Hearing Secret Harmonies

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First edition cover

Hearing Secret Harmonies is the final novel in Anthony Powell's twelve-volume series, A Dance to the Music of Time. It was published in 1975, twenty-four years after the first book, A Question of Upbringing, appeared in 1951.

Plot summary[]

Nick and Isobel Jenkins host a caravan of four young occultists on their land: Fiona Cutts, daughter of Roddy Cutts; Scorpio Murtlock, an intense young man; Barnabas Henderson; and Rusty. They fish for crayfish; Murtlock locates a farmer's lost dog.

Widmerpool has embraced counter-culture after his stay in the United States, and, disdaining the form of address "Lord Widmerpool", is calling himself "Ken Widmerpool". He is appointed Chancellor of a new university, and has paint thrown over him by students (the Quiggin twins).

Matilda Donners has established the Magnus Donners Memorial Prize, awarded to biographies. She convinced Nick to serve on the award panel by showing him and Isobel the photographs Donners took of Nick and friends 30 years before, portraying the Seven Deadly Sins. The other panel members are Mark Members and Emily Brightman, with Gibson Delavacquerie serving as secretary. In the fourth year of the award, the only suitable book is Russell Gwinnett's biography of X Trapnel. There is a complication, however: Widmerpool is one of the award trustees, yet Trapnel and Gwinnett both had affairs with Widmerpool's wife Pamela. Widmerpool agrees to the award, provided he can attend the award dinner with the Quiggin twins. He gives a speech denouncing bourgeois society, which is interrupted by the Quiggin twins setting off a stink bomb.

Nick meets Gwinnett at some standing stones near his house. Gwinnett had attended as an observer a ritual of Murtlock's Harmony cult, an attempt to summon the spirit of Doctor Trelawney. They were interested in Gwinnett because of his necrophilia. Widmerpool has joined the cult, offering the use of his house, and a power struggle has taken place between Widmerpool and Murtlock.

Fiona leaves the cult, and moves into Gibson Delavacquerie's flat.

Nick and Isobel attend the wedding of Fiona's brother, held at Stourwater, previously the home of Sir Magnus Donners, now a girls' school. Fiona has left the cult and married Gwinnett. Fiona sees the Harmony cult out for a run on the Stourwater estate, including Widmerpool and Bithel, and invites them to join the wedding reception. Widmerpool is in poor health, and desires to apologise to Sir Bertram Akworth, grandfather of the bride, a City colleague of Widmerpool whom he had expelled from school decades before for writing a love note to Peter Templer. Henderson sees an old boyfriend of his, Chuck, and gains Murtlock's permission to leave the cult. Widmerpool tries to leave the cult but is refused permission.

Nick attends a centenary exhibition of Mr Deacon's paintings at Barnabas Henderson's gallery. Henderson is much improved after leaving the cult. Nick meets Polly Duport, who is marrying Delavacquerie, and her parents Bob Duport and Jean Flores. Bithel arrives, reporting Widmerpool's death. He died from over-exertion trying to lead one of the cult's runs while in poor health. Murtlock ordered his belongings burnt, but Bithel rescued the Modigliani drawing previously owned by Charles Stringham and Pamela Flitton. He gives this to Henderson.

See also[]


External links[]

Retrieved from ""