20 December (1931): Samuel Beckett to Thomas McGreevy

Below, Samuel Beckett writes to poet Thomas McGreevy on melancholy, the sexually “potent” Christ (“Xist”) of Perugino’s Pietà, and his dislike for Stendhal. 


December 20, 1931, Dublin

Dear Tom

Forgive me for not having replied to you before this. All kinds of imaginary melancholy circumstances to excuse me. I have had to reintegrate my father’s roof for a few days but am off, malgré tout et malgré tous [in spite of everything and everyone], immediately after Noel, via Ostend, somewhere into Germany, as far as Cologne anyway, next Saturday night from North Wall, not to return I hope (& entre nous) for many months, though I have not resigned from Trinity. If I have to let them down, tant pis. Some charming little cunt of a gold medal-list will be nominated deputy for a term until they can get some really responsible person, & wont that be a happy surprise for the New Year. (And by the way all the usual voeux et que tous les tiens soient exaucés [wishes and may yours be granted].) Of course I’ll probably crawl back with my tail coiled round my ruined poenis. And maybe I wont. Is there no chance of seeing you at all. I dont know whether you are still in Paris. It would be grand to spend Xmas with you, but I dont want France—above all no the comic Marseilles—& I know you don’t want Germania, unless maybe Weimar! It’s madness really to go away now with the exchange u.s.w. but it really is not or never. And as usual I’m not burning any boats! I’m hoping to be able to spit fire at them from a distance.

I’ve been several times to look at the new Perugino Pietà in the National Gallery here. It’s buried behind a formidable barrage of shining glass, so that one is obliged to take cognizance of it progressively, square inch by square inch. It’s all messed up by restorers, but the Xist and the women are lovely. A clean shaven, potent Xist, and a passion of tears for the waste. The most mystical constituent is the ointment pot that was probably added by Raffael[l]o. Rottenly hung in rotten light behind this thick shop window, so that a total view of it is impossible, and full of grotesque amendments. But a lovely cheery Xist full of sperm, & the women touching his thighs and mourning his jewels. I thought Orpen’s Ptarmigan & Wash House nearly as bad as Keating.

How is the novel going? I started yet again & soon saw no reason to continue. I have just read the Rouge et Noir. Such an obsession with heights & ladders & gothic pillars & terraces and grottos in the Juras & the dungeon up in the air at the end. And the same thing again all through the Chartreuse. Nimrod of novelists[.]

Herewith a pome that S. O’S. wouldn’t have on account of the red sputum! I haven’t tried to place it elsewhere, & thought I’d send it to you à tout hasard.[1]

No news from Pelorson since I applied for a slight service. Again so much piss.

Writing to the Penman for Xmas about statues, Professor Webb & Chapelized c/o Pinker. I’ve no idea where he is. 



[1] Beckett enclosed the poem “Enueg” (later entitled “Enueg 1”), which opens with “Exeo in a spasm/tired of my darling’s red sputum”