The first part of the title of this post, is a bit of a Bookseller's term. Yes, I know I'm getting all book-shoppy speaky- but hey, so I shall. The last bit belongs to Julia Margaret Cameron in a letter to Henry Cole (more of which last the end of this post.)
Anyhow, it's a phrase I've heard Mike say several times, and its something I've been relating to my life and even me in my early antiquity.
Because I decided a few things when I moved out of lovely London. I'd had several well-meaning friends who said that maybe it was too early for me to bury myself on the Island, and leave the metropolis. That didn't sit right with me Em, and it turned into a decision about my hair. I've always done that- made a decision about my hair when compromised about life. Well, I'm female, and I like to live with froth on the coffee decisions.
So- the decision was to never cut my hair again. Selfishly, I didn't want to search for a new hairdresser- or to be tied to making appointments in London every couple of months. I also really wanted grey hair. Long silver grey hair overnight.
Didn't happen of course, and as I grew out the colour, wisps formed of grey at my temples instead. Tell it as it is, older bold ladies (well, one at least, which probably meant others thought so) asked if it was really a good idea to tie my hair back. Severe perhaps dear... but it got in my eyes, so styling it and spraying it and all that nonsense just wasn't going to happen- even in my fifties.
So, I stuck with it- and now my hair reaches my waist, and I'm rather happy with it. I tie it back, and my age is neither hidden or accentuated. It's a bother Em, when you see little lines deepen, and a jowel pattern developing on your visage. But, better than that- I've earned them, and that I mean with joy.
Physically I'm getting little signs of difficulties to put up with in the coming years- but dearest Em, the wisdom that each year provides, is priceless. Someone in the shop the other day said- 'Old age is not for cissies'. I like that attitude. You really do see some beacons of examples of seniority in age on this Island. Walkers who yomp past you on the Down who are decades ahead of you, and vibrant examples of ninety year olds who still carry on doing 'far too much'.
I've always liked to have a muse or two to look up to. In my teens it was the fabulous Lou-lou de la Falaise, and the indomitable Patti Smith. Dear Lou-lou is now departed sadly, but I hold her sparkling memory close, and Patti remains supremely as a muse to this day.
Then there's Freshwater Muses- and one in particular you know very well Emily. Our Mrs Cameron. An inspiration to many just by taking up a new career at 48, for me, she's a tantalising force of nature. A Woman so ahead of her time, she had to suffer fools gladly throughout her life- and after it. I reckon her time is coming now Em, 200 years after her birth!
I love the way the following passage from her niece Laura Troubridge (Memories and Reflections 1925) sums her and the rest of the Pattle sisters up-
(speaking of Anne Thackeray’s memoirs)
‘They too, laughed at her, though they loved her; for she was utterly oblivious to clothes, and in Mrs Prinsep’s eyes that was almost a sin. She was forgetful and unpunctual, and in some ways not unlike the White Queen in “Alice in Wonderland”. Still, in spite of their respective peculiarities, I cannot help thinking these women lived on a higher plane than most women seem to now. They cared nothing for the feminist movement and the rights and wrongs of their sex. But they knew that they were here to serve and to bless. They were the ladies, or loaf-givers, of whom Ruskin dreamed’
Another example I must share with you Emily, I read today in the fabulous new V and A book published for her Bi-Centenary-
Julia was friends with the Founder of the South Kensington Museum (now the V and A.) A copious and effusive letter-writer, she certainly shares Auntie Lotty's descrition of herself 'not suffering from low self-esteem'-; (albeit Em, I should add before you read this- I believe JMC had a certain 'tongue-in cheekiness)
' My dear Mr Cole,
I write to ask you if you will be having any Photographic Soiree or meeting soon, at which I may send to the Science & Art dept. for you to exhibit at the South Kensington Museum a set of prints that I intend should electrify you & startle the world. I hope it is no vain imagination of mine to say that the like have never been produced & can never be surpassed! I am waxing mad in my own conceit you will say. All I beg is that you show this assertion to our own Annie Thackeray & sister Minnie & ask them if they take my assurance upon trust! Seeing is believing & you shall see & the world shall see if you can create for me a great occasion! because these wonderful photographs should come out all at once & take the world by surprise!Thet are quite ready quite ready- a new series of 12 & if you watch my oport for me & acquaint me I will answer at once by sending the supply. Mr Thurston Thompson I hope will be delighted this time.
Won't the South Kensington Museum give me a crown.
Not of diamond stones but those better diamond laurel leaves- or a Medal or honourable mention if this series of Photographs of mine surpasses all others- Talk of roundness I have it in perfect perfection.!
Ah dear Julia!!!
You'll probably work out all this for yourself as you get older Emily, but I just wanted to tell you anyhow- every age brings gifts...
Your ever-loving Grandmother,