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The Garden God – a Tale of Two Boys – Forrest Reid

May 2, 2016

TGGC.S. Lewis suggests in his book The Four Loves that to love and to like is controversial for we are allowed, if that word could be used in this context, to like certain things but not love them. The reason why is unclear.  “Most of my generation were reproved as children for saying that we “loved” strawberries, and some people take a pride in the fact that English has the two verbs love and like” (

“Nearly all speakers, however pedantic or however pious, talk everyday about “loving” a food, a game, or a pursuit. And in fact there is a continuity between our elementary likings for things and our loves for people. Since “the highest dose not stand without the lowest” we had better begin at the bottom, with mere likings; and since to “like” anything means to take some sort of pleasure in it, we must begin with pleasure.”

Friendship is not a very popular or well spread theme in literature. Most people prefer to write about Affection and Eros due to their popularity “When either Affection or Eros is one’s theme, one finds a prepared audience.” (Lewis 57). “But very few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all.”

Forrest Reid was one of those few connoisseurs of friendship. He wrote intensively about friendship and his writings were popular, at least amongst his devoted group of readers for he managed to mix friendship with other types of love and add a romantic flavor to it while keeping it pure and sincere. Reid was capable of creating an imaginary world of friendship and love at the same time, sometimes this world of imagination was merged with reality.

Affection has two sub branches, Need-love and Gift- love. “The image we must start with is that of a mother nursing a baby; a bitch or a cat with a basketful full of puppies or kittens; all in a squeaking, nuzzling heap together; purrings, lickings, baby-talk, milk, warmth, the smell of young life.

The importance of this image is that it presents us at the very outset with a certain paradox. The Need-love and Need-love of the young is obvious; so is the Gift-love of the mother. She gives birth, gives suck, gives protection. On the other hand, she must give birth or die. She must give suck or suffer. That way, her affection too is a Need-love. There is the paradox. It is a Need-love but what it needs is to give. It is a Gift-love but it needs is to be needed”.

“Affection extends far beyond the relation of mother and young. This warm comfortableness, this satisfaction in being together, takes in all sorts of objects. It is indeed the least discriminating of loves. There are women for whom we can predict few wooers and men who are likely to have friends. They have nothing to offer. But almost anyone can become an object of Affection; the ugly, the stupid, even the exasperating. There need be no apparent fitness between those whom it unites. I have seen it felt for an imbecile not only by his parents but by his brothers. It ignores the barrier of age, sex, class and education. It can exist between a clever young man and from the university and an old nurse, though their minds inhabit different worlds.”

Forrest Reid, experienced affection not with mankind only but with other species, specifically dogs. “It ignores even the barriers of species. We see it not only between dog and man but also between dog and cat.”

“Nothing is shallower than the belief that a love which leads to sin is always qualitatively lower-more animal or more trivial-than one which leads to faithful, fruitful and Christian marriage.”

“What we have is not “a right to expect” but a “reasonable expectation” of being loved by our intimates if we, and they, are more or less ordinary people. But we may not be. We may be intolerable. If we are, “nature” will work against u. For the very same conditions if intimacy which make Affection possible also-and no less naturally- make possible a peculiarly incurable distaste; a hatred as immemorial, constant, unemphatic, almost at times unconscious, as the corresponding form of love.”

Fifteen year old Graham Iddesleigh dreams of a past life, where he frolicked in a garden with a young Greek god. However, his dreams threaten to come to an abrupt end when his father decides to send him away to school. But what is Graham’s surprise when he meets a fellow schoolboy, Harold Brocklehurst, who is the very image of the Greek god of his dreams!

Graham falls deeply in love with his new friend, and the two boys spend an unforgettable summer together — until a heartbreaking tragedy occurs, a tragedy that will change Graham’s life forever.

The Garden God was first published in 1905, in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial and other scandals, and risked controversy with its undercurrents of pederastic desire.

This novel risked controversy with its portrayal of romantic friendship between two boys; Reid dedicated it to his literary idol Henry James, who was outraged and never spoke to Reid again.

Reid’s father; Robert Reid died when the boy was only five or six years old. Maybe this influenced a very brief part of this novel about the relationship of the boy with his loving father. He was at times lonely and, just like Reid, was searching for a companion.

Reid’s loneliness when he is not so fortunate to be with a companion in reality is not that devastating for he has ways of being with the playmate of his dreams in his dreams. He was always capable of creating his love in his mind and dreaming of him, playing with him and experiencing true feelings with him in his dreams where light would shine “but even now he had only to close his eyes to bring up the light-the light….”

The obtaining of a friendship and the loss of it, affections, feelings, dreams, wishes and imaginations are explored.  A chance encounter, a familiar face, desired emotions, closeness and passion, joy and adventure, longing and belonging, attachment, loss and devastation are what the characters go through. Their experiences, emotions, thoughts and feelings are described beautifully and deeply by Forrest Reid. The reader cannot help but fall in love with Reid’s written words. Reid is able to make a very simple story, gripping, very normal events, dramatic and the emotions profound and intense which makes it impossible for the reader not to sympathize, feel with the characters, sense their suffering and grieve their loss.

To Forrest Reid, friendship is simply trust and being able to be comfortable and natural with your friend. Reid who had spent a, more or less, lonely life, who faced difficulty finding that someone who would share his private world and merge his dreams with his reality longed to find a companion who would take him out of his loneliness and put an end to his singular secret world “My life, from as far back as I can remember, was never lived holly in the open. I mean that it had its private side, that there were things I saw, felt, heard, and kept to myself. There were thoughts I kept to myself, too; and above all dreams.”

Reid and his characters found extreme pleasure and happiness just by being in the company of their loved ones “To feel his companion close beside him, and to be alone with him like this, gave Graham an exquisite pleasure.”

TGG 2Quotations:

“dear Allingham” in a rather polite, apologetic yet confident tone for like he said “I have not in the least fulfilled my duties as a good citizen. Doubtless I am not a good citizen. Doubtless, as you kindly hint, I ought to have married; but I suppose even you will admit that it is now too late-too late for me to think of following your excellent example. I cannot, alas! Even pretend that I want to follow it, want to forsake my wilderness.”

“But there had been many things that had given him pleasure. On the whole he had been happy-happy after his fashion: and he had known, had felt, the most beautiful thing of all, ‘the ecstasy and sorrow of love….’”

“But instead of answering he sat quite still, gazing fixedly at the stranger, his colour gradually deepening. Fascinated, spell bound, his lips parted, his eyes opened wide, he hardly dared to move lest the vision should vanish.”

“‘And I have something to do with it?’

‘Oh yes; everything’-he spoke quietly, simply. ‘You were always there, you know. It belongs to you as much as it belongs to me. You have been meeting me there for years!’”

“Doubtless when he had first gone to school he had also been alone-but the difference, the difference now would be incalculable. There were days, in truth, when it almost seemed to him that it would have been better if he had never been given his happiness, since so soon it was to be snatched from him; and even though deep in his heart he knew he would not forget it if he could, there were days when he thought it would be well if all the past could be effaced from his mind, rubbed out as figures are rubbed from a child’s slate.”

“The visible world!-was it not almost sentient? From the trees and the sky, from the restless sea and the wind had emerged, at any rate, that imaginary playmate who had made his life beautiful; the messenger of Eros; the fair boy who had come to him from his strange garden, his meadow of asphodel.”

“‘One of the signs of a real friendship is not to be afraid to speak openly to your friend of all that concerns both him and you.’”

“I am only trying to remember a dream-a dream I have had so often.”

“And his life?-that too, perhaps, had taken a grayish tinge…. Monotonous? … ah yes, monotonous in truth: but even now he had only to close his eyes to bring up the light-the light….”

had the past five years over again.” (Reid Apostate 218) while he realized that it is inevitable “He walked over to the window and looked out into the breaking day. The world seemed very old and cheerless. Was it the chill of approaching age in his own blood, he wondered, that made him find it so! He smiled a strange, dim little smile. Best, then, to set by the fire and doze! He came back to the table, and leaning over it, buried his face in his hands.”

“the old playmate of his dreams had ceased to visit him, that he could no longer even call up very clearly his image, remember what he was like. It was as if the change had come into his everyday world had extended on into the dusky ways of sleep, and though he did not dwell upon it at all, yet he felt, obscurely, that something that had been had ceased to be, and that there was a blank, a void in his existence, which none of the many new pleasures and interests in his life would ever be able to fill.”

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