Bel Mooney: a confirmed Tessimond Fan
The novelist, children’s author and journalist Bel Mooney
is also the Daily Mail
‘s correspondent with the special task of handling a postbag full of readers’ personal problems. (The term ‘agony aunt’ has always struck me as a little too hard-bitten Old Fleet Street…) Last Saturday Mooney addressed herself to a missive from a 55-year-old divorced father of two who is worried that he has found contentment but not quite love with “a divorced lady (aged 47)… also with two children of similar ages.”
And the advice Mooney found for this gentleman issued from a source very dear to us at Faber Finds… But I’ll let BM tell you the rest:
I studied your letter, which put me in mind of a favourite poem of mine called ‘Not Love, Perhaps’ by a long-neglected poet called A.S.J. Tessimond. Then — believe it or not — in the same postbag I found that a lady called Sylvia, writing with her own problem, had copied out for me that very poem!
Amazed, I decided that it must have a message for you — so please Google it now. (Though out of print for years, this wonderful poet is reprinted now by Faber Finds).
The poem compares the romantic idea of love ‘that many waters cannot quench’ with the mutual companionship and support, which helps a couple ‘walk more firmly through dark narrow places’.
Tessimond celebrates the idea of love as an ‘alliance’ — though, of course, his title ironically questions the very word ‘love’. Oh, let’s join in the chorus of ‘You got a friend’ with Carole King! Let us be grateful to have found an inn to give us shelter, when the road is dark and empty and the wind blows cold. Let’s cherish companionship and learn not to listen to the siren call of this thing called ‘true love’, which can wreak such destruction.
Evidently the manner in which disparate readers feel themselves moved and consoled by this piece of Tessimond’s is a proof of the enduring merit of his work; and one more reason for Faber Finds to be proud of having restored his great posthumous selection Not Love, Perhaps to print, available to order here. Thanks go to Bel Mooney for bringing Tessimond to this broader attention, and also for the generous mention of Finds.
An interesting piece here on the website of West End Lane Books, concerning ‘Lost London Authors.’ As one would hope in light of our stated ambitions, certain writers whom Finds has already revived are namechecked therein: A.S.J. Tessimond for starters, also Colin MacInnes, and there’s a nice mention for Dan Davin’s Closing Times, the author’s reminiscences of Julian Maclaren-Ross, W. R. Rodgers, Louis MacNeice, Enid Starkie, Joyce Cary, Dylan Thomas and the Yiddish poet Itzik Manger.
Then, of course, there is Patrick Hamilton, early works of whose Finds dearly hopes, sourcing issues permitting, to be restoring to readers by the middle of the year ahead… Hamilton’s classic Hangover Square remains very much in print and currency, of course: I picture it here simply because in its aura, in its very name, it speaks so eloquently of just how sharply Hamilton perceived and could paint in words a portrait of ‘The Big Smoke’…
For the current TLS Andrew McCulloch has written a fine piece entitled ”Not Love perhaps . . .’ – The poetry of A. S. J. Tessimond.’ (Not accessible online, alas, but then the TLS cover price is always worth paying.) Returning Tessimond to print has proved a striking success for Finds, and it’s a pleasure to see a revived title of this sort inspiring comment and analysis in the present-day literary press.