‘Hearing Secret Harmonies’ – The Twelfth And Final Book Of Anthony Powell’s ‘Dance To The Music Of Time’

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I could tell you how Dance to the Music of Time end. That Widmerpool died a comic figure, less Machiavelli than Ignatius Reilly.

But I’d rather just include two quotes from near the end of Hearing Secret Harmonies. Two quotes and the final sentence of the book and of all the books.

The two quotes are about Jean Duport, the narrator’s one time lover and one time love.

There could have been no doubt in the mind of an onlooker – Henderson, say, or Chuck – that Jean and I had met before. That was about the best you could say for past love.

Not ‘a past love,’ but ‘past love.’

And then:

Even if other things had not been on my mind – that soft laugh of Jean’s – Victorian seascapes would have made no great appeal.

Again, not regret that he never married Jean, or that he married Isobel. Just.. regret.

The final sentence is quite final. Not a thudding finality, but an acknowledgement that though he will go on – maybe for many years – but that his dance, and his generation’s dance is over. His three schoolboy friends – Kenneth Widmerpool, Charles Stringham, and Peter Templer – have all died. Others may take up their dance, but those dances are not his story to tell, even if he should want to.

Even the formal measure of the Seasons seemed suspended in the wintry silence.

 

P.S.  I have begun to re-read Remembrance of Things Past. Appropriate, since Dance to the Music of Time can be roughly seen as an English equivalent to that epic, though they are very different in most of the most important ways, except for scale, perhaps.

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