my old friend f————— was, to put it perhaps a bit uncharitably, the most ostentatiously cultured man i ever knew. though largely an autodidact, and having no official connection to any university or other cultural institution, he had strong views, which he was not loath to share, on a wide variety of subjects, but particularly architecture and literature. i have to confess i have forgotten exactly what his views on the former were , not having any strong opinions on the subject myself. in literature he was partial to the poets of the renaissance. he seemed unaware that few people - at least in the english speaking world - nowadays read or have the slightest interest in petrarch, boiardo, tasso, and ariosto , and i would on occasion gently twit him about this.
he also had an encyclopedic acquaintance with the nineteenth century novel, not just the acknowledged masters like balzac and dickens but forgotten authors like nodier, paul de kock, mrs braddon, and mrs trollope.
as you might have suspected, he held the tastes and manners of the modern age in the most severe contempt. in this, he found little opposition at the club we both frequented.
he was reticent as to his personal life, if any , and though no foe to food and drink, could not be styled a gourmet, an oenophile, a glutton, or a drunkard.
it was therefore with some surprise that i listened to his statement late one night when we were alone at the club - with the fire burning low and a couple of emptied bottles between us - that his fondest dream had always been to be - a lumberjack.
not because he particularly enjoyed the thought of felling trees or because he relished the company of other lumberjacks, but because it would afford him the opportunity to indulge in huge hearty meals of ham, bacon, eggs, potatoes, and flapjacks, which he would then work the bulk of off in a long day of vigorously swinging his axe, followed by a sound night’s sleep, and awake to a new morning of more hearty meals of ham, bacon, eggs, etc…
such was his vision of true felicity.
my rejoinder to this confidence, if any, i have quite forgotten.
although f———— continued to frequent the club until his sad demise, neither he nor i ever alluded to this conversation again.