A clever girl, but lazy

From Diana Athill’s memoir Instead of a Letter (1962):

p. 40
[T]hey considered a house without books in it uncivilized.

p. 71
Lessons I saw as necessary, often interesting, and sometimes enjoyable. I made friends whose companionship I appreciated. It was the absence of things which had to be endured: the absence of freedom, the absence of home, the absence of privacy, the absence of pleasures.

p. 72
It was at school that my secret sin was first brought into the open: laziness. I was considered a clever girl, but lazy. It has been with me ever since, and the guilt I feel about it assures me that it is a sin, not an inability. It takes the form of an immense weight of inertia at the prospect of any activity that does not positively attract me: a weight that can literally paralyze my moral sense. That something must be done I know; that I can do it I know; but the force which prevents my doing it when it comes to the point, or makes me postpone it and postpone it until almost too late, is not conscious defiance of the “must” nor a deliberate denial of the “can.” It is an atrophy of the part of my mind which can perceive the “must” and the “can.” I slide off sideways, almost unconsciously, into doing something else, which I like doing.


On Friday, a stale smell in the mudroom eventually led me to the water heater, where it appeared that the flue was producing excess condensation. By Saturday morning, it was clear that, no, the flue was fine, but the water heater was leaking… from the top. A permit, a sum of money, and a Monday later, the odor is gone. So, too, are most of my hang-ups about playing my flute in front of non-family members, apparently: Mornings are the best and most convenient time to practice, so while the new water heater was being installed, I worked on my lesson material and concert band pieces.

What I haven’t worked on in quite some time, though, is writing about what I’m reading. My afternoons during spring break later this month may afford me the time to catch up on that. In the meantime, I hope to post my commonplace book entry on Diana Athill’s memoir, Instead of a Letter.

La Marquise Du Châtelet


From the play Emilie by Lauren Gunderson:

Emilie and Voltaire have built “the largest library in Europe… and live in it,” but by the end of Act I, there is discord.

EMILIE: For once consider the idea that you could be mistaken, that you could be fallible in this one scenario, lonely as it may be in the immensity of your usual correctness. Science isn’t theatre, you can’t pick the ending because it sounds nice. Listen to me.