Widower's House: A Study in Bereavement, or How Margot and Mella Forced Me to Flee My Home
A hilarious comedy of errors and a delightful love story by England's most improbable sex symbol.
Little did retired professor John Bayley realize when he lost Iris Murdoch, his beloved wife of forty-four years, that life would never be the same again. First came thousands of sympathy notes from lovers of Murdoch's novels and fans of Bayley's own poignant memoir, Elegy for Iris. But more alarming were the hundreds of calls from seemingly well-meaning women, many of whom rang Bayley's doorbell in Oxford, bearing cakes, casserole dishes, and delivering pep talks designed to cheer up the widower of their dreams.
Here, in Widower's House: A Study in Bereavement or How Margot and Mella Forced Me to Flee My Home, Bayley tells the painful, inspirational, and ultimately uplifting story of how he had to grapple with his fate as a man by beginning life anew in his mid-seventies. Like millions of other widows and widowers, Bayley, as he relates it, found himself emotionally unprepared for the responsibilities and burdens that confront people who suddenly find themselves alone. He hadn't realized how differently you are treated when you are not part of a couple, and how you must learn to respond to friends, family members, and total strangers in completely different ways.
With the reassuring, compassionate voice of Iris still a mournful obbligato in the background, Bayley describes the pitfalls a widower must face as he ventures out into the newly virgin world beyond his front door. Finding comfort in recording the day-to-day calamities that marked his reentry into the real world, Bayley uses surprising humor—reflected here in the vivid depictions of his new suitors, Margot and Mella—to get him through his darkest days.
Melodic, irrepressible, and comically comforting, Widower's House, with its heartwarming and surprisingly romantic ending, will reveal yet a new side of the man who has become England's most unlikely symbol of masculine virility.
same memories you used to enjoy so much when you looked after Iris, and that came to comfort you every afternoon and early morning. Think above all of the Voice. Do you want to go on hearing it whenever you are low and alone? Yes, I knew the Voice. It belonged to a being that was not Iris. It was memory in person, a creature that lived on human flesh and was sucking dry my blood and bones. So both parts of me agreed, like the men of Munich, to do nothing and just hope for the best while waiting
my hand in a grip which, as I knew from yesterday, was something very like iron. She drew my own chair towards herself, and now we seemed more like a pair of invalids in a nursing home, beginning what might become, if things prospered, a passionate relationship. One thing led to another, but, thank goodness, our relationship showed no signs of being like that. We went to bed, certainly, as we had done the day before, but I think it was probably just because we had done it the day before that we
be something of an illusion. A nice quiet, settled existence of routines, and little things presenting themselves throughout the day—that was what I was always harping on to myself. And nothing came of it. Naturally enough perhaps. Nothing except trouble, as it now seemed, in various forms. The chief comfort of my imagined way of being a widower was quietly to look forward to each thing, each minute, being over, while it was still actually going on. Anticipation as an end in itself, a goal and
the world. Surely Alberts, in any form, could never have had any special significance for Iris. But who knows? She was looking intelligent, interested, nodding her head. “Any Alberts around, darling?” I said hopefully. Iris waved her head, still smiling. Two big tears peered out from under her eyelids and then slid down her cheeks. The sight was extraordinarily reassuring, as satisfying as if it had been some much more intimate bodily process of my own. I seized her round the waist and danced
friction, as well, in a situation that was already quite bad enough. As I went to answer the door, I was lost in such thoughts, quite bemused. I could see the kindly face of Dr. Jacoby when he used to visit us, and Iris’s expression as she rushed like a child to meet him, her face beaming. Lost in the past, I stooped down to undo the bolt on the front door. I hadn’t even looked through the glass to see who was there. It was not six of Iris’s novels in Turkish or in Japanese. It was Mella. And