‘The Way Things Might Have Been’

Aperçu  # 1:

From an article by Beryl Bainbridge in the ‘Daily Mail’,  25th May 1996


‘Wistfulness’ by James Carroll Beckwith

 ‘. . . For two years I went to the woods every night. I made a little shrine out of that spot and kept my slippers and his letter there.  I read a lot of books while thinking about him, in particular one by Hazlitt, which I didn’t fully understand, but which gave me melancholy pleasure.   Three lines I learnt by heart, reciting them over and over, as the light began to fade and my childhood with it.’

“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck by the difference between what things are and the way they might have been.”

William Hazlitt,  English essayist (1778 – 1830) . . .   From  ‘Lectures on the English Comic Writers’ (1819)

N.B.  Presumably to emphasise the wistful mood she is trying to convey, Beryl Bainbridge slightly alters the usual last phrase of the Hazlitt quote, which normally reads: ‘. . . and what they ought to be.’


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