The Manticore – The Deptford Trilogy #2 by Robertson Davies

I was not naive. That is how I think of courts still. I am one of the very few lawyers I know who keeps his gown beautifully clean, whose collar and bands and cuffs are almost foppishly starched, whose striped trousers are properly pressed, whose shoes gleam. I am proud that the newspapers often say I cut an elegant figure in court. The law deserves that. The law is elegant. Pargetter took good care that I should not be foolishly romantic about the law, but he knew that there was a measure of romance in my attitude toward it, and if he had thought it should be rooted out, he would have done so. One day he paid me a walloping great compliment.

“I think you’ll make an advocate,” said he. “You have the two necessities, ability and imagination. A good advocate is his client’s alter ego; his task is to say what his client would say for himself if he had the knowledge and the power. Ability goes hand in hand with the knowledge: the power is dependent on imagination. But when I say imagination I mean capacity to see all sides of a subject and weigh all possibilities; I don’t mean fantasy and poetry and moonshine; imagination is a good horse to carry you over the ground, not a flying carpet to set you free from probability.”

I think I grew a foot, spiritually, that day.

DR. VON HALLER: So you might. And how lucky you were. Not everybody encounters a Pargetter. He is a very important addition to your cast of characters.

MYSELF: I don’t think I follow you. What I am telling you is history, not invention.

DR. VON HALLER: Oh, quite. But even history has characters, and a personal history like yours must include a few people whom it would be stupid to call stock characters, even though they appear in almost all complete personal histories. Or let us put it differently. You remember the little poem by Ibsen that I quoted to you during one of our early meetings?

MYSELF: Only vaguely. Something about self-judgement.

DR. VON HALLER: No, no; self-judgement comes later. Now pay attention, please:

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.

MYSELF: But I have been writing constantly; everything I have told you has been based on careful notes; I have tried to be as clear as possible, to follow Ramsay’s Plain Style. I have raked up some stuff I have never told to another living soul. Isn’t this self-judgement?

DR. VON HALLER: Not at all. This has been the history, of your battle with the trolls.

MYSELF: Another of your elaborate metaphors?

DR. VON HALLER: If you like. I use metaphor to spare you jargon. Now consider: what figures have we met so far in our exploration of your life? Your Shadow; there was no difficulty about that, I believe, and we shall certainly meet him again. The Friend: Felix was the first to play that part, and you may yet come to recognize Knopwood as a very special friend, though I know you are still bitter against him. The Anima; you are very rich there, for of course there were your mother and Caroline and Netty, who all demonstrate various aspects of the feminine side of life, and finally Judy. This figure has been in eclipse for some years, at least in its positive aspect; I think we must count your stepmother as an Anima-figure, but not a friendly one; we may still find that she is not so black as you paint her. But there are happy signs that the eclipse is almost over. because of your dream — let us be romantic and call it The Maiden and the Manticore — in which you were sure you recognized me. Perfectly in order. I have played all of these roles at various stages of our talks. Necessarily so: an analysis like this is certainly not emotion recollected in tranquillity. You may call these figures many things. You might call them the Comedy Company of the Psyche, but that would be flippant and not do justice to the cruel blows you have had from some of them. In my profession we call them archetypes, which means that they represent and body forth patterns toward which human behaviour seems to be disposed; patterns which repeat themselves endlessly, but never in precisely the same way. And you have just been telling me about one of the most powerful of all, which we may call the Magus, or the Wizard, or the Guru, or anything that signifies a powerful formative influence toward the development of the total personality. Pargetter appears to have been a very fine Magus indeed: a blind genius who accepts you as an apprentice in his art! But he has just turned up, which is unusual though not seriously so. I had expected him earlier. Knopwood looked rather like a Magus for a time, but we shall have to see if any of his influence lasted. But the other man, the possible father, the man you call Old Buggerlugs — I had expected rather more from him. Have you been keeping anything back?

MYSELF: No. And yet . . . there was always something about him that held the imagination. He was an oddity, as I’ve said. But a man who never seemed to come to anything. He wrote some books, and Father said some of them sold well, but they were queer stuff, about the nature of faith and the necessity of faith — not Christian faith, but some kind of faith, and now and then in classes he would point at us and say, “Be sure you choose what you believe and know why you believe it, because if you don’t choose your beliefs, you may be certain that some belief, and probably not a very creditable one, will choose you.” Then he would go on about people whose belief was in Youth, or Money, or Power, or something like that, and who had found that these things were false gods. We liked to hear him rave, and some of his demonstrations from history were very amusing, but we didn’t take it seriously. I have always looked on him as a man who missed his way in life. Father liked him. They came from the same village.

DR. VON HALLER: But you never felt any urge to learn from him?

MYSELF: What could he have taught me, except history and the Plain Style?

DR. VON HALLER: Yes, I see. It seemed to me for a time that he had something of the quality of a Magus.

MYSELF: In your Comedy Company, or Cabinet of Archetypes, you don’t seem to have any figure that might correspond to my father.

DR. VON HALLER: Oh, do not be impatient. These are the common figures. You may depend on it that your father will not be forgotten. Indeed, it seems to me that he has been very much present ever since we began. We talk of him all the time. He may prove to be your Great Troll. . .

MYSELF: Why do you talk of trolls? It seems to me that you jungians sometimes go out of your way to make yourselves absurd.

DR. VON HALLER: Trolls are not Jungian; they are just part of my promise not to annoy you with jargon. What is a troll?

MYSELF: A kind of Scandinavian Spock, isn’t it?

DR. VON HALLER: Yes, Spock is a very good word for it — another.Scandinavian word. Sometimes a troublesome goblin, sometimes a huge, embracing lubberfiend, sometimes an ugly animal creature, sometimes a helper and server, even a lovely enchantress, a true Princess from Far Away: but never a full or complete human being. And the battle with trolls that Ibsen wrote about is a good metaphor to describe the wrestling and wrangling we go through when the archetypes we carry in ourselves seem to be embodied in people we have to deal with in daily life.

MYSELF: But people are people, not trolls or archetypes.

DR. VON HALLER: Yes, and our great task is to see people as people and not clouded by archetypes we carry about with us, looking for a peg to hang them on.

MYSELF: Is that the task we are working at here?

DR. VON HALLER: Part of it. We take a good look at your life, and we try to lift the archetypes off the pegs and see the people who have been obscured by them.

MYSELF: And what do I get out of that?

DR. VON HALLER: That depends on you. For one thing, you will probably learn to recognize a Spock when you see one, and keep trolls in good order. And you will recover all these projections which you have visited on other people like a magic lantern projecting a slide on a screen. When you stop doing that you are stronger, more independent. You have more mental energy. Think about it. And now go on about the genealogist

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Categories: Davies, Robertson