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  • Mrs Catherick prend le deuil

    "...Have you come here to tell me (my daughter) is dead?"

    "I have."



    "I came," I said, "because I thought Anne Catherick's mother might have some natural interest in knowing whether she was alive or dead."

    "Just so," said Mrs. Catherick, with additional self-possession. "Had you no other motive?"

    I hesitated.  The right answer to that question was not easy to find at a moment's notice.

    "If you have no other motive," she went on, deliberately taking off her slate-coloured mittens, and rolling them up, "I have only to thank you for your visit, and to say that I will not detain you here any longer. Your information would be more satisfactory if you were willing to explain how you became possessed of it. However, it justifies me, I suppose, in going into mourning. There is not much alteration necessary in my dress, as you see. When I have changed my mittens, I shall be all in black."

    She searched in the pocket of her gown, drew out a pair of black lace mittens, put them on with the stoniest and steadiest composure, and then quietly crossed her hands in her lap.

    (Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White)

  • Un connaisseur

    There he sat, high above his neighbours, smiling, and nodding his great head enjoyingly from time to time.  When the people near him applauded the close of an air (as an English audience in such circumstances always WILL applaud), without the least consideration for the orchestral movement which immediately followed it, he looked round at them with an expression of compassionate remonstrance, and held up one hand with a gesture of polite entreaty.  At the more refined passages of the singing, at the more delicate phases of the music, which passed unapplauded by others, his fat hands, adorned with perfectly-fitting black kid gloves, softly patted each other, in token of the cultivated appreciation of a musical man.  At such times, his oily murmur of approval, "Bravo! Bra-a-a-a!" hummed through the silence, like the purring of a great cat.

    (Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White)

  • "A couple of fine lives"

    I will not finish that sentence till I have made an observation upon the strange state of affairs between the reader and myself, just as things stand at present—an observation never applicable before to any one biographical writer since the creation of the world, but to myself—and I believe, will never hold good to any other, until its final destruction—and therefore, for the very novelty of it alone, it must be worth your worships attending to.

    I am this month one whole year older than I was this time twelve-month; and having got, as you perceive, almost into the middle of my fourth volume—and no farther than to my first day's life—'tis demonstrative that I have three hundred and sixty-four days more life to write just now, than when I first set out; so that instead of advancing, as a common writer, in my work with what I have been doing at it—on the contrary, I am just thrown so many volumes back—was every day of my life to be as busy a day as this—And why not?—and the transactions and opinions of it to take up as much description—And for what reason should they be cut short? as at this rate I should just live 364 times faster than I should write—It must follow, an' please your worships, that the more I write, the more I shall have to write—and consequently, the more your worships read, the more your worships will have to read.

    Will this be good for your worships eyes?

    It will do well for mine; and, was it not that my Opinions will be the death of me, I perceive I shall lead a fine life of it out of this self-same life of mine; or, in other words, shall lead a couple of fine lives together.

    (Sterne, The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, IV, 13)

  • La villa Batteli

    "Il y avait là une chienne qui se nommait Sugarfoot"

    J'ai revu, dans l'exposition intitulée les Macchiaioli au musée de l'Orangerie, la modeste toile de Silvestro Lega, "la Villa Batteli au bord de l'Affrico" ; et la composition et les couleurs un peu fades m'arrêtent à nouveau et je resonge au poème d'Yves Bonnefoy, "Sugarfoot". Aussitôt après quoi, tout fut autre que la minute d'avant. Non décoloré, mais plus transparent, jusqu'à en paraître irréel. Le début d'un récit se propageait en effet comme le feu dans l'épaisseur de l'instant qui n'était jusqu'alors que naïvement vécu ; et du soleil et des ombres, et des visages, des voix ne restait plus qu'une cendre, celle même du souvenir.

    C'était ici, c'était cette villa au crépi jaune. Derrière la maison, Elle cueillait des fleurs dans le talus. Sur le bord de la terrasse, dans des pots en terre cuite qui couvrent toute la longueur à touche-touche, il y avait d'autres fleurs, domestiques et familières. Le soir on les arrose et leur parfum alors pouvait renaître de la terre noire mouillée. Le haut des arbres déborde le mur du jardin. A cette heure, qui semble par anticipation rétrospective, ou bien recréée par le souvenir, le mur court infranchissable jusqu'à l'angle à gauche où le peintre s'est tenu. A droite, s'ouvre le pays avec ses collines et d'autres maisons de campagne, indifférentes celles-là.