Diagnosed with flatulent portentousness

Flatulent, and humour's worst enemy

Black swan: he suffered from (occasional, but not the less embarrassing for all that) flatulence, and was humour’s worst enemy

Unfortunately Charles Morgan succumbs to this unpleasing condition more than occasionally, according to his critics, from whom Dalrymple says he cannot

entirely demur.

Here is a representative Morgan passage (from ‘La Douceur de Vivre’ in the 1944 essay collection Reflections in a Mirror):

In the imprisonment of routine, in the midst of great labours, in spite of the temporary inconvenience of revolutions, men have always known how to let the instant rest like a petal on the stream of their lives; they have loved and painted and written verses and taken a hand at piquet; and at café tables or beside a river they have meditated on these things.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 07.29.03Such moments of reflective ease,

while the petal floats by, are not for Rembrandt or Milton or the giants, assuredly not for Hugo; for what is in question is la douceur de vivre, and that is by no means the private property of Titans; it is in Tissot and in Fragonard, in the small lanes of history as well as on the great carriage routes; it is a flower as humble as the willow-herb which is springing up from nowhere in all the bomb craters of London, and has never been reserved to the good and great.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 22.26.07Dalrymple points to another Morgan passage that he describes as Maugham minus

the irony or easy elegance.

It is the opening to Morgan’s 1941 novel The Empty Room:

On the last Saturday in November, the third month of the war, Richard Cannock performed, on a woman’s eye, a bold and subtle operation that gave him the satisfaction a writer may have in a flawless paragraph.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 22.37.03Morgan is, writes Dalrymple,

that rara avis, a writer who not only had no sense of humour, but was opposed to humour.

All the same, Dalrymple notes a pleasantly civilised scene in The Empty Room in which the surgeon character lunches at the Garrick, where

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 07.36.45the wine steward brought his pint of claret.

This bird, it seems, was more wine and partridge than cakes and ale.

Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 23.12.03

Ses femmes

 

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