A D R I A N S T O K E S
M A I N I N T R O D U C T I O N - Richard Wollheim
We got to know each other very well only after 1962 - about the time I began my own analysis. The Stokes's house in Church Row, Hampstead, an early eighteenth-century house - 'the houses in the street are not unpleasant', he wrote in his first letter tome - was on what we called 'the analytic route', and I would call in probably once, sometimes twice, a week. The meetings had a pattern. Adrian would come downstairs, shuffling a little in his slippers, holding his pipe a few inches out of his mouth, just above his right shoulder and parallel to the ground, adjusting his silk handkerchief. There would be words of welcome, some words of apology, some reflections on the last meeting, 'I have been thinking ..... ' he would begin. All very hesitant at first. We would be upstairs by now. He would play with a large box of matches, he would stare up at the ceiling, he would - as on the hotel lawn in St Ives many mornings before - try out a number of positions until, getting into one that no one else would have stayed in for a moment, he settled for it: his back largely towards me, a cat across his knees, sitting bolt upright, looking out of the window over St John's Wood and the valley of the Thames - and then the thoughts flowed. Next morning a letter or postcard would arrive. It would continue the conversation, apologize for too emphatic an assertion, conclude probably on a tangential or enigmatic thought. In a postcard, tantalizingly dated 'Tuesday afternoon', I find the sentence: 'I shall discipline and keep myself in trim in wondering for what simple reason Palestrina avoided concerning himself with a tone poem on the plangent fountains of Rome.' Once the conversation must have been peculiarly intimate, and he wrote by the next post: 'If talking to me about yourself is a mistake, there is a great deal else for us to talk about.' At dinner, sitting at the head of a scrubbed table, presiding over many pots with different vegetables, several bottles with different wines, perhaps one of some grandeur, shirt open at the neck, blinking as though a light had suddenly been turned on, he was invariably high-spirited. He resembled a boy taken out to the theatre and supper afterwards. He talked about art, exhibitions and friends; he liked childish jokes and nicknames particularly. He seldom referred to the past. Laughter excited him. I remember one evening taking a great friend of mine, John Richardson, to dinner at Church Row and, the conversation turning to an art critic who had once been an avid ballroom dancer, John got up and went through all the palais dances of the twenties and the thirties. Often afterwards Adrian would say, 'I did like "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" ', and tears would return to his eyes until the silk handkerchief had wiped them away. Generally, he developed a most remarkable way of half-listening to someone which also involved the most total concentration upon the person that I have ever observed in any human being. And he could be firm. Once when I was dining alone with Adrian and an old friend of his who was a distinguished historian of architecture - Ann must have been away - the friend made some idiotic remarks about psycho-analysis. Adrian waited until we had all had one cup of coffee and then he turned to his guest and said, 'It was very kind of you to come', and in a minute had manoeuvred him to the front door and out into the wintry street. It was not yet half past nine. Once he said to Stuart Hampshire, talking about someone else, his voice dropping to a whisper, 'Don't you find it is the gentlest people who can sometimes be the most harsh?'. He was full of irony, and he spoke and wrote in a language that he seemed to have reinvented.