Friday, May 2, 2014

from "Development," by Bryher

On her birthday she was given a volume of tales from Shakespeare, not Lamb's, but a more elementary picture-book that disputed the right even of the Swiss Family Robinson for chief place in her affections. The elemental tales of the plays, growing even as she grew, passed so utterly within her nature that it was hard to realise, after a few months, there was a time when Viola and Imogen had been unknown. The mere fact of the frequent assuming by the Elizabethan maiden of "the lovely garnish of a boy" captured an imagination eager enough to copy; she was ever impatient of the end where they changed to a girl's attire. Odd bits of the stories would attract her -- Pericles finding his armour, smelling of brine and sand; the journey of Imogen to Milford Haven; Caliban snaring sea-mells among the wilder parts of the island. Perhaps a sense of the eternal beauty of the mere names moved her even in infancy; disdaining the other literature of childhood she lived in Illyria, fanciful, yet so vivid, an unimagined reality.

Development. A Novel by W. Bryher with a Preface by Amy Lowell, an electronic edition