Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 16 (1985)
From this Midland scene - glum slag heaps, barge canals, gray sheep, the vivid overlap of wheat field and mustard hillside like out-of-season sunshine, the crabbed silhouette of oak trees (each joint a knot, each knot a principled demurral: tough, arthritic, stubborn as the character of her own father) - fame, the accretion of a Pyrrhic happiness, had exiled her to London, with its carriages and calling cards, its screaming headaches.
Griff House- dear old Griff, she wistfully apostrophized it - in those days still intact, its secrets kept, has now been grafted to a motel-cum-parking-lot beside the trunk road, whose raw, ungainly seam of noise cuts through the rainy solace of Griff Lane: bird song, coal smoke, the silvered powderings of blackthorn, a Flowering cherry tree's chaste Flare, the sludge-born, apoplectic screech of jet aircraft tilting overhead.
The unmapped sources that still fed nostalgia for a rural childhood survive the witherings of retrospect: the look of brickyards, stench of silk mills, scar of coal mines, the knife of class distinction: wall-enclosed, parkland-embosomed, green-lawned Arbury Hall, fan vaulting's stately fakeries, the jewel stomachered, authentic shock of Mary Fitton and her ilk portrayed, the view of fish ponds - school and role model of landed-proprietary England.