are some wonderful asides in the dialogue and the story ends happily for the Cloudesleys, with Simon and Anne getting back together and Rosalind marrying Dan Merivale. Furthermore, the Tufts get their come-uppance, as having been appalled at the prospect of their son, Tony, marrying Rosalind, the story ends with him being infatuated with none other than Veronica Teal! Of all Cecily’s novels, one would have thought that this should be the one reprinted, but I have yet to find a copy for sale.