Meeting Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare, Dick’s father, was renowned as one of the great English poets of this time. He is famous for the poem ‘The Listeners’ and the novel memoirs of a Midget among many other writings.

Walter de la Mare has been here for the night. I got on very well with him. I know this by all the ordinary tests and also with certainty because when he left he said good-bye to me twice; the first time he said “I hope we shall meet again soon. I should like to see your farm”. And the second time he said “I must say good-bye again. It was lovely to have a talk”. He also asked Dick to send him a copy of my book.

I must break off here to tell you another odd and, to me, pleasing co-incidence. yesterday I went to London and I went to Dick’s office to travel down with him in the evening. I was shown into the waiting room where his father was also waiting. So we went into Dick’s room together. Dick came forward with a book in each hand and said “I’ve got a book for both of you”. they were the first advance copy of my book and the first advance copy of a new one of his. I liked that.

He suddenly said to me after dinner when we were discussing the two books “Are you able to talk about your book alright?” I said, without taking thought, “I had a period when I squirmed if anyone mentioned it. Now I’ve got that in control. Is that what you mean?” Believe it or not, it was what he meant. So what I had always regarded as an unpleasant and neurotic idiocy suddenly became in some way a qualification of some sort of integrity and anyway a guarantee of some sort of sensibility and a password to his friendship. He said he always had it with every book and never got over it. Later he asked the company generally whether they ever felt depressed in the mornings. He asked it shyly and rather shamefacedly. I replied “Always”. I could see that he was relieved at sharing in some way something he was vaguely ashamed of.  However this was not quite so romantic as we eventually boiled it down to cigarette smoking. He was doing an anthology on love and he is interested in time and dreams. I think I could have told him things that might have interested him. you know how he cross-examines you. But I couldn’t with Dick and Katta there. I think he knew that too. He is a very charming person, isn’t he?

Walter de la mare
Walter de la mare, poet and writer

There is a Norwegian girl, wife of an English doctor, very pretty, very nice, and fairly intelligent. At dinner Walter de la Mare and I were discussing the fact that we still found it difficult to hate the Germans. We had all sorts of other emotions about them  — boredom, irritation, contempt etc but for some reason not hate. She suddenly started almost to abuse us in that passionate way foreigners have — saying if our homes were broken up and our friends killed etc we should soon hate them. I said “I haven’t seen my husband for nearly a year, you know”. The effect was tremendous and I felt rather ashamed. She is fairly newly married and adores her husband and she went down like a pricked balloon. I felt almost indecent, but I don’t think it was indecent, do you? People who talk like that are really accusing other people of a complete lack of imagination and I don’t think one ought to accuse Walter de la Mare of that.

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A Woman's War