My mother’s uncle, Joseph Southall, who was a Quaker and a late-flowering pre-Raphaelite (he died in 1944), has an exhibition at the Fine Art Society. He was good at what he did. Apparently, implausibly, he was admired by Picasso. Anyway, we paid our respects, then went and had lunch at the Wallace Collection. My favourite painting at the Wallace is Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time- a lovely quiet thing in grey and olive with touches of bitter orange- showing four women, who represent Poverty, Industry, Wealth and Pleasure, going round in an endless circle, while Father Time, looking gleeful, strums his harp and Apollo drives his chariot through the sky. Poverty leads to Industry which leads to Wealth which leads to Pleasure which leads to Poverty- you get the idea.
Why is melancholy so enjoyable? What is it about the dying fall- the sunset touch? Is it because we’re flattered? Humanity is stupid and sad and we (that’s you and me and Poussin and Poussin’s aristocratic patron) pity it from our glacial peak of detached understanding.
Coming out of the Gallery, Ailz and my mother were strolling down the middle of the road and I was so eager to shepherd them onto the pavement and out of harm’s way that I didn’t look where I was going and almost walked into an oncoming car myself. What a useless baby I am!