Saturday, June 30, 2007

S. J. Perelman to Thurber

To James Thurber

14 Washington Square North
New York City
March 4, 1946.

Dear Jim,

Many thanks to yourself and Helen for your very kind note, which arrived as I was sitting beside a rainswept window tugging ineffectually at my beard, like Beerbohm's mournful caricature of Lytton Strachey. I was particularly heartened by the theory you relayed about the reservoir of humor we're all supposed to possess. Candidly, mine seems at the moment to have shrunken to a greenish hog-wallow dotted with kerosene cans and old shoes. Every so often, I appear in the sedge bordering this tarn, cup my hands, and shout, "Halloo--are there any side-splitting ideas in there, mate?" A voice from the opposite shore (there must be a Cockney living in there with me) replies, "Coo--not bloddy 'arf."

I suppose, however, we should all be refreshed and uplifted by the thought that one person, at least, continues to wear the old cap and bells vivaciously, and that's Bennett Cerf. Among his other exploits this winter, America's Sweetheart got out a Modern Library anthology of humor with a dust-jacket representing you and me which is going to take some intensive forgetting. One of these days when we're not too busy worrying, what say we sneak over to Random House and clap a commode snugly down over his ears?

I hope, in any case, that you are both bursting with rude health, and let's all toast each other into insensibility some evening with all kinds of malts and grains. Meanwhile, Laura and I send you our very best.

-from Don't Tread On Me: the Selected Letters of S. J. Perelman edited by Prudence Crowther (New York: Viking, 1987) p. 67-68.

Friday, June 29, 2007

James Thurber to E. B. White

To E. B. White

The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia
November 10, 1945.

Dear Andy:

. . . The day your book arrived with its laconic inscription, both the window shades in our bedroom shot up to the top, ostensibly on their own. There has also been great periodic commotion in the ice pitcher, and somebody has got away with one of my studs. I name no names.

-from The Thurber Letters: the wit, wisdom, and surprising life of James Thurber edited by Harrison Kinney (New York: Simon & Schuster,2003). p. 380.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ursula Nordstrum to E. B. White

To E. B. White

September 12, 1945.

Dear Mr. White,

I enclose a letter from a Mr. Stuart Little of 16 East 48th Street. At first I thought it was a joke. I thought some low character had had a special letterhead printed. But he really exists. I telephoned the number given, asked guardedly for Stuart Little, and was connected with him. We had quite a pleasant talk. I promised him a copy of the book and he said all he asked was one signed copy for him. You won't mind doing that, will you?

Mr. Aswell* tells me you have offered your barn for the storage of unsold copies of Stuart Little. Thanks a lot, but we won't need any space for your book. The advance sale has increased the past few days and we think we'll have to increase the order from 50,000 to 60,000. We're not absolutely sure, but it looks probable.

Yours Sincerely,

*Edward C. Aswell, editor in Harper's Trade department.

-from Dear Genius: the Collected Letters of Ursula Nordstrom collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. (New York: Harper Collins, 1998) p. 10.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

James Thurber's Bread & Butter

To the Palmer Family

September 21, 1944.

Dear Minna, Janey, Mary, and Cornelia:

Well, here I am again, home safe and unsound. I lay around the Algonquin until train time, while Helen shopped for birthday presents for Rosie and an evening dress for herself to keep up her morale. She tells people that I was sick in the house of my girl, her mother, and sisters. "Well, how nice," say the neighbours primly. . .

We were only 20 minutes late, owing to the engineer, who had bella donna in his eyes. The conductor was a pleasant little man who had never made this run before and had the feeling he was going backward.

At Grand Central we could not get a cab till Helen told a redcap I had pneumonia. "Oh, I'll get your father a cab right away," he said, and he did.

September 22

A kind of moribundity got me yesterday after so much exercise with a pencil. I feel stronger today--I could easily crack an English walnut.

Yesterday was hot and muggy like a 15-year-old Pekinese, but today is beautiful, clear, sunny, C Major.

This is a plain ordinary bread and butter letter, and it should be a steak and Clos Veugeot letter. We will never be able to express our love and gratitude to the Palmers, so I won't even try. It was the best time a pneumonia patient ever had . . . .

-from The Thurber Letters: the wit, wisdom, and surprising life of James Thurber edited by Harrison Kinney (New York: Simon & Schuster,2003). p. 365.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Miss Strickland to Miss Mitford

To Mary Russell Mitford
[c. 1829]

. . . There is another very interesting gipsy family of the name of Chilcotditto Barwell; perhaps you may have met them in your peregrinations. In your delightful sketch of Grace Nugent I was much amused by the donkey messengers. Such mercuries are common in Suffolk, and I greeted your boys as old acquaintances. My eldest brother, who is settled in Upper Canada, was a famous cricket-player, and I used often by his earnest solicitations to walk across Southwold Common, to witness his dexterity, and I felt no small degree of interest in his eclat. He was a fine handsome fellow, and promises to do something for himself in the country to which he has emigrated, and to which I often feel strongly induced to follow him, having many dear friends in that land 'of the mountain and the flood' . . .

Yes, I do agree with you that a woman would miss the smile of affection more than all the applause of the world. I know I would rather give up the pen than lose the affection of my beloved sister Catharine, who is dearer to me than all the world--my monitress, my dear and faithful friend. She is the author of several popular works for children: The Step-brothers, Young Emigrants, Juvenile Forget-me-not (the first series),* and many other works of the same nature. But it is not for her talents that I love my Kate; it is for herself. She is absent now for a few days, and I feel lost and lonely without her; she is the youngest of the six girls, next to me. We are all authoresses but Sarah, the third; but then she is a beauty, and such a sweet girl withal, that everybody loves her, and I often think she is the best off, for she has elegant tastes and pursuits, and no clashing interests to interfere with the love her sisters bear to her. I am writing a sad, egotistical letter; my tongue and my pen never know when to lie still, and I quite forget your dignity as a celebrated writer when I am scribbling to you as a friend. Mr. Pringle will, I know, kindly enclose this in the next packet he transmits to you. In the meantime, believe me, dear Miss Mitford, to remain

Your grateful sincere friend

*The Stepbrothers {London: Harvey and Darton 1828); The Young Emigrants; or, Pictures of Canada, Calculated to amuse and instruct the minds of youth {London: Harvey and Darton, 1826}; The Juvenile Forget-Me-Not; or, Cabinet of Entertainment and Instruction {London: N. Hailes, 1827}, the latter jointly written by Catherine and Agnes.
-from Susanna Moodie: Letters of a Lifetime edited by Carl Ballstadt, Elizabeth Hopkins, and Michael Peterman. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993) p. 42-43.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mrs. Gaskell and the Individual Life

To Eliza Fox

Feb. 1850

One thing is pretty clear, Women must give up living an artist's life, if home duties are to be paramount. It is different with men, whose home duties are so small a part of their life. However we are talking of women. I am sure it is healthy for them to have the refuge of the hidden world of Art to shelter themselves in when too much pressed upon by daily small Lilliputian arrows of peddling cares; it keeps them from being morbid as you say; and takes them into the land where King Arthur lies hidden, and soothes them with its peace. I have felt this in writing, I see others feel it in music, you in painting, so assuredly a blending of the two is desirable. (Home duties and the development of the Individual I mean), which you will say it takes no Solomon to tell you the but the difficulty is where and when to make one set of duties subserve and give place to the other. I have no doubt that the cultivation of each tends to keep the other in a healthy state,--my grammar is all at sixes and sevens I have no doubt but never mind if you can pick out my meaning. I think a great deal of what you have said.

-from The Inmost Heart: 800 Years of Women's Letters edited by Olga Kenyon; Foreword by P. D. James (New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1992.) p. 134-135.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Larkin on Graves

To Anthony Thwaite
27 March 1962
The University of Hull, The Library

Dear Anthony,

Glad you can use ODJB.* As regards the Graves,** poetry reviewing, and particularly Graves' poetry reviewing, is a nightmare from which I have pretty well succeeded in struggling to awake from, and so, although it would no doubt give me a great deal of pleasure to take a few socks at him (I really think I dislike him more than ever I disliked Dylan), it would apart from being bad for my immortal part suggest to other literary editors that I was back in the game and lead to a host of offers that would have to be refused. Knitting I loved, and next to knitting, nothing as I believe one of the Beat poets remarked somewhere.

Incidentally, talking about Graves, the current issue of SHENANDOAH is devoted to him, and contains some interesting pieces, notably one by Colin Wilson who points out the growing similarity between Yeats and Graves as vatic old fakers, each with a sacred book (A VISION and THE WHITE GODDESS). I must say I would sooner attack him on a homelier plane--if he says publicly just once more that he has a large family to support, I shall write to the papers asking whose fault he thinks that is.

Yours ever,

*Larkin's review of The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band by H. O. Brunner appeared in the Listener on 31 May 1962. Thwaite had recently been appointed literary editor of the magazine.

**Robert Graves's New Poems, 1962..
-from Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 1940-1985 edited by Anthony Thwaite (London: Faber and Faber, 1992.) p. 341-342.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Macaulay's Tinsel

To Macvey Napier, Esq.

50 Great Ormond Street, London:
January 25, 1830.

My dear Sir,--

I send off by the mail of to-day an article on Southey,--too long, I fear, to meet your wishes, but as short as I could make it.

There were, by the bye, in my last article a few omissions made, of no great consequence in themselves; the longest, I think, a paragraph of twelve or fourteen lines. I should scarcely have thought this worth mentioning, as it certainly by no means exceeds the limits of that editorial prerogative which I most willingly recognise, but that the omissions seemed to me, and to one or two persons who had seen the article in its original state, to be made on a principle which, however sound in itself, does not I think apply to compositions of this description. The passages omitted were the most pointed and ornamented sentences in the review. Now, for high and grave works, a history for example, or a system of political or moral philosophy, Doctor Johnson's rule,--that every sentence which the writer thinks fine ought to be cut out,--is excellent. But periodical works like ours, which unless they strike at the first reading are not likely to strike at all, whose whole life is a month or two, may, I think, be allowed to be sometimes even viciously florid. Probably, in estimating the real value of any tinsel which I may put upon my articles, you and I should not materially differ. But it is not by his own taste, but by the taste of the fish, that the angler is determined in his choice of bait.

Perhaps after all I am ascribing to system what is mere accident. Be assured, at all events, that what I have said is said in perfect good humour, and indicates no mutinous disposition . . .

Every yours truly,

-from The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay by George Otto Trevelyan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978) p. 140-141.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Southey and Sales


October 4, 1807.

My Dear Scott,--Queen Orraca is on her way to you, but taking a very roundabout road for the sake of a frank. I thank you for spreading her fame, and marvel at your marvelous memory.*

I thank you also for what you say concerning Constable. It is certain that no man who gets any credit at all by his writings can get less money by them than I do, but in this it must be the book-buying and not the book-selling animal that is in fault. It does not seem probable that Constable can have more means of pushing a book than our Fathers which are in the Row have, and unless he could make more by me than they do, I could not make more by him. The truth is that all my books, except those early works of which the copyright is gone, sell badly. I sold to Longman the first edition of Thalaba (of 1,000 copies) for 115 pounds. This was seven years ago, and between two and three hundred are still upon hand. I let him print Madoc upon terms no better than they grant to an untried author, that of sharing the eventual profits: in the course of two years my share has been five and twenty pounds. Half my time is employed in writing reviewals for the "Annual," translating romances, and such sort of unworthy work, to eke out a very scanty income. Assuredly I could in the quantity of time which is thus employed every year produce such a poem as Thalaba, but seven hundred copies would be seven years in selling. Were my income sufficient this would signify nothing. I should do it for pleasure, be perfectly satisfied with the fame I get, and care nothing for profit. There is no hardship in this sacrifice of half my time, any profession would require as much or more, and tho' any profession would be far more lucrative, as long as I have enough I am contented, and more than contented. . .

If the romance you mention be the old Poema del Cid edited by Sanchez (as I suppose it to be) I have it, and have made great use of it. This you would perhaps have the goodness to enquire for me. There are two books which I should be very glad to meet with, and which possibly Mr. Frere may possess; the Libro de los Quarenta Cantos by Alonso de Fuentes, and a poem called Los Famosos Nechos del Cid by Diego Ximenez de Aillon. I should much like to see his translation, of which both my brother and Lady Holland have said much to me. What I have done with the poem has been to weave into the Chronicle all the additional circumstances of picture and costume which are to be found in it. This is perfectly justifiable, for the poem is unquestionably the elder and is in great part the obvious source of the Chronicle. My ballads may fitly appear in the appendix at your suggestion.

Wordsworth is at Grasmere, and has been there for some months. The defects of his last volumes seem to be more felt than their beauties. I hear many persons speak of the few foolish pieces there with dislike, and scarcely any body with admiration of the sonnets, which are in the very highest strain of poetry. He is probably compleating his Recluse. I am labouring upon the History of Brazil and Paraguey, which will be ready to go into the press by the time The Cid comes out of it. Should the court of Portugal remove to that fine country, as it is to be wished it may, this work will excite a great temporary interest . . .

Henry is in Portugal. Mrs. Southey joins me in respects to Mrs. Scott.

Yours very truly,

*Scott quoted from Queen Orraca from memory for the Princess of Wales to secure her interest.
-from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott edited by Wilfred Partington (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) p. 73-75.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Marina to Anna

31 August 1921

Dear Anna Andreyevna,

Of late, gloomy rumours have been circulating about you, becoming more persistent and unequivocal with every hour that passes. I write to you about this because you will hear in any case. I want you to be correctly informed at least. I can tell you that, to my knowledge, your only friend among poets (a friend indeed!) turned out to be Mayakovsky, as he wandered among the billboards of the 'Poets Cafe' looking like a slaughtered bull.

I have, in the hope of finding out about you, spent these last few days in the Poets' Cafe. What monsters! What squalid creatures! What curs they are! Everything is here: homunculi, automotons, braying stallions and lip-sticked sleeping-car attendants from Yalta . . .

-from The Inmost Heart: 800 Years of Women's Letters edited by Olga Kenyon; Foreword by P. D. James (New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1992.) p. 42-43.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

James Boswell and She Stoops

To Oliver Goldsmith, 29 March 1773 [Edinburgh]

Dear Sir,

I sincerely wish you joy on the great success of your comedy, She Stoops to Conquer or The Mistakes of A Night. The English nation was just falling into a lethargy. Their blood was thickened and their minds creamed and mantled like a standing pool; and no, the wonder--when their comedies which should enliven them, like sparkling champagne, were become mere syrup of poppies, gentle soporific draughts. Had there been no interruption to this, our audiences must have gone to the theatres with their nightcaps. In the opera houses abroad, the boxes are fitted up for tea-drinking. Those at Drury Lane and Covent Garden must have been furnished with settees and commodiously adjusted for repose. I am happy to hear that you have waked the spirit of mirth which has long lain dormant, and revived natural humour and hearty laughter. It gives me pleasure that our friend Garrick has written the prologue for you. It is at least lending you a postilion, since you have not his coach; and I think it is a very good one, admirably adapted both to the subject and to the author of the comedy.

You must know my wife was safely delivered of a daughter the very evening that She Stoops to Conquer first appeared. I am fond of the coincidence. My little daughter is a fine, healthy, lively child and, I flatter myself, shall be blessed with the cheerfulness of your comic muse. She has nothing of that wretched whining and crying which we see children so often have; nothing of the comedie larmoyante. I hope she shall live to be an agreeable companion and to diffuse gaiety over the days of her father, which are sometimes a little cloudy.

I intend being in London this spring and promise myself great satisfaction in sharing your social hours. In the meantime, I beg the favour of hearing from you. I am sure you have not a warmer friend or steadier admirer. While you are in the full glow of theatrical splendour, while all the great and the gay in the British metropolis are literally hanging upon your smiles, let me see that you can stoop to write to me.

-from The Essential Boswell: Selections from the Writings of James Boswell selected and edited by Peter Martin. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003) p. 164-65.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Walpole's Cultural Theory

To the Earl of Hertford

Arlington Street, April 12, 1764.

. . . You will have heard of the sad misfortune that has happened to Lord Ilchester by his daughter's [Lady Susan Fox's] marriage with O'Brien the actor. But, perhaps, you do not know the circumstances, and how much his grief must be aggravated by reflection on his own credulity and negligence. The affair has been in train for eighteen months. The swain had learned to counterfeit Lady Sarah Bunbury's hand so well, that in the country Lord Ilchester has himself delivered several of O'Brien's letters to Lady Susan; but it was not till about a week before the catastrophe that the family was apprised of the intrigue. Lord Cathcart went to Miss Read's, the paintress: she said softly to him, "My lord, there is a couple in next room that I am sure ought not to be together, I wish your lordship would look in." He did, shut the door again, and went directly and informed Lord Ilchester. Lady Susan was examined, flung herself at her father's feet, confessed all, vowed to break off--but--what a but!--desired to see the loved object, and take a last leave. You will be amazed--even this was granted. The parting scene happened the beginning of the week. On Friday she came of age, and on Saturday morning--instead of being under lock and key in the country--walked down stairs, took her footman, said she was going to breakfast with Lady Sarah, but would call at Miss Read's; in the street, pretended to recollect a particular cap in which she was to be drawn, sent her footman back for it, whipped into a hackney chair, was married at Covent-garden church, and set out for Mr. O'Brien's villa at Dunstable. My Lady--My Lady Hertford! what say you to permitting young ladies to act plays, and go to painters by themselves?

Poor Lord Ilchester is almost distracted; indeed, it is the completion of disgrace--even a footman were preferable; the publicity of the hero's profession perpetuates the mortification. Il ne sera pas milord, tout comme un autre. I could not have believed that Lady Susan would have stooped so low. She may, however, still keep good company, and say "nos numeri sumus"--Lady Mary Duncan, Lady Caroline Adair, Lady Betty Gallini--the shopkeepers of next age will be mighty wellborn . . .

-from Selected Letters by Horace Walpole selected and edited by William Hadley (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1963.) Everyman's Library No. 775. p 86-87.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nabokov's Mental Asthma

To: James Laughlin

V. Nabokov c/o Prof. M. Karpovich
July 16, 1942.

Dear Laughlin,

Vermont is very pleasant and beautiful--although beautiful in a kind of gobelin way, and of course lacking the floral versatility of the West. The other day I got a butterfly here which has never been recorded yet from this state: Colias interior Scudder which was first found by Agassiz on the North shore of Lake Superior.

I have turned part of the attic into a most comfortable studio; but although I devote to Gogol from eight to ten hours a day of solid work, I now see that I shall never have the book ready before the Fall. I shall probably need two months more and then at least a fortnight to dictate it. What causes this irritating delay is the fact that I have to translate every scrap of quotation myself: most of the Gogol material (letters, articles etc.) is not translated at all, and the rest is so abominably botched that I cannot use it . . . This book on Gogol will be something new from beginning to end: I disagree with the bulk of Russian critics of Gogol and use no sources except Gogol himself. My book will make the Oliver Allstons very mad, I hope. It is a pity that I cannot publish it in Russian as well. The emigre book market is not worth the trouble and, as you know, my works are banned in Russia. . .

To be quite frank with you, both as publisher and as a friend, I cannot help feeling that the intense and rather devastating work which Gogol is giving me is worth more than the remuneration you suggested. I have had to postpone writing an essay which Weeks* asked me to do, and other things too. The enervating part is that the translations of Gogol I have to make require another section of the brain than the text of my book and switching from one to another by means of spasmodic jumps causes a kind of mental asthma.

Yours cordially,

*Edward A. Weeks Jr. editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

-from Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977 edited by Dimitri Nabokov and Matthew J. Bruccoli (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1989) p. 40-42.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

V. S. Naipaul to his Father

University College, Oxford
February 20, 1953

Dear Pa,
I got your letter this morning and I was greatly cheered to find that you seem to be taking things in your stride. In a way I am not surprised, for the only test of man's greatness is his behaviour in times of distress.

I have been speaking to the Dean about getting a job. I have no wish to stay in England, nor do I wish to live the rest of my life in Trinidad. I lay down one requisite for any country I wish to reside in--it must be a big country. This does not mean that I shall give up my obligations to you. Far from it. It is only in the big countries that one can make money in reasonable quantities. The Dean thinks the prospect of my getting a job in this country is a pretty bleak one, and I never thought otherwise. He thinks, however, that I can perhaps represent a firm in some country--or something like that. But whatever it is, I am not worried, and I want you not to worry either . . .

The other day I was reading some letters of Horace Walpole--the 18th century gossip--about the balloon fad in his time. He was full of contempt for people who went up in balloons. I later discovered that great progress was made in the early nineteenth century in ballooning. In 1836, a balloon left London and--in 18 hours--had travelled 500 miles to Nassau, in Germany!

Please send your stories as soon as possible. We shall probably place them.
Do all you can to stay well. Don't worry. Your troubles are almost at an end. Believe me.
Your respectful and affectionate son, Vido

-from Letters Between a Father and Son by V. S. Naipaul; with an introduction by Gillon Aitken. (London: Little, Brown and Company, 1999) p. 241-242.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Young Susanna Strickland

To James Bird *

Nov 9th [1827]

My sister Agnes wishes to consult you on some matters relative to her New Poems of which she received the first bound copies today and if fine we promise ourselves the pleasure of seeing you tomorrow and if perfectly convenient to Mrs. Bird will avail ourselves of her kind offer and stay all night. We have borrowed a donkey for the expedition and mean to start early to arrive late for tis a sorry beast whose paces will not exceed two miles an hour and you might compassionate the character of this long eared Pegasus but poor Poets must put up with all shifts, such trifles do not ruffle them. I think a little inconvenience often enhances the pleasures we afterwards feel in meeting our friends. If the day should be unfavorable we will postpone our Journey till Monday. I am fearful that Mamma has just started a new plan and John is to drive us as far as Thorington and we can then walk on to the prettiest village in Suffolk and I must descend from my dignity my poetic dignity and condescend to carry a basket. What would the fashionables I know in Bedford Square say could they see me. I almost wish they could I pride myself on my independence . . .

I am quite impatient for my last communication from London. No lover of romance ever wished so ardently for a peep at his mistress as I do for the sight of my packet. Now don't be saucy. It contains no love letters, but the reminiscences of friends are as dear to my heart as the light is to my eyes. Their correspondence constitutes almost the whole sum of my happiness . . . When I begin to write I never know when to lay down my pen. Closing a letter, to me is as hard as saying adieu to a friend. I liked your sermon as you were pleased to call the reflective part of your letter amazingly. I should like to hear your preach just such another. Do sensible women prate? I thought wisdom wore a grave aspect in the weaker sex, that it might be the better distinguished from such merry madcap vendors of nonsense as myself! Was it not Dr. Clarke that once said to his scholars who were at play when a grave bigwig entered the ground Boys! Boys! be wise. Here comes a fool!

My wisdom must reside in an organ of my brain as yet undiscovered by the lynx eyes of philosophy for I never could find it out though I have made many useless voyages of discovery through my pericranium to that effect but was as much disappointed as Capt. Parry in his North West Passage.
*James Bird, a bookseller and published poet who lived in Yoxford, Suffolk, good friend of the Stricklands and one who encouraged the literary aspirations of Sussanah and her sisters.

-from Susanna Moodie: Letters of a Lifetime edited by Carl Ballstadt, Elizabeth Hopkins, and Michael Peterman. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993) p.19-20.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Jane Austen to her Sister

Steventon: Tuesday Janry 8 [1799]
My Dear Cassandra

You must read your letters over five times in future before you send them, and then, perhaps, you may find them as entertaining as I do. I laughed at several parts of the one which I am now answering . . .

You express so little anxiety about my being murdered under Ashe Park Copse by Mrs. Hulbert's servant, that I have a great mind not to tell you whether I was or not, and shall only say that I did not return home that night or the next, as Martha kindly made room for me in her bed, which was the shut-up one in the new nursery. Nurse and the child slept upon the floor, and there we all were in some confusion and great comfort. The bed did exceedingly well for us, both to lie awake in and talk till two o'clock, and to sleep in the rest of the night. I love Martha better than ever, and I mean to go and see her, if I can, when she gets home . . .

The friendship between Mrs. Chamberlayne and me which you predicted has already taken place, for we shake hands whenever we meet. Our grand walk to Weston was again fixed for yesterday, and was accomplished in a very striking manner. Every one of the party declined it under some pretence or other except our two selves, and we had therefore a tete a tete but that we should equally have had after the first two yards had half the inhabitants of Bath set off with us.

It would have amused you to see our progress: we went up by Sion Hill, and returned across the fields: in climbing a hill Mrs. Chamberlayne is very capital; I could with difficulty keep pace with her, yet would not flinch away under a fine hot sun, she without any parasol or any shade to her hat, stopping for nothing, and crossing the churchyard at Weston with as much expedition as if we were afraid of being buried alive. After seeing what she is equal to, I cannot help feeling a regard for her . . .

We are to have a tiny party here tonight. I hate tiny parties, they force one into constant exertion. Miss Edwards and her father, Mrs. Busby and her nephew, Mr. Maitland, and Mrs. Lillingstone are to be the whole; and I am prevented from setting my black cap at Mr. Maitland by his having a wife and ten children . . .
Affectionately yours,

-from The Inmost Heart: 800 Years of Women's Letters edited by Olga Kenyon; Foreword by P. D. James (New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1992.) p. 34-35.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Conrad and Trifles

To Edward Garnett
Monday [London]
[March 23, 1896]

Dear Garnett,

I am very glad you wrote to me the few lines I have just received. If you spoke as a friend I listened in the same manner,--listened and was only a little, a very little, dismayed. If one looks at life in its true aspect then everything loses much of its unpleasant importance and the atmosphere becomes cleared of what are only unimportant mists that drift past in imposing shapes. When once the truth is grasped that one's own personality is only a ridiculous and aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknown, the attainment of serenity is not very far off. Then there remains nothing but the surrender to one's impulses, the fidelity to passing emotions which is perhaps a nearer approach to truth than any other philosophy of life. And why not? If we are "ever becoming--never being," then I would be a fool if I tried to become this thing rather than that; for I know I never will be anything. I would rather grasp the solid satisfaction of my wrong-headedness and shake my fist at the idiotic mystery of Heaven.

So much for trifles. As to that other kind of foolishness: my work,* there you have driven home the conviction and I shall write the sea-story--at once (12 months).** It will be on the lines indicated to you. I surrender to the infamous spirit which you have awakened within me and, as I want my abasement to be very complete, I am looking for a sensational title . . .

Good-bye my dear friend

* "The Sisters" which was to remain an unprinted fragment.

** It refers to "The Rescuer: a Tale of Narrow Waters". The title of the book when it was published in 1920 was The Rescue, a Romance of the Shallows.

-from Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters by G. Jean-Aubry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Page & Co., 1927) Vol. 1, p. 185-186.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lafcadio Hearn Without Books

To Ellwood Hendrick

Tokyo, 1896

Dear Hendrick,----- I am in immediate and awful need of books, and am going to ask you to put me into communication with a general book dealer to whom I can send P. O. orders, and who will mail me books directly on receipt of cash. It is hopeless ordering through local book-dealers,----not simply because of charges and errors, but because of enormous delays. On a separate sheet I enclose some titles of what I badly want for the moment; and I am sending some cash. This said, I promise not to trouble you further except when I can't help it. See what a nuisance I am!

You may well believe me in a hurry when I send a letter with such a beginning. Imagine my position: ---a professor of literature without books, improvising lectures to students without books. I reached Tokyo about seven days ago, and have not yet got a house, --but am living in a hotel. At present I can give you no valid impressions:----everything is a blur. But so far the position does not seem disagreeable---rather the reverse. In fact I am afraid to express my satisfaction,---remembering Polyxenes. The salary is 400 yen,--and in Japan, a yen is a dollar though it is only fifty-odd cents in America. Old pupils of Izumo and elsewhere gather around me, welcoming me, delighted--some needing help and winning it---some needing only sympathy. Professors far off, move in separate and never-colliding orbits. I can teach for years---if I please---without ever seeing any of my colleagues. But Government favour, you know, is uncertain. The chances are that I shall hold on for three years at least.

When I heard last from you I was in Izumo. There I became very strong by constant swimming and starving,---Japanese diet takes all the loose flesh from a man in short order. My lungs got quite sound and my miserable eye nearly well.

I suppose that I partly owe this place to my books and partly to Professor Chamberlain's kind recommendation. The Japanese seldom notice literary work---but they have paid considerable attention to my work, considering that I am a foreigner. My ambition though, is independence in my own home, ---an old fashioned yashiki, full of surprises of colour and beauty and quaintness and peace. . .
Well, here's love to you. (If the book-business does not bother you too much, please tell the book-dealer to mail everything,---not to send by express.)
Ever faithfully,

-from Lafcadio Hearn: Letters from Tokyo translated and edited by M. Otani (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1920) p. 20-26.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Aldrich puts Whitman Behind Glass

To Edmund Clarence Stedman

Ponkapog, Mass., Nov. 20, 1880.

My Dear Edmund,-- . . . You seemed to think that I was going to take exception to your paper on Walt Whitman. It was all admirably said, and my own opinion did not run away from yours at any important point. I place less value than you do on the endorsement of Swinburne, Rossetti and Co., inasmuch as they have also endorsed the very poor paper of_______. If Whitman had been able (he was not able, for he tried it and failed) to put his thought into artistic verse, he would have attracted little or no attention, perhaps. Where he is fine, he is fine in precisely the way of conventional poets. The greater bulk of his writing is neither prose nor verse, and certainly is not an improvement on either. A glorious line now and then, and a striking bit of color here and there, do not constitute a poet--especially a poet for the People. There never was a poet so calculated to please a very few. As you say, he will probably be hereafter exhumed and anatomized by learned surgeons--who prefer a subject with thin shoulder-blades or some abnormal organ to a well-regulated corpse. But he will never be regarded in the same light as Villon. Villon spoke in the tone and language of his own period: what is quaint or fantastic to us was natural to him. He was a master of versification. Whitman's manner is a hollow affectation, and represents neither the man nor the time. As the voice of the 19th century he will have little significance in the 21st. That he will outlast the majority of his contemporaries, I haven't the faintest doubt--but it will be in a glass case or a quart of spirits in an anatomical museum . . .

-from The Friendly Craft: a Collection of American Letters edited by Elizabeth Deering Hanscom, Ph.D. (New York: Macmillan, 1908) p. 209-210.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"The Incomparable Max"

To Bernard Shaw*
12 April 1898
48 Upper Berkeley Square, W.
My Dear G. B. S.,

I was very much pleased, as you may imagine, to receive your letter and the great compliment it implied. But your decision to retire from dramatic criticism rather depresses me--and I hope that you will reconsider it. You may be tired of the job, but "stale" you certainly are not--you are a weekly marvel of freshness and agility--and you certainly don't repeat yourself, though I am sure you would bear repetition.

Whether I could succeed you, I am by no means certain. There would be several difficulties. My mind is not very fertile, and any success I may have had is due to my own shrewdness in not doing much. I am afraid I might come an early and a nasty cropper off the hebdomadal tightrope. Also, I have no enthusiasm for the theatre--in fact I don't care a damn about the theatre. This would handicap me for decent criticism. Also, I have a big brother at Her Majesty's, and he would be rather compromised by my position, and I by his. Also I am an amiable person, and might be unable to speak ill of any bad actors, except those whom I have never met. And I have met so many, so many!

However, the position of dramatic critic to the Saturday is a dignified position--and regular emolument must be very nice. And I will wait and see what Frank Harris says--and whether you remain adamant.
The most obvious difficulty for me would be in following you. You have done so much in dramatic criticism, and I should be always tripping up in your large and deep footprints.
Meanwhile I am sincerely yours
*Shaw (1856-1950) had been dramatic critic of the Saturday Review since 1895. He was now preparing to retire and in his final article on 21 May 1898 he wrote: "The younger generation is knocking at the door; and as I open it there steps sprightly in the incomparable Max", whose first dramatic criticism appeared on 28 May 1898. Frank Harris had bought the paper in 1894, and had enlisted many leading writers as contributors.
--from Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988) p. 13.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sterne's Timely Affairs

To S______ C_______, Esq.
May, 1760.
Dear Sir,

I return you ten thousand thanks for the favour of your letter and the account you give me of my wife and girl. . .

On Monday we set on with a grand* retinue of Lord Rockingham's (in whose suite I move) for Windsor--they have contracted for fourteen hundred pounds for the dinner, to some general undertaker, of which the K. has bargained to pay one third. Lord George Sackville was last Saturday at the opera, some say with great effrontery,--others, with great dejection.

I have little news to add. There is a shilling pamphlet** wrote against Tristram. I wish they would write a hundred such.
Mrs. Sterne says her purse is light: will you, dear Sir, be so good as to pay her ten guineas, and I will reckon with you, when I have the pleasure of meeting you. My best compliments to Mrs. C. and all friends. Believe me, dear Sir, your obliged and faithful
Lau. Sterne.

*Prince Ferdinand, the Marquis of Rockingham, and Earl Temple, were installed Knights of the Garter, on Tuesday, May 6th, 1760, at Windsor.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Boswell in Utrecht

To John Johnston of Grange

23 September 1763 {Utrecht}

I set out upon my travels with a kind of gloom upon my mind. My enthusiastic love of London made me leave it with a heavy heart. It might not have been the case had I been setting out on an immediate tour through the gay regions of Italy and France. But to comply with my father's inclinations I had agreed to pass my first winter at Utrecht, a Dutch university town of which I had received the most disagreeable prepossessions. Mr. Samuel Johnson honoured me with his company to Harwich, where he saw me embark and set sail from Britain. I was sick and filled with a crowd of different ideas. But we had a good passage, and landed on Sunday the 7 of August, at twelve noon . . . I began to turn low-spirited, and set out for Utrecht. I travelled between Leyden and Utrecht nine hours in a sluggish trek schuit [barge] without any companion, so that I brooded over my own dismal imaginations. I arrived at Utrecht on a Saturday evening. I went to the Nouveau Chateau d'Anyers. I was shown up to a high bedroom with old furniture, where I had to sit and be fed by myself. At every hour the bells of the great tower played a dreary psalm tune. A deep melancholy seized upon me. I groaned with the idea of living all winter in so shocking a place. I thought myself old and wretched and forlorn. I was worse and worse next day. All the horrid ideas that you can imagine, recurred upon me. I sunk quite into despair. I thought that at length the time was come that I should grow mad. I actually believed myself so. I went out to the streets, and even in public could not refrain from groaning and weeping bitterly. I said always, 'Poor Boswell! Is it come to this? Miserable wretch that I am! what shall I do?'

-from The Essential Boswell: Selections from the Writings of James Boswell selected and edited by Peter Martin. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003) p. 58-59.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Lawrence's Bournemouth Dreams

Compton House,
St. Peter's Rd.,
29 Jan., 1912.

To Edward Garnett.

Dear Garnett,--

My time here is running out. They want me badly to stay till to-day week--the 5th--but I think I'd rather come on the Saturday. I shall leave here by the 2.0 p.m. train, which arrives in London--Waterloo--at 4.0. It is a non-stop. Would you mind to send me a train from Victoria or anywhere down to Edenbridge? You choose the time, an I will abide by it. Do not bother with a trap--I can walk quite well. I can do six miles by now.

The Trespasser goes quite fast. In the dirty weather of the last week I have got on with it. I am past the 300th page now. It really isn't bad, is it?--but too florid, too "charge." But it can't be anything else--it is itself. I must let it stand. At any rate, not many folk could have done it, however they may find fault. I shall finish by the time I come to Edenbridge--or at any rate before I leave you. So, when you can find time to go over the thing, we can decide about the publishing. If it is to come, I should like April or May for the month, as you suggested.

We have had three beautiful days--mostly lovely. I am very sensitive to the exquisite atmospheres of down here--I have delightful passages. In health, too, I am sure I make good strides. But at the bottom I am rather miserable. I can never decide whether my dreams are the result of my thoughts, or my thoughts the results of my dreams. It is very queer. But my dreams make conclusions for me. They decide things finally. I dream a decision. Sleep seems to hammer out for me the logical conclusions of my vague days, and offer me them as dreams. It is a horrid feeling, not to be able to escape from one's own--what?--self-daemon--fate, or something. I hate to have my own judgments clinched inside me involuntarily. But it is so. What tosh to write. I don't know what ails me.

Just tell me about the train. I will bring the rest of the Trespasser.


D. H. Lawrence.

-from The Letters of D. H. Lawrence edited by Aldous Huxley (London: William Heinemann, 1956.) p. 22-23.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Alexandra in the Himalayas

[Alexandra David-Neel to her husband Philippe Neel]

7 December 1913 Sikkim

Dear Philippe,

I love you very much for what you have done to support me. I know you make sacrifices to provide me with a life that displeases you. This journey to Sikkim has restored my spirits. I visited villages and monasteries with the Prince, travelling much in the manner of a medieval court, like a dream of a very old world. The Prince encouraged me to exhort the monks to practice a purer Buddhism. I took to the task with zeal, lecturing at the monasteries on the pure doctrine. I have been given a lama's red robe to wear and the designation of 'lamina'.

I have found a tutor to instruct me in Tibetan. At my age [forty-four] I must not delay learning the language. I am in a singular position as a woman, and a militant practising Buddhist. Orientalists in the West would be severely critical of my writing. What I want above all is to be completely accurate and document my findings so thoroughly that I'll be able to return home a person of some importance in the world of Orientalists. All I need is a bit more time and experience. Don't you think, given our situation and our characters, we can make the sacrifice to be separated a little longer? My hope is to spend time in Tibet if the authorities will let me. Then I'll leave India, and travel home via Japan, with my cycle of studies on Buddhism in northern Asia completed.

-from The Inmost Heart: 800 Years of Women's Letters edited by Olga Kenyon; Foreword by P. D. James (New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1992.) p. 219-220.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

L. M. Montgomery's Yarn

Cavendish P. E. Island

Monday Evening
March 19, 1906.

My Dear Mr. MacMillan:

This is one of the days at the close of which I feel inclined to pat myself on the back! I have actually accomplished all the work which I planned to do when I got up this morning. This doesn't happen more oftener than once in a blue moon. Indeed, the more I plan to do the less I get done as a general thing. But to-day was a beautiful exception and my conscience is at peace. This letter will be the coping stone to the fair edifice of a good day's work. . .

I am tearing over the paper at a perfectly reckless rate. I want to write a chapter in a serial story to-night yet. It is a very sensational yarn, written to suit the taste of the journal that ordered it and I don't care much for writing such but they give a good price for it. It deals with a lost ruby, a lunatic, an idiot boy, a mysterious turret chamber and a lot of old standard tricks like that. I've got to have it done by a certain date so I'm striving to finish it.

There are heaps of things I wanted to write about but 20 pages must be the limit to-night, or I shan't have any gray matter left for that blessed serial.
With all good wishes.
Yours sincerely,
L. M. Montgomery

-from My Dear Mr. M: Letters to G. B. MacMillan from L. M. Montgomery edited by Francis W. P. Bolger and Elizabeth R. Epperly (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992) p.21-23.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Heinrich Heine in Italy

To Edward von Schenk*
Leghorn, August 27, 1828.

. . . In two or three weeks I shall be roaming the land of Dante, Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo. There I shall read your lines. I know you are knee-deep in business. That is why I speak only of lines. After all, it isn't necessary that people of our sort write one another long letters. Our books are long letters, intended for people like us.

Sooner or later you will read in print what I think of Italy. I am plagued by my ignorance of Italian. I do not understand the people and cannot talk to them. I see Italy, but do not hear her. Yet I am not without company. The stones here speak, and I understand their dumb language. Even they seem to feel deeply what I am thinking. A broken column of the Roman period, a crumbling Lombard tower or a weather-beaten fragment of a Gothic arch understands me well. For I am myself something of a ruin wandering among ruins. Birds of a feather. . . .Often it seems to me that the old palaces wish to whisper some secret to me, and I cannot hear them for the dull noises of the day. Then I come again at night, and the moon is an excellent interpreter who understands the language of stones and can translate it into the dialect of my heart. Yes, at night I can understand Italy perfectly, for then the young nation with its young, operatic speech is asleep and the ancients rise from their cool beds and talk to me in their best Latin. There is something ghostly in coming to a land where one does not understand the living speech of a living people, and instead knows quite well the language which flourished a thousand years ago, and is long since dead, and is spoken only by midnight spirits--a dead tongue.

However, there is one language which can be understood by at least one half of the human race in all corners of the world, the fairer half, which is called par excellence, the fair sex. This language flourishes especially in Italy. What use are words where the eloquent eyes cast radiant glances deep into the heart of a poor Tedesco, eyes more eloquent than Demosthenes and Cicero, eyes--I am not lying--which are as large as stars?

Quand on parle du loup, il est derriere nous. Even at this moment, my pretty laundress is here, and I must stop washing my own linen. Adieu, poet of Belisarius. I often think of you when I see the laurel, and the more I think of you, the more I feel compelled to love you.

*Edward von Schenk (1788-1841) Poet, dramatist, politician; author of Belisarius.

-from The Poetry and Prose of Heinrich Heine selected and edited with an introduction by Frederic Ewen (New York: Citadel Press, 1948) p. 374-375.

Monday, June 4, 2007

T. H. White on Potted Diction

[October 12, 1930]
The Dingle, Reigate, Surrey
Dear L. J. P.*

Forgive my tardiness in writing about your POEMS. I despised them heartily at first and put them by me in despair, not knowing what I could say to you. Just now I thought I really must face them again and make a dreadful effort at diplomacy. So I started reading them again, and I've only got as far as 3 b (not a very good one, by the way) and I'm writing at once, because its past ten o'clock and I have a full day's work before me tomorrow. I just haven't time to read them right through tonight, so I'm going to write about the first five or six and perhaps continue this letter when I've had time to finish them off with a considered judgement.

Well, first of all, it has just dawned upon me that I disliked them for a very good and superficial reason, i.e., the diction. And secondly and finally and lastly and in conclusion I've just had the excitement of seeing the poems through the diction. In spite of it, I mean. They say something superlatively worth saying and once you have got through the language they even justify that. I should by all means urge you to publish them--so long as you are going to go on writing, and preferably in a modern tongue. Unless you will do this it will be useless to publish them, for your personality will require a weight of evidence before it can break through the present medium enough to impinge upon the consciousness of the reader. The reason why it has impinged on mine is that I already know you personally to some extent. You see, they are reflection poems (that is why I like them so much) and it takes a lot of familiarity to find out the way a man reflects. If one hadn't discovered the mental angle of Blake what bosh all that stuff about caterpillars in a cage would be. So with your mental angle. It will need a lot of publication before you can establish it to any but those who know you. It is not facile like mine.
But to return to this diction. Have you ever heard of the English language? And will you give me your no doubt all-sufficient reasons for saying: "life is but a task" instead of "only", "nought" instead of "nothing" and so forth ad nauseum. . .

You are writing in the idiom of the 1820s. It is so pronounced that I can date it to within a decade, except where it is tainted with Rupert Brooke. And then I could say "by 1823 out of 1914" just as if it were a horse. The things positively reek of retrogression.

I am so emphatic for a rather dreadful reason: they almost convert me to the retrograde. But not quite, but not quite.
On second thoughts I shall send this off but keep the poems for a further onslaught and instalment.
So tremble. I daresay I shall burn them.

*Leonard James Potts, M.A. Lecturer and Director of Studies in English, Junior Bursar, Praelector, Tutor, Senior Tutor, Librarian. University Lecturer in English Queens' College, Cambridge. d.1960.

-from Letters to a Friend: The Correspondence Between T. H. White and L. J. Potts. Edited and Introduced with Notes by Francois Gallix (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1982) p. 19-21.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Roxburgh, Baillie & Siddons

[Daniel Terry to Sir Walter Scott]
30th June, 1812.

Dear Sir,--I delay'd replying to your most kind letter until I had deliver'd both your enclosures. That directed to Mr. Heber I delivered on the morning of the arrival at the Roxburgh Sale, where I found him with Mr. Kemble close at the auctioneer's back most busily employ'd. Miss Baillie's letter I never had an opportunity of taking to her 'til yesterday morning, so continually has my time been occupied morning and evening at the Theatre. Yesterday, however, was the beginning of a week of leisure, and I instantly sett off for Hampstead,* where I met with a most pleasing and gracious reception and experienced all the gratification I had anticipated from an introduction to the Lady I had so long and so greatly desired to see. I remain'd the best part of an hour at her Cottage, and received the favor of a very kind invitation to renew my visit and come and take my dinner with her. I do assure you, dear Sir, that I cannot express the gratification and pleasure I feel at the honor of this acquaintance and my sense of the kindness and friendship to which I am indebted for it.

From the manner in which I have been occupied you will easily suppose that I have had but few opportunities to attend the Roxburgh Sale, by which, at least, I have escaped Temptation, tho' to say truth it did not wear a shape attainable enough for me to embrace it. I believe not an article but sold much above its value, and all the Booksellers complain of the impossibility of purchasing anything out of the hands of gentleman-collectors. John Kemble was buying, the other morning, the modern comedies of Reynolds, publish'd at 1/6 and 2/- at 7/- and 10/- each. At this rate and with this spirit has everything except the very mere everyday rubbish been bought. . . Nothing is, as yet, arranged for my Winter employment. I have, however, neither fears nor impatience upon the subject. I am happy in being able to say, very honestly, that I have pleased and satisfied both the Town and Managers (a very essential point), and although it is impossible to avert one's mind of anxiety, I need not be under any great alarm about the eventual circumstances of my professional endeavours . . .

I went on Monday to witness the farewell of Mrs. Siddons. I endeavor'd but in vain at 1/2 past 4 to get into the pit; so with difficulty escap'd from the crowd, and was fortunate enough to get a seat in the upper boxes. The whole of the boxes, except the very highest, were in full dress as for the Opera; and in the pit, which of course was crammed, not above 20 females were discernable. At the conclusion of the dreaming scene, it is not correct to say, so many rounds were given--it was continuous, and seem'd likely to continue without end. The green curtain was lower'd, and a Mr. Chapman came forward to learn the sense of the house. It was understood (I believe) that the address was wish'd for: he retir'd, and in about ten minutes (the applause continuing all the while) Mrs. Siddons was discovered in a plain but elegant domestic dress. The whole house stood up; and the pit, to a man, threw up their hats, and huzzaed her 4 or 5 times. She spoke the address (such as it was) low and very agitated; her brother led her off amid the warmest and most glorious testimonies of public favor; and the play was universally desired to end. Very few remain'd to see the farce in full: the departure of this great genius was such as might satisfy the fondest wished of the fondest admirers. There was some fear of a riot from some circumstances which had been noticed in the papers about the partiality of her distributing places and receiving exorbitant prices for her tickets, but the only notice taken of these things was by one or two puppy 3/6 apprentices who came in at 1/2 price, at the back of the slips, and met with nothing but contemptuous hootings and laughter--fine specimens of the reformists in our politics, as well the nation's. I beg pardon for intruding so long upon your time, and telling you perhaps what you have already heard every particular of . . . I remain, dear Sir, yours faithfully and gratefully.
Danl. Terry.**

*This was a journey into the country for Terry. To-day, a tall Georgian house, enclosed by high walls, faces Romney's home in that quiet heart of Hampstead which fearfully defies the Underground and omnibuses down the hill. It looks, in the more general idea, very unlike a cottage to the sightseer, who will learn from L. C. C.'s tablet that here lived Joanna Baillie(1762-1851), the Scottish dramatist and poetess.

**Actor, playwright and friend of Sir Walter Scott.

-from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott edited by Wilfred Partington (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) p. 23-25.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

J. R. Lowell to Howells

Cambridge, Monday, Aug. 1860.

My Dear Young Friend,-- Here is a note to Mr. Hawthorne, which you can use if you have occasion.
Don't print too much and too soon; don't get married in a hurry; read what will make you think, not dream; hold yourself dear, and more power to your elbow! God bless you!
Cordially yours,


-from The Friendly Craft: a Collection of American Letters edited by Elizabeth Deering Hanscom, Ph.D. (New York: Macmillan, 1908) p. 188.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Robertson Davies Conkled

To Tyrone and Judith Guthrie

[Peterborough, Ontario]
May 27, 1946.

Dear Tony and Judy:

I read you an early version of this [the one-act play Overlaid] at Christmas & you urged me to extend it. I did so, & put the result in the Ottawa Drama League competition, & got First Prize ($100) out of a field of 47.

The adjudicator's "remarks" were depressing: "A hilarious folk-comedy that could stand comparison with the best of E. P. Conkle," said he. Upon looking up the said Conkle in French's Catalogue I discover him to be a concocter of gummy fantasies. A friend insists that I call my next piece "He Honks To Conkle." Still $100 is not to be sneezed at, whatever insult may go with it.

Yours till Niagara Falls,
(this is the Conkle touch)

-from Robertson Davies: Discoveries, Early Letters 1938-1975 Selected and Edited by Judith Skelton Grant (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2002) p. 28.