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Axiological View: Love and Relationship



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3. Axiological View: Love and Relationship



As stated above, Beckett fell in love with his cousin Peggy. In one of his utterances, Beckett claimed he "had a little talent for happines" this may seem accurate, especially in the field of his relationships. During his studies, he fell in love in Ethna MacCarthy, charming and popular colleague and intellectual - yet, the woman who was generally very popular and by Beckett was admired rather from distance. Based on the testimony of Deirdre Sinclar, Beckett had his first relatioship with her sister Peggy Sinclair, Beckett's cousin: "I think he fell in love with Peggy in Dalkey. [...] I was 9 and probably quite unaware that there was a love affair goin on." (Knowlson 79) This was an example of unhappy love in Beckett's life and experience related to this relationship with his cousin is also described in Krapp's Last Tape: "What remains of all that misery? A girl in a shabby green coat, on a railway-station platform? No?" (Bekett 17) since, the most often, Peggy used to wear green clothes. In the same work, he also returns to Ethna MacCarthy (although under the name of Bianca). In Knowlson's Damned to Fame, Peggy Sinclair is described as "Beckett's cousin, whith whom he had his first real love-affair." (Knowlson 328). Members of Beckett's family themselves deny the affair of Beckett and Peggy. In 1931, Beckett had to face a painful breakup with Peggy. After this event, it was very hard for him to find stability again.

Peggy herself described Beckett in following way: "shy, gentle, good-looking, blue-eyed Irishman with whom she seemed at times to get on so well and who was happy to spend large parts of his days in her company. At other times, she found him infuriatingly withdrawn, sullen and elusive. She was only seventeen when they first met and Beckett must have seemed extraordinarily complex for someone as open and straightforward as Peggy." (Knowlson 81) The relationship with Peggy seemed to have a great influence on Beckett. After their breakup, Beckett was directly asked about this relationship by Gerald Stewart, his roomate from Trinity College: "I asked Sam how the affair was going and he replied by saying that he had become a misogynist!" (Knowlson 82). The austerity and extreme idea of this testimony may lead us to the idea that while Beckett claimed to hate women, he at the same time had to cope with this event internally. It seems it is justified to come up with the idea that, Beckett decided to build up certain shield when claiming to hate women (the idea of being a "misogynist"). This kind of shield made up from exaggeration, irony and black humour is also the way he faced the disillusionment. Moreover, this shield which could be possibly understood as a 'superficial smirk with deep internal desilusion' is not noticeable only in the field of relationships, but also in Beckett's philosophy, especially in the way he faces the desilusion, absurdity, loss and suffering.

In 1937 and 1938, Beckett was in relationship with Peggy Guggenheim, an American and a high social class member. In this year in Paris, Beckett was attacked and stabbed in belly by a pimp since he refused a prostitute. His life was saved by Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumensil, whom he met in hospital. They have known each other from a tennis club already. "In time, when Suzanne appeared in his life, Beckett had an affair at least with one more woman. It was American, rich heiress Peggy Guggenheim [...] she underestimated Suzanne and her influence on Beckett. To the address of her rival, Peggy stated "While I was making scenes, she was making curtains." (Mihalovici, Poseldní páska 54). Peggy was not a beautiful woman, but Beckett was always attracted to strong, independent women with independent thinking and original opinions, which were the features relevant for Suzanne. Peggy was very rich and she offered Beckett experiecnes which he hasn't known so far: e. g. she used to borrow expensive sport cars and let Beckett drive. On the other hand she put too much pressure on him and she too stuggled for his privacy, which he was not willing to give up." (Mihalovici, Poslední páska 55). From the quotation stated above, it is apparent that privacy was one of the crucial values in Beckett's life. Also the clash between quite childish and more reasonable behaviour may be noticed, since he admired Suzanne for her independent thinking and loyalty yet still enjoying the carelessness of life with Peggy Guggenheim.

Paralelly to the relationship with Suzanne, Beckett had a relationship with Barbara Bray, who was a widow working in BBC as a script editor. "She was small and attractive, but, above all, keenly intelligent and well-read." (Knowlson 458, 459) This relationship lasted till Beckett's death. Beckett's work could be a testimony about his relationship, i. e. in work Not I, Krapp's last tape or Dream of Fair to Middling Women; possibly also Play.

Beckett kept friendship with Lucia Joyce, a daughter of one of Beckett's most influential friend, Jamese Joyce. In the interview with John Cadler, Canadian and Scottish publisher and Beckett's friend he says: "I am thinking about how much Joyce's daughter was in love with him. Joyce approved this and he was thinking that his friend Beckett will be a good acompanoin to her. Yet Beckett did not show appropriate interest in Lucia and the result was the alienation of him and Joyce. You see, Lucia went eventually mad." (Vrba, Šťastné dny 24)

As Peggy Guggenheim did in her Out of This Centruy, some women are said to mention Beckett in their memoirs. With a reference to John Cadler's claim about Beckett, "He, due to my judgement, has never had the need to bind himself by relationship. The only exception was Suzanne, but that was not a real marriage, it was rather frienship, when the most of their time was spent separately." (Vrba, Šťastné dny 26). Suzanne rather took the role of his mother: "Cetainly she grumbled, as his mother used to grumble, about his excessive drinking, for she did not drink herself. But there were crucial differences: above all, she had enormous respect for Beckett's talents and total belief in his genius. When things were going very badly, she never lost this faith. […] she was remarkably tolerant, putting up with his late nights, his bouts of irritability and his moods of black despair when his writing would not advance. She also understood and shared his need for silence." (Knowlson 296)

As was added by Cadler in terms of Beckett's relationships: "He simply had to be completely alone, which he also said in one of his essays on Prosut: "For an artist, who is not dealing only with a surface of things, is not only reasonable but completely necessary to shun from friends." (Vrba, Šťastné dny 26) Based on this testimony, it is clear that solitude and loneliness were the values which which Beckett reconciled, accepted them and transformed them into a natural part of his personality

4. Axiological View: Friendship



As previously mentioned, Beckett's nature may be considered moody one and he often tended to be withdrawn. He is said to be "diffident, silent and solitary" (Knowlson 90), it seems that he was interested in and impressed by people who were different at many points. His friendship with Tom MacGreevy who is said to be "confident, talkative and gregarious" (Knowlson 90) may serve as an example of two different personalities. "it was MacGreevy's personal qualities of liveliness, wit and ready sympathy that attracted Beckett most of all and won his confidence and affection. He had the ability to draw Beckett out of his cocoon of shyness and silence with his effervescent, challenging, yet reassuring talk." (Knowlson 89) When in search for the feature which was bringing them together, art may be considered s crucial mutual interest: "Quite often they disagreed storngly as well about literature and painting. But theirs was a genuine dialogue in which for a long time Beckett was passionately involved." (Knowlson 90)

It is also claimed that "At school and Trinity College, he had been really friendly with a very few individuals. This suited his shy, retiring, nature and allowed him to choose carefully those with whom he wanted to spend his time. As a young man he was intolerant of those who irritated him and suffered fools badly. When bored or annoyed, he would lapse into deep uncomfortable silences that people interpreted (often corectly) as rudeness and lack of civility." (Knowlson 95) Especially at the time of his studies, Beckett's personality may be considered a moody one. Mainly topics related to art made Beckett discuss something vividly or even argue with his friends.

Being thoughtful, perceptive and sensitive, Beckett often used to think retrospectively about his relationships; he re-considered his behavior and would not let things "wear off" in case he had the feeling he did something unjustified. "He got angry with me and a doctor who lived in the same house for joking about him... On returning to Ireland he wrote me two letters which I have, apologising for his rude behaviour to me and the doctor." (Knowlson 73). Based on this testimony pronounced by Mario Esposito reveals about "Beckett's extreme "touchiness" as a young man and about how he drew (selectively) on such incidents in his personal life for his early writing." (Knowlson 73). It is apparent that Beckett placed a great importance on the relationships which were definitely not random or superficial only.

One of the typical character features was shyness as mentioned in relation to his strugle to find a release in years he spent in Paris (1928 - 1930): "Beckett started to drink in Paris, at first fairly modestly, then towards the end of his two-year stay much more heavily. [...] For someone as retiring and inhibited as he was, the feeling of relaxation and release that alcohol offered helped him to cope with the nervousness that he felt when meeting someone whom he did know well or stiffened his resolve n more formal occasions." (Knowlson 92). He had the same problem when he was facing difficult life situations such as doubts about himself, poverty or depression.



4. 1. Friendship with James Joyce


As was previously mentioned, rather than superficial relations, Beckett seemed to keep certain distance from people. Taking into consideration the nature of the people which impressed Beckett enough to create connection with, it is possible to deduce certain values. Though sometimes quite different in character, Beckett always found connection to a person who shared his love for knowledge and art mainly. The example of such a friendship was his friend Tom MacGreevy whom Beckett described as "a living Encyclopedia and he was impressed by his unusually wide-ranging interests […] their common passion for painting and love of music, and theatre that drew them close to each other." (Knowlson 90). Tom MacGreevy is described as "confident, talkative and gregarious" while Beckett is said to be "diffident, silent and solitary." (Knowlson 90). Regarding the nature of both persons, MacGreevy's characteristics were "liveliness, wit and ready sympathy that attracted Beckett most of all and won his confidence and affection" (Knowlson 90). MacGreevy was comming from Catholic family and Beckett from firmly Protestant background. Appart from literature and painting, they led long disputes about religion, as well.

Beckett's family and also his friends, who he was selecting reasonably, critically and cautiously played significant roles in terms of forming his character. "But one friendship in Paris far outshone all the others. Beckett was first introduced to James Joyce by Tom MacGreevy. [...] James Joyce was not unknown to Beckett before they were introduced. Beckett wanted to meet him since he is said to admire Joyce's work Dubliners, Portrait of the artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and some of his poems (Knowlson 97). In terms of the values which Joyce and Beckett shared, they both studied French and Italian. They also "adored words, their sounds, rhythms, shapes, etymologies and histories, and Joyce had a formidable vocabulary derived from many languages and a keen interest in conterporary sland in several languages that Beckett admired and tried to emluate." (Knowlson 98).

When in search for the projection of their relationship into Beckett's work, Beckett was strongly influenced by the style of Joyce's work. Yet concepting it as an inspiration at the level of motives and themes, this friendship may be projected into Waiting for Godot, i. e. in case of Pozzo and Lucky, who, especially in the second act, had to rely on each other in terms of dependency and hierarchy - blind Pozzo has to rely on Lucky, who is mute. This may be apparent from the situation of Joyce: "Beckett's work with Joyce mainly consisted of reading aloud from books that the 'Penman', as his friends called him, thought might be helpful to him. But, very occasionally, Joyce dictated to him. For, by this time, Joyce's eyesight was failing badly and he was trying to save himself as much eye strain as he possibly could." Moreover, it is also claimed that a great amount of time they spent together was spent in complete silence.

Althoug in Waiting for Godot the issues such as respect or friendship are irrelevant and they are replaced by humiliation and dependency resulting from a hierarchy between master and his servant, this idea of dependency may be noticed in Beckett's life as well. Being available whenever Joyce needed anything, Beckett "soon agreed to hlep Joyce by doing some research for him for his 'Work in Progress', which became Finnegans Wake. He used to stroll along to Joyce's apartment" (Knowlson 98). This 'hierarchy' and dependency were motivated by Beckett's admiration of Joyce and thus the relationship was purely voluntary and based on respect. On the oter hand in Waiting for Godot this relationship is escalated and amplified by elements of suffering, reversible degradation and alienation. However, the question may be raised till which extent it is justified to presume that the relation with Joyce who was due to his weakening eyesight dependend on Beckett's help and whether this situation is reflected also in Waiting for Godot, even though in its modified form.

Although Beckett admired Joyce, he was still kind of intellectual himself. Often he did not establish relation with a person who did not seem intellectually and culturally conscious. At acrimonious concept, Beckett may be found even intelectually arrogant. In terms of a great importance that Beckett placed on gesture, it is possible to notice certain admiration also in terms of imitation: "Joyce's biographer, Richard Ellann, described the scene in the following way: 'Joyce sat in his habitual posture, legs crossed, toe of the upper leg under the instep of the lower; Beckett, also tall and slender, fell into the same gesture.' " (Knowlson 99) Beckett as "young man admired Joyce so much that he was happy to help." (Knowlson 100). When analysing the personality of James Joyce, it is possible to refer to his wife's utterance: "Joyce was a demanding taskmaster who, according to his wife, would soon have had God running errands for him, if he had come down to earth." (Knowlson 97).

As it can be derived from Beckett's claim, his friendship with James Joyce was still formal one by its nature: "There wasn't a lot of conversation between us. I was a young man, very devoted to him, and he liked me ... I was very flattered when he dropped the 'Mister'. Everybody was 'Mister'. There were no Christian names, no first names. The nearest you would get to a friendly name was to drop the 'Mister'. I was never Sam. I was always 'Beckett' at the best." (Knowlson 101). Moreover, the atmosphere of their relationship does not seem to be released when taking into consideration that "Beckett did not joke with Joyce as Paul Léon or Stuart Gilbert did. He was probably too much in awe of the master." (Knowlson 101).

As suggested above, Beckett was to organize things for Joyce. "Sometimes the call was to ask him to bring him a particular book or look up a reference for him, or, occasionally, to escort him to a party, for Joyce's failing vision made him fearful of going out alone." (Knowlson 102). Beckett is said to be impressed by the combination and two contradictory features of Joyce's personality: "combination of vulnerability and apparet self-confidence appelaed to a young man who was himself intellectually arrogant yet still unsure of himself." (Knowlson 102). The respect between Beckett and Joyce was mutual: "Joyce rated Beckett very highly. [...] Joyce had great conficence in Beckett's keen intelligence." (Knowlson 102).

Beckett, as a member of the company around Jamese Joyce, was familiar with Joyce's personal issues and one of the worries of Joyce was the about his daughter Lucia: "Beckett first met Lucia Joyce at her father's flat early in November 1928." (Knowlson 103). She is described as "beautiful, vibrant girl with tall slender graceful", i. e. in spite of her suffering from mental illness." (Knowlson 103). She also suffered from strabismus. On the other hand, according to Joyce's niece, Bozena Berta Delimata she had "dark, curly hsoulder-lenght hair and blue eyes with a slight cast but ... attractive in spite of it." (Knowlson 103). Lucia is said to be "focussing her amorous attention on Beckett." (Knowlson 104). Perhaps, from the fear of putting the frienship with her father into danger, Beckett refused to have more intimate reltionship with Lucia: "He continued to take her out to restaurants and theatres but it was more in an attempt to bind himself to Joyce than out of any great desire to be with Lucia, who was already beginnig to show wild and disturbing fluctuations of mood. It is unlikely, however, that he would have allowed his relationship with her to become a sexual one, although he admitted to find her 'very good-looking'. He had far too much to lose with Joyce and was in any case emotianally involved at the time with Peggy Sinclair." (Knowlson 104, 105).

Based on this claim, it is possible to detect certain hierarchy of values. Beckett apparently valued his friendship with Joyce much higher than the idea of having a relationship with his daughter. In addition to this, it could be disputable till which extent the accusations of Beckett are justifed, when he was accused of making a use of Joyce's daughter to get closer to Joyce. A response may be found in Beckett's poem I would like my love to die, in which Lucia Joyce, indirectly, appears. In the poem, Beckett's remorse and feeling of guilt is apparent:

"I would like my love to die


and the rain to be falling on the graveyard
and on me walking the streets
mourning the first and last to love me."2

However, the consequences of this event were devastating for Beckett. He was accused of "leading the girl on in order to ingratiate himself with Joyce. Nora rounded upon Joyce and told him that his daughter's affections had been trifled with. Joyce (who, absorbed in his book, may not have noticed before) accepted his role as the outraged father. He delivered the message. Beckett's visits were to cease; he was persona non grata at Square Robiac." (Knowlson 105) The firendship with Joyce was not fully repaired untill Joyce realized the serisousnes of his daughter's mental illness which caused the impossibillity of a true love affair.

Reflecting on his friendshp with Joyce, Beckett states: "When I first met Joyce, I didn't intedned to be a writer. That only came later when I found out that I was no good at all at teaching. […] I had a great admiration for him. That's what it was epic, heroic, what he achieved. But I realized that I couldn't go down that same road." (Knowlson 105). Beckett "felt, from early on in their relationship, that it was essential for him to separate himself and establish a distance between himself as a writer and Joyce" (Knowlson 106). By this separation it was Beckett's minimalistic approach, which he applied especially in his plays.


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