We are pleased to announce our August flash fiction winner is Ralph Hoyte with the following imaginary letter. Well done Ralph, a really great piece of writing that was the collective choice of the staff at Literature Works and Plymouth International Book Festival. A prize is on its way to you.
My very dear Mary,
It was a month yesterday since we came to Alfoxden. The house is a large mansion. There is a very excellent garden, well stocked with vegetables and fruit, so poor William has no more grounds to complain of having to subsist upon air & the essence of carrots, cabbages, turnips & other esculent vegetables – not excluding parsley – as he did at Racedown.
Poor Coleridge shambled in looking tolerably unwell this morning. He did not even respond to William’s gambit about the cheese, that cheese I told you about. He spent all morning lolling in the armchair in front of the fire, dosing on and off. William went out and composed an Ode or two in the arbour. He had slept badly, Coleridge said. Nightmares. The harridan had driven him out of the cottage brandishing the skillet, he said. She said she had had offers, excellent offers, he said she said, and turned them down – and for what? A small, smoky, damp hovel with a fire which would not draw whatever the wind direction, a slattern for a maid, and a husband incapable of making up his mind, if he had a mind to make up – of which she saw no evidence, he said she said. He was all mouth and hair, she said, he refused to set himself in any direction, any direction at all, and keep to it; and that he was obviously incapable of supporting even so much as a grey-bearded goat on his high-minded ‘philosophy’ and completely useless ‘poetry’, never mind a wife and two children; and why did he not take up journalism, or the church, or anything at all, just take it up, or go cap in hand to the Lloyds; and that she was several classes above him in any case and just what did he know of Mary Wollstonecraft and he probably thought ‘Bath polish’ was something you buffed the kitchen flags with. What WAS she doing in this back end of beyond, he said she sallied forth, look, even her ball gowns had become mildewed; but what use were they anyway as, one, there were no balls to go to in Stowey, and, two, there was no-one to go to one with anyway as she was certainly NOT going with the most useless lump she had ever had the misfortune to encounter in all her born days. At this juncture, said Coleridge, she brandished the skillet in such a storm of tears and screamings that he feared for his life, grabbed his cloak and fled the cottage to take refuge here at Alfoxton.
What can such a woman be to Coleridge? Her radical fault is want of sensibility. She is a regular termagant and, to be sure, a sad fiddle-faddler. From about half past ten on Sunday morning till two she did nothing but fiddle-faddle around, wash and dress her 2 children and herself, and was just ready for dinner
Ever, your dearest Dorothy