Thursday, May 31, 2007

Max's Little Monster

To Edmund Gosse

Monday [8] June, 1896

19 Hyde Park Place, W.

Dear Mr. Gosse,
I send you a copy of my first book, and my excuse is that you, unconsciously, suggested the title of it. One afternoon of last summer, in the garden of a certain club, you were complaining of the folly of journalists, and you declared that, next time they asked you what works you had found most "helpful", you would say, "The Works of Max Beerbohm". So I send you the little monster that has been born of your mot, hoping you will be one of its keepers.

Yours very truly

Max Beerbohm
-from Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988) p. 10.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Answer to a Gentleman

Letter 29

From a Mother to a Gentleman, who had asked permission to address her Daughter. In Answer.


The letter which you have done me the honor to write to me, speaks you to be a gentleman and a man of sense. I am sorry to acquaint you, that after such a prepossession in your favor, I am for more than one reason desirous to decline the offer you are pleased to make towards an alliance in my family. My daughter is very dear to me; I think there is something indelicate and improper in this wild manner of engaging in an attachment, and pleading in favor of it. I wish you had known my daughter more before you spoke so much, and had met with me among our acquaintance to have mentioned it. I am convinced, sir, that I do not think more of you than I may with justice, when I confess to you that I believe you would be more than an equal match for my daughter; for though she has (and suffer me, sir, although I am her mother, to say it) great merit, her fortune, although not quite inconsiderable, is not great. You will see, sir, that I waver in my opinion on this subject; but you must attribute it to the true cause; and believe that every thing which has, be it ever so remote, a tendency to my daughter's welfare, will make me very cautious of determining. To give you my final sense, (at least what is final to me at present,) I have not a thought of asking who it is that has thus favored us, nor would advise my daughter to remember it. I thank you sir, in her name as well as my own, for the honor you intend us, and am, sir,
Your most obedient servant.

-from The Fashionable American Letter Writer, or, the Art of Polite Correspondence, Containing a Variety of Plain and Elegant Letters on Business, Love, Courtship, Marriage, Relationship, Friendship, &c. (New York: H. Dayton, n.d.) p. 34-35.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pliny's verbum sapienti

To Caninius Rufus,*

How is that sweet Comum of ours looking? What about that most enticing of villas, the portico where it is one perpetual spring, that shadiest of plane-tree walks, the crystal canal so agreeably winding along its flowery banks, together with the lake lying below that so charmingly yields itself to the view? What have you to tell me of the firm yet soft gestatio the sunny bath-room, those dining-rooms for large parties, and the others for small ones, and all the elegant apartments for repose, both at noon and night? Do these delightful attractions share you by turns, or do family affairs, as usual, frequently call you out from this agreeable retreat? If the scene of your enjoyments lies wholly there, you are one of the happiest of beings; if not, why then you are no better than the rest of them. Why not leave, my friend, (for it is quite time you did so) these insignificant, degrading, cares to others and devote yourself, in this snug and secluded retreat, entirely to pleasures of the studious kind? Make these your business and your recreation, your labour and your rest, the subjects of your waking and even sleeping thoughts. Compose, bring out, something that shall always belong to you. All your other possessions will pass from one master to another: this alone, once yours, will remain yours for ever. I know the temper and genius I would seek to stimulate. Do but try and think as well of yourself as others will think of you, if you will only do yourself justice. Farewell.

[Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]

*A wealthy landowner in Como and friend of Pliny the Younger.

-from The Letters of Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus / the translation of Melmoth; revised and corrected by the Rev. F. C. T. Bosanquet (London: George Bell and Sons, 1895) p. 2-3

Monday, May 28, 2007

John Adams to Abigail

[To his wife]
President's House, Washington City,
2 November, 1800
My Dearest Friend,

We arrived here last night, or rather yesterday, at one o'clock, and here we dined and slept. The building is in a state to be habitable, and now we wish for your company. . . .

I have seen only Mr. Marshall and Mr. Stoddart, General Wilkinson and the two commissioners, Mr. Scott and Mr. Thornton. I shall say nothing of public affairs. I am very glad you consented to come on, for you would have been more anxious at Quincy than here, and I to all my other solicitudines mordaces, as Horace calls them, ie., "biting cares," should have added a great deal on your account. Besides, it is fit and proper that you and I should retire together, and not one before the other. Before I end my letter, I pray heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.

I am, with unabated confidence and affection, your

-from The Friendly Craft: a Collection of American Letters edited by Elizabeth Deering Hanscom, Ph.D. (New York: Macmillan, 1908) p. 12-13.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nabokov As Rhinoceros

To Hutchinson & Co.

Nestorstrasse 22
November 28th, 1936.

Dear Sirs,

While leaving the final decision entirely with you, I think it my duty to repeat my attempt of persuading you that it is your interest as well as mine to publish "Despair" under your own imprint instead of John Long's.
I am getting gradually acquainted with John Long's latest publications, and I am afraid that my book would look among them like a rhinoceros in a world of humming birds. These publications are doubtlessly excellent in their own way, as they fully satisfy the wants of such readers who are looking for an amusing or thrilling tale, but who could hardly be expected to appreciate a purely psychological novel the merits of which lie not in its plot, but on a wholly different plane. My book is essentially concerned with subtle dissections of a mind anything but "average" or "ordinary": nature had endowed my hero with literary genius, but at the same time there was a criminal taint in his blood; the criminal in him, prevailing over the artist, took over those very methods which nature had meant the artist to use. It is not a "detective novel".

I cannot help feeling that "Despair", were it presented to the right sort of people, might prove quite a success for you and for me. Please believe me that I am not in the habit of praising my own work, and that if I draw your attention to some of its features (as noted by Russian critics), I do so out of business considerations only.
I cannot imagine why, inspite of my previous letters, you avoid discussing this matter with me, and I do hope to hear from you now.
Yours faithfully,

-from Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977 edited by Dimitri Nabokov and Matthew J. Bruccoli (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1989) p.17.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

George Eliot Editor Incognito

To J. Chapman
24 July 1852.

Dear Friend,

Don't suggest 'Fashion' as a subject to any one else--I should like to keep it. I have noticed the advertisement of the British Q[uarterly] this morning. Its list of subjects is excellent. I wish you could contrive to let me see the number when it comes out. They have one subject of which I am jealous--''Pre-Raphaelism in Painting and Literature.' We have no good writer on such subjects on our staff. Ought we not, too, to try and enlist David Masson, who is one of the Br[itish] Q[uarterly] set? He wrote that article in the Leader on the Patagonian Missionaries, which I thought very beautiful. Seeing 'Margaret Fuller' among their subjects makes me rather regret having missed the first moment for writing an article on her life myself, but I think she still may come in as one of a triad or quaternion.

I feel that I am a wretched helpmate to you, almost out of the world and incog. so far as I am in it. When you can afford to pay an Editor, if that time will ever come, you must get one. If you believe in Free Will, in the Theism that looks on manhood as a type of the godhead and on Jesus as the ideal Man, get one belonging to the Martineau 'School of thought,' and he will drill you a regiment of writers who will produce a Prospective on a large scale, and so the Westminster may come to have 'dignity' in the eyes of Liverpool.
If not -- if you believe, as I do, that the thought which is to mould the future has for its root a belief in necessity, that a nobler presentation of humanity has yet to be given in resignation to individual nothingness, than could ever be shewn of a being who believes in the phantasmagoria of hope unsustained by reason -- why then get a man of another calibre and let him write a fresh Prospectus, and if Liverpool theology and ethics are to be admitted, let them be put in the 'dangerous ward,' alias, the Independent Section.
The only third course is the present one, that of Editorial compromise. J. S. Mill and so on can write more openly in the Westminster than anywhere else -- It is good for the world that they should have every facility for speaking out. Each can't have a periodical to himself. The grand mistake is to make the Editors responsible for everything. . . .
I congratulate you on your ability to keep cheerful.
Yours etc

-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. 176-77.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Edith Wharton in the Gobi Desert

January 12, 1937.

Dearest B. B.,

This is just a flying line, first to thank you for your good letter, & secondly to tell you that Gillet proposes to come here for a brief holiday (three or four days) on Feb. 17 or 18, & that it wd be delightful if you & Nick could coincide with him- that is to say, if his visit cd fall somewhere, it doesn't matter where, within the circle of yours -

I'm very sorry que la source a tari (the Book-source) for the moment but I'm so used to this break of continuity in my work that I can't take it very tragically in your case. It is probably just the tank filling up. A propos of which, in looking this morning through an old diary-journal I have a dozen time began & abandoned, I found this: (Dec. 10, 1934.)

'What is writing a novel like?
The beginning: A ride through a spring wood.
The middle: The Gobi desert.
The end: Going down the Cresta run.'
The diary adds: 'I am now' (p. 166 of 'The Buccaneers') in the middle of the Gobi desert.'-
Since then I've been slowly struggling toward the Cresta run, & don't yet despair of sliding down.- Meanwhile, Robert is reading us (in the intervals of political news on the wireless) Granville-Barker's 'Hamlet.' But last night we made him break away & read us the 3 great -greatest - scenes in Esmond. And great they are.

-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. 178.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

J. G. Lockhart's Club Gossip

To Sir Walter Scott
March 25th, 1829.

My Dear Sir,--There is no reason to expect a duel every day, and all has been very quiet since Saturday. The letter was utterly forgotten till this recalled it to remembrance. Ergo there was no sort of call on the Duke, after beating Buonaparte, to go to war with a Booby. But he could not stand the fling at the fair. His correspondence seems admirable every way, and the whole affair was gone thro' in excellent taste. The Duke and Hardinge trotting out--the two peaceful Lords tumbling down in a coach and four. The Duke had no halfpence, and was followed and bothered for some time by the Tollman on Battersea Bridge when Hardinge fished out some silver, or a groom came up. There were various market-gardeners on the road who, when Lord Winchilsea's equipage stopped, stopped also and looked on. One of them advised a turn-up with Nature's weapons. The moment all was done, the Duke clapped spurs to his horse, and was back in Downing Street within the 2 hours--breakfasted--and off for Windsor, where he transacted business for an hour or so, and then said: "By the bye, I was forgetting: I have had a Field day with Lord W. this morning." They say the King rowed Arthur much for exposing himself at such a crisis. Such is the gossip of the Club. . . .
Yours affectionately,

-from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott edited by Wilfred Partington (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) p. 41.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Conrad in Full Sail

To Edward Garnett
17 Gillingham St. S. W.

March 8, 1895.

Dear Garnett,

I send you 4 chapters of the Outcast who--as you will perceive--is very much so. More than ever.--Your talk yesterday put so much life into me that I am reluctantly compelled to suspect you of good nature. Do not be offended for I do not mean any harm in charging you with such a bourgeois (or Philistine) failing. Even our friends are not perfect! This world is a dreary place and a prey to minor virtues. A dreary place--unless a fellow is a Willems of some kind and is stuffed full of emotions--without any moral--when he may discover some joviality or other at the bottom of his load of anguish. But that's a lottery; an illegal thing; the invention of the Devil.

In Chap. XII beginning with the words: "And now they are . . ." are the two pars. in the new style. Please say on the margin what you think. One word will do. I am very much in doubt myself about it; but where is the thing, institution or principle which I do not doubt?!

I shall advise you by autograph of my return from the Continent: because the fashionable intelligence of the Pall Mall neglects me in a most unaccountable way. Till then

-from Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters by G. Jean-Aubry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Page & Co., 1927) Vol. 1, p. 173.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lafcadio Hearn and Dust

To Ellwood Hendrick
Tokyo May, 1896.

Dear Hendrick,________.........Somebody (who, I do not know) has been sending me books. Did you send me a book by Richard Le Gallienne? I thought Mrs. Rollins had sent it, and I wrote to her nice things about it, which vexed her into sending me a very sharp criticism of it (she is a critic), and proving me to have praised a worthless book out of liking for the sender! Where am I! I am certainly wrong. I did think the book nice because of my belief that she sent it; and I am now equally convinced that it was not. I should certainly make a bad critic if I were acquainted with authors and their friends. One sees what does not exist wherever one loves or hates. As I am rather a creature of extremes, I should be an extremely crooked, visioned judge of work. I have not tried to answer Mrs. Rollins's letter-----fact is, I can't. . . .

What is the present matter with American civilization? Nearly all the clever American authors seem to be women, and most of them have to go "out of town" for their studies of life. American city-life seems to wither and burn up everything. There is something of the same sort noticeable in England----the authors have to go out of England. Of course, there are some great exceptions------like James and Mallock. But how many great writers deal with civilized life as it is? They go to the Highlands, like Black and Barrie, ----or to Italy, like Crawford, ------or to strange countries like Kipling; but who to-day would write "A London Romance"? This brings up another question. What is the meaning of English literary superiority? It is all very well to howl about the copyright question, and the shameful treatment of American authors; but what American authors have we to compare with the English? Excepting women like Mrs. Deland and Miss Jewett and Mrs. Phelps, etc.,-------what American writers can touch English methods? James is certainly our best; -----so London steals him; but he stands alone. America has no one like a dozen,-------nay, a score of English writers that might be named. It certainly is not a question of remuneration; for real high ability is always sooner or later able to get all it asks for. It must be an effect of American city-life, and American training, and American environment;------perhaps over education has something to do with it. Again----English work is so massive-------even at its worst: the effort made is always so much larger. Perhaps we do things to fast. The English are slow and exact. I am told that the other Northern races are still somewhat behind-----always excepting great Russia. But in the France of 1896, what is doing? The greatest writers of the age are dead or silent. Is not our horrible competitive civilization at last going to choke all aspirational life into silence? After the Du Maurier school, what will even England be able to do? Alfred Austin after Alfred Tennyson!

These are my thoughts sometimes; -------then, again, I think of a possible new idealism, ------ a new prodigious burst of faith and passion and song greater than anything Victorian; ------ and I remember that all progress is rhythmical. But if this comes, it will be only, I fear, after we have been dust for a century.
I feel this is an awfully stupid letter. But I'll write a better one soon. My best wishes for your big, big, big success. They will be realized, I think.

Ever affectionately,

-from Lafcadio Hearn: Letters from Tokyo translated and edited by M. Otani (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1920) p. 10-18.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Max Beerbohm's Worthing Friends

To Ada Leverson
[Late September 1894]
19 Hyde Park Place, W.

Dearest Mrs. Leverson, I am not surprised that our Worthing* friends think anything so witty as The Green Carnation must have been written by you. Probably too they are anxious to believe it comes from one of the rival sex. I hope you won't be able to make them believe you just yet. The whole thing is very piquant. Of course they are not offended.

It is sweet of you to ask me to come and see you tomorrow. If they have arrived I will bring you the proofs of my literary guilt which have strayed from the Bodley Head to Broadstairs and are I believe on their hither way. What agitated discussions Bosie and Osie must have had over the authorship of that book. I wonder if they thought of Hichens at all?
Till tomorrow.

Yours ever,
Max Beerbohm.

I hope this will catch the post.

*Oscar Wilde spent August and September 1894 at 5 Esplanade, Worthing, where he wrote the greater part of The Importance of Being Earnest.

-from Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988) p. 5.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sterne's Self-Interest

To Mrs. F-----------.

York, Tuesday, Nov. 19,1759.

Dear Madam,

Your kind inquiries after my health deserve my best thanks. What can give one more pleasure than the good wishes of those we value? I am sorry you give so bad an account of your own health, but hope you will find benefit from tar-water: it has been of infinite service to me. I suppose, my good lady, by what you say in your letter, "that I am busy writing an extraordinary book," that your intelligence comes from York, the fountainhead of all chit-chat news, and, no matter. Now for your desiring of knowing the reason of my turning author? why truly I am tired of employing my brains for other people's advantage.--'Tis a foolish sacrifice I have made for some years to an ungrateful person. I depend much upon the candour of the public, but I shall not pick out a jury to try the merit of my book amongst *******, and till you read my Tristram, do not, like some people, condemn it. Laugh I am sure you will at some passages. I have hired a small house in the Minster Yard for my wife and daughter, the latter is to begin dancing, &c. If I cannot leave her a fortune, I will at least give her an education. As I shall publish my works very soon, I shall be in town by March, and shall have the pleasure of meeting with you. All your friends are well, and ever hold you in the same estimation that your sincere friend does.

Adieu, dear lady, believe me, with every wish for your happiness, your most faithful, &c.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

L. M. Montgomery's Resolutions

Cavendish, P. E. Island

Wednesday Evening
January 8, 1908.

My Dear Mr. McMillan:

Now for your letter:-

"When shall we be able to carry out our good resolutions?"

The "next day after never" dear friend. Be wise, like me, and give up making resolutions. It is a sign of extreme youth, which you ought to have left behind in your teens. . . If, however, you want to make New Year Resolutions here are some differing from the common or grander kind in that they are not hard to keep.

  1. I will not lose my temper but only mislay it occasionally.

  2. I will never repeat gossip save to a trustworthy person.

  3. I will try to improve other people's minds.

  4. I will not get into anger if I can help it.

  5. I will be kind and amiable when I feel like it.

  6. I will try to bear other people's misfortunes with equanimity.

  7. I will be cheerful when everything is going right.

  8. I will go to church regularly on fine Sundays.

  9. I will not tell anybody that he has a cold.

  10. I will not growl at the weather when it is fine.

Bon Voyage to you through '08.

Very Sincerely yours,

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.35

Friday, May 18, 2007

George Borrow's Ennui

To Dr. John Bowring

7 Museum St., Sept. 14. 1830.

My Dear Sir,--I return you the Bohemian books. I am going to Norwich for some short time as I am very unwell, and hope that cold bathing in October and November may prove of service to me. My complaints are, I believe, the offspring of ennui and unsettled prospects. I have thoughts of attempting to get into the French service, as I should like prodigiously to serve under Clausel in the next Bedouin campaign. I shall leave London next Sunday and will call some evening to take my leave; I cannot come in the morning, as early rising kills me.--Most sincerely yours,

G. Borrow

-from The Life of George Borrow by Clement K. Shorter (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, n. d.(1919))p.89.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

G. F. Watts, 'Buon Fresco'

Little Holland House,
Kensington, W.
October 17th, 1859.

Dear Sir--I beg to announce to you and to the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn that I have completed the fresco in the Hall, and to thank the gentlemen composing the Honourable Society for their patience and consideration. It has been with great vexation to myself that their patience has been tried by the delay caused by my want of health.

I will say nothing about my work excepting that I sincerely wish it were better. I do not expect that it will be popular, but I hope and think it will improve upon acquaintance.

I have preferred to leave it a pure fresco--'Buon Fresco'--instead of retouching it with distemper colour, the effect of real fresco being nobler, and the work more permanent (careful washing will not injure it).

I beg to be allowed to suggest that the long window on the south-west side should have stained glass put in throughout; it would harmonise better with the opposite window, and though it would in a slight degree diminish the light, the picture would lose nothing, my object being dignity and monumental solemnity.

Fresco also, unlike every other method of painting, lights up the space it occupies, which is one of its great advantages over every other kind of painting applied to the purpose of mural decoration.

I have the honour to be your obedient servant,

-from George Frederic Watts: The Annals of An Artist's Life by M. S. Watts (London: Macmillan and Co., 1912) Volume 1, p.178-79
[This letter was written to the architect of the building, Philip Hardwick.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hopkins at the Crossroads

Dear Bridges,--Your note limited me really to but one time for calling, namely noon yesterday, and then my aunt kept me. I am now at Croydon and shall not be able to see you therefore before you go. I am very sorry indeed for this: it is the great inconvenience of my invitations and that comes of the short holidays.

This note accordingly is to say goodbye. The year you will be away I have no doubt will make a great difference in my position though I cannot know exactly what. But the uncertainty I am in about the future is so very unpleasant and so breaks my power of applying to anything that I am resolved to end it, which I shall do by going into a retreat at Easter at the latest and deciding whether I have a vocation to the priesthood. Do not repeat this.

You will write, I hope, from abroad. Believe me always your affectionate friend,--

Gerard M. Hopkins.

You asked a little time ago about W_______. I believe he is gone to India: he said he was going but I have not heard since. His lapse is a most dreadful thing but I have nothing new to say about it: he suffered terrible pain before he finally gave up his belief.

Blunt House, Croydon, S. Jan. 9, 1868.

-from The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges edited with notes & an introduction by Claude Colleer Abbott (London: Oxford University Press, 1935) p.22

Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Robert Bridges.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Katherine Mansfield in Paris

31 rue de Tournon, Paris

Sunday morning.

(February, 1914)

Your letter this morning was a lovely surprise. I had not hoped to hear from you until tomorrow at earliest. Thank you, darling.

Everything is quite all right, here. Your room feels cold and it smells faintly of orange-flower water or furniture polish--a little of both. I spent a great part of the day reading Theocritus and, late last night, happening upon our only Sainte-Beuve, I found the first essay was all about him. What I admire so much in your criticism--your courteous manner: Sainte-Beuve has it to perfection.

Do not worry about me. I am not in the least frightened, but if Campbell abuses me too heartily, tell him 'I am not one of a malignant nature, but have a quiet temper'.*

It's a spring day. The femme de menage is cleaning the windows and I've had a bath.

Take care of yourself.

*a translation of a fragment of Sappho.
-from Katherine Mansfield's Letters to John Middleton Murray 1913-1922
edited by John Middleton Murray (London: Constable & Co., 1951, 1958)p.9
Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray had moved to Paris for her health and to save money, but John had to return to London to face a bankruptcy hearing concerning the failure of his literary magazine and he was staying with mutual friends the Campbells.

Monday, May 14, 2007

D. H. Lawrence at the Starting Gate

To H. C.

. . . Heinemann was very nice; doesn't want me to alter anything; will publish in Sept. or Oct., the best season; we have signed agreements concerning royalties, and I have agreed to give him the next novel. Will he want it? This transacting of literary business makes me sick. I have no faith in myself at the end, and I simply loathe writing. You do not know how repugnant to me was the sight of that Nethermere MSS.* By the way, I have got to find a new title. I wish, from the bottom of my heart, the fates had not stigmatised me "writer." It is a sickening business. Will you tell me whether the Saga is good? I am rapidly losing faith in it. . . .

I assure you I am not weeping into my register. It is only that the literary world seems a particularly hateful yet powerful one. The literary element, like a disagreeable substratum under a fair country, spreads under every inch of life, sticking to the roots of growing things. Ugh, that is hateful. I wish I might be delivered. . . .

*Nethermere was the early title of The White Peacock; the Saga was issued as The Trespasser.

-fromThe Letters of D. H. Lawrence edited by Aldous Huxley (London: William Heniemann, 1956.) p. 2

H. C. : Helen Corke, a Croydon teacher and friend of D. H. Lawrence. Her experiences were used by Lawrence for his novel The Trespasser.