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A Rage To Live

The novel ends with the words 'a rage to live', which is quote from Moral Essays by Alexander Pope. It is also the title of a brilliant novel by the American author John O'Hara.

The preceding lines of the quote are apposite to the character of Celia Lutyens, who is both headstrong and independent.

"With too much quickness ever to be taught, With too much thinking to have common thought: You purchase pain with all that joy can give, And die of nothing but a rage to live.

I studied Alexander Pope when doing my 'A' levels, which I considered more than a chore. It was not, however, until years later that I really began to appreciate his writing and insightfulness.

The photograph above was taken in Pope's Grotto at Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham. The Grotto is occasionally opened to the public and I first visited it a few years ago. Pope's villa and gardens, which he built in 1720, are no longer there. The Grotto was needed so Pope could access his garden without having to leave his house and cross the main road. Pope was an ill and frail man and often would sit in his garden watching the barges come up the Thames to Hampton Court. People who stopped at his house to give him news would also drop off stones and rocks, which he would then install into his Grotto. Dr Johnson wrote about the Grotto:

"A grotto is not often the wish or pleasure of an Englishman, who has more frequent need to solicit rather than exclude the sun, but Pope's excavation was requisite as an entrance to his garden, and, as some men try to be proud of their defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage".

The John O'Hara's novel tells the story of Grace Caldwell who is part of the elite society of Fort Penn. She is an independent girl who is married off by her parents when they think a scandal might occur. O'Hara's excellent novel exposes the double standards that existed in the society of the time (1917). While it may now be a little dated it is a brilliant piece of writing and worth taking the time to read.

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