But such as life is, I believe I have got hold of the good end of it

by Kelvin Smith

Today, at a wonderful second-hand bookshop in Beccles, I bought a book created by Holbrook Jackson in 1945 called Bookman’s Holiday: a recreation for booklovers. It contained part of a letter Edward Fitzgerald wrote to John Allen from nearby Gelderstone Hall in 1839. This has had a strangely settling effect on me, so I share it here.

Here I live with tolerable content: perhaps with as much as most people arrive at, and what if one were properly grateful one would perhaps call perfect happiness. Here is a glorious sunshiny day; all the morning I read about Nero in Tacitus lying at full length on a bench in the garden: a nightingale singing and some red anemones eyeing the sun manfully not far off. A funny mixture all this: Nero, and the delicacy of the Spring: all very human however. Then at half-past one lunch on Cambridge cream cheese: then a ride over hill and dale: then spudding up some weeds from the grass: and then coming in, I sit down and write to you, my sister winding red worsted from the back of a chair, and the most delightful little girl chattering incessantly. So runs the world away. You think I live in Epicurean ease: but this happens to be a jolly day: one isn’t always well, or tolerably good, the weather is not always clear, nor nightingales singing, nor Tacitus full of pleasant atrocity. But such as life is, I believe I have got hold of the good end of it.