13 November 2006

Charles Morgan, forgotten novelist

I think Charles Morgan’s life must have gone wrong somehow, although he was a literary prize winning author. He was a classicist and (I guess, from the social class with which he is familiar) an aristocrat.

In spite of the elation of Sparkenbroke, he seems to have been more identified with the tone of defeated ordinariness characteristic of his other books.

Nevertheless, Sparkenbroke came as a breath of fresh air to me at 14, when I was sinking under the oppression of Woodford High School and both my present wellbeing and future prospects were severely threatened. Here was someone who was getting something out of life, in a hotel environment and free to use his ability. How wonderful. It reminded one that life could be worth living, but provided no solution to getting it back in bad circumstances.

The only other writer I got anything out of was Nietzsche. But he, too, reminded me of an emotional intensity that was desirable, with no suggestion as to how it was to be re-accessed.

I remember a poem out of Sparkenbroke, I suppose written by Morgan himself, which seems a bit more meaningful now than it did then.
Man is a king in exile;
All his greatness
Consists in knowledge
of that kingdom lost,
Which, in degree of quickness,
Is his fate and character on earth.