[ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

Denise Tart & David Green dtart at bigpond.net.au
Sat May 7 20:19:03 PDT 2011

Charles, you are on the money here, for sure. there are some teasing descriptions of Virginia and Mrs Truman too. In Roof of the World, I had pictures of LD and N living the simple life in the white house at Kalami. In DL Truman described his wife as having become like a 'savage'. In Prospero's Cell he talks of N in the same way: toothed like a carnivore! Is this Larry at the mercy of a powerful women? Nancy, Claude and Ghislaine (blondes) were certainly more powerful women than the dark eyed E.

Meta, Nancy's daughter Penelope is, I think, still alive and is known to members of this list. If my memory serves me she may even be speaking at the next Durrell Conference?

people on this list who know her may be willing to give more details about the famous N.

LD certainly liked the tall, elegant blondes and Nancy appears to be the model or at least base for several female characters including Clea and Livia.


From: Charles Sligh 
Sent: Sunday, May 08, 2011 12:52 PM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
Subject: Re: [ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

On 5/6/11 7:54 AM, Meta Cerar wrote: 
    I wonder if the women in the DL, and especially Boecklin, are really aspects of Nancy? Unfortunately I know very little about her from what I've read in the biographies, so I cannot say, but maybe one of you can contribute a more elaborate opinion here?
Hello, Meta.  I am attempting to do my part, enjoying dips into The Dark Labyrinth between some heroic bouts of chainsawing.  (Our oaks are all down on the ground here in Tennessee, post-tornadoes.)

Your question about Nancy's possible presence in the pages of The Dark Labyrinth seems best answered by the following moment, in which Baird's first encounter with his wife is recalled:

      He met Alice Lidell in the tea-room of the Tate Gallery and fell in love with her at sight. She was tall and beautiful and her fine blonde hair picked up the reflected light from the long mirrors, twinkling as she combed it.  ("Portraits," The Dark Labyrinth)

The connection of Alice's elemental blondness with the Slade School makes this more than suggestive, of course.

Why Alice Lidell?  I naturally think of Dean Liddell's daughter, Carroll's muse, little Alice Liddell.  As to what any of it means, I can't say.  

I smiled just a bit when Hogerth began to lampoon Boyd's book -- which uses psychoanalysis to "trace" repressed truths from Poe's "Raven" and Dickens's novels.  Also curious was Alice's mistrust of "another attempt by these psychologists to put the artist in the strait jacket of a clinical definition."   

I will keep reporting my finds.  I hope that others will share as they can. 


Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu


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