“since I was young, I chose the more exciting circle”

Image (Wikipedia): “St Michael’s Victory over the Devil is a 1958 bronze sculpture by Jacob Epstein, displayed on the south end of the east wall outside the new Coventry Cathedral, above the steps leading up from Priory Street to the cathedral’s entrance and beside the stained glass of John Piper’s bowed baptistry window. The cathedral is dedicated to St Michael.”

From: A Slender Reputation (1994), by Kathleen Hale:

(1917) Mother was appalled by my plans to live in London…

…I decided that the only safe place for me to stay in London would be at the YWCA. Arriving at the Baker Street (since renamed Lloyd Baker Street, to avoid confusion with its better known namesake to the west) branch, I had to tell the secretary there that I had no money until the end of the week when I would get my first wages. She agreed to wait. As there was no vacancy in the hostel itself, I would have to stay at a neighbouring boarding house, but could take my meals at the hostel…

My first London friend lived in the same boarding house. She took me for evening walks up and down Baker Street- nowhere else. These promenades without destination mystified me as did the way that sooner or later she would disappear and I would be left to go home on my own. I was too innocent at the time to realise that she was a prostitute, using me as a *stalking-horse until she found a client. One evening she disappeared for good.

Looking up from breakfast one morning, I saw a vision descending the stairs into the hostel dining-room…Among the respectable office workers and shop assistants who lived at the hostel, she stood out…Her name was Meum Stuart (her husband had affectionately nicknamed her the Latin for ‘mine’), and she was only perching there because a period of celibacy on her part was necessary for her divorce…

Meum was the favourite model of Jacob Epstein, the sculptor, and she took me to his Sunday afternoon tea-parties in Cheyne Walk. There were two courts of artists in London then, Epstein’s serious-minded society, and Augustus John’s more gregarious set. They never mixed, as Epstein strongly disapproved of Augustus’s way of life. When I got to know the latter, Epstein told me to choose between them, and, inevitably since I was young, I chose the more exciting circle…”

*a screen traditionally made in the shape of a horse behind which a hunter may stay concealed when stalking prey.

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