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William Gerhardie: Pending Heaven

Pending Heaven is a fictional account of the relationship between Hugh Kingsmill and Gerhardie. Kingsmill is now virtually forgotten, despite a biography by Michael Holroyd. He is best known as a biographer (of Matthew Arnold, Dickens, Frank Harris, Samuel Johnson and D H Lawrence) but he was also a man about town, like Gerhardie, in the 1920s and 1930s. He appears in this (and other Gerhardie novels) as Max Fisher, while Gerhardie is Victor Thurbon, though they do change some characteristics and biographical details during the course of the novel. The two main characters are artists in search of meaning in the world today and, increasingly, heaven has to remain pending, as their attempts at trying to grasp truth become increasingly futile and absurd. Their personal relationships are equally doomed to failure, as Victor trots behind Max and his female retinue, with neither finding happiness there.

And the farther he went the more clearly he understood that all these things – himself – were but symbols and metaphors of a miracle by whose dim candle he had read in the book of life a sorry page, confused and deceptive : and a nameless usher had closed the book and carried it away. This is a seemingly slight book – not least because of Gerhardie’s mocking manner – and it does not always seem to get across its message as effectively as some of his other works but it is still a key part of what he is trying to say.

Publishing history

First published 1930 by Duckworth