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Crome Yellow - Chapter XI Post by :peter_act Category :Long Stories Author :Aldous Huxley Date :February 2011 Read :2636

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Crome Yellow - Chapter XI

Mr. Barbecue-Smith was gone. The motor had whirled him away to
the station; a faint smell of burning oil commemorated his recent
departure. A considerable detachment had come into the courtyard
to speed him on his way; and now they were walking back, round
the side of the house, towards the terrace and the garden. They
walked in silence; nobody had yet ventured to comment on the
departed guest.

"Well?" said Anne at last, turning with raised inquiring eyebrows
to Denis.

"Well?" It was time for someone to begin.

Denis declined the invitation; he passed it on to Mr Scogan.
"Well?" he said.

Mr. Scogan did not respond; he only repeated the question,

It was left for Henry Wimbush to make a pronouncement. "A very
agreeable adjunct to the week-end," he said. His tone was

They had descended, without paying much attention where they were
going, the steep yew-walk that went down, under the flank of the
terrace, to the pool. The house towered above them, immensely
tall, with the whole height of the built-up terrace added to its
own seventy feet of brick facade. The perpendicular lines of the
three towers soared up, uninterrupted, enhancing the impression
of height until it became overwhelming. They paused at the edge
of the pool to look back.

"The man who built this house knew his business," said Denis.
"He was an architect."

"Was he?" said Henry Wimbush reflectively. "I doubt it. The
builder of this house was Sir Ferdinando Lapith, who flourished
during the reign of Elizabeth. He inherited the estate from his
father, to whom it had been granted at the time of the
dissolution of the monasteries; for Crome was originally a
cloister of monks and this swimming-pool their fish-pond. Sir
Ferdinando was not content merely to adapt the old monastic
buildings to his own purposes; but using them as a stone quarry
for his barns and byres and outhouses, he built for himself a
grand new house of brick--the house you see now."

He waved his hand in the direction of the house and was silent.
severe, imposing, almost menacing, Crome loomed down on them.

"The great thing about Crome," said Mr. Scogan, seizing the
opportunity to speak, "is the fact that it's so unmistakably and
aggressively a work of art. It makes no compromise with nature,
but affronts it and rebels against it. It has no likeness to
Shelley's tower, in the 'Epipsychidion,' which, if I remember

"'Seems not now a work of human art,
But as it were titanic, in the heart
Of earth having assumed its form and grown
Out of the mountain, from the living stone,
Lifting itself in caverns light and high.'

No, no, there isn't any nonsense of that sort about Crome. That
the hovels of the peasantry should look as though they had grown
out of the earth, to which their inmates are attached, is right,
no doubt, and suitable. But the house of an intelligent,
civilised, and sophisticated man should never seem to have
sprouted from the clods. It should rather be an expression of
his grand unnatural remoteness from the cloddish life. Since the
days of William Morris that's a fact which we in England have
been unable to comprehend. Civilised and sophisticated men have
solemnly played at being peasants. Hence quaintness, arts and
crafts, cottage architecture, and all the rest of it. In the
suburbs of our cities you may see, reduplicated in endless rows,
studiedly quaint imitations and adaptations of the village hovel.
Poverty, ignorance, and a limited range of materials produced the
hovel, which possesses undoubtedly, in suitable surroundings, its
own 'as it were titanic' charm. We now employ our wealth, our
technical knowledge, our rich variety of materials for the
purpose of building millions of imitation hovels in totally
unsuitable surroundings. Could imbecility go further?"

Henry Wimbush took up the thread of his interrupted discourse.
"All that you say, my dear Scogan," he began, "is certainly very
just, very true. But whether Sir Ferdinando shared your views
about architecture or if, indeed, he had any views about
architecture at all, I very much doubt. In building this house,
Sir Ferdinando was, as a matter of fact, preoccupied by only one
thought--the proper placing of his privies. Sanitation was the
one great interest of his life. In 1573 he even published, on
this subject, a little book--now extremely scarce--called,
'Certaine Priuy Counsels' by 'One of Her Maiestie's Most
Honourable Priuy Counsels, F.L. Knight', in which the whole
matter is treated with great learning and elegance. His guiding
principle in arranging the sanitation of a house was to secure
that the greatest possible distance should separate the privy
from the sewage arrangements. Hence it followed inevitably that
the privies were to be placed at the top of the house, being
connected by vertical shafts with pits or channels in the ground.
It must not be thought that Sir Ferdinando was moved only by
material and merely sanitary considerations; for the placing of
his privies in an exalted position he had also certain excellent
spiritual reasons. For, he argues in the third chapter of his
'Priuy Counsels', the necessities of nature are so base and
brutish that in obeying them we are apt to forget that we are the
noblest creatures of the universe. To counteract these degrading
effects he advised that the privy should be in every house the
room nearest to heaven, that it should be well provided with
windows commanding an extensive and noble prospect, and that the
walls of the chamber should be lined with bookshelves containing
all the ripest products of human wisdom, such as the Proverbs of
Solomon, Boethius's 'Consolations of Philosophy', the apophthegms
of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, the 'Enchiridion' of Erasmus,
and all other works, ancient or modern, which testify to the
nobility of the human soul. In Crome he was able to put his
theories into practice. At the top of each of the three
projecting towers he placed a privy. From these a shaft went
down the whole height of the house, that is to say, more than
seventy feet, through the cellars, and into a series of conduits
provided with flowing water tunnelled in the ground on a level
with the base of the raised terrace. These conduits emptied
themselves into the stream several hundred yards below the fish-
pond. The total depth of the shafts from the top of the towers
to their subterranean conduits was a hundred and two feet. The
eighteenth century, with its passion for modernisation, swept
away these monuments of sanitary ingenuity. Were it not for
tradition and the explicit account of them left by Sir
Ferdinando, we should be unaware that these noble privies had
ever existed. We should even suppose that Sir Ferdinando built
his house after this strange and splendid model for merely
aesthetic reasons."

The contemplation of the glories of the past always evoked in
Henry Wimbush a certain enthusiasm. Under the grey bowler his
face worked and glowed as he spoke. The thought of these
vanished privies moved him profoundly. He ceased to speak; the
light gradually died out of his face, and it became once more the
replica of the grave, polite hat which shaded it. There was a
long silence; the same gently melancholy thoughts seemed to
possess the mind of each of them. Permanence, transience--Sir
Ferdinando and his privies were gone, Crome still stood. How
brightly the sun shone and how inevitable was death! The ways of
God were strange; the ways of man were stranger still...

"It does one's heart good," exclaimed Mr. Scogan at last, "to
hear of these fantastic English aristocrats. To have a theory
about privies and to build an immense and splendid house in order
to put it into practise--it's magnificent, beautiful! I like to
think of them all: the eccentric milords rolling across Europe
in ponderous carriages, bound on extraordinary errands. One is
going to Venice to buy La Bianchi's larynx; he won't get it till
she's dead, of course, but no matter; he's prepared to wait; he
has a collection, pickled in glass bottles, of the throats of
famous opera singers. And the instruments of renowned virtuosi--
he goes in for them too; he will try to bribe Paganini to part
with his little Guarnerio, but he has small hope of success.
Paganini won't sell his fiddle; but perhaps he might sacrifice
one of his guitars. Others are bound on crusades--one to die
miserably among the savage Greeks, another, in his white top hat,
to lead Italians against their oppressors. Others have no
business at all; they are just giving their oddity a continental
airing. At home they cultivate themselves at leisure and with
greater elaboration. Beckford builds towers, Portland digs holes
in the ground, Cavendish, the millionaire, lives in a stable,
eats nothing but mutton, and amuses himself--oh, solely for his
private delectation--by anticipating the electrical discoveries
of half a century. Glorious eccentrics! Every age is enlivened
by their presence. Some day, my dear Denis," said Mr Scogan,
turning a beady bright regard in his direction--"some day you
must become their biographer--'The Lives of Queer Men.' What a
subject! I should like to undertake it myself."

Mr. Scogan paused, looked up once more at the towering house,
then murmured the word "Eccentricity," two or three times.

"Eccentricity...It's the justification of all aristocracies. It
justifies leisured classes and inherited wealth and privilege and
endowments and all the other injustices of that sort. If you're
to do anything reasonable in this world, you must have a class of
people who are secure, safe from public opinion, safe from
poverty, leisured, not compelled to waste their time in the
imbecile routines that go by the name of Honest Work. You must
have a class of which the members can think and, within the
obvious limits, do what they please. You must have a class in
which people who have eccentricities can indulge them and in
which eccentricity in general will be tolerated and understood.
That's the important thing about an aristocracy. Not only is it
eccentric itself--often grandiosely so; it also tolerates and
even encourages eccentricity in others. The eccentricities of
the artist and the new-fangled thinker don't inspire it with that
fear, loathing, and disgust which the burgesses instinctively
feel towards them. It is a sort of Red Indian Reservation
planted in the midst of a vast horde of Poor Whites--colonials at
that. Within its boundaries wild men disport themselves--often,
it must be admitted, a little grossly, a little too flamboyantly;
and when kindred spirits are born outside the pale it offers them
some sort of refuge from the hatred which the Poor Whites, en
bons bourgeois, lavish on anything that is wild or out of the
ordinary. After the social revolution there will be no
Reservations; the Redskins will be drowned in the great sea of
Poor Whites. What then? Will they suffer you to go on writing
villanelles, my good Denis? Will you, unhappy Henry, be allowed
to live in this house of the splendid privies, to continue your
quiet delving in the mines of futile knowledge? Will Anne..."

"And you," said Anne, interrupting him, "will you be allowed to
go on talking?"

"You may rest assured," Mr. Scogan replied, "that I shall not. I
shall have some Honest Work to do."

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Crome Yellow - Chapter XII Crome Yellow - Chapter XII

Crome Yellow - Chapter XII
Blight, Mildew, and Smut..." Mary was puzzled and distressed.Perhaps her ears had played her false. Perhaps what he hadreally said was, "Squire, Binyon, and Shanks," or "Childe,Blunden, and Earp," or even "Abercrombie, Drinkwater, andRabindranath Tagore." Perhaps. But then her ears never did playher false. "Blight, Mildew, and Smut." The impression wasdistinct and ineffaceable. "Blight, Mildew..." she was forced tothe conclusion, reluctantly, that Denis had indeed pronouncedthose improbable words. He had deliberately repelled herattempts to open a serious discussion. That was horrible. A manwho would not talk seriously to a woman just

Crome Yellow - Chapter X Crome Yellow - Chapter X

Crome Yellow - Chapter X
Denis did not dance, but when ragtime came squirting out of thepianola in gushes of treacle and hot perfume, in jets of Bengallight, then things began to dance inside him. Little blacknigger corpuscles jigged and drummed in his arteries. He becamea cage of movement, a walking palais de danse. It was veryuncomfortable, like the preliminary symptoms of a disease. Hesat in one of the window-seats, glumly pretending to read.At the pianola, Henry Wimbush, smoking a long cigar through atunnelled pillar of amber, trod out the shattering dance musicwith serene patience. Locked together, Gombauld and Anne movedwith