Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fine Wine

From Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander:

Quaere: is this the cause for James Dillon’s agitated state of mind? Yes, I think so. Some strong pressure is certainly at work. What is more, it appears to me that this is a critical time for him, a lesser climacteric—a time that will settle him in that particular course he will never leave again, but will persevere in for the rest of his life. It has often seemed to me that towards this period (in which we all three lie, more or less) men strike out their permanent characters; or have those characters struck into them. Merriment, roaring high spirits before this: then some chance concatenation, or some hidden predilection (or rather inherent bias) working through, and the man is in the road he cannot leave but must go on, making it deeper and deeper (a groove, or channel), until he is lost in his mere character—persona—no longer human, but an accretion of qualities belonging to this character: James Dillon was a delightful being. Now he is closing in. It is odd—will I say heart-breaking?—how cheerfulness goes: gaiety of mind, natural free-springing joy. Authority is its great enemy—the assumption of authority. I know few men over fifty that seem to me entirely human: virtually none who has long exercised authority. The senior post-captains here; Admiral Warne. Shriveled men (shriveled in essence: not, alas, in belly). Pomp, an unwholesome diet, a cause of choler, a pleasure paid too late and at too high a price, like lying with a peppered paramour…But I am concerned for James Dillon: he is as mercurial as ever he was—more so—only now it is all ten octaves lower down and in a darker key; and sometimes I am afraid in a black humour he will do himself a mischief…there is little hope; for the discontent, the inner contest, must at times be very severe in a man so humourless (on occasion) and so very exigent on the point of honour. He is obliged to reconcile the irreconcilable more often than most men; and he is less qualified to do so.

(Thus, Stephen Maturin in his journal, his feet in the basin.)

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home