Letter: Coward's way

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Philip Hoare's paean for the values of Noel Coward (Comment, 1 February) was summed up more than three decades ago in a top newspaper's thundering headline over an editorial on the Chatterley trial: A DECENT RETICENCE. But in reality this is everything that the English do not need.

Since Shakespeare's time we have isolated ourselves from the beauties and terrors of myth and passion; we have covered the rawness of our nature in Prince of Wales check. Coward was right to indicate that an unrestrained peeling-back-to-nature was a mistake; but his denial of the mythic and ecstatic aspects to human existence reminds me of the king in Euripides' Bacchae, whose suppression of the rites of Dionysos drove him mad.

Somehow we need to integrate the mythic and the irrational into our lives. This was one of the things that the playwrights of the Fifties and Sixties were saying; this was the whole ethos of the Sixties - to me a "marvellous party" (yes!) where hierarchy, class distinctions and the urge to control others were jettisoned in favour of love, individuality, discovering common humanity, ending superiority and bossiness, and taking responsibility for one's own life.

After such discovery, the world of the stuff upper lip was about as appealing as a dutiful railway sandwich.


London W14