Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 Books A Day: #2

The ten books today are not as heterogeneous as yesterday's. They are:

T. H. White: A Biography...Sylvia Townsend Warner...Viking

T. H. White: Letters To A Friend...ed. Francois Gallix...Putnam

England Have My Bones...T. H. White...Putnam

The Maharajah And Other Stories...T. H. White...Putnam

The Sword In The Stone...T. H. White...G.P. Putnam's Sons

The Master...T. H. White...Putnam

The Sword In The Stone...T. H. White...Collins

The Goshawk...T. H. White...New York Review Books

The Age Of Scandal...T. H. White...Putnam

The Book Of Beasts...T. H. White...W. S. Cowell, Ltd.

The Book Of Merlyn...T. H. White...University Of Texas Press

It has been observed that no-one can be quite as English as someone who has not actually been born there. Rudyard Kipling, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien all fall into this category; T. H. White is in this company, having been born in India, raised in England, and lived most of his later life in Ireland and the Isle of Jersey, where he could avoid the income tax. In between he managed to write some books filled with the stoutest kind of "Englishry" that I have ever read, the kind that doesn't turn a blind eye to the defects of the country but loves it in despite of it's foibles.

Reading about his life both in Warner's biography and in his autobiographical works (The Goshawk and England Have My Bones) is a fascinating experience. As he takes various jobs and gets by as best he can while trying to make a living as a writer, he makes do when money is low and spends extravagantly when he is flush. His life is filled with enthusiasms: hunting, fishing, falconry, painting, and flying airplanes are all hobbies he must indulge in, and he applies himself to them with a passion, like Mr. Toad. And, like Toad, when he has had his fill, he as full-throttledly goes after the next mania. A homosexual in a time that was most uncongenial to that leaning, his main emotional relationship was with his dogs, especially his Irish setter Brownie, who was his companion throughout his stay in Ireland, when he was writing most of The Once And Future King. The letters he wrote to his best friend and teacher L. J. Potts when Brownie died are heart wrenching.

White only achieved financial stability near the end of his life, with the success of The Once and Future King and the play based on it, Camelot. He raged when Walt Disney stole Julie Andrews away from the production to do Mary Poppins. He died on a ship outside Greece in 1964, homeward bound after a tour to America, a pilgrim to the last. His tombstone in Athens reads: "T. H. White/ 1906-1964/ Author/ Who/ From A Troubled Heart/ Delighted Others/ Loving And Praising /This Life."


Brer said...

Oh, and when I say 10 books a day, I mean at least 10; sometimes over, but no less.

AlanDP said...

Well, the only books of his I've read are his King Arthur books.

yen said...

Wow! You've got more Whites than the Republican National Convention!