Friday, August 31, 2007

The Carlyle's First Home

To Mrs. Carlyle, Scotsbrig.

21, Comley Bank,[Edinburgh]

9 Dec., 1826.


My dear Mother - I must not let this Letter go without adding my "be of good cheer." You would rejoice to see how much better my Husband is than when we came hither. And we are really very happy; and when he falls upon some work, we shall be still happier. Indeed I should be very stupid or very thankless, if I did not congratulate myself every hour of the day on the lot which it has pleased Providence to assign me. My Husband is so kind! so, in all respects, after my own heart! I was sick one day, and he nursed me as well as my own Mother could have done, and he never says a hard word to me - unless I richly deserve it. We see great numbers of people here, but are always most content alone. My Husband reads then, and I read or work, or just sit and look at him, which I really find as profitable an employment as any other. God bless you and my little Jean, whom I hope to see at no very distant date.
Ever affectionately yours,


JANE B. WELSH


-from New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle (London: John Lane, 1893) p. 17.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stevenson Quite Unfit, for Exercise or Wit

[R. L. Stevenson to Henry James]

February 1887.

My Dear James,

My health has played me it in once more in the absurdest fashion, and the creature who now addresses you is but a stringy and white-faced bouilli out of the pot of fever, with the devil to pay in every corner of his economy. I suppose (to judge by your letter) I need not send you these sheets, which came during my collapse by the rush. I am on the start with three volumes, one of tales, a second one of essays, and one of - ahem - verse. This is a great order, is it not? After that I shall have empty lockers. All new work stands still; I was getting on well with Jenkin when this blessed malady unhorsed me, and sent me back to the dung-collecting trade of the republisher. I shall re-issue VIRG. PUER. as Vol. I. of ESSAYS, and the new vol. as Vol. II. of ditto; to be sold, however, separately. This is but a dry maundering; however, I am quite unfit - 'I am for action quite unfit Either of exercise or wit.' My father is in a variable state; many sorrows and perplexities environ the house of Stevenson; my mother shoots north at this hour on business of a distinctly rancid character; my father (under my wife's tutorage) proceeds to-morrow to Salisbury; I remain here in my bed and whistle; in no quarter of heaven is anything encouraging apparent, except that the good Colvin comes to the hotel here on a visit. This dreary view of life is somewhat blackened by the fact that my head aches, which I always regard as a liberty on the part of the powers that be. This is also my first letter since my recovery. God speed your laudatory pen!

My wife joins in all warm messages.

Yours,
R. L. S.

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Vol. 2.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

W. H. Hudson's Bicycle

[W. H. Hudson to Morley Roberts]

June 5, 1900

Dear Roberts,

I found your postcard here on my return from the New Forest where I have been staying a few days. I also found the book Nature in Downland, and sent your copy to 54 Stokenchurch St.

Your home for tired authors would have little attraction for me. I hate all 'homes,' being rather of the Gipsy mind who loves the open heath better than the house.
I left my bicycle down in the Forest--it is rather too much to have to pay 3/- each way each time; and I am going down again in a very few days.

By the bye, when I am going a distance on the wheel I sometimes drop into the idea that I am on horseback, and only recover consciousness of the different sort of wild beast I am astride of when it begins to fly down a long slope. Are you ever troubled that way? Poor Miss Kingsley and poor Stephen Crane--both reported dead to-day! It is 10 o'clock now and guns are going off and the population of Westbourne Park is getting drunk all for joy that Pretoria has fallen. Well, I'm about tired of the war, and want to be back among the birds, beetles and snakes of the Forest.

Kind remembrances to Mrs. Roberts. I hope you are both well.

Every yours,
W. H. Hudson

-from Men, Books and Birds by W. H. Hudson with notes, some letters, and an introduction by Morley Roberts. (London: Jonathan Cape, 1928) p. 24-25.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Crawford's Inscribed Copy

British Embassy
Constantinople
June 21, '84

My dear Miss Crawford:

It is really too good of you to have thought of sending me your book. It has just arrived and I have already read several of the beautiful poems it contains with very great pleasure. You are quite right in supposing that I still take the deepest interest in everything that concerns the welfare of Canada. It is time now that Canada should have a literature of its own, and I am glad to think that you should have so nobly shown the way.
Believe me, my dear Miss Crawford, with received thanks, and with my best wishes for your future fame.
Ever yours sincerely,
(sdg) Dufferin [Lord Dufferin]

-from Isabella Valancy Crawford: We Scarcely Knew Her by Elizabeth McNeill Galvin (Toronto: Natural Heritage/Natural History, 1994) p.68.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chatwin's Room

[To Francis Steegmuller and Shirley Hazzard]

W1
March 21st 1980

Dear Francis,

You can certainly borrow, not rent the above, but I feel I must warn you of the drawbacks. It is not a flat, in the English sense of the term, but a one-room garconniere such as one might find in the Cinquieme. My tastes are also rather Spartan. It has a kind of kitchen, a minuscule shower and basin, but the lavatory is out on the landing. It has a painted Directoire bed, 3ft 6in wide--and definitely for Francis: sharing with anyone not recommended. It has a smaller, also Directoire, steel lit-de-camp, which can be made into a bed, though it serves as a sofa. In this Shirley would have to sleep. I have, on occasions, and found it small but possible.

Otherwise, there are a Jacob chair, a Regence chair, a table, a telephone, the King of Hawaii's bedsheet with a design of fishes (framed), a Siense cross, and a Mogul miniature.

You will feel very cramped.
[Bruce Chatwin]

-from With Chatwin: Portrait of a Writer by Susanna Clapp ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997) p. 14.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Fingal Forgery

[Horace Walpole to George Montagu, Esq.]

Arlington Street, Dec. 8, 1761.

. . . Fingal is come out; I have not yet got through it; not but it is very fine--yet I cannot at once compass an epic poem now. It tires me to death to read how many ways a warrior is like the moon, or the sun, or a rock, or a lion, or the ocean. Fingal is a brave collection of similies, and will serve all the boys at Eton and Westminster for these twenty years. I will trust you with a secret, but you must not disclose it; I should be ruined with my Scotch friends; in short, I cannot believe it genuine; I cannot believe a regular poem of six books has been preserved, uncorrupted, by oral tradition, from times before Christianity was introduced into the island. What! preserved unadulterated by savages dispersed among mountains, and so often driven from their dens, so wasted by wars civil and foreign! Has one man ever got all by heart? I doubt it; were parts preserved by some, other parts by others? Mighty lucky, that the tradition was never interrupted, nor any part lost--not a verse, not a measure, not the sense! luckier and luckier. I have been extremely qualified myself lately for this Scotch memory; we have had nothing but a coagulation of rains, fogs, and frosts, and though they have clouded all understanding, I suppose, if I had tried, I should have found that they thickened, and gave great consistence to my remembrance.
-from Selected Letters by Horace Walpole selected and edited by William Hadley (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1963.) Everyman's Library No. 775; p. 187.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Swift Counterfeited

[Jonathan Swift to Alexander Pope]

Dublin, May 1, 1733.

I answer your letter the sooner because I have a particular reason for doing so. Some weeks ago came a poem call'd The Life and Character of Dr. S. written by himself. It was reprinted here, and is dedicated to you. It is grounded upon a maxim in Rochefoucault, and the dedication, after a formal story, says that my manner of writing is to be found in every line. I believe I have told you, that I writ a year or two ago near five hundred lines upon the same maxim in R., and was a long time about it, as that Impostor says in his Dedication, with many Circumstances. All pure invention; I desire you to believe, and to tell my friends, that in this spurious piece there is not a single line, or a bit of a line, or thought, any way resembling the genuine Copy, any more than it does Virgil's Aeneid; for I never gave a Copy of mine, nor lent it out of sight. And although I shew'd it to all common acquaintance indifferently, and some of them (especially one or two females) had got many lines by heart, here and there, and repeated them often; yet it happens that not one single line or thought is contained in this imposture, although it appears that they who counterfeited me, had heard of the true one. But even this trick shall not provoke me to print the true one, which is indeed not proper to be seen, till I can be seen no more: I therefore desire you to undeceive my friends, and I will order an Advertisement to be printed here, and transmit it to England, that everybody may know the delusion, and acquit me, as, I am sure, you must have done yourself, if you have read any part of it, which is mean, and trivial, and full of that Cant that I most despise: I would sink to be a Vicar in Norfolk rather than be charged with such a performance . . . .

-from The Works of Alexander Pope, Vol. VII, p. 239.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thurber (non Homeric)

[James Thurber to E. B. White]

Dear Andy,

. . . When are you coming to New York? I heard a vague rumor that you had set out to discover the Northwest Passage, but that the trees began to move on you, or something. Remember how [Morris] Markey wrote an intimate account of Baltimore without going there. He got the dope from his friend Logan Clendenning over a few drinks in St. Louis. This was the book in which everybody Markey met, in mines, or factories, or forests, turned out to be Markey himself. He did his best piece, "The Deep South" in a small upstairs front room in Little River, Florida. "There ain't any use wearin' yourself out," he used to say. Who wants to reach Duluth with the smell of Albany still on him?

We are anxious to see you and Katherine, and to hear about Joe and Roger and Evelyn. The new maple blight has not got us yet.

Love and kisses from us both
As always,
Jim

-from The Thurber Letters: the wit, wisdom, and surprising life of James Thurber edited by Harrison Kinney (New York: Simon & Schuster,2003). p. 533.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

T. E. Lawrence's Odyssey

[T. E. Lawrence to Bruce Rogers]

R.A.F., India.
16/4/28.

You start off 'Dear Shaw', so I should say Dear Rogers, or Bruce Rogers; for we always think of you as a diphthong. Only it sounds like presumption. If I've been a myth to you, you've been an exemplar and ambition to everyone who's fond of books. The difference between you and private presses is that many of your works are fit for ordinary sale; a more difficult achievement than doing something de luxe. However we mustn't swap compliments all day.
Two or three times, in the ten days since your letter came, I've tried to write to you. Something about this Odyssey effort frightens me. It's too big: Homer is very very great: and so far away. It seems only a sort of game, to try and bring him down to the ordinary speech of my mouth. Yet that is what a translation ought to mean. I do it, tacitly, every time I read him: but that is for my own belly. Isn't there a presumption in putting my version abroad?

True that the work will be seen by every right-eyed person as typography, pure and simple. Your medium will hide all its sins. Only I'd like my work to be worthy of the dress: and I feel sure it cannot be. Some writers have called my Seven Pillars good. Others (fewer, but I can't help thinking them the more choice judgements) have said that far from being good, it is very very bad: perverse, dishonest, pretentious. I suspect they are right, though I did try, with the better side of me, to play fair and clean in the writing of it. Only we are all such mixtures, that it would be a miracle of self-suppression to be good all through.

However, granted that the Seven Pillars is not wholly contemptible, as prose. I can concede that much, I think. Isn't that relative goodness due to the heat of my engagement in the Arab business, and the obligation, the absolute obligation upon me, to put my share, and the other fellows' share in it, into print? Can I expect to make a decent thing of a translation of the Odyssey, undertaken because I want money, and would be flattered by being printed by you, and like Homer? I like Homer for myself, and will like him less well if I make a task of copying him out: and I shan't have any great hope that my labour will open him to anyone yet strange to him.

The Palmer* version duly arrived. It is very wholesome, and very loving. Do you think I'll do better? I'd suggest you get a lien on Palmer, in case my sample book is notably less worthy of preservation. Preservation I say... I mean canonization or apotheosis or whatever is the process of being printed by you. It's amazing you are not a millionaire. You must have refused to chase money with your best legs. It doesn't come to the half-hearted about it. At least I've never caught any: and I've lost wonderful chances of making enough to invest and live on, for good. If bread and butter were assured me for the term of my life, without working for it, how eagerly I could give up this dullness of working every day. Yet I really like the Royal Air Force, and am happy in its ranks, when they leave me unmolested - which is oftener, far, than were I earning a living in civil life.

Isham's** first letter about it gave me a wrong idea. I thought some plutocrat publisher was backing you, regardless: the price he offered was so fantastic; and so I thought 'Let's spoil the American'... a word which many hotel-keepers and others in Europe have often today in their hearts.

Isham hasn't yet written again: but I see from your letter that you have nothing cut and dried. I do not want to spoil you; nor would I if you were as rich as Mellon: because you are B.R.
So let's regard the offer as withdrawn; and do you figure out what you think the proposition can fairly stand, as translator's fee, and I'll tell you if I can do it. No time is being lost, for I have to change camp very soon, and the move will be a wasted month. It's unsettling, to move: and I have to look round the new place for a quiet corner to read in. If I have any chance, till your answer comes, I'll spend it playing with the first book. It is difficult to avoid affecting a style of some sort, in doing Homer.


The anonymity is the rub, of course: but I want to do my best to maintain it. Indeed I'd go so far as to refrain from writing it if I saw the thing was ever likely to be brought home to me. Why shouldn't I send the stuff to you, as it is done, and the Publishers have no dealings whatever with me? There will, as you rightly say, be no interest in the book, except as typography: that is as it should be, for it will be superbly printed: and not superbly translated. No one is ever likely to ask you who was your scribe.

Or the second idea you had, of finding some very rich man to undertake the whole expense... that would solve the publicity question? What he would want is a genuine B.R. book: and he wouldn't care whether you printed Dutch or gibberish, so long as it was as good as possible, on the page.

Anonymity is, in my eyes, worth sacrificing a very large proportion of the translator's fee, to obtain. Will you please, with this in view, talk it over with the very rich man; and if he does not embrace your proposition, ask your publisher friends if they are willing to take the stuff from you, without asking questions, or answering them? I can invent a name for copyright purposes, if such is necessary: though I can't imagine anyone wanting to pirate a Homer!

I have not seen your Persephone. You must remember that I have now been six years in the ranks, and comparatively bookless all that while. We are oily, when we are not dirty, and no good book should ever come near us. All camp property is common, and so all books are ruined in a few weeks. Therefore I will beg of you not to send me any of yours, however recent: I have quite a number of your pre-1922 works, in a friend's house in London. I have not seen them for years, and will not for years: because I can't have them with me, and so I'd rather not have them, at all, even near me. But if you have any spoils or sheets, I'd like them very much. Before I finished my Seven Pillars I'd begun to see some of the first difficulties of printing.
You'll find it hard to gather much Mycenaean ornament: however Minoan is a cousin, and there are other varieties of island Greek, which are at least as Homeric. Homer is more an aspiration than a person. I aspire most fervently in him... but we know even less of him than of Shakespeare.

Leading is a very good way of clearing a page - if you can afford the space. I was cramming too long a book into 650 pages when I printed mine. Two-volume books are clumsy things. Why some people condemn leading I can't conceive.

My capital letters were designed by Edward Wadsworth, a very fine artist, for John Rodker, who prints in England. He did not use them, so I bought them off him for a copy of my book. Wadsworth did A-W. I had X Y and Z done by Hughes-Stanton to complete the alphabet (W was abroad, at the time, and couldn't carry on) and exhausted my ingenuity to bring in each letter at least once. Rodker would probably send them you: or Wadsworth (who is rich) do you another set, if you really liked them. I thought them uncommonly new and delightful.

The Hewlett pages you typed out for me are fascinating. The introduction says exactly what I'd like to say to everybody who reads or writes translations; and the verse pages are wonderful. I can't do anything like that. Hewlett was really a fine poet: I have seen a trilogy (classical) and a volume of short pieces (Artemesia?) and an epic of peasant life... a sort of Georgic... and they were all the real thing. He was also a good prose writer and a charming critic. His monthly reviews in the London Mercury were the best-reading criticisms of their time. So his Iliad is, naturally, the best yet. I can see that, even from the fragment you send. What a pity he never finished it.

I cannot write blank verse... at least, I have never yet written a line of poetry in my life... and I don't feel that Homer is the thing to begin on. So if you ask me to do anything, remember that it will be prose. Remember too that Morris said prose madea squarer page.
Amharic writes itself superbly: but I doubt whether the Abyssinian classics (rather dull church folk-lore, in my acquaintance with them) would repay the beauties of their letters. Nor are there wealthy patrons: nor any reading public!

To print a first book of the translation, as a high-priced pamphlet to finance the whole, might be possible: but wouldn't that raise talk?

There, I think this has glanced at all the things you wrote to me about. I want to do it, and am afraid: but can get over that difficulty by doing the sample book for you. I want to be anonymous: and value this above a big fee. I know that my writing without my name isn't worth much. In London I can get it published, just: (not always) and they pay me about 30/- a thousand words, at the best, for it. This fact may put my literary gift in its proper perspective, in your eyes!

Yours ever,
T. E. Shaw [Lawrence]

* George Herbert Palmer: translation of The Odyssey into "rhythmic prose" published by Houghton Mifflin in 1886.

** Lt. Col. Ralph Heywood Isham, collector of 18th century English Literature and purchaser of the Boswell papers at Malahide Castle.

- from Letters of T. E. Lawrence edited by David Garnett (London: Jonathan Cape, 1938).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Swift Borrows a Book

Dr. Swift to Mr. Pope

Dublin June 28, 1715.

My Lord Bishop of Clogher gave me your kind letter full of reproaches for my not writing. I am naturally no very exact correspondent, and when I leave a country without probability of returning, I think as seldom as I can of what I loved or esteemed in it, to avoid the Desiderium which of all things maketh life most uneasy. . .

I borrowed your Homer from the Bishop (mine is not yet landed) and read it out in two evenings. If it pleaseth others as well as me, you have got your end in profit and reputation: yet I am angry of some Rhymes and Triplets, and pray in your next do not let me have so many unjustifiable Rhymes to war and gods. I tell you all the faults I know, only in one or two places are you obscure; but I expected you to be so in one or two and twenty. I have heard no soul talk of it here, for indeed it is not come over; nor do we very much abound in Judges, at least I have not the honour to be acquainted with them. . .

I desire you will present my humble service to Mr. Addison, Mr. Congreve and Mr. Rowe, and Gay. I am, and will be always, extremely yours, etc.,

-from The Works of Alexander Pope, Vol. VII

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Button's Coffee House Gossip

[John Gay to Alexander Pope]

July 8, 1715
. . . . - I have just set down Sir Samuel Garth at the Opera. He bid me tell you, that every body is pleas'd with your translation, but a few at Button's; and that Sir Richard Steele told him, that Mr. Addison said the other translation was the best that ever was in any language. He treated me with extreme civility, and out of kindness gave me a squeeze by the forefinger.--I am informed that at Button's your character is made very free with as to morals, etc., and Mr. Addison says, that your translation and Tickel's are both very well done, but that the latter has more of Homer.
I am etc.,
John Gay

-from The Works of Alexander Pope, Volume VII, pp. 299.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thomas Tickell's Translation

[Edward Young to Thomas Tickell]
June 28, 1715.

Dear Tickell,

Be assured I want no new inducement to behave myself like your friend. To be very plain, the University almost in general gives the preference to Pope's translation ; they say his is written with more spirit, ornament and freedom, and has more the air of an original. I inclined some, Hanton, etc., to compare the translation with the original ; which was done, and it made some small alterations in their opinions, but still Pope was their man. The bottom of the case is this, they were strongly prepossessed in Pope's favour, from a wrong notion of your design before the poem came down ; and the sight of yours has not force enough upon them to make them willing to contradict themselves, and own they were in the wrong ; but they go far for prejudiced persons, and own yours is an excellent translation, nor do I hear any violently affirm it to be worse than Pope's, but those who look on Pope as a miracle, and among those to your comfort Evans is the first, and even these zealots allow that you have outdone Pope in some particulars. Upon the whole I affirm the performance has gained you much reputation, and when they compare you with what they should compare you, with Homer only, you are much admired. It has given I know many of the best judges a desire to see the Odyssey by the same hand, which they talk of with pleasure, and I seriously believe your first piece of that will quite break their partiality for Pope, which your Iliad has weakened, and secure your success. Nor think my opinion groundlessly swayed by my wishes, for I observe, as prejudice cools, you grow in favour, and you are a better poet now than when your Homer first came down. I am persuaded fully that your design cannot but succeed here, and it shall be my hearty desire and endeavour that it may.

Dear Tickell, yours most affectionately,
E. YOUNG.

My humble service to Mr. Addison and Sir Rich Steele.

-from Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pope Begs a Favour

[Alexander Pope to Joseph Addison]

Oct. 10, 1714.

I have been acquainted by one of my friends, who omits no opportunities of gratifying me, that you have lately been pleas'd to speak of me in a manner which nothing but the real respect I have for you can deserve. May I hope that some late malevolencies have lost their effect? indeed it is neither for me, nor my enemies, to pretend to tell you whether I am your friend or not; but if you would judge by probabilities, I beg to know which of your poetical acquaintance has so little interest in pretending to be so? . . . .

I will not value myself upon having ever guarded all the degrees of respect for you: for (to say the truth) all the world speaks well of you; and I should be under a necessity of doing the same, whether I car'd for you or not.

As to what you have said of me, I shall never believe that the author of Cato can speak one thing and think another. As a proof that I account you sincere, I beg a favour of you: It is, that you would look over the first two books of my translation of Homer, which are in the hands of my Lord Halifax. I am sensible how much the reputation of any poetical work will depend upon the character you give it: 'tis therefore some evidence of the fact that I repose in your good will, when I give you this opportunity of speaking ill of me with justice; and yet expect you will tell me your truest thought, at the same time that you tell others your most favourable ones. . . .

-from The Works of Alexander Pope, Volume VII, pp. 177-178.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

William Cowper & Translation

TO Joseph Hill

Olney, April 5, 1786.

I did, as you suppose, bestow all possible con- sideration on the subject of an apology for my Homerican undertaking. I turned the matter about in my mind a hundred different ways, and, in every way in which it would present itself, found it an impracticable business. It is impossible for me, with what delicacy soever I may manage it, to state the objections that lie against Pope's trans- lation, without incurring odium and the imputation of arrogance ; foreseeing this danger, I choose to say nothing.

W.[illiam] C.[owper]

P.S. You may well wonder at my courage, who have undertaken a work of such enormous length. You would wonder more if you knew that I trans- lated the whole Iliad with no other help than a Clavis. But I have since equipped myself better for this immense journey, and am revising the work in company with a good commentator.

-from The Correspondence of William Cowper edited by Thomas Wright (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1904) volume III.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Beddoes and a Multitude of Dinners

To Thomas Forbes Kelsall

26 Mall Clifton Bristol

[Nov: 8. 1824]

What the fifteen hundred devils can have become of that fellow Beddoes? Why here he is on a wet sunday morning at Clifton, a bad pen and nothing to say, being prosperous auspices for the beginning of a letter. Perhaps you thought that I was delaying till I could epistolize in German--but in truth that tongue has flooded my brain no higher than der die das.

One morning at Procter's just after breakfast came a letter from Southton which touched my letterwriting conscience to the quick: it recounted your jaundice, but that I trust is, like Mathew's little pig, all over--and you are reinstated on the sofa in H Lane, where November darkens & clients to come cast their shadows before. Believe me I have begun two letters before, written a page of each and torn them up in despair of finishing. This however I will end.

I have seen Procter, before I left London, once or twice when his honeymoon was reduced to a cheese-paring--though he is now only half of himself he is twice the man he was, and I do not think that you will not be disappointed with his tenderer moiety. He is intending to give Covent Garden Lee's altered play this season & altogether appears very industriously inclined: this is as it should be: he has open sea enough if he will but take the tide.

I have been turning over old plays in the Brit: Museum; and verily think that another volume of specimens might be very well compiled--when I go up again, perhaps I shall do it for my private use. I was very much disappointed with the dulness that hid itself under the alluring title, which you must often have admired; to wit: See me and see me not, or Hans Beerpots invisible comedy. Marston's Sophonisba contains very good things and there are some very smart and quaintly worded speeches & characters in some of Middleton's comedys; the dullest thing possible is the Birth of Merlin, ascribed to W. Shakspeare: if Steam engines shall ever write blank verse it will be such as that:

Excuse me for a little bit of remonstrance. I do not think you were born to be confined to sheep's skins, you should spread a sense of true criticism, if you are disinclined to set an example in another way; crush Campbell, throw Bowles into the fire, Bernard & such small beer into the pig's trough.
Farewell, this is a stunted communication but I am dull & en veritè hurried
Yours ever

The four first acts of the fatal Dowry have improved my opinion of Massinger; he is a very effective "stage-poet" after all. I have not forgotten that I owe you five shillings and a multitude of dinners--if you do not go to London to receive them, I shall honestly do it at Southton before long.

-from Letters of Thomas Lovell Beddoes edited by Edmund Gosse (London: Elkin, Matthews & John Lane, 1894)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dorothy Osborne to Sir William

Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple
[February 1653]

SIR,–You have made me so rich as I am able to help my neighbours. There is a little head cut in an onyx that I take to be a very good one, and the dolphin is (as you say) the better for being cut less; the oddness of the figure makes the beauty of these things. If you saw one that my brother sent my Lady Diana last week, you would believe it were meant to fright people withal; 'twas brought out of the Indies, and cut there for an idol's head: they took the devil himself, sure, for their pattern that did it, for in my life I never saw so ugly a thing, and yet she is as fond on't as if it were as lovely as she herself is. Her eyes have not the flames they have had, nor is she like (I am afraid) to recover them here; but were they irrecoverably lost, the beauty of her mind were enough to make her outshine everybody else, and she would still be courted by all that knew how to value her, like la belle aveugle that was Philip the 2nd of France his mistress. I am wholly ignorant of the story you mention, and am confident you are not well informed, for 'tis impossible she should ever have done anything that were unhandsome. If I knew who the person were that is concern'd in't, she allows me so much freedom with her, that I could easily put her upon the discourse, and I do not think she would use much of disguise in it towards me. I should have guessed it Algernon Sydney, but that I cannot see in him that likelihood of a fortune which you seem to imply by saying 'tis not present. But if you should mean by that, that 'tis possible his wit and good parts may raise him to one, you must pardon if I am not of your opinion, for I do not think these are times for anybody to expect preferment in that deserves it, and in the best 'twas ever too uncertain for a wise body to trust to. But I am altogether of your mind, that my Lady Sunderland is not to be followed in her marrying fashion, and that Mr. Smith never appeared less her servant than in desiring it; to speak truth, 'twas convenient for neither of them, and in meaner people had been plain undoing one another, which I cannot understand to be kindness of either side. She has lost by it much of the repute she had gained by keeping herself a widow; it was then believed that wit and discretion were to be reconciled in her person that have so seldom been persuaded to meet in anybody else. But we are all mortal.

I did not mean that Howard. 'Twas Arundel Howard. And the seals were some remainders that showed his father's love to antiquities, and therefore cost him dear enough, if that would make them good. I am sorry I cannot follow your counsel in keeping fair with Fortune. I am not apt to suspect without just cause, but in earnest if I once find anybody faulty towards me, they lose me for ever; I have forsworn being twice deceived by the same person. For God sake do not say she has the spleen, I shall hate it worse than ever I did, nor that 'tis a disease of the wits, I shall think you abuse me, for then I am sure it would not be mine; but were it certain that they went together always, I dare swear there is nobody so proud of their wit as to keep it upon such terms, but would be glad after they had endured it a while to let them both go as they came. I know nothing yet that is likely to alter my resolution of being in town on Saturday next; but I am uncertain where I shall be, and therefore it will be best that I send you word when I am here. I should be glad to see you sooner, but that I do not know myself what company I may have with me. I meant this letter longer when I began it, but an extreme cold that I have taken lies so in my head, and makes it ache so violently, that I hardly see what I do. I'll e'en to bed as soon as I have told you that I am very much

Your faithful friend and servant,

-from Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-1654) edited by Edward Abbott Parry (London: J. M. Dent & Sons).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Henry James reads the papers

[Henry James, Jr. to William Dean Howells]


Cambridge, May 10th [1867]

Dear Howells —

Thanks again for your papers* — They are utterly charming, & a 100 times the most graceful, witty and poetical things yet written in this land. I especially liked the chapter on Ferrara. — Que n'y suis-je-pas! But they are all delightful and I await the rest. Your manner seems to me quite your own & yet it reminds one vaguely of all kinds of pleasant & poignant associations. Thou hast the gift — "go always!" I like the real levity of your lightness & the real feeling of your soberness; and I admire the delicacy of your touch always & everywhere.

The worst of it is that it is almost too sympathetic. You intimate, you suggest so many of the refinements of the reality, that the reader's soul is racked by this superfluous enjoyment. But as I say, I think I can stand another batch.

Your's always
H.J. jr.

*Italian Journeys by William Dean Howells

-from Henry James: A Life in Letters by Philip Horne.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kingsley Requests an Eidolon

[Charles Kingsley to Charles Darwin]

Eversley Rectory, Winchfield.
May 30/65

My dear Sir
We desire much your photograph. I say honestly, there is no living man whom I have not seen, whom I wish to see as much as I do you: & failing that, to have some Eidolon of you for myself & mine.

If you have any photograph of yourself—or if you can tell me where I can procure one, you will do me a real favour.

The more I think, & see, the more I find to make me thankful for your great book.*

Yours faithfully
C. Kingsley

*Charles Darwin had given Kingsley a presentation copy of The Origin of the Species in 1859.

Monday, August 13, 2007

R. L. Stevenson's Island Adventure

E. Henley
Braemar [August 25, 1881].
MY DEAR HENLEY,


Of course I am a rogue. Why, Lord, it's known, man; but you should remember I have had a horrid cold. Now, I'm better, I think; and see here - nobody, not you, nor Lang, nor the devil, will hurry me with our crawlers. They are coming. Four of them are as good as done, and the rest will come when ripe; but I am now on another lay for the moment, purely owing to Lloyd, this one; but I believe there's more coin in it than in any amount of crawlers: now, see here, 'The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island: A Story for Boys.'

If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day. Will you be surprised to learn that it is about Buccaneers, that it begins in the ADMIRAL BENBOW public-house on Devon coast, that it's all about a map, and a treasure, and a mutiny, and a derelict ship, and a current, and a fine old Squire Trelawney (the real Tre, purged of literature and sin, to suit the infant mind), and a doctor, and another doctor, and a sea-cook with one leg, and a sea-song with the chorus 'Yo-ho-ho-and a bottle of rum' (at the third Ho you heave at the capstan bars), which is a real buccaneer's song, only known to the crew of the late Captain Flint (died of rum at Key West, much regretted, friends will please accept this intimation); and lastly, would you be surprised to hear, in this connection, the name of ROUTLEDGE? That's the kind of man I am, blast your eyes. Two chapters are written, and have been tried on Lloyd with great success; the trouble is to work it off without oaths. Buccaneers without oaths - bricks without straw. But youth and the fond parient have to be consulted.

And now look here - this is next day - and three chapters are written and read. (Chapter I. The Old Sea-dog at the ADMIRAL BENBOW. Chapter II. Black Dog appears and disappears. Chapter III. The Black Spot) All now heard by Lloyd, F., and my father and mother, with high approval. It's quite silly and horrid fun, and what I want is the BEST book about the Buccaneers that can be had - the latter B's above all, Blackbeard and sich, and get Nutt or Bain to send it skimming by the fastest post. And now I know you'll write to me, for 'The Sea Cook's' sake.

Your 'Admiral Guinea' is curiously near my line, but of course I'm fooling; and your Admiral sounds like a shublime gent. Stick to him like wax - he'll do. My Trelawney is, as I indicate, several thousand sea-miles off the lie of the original or your Admiral Guinea; and besides, I have no more about him yet but one mention of his name, and I think it likely he may turn yet farther from the model in the course of handling. A chapter a day I mean to do; they are short; and perhaps in a month the 'Sea Cook' may to Routledge go, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum! My Trelawney has a strong dash of Landor, as I see him from here. No women in the story, Lloyd's orders; and who so blithe to obey? It's awful fun boys' stories; you just indulge the pleasure of your heart, that's all; no trouble, no strain. The only stiff thing is to get it ended - that I don't see, but I look to a volcano. O sweet, O generous, O human toils. You would like my blind beggar in Chapter III. I believe; no writing, just drive along as the words come and the pen will scratch!

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Volume 1, p. 75.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mary Wollstonecraft Abroad II

Letter II - Part II


It is true I have only had a glance over a small part of it; yet of its present state of manners and acquirements I think I have formed a distinct idea, without having visited the capital--where, in fact, less of a national character is to be found than in the remote parts of the country.The Swedes pique themselves on their politeness; but far from being the polish of a cultivated mind, it consists merely of tiresome forms and ceremonies. So far, indeed, from entering immediately into your character, and making you feel instantly at your ease, like the well-bred French, their over-acted civility is a continual restraint on all your actions. The sort of superiority which a fortune gives when there is no superiority of education, excepting what consists in the observance of senseless forms, has a contrary effect than what is intended; so that I could not help reckoning the peasantry the politest people of Sweden, who, only aiming at pleasing you, never think of being admired for their behaviour.


Their tables, like their compliments, seem equally a caricature of the French. The dishes are composed, as well as theirs, of a variety of mixtures to destroy the native taste of the food without being as relishing. Spices and sugar are put into everything, even into the bread; and the only way I can account for their partiality
to high-seasoned dishes is the constant use of salted provisions. Necessity obliges them to lay up a store of dried fish and salted meat for the winter; and in summer, fresh meat and fish taste insipid after them. To which may be added the constant use of spirits. Every day, before dinner and supper, even whilst the dishes are cooling on the table, men and women repair to a side-table; and to obtain an appetite eat bread-and-butter, cheese, raw salmon, or anchovies, drinking a glass of brandy. Salt fish or meat then immediately follows, to give a further whet to the stomach. As the dinner advances, pardon me for taking up a few minutes to
describe what, alas! has detained me two or three hours on the stretch observing, dish after dish is changed, in endless rotation, and handed round with solemn pace to each guest; but should you happen not to like the first dishes, which was often my case, it is a gross breach of politeness to ask for part of any other till its
turn comes. But have patience, and there will be eating enough. Allow me to run over the acts of a visiting day, not overlooking the interludes. Prelude a luncheon--then a succession of fish, flesh, and fowl for
two hours, during which time the dessert--I was sorry for the strawberries and cream--rests on the table to be impregnated by the fumes of the viands. Coffee immediately follows in the drawing-room, but does not preclude punch, ale, tea and cakes, raw salmon, &c. A supper brings up the rear, not forgetting the introductory luncheon, almost equalling in removes the dinner. A day of this kind you would imagine sufficient; but a to-morrow and a to-morrow-- A never-ending, still-beginning feast may be bearable, perhaps, when stern winter frowns, shaking with chilling aspect his hoary locks; but during a summer, sweet as fleeting, let me, my kind strangers, escape sometimes into your fir groves, wander on the margin of your beautiful lakes, or climb your rocks, to view still others in endless perspective, which, piled by more than giant's hand, scale the heavens to intercept its rays, or to receive the parting tinge of lingering day--day that, scarcely softened unto twilight, allows the freshening breeze to wake, and the moon to burst forth in all her glory to glide with solemn elegance through the azure expanse. The cow's bell has ceased to tinkle the herd to rest; they have all paced across the heath. Is not this the witching time of night? The waters murmur, and fall with more than mortal music, and spirits of peace walk abroad to calm the agitated breast. Eternity is in these moments. Worldly cares melt into the airy stuff that dreams are made of, and reveries, mild and enchanting as the first hopes of love or the recollection of lost enjoyment, carry the hapless wight into futurity, who in bustling life has vainly strove to throw off the grief which lies heavy at the heart. Good night! A crescent hangs out in the vault before, which woos me to stray abroad. It is not a silvery reflection of the sun, but glows with all its golden splendour. Who fears the fallen dew? It only makes the mown grass smell more fragrant. Adieu!




-from Letters on Sweden, Norway, and Denmark by Mary Wollstonecraft (London: Cassell, 1889).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mary Wollstonecraft Abroad

Letter II - Part I



Gothenburg is a clean airy town, and, having been built by the Dutch, has canals running through each street; and in some of them there are rows of trees that would render it very pleasant were it not for the pavement, which is intolerably bad. There are several rich commercial houses--Scotch, French, andSwedish; but the Scotch, I believe, have been the most successful.The commerce and commission business with France since the war has been very lucrative, and enriched the merchants I am afraid at the expense of the other inhabitants, by raising the price of the necessaries of life. As all the men of consequence--I mean men of the largest fortune--are merchants, their principal enjoyment is a relaxation from business at the table, which is spread at, I think, too early an hour (between one and two) for men who have letters to write and accounts to settle after paying due respect to the bottle. However, when numerous circles are to be brought together, and when neither literature nor public amusements furnish topics forconversation, a good dinner appears to be the only centre to rally round, especially as scandal, the zest of more select parties, canonly be whispered. As for politics, I have seldom found it a subject of continual discussion in a country town in any part of the world. The politics of the place, being on a smaller scale, suits better with the size of their faculties; for, generally speaking, the sphere of observation determines the extent of the mind.


The more I see of the world, the more I am convinced that civilisation is a blessing not sufficiently estimated by those who have not traced its progress; for it not only refines our enjoyments, but produces a variety which enables us to retain the primitive delicacy of our sensations. Without the aid of the imagination all the pleasures of the senses must sink into grossness, unless continual novelty serve as a substitute for the imagination, which, being impossible, it was to this weariness, I suppose, that Solomon alluded when he declared that there was nothing new under the sun!--nothing for the common sensations excited by the senses. Yet who will deny that the imagination and understanding have made many, very many discoveries since those days, which only seem harbingers of others still more noble and beneficial? I never met with much imagination amongst people who had not acquired a habit of reflection; and in that state of society in which the judgment and taste are not called forth, and formed bythe cultivation of the arts and sciences, little of that delicacy of feeling and thinking is to be found characterised by the word sentiment. The want of scientific pursuits perhaps accounts for the hospitality, as well as for the cordial reception which strangers receive from the inhabitants of small towns. Hospitality has, I think, been too much praised by travellers as aproof of goodness of heart, when, in my opinion, indiscriminate hospitality is rather a criterion by which you may form a tolerable estimate of the indolence or vacancy of a head; or, in other words, a fondness for social pleasures in which the mind not having its proportion of exercise, the bottle must be pushed about. These remarks are equally applicable to Dublin, the most hospitable city I ever passed through. But I will try to confine my observations more particularly to Sweden.


[Mary Wollstonecraft]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dorothy to Sir William

[To Sir William Temple]

January 2nd, 1653.

SIR,–If there were anything in my letter that pleased you I am extremely glad on't, 'twas all due to you, and made it but an equal return for the satisfaction yours gave me. And whatsoever you may believe, I shall never repent the good opinion I have with so much reason taken up. But I forget myself; I meant to chide, and I think this is nothing towards it. Is it possible you came so near me as Bedford and would not see me? Seriously, I should not have believed it from another; would your horse had lost all his legs instead of a hoof, that he might not have been able to carry you further, and you, something that you valued extremely, and could not hope to find anywhere but at Chicksands. I could wish you a thousand little mischances, I am so angry with you; for my life I could not imagine how I had lost you, or why you should call that a silence of six or eight weeks which you intended so much longer. And when I had wearied myself with thinking of all the unpleasant accidents that might cause it, I at length sat down with a resolution to choose the best to believe, which was that at the end of one journey you had begun another (which I had heard you say you intended), and that your haste, or something else, had hindered you from letting me know it. In this ignorance your letter from Breda found me, which, by the way, Sir Thomas never saw. 'Tis true I told him I had a letter from you, one day that he extremely lamented he knew not what was become of you, and fell into so earnest commendations of you that I cannot expect less from him who have the honour to be his kinswoman. But to leave him to his mistress who perhaps has spoilt his memory–let me assure you that I was never so in love with an old man in my life, as I was with Mr. Metcalf for sending me that letter (though there is one not far off that says he will have me when his wife dies). I writ so kindly to him the next post, and he that would not be in my debt sends me word again that you were coming over. But yours kept me from believing that and made me think you in Italy when you were in England, though I was not displeased to find myself deceived. But for God sake let me ask you what you have done all this while you have been away; what you have met with in Holland that could keep you there so long; why you went no further; and why I was not to know you went so far? You may do well to satisfy me in all these. I shall so persecute you with questions else, when I see you, that you will be glad to go thither again to avoid me; though when that will be I cannot certainly say, for my father has so small a proportion of health left him since my mother's death, that I am in continual fear of him, and dare not often make use of the leave he gives me to be from home, lest he should at some time want such little services as I am able to render him. Yet I think to be in London in the next term, and am sure I shall desire it because you are there.

Sir, your humble servant
-from Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-1654) edited by Edward Abbott Parry (London: J. M. Dent & Sons).

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mrs Robinson to William Godwin

[To William Godwin]
Friday, 30th May 1800.

. . . The fact is simply this, were I to resist the action as a married woman, I might set it aside, and recover damages from my persecutor, because the arrest is for necessaries, and my husband is therefore by law obliged to pay the debt, there being no kind of legal separation between us. But then, I should involve that husband, and act, as I should feel, dishonestly towards my creditors. I therefore submit patiently. I have had various proposals from many friends to settle the business, but I am too proud to borrow, while the arrears now due on my annuity from the Prince of Wales would doubly pay the sum for which I am arrested. I have written to the Prince, and his answer is that there is no money at Carlton House-- that he is very sorry for my situation, but that his own is equally distressing!! You will smile at such paltry excuses, as I do. But I am determined to persist in my demand, half a year's annuity being really due, which is two hundred and fifty pounds, and I am in custody for sixty-three pounds only! So circumstanced I will neither borrow, beg, nor steal. I owe very little in the world, and still less to the world, and it is unimportant to me where I pass my days, if I possess the esteem and friendship of its best ornaments, among which I consider you,

Most sincerely, I am, dear Sir, your obliged and humble servant,
M. ROBINSON.
-from William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries (London: Henry S. King) vol. 2, p. 34-35.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Byron and Compound Interest

[To Sir Walter Scott from Lord Byron]

Pisa, January 12, 1822.

My Dear Sir Walter,-- I need not say how grateful I am for your letter, but I must own my ingratitude in not having written to you again long ago. Since I left England (and it is not for all the usual term of transportation) I have scribbled to five hundred blockheads on business, etc., without difficulty, though with no great pleasure; and yet, with the notion of addressing you a hundred times in my head, and always in my heart, I have not done what I ought to have done. . .

I owe to you far more than the usual obligation for the courtesies of literature and common friendship--for you went out of your way in 1817 to do me a service, when it required not merely kindness, but courage to do so: to have been recorded by you in such a manner would have been a proud memorial at any time; but at such a time, when "all the world and his wife," (or rather mine) as the proverb goes, were trying to trample upon me, was something still higher to my self-esteem. I allude to the "Quarterly Review" of the 3rd C[anto] of C[hild]e H[arol]d which Murray told me was written by you,--and, indeed, I should have known it without his information, as there could not be two who could and would have done this at the time. Had it been a common criticism however eloquent or panegyrical-- I should have felt pleased, undoubtedly, and grateful, but not to the extent which the extraordinary good-heartedness of the whole proceeding must induce in any mind capable of such sensations. The very tardiness of this acknowledgement will, at least, show that I have not forgotten the obligation; and I can assure you that my sense of it has been out at compound interest during the delay. . . .

January 27th 1822

I delayed till now concluding in the hope that I should have got The Pirate, who is under way for me, but has not yet hove in sight. I hear that your daughter is married, and I suppose by this time you are half a grandfather--a young one, by the way. I have heard great things of Mrs. Lockhart's personal and mental charms and much good of her Lord. That you may live to see as many novel Scotts as there are Scot's novels, is the very bad pun, but sincere wish of, --Yours Ever most affectionately,

P.S. --Why don't you take a turn in Italy? You would find yourself as well-known and as welcome as in the Highlands among the natives. As for the English, you would be with them as in London; and I need not add, that I would be delighted to see you again--which is far more than I shall ever feel or say for England, or (with a few exceptions "of kith, kin, and allies") any thing that it contains. But my "heart warms to the Tartan," or to anything of Scotland which reminds me of Aberdeen and other parts not so far from the Highlands or that town (about Invercauld and Braemar) where I was sent to drink goat's fey in 1795-96 on a threatened decline after the scarlet fever. But I am gossiping, so good night, and the Gods be with your dreams!

Pray, present my respects to Lady Scott, who may perhaps recollect having seen me in town in 1815.

I see that one of your supporters (for like Sir Hildebrand,* I am fond of Guillim) is a Mermaid. It is my crest too, and with precisely the same curl of tail. There's concatenation for you! I am building a little cutter at Genoa, to go a' cruising in the Summer. I know you like the sea too.

*In Rob Roy

-from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott edited by Wilfred Partington (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) p. 188-190.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shelley, the enthusiastic landsman

[Percy Bysshe Shelley to Edward John Trelawny]

Lerici, May 16, 1822.

My dear Trelawny,

The Don Juan is arrived, and nothing can exceed the admiration she has excited; for we must suppose the name to have been given her during the equivocation of sex which her godfather suffered in the harem. Williams declares her to be perfect, and I participate in his enthusiasm, inasmuch as would be decent in a landsman. We have been out now several days, although we have sought in vain for an opportunity of trying her against the feluccas or other large craft in the bay; she passes the small ones as a comet might pass the dullest planet of the heavens. When do you expect to be here in the Bolivar? If Roberts's 50l grow into a 500l, and his ten days into months, I suppose I may expect that I am considerably in you debt, and that you will not be round here until the middle of the summer. I hope that I shall be mistaken in the last of these conclusions; as to the former, whatever may be the result, I have little reason and less inclination to complain of my bargain. I wish you could express from me to Roberts how excessively I am obliged to him for the time and trouble he has expended for my advantage, and which I wish could be as easily repaid as the money which I owe him, and which I wait your orders for remitting.

I have only heard from Lord Byron once, and solely upon that subject. Tita is with me, and I suppose will go with you in the schooner to Leghorn. We are very impatient to see you, and although we cannot hope that you will stay long on your first visit, we count upon you for the latter part of the summer, as soon as the novelty of Leghorn is blunted. Mary desires her best regards to you and unites with me in a sincere wish to renew an intimacy from which we have already experienced so much pleasure.

Believe me, my dear Trelawny,
Your very sincere friend,

-from Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author by Edward John Trelawny; introduction by Anne Barton (New York: New York Review Books, 2000) p. 103-104.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Stevenson Hears James

Saranac Lake, Winter 1887-8.

My Dear Henry James,

It may please you to know how our family has been employed. In the silence of the snow the afternoon lamp has lighted an eager fireside group: my mother reading, Fanny, Lloyd, and I devoted listeners; and the work was really one of the best works I ever heard; and its author is to be praised and honoured; and what do you suppose is the name of it? and have you ever read it yourself? and (I am bound I will get to the bottom of the page before I blow the gaff, if I have to fight it out on this line all summer; for if you have not to turn a leaf, there can be no suspense, the conspectory eye being swift to pick out proper names; and without suspense, there can be little pleasure in this world, to my mind at least) - and, in short, the name of it is RODERICK HUDSON, if you please. My dear James, it is very spirited, and very sound, and very noble too. Hudson, Mrs. Hudson, Rowland, O, all first-rate: Rowland a very fine fellow; Hudson as good as he can stick (did you know Hudson? I suspect you did), Mrs. H. his real born mother, a thing rarely managed in fiction.

We are all keeping pretty fit and pretty hearty; but this letter is not from me to you, it is from a reader of R. H. to the author of the same, and it says nothing, and has nothing to say, but thank you.
We are going to re-read CASAMASSIMA as a proper pendant. Sir, I think these two are your best, and care not who knows it.

May I beg you, the next time RODERICK is printed off, to go over the sheets of the last few chapters, and strike out 'immense' and 'tremendous'? You have simply dropped them there like your pocket-handkerchief; all you have to do is to pick them up and pouch them, and your room - what do I say? - your cathedral! - will be swept and garnished.

I am, dear sir, your delighted reader,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.

P.S. - Perhaps it is a pang of causeless honesty, perhaps. I hope it will set a value on my praise of RODERICK, perhaps it's a burst of the diabolic, but I must break out with the news that I can't bear the PORTRAIT OF A LADY. I read it all, and I wept too; but I can't stand your having written it; and I beg you will write no more of the like. INFRA, sir; Below you: I can't help it - it may be your favourite work, but in my eyes it's BELOW YOU to write and me to read. I thought RODERICK was going to be another such at the beginning; and I cannot describe my pleasure as I found it taking bones and blood, and looking out at me with a moved and human countenance, whose lineaments are written in my memory until my last of days.

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Volume 2, p. 30.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dashiell Signs

To Blanche Knopf*
9 April 1928, 891 Post St., San Francisco

Dear Mrs. Knopf,

I am returning the Red Harvest contract, signed and witnessed.
This new title is, I think, a satisfactory one; though my first choice** probably disqualifies me as a competent judge.
Many thanks for the acceptance, and also for your wire concerning the motion picture dickering.
I included Red Harvest in the half a dozen stories submitted to the Fox Studio, and have hopes that something will come of it.
In accordance with the terms of the contract, I shall, of course, pass on to you any offer Fox may make for Red Harvest.
If, as seems quite likely just now, I make a more than transient connection with Fox, I'll probably let the stream-of-consciousness experiment wait awhile, sticking to the more objective and filmable forms.
Meanwhile, I'll have at you with another book next month.
Will you kindly put this dedication in Red Harvest.
"To Joseph Thompson Shaw"

Sincerely yours,

*Blanche Knopf was editor of Borzoi Mysteries, the line of mystery novels published by her husband's firm beginning in 1929. She accepted Hammett's "Poisonville," which was published on 1 February 1929 as Red Harvest.

** "Poisonville."
-from Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett 1921-1960 edited by Richard Layman with Julie M. Rivett; introduction by Josephine Hammett Marshall (Washington, D. C.: Counterpoint, 2001.) p. 48.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Neruda on Borges



[To Hector Eandi]

April 24, 1929.

. . . He seems to me more worried about problems of culture and society, which do not seduce me at all, which are not at all human. I like good wines, love, suffering, and books as consolation for the inevitable solitude. I even have a certain disdain for culture; as an interpretation of things, a type of knowledge without antecedents, a physical absorption of the world, seems to me better, in spite of and against ourselves. History, the problems "of knowledge," as they call them, seems to be lacking some dimension. How many of them would fill up the vacuum? Every day I see fewer and fewer ideas around and more and more bodies, sun, and sweat. I am tired.


-from Jorge Luis Borges: A Literary Biography by Emir Rodriguez Monegal (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1978) p. 282.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Charles Darwin and Musty Biscuits

Botofogo Bay, Rio de Janeiro
June, 1832

My dear old Herbert, [J. M. Herbert]

Your letter arrived here, when I had given up all hopes of receiving another; it gave me therefore an additional degree of pleasure. At such an interval of time & space one does learn how to feel truly obliged to those who do not forget one. The memory, when recalling scenes past bye affords to us exiles one of the greatest pleasures.— often & often whilst wandering amongst these hills do I think of Barmouth, & I may add as often wish for such a companion. What a contrast does a walk in these two places afford; here abrupt & stony peaks are to the very summit enclosed by luxuriant woods: the whole surface of the country, excepting where cleared by man, is one impenetrable forest. How different from Wales, with its sloping hills covered with turf, & its open vallies. I was not previously aware, how intimately, what may be called the moral part, is connected with the enjoyment of scenery. I mean such ideas, as the history of the country, the utility of the produce, & more especially the happiness of the people, bring with them. Change the English labourer into a poor slave, working for another, & you will hardly recognise the same view.

I am sure you will be glad to hear, how very well every part (Heaven forefend except sea sickness) of the expedition has answered. We have already seen Teneriffe & the great Canary; St Jago where I spent three most delightful weeks, revelling in the delights of first naturalizing a Tropical Volcanic island, & besides other islands the two celebrated ports in the Brazils, viz Bahia & Rio. I was in my hammock till we arrived at the Canaries, & I shall never forget the sublime impression, the first view of Teneriffe made on my mind. The first arriving into warm weather was most luxuriously pleasant; the clear blue skies of the Tropics was no common change after those accursed SW gales at Plymouth. About the line it became sweltering hot— we spent one day on St Pauls, a little group of rocks about 1⁄4 of mile in circumference peeping up in the midst of the Atlantic—there was such a scene here. Wickham (1st. Lieut) & I were the only two who landed with guns & geological hammers, &c. The birds by myriads were too close to shoot, we then tried stones, but at last, proh pudor!, my geological hammer was the instrument of death.
We soon loaded the boat with birds & eggs. Whilst we were so engaged, the men in the boat were fairly fighting with the Sharks for such magnificent fish, as you could not see in the London market. Our boat would have made a fine subject for Sneyders; such a medley of game it contained. Tell Whitley, that I find my life on blue water not only very pleasant, but that it is an excellent time for reading; so quiet & comfortable, that you are not tempted to be idle. We have been here 10 weeks, & shall now start for Monte Video where I look forward to many a gallop over the Pampas.

I am ashamed of sending such a scrambling letter; but if you were to see the heap of letters on my table you would understand the reason. A short letter or a stupid one may be a hint for a cut amongst some people; but old gentleman, you might as well try to cut your tailor as me; so short or long do write to me again; a letter from you brings with it a thousand pleasant thoughts. I fancy I can see you now in the two extreme cases, of the dead march to Dolgelley, & the bogtrotting match with Selwyn. I am glad to hear music flourishes so well in Cambridge; but it as barbarous to talk to me of "Celestial concerts'' as to a person in Arabia of cold water. In a voyage of this sort if one gains many new & great pleasures, on the other side the loss is not inconsiderable. How should you like to be suddenly debarred from seeing every person & place, which you have ever known & loved for five years? I do assure you I am occasionally "taken aback'' by this reflection. And then for man or ship it is not so easy to right again: Remember me most sincerely to the remnant of most excellent fellows, whom I have the good luck to know in Cambridge. I mean Whitley & Watkins. Tell Lowe I am even beneath his contempt I can eat Salt Beef & musty biscuits for dinner— see what a fall man may come to.

My direction for the next year & 1⁄2 will be Monte Video.

God bless you—my very dear old Herbert— May you always be happy & prosperous is my most cordial wish.

Yours affectionately

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Rev. Gilbert White's Nature

Letter XXXVI

Selborne, Aug. 1, 1770.

Dear Sir, --The French, I think, in general, are strangely prolix in their natural history. What Linnaeus says with respect to insects holds good in every other branch: 'Verbositas praesentis saeculi calamitas artis.'
Pray how do you approve of Scopoli's new work? As I admire his Entomologia, I long to see it.

I forgot to mention in my last letter (and had not room to insert in the former) that the male moose, in rutting time, swims from island to island, in the lakes and rivers of North America, in pursuit of the females. My friend the chaplain saw one killed in the water, as it was on that errand, in the river St. Lawrence: it was a monstrous beast, he told me; but he did not take the dimensions.

When I was last in town our friend Mr. Barrington most obligingly carried me to see many curious sights. As you were then writing to him about horns, he carried me to see many strange and wonderful specimens. There is, I remember, at Lord Pembroke's, at Wilton, a horn-room furnished with more than thirty different pairs; but I have not seen that house lately.

Mr. Barrington showed me many astonishing collections of stuffed and living birds from all quarters of the world. After I had studied over the latter for a time, I remarked that every species almost that came from distant regions, such as South America, the coast of Guinea, etc., were thick-billed birds, of the loxia and fringilla genera; and no motacillae or muscicapidae were to be met with. When I came to consider, the reason was obvious enough; for the hard-billed birds subsist on seeds which are easily carried on board, while the soft-billed birds, which are supported by worms and insects, or, what is a succedaneum for them, fresh raw meat, can meet with neither in long and tedious voyages. It is from this defect of food that our collections (curious as they are) are defective, and we are deprived of some of the most delicate and lively genera.


-from The Natural History of Selborne by Rev. Gilbert White (London: Oxford University Press, 1904) 'The World's Classics, Volume XXII' p. 95-96.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

J. L.. Motley Blushes Unseen

[To his Wife]

London, May 28th, 1858

My Dearest Mary,-- . . . I believe you have never seen Thackeray. He has the appearance of a colossal infant, smooth, white, shiny ringlety hair, flaxen, alas, with advancing years, a roundish face, with a little dab of a nose upon which it is a perpetual wonder how he keeps his spectacles, a sweet but rather piping voice, with something of the childish treble about it, and a very tall slightly stooping figure--such are the characteristics of the great "snob" of England. His manner is like that of everybody else in England--nothing original, all planed down into perfect uniformity with that of his fellow creatures. . . .

On Thursday, according to express and very urgent invitation, I went with Mrs. Amory and S----- to call at the Lyndhursts'. As soon as I got into the room Lady L. opened upon me such a torrent of civilities that I was nearly washed away. I certainly should not repeat, even to you, and even if I remembered it, the particular phraseology. . . . I would no more write such things, even to my mother, than I would go and stand on my head in the middle of Pall Mall. I feel like a donkey, and am even now blushing unseen, like a peony or any other delicate flower, at the very idea of writing such trash, and I beg that you will thrust my letter into the fire at once. . . . God bless you, dearest Mary; kiss my darling children, and believe in the love of

Your affectionate,

-from The Friendly Craft: a Collection of American Letters edited by Elizabeth Deering Hanscom, Ph.D. (New York: Macmillan, 1908) p. 172-173.