19th Aug/1919                                                               D/B/Bearman. Friends War Victims Relief Comittee.

                                                                                                                                          A.P.P. S.5. B.E.F. France.

Dear Hilda,

     I start a letter to night, but I do not know when I shall finish it, but I shall try & “make good” to night.

      I have made a practice since being here of giving priority to activities, leaving thought & philosophy & consequently my usual type of letter, to squeeze in as best they could, or as they must.

For there is a certain “must”, or necessity, in the case; considering that I have grown up in the main philosophical and intellectual, & unskilled in life’s activities. And the “must” has a real imperativeness hehind it, in as much as my nature craves to do things well, I have only learnt to “think” well, in any real sense.

Oh it is sometimes sad, very sad, to feel the “deeps sounding unto deep” for you in the solitudes of thought & aspiration- to feel there a certain “power” to your hands – and yet to realize with almost stunning force that the real passionate need of your nature is society, sympathy, comradeship – just where power evades you,& you feel yourself impotent in comparison, -failing in art & touch, because society is built upon & demainds the activities of life.

    Yesterday lunch time they unexpectedly brought an American girl in to lunch – the same who formed one of our dance party the other night -& she insisted on my playing the piano- we have a splendid Grand Piano- and I made that piano talk as I have never played before, so as to silence their fooling & make them praise my touch. But what is the use when I want to play with them rather than above them.

     Don’t  think that I am unduly depressed, for I do play with them, as much as I can, & that is why I write few letters. But it is very difficult for me; - difficult above all to learn the “touch” of true expression & therefore real power. I don’t mean power for power’s sake, in any sense whatever; but simply the pwer to open the doors – or shall I say windows- of comradeship & fellowship. Is not that the secret of all true power?

    Of course thought & study have their rarer keys of power in this sense. But it is not the power I crave just now, after my three years of enforced quiet. I want to mingle & merge with others in a new forgetfulness of self. I want my thoughts & ideals & aspirations to become “incarnate” – to become flesh, -& to have visibility, tangibility, caressibility.

    I wonder whether the lovely Henley ever felt this need for simpler, sweeter, & as it were more bodily, fellowship. You remember his great little poem? – which I love, but rather marvel at, here, among this French people.

“ Out of the night that covers me

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever Gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

”In the full clutch of circumstance

 I have not winced nor cried aloud;

 Under the bludgeonnings of chance 

My head is bloody but unbowed. 

“Beyond this place of wrath & tears 

looms but the horror of the shade:

and yet the menace of the years, 

finds, & shall find me, unafraid.

”It matters not how straight the gate, 

How charged with punishments the scroll:

I am the master of my fate; 

I am the captain of my soul!”

    His epithets seem a little far-fetched amongst this French people,-so gay, so delightfully sensuous, so intoxicated with society & everything social, so fond of day (in a sense) rather than “night”, & of laughter rather than “wrath & tears”. (If the French love night, it is a night almost brighter than the day).

     But I am inclined to believe that the sociability& fellowship of this people is, to the higher comradeship I have had in mind, something like what the excitement of wine is to that of health. “Gay”! & “ delightfully sensuous”, they do appear to ones ideal thought when fresh from England: but perhaps, along with other continental peoples, they verge on the “light” & “carnal”. The “ delightful sensuousness” & the number of pretty women & girls, beautifully dressed, who are, -well – simply dreams, is amazing to an Englishman: though a damning majority I more than fear are mercenary – loses its beauty where it fails in spirituality. And this failure is measured by a vein cynical disrespect for women in French men.

     But just one very typical little glimpse of this inborn, fearless, spontaneous sociability. Only in the metro coming to the office after lunch, a Mr Fellow & I were standing near to a little girl&boy – about 10&12 – charmingly dressed & mannered, & obviously of the most respectable class. They began to be very interested in my height,- & quite openly without false modesty, because without any rude intent. They came up our end of the car to be ready to get out when they could have got out just as early where they were out & fearlessly regarded, & smiled at us. We happened to get out at the same station, so the little mademoiselle pink – for she was all in pink – came & walked along in her stately little way close beside me looking up at my height with her radiant little face. And when I asked her in my poor French whether she would like to grow as tall as I, she asked “Ou’est ce que’il y a?” fearlessly & cheerfully, quite prepared to talk if my French would have permitted. But it is the charm of the manner & the typical French savour to the whole affair which makes me recall it. Is it an instinct of coquetry or a diviner instinct of playfulness in the French women which some evil genius has so damnably prostituted?

     I am convinced that to be truly sociable, to the intoxicating delightfully sensuous, &self-forgetting, degree that these French would appear to be, demands a purer & stronger manhood & womanhood than ever. I mean it is an ideal to be arrived at: 7 not a liberty to be entered into carelessly, prayerlessly! Perhaps the Anglo-Saxon intensity of Hebly is the best milieu for many of us just yet.

There is no compensation for having become divorced from one’s first love, ones first power to love; not compensation for having allowed the source of all truth, power within ourselves to become obscured with drugs – as I sometimes feel the exciting activities of town life in Paris may obscure my feeble power to enter the deeper fellowships. Only yesterday, the impulse which directed me to write this letter, I had a great yearning for the greatness & tranquil strength of Nature in the Country, feeling myself so inevitably misunderstood here, & my self-respect so running at a discount. But one must learn. Well it is just on 12 again. Love to Teddy & Eddie (?) & Pere & all.