I told you about Bryher’s The Player’s Boy, didn’t I?
Well, to this lovely, melancholy novel my Paris Press edition adds a wonderful afterword, consisting of a letter that Bryher wrote to a friend to explain her fascination with Elizabethan literature and history. It’s a charming little piece about growing up, reading, cultivating one’s imagination, finding strength in literature and history, and being slightly eccentric… It’s well worth reading in its entirety.
My favourite part, though, has to be the final musing on the historian’s perspective:
Yes, that is the fun of “the game,” the search and the rare discovery. If we could turn time over and watch Drake return, it would be just another movie. It is the sifting, the hard work, and then, after twenty years the holding of one tiny fragment to fit to another piece as incomplete, to know that the solution of a problem may come only to the mind of somebody not yet born, that makes it all worth playing.
Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to turn time over just once – but I fully understand the love of research for research’s sake. The thrill of the tiny finding. After all, when it comes to historical fiction, to build characters and plot by patiently combining known facts, spurious stories, speculation and insight is perhaps the best part of the game. It’s just a slightly different game, with far more leeway to play with the tiny fragments, and string them together on coloured thread of fiction.