How did I manage to miss it until now?
In Sleepless Nights, her best novel, a meditation close to autobiography, Hardwick ponders a life she never could have had: that of a bachelor. This was, in extremis, another character she often wrote about, a cad, like Samuel Richardson’s Lovelace or Brontë’s Heathcliff, equally forbidden and fascinating to her. This is not surprising, in a sense, as she knew one intimately. "I often think about bachelors," she writes. "A life of pure decision, of thoughtful calculations, of every inclination honored. They go about on their own, nicely accompanied in their singularity by the companion of possibility. For cannot any man, young or old, rich or poor, turn a few corners and bump into marriage?" It is tempting to wonder what Elizabeth Hardwick’s life might have been like if she had had the option of pure decision, if she had remained an unmarried Bohemian. What if she had not bumped into marriage (into that marriage), if she had turned the corner toward Baton Rouge and the Southern agrarians instead of New York (a real choice she faced), if she had been content as a mere poet’s wife with a rotten life? Would she have been happier? I think not. And the world would be a lot poorer in prose.