“VLADIMIR: Well? Shall we go?
ESTRAGON: Yes, let's go.
They do not move.”
Velleity is a self-conceived, delusive trick of the mind – wishing something were so but doing nothing to realize it. We all do it, and some make a career of it. Here’s what brought the word to mind:
“He writes of failure, or insufficiency rather, or rather of velleities and second thoughts, of dubious buses not too bitterly missed, of doubts about doubts, and there is a gentleness, even a dry sweetness, to his tone of voice.”
The author is the late poet and critic D.J. Enright in “Down Cemetery Road,” a review of Philip Larkin’s The Whitsun Weddings collected in Conspirators and Poets (Chatto & Windus, 1966). The Larkin volume was published in February 1964 and contains some of his best and best-known poems – “Dockery and Son,” “Days,” “Mr Bleaney,” “MCMXIV,” “An Arundel Tomb” and the title poem. Enright understands Larkin’s “homespun melancholy,” makes no excuses for it and knows it’s more than that, more than a bad attitude or chemical imbalance. “Dockery and Son” (“Why did he think adding meant increase?”) looks back at “I Remember, I Remember” (The Less Deceived, 1954) and forward to “This Be the Verse” (High Windows, 1974). Of all this wry grimness, Enright rightly concludes that “perhaps it is not ridiculously out of order to feel a degree of impatience at the sight of so marvellous a skill in conveying the feel of living joined with such a valetudinarian attitude toward life.”