Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another mysterious missive!

Three weeks ago I blogged about receiving an anonymous postcard in the mail. The card had a postmark from Dallas, my address, and a quote from Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Its mystery made my day.

Like some of the early reviewers of A Question of Upbringing, I seem to have erred, taking as a standalone the first part of a series. For in my mailbox yesterday was the card pictured below.

The image is captioned thus:
The Powder Tower, 1650, and the Revolution Museum of the Latvian SSR
In case you can't read it, what it says beside my address and the same Dallas postmark is simply:
All this, and Mopsy Pontner too.
Powell fans will remember Mopsy Pontner as the most minor of characters (despite sporting one of Powell's best names). She first turns up in Temporary Kings, the lovely wife of a dealer in paintings. Moreland is said to have fancied her, in the days before his marriage to Matilda, but kept away because he liked her husband. As Nick explains, "Moreland tended to keep off his friends' wives." (What a large amount of work that one word "tended" does in that sentence!) It's possible in any case that Moreland's reticence would have been matched; Mopsy does have the relatively rare distinction of having turned down Barnby.

Her sole appearance in the sequence is at a recollected dinner party that she attended as part of the sale of an Augustus John drawing to American film magnate Louis Glober, a sale by chance brokered by Nick, who thus also ends up at the party. Moreland, too, is there, "in poorish form, absent in manner, probably weighed down with a current love affair gone wrong." He isn't alone: the dinner's cast never quite clicks, and overall it turns out to be "heavy going." A year or so later, however, having gotten to know Mopsy Pontner a bit better, Nick has this exchange with her about that night:
"Glober did me on the table."

"Among the coffee cups?"

"We broke a couple of liqueur glasses."

"You obviously found him attractive."
But the showstopping revelation--the reason Glober sticks in readers' minds despite being a tad bland in general, is still to come. Mopsy tells Nick:
One rather odd thing about Glober, he insisted on taking a cutting from my bush--said he always did that after having anyone for the first time. He produced a pair of nail-scissors from a small red leather case. He told me he carried them round with him in case the need arose.
Nick, the epitome of English unflappability, drolly replies:
We all have our whims.
At a party years later, the merest mention of that dinner is enough to send an ailing Moreland into paroxysms of nostalgic giddiness--he imagines the headline "Musician Dies of Nostalgia." Then, rambling through all the old memories that the current night's guest list has brought to the fore, he caps it with, "All this, and Mopsy Pontner too." The nostalgia gets so thick and ridiculous that he tells Nick,  only half joking, "You shouldn't have told me about Mopsy Pontner. It wasn't the act of a friend."

Sending mysterious Dance-related postcards, however? Oh, that is unquestionably the act of a friend.

1 comment:

  1. andrea11:53 AM

    These postcards are great, as are your exegeses. I hope you receive more.

    "You obviously found him attractive."

    Isn't that classic Nick--always so polite, yet very funny.