The Manticore – The Deptford Trilogy #2 by Robertson Davies

“Childhood recollections?”

“Yes, and recollections of your life up to now. Important things. Formative experiences. People who have meant much to you, whether good or bad.”

“That sounds like the Freudians.”

“We have no quarrel with the Freudians, but we do not put the same stress on sexual matters as they do. Sex is very important, but if it were the single most important thing in life it would all be much simpler, and I doubt if mankind would have worked so hard to live far beyond the age when sex is the greatest joy. It is a popular delusion, you know, that people who live very close to nature are great ones for sex. Not a bit. You live with primitives — I did it for three years, when I was younger and very interested in anthropology — and you find out the truth. People wander around naked and nobody cares — not even an erection or a wiggle of the hips. That is because their society does not give them the brandy of Romance, which is the great drug of our world. When sex is on the program they sometimes have to work themselves up with dances and ceremonies to get into the mood for it, and then of course they are very active. But their important daily concern is with food. You know, you can go for a lifetime without sex and come to no special harm. Hundreds of people do so. But you go for a day without food and the matter becomes imperative. In our society food is just a start for our craving. We want all kinds of things — money, a big place in the world, objects of beauty, learning, sainthood, oh, a very long list. So here in Zurich we try to give proper attention to these other things, as well.

“We generally begin with what we call anamnesis. Are you a classicist? Do you know any Greek? We look at your history, and meet some people there whom you may know or perhaps you don’t, but who are portions of yourself. We take a look at what you remember, and at some things you thought you had forgotten. As that goes on we find we are going much deeper. And when that is satisfactorily explored, we decide whether to go deeper still, to that part of you which is beyond the unique, to the common heritage of mankind.”

“How long does it take?”

“It varies. Sometimes long, sometimes surprisingly short, especially if you decide not to go beyond the personal realm. And though of course I give advice about that, the decision, like all the decisions in this sort of work, must be your own.”

“So I should begin getting a few recollections together? I don’t want to be North American about this, but I haven’t unlimited time. I mean, three years or anything of that sort is out of the question. I’m the executor of my father’s will. I can do quite a lot from here by telephone or by post but I can’t be away forever. And there is the problem of Castor to be faced.”

“I have always understood that it takes about three years to settle an estate. In civilized countries, that is; there are countries here in Europe where it can go on for ten if there is enough money to pay the costs. Does it impress you as interesting that to settle a dead man’s affairs takes about the same length of time as settling a life’s complications in a man of forty? Still, I see your difficulty. And that makes me wonder if a scheme I have been considering for you might not be worth a trial.”

“What are you thinking of?”

“We do many things to start the stream of recollection flowing in a patient, and to bring forth and give clues to what is important for him. Some patients draw pictures, or paint, or model things in clay. There have even been patients who have danced and devised ceremonies that seemed relevant to their situation. It must be whatever is most congenial to the nature of the analysand.”

“Analysand? Am I an analysand?”

“Horrid word, isn’t it? I promise I shall never call you that. We shall stick to the Plain Style, shall we, in what we say to one another?”

“Ramsay always insisted that there was nothing that could not be expressed in the Plain Style if you knew what you were talking about. Everything else was Baroque style, which he said was not for most people, or Jargon, which was the Devil’s work.”

“Very good. Though you must be patient, because English is not my cradle-tongue, and my work creates a lot of Jargon. But about you, and what you may do; I think you might create something, but not pictures or models. You are a lawyer, and you seem to be a great man for words: what would you say to writing a brief of your case?”

“I’ve digested hundreds of briefs in my time.”

“Yes, and some of them were for cases pleaded before Mr. Justice Staunton.”

“This would be for the case pleaded in the court of Mr. Justice von Haller.”

“No, no; Mr. Justice Staunton still. You cannot get away from him, you know.”

“I haven’t often pleaded very successfully for the defendant Staunton in that court. The victories have usually gone to the prosecution. Are you sure we need to do it this way?”

“I think there is good reason to try. It is the heroic way, and you have found it without help from anyone else. That suggests that heroic measures appeal to you, and that you are not really afraid of them.”

“But that was just a game.”

“You played it with great seriousness. And it is not such an uncommon game. Do you know Ibsen’s poem —

To live is to battle with trolls

in the vaults of heart and brain.

To write: that is to sit

in judgement over one’s self.

I suggest that you make a beginning. Let it be a brief for the defence; you will inevitably prepare a brief for the prosecution as you do so, for that is the kind of court you are to appear in — the court of self-judgement. And Mr. Justice Staunton will hear all, and render judgement, perhaps more often than is usual.”

“I see. And what are you in all this?”

“Oh, I am several things; an interested spectator, for one, and for another, I shall be a figure that appears only in military courts, called Prisoner’s Friend. And I shall be an authority on precedents, and germane judgements, and I shall keep both the prosecutor and the defence counsel in check. I shall be custodian of that constant and perpetual wish to render to everyone his due. And if Mr. Justice Staunton should doze, as judges sometimes do — ”

“Not Mr. Justice Staunton. He slumbers not, nor sleeps.”

“We shall see if he is as implacable as you suppose. Even Mr. Justice Staunton might learn something. A judge is not supposed to be an enemy of the prisoner, and I think Mr. Justice Staunton sounds a little too eighteenth century in his outlook to be really good at his work. Perhaps we can lure him into modern times, and get him to see the law in a modern light. . . . And now — until Monday, isn’t it?”


David Against The Trolls

(This is my Zurich Notebook, containing notes and summaries used by me in presenting my case to Dr. von Haller; also memoranda of her opinions and interpretations as I made them after my hours with her. Without being a verbatim report, this is the essence of what passed between us.)


It is not easy to be the son of a very rich man.

This could stand as an epigraph for the whole case, for and against myself, as I shall offer it. Living in the midst of great wealth without being in any direct sense the possessor of it has coloured every aspect of my life and determined the form of all my experience.

Since I entered school at the age of seven I have been aware that one of the inescapable needs of civilized man — the need for money — showed itself in my life in a way that was different from the experience of all but a very few of my acquaintances. I knew the need for money. Simple people seem to think that if a family has money, every member dips what he wants out of some ever-replenished bag that hangs, perhaps, by the front door. Not so. I knew the need for money, as I shall demonstrate, with special acuteness because although as a boy I was known to be the son of a very rich man, I had in fact a smaller allowance than was usual in my school. I knew that my carefulness about buying snacks or a ticket to the movies was a source of amusement and some contempt among the other boys. They thought I was mean. But I knew that I was supposed to be learning to manage money wisely, and that this was a part of the great campaign to make a man of me. The other boys could usually get an extra dollar or two from their fathers, and were virtually certain to be able to raise as much again from their mothers; to them their allowance was a basic rather than an aggregate income. Their parents were good-natured and didn’t seem to care whether, at the age of nine or ten, they could manage money or not. But with my dollar a week, of which ten cents was earmarked for Sunday-morning church, and much of which might be gobbled up by a sudden need for a pair of leather skate-laces or something of that sort, I had to be prudent.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65

Categories: Davies, Robertson