The Manticore – The Deptford Trilogy #2 by Robertson Davies

Dr. von Haller and I worked for some time on this dream, trying to recover associations that would throw light on it. Although it seems plain enough to me now, it took several days for me to recognize that the tower was my life, and the treasure was what made it precious and worth defending against the Enemy. But who was this Enemy? Here we had quite a struggle because I insisted that the Enemy was external, whereas Dr. von Haller kept leading me back to some point at which I had to admit that the Enemy might be some portion of myself — some inadmissible entity in David which did not accept every circumstance of his life at face value, and which, if it beheld the treasure or the idol, might not agree about its superlative value. But at last, when I had swallowed that and admitted with some reluctance that it might be true, I was anxious to consider what the treasure might be, and it was here that the doctor showed reluctance. Better to wait, she said, and perhaps the answer would emerge of itself.

DR. VON HALLER: We do not want to use your grandfather’s severe methods for getting at harmful things, do we? We must not press you down upon the hateful, invading spike. Let it alone, allow Nature to have her curative way, and all will be well.

MYSELF: I’m not afraid, you know. I’m willing to go straight ahead and get it over.

DR. VON HALLER: You have had quite enough of being a little soldier for the moment. Please accept my assurance that patience will bring better results here than force.

MYSELF: I don’t want to go on stressing this, but I am not a stupid person. Haven’t I been quick to accept — as an hypothesis anyhow — your ideas about dream interpretation?

DR. VON HALLER: Indeed, yes. But accepting an hypothesis is not facing psychological truth. We are not building up an intellectual system; we are attempting to recapture some forgotten things and arousing almost forgotten feelings in the hope that we may throw new light on them, but even more new light on the present. Remember what I have said so many times; this is not simply rummaging in the trash-heap of the past for its own sake. It is your present situation and your future that concern us. All of what we are talking about is gone and unchangeable; if it had no importance we could dismiss it. But it has importance, if we are to heal the present and ensure the future.

MYSELF: But you are holding me back. I am ready to accept all of what you say; I am ready and anxious to go ahead. I learn quickly. I am not stupid.

DR. VON HALLER: Excuse me, please. You are stupid. You can think and you can learn. You do these things like an educated modern man. But you cannot feel, except like a primitive. Your plight is quite a common one, especially in our day when thinking and learning have been given such absurd prominence, and we have thought and learned our way into world-wide messes. We must educate your feeling and persuade you to experience it like a man and not like a maimed, dull child. So you are not to gobble up your analysis greedily, and then say, “Aha, I understand that!” because understanding is not the point. Feeling is the point. Understanding and experiencing are not interchangeable. Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.

I was not prepared to accept this, and we set off on a long discussion which it would be useless to record in detail, but it hung on the Platonic notion that man apprehends the world about him in four main ways. Here I thought I was at a considerable advantage, because I had studied The Republic pretty thoroughly in my Oxford days and had the Oxford man’s idea that Plato had been an Oxford man before his time. Yes, I recalled Plato’s theory of our fourfold means of apprehension, and could name them: Reason, Understanding, Opinion, and Conjecture. But Dr. von Haller, who had not been to Oxford, wanted to call them Thinking, Feeling, Sensation, and Intuition, and seemed to have some conviction that it was not possible for a rational man to make his choice or establish his priorities among these four, plumping naturally for Reason. We were born with a predisposition toward one of the four, and had to work from what we were given.

She did say — and I was pleased about this — that Thinking (which I preferred to call Reason) was the leading function in my character. She also thought I was not badly endowed with Sensation, which made me an accurate observer and not to be confused about matters of physical detail. She thought I might be visited from time to time by Intuition, and I knew better than she how true that was, for I have always had a certain ability to see through a brick wall at need and have treasured Jowett’s rendering of Plato’s word for that; he called it “perception of shadows”. But Dr. von Haller gave me low marks for Feeling, because whenever I was confronted with a situation that demanded a careful weighing of values, rather than an accurate formulation of relevant ideas, I flew off the handle, as Netty would put it. “After all, it was because your feelings became unbearable that you decided to come to Zurich,” said she.

MYSELF: But I told you; that was a rational decision, arrived at somewhat fancifully but nevertheless on the basis of a strict examination of the evidence, in Mr. Justice Staunton’s court. I did everything in my power to keep Feeling out of the matter.

DR. VON HALLER: Precisely. But have you never heard that if you drive Nature out of the door with a pitchfork, she will creep around and climb in at the window? Feeling does that with you.

MYSELF: But wasn’t the decision a right one? Am I not here? What more could Feeling have achieved than was brought about by Reason?

DR. VON HALLER: I cannot say, because we are talking about you, and not about some hypothetical person. So we must stick to what you are and what you have done. Feeling types have their own problems; they often think very badly, and it gets them into special messes of their own. But you should recognize this, Mr. Justice Staunton: your decision to come here was a cry for help, however carefully you may have disguised it as a decision based on reason or a sentence imposed on yourself by your intellect.

MYSELF: So I am to dethrone my Intellect and set Emotion in its place. Is that it?

DR. VON HALLER: There it is, you see! When your unsophisticated Feeling is aroused you talk like that. I wonder what woman inside you talks that way? Your mother, perhaps? Netty? We shall find out. No, you are not asked to set your Intellect aside, but to find out where it can serve you and where it betrays you. And to offer a little nourishment and polish to that poor Caliban who governs your Feeling at present.

(Of course it took much longer and demanded far more talk than what I have put down in these notes, and there were moments when I was angry enough to abandon the whole thing, pay off Dr. von Haller, and go out on a monumental toot. I have never been fond of swallowing myself, and one of my faults in the courtroom is that I cannot hide my chagrin and sense of humiliation when a judge decides against me. However, my hatred of losing has played a big part in making me win. So at last we went on.)

If Deptford was my Arcadia, Toronto was a place of no such comfort. We lived in an old, fashionable part of the city, in a big house in which the servants outnumbered the family. There were four Stauntons, but the houseman (who was now and then sufficiently good at his job to be called a butler), the cook, the parlourmaid, the laundry maid, the chauffeur, and of course Netty were the majority and dominated. Not that anybody wanted it that way, but my poor mother had no gift of dealing with them that could prevent it.

People who have no servants often have a quaint notion that it would be delightful to have people always around to do one’s bidding. Perhaps so, though I have never known a house where that happened, and certainly our household was not a characteristic one. Servants came and went, sometimes bewilderingly. Housemen drank or seduced the women-servants; cooks stole or had terrible tempers; laundry maids ruined expensive clothes or put crooked creases in the front of my father’s trousers; housemaids would do no upstairs work and hadn’t enough to do downstairs; the chauffeur was absent when he was wanted or borrowed the cars for joy-riding. The only fixed and abiding star in our household firmament was Netty, and she tattled on all the others and grew in course of time to want the absolute control of a housekeeper, and so was always in a complicated war with the butler. Some servants were foreign and talked among themselves in languages that Netty assumed must conceal dishonest intentions; some were English and Netty knew they were patronizing her. Children always live closer to the servants than their elders, and Caroline and I never knew where we stood with anybody, and sometimes found ourselves hostages in dark, below-stairs intrigues.

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