Saturday, May 12, 2012


I had a bad year in 2011 on some fronts (running and writing went surprisingly well), and some degree of depression was part of it. Let's just say I've been reading and thinking about it. As a kind of detour from my work on Canadian foreign policy, I encountered a book capturing the long love affair between the Canadian diplomat Charles Ritchie, and the Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen. In their sharing of intellectual and other interests, and in their appreciation for each other, they could hardly have been closer--they were intimate in every sense. Yet they never seem to have thought of marrying each other. When the affair began, she was married, and while they both sensed that she was more in love than he was, she made it clear that she considered divorce out of the question. Later he married a cousin--a woman he loved and respected, who helped him greatly in his career. Something very old school about the whole thing. And of course he could not be clear, as the years passed, that he loved Bowen any less than she loved him. The book consists of Ritchie's diary entries, and Bowen's letters to him. Here she is on one of the times when they are apart:
The incalculable thing is sadness--how it shoots one down. The moment one is sad one is ordinary. If you notice, nobody in Shakespeare (Shakespeare having no use for ordinary people) is ever just sad. They have moments of interesting melancholy, listening to music and referring to violets, but once there is any question of being just sad, they step right off the edge of that into one or another kind of lunacy.
pp. 120-1. See also here.

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