An odd book, Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave, in many ways unique. Written in the obvious grip of melancholia, Connolly opines on human relationships, art and spirituality. Structured as a series of aphorisms, epigrams, gripes and opinions it is in turn hilarious, brutally truthful and bleak. I read it in two sittings and will undoubtedly dip into it sporadically. I could quote much but a single excerpt will suffice to demonstrate Connolly’s tartly humorous perspective:
A young man who wished to marry consulted his uncle, an old courtier of the days of Edward P. ‘No one will want to marry you as you are,’ said his uncle. ‘You must get polish, your own particular aroma. Take a house, get to know about furniture and painting, buy the new books, listen to music, know whom to entertain and how to serve food and wine. Then you’ll have something to offer, and all the right mothers will snap you up.’ The young man did as he was told and some fifteen years later called again on the ancient week-ender of Fort Belvedere, whose old eyes now were seldom far from tears or alcohol.
‘My house is perfect,’ squeaked the brittle youth, ‘the pictures are just right, the bindings of green morocco catch the light of the evening sun; my Louis Seize commodes belly out in the alcoves, there are Malvern water and biscuits by every bed, and in each lavatory the toilet-paper, loosely arranged in scented sheets, is weighted down by a coloured stone. Nobody who dines with me gets quite drunk or goes home quite sober, nobody who comes to luncheon remembers afterwards anything they have said. I am at last perfectly eligible. What shall I do?’
The old Beau laughed and lit his third cigar, ‘Just carry on,’ he chuckled; ‘I think we’ve got you out of the wood.’