“November 26, 1941
I do not know how to thank you and Sheila enough for your wonderful kindness in offering me sanctuary in your flat…
I hope to solve the problem [of getting my writing done] by wresting one free day now, as, if I get into the Censorship, no one will know when that day is. It seems to me that somhow or other we ought to be strong-minded enough to work in one’s home unassailed, but it is a great problem. Actually, even if one can esacpe in body, one’s mind remains guilt-obsessed, accussing and restless, haunted by tottering old laides, subversice and oversensitive youths, frustrated geniuses, spineless adolescents, dying priests, doubting Anglican clergymen, repressed Catholic nuns, nearasthenic nurses, and the uncountable multitudes of weeping free-lance virgins. No four walls, alas, can remove their loneliness and restlessness and the monotony of their lives from the stricken conscience. Yet in truth, I think it is likelly that one does them more harm than good by sympathy, and that the right thing to do is to steel the heart.
I truly believe that the best way to benefit humanity is to make faces in the bus–slightly mad faces, or puttings out of the tongue suddenly at the person opposite. Think of the thrill that gives to countless uneventful lives to whom nothing ever happens. They can tell everyone for weeks that they saw a mad woman on the bus, and they can exaggerate this to almost any extent. This form of charity can be practiced on the way to work.”
—Caryll Houselander, in a letter to Archie Campbell Murdoch, a friend and potential convert.
From The Letters of Caryll Houselander: Her Spiritual Legacy, ed. by Maisie Ward (somewhat hard to find: I received my copy as a gift).
Caryll (1901-1954) is a dear, dear, Companion–a wonderful spiritual writer whom I urge you to read widely.
Yesterday I received another gift: a framed portrait of Caryll. I immediately hung it on a nail that mysteriously happened already to be stuck into the wall, as if awaiting this very appurtenance, above my desk.
A fellow informally consecrated laywoman, convert and childless writer who was known to take a glass of whiskey, swear, smoke, and make a snide comment or two, Caryll was deeply devoted to Christ, suffered greatly, and was beloved by traumatized children and the mentally unbalanced. My fondest wish is that someone open her cause for canonization.
I can hardly think of a better person, outside of Flannery O’Connor, to gaze down upon me as I work. I am going to pray that she effect a miracle in me–which at this point would be a decent night’s sleep.
Blessed Solemnity of St. John the Baptist! Christ must increase, and we must decrease.
Apologies for typos in original post and thanks to Nona for calling them to my attention. There may still be a few. Forgive me.