The Fountain Overflows

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The pretty little girl with red-gold curls in my mind’s eye then began to play the violin; and the odd thing was that she played it very badly. Then I saw all round her the concerned faces of her family. Her mother (Mrs. Aubrey) looked sad; her sisters (Mary and Rose they were) looked angry; and I realized that they were good musicians – really good pianists. There was a situation there . . . . a division between good and bad musicians in the home; and they were divided from the ordinary people outside their home; who were not musicians at all. And indeed in their own home they had people who very much were still divided from the. There was a little boy who did not take music seriously and a tall, fair, stammering girl who could not play any musical instrument. Then I saw the house they lived in, and I realized that their father was not a musician but a writer. “I said to my husband, ‘I am going upstairs to write a short story about a musical family.’ ‘What’ he said, ‘break off your novel?’ ‘Oh,’ said I, ‘it will be a very short short story.’ The Fountain Overflows was what followed: not a very short short story.
“Few novelists, asked to name the place and the hour when the idea of one of their novels came to them, can give as precise an answer as I can, when anybody asks me how I came to write The Fountain Overflows. One afternoon, some years ago, my husband and I were sitting in the drawing-room, after we had had tea, watching our marmalade cat drink a saucer of milk . . . and as I looked at his beautifully burnished fur I reflected that I would have liked to have red hair; and in my mind’s eye I saw a  pretty little girl with red-gold curls, dressed as children were when I was a child. I went on to think, ‘well, there are a lot of things I would have liked to have and to be that have been denied me. I would like to have been a musician too.’ “The pretty little girl with red-gold curls in my mind’s eye then began to play the violin; and the odd thing was that she played it very badly. Then I saw all round her the concerned faces of her family. Her mother (Mrs. Aubrey) looked sad; her sisters (Mary and Rose they were) looked angry; and I realized that they were good musicians – really good pianists. There was a situation there . . . . a division between good and bad musicians in the home; and they were divided from the ordinary people outside their home; who were not musicians at all. And indeed in their own home they had people who very much were still divided from the. There was a little boy who did not take music seriously and a tall, fair, stammering girl who could not play any musical instrument. Then I saw the house they lived in, and I realized that their father was not a musician but a writer. “I said to my husband, ‘I am going upstairs to write a short story about a musical family.’ ‘What’ he said, ‘break off your novel?’ ‘Oh,’ said I, ‘it will be a very short short story.’ The Fountain Overflows was what followed: not a very short short story. “The main theme of the book might be said to be the way that human beings look at each other inquisitively, trying to make out what is inside the opaque human frame. Piers and Clare Aubrey loved each other but neither really knew how the other one thought and felt; Mary and Rose were divided from Cordelia and watched each other in irritated misapprehension, and were divided from Richard Quin and looked at him in hope of comprehension. They were all looking for clues to understanding. St. Augustine says that human beings are disguised by their bodies, and that only God can look through ‘the lattice of our flesh’ and see what we are really like. But people of good will are always trying to break down that limitation, and these children wrestled with it. “Mrs. Aubrey was really lucky not to have been prosecuted by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, so relentlessly did she overwork these girls. But at the same time she was pulling them up on to a ledge above the tides of insecurity on which most of us bob about helplessly. I think she did well for them . . . . “But I only wrote this book, which is not to say that I am the best authority on what it means.”

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Weight 13.1 oz
Condition

Good