I have just bought a unicorn. Self-possessed, proud and private, he is the cold, reclusive master of his dark, wild wood. He avoids humans - those puny, scuttling critters with their frail fences and crocodile tears - but once in a night of moonlight he might venture out to find a virgin, and rest his ancient, scarred cheek in her fragrant lap. He will not thank me for bringing him to your attention, but I can't help it. I'm in love.
My new etching, by Flora McLachlan (found in Sanders of Oxford, beautifully framed in thin ash-brown wood) exactly captures the inscrutable, isolated spirit of this much-misrepresented beast. Christopher Lavers' rigorous investigation into The Natural History of Unicorns has recently gone some way towards restoring the species' reputation as a powerful and provocative artistic and cultural symbol, and as part of a generation which thinks that unicorns look like either My Little Pony's Majesty or Ridley Scott's gossamer-maned, floral-garlanded faerie mares with long-lashed bimbo stares, I'm relieved.
Our pop culture appropriation of unicorns as cute, kitsch creatures whose 'milky breath' smells like couture perfume does a disservice to the fearsome strangeness of the bearded beasts from Medieval bestiaries. My favourite 'quick, panting' literary horned hoss can be found in Charles Williams' poem Taliessin's Song of the Unicorn, a paean to an ancient, alien monster with a gritty and gruesome allure. It's the ur-text of fetid, fatal fuck imagery marinated in pseudo-pre Raphaelite British myth; who'd have suspected it was my kind of thing?
Yep. Too many ponies, too many books, and not enough sex. That's what private girls' schools do to a broad.