Friday, 22 June 2018

Portrait of a Dutiful Wife

Rereading Shirley Hazzard’s exceptional novel, Transit of Venus, I am struck by this portrait of a vain professor’s wife:

“Charmian Thrale’s own reclusive self, by now quite free of yearnings, merely cherished a few pure secrets – she had once pulled a potato from a boiling pot because it showed a living sprout; and had turned back, on her way to an imperative appointment, to look up a line of Meredith. She did not choose to have many thoughts her husband could not divine, for fear she might come to despise him. Listening had been a large measure of her life; she listened closely – and, since people are accustomed to being half-heard, her attention troubled them, they felt the inadequacy of what they said. In this way she had a quieting effect on those about her, and stemmed gently the world’s flow of unconsidered speech. Although she offered few opinions, her views were known in a way that is not true of persons who, continually passing judgement, keep none in reserve.”

There is such attention, such precision, such intelligence and thoughtfulness in this little sketch. This observant, thoughtful kind of writing is very rare and precious

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