Columbia Library columns (v.28(1978Nov-1979May))

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  v.28,no.1(1978:Nov): Page 21  

"The Back Like A Weasel's"


IN early April 1923, George Moore, the Irish novelist, gave
Nancy Cunard, by then a published poet and well on her
way xvith Iris Tree and Diana Manners to becoming a legend
of the twenties, a copy of the new edition of his Memoirs of my
Dead Life. He inscribed it, "To Nancy, with much affection, from
her first friend." Nancy in 1922 was twent>r-six years old and
Moore, seventy; but he was wholly accurate in his claim.

The inscription was particularly appropriate for that book,
because it told in some fictional detail of Moore's enduring love
for Nancy's mother, Maud Burke Cunard, later called Emerald
Cunard. Moore had known her since 1894 when they met prob¬
ably at lunch or dinner at the Savoy Hotel. She was wearing a
pink-and-gray shot-silk dress, which he never forgot. She was
golden-haired, beautiful; her wit was lively, and he fell hopelessly
under her spell at once. They became lovers, but she refused to
marry him. Despite his literary success, Moore's career held no
promise of the life Maud Burke envisioned for herself. Over and
over she "dashed" his hopes until once, as they walked and talked
in St. James Park, Moore was frustrated and angry enough to give
her a sharp kick on the behind. Nevertheless, Moore's regard for
Maud Burke never slackened. Fifteen years later, in 1909, he was
associating her with Maeterlinck'sBtee Bird, the blue bird of happi¬
ness, and assuring her that no one would "appreciate and admire"
her as he did, that "everything led to the moment" when he first
"caught the glint of those beautiful x^'ings." He went on,

... have I not followed the light of those xvings ever since? And would
not the truthful picture of me be, a man following with outstretched
arms? And shall I not die seeing a blue bird—when sight of all else is
gone your beautiful wings will float in the dimming t\\Tlight; beautiful
  v.28,no.1(1978:Nov): Page 21