Badley - Memories and Reflections

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Memories And Reflections

Allen & Unwin, London, 1955

John Haden Badley's memoirs - a gentle, generous and lucid autobiograph   from an elegiac memory of a Mid-Victorian childhood  .


"One who had grown up in mid-Victorian surroundings could not but retain something of the traditional character and outlook of that age, while sharing also in the revolt against them."

"In our memories 'Foxcote' [house where jhb spent summers] always remained a place where sunny days succeeded each other the whole summer through; days on which at lesson time the blind was drawn down to shut out the distracting outer world but could not keep out the drowsy outer hum of insects or the shadow of the roses clustering outside the window and of the bees that visited them. Wet days there must have been, for I recall the inexhaustible entertainment to be found in a tattered copy of Goldsmith's Animated Nature (many of the books in the old house, like the furniture, came from the eighteen century) and in old volumes of Punch, through which we became familiar with 'the Iron Duke' and Peel and 'Lord John' and other conspicuous early Victorian figures. But in general one seems to have waked to the sound of scythes being whetted in the meadow, or the hum of threshing machines in the rick-yard; to have gone mushrooming in dew drenched fields in the early sunlight, or blackberrying in single file along the hedgerows, myself as youngest put in front to gather the low ones and the tallest sister coming last to get those beyond our reach; or, when there were young beasts that would play their part more realistically than the sedater cows, to have hunted buffaloes in the prairies or Pampas or Savannahs (the names varied with the books that held our interest at the moment); or to have awaited attacks by Indians in the fort we built in a disused quarry, or on   lookout from the 'crow's nest' in the roomy branches of an ancient yew.   Though a sore trial to the tenant-farmer, we were on the best of terms with the farm hands, who let us ride in the lumbering wagons on their way to the harvest fields or on the broad-backed slow-plodding horses coming back from the days work. At other times there was the semi-darkness of the great hay-scented barn to play in, and the various farm-yard buildings that served as a ship or dungeon or hiding place as the game of the moment required.31


"But even so I am conscious of the loss I have suffered throughout life from the fact that during some of the most formative years  my mental development was so narrowly circumscribed, and that much of whatever potentialities I possessed had so little nourishment and guidance. It was eventually, realisation of this loss that made me desirous of broadening the scope of education and making available for others what was lacking in the experience of so many of my generation" p53


"It was in this second year at Cambridge that I met Oscar Wilde when he came up for a few days' visit at the invitation of one of our cicada group. ... Of it all only, one or two sayings clearly remain.  Shelley, whom I had named in answer to his question which was my favourite poet, he dismissed as 'merely a boys poet', and declared that 'Keats was the greatest of them all.' (this at the time I put down to a pose of being different from others; to mature judgement it no longer seems the paradox I then took it to be.)  Another followed a question why I did not smoke, and my reply that it was an inherited aversion, with some priggish sounding addition about missing thereby what was, no doubt, good in moderation. "Ah, Badley', he rejoined, nothing is good in moderation. You cannot know the good of anything till you have torn the heart out of it by excess'.

...I saw him once or twice again later when his son (afterwards killed in the first World War) was with us for a time at Bedales. When he came down to visit the boy at school he showed another and simpler side of his nature, freed from the makeup of pose and paradox put on for any appearance in public. p79


For some other books on Bedales see Library

 


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