And why Lethe House?
Hillary’s sexual antics and love affairs run riot
It was his plan to build a modest country house in the wilds of the North far away from the corrupting influence of the city. The mind-forged manacles of London Town oppressed him and he yearned to live the life of natural liberty, of the noble savage. His love for Edward, for that was his lover’s name, was pure and unsullied by the authority of convention. It was beauty itself and as Hillary would quote from the inimitable Blake to his lover nothing could be more natural than two lovers kissing the “joy as it flies living in eternity’s sunrise”. The problem was society didn’t understand and their great love and feeling for one another was forced to take a somewhat furtive and undignified form, initially at the tradesmen’s entrance round the back of the club which progressed to the kitchen and later to Edward’s room in a rather disreputable boarding house not that far from where his grandfather John had started out in Southwark. Such carnal conjunctions while exciting left Hillary feeling rather frustrated. He wanted to dance down the street naked with Edward not grope about in the dark He wanted to enthuse, sing of his delight, walk Edward through the palatial front entrance of his home in Chelsea, but it was to no avail and their love was in danger of being killed, starved of air by society’s polluted convention. There was nothing for it but to escape, flee these monstrous slayers of love and find refuge and solace in true nature. On top of that, he had detected the beginnings of the strain it was all having on Edward. He had always been very grateful for the gifts that Hillary would bestow upon his lover. Hillary had felt such overwhelming pity for the poverty Edward had to endure that he couldn’t but help himself from buying Edward clothes, shoes and books of poetry and to celebrate their first month together he bought him a beautifully bound copy of Werther. But such gifts while graciously received were helpless in restoring the colour and life which was so evidently draining from the fair visage of his lover. More and more often Edward would be unable to rendezvous with Hillary complaining of an eerie fatigue, a sudden headache or nausea.
So it was that he set off for Northumberland without his lover though promising to return with the answer to their dreams. Standing into the fearsome wind, looking on the tumultuous sea at Figbod, Hillary had known this would be the site of their salvation. He’d already seen the spot where he’d have the house built on the way into the village. It was about 2 miles east where the land rose up suddenly forming a substantial plateau on which to build. It was sufficiently elevated to afford thrilling views of the sea and the expansive horizon; its end limited only by the imagination. A few inquiries about the village, and the land was obtained for a very modest sum. He quickly commissioned an architect in the larger border town of Berwick-on-Tweed nothing too grand Gothic revival perhaps with nice arches, polygonal windows and turrets and set off back for London feeling like a man on the precipice of something truly wonderful.
Bur alas the house on the hill never became the monument to love it was so ardently designed to be. It took nearly three years in the building in which time Edward was a distant memory having run off with Hillary’s chambermaid. There had been several more lovers: tortuous, passionate affairs that filled his days with blissful anguish as he made his way round the grand tour of European cities as was fashionable in those days for a young man of means and indeed of culture. In Florence there was Antonello and Violetta; in Rome Donatello and Salvatore in Sienna. In Madrid Hillary’s heart broke a thousand times at the hands of the great Bullfighter Cristian and in Paris there was the unforgettable Russian Goddess Anastasiya.
Hillary loved being in love: man, woman it didn’t matter, love: the heart-stopping, must-have wonder of a beautiful human-being never failed to overwhelm him and so he had almost forgotten about the house up in Figbod. Indeed he was in Paris when he received notice that the residence had in fact been completed. All that was needed, the architect suggested was a name and had Mr Belsingham one in mind? Indeed he had; having just fallen somewhat unceremoniously out of love with the delightful though it turned out exceedingly wicked Anastasiya he wrote back immediately with instructions for the name: ‘Lethe House’ to be carved into the archway above the entrance. So there it was, in a bout of drunken self-pity, Hillary had thought it rather funny to call his country home, situated as it was on the outer edges of nowhere, ‘Lethe House’: oblivion was where he always seemed to end up so how fitting to have a house there too! Indeed pleased with his wit he was soon out and about regaling those who would listen with his witticism followed by an invite for anyone who would like to sample the nether regions of human society.
I liked the idea of a house having a history, but wondered if I had gone too far. How was I going to get the story back to the 20c?