The First Waltz

One of Patrick’s stories, dated 24 Dec 2013. The file name was simply Hull.pdf.

So dear Robert, I promised (or is it threatened?) to say more about Herbert Read. This is not anything you will read anywhere else, as far as I know. It is possible that in the introduction or preface to Princeton edition of the collected works of Jung, mention is made. I doubt it, the reason being that the person whose life was so enhanced by the intervention of Read was (yes, was – he is no longer of this world) the most unassuming and humble person I have ever known, at least among productive and illustrious types. Richard was and still is, at least on stone, accompanied by his wife Bi, another selfless individual, and they miraculously (you will understand why) had two wonderful children, Ruth and (his name will return to me later, I’m sure).

This is also the only thing I know about Read, having read some of his criticism so long ago, at FSU, that is all I remember – he was highly admired by a couple of my professors of art and literature.

Here is how it goes. I hope I have it right.

Richard Hull (what an ironic twist of fate gave him that last name, so crippled was he) went to Switzerland from England for the express purpose of a meeting with C. G. Jung. He had been recommended by philosopher Herbert Read to make the translation from German into English Jung’s works, ultimately to be published in the Bollingen Series by the Princeton University Press. This was a daunting task no matter how you look at it, reaching as it did twenty large volumes. Before he could sit down with Jung to discuss the project and hopefully to convince the master that he was fit for the job, Richard, only just out of university, was stricken by polio. He was almost totally paralyzed, and lived the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

While in hospital there in Switzerland, Herbert Read came to visit. Read, I assume, must have been one of Richard’s tutors. He was a highly respected poet and critic, and the eventual editor of much of Jung’s work. Seeing that Richard’s mind was in no way incapacitated, and that he still wished more than anything else to devote himself to the translation of Jung’s work, Read plead his case, convincing Jung to make Richard the authorized translator of his work.

His nurse, or one of them, was Beatrice. I don’t know why, but I have always thought she was Danish though why she should have been working in Switzerland I have no idea. However that may be, Richard fell in love with her. It is easy to see why. When I met her many years later, she was a very quiet and sweet woman, a compassionate person with a certain celestial beauty. Emboldened perhaps by his acceptance to what was obviously going to be a long career, Richard proposed to her and she accepted. He obviously needed someone to care for him, and she was good at that. We must assume she loved him too, for she held to her vows through thick and thin, and bore him the two children.

They lived just outside Palma in a hamlet called Secar del Real. I suppose you could call it a town; there was a church, a few narrow streets, and perhaps fifty houses. Now all has been swallowed by the ever-expanding city of Palma de Mallorca. It is many years since I visited the house, and I wonder if it is still intact. There was an overgrown garden with the main house along one side, and at the base of what would be an ell, a large room, Richard’s office. In that room for many years he worked, tapping with one finger at an electric IBM typewriter, right elbow held up by the other hand. He could arrive at his office in the wheelchair, though I never asked how he arrived at their bedroom, which I believe was up a flight of stairs at the end of the living-dining room, the scene of many Friday night tertulias with my wife Lois and our friends from Puigpunyent, Tony and Eve Bonner.

Bi usually had a little black cigarillo between her fingers, and seldom had anything to say. If she did speak, it was in such a small voice you had to listen up. Richard, on the other hand, who chain-smoked cigarettes held between his pinkie and ring fingers, spoke loud and clear, almost a bray at times, in spite of a pronounced stutter. I remember one evening when he had Bi put on an LP of Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea.” He claimed it was the first example of a waltz in opera. As the music approached the episode he referred to, he held up his right hand.

“H-h-h-h-hold on to your h-h-hats!”

Their daughter Ruth was a beautiful fair skinned blonde with a still grace and a voice as quiet as her mother’s. Her brother, whose name still eludes me, though I have a feeling it starts with a B, also had a firm tranquility, and oddly enough for such a seemingly shy young man, he became an actor, performing regularly in a local theater cooperative in the barrio gótico of the city. After their father’s death, I seldom saw either of them, or their mother, but read notices of his activities now and again in the local papers.

My wife and I had separated, and my visits to the Fridays in Secar de Real came to an end, as did my relationship with many common friends, as I suppose often happens when couples break up. Only after the turmoil and tumult of my own life during the second half of the seventies did I learn that Richard and Bi had suffered their own disruption of what always seemed such a steady marriage.

One might suppose that their difficulties arose as Bi approached her menopause and wanted some sort of last fling, as you might know occurs from time to time, especially since the open marriage idea took hold after the book by the O’Neills came out in 1972. My own marriage had suffered at the time, I think at least in part because of the atmosphere of the day. Sexual adventures were suddenly almost de riguer, especially among the bohemian foreign colony on Mallorca.

But Bi was not the transgressor in this case.

Decades before, when Richard had been struck down by this awful disease, his first love had abandoned him in the hospital in Switzerland, simply walking out of the room without as much as closing the door behind her. As I understand it, she could not face a life of caring for a cripple, and before long was married to another man. Apparently Richard never forgot this woman, and when her husband died years later, she contacted him. They were both now in their sixties. She lived in New York, and after a brief correspondence by phone and mail, Richard left his family to fly to her.

I often visualize them getting into the elevator of her building on the East side, across from the U.N. where she had worked for many years. She apparently was also not in perfect health, needing either crutches, according to one witness, or a cane, reported by another. Things did not go well, however, and before long Richard returned to Mallorca and his so patient Bi, who had typed his translations of Jung, including the article in volume XIX called puer aeternus. There she might have seen foreshadows of what was to be visited upon her. The shadow of the puer – “boy” is the senex – Latin for “old man,” associated with Apollo – disciplined, controlled, responsible, rational ordered; conversely, the shadow of the senex is the puer, related to Dionysus – unbounded instinct, disorder, intoxication, whimsy.

Unless I am wrong – this is pure hearsay – a scant few months after returning to Secar de la Real , working on the last remaining volume of the Jung series, which in the end had to be finished by another translator, Richard died. If it was not from grief and disappointment, that was in any case his legacy. Only once did I visit Bi after I learned of Richard’s death. She still had not much to say, and that in a mere notch above a whisper. But the atmosphere – that had changed. I could only describe my feeling, which is after all, nothing more than that, and possibly I brought it into the room with me. Looking out into the garden, as abandoned as ever, like a scene for a production of one of Tennessee Williams’ New Orleans plays, what I felt was a kind of disappointment that the sun could never reach into the heart of that garden, nor into our hearts, when you come right down to it. There is always some dark corner never reached by light.

Now at the end, the son’s name comes to me. It does not begin with B – his name is Dominic. Perhaps he still performs with Estudi Zero, in the old part of Palma, where dramas take place in a small room with no windows on the second floor of an old building. Last year they produced Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, in Catalan.

If there is any message there, you will have to find it yourself, for I myself find none.