Friday, June 6, 2014

TC: Henry Green: Mirroring


Young Woman in front of a Mirror (detail): Giovanni Bellini (1426-1516), 1515 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

All of a sudden she was so angry she began to tremble from her toes up.

And Amabel was just drying hers on a towel. The walls were made of looking-glass, and were clouded-over with steam; from them her body was reflected in a faint pink mass. She leaned over and traced her name Amabel in that steam and that pink mass loomed up to meet her in the flesh and looked through bright at her through the letters of her name. She bent down to look at her eyes in the A her name began with, and as she gazed at them steam or her breath dulled her reflection and the blue her eyes were went out or faded.

She rubbed with the palm of her hand, and now she could see all her face. She always thought it more beautiful than anything she had ever seen, and when she looked at herself it was as though the two of them would never meet again, it was to bid farewell; and at the last she always smiled, and she did so this time as it was clouding over, tenderly smiled as you might say good-bye, my darling darling.


Her bath-towel was huge and she slowly rubbed every inch of herself with it as though she were polishing. She was gradually changing colour, where she was dry she was going back to white; for instance, her face was dead white but her neck was red. She was polishing her shoulders now and her neck was paling from red into pink and then suddenly it would go white. And all this time she was drying herself she moved her toes as if she was moulding something.

When Alex came to an end she had not properly heard what he had been saying so she said something almost under her breath, or so low that he in his turn should not catch what she had said, but so that it would be enough to tell him she was listening.

As she went over herself with her towel it was plain that she loved her own shape and skin. When she dried her breasts she wiped them with as much care as she would puppies after she had given them their bath, smiling all the time. But her stomach she wiped unsmiling upwards to make it thin. When she came to dry her legs she hissed like grooms do. And as she got herself dry that steam began to go off the mirror walls so that as she got white again more and more of herself began to be reflected.

She stood out as though so much health, such abundance and happiness should never have clothes to hide it. Indeed she looked as though she were alone in the world and she was so good, and so good that she looked mild, which she was not.


Henry Green (1905-1973): from Party Going, 1939

Young Woman in front of a Mirror: Giovanni Bellini (1426-1516), 1515 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)


Lord Charlie said...

Beautiful Bellini, fascinating juxtaposition with Henry Green. -- DL

TC said...

Many thanks, David.

We're not likely to be having any more Bellinis, any time soon, one fears.

The Green walks a brilliant fine line between this and that, as he so often seems to do. A sly romantic. At the same time admiring her beauty, and admiring her admiration of her own beauty, and undermining her vanity.

"When she came to dry her legs she hissed like grooms do."

We're not likely to be having any more Henry Greens, any time soon.