I am beginning to lose my patience with the weather. I suspect I am not alone in feeling utterly dispirited by this endless onslaught of rain. We have just come out of the wettest April on record,
and still the rain falls … It’s too terrible for words.
Except that nothing is too terrible for words. Words do rather a good job of getting things right. So I have turned to words – to written words – to seek advice and find inspiration in
the dreadful wet weather.
The weather is so deeply ingrained into the English psyche that it is no real surprise to find its presence equally pronounced in English literature. From an admittedly biased and cursory survey of
some of my favourite books, when rain appears it seems to be urging one of two things.
Firstly, creativity. Who can forget the introduction to Mary Shelley’s
"http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frankenstein-ebook/dp/B000JQUZCI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336634580&sr=1-1">Frankenstein? Here she explains that the book came about while
holidaying in Switzerland with Byron and co. ‘It proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house.’ Cooped up thanks to the terrible weather,
there was nothing for it but for everyone to write ghost stories. And so Frankenstein was born. Do not be idle in the rain, but unleash your inner creativity and give birth to a bestselling
On a somewhat less ambitious scale, this is echoed by Jane Gardam in her delightful novel
"http://www.amazon.co.uk/Long-Way-Verona-Jane-Gardam/dp/0349122512/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336634623&sr=1-1">A Long Way from Verona. Jessica Vye – the
thirteen-year-old protagonist and heroine – gets soaking wet when going to see one of her teachers before school. ‘I had to beat my way against the wind and rain along the promenade as
I had forgotten my macintosh. It was a foul dark morning.’ They warm themselves by the electric fire, eating biscuits, but it’s no good, Jessica gets tonsillitis and spends the next few
weeks in bed.
This sojourn in bed lets the narrative take an unexpected turn. Rather than trotting along in the first person, ‘I did this, I did that etc.’, we gather, ‘I will now proceed in
letters. For a time.’ So we get a delightful chapter of letters between Jessica and her friends. They are hysterically funny and over-the-top, full of silly lines like, ‘Hope this
amuses you on your bed of pain’ and ‘Helen has got a BOYFRIEND!!!!!!! He’s all spots. He’s much smaller than she is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’
It’s not quite Frankenstein, but a charming interlude nonetheless. It isn’t until there’s a more dramatic downpour later in the book – this time of snow and bombs –
that Jessica writes a poem. Perhaps the rain-inspired letters helped get the creativity flowing.
The other thing provoked by rain is love. There’s Edward Thomas’s sensual poem, ‘Like the touch of rain’, and then there’s D.H. Lawrence, who takes the touch of rain
up a notch in a raunchy scene in Lady
Chatterley’s Lover. I’m not sure I can quote from it here, so suffice to say Lady C dances around naked in the rain and it’s not long before Mellors comes to join her
A rather more chaste version is in Monica Dickens’
‘All day the air had been sultry with thunder, charged with an expectant electricity that had got into the children and made them out of control … Mary felt that she would burst out of her
skin with the tingling exuberance that possessed her. She knew Denys felt as crazy as she did … Then without any warning at all, he suddenly clutched hold of her and kissed
Denys spoils things somewhat by then saying, ‘My hat, it’s getting dark. I say, look at the sky!’ The storm comes and they sit and watch it together, holding hands. Young love can
be surprisingly highly charged.
So take inspiration from literature – make the most of the rain and either fall in love or take up writing. But if you do venture out to do battle with the elements, then don’t take
home someone else’s umbrella. That particular mix-up got Leonard Bast and Helen Schlegel into all sorts of trouble.