Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Dear M____.

You have asked how is it that I call myself Young Geoffrion, and yet claim to be so old. The answer is a long tale, and this journal is not, perhaps, the place to tell it. Will you accept a more modest offering of incomplete notes, occasional jottings and broken scribbles? I would that my pen flew like my sword, so these words might thrust and fly. Instead I push it like a ploughsman, turning over the ground and finding only stone and clay watered by a torpid trickle from the channels of my memory. It will be a slow and disjointed business to resurrect for you all the men and women I once loved who long ago became ash and dust.

I was born two hundred and eighty-five years ago and am most certainly as alive today as you who read my words. In the year of my birth, Louis XV entered his majority and was crowned king. James Gibbs built Saint Martin in the Fields at Charing Cross, Bach wrote Das Wohltempierte Klavier, and Daniel Dafoe published Moll Flanders. In London, the drinking of chocolat fell from fashion; the drinking of gin replaced it.

I do not know the day of my birth, and never afterward marked it, for my emergence in that world hastened the departure of my mother to the next, and my father, whose grief led him to drink and dice, followed her soon after. I was raised by my maternal uncle, a confirmed bachelor who celebrated every day without prejudice. Privately I chose the eighteenth of March, sharing my birthday with that of the World, according to the Venerable Bede. I inherited from my poor parents nothing but a good name, an empty purse, a worthless estate, and an appetite for learning.

To say that I was born two centuries and fourscore years ago is not to say that I have been alive for all that time, as my life on this earth cannot be measured in continuous years, and yet neither have I died. Rather I have lived intermittently, hoc intermisi, and while I breathe I retain my suspended youth and vigor which is now that of a woman entering her middle age.

Where I go when I do not walk among the living is a mystery: it is neither heaven nor hell, for I do not believe in the former and I have escaped from the latter. It is a desolation, a cold emptiness populated by shades and half-remembered images, whipped by a gritty wind and oppressed by the smell of charred things, like the barren memory of a forest that has burned to the ground and left nor leaf, nor branch, nor trunk. It is my prison, where I serve out a sentence imposed on me for my sins, and the less said of it the better. My story will arrive at those unhappy deeds in time, and you shall weep with me as I tell it, if blood and not ice runneth in your veins.

I prefer first to recount happier times, my childhood spent with books and drawings, with dolls and marionettes, masques and costumes and ribbons in my tresses; of the stage and backstage and dressing room; of the coffee houses with mine uncle and his sweating band of actors who ate and loved and swore sempre con giovialità; of how we met Farinelli and Senesino, and joined the Beggar's Opera, and became foot soldiers in the great Opera War before Handel was bankrupted. Of penniless Samuel Johnson and his friend David Garrick, of sweet Casanova in Venice, of Antonio and Giuseppi Bibiena and their magnificent theatres, when the orchestra played as brilliantly as the stage lanterns burned and we were applauded by kings and emperors.

I was no great beauty but had a fierce mind and happy imagination and was adored by a company of adults who were better companions than any child might want. As I approached womanhood, I was courted by dreaming youths with empty pockets, a great thinker with a restless mind, a few noble men with empty lives, and last of all by the Devil himself, whom I married and later escaped, fleeing in terror across the earth to China, where I lost my fear and was consoled with philosophy. In the East I was taught the great alchemy of the circulating five elements, and incurred a debt of honour to a strange creature at the court of the Ch'ien-Lung Emperor. I was shipwrecked on my return to Christendom and was rescued by the Devil, who forgave me my infidelities but punished me to my deathless, interrupted existence. Since then I have returned to the world when I can, to feel the sunlight upon my face and bask in the innocent folly of a youthful world. Artists of every ilk continue to fascinate me, for they approach God in their prodigal creativity and unfulfillable desire. Thus I have lately found an entrance to Second Life and made a home among the disembodied and anonymous actors who there inhabit, and love them for the things they make and discover.

I trust this letter will satisfy your curiosity and forestall your questions for the moment. Now that I have at last taken up my pen and sketched you the briefest of outlines I will not stint in my tale if you agree to be a patient correspondent, willing to forgive my frequent absences imposed by circumstances beyond my control.




Nancy said...

I wish I could comment in prose as graceful as yours. I cannot; but I wanted to say that I find your writing, which I discovered recently, beautiful and haunting. I hope I may visit your theatre someday, in Second Life.

Enjah said...

Hello Dear Young,

I also have asked for your history and have been alternately thrilled, dismayed, horrified and amazed by your abbreviated tale of a long journey through life.

The ability to reconstitute your physical raiment is quite astonishing and brings me hope of completing the Opus Magnum myself.

I shall follow your entries with avid interest.

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

I *really* don't like the sound of the in-between place... if that is what waits for us all, I think I'll pass...