Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dracula's Guest



12 August,
"Dear Madam.

"I write by desire of Mr. Jonathan Harker, who is himself not strong enough to write, though progressing well, thanks to God and St. Joseph and Ste. Mary. He has been under our care for nearly six weeks, suffering from a violent brain fever. He wishes me to convey his love, and to say that by this post I write for him to Mr. Peter Hawkins, Exeter, to say, with his dutiful respects, that he is sorry for his delay, and that all of his work is completed. He will require some few weeks' rest in our sanatorium in the hills, but will then return. He wishes me to say that he has not sufficient money with him, and that he would like to pay for his staying here, so that others who need shall not be wanting for help.

"Believe me,
"Yours, with sympathy and all blessings.
Sister Agatha"

P.S.--My patient being asleep, I open this to let you know something more. He has told me all about you, and that you are shortly to be his wife. All blessings to you both! He has had some fearful shock, so says our doctor, and in his delirium his ravings have been dreadful, of wolves and poison and blood, of ghosts and demons, and I fear to say of what. Be careful of him always that there may be nothing to excite him of this kind for a long time to come. The traces of such an illness as his do not lightly die away. We should have written long ago, but we knew nothing of his friends, and there was nothing on him, nothing that anyone could understand. He came in the train from Klausenburg, and the guard was told by the station master there that he rushed into the station shouting for a ticket for home. Seeing from his violent demeanour that he was English, they gave him a ticket for the furthest station on the way thither that the train reached.

"Be assured that he is well cared for. He has won all hearts by his sweetness and gentleness. He is truly getting on well, and I have no doubt will in a few weeks be all himself. But be careful of him for safety's sake. There are, I pray God and St. Joseph and Ste.Mary, many, many, happy years for you both."

-from Dracula by Bram Stoker, chapter 8.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lighter shadows among the shades

[Edward Fitzgerald to Edward Byles Cowell]

May 7 /[18]57.

My Dear Cowell,

Owing partly to my own stupidity, and partly to a change in the India Post days, my last two letters (to you and wife) which were quite ready by the Marseilles Post of April 25th will not get off till the Southampton Mail of this May 10. Your letter of March 21 reached me three days ago. Write only when you have leisure and inclination, and only as much as those two good things are good for. I will do the same. . .
Well, I have not turned over Johnson's Dictionary for the last month, having got hold of Aeschylus. I think I want to turn his Trilogy into what shall be readable English verse; a thing I have always thought of, but was frightened at the chorus. So I am now; I can't think them so fine as people talk of: they are terribly maimed; and all such lyrics require a better poet than I am to set forth in English. But the better poets won't do it; and I cannot find one readable translation. I shall (if I make one) make a very free one; not for scholars, but for those who are ignorant of Greek, and who (so far as I have seen) have never been induced to learn it by any translations yet made of these plays. I think I shall become a bore, of the Bowring order, by all this translation: but it amuses me without any labour, and I really think I have the faculty of making some things readable which others have hitherto left unreadable. But don't be alarmed with the anticipation of another sudden volume of translations; for I only sketch out the matter, then put it away; and coming on it one day with fresh eyes trim it up with some natural impulse that I think gives a natural air to all. . .

When in Bedfordshire I put away almost all books except Omar Khayyam!, which I could not help looking over in a paddock covered with buttercups and brushed by a delicious breeze, while a dainty racing filly of W. Browne's came startling up to wonder and snuff about me. 'Tempus est quo Orientis Aura mundus renovatur, Quo de fonte pluviali dulcis Imber reseratur; Musi-manus undecumque ramos insuper splendescit; Jesu-spiritusque Salutaris terram pervagatur.' Which is to be read as Monkish Latin, like 'Dies Irae,' etc., retaining the Italian value of the vowels, not the Classical. You will think me a perfectly Aristophanic old man when I tell you how many of Omar I could not help running into such bad Latin. I should not confide such follies but to you who won't think them so, and who will be pleased at least with my still harping on our old studies. You would be sorry, too, to think that Omar breathes a sort of consolation to me! Poor Fellow; I think of him, and Oliver Basselin, and Anacreon; lighter shadows among the shades, perhaps, over which Lucretius presides so grimly.

Thursday, June 11. Your letter of April is come to hand, very welcome; and I am expecting the MS. Omar which I have written about to London. And now with respect to your proposed Fraser paper on Omar. You see a few lines back I talk of some lazy Latin Versions of his Tetrastichs, giving one clumsy example. Now I shall rub up a few more of those I have sketched in the same manner, in order to see if you approve, if not of the thing done, yet of

(Letter breaks off abruptly at the end of the page.)

June 23. I begin another Letter because I am looking into the Omar MS. you have sent me, and shall perhaps make some notes and enquiries as I go on. I had not intended to do so till I had looked all over and tried to make out what I could of it; since it is both pleasant to oneself to find out for oneself if possible, and also saves trouble to one's friends. But yet it will keep me talking with you as I go along: and if I find I say silly things or clear up difficulties for myself before I close my letter (which has a month to be open in!) why, I can cancel or amend, so as you will see the whole process of blunder. I think this MS. furnishes some opportunities for one's critical faculties, and so is a good exercise for them, if one wanted such! First however I must tell you how much ill poor Crabbe has been: a sort of paralysis, I suppose, in two little fits, which made him think he was sure to die: but Dr. Beck at present says he may live many years with care. Of this also I shall be able to tell you more before I wind up. The brave old Fellow! he was quite content to depart, and had his Daughter up to give her his keys, and tell her where the different wines were laid! I must also tell you that Borrow is greatly delighted with your MS. of Omar which I showed him: delighted at the terseness so unusual in Oriental Verse. But his eyes are apt to cloud: and his wife has been obliged, he tells me, to carry off even the little Omar out of reach of them for a while. . . .

-from The Letters of Edward Fitzgerald (London: Macmillan and Co., 1901) vol. 1

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gertrude Bell's Hafiz

[Gertrude Bell to her Father concerning her translations of Hafiz]


95 Sloane Street.

Dearest Father,

I had a most satisfactory interview with Heinemann. The good little man had put several pages into different types for me to choose from - that's what he meant when he said he had had several tries at it! So you see we wronged him. I am to come out in the autumn in company with a volume of Wilfred Blunt's poems - "I think you will be in good society" said W.H. I thanked him kindly and expressed myself quite satisfied. He is going to send me a "little agreement". I don't suppose he will pay me anything, but I don't pay him either - we made that quite clear. I asked him if he were going to do it on his own responsibility and he was rather indignant and said he didn't publish books that were not good enough to be done at his risk. He was most complimentary.

I lunched with Mrs Green and spent most of the afternoon with her - partly at her dressmaker's. Oh you can't think how funny Mrs G. is at her dressmaker's! She hasn't a notion what she wants and when she has ordered it she doesn't even ask how it's to be made. But there! you can't understand about these things!

Sophie and I are going to a Mottl Concert.

Ever your affectionate daughter

Friday, October 26, 2007

Max's Fantastic Erudition

[Max Beerbohm to the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette]

30 May 1898
48 Upper Berkeley Street

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Dear Sir, I am sorry that serious men have been taking me seriously as a commentator on Shakespeare, and I hasten to admit that my theory of the heraldic metaphor was but an essay in fantastic erudition, or, as Mr Tyler rather crudely conjectures, "a practical joke". To Dr Furnivall I have already confessed, receiving a genial absolution.* To the others I apologise also. But have I really wasted anyone's time? The true scholar loves research for its own sake. The exhilaration is in the chase itself rather than in the "kill". That is a metaphor drawn from fox-hunting. It can be verified in the Badminton Library.

I am your obedient servant

*On condition that Max should subscribe ten shillings to the Esperance Girls' Rowing Club at Hammersmith in which Furnivall took "a very human interest" (Men and Memories, Vol. I, by William Rothenstein, 1931). There is a splendid photograph of Furnivall with a buxom eight in Caught in the Web of Words by K. M. Elizabeth Murray (1977). [R. Hart-Davis]

-from Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988) p. 15-16.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heraldrie in Question

[Thomas Tyler* to the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette]

May 1898
5 Thornhill Square, N

Sir, A letter signed "Max Beerbohm" in the Pall Mall Gazette for May 7 has come under my notice. The letter mentions a line in Shakespeare's sixtieth sonnet which certainly presents some difficulty:

According to Mr Beerbohm the line contains a metaphor borrowed from heraldic usage. "Flourishes" were appendages to coats-of-arms indicating honours attained. Misconduct might be punished by a line "transfixing" the flourish. An alleged case in point is that of "the Earl of Forde", for information concerning which we are referred to "Hort's Compleat Booke of Antient Heraldrie and the Devices, published in 1653". Mr Beerbohm's suggestion would have been not without value if verification had been possible. Unfortunately this is not the case. No such work as that mentioned is to be found in the British Museum catalogue, or in that of the Bodleian or of the Huth Library, or in Moule's Bibliotheca Heraldica, or in other well-known lists. Dr Furnivall, who has taken a good deal of trouble in the matter, wrote to a friend of his, a distinguished member of the Heralds' College; but this gentleman knew nothing of "the Earl of Forde", and did not believe in "transfixed flourishes". I do not like to come to the conclusion that Mr Beerbohm's letter was a practical joke; but if so, it can scarcely be regarded as other than very objectionable. Appearing in a journal so well known and so influential as the Pall Mall Gazette, it may, as Dr. Furnivall points out, crop up again fifty years hence; and even now it may lead astray German or American students, who are unable to consult the great libraries of this country.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant
Thomas Tyler*

*Thomas Tyler: Shakespearean scholar (1826-1902), who produced the theory that the Dark Lady of the Sonnets was Mary Fitton. Shaw in the preface to his play The Dark Lady of the Sonnets described Tyler as "a gentleman of such astonishing and crushing ugliness that no one who had once seen him could ever therafter forget him". [R. Hart-Davis editor]; Edited an edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets (London: David Nutt, 1890).[Pepys].

-from Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988) p. 14-15.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shakespeare's Time

[Max Beerbohm to the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette]

5 May 1898

48 Upper Berkeley Street

Dear Sir,

Your reviewer complains that in Mr. George Wyndham's edition of the sonnets there is no note upon that much-debated line:

Various editors have sought to elucidate this line in various ways, but so far as I know, none has hit upon the following explanation, which seems to me to be the only one that is quite plausible. In all ancient books of heraldry one finds that the chief escutcheons bear on either side certain wing-like appendages, which are technically called "flourishes". Each of these appendages signified "a noble Place or Poste under the Crowne". The tenure of a Royal seal or charter, for example, or admission to the Privy Council, entitled a nobleman to add one of these flourishes to his arms. But if for any misdemeanour he forfeited his privilege the heralds caused a line to be drawn through his flourish, which was thenceforth described by them as a "flourish transfix". Thus in Hort's Compleat Booke of Antient Heraldrie and the Devices, published in 1653, one finds that the arms of the Earl of Forde had as many as nine flourishes, two of which were crossed--one "transfix in the yeare 1540 for Rebellion". All flourishes were abolished by Charles II, soon after the Restoration, when it was found that many noblemen had contrived to embellish their arms with flourishes to which they had no right.

I am your obedient servant,
Max Beerbohm

-from Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988) p. 14.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hugh Laurie's distant relative, refused

[Arthur Wing Pinero to George Alexander]

[Pinero's response to the invitation to contribute the reopening play at The St. James Theatre, 1899]

Frankly, dear Alec,
I don't think that you and I go well together in harness; or, rather, I do not feel happy in running tandem with you, myself as wheeler to your lead. I know you take a pride in being an autocrat in your theatre; it is a natural pride in a position you have worthily won for yourself. But I have also won--or have chosen to usurp--a similarly autocratic position in all that relates to my work. I hope I do not use my power unfairly or overbearingly, but I do exercise it--and any other condition of things is intolerable to me. In my association with you on the stage I have always felt that you have resented my authority. In the case of our last joint venture the circumstances which led up to it were of so unhappy a character that I resolved to abrogate this authority--to reduce it, at any rate, to a shadow. But, at the same time, I did not relish my position and determined--even before I started upon a campaign which I foresaw could not be otherwise than full of discomfort and constraint--that I would not again occupy it. To put the case shortly, there is no room for two autocrats in one small kingdom; and in every detail, however slight, afforded me--I take to myself the right of dictation and veto.

In face of this explanation, my dear Alec, (longer than I intended it to be) I trust you will forgive me for declining your offer, and will believe that this prompt candour on my part is exhibited in a spirit of fairness to yourself as well as from a desire to explain my own attitude.

[Arthur Wing Pinero]

-from The Rise and Fall of the Matinee Idol: Past Deities of Stage and Screen, Their Roles, Their Magic, and Their Worshippers / edited by Anthony Curtis (New York: St. Martins Press, 1974.) p. 28.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Understudy, Strikes Gold

[W. S. Gilbert to Henry A. Lytton]

39 Harrington Gardens,
South Kensington,
22nd, February, '87.

My Dear Sir,
Will you do me the favour to accept the accompanying walking-stick as a token of my appreciation of your excellent performance of the part of Robin Oakapple, undertaken as it was, at a very few hours' notice, and without any adequate rehearsal.
Faithfully yours,
W. S. Gilbert

-from The Secrets of a Savoyard by Henry A. Lytton (London: Jarrolds, n.d.) p.47.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's Only Money

[Groucho Marx to Howard Hughes]

January 23, 1951.

Dear Mr. Hughes,

Between retooling for the war effort and dueling with Wald and Drasna, I presume you are a fairly busy man. However, I wonder if you could spare a few moments to release a picture that was made some years ago involving Jane Russell, Frank Sinatra and your correspondent. The name of the picture, if memory serves, is "It's Only Money." I never did see it but I have been told that at its various previews it was received with considerable enthusiasm.

I am not a young man any more, Mr. Hughes, and before I shuffle off this mortal coil if you could see your way clear to pry open your strong box and send this minor masterpiece whizzing through the film exchanges of America, you would not only have earned my undying gratitude but that of the United Nations, the popcorn dealers of America and three RKO stockholders who at the moment are trying to escape from the Mellon bank of Pittsburgh.

Groucho Marx

-from Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987) p. 34-35.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Archer Defense

[Ross Macdonald to Gerald Walker]

Nov. 26, 1973.

I hope you weren't upset by my being upset about Chandler, but it was important at the time that on the occasion of the publication of The Moving Target, Chandler should have written to James Sandoe, then the top mystery critic in the US., cancelling me out as a "literary eunuch." I can still read Chandler with (diminishing) pleasure but will never write about him, being unwilling to subject myself to the painful discipline of being fair to him when he, for his part, subjected himself on my behalf to no moral discipline at all.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chandler's Chip

[Raymond Chandler to the Editor of The Fortnightly Intruder*]

June 15, 1937.

Your essay on flower arrangement is priceless, as much so as the typography of your sheet, but to what audience in heaven's name do you address yourselves? You are precious, you write in a dead language, and in the delicate and occasionally sterile tones of the Eighteenth Century. You are of a pretty wit and a soothing yet deadly irony. Are there people who admire such fanciful tricks? I have lived in this city for some twenty-five years and now I find you, apparently also of its citizenery, dwelling with Chinese calm in a past that was even as improbable as the novels of Richardson. Occasionally, also, as dull.

Your little paper one receives with pleasure, and yet with a certain discomfort, like a voice from an ancient chimney on a gusty October night. One hears death in it, and is tired of hearing death in so many things. You are decadent in a environment which, for all its fancy pants, is still provincial. You have the deadly smoothness of an old pistol grip. . .

Who, except those by life already defeated and wasting in the twilight, has any taste for such writing as yours? I ask to know. Perhaps we are on the verge of a classical revival. God knows I am very tired of talking without moving my lips. But I'm a little afraid you are received too much with kindness, too little with understanding, that you come as nostalgia for the Age of Culture (whatever that is, and may it rot, if it must be called by that odious word) and that you are accepted with that bewildered desperation which the Ladies of the Friday Morning Club reserved for visiting English novelists of the tepid years before the war.

You too, Sirs, I should like to think of with gardenias in your morning coats, with grey-striped trousers of impeccable vicuna, with parted hair, and with soft birdsong of the Oxford close in your gentle throats. But I'm afraid you wear corduroy pants and talk the flat language of the dehydrated New Englander. It is almost certain to be so. This American mind has its peculiar theme. It acquires learning only by losing blood.

I wish you success--and can not, alas, predict it.
Sirs, Your Obedient Humble Servant,
R. C. Esqr.

*A bibliophile's magazine, edited by William K. Etter Jr. and published in Los Angeles.

-from The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler edited by Frank Macshane (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Inc. & Ink

[Dashiell Hammett to Alfred A. Knopf Inc.]

20 December 1930, Hollywood, California

I am returning your invoice for excess corrections on The Glass Key.

These corrections were made necessary by someone in your editorial department who, with unlimited amounts of time, energy, and red ink at his disposal, simply edited the Jesus out of my MS.

Mrs. Knopf may remember that I spoke to her about this at the time. In any case, if you'll take a look at the MS, which I think is still in your hands, you'll see you're very lucky I haven't billed you for the trouble I was put to unediting it.

Sincerely yours,
Dashiell Hammett

-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. 56.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sword in the Stone

[T. H. White to Leonard James Potts]

January 14, 1938
Crown Hotel, Wells, Norfolk

Dear Pottes,

No, I am not married, divorced, in gaol or dead. I have 41 pounds in the bank. No books have been published since the last you heard of--England H. M. B.--but there is one in the press. I think it is one of my better books, so probably nobody else will. It is a preface to Malory. Do you remember I once wrote a thesis on the Morte d'Arthur? Naturally I did not read Malory when writing the thesis on him, but one time last autumn I got desperate among my books and picked him up in lack of anything else. Then I was thrilled and astonished to find that (a) The thing was a perfect tragedy, with a beginning, a middle and an end implicit in the beginning and (b) the characters were real people with recognisable reactions which could be forecast. Mordred was hateful, Kay a decent chap with an inferiority complex, Gawaine that rarest of literary productions, a swine with a streak of solid decency. He was a sterling fellow to his own clan. Arthur, Lancelot and even Galahad were really glorious people--not pre-raphaelite prigs. Anyway, I somehow started writing a book. It is not a satire. Indeed, I am afraid it is rather warm-hearted--mainly about birds and beasts. . . So far as I can make out, Macmillans are going to refuse to take it up in America, so perhaps it is a bad book after all. Their refusal will incidentally land me in queer street financially, as I have gambled on them taking it. What I fear is that it has feeble traces of A. A. Milne. I should have liked it to be like Masefield's Midnight Folk, a book which I love this side of idolatry. It is called The Sword in the Stone.

I did a lot of research into the 14th-15th centuries, in a mild way.

I have also written a book called Burke's Steerage or the Amateur Gentleman's Introduction to Noble Sports and Pastimes. It is a short, cheap thing, doing for sport what Cornford's Microcosmographia Academica' did for your damned university. But it is not good.

Also I wrote a book called "A Sort of Mania" [this became The Goshawk]. It is about my hawks and living as a hermit. Unfortunately I believe I shall have to re-write it entirely, as it has faint traces of value.

Writing books is a heart breaking job. When I write a good one it is too good for the public and I starve, when a bad one you and Mary are rude about it. This Sword in the Stone (forgive my reverting to it and probably boring you sick--I have nobody to tell things to) may fail financially through being too good for the swine. It has (I fear) its swinish Milneish parts (but, my God, I'd gladly be a Milne for the Milne money) but it is packed with accurate historical knowledge and good allusive criticism of chivalry ( I make the fox-huntin' comparison with some glee) which nobody but you will notice.

. . .I am staying in Norfolk to shoot wild geese--the latest craze. God knows what I shall think of next.

Love and forgiveness to you.

-from Letters to a Friend: The Correspondence Between T. H. White and L. J. Potts. Edited and Introduced with Notes by Francois Gallix (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1982) p. 93-95.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No Title Yet, No Escape

[Barbara Pym to Philip Larkin]
40 Brooksvill Avenue
11 December 1961
Dear Mr. Larkin,

The novel is getting on--no title yet, of course, and none of the splendid collection I have seems to fit it. Now I have to force myself to type some of the earlier chapters because that's the only way I can tell what it's going to be like--whether it is worth going on, and all those other depressing thoughts that come. But I can see now that it will get finished if I am spared. No--nobody has ever written about the 'art' of my books--sometimes they have been well reviewed--other times not at all. Excellent Women was best received--A Glass of Blessings worst!

I can't imagine you writing anything 'knowing and smart' (not even Jazz) so it must be only your own harsh self criticism--of course being so young when you wrote it, it would certainly be different from what you'd write now. Perhaps it is better not to publish anything before one's thirty--I mean novels. I wrote Some Tame Gazelle when I was 22. Then rewrote it about ten years later.

I don't think you are a 500-words-a-day-on-the-Riviera sort of writer--perhaps nobody is now. What would one do for the rest of the day, having spent the morning writing? Lead a worthless life, I suppose, and how pleasant it might be for a bit. Then one would get involved with the English church--there would be no escape.
Yours sincerely
Barbara Pym

-from A Very Private Eye: An Autobiograhy in Diaries and Letters by Barbara Pym / edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1984) p. 204-05.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Philip Larkin to Barbara Pym - 18 November 1961

32 Pearson Park, Hull

Dear Miss Pym,

. . . How is the novel going? If my suggestion was rash, it was so only because of my possible incapacity. If anyone has written about your books I haven't seen it, & I do think they deserve 'art' recognition as well as 'commercial' recognition, and this it wd be my earnest intention to give.

I can't bear to look at A. G. in W.*: it seems so knowing and smart. I did it when I was about 23, & hoped I was going to lead that wonderful 500-words-a-day on-the-Riviera life that beckons us all like an ignis fatuus from the age of 16 onwards, but alas I wasn't good enough. It is kind of you to mention it, though. I still get about 1 pound royalties every 6 months from it.

Your job sounds pretty tough. I am Secretary of the University Publications Committee, wch means handing in our few unsaleable opera to the OUP & generally acting as go between. Yesterday I found I had signed a contract on behalf of someone giving away an option on their next book, quite without authority. Luckily the Press isn't likely to insist on its pound of flesh. At least I hope not.

Yours sincerely,
Philip Larkin

*A Girl in Winter: A Novel (1947)

-from Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 1940-1985 edited by Anthony Thwaite (London: Faber and Faber, 1992.) p. 334.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Looking back

[Barbara Pym (1913-1980) to Henry Harvey]

108 Cambridge Street
London S. W. 1.

9 February 1946

My Dear Henry,

Thank you very much for your letter. It came very quickly. I had an idea that I owed you one, though that would have been rather unusual, I mean, if it had been ten years ago. Yes, I 'did start it' , even if I was inspired by you or rather the sight of you in the English Reading Room. I even got Rosemary Topping to go and look in your books when you had left them for a moment to see what your name was. Does anybody ever do that now? I suppose not, though no doubt others are doing it at Oxford. I almost envy them--one seems to feel so little now, and life was certainly exciting then, full of splendours and miseries. . . .

-from A Very Private Eye: An Autobiograhy in Diaries and Letters by Barbara Pym / edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1984) p. 178.

Friday, October 12, 2007

olla putrida finnegans wake

[D. H. Lawrence to M. and A. Huxley]

Kesselmatte, Gsteig b. Gstaad,

15 Aug., 1928.
Dear Maria and Aldous,

. . . I had a copy of Transition, that Paris magazine--the Amer. number. My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage-stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest, stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness--what old and hard-worked staleness, masquerading as the all-new! Gertrude Stein is more amusing--and some of the Americans quite good. . . .

D. H. L.

-from The Letters of D. H. Lawrence edited by Aldous Huxley (London: William Heniemann, 1956.) p. 742.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Nabokovian Choice of James Joyce

[Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov to Jack Dalton*]

TLS (Xerox), 1p.
Montreux, Switzerland

Dear Mr. Dalton,
In answer to your kind letter of September 21, my husband asks me to say that he thinks ULYSSES by far the greatest English novel of the century but detests FINNEGANS WAKE "whose obscenties when deciphered are not justified by the commonplace myths and silly anecdotes they laboriously mask."

He very much regrets that the amount of work already lined up for the next year or two does not allow him to undertake the writing of an article on this subject.

Sincerely yours,

* James Joyce Scholar.

-from Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977 edited by Dimitri Nabokov and Matthew J. Bruccoli (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1989) p.350-51.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dubliners in Question

[Grant Richards to James Joyce]

May 16, 1906.
Dear Mr. Joyce,
I will try to be more categorical. First, though, let me see if I cannot remove a misconception that exists in your mind as to our attitude. My admiration for
your book is a thing entirely apart, and necessarily so, from my conviction as to what is wise or not wise for us to publish. Personally I prefer the word 'bloody' in the places in which it occurs to any word you could substitute for it since it is, as you say, the right word; on the other hand a publisher has to be influenced by other considerations. Personally I have no objection to the other stories we have discussed, although I may say that in their present form they would damage their publisher. We are, for various reasons into which I need not go at this distance, peculiarly liable to attack. However, you concede the alteration of the troublesome word in "Grace"; well and good. You concede it in "The Two Gallants"; you concede it in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room"; leave it in "The Boarding House."

In "Counterparts" I have no feeling about the allusion to 'two establishments [']; the other phrase must really come out.

On consideration I should like to leave out altogether "The Encounter."

"The Two Gallants" should certainly be omitted. Perhaps you can omit it with an easier mind since originally it did not form part of your book.

The difficulties between us, therefore, narrow themselves down, since you have come some little way to meet me, and I hope now they will disappear entirely.
Believe me, dear Mr. Joyce,
Sincerely yours,

[Grant Richards]

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Joyce in All Souls

[T. E. Lawrence to Robert Graves]

Colonial Office


Thanks for what you said about my chapters. You know me, so I don't trust your judgment. What judge in blazes is there for the man who doesn't believe himself?

Have you read any Joyce?
Portrait of Artist, Dubliners, Exiles, Poems.

They should be in
All Souls, if not borrowed from me. He's the yet-unfollowed master of what will be the next school.

[T. E. Lawrence]

Monday, October 8, 2007

Twain and earnest reflection

To William Dean Howells, in Boston:

HARTFORD, June 15, 1872.


Could you tell me how I could get a copy of your portrait as published in Hearth and Home? I hear so much talk about it as being among the finest works of art which have yet appeared in that journal, that I feel a strong desire to see it. Is it suitable for framing? I have written the publishers of H & H time and again, but they say that the demand for the portrait immediately exhausted the edition and now a copy cannot be had, even for the European demand, which has now begun. Bret Harte has been here, and says his family would not be without that portrait for any consideration. He says his children get up in the night and yell for it. I would give anything for a copy of that portrait to put up in my parlor. I have Oliver Wendell Holmes and Bret Harte's, as published in Every Saturday, and of all the swarms that come every day to gaze upon them none go away that are not softened and humbled and made more resigned to the will of God. If I had yours to put up alongside of them, I believe the combination would bring more souls to earnest reflection and ultimate conviction of their lost condition, than any other kind of warning would. Where in the nation can I get that portrait? Here are heaps of people that want it,--that need it. There is my uncle. He wants a copy. He is lying at the point of death. He has been lying at the point of death for two years. He wants a copy--and I want him to have a copy. And I want you to send a copy to the man that shot my dog. I want to see if he is dead to every human instinct.

Now you send me that portrait. I am sending you mine, in this letter; and am glad to do it, for it has been greatly admired. People who are judges of art, find in the execution a grandeur which has not been equalled in this country, and an expression which has not been approached in any.

Yrs truly, S. L. CLEMENS.

P. S. 62,000 copies of Roughing It sold and delivered in 4 months

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Twain Turning Lecture Down

To A. B. Crandall, in Woodberry Falls, N. Y., to be read at an agricultural dinner:

BUFFALO, Dec. 26, 1870.


I thank you very much for your invitation to the Agricultural dinner, and would promptly accept it and as promptly be there but for the fact that Mr. Greeley is very busy this month and has requested me to clandestinely continue for him in The Tribune the articles "What I Know about Farming." Consequently the necessity of explaining to the readers of that journal why buttermilk cannot be manufactured profitably at 8 cents a quart out of butter that costs 60 cents a pound compels my stay at home until the article is written.
With reiterated thanks,

I am Yours truly,
Mark Twain

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Twain Turning People Away

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:

CLEVELAND, Nov. 20, 1868.


I played against the Eastern favorite, Fanny Kemble, in Pittsburgh, last night. She had 200 in her house, and I had upwards of 1,500. All the seats were sold (in a driving rain storm, 3 days ago,) as reserved seats at 25 cents extra, even those in the second and third tiers--and when the last seat was gone the box office had not been open more than 2 hours. When I reached the theatre they were turning people away and the house was crammed, 150 or 200 stood up, all the evening.

I go to Elmira tonight. I am simply lecturing for societies, at $100 a pop.

Yrs SAM.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Twain Rubbing Shoulders in Yalta

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:

YALTA, RUSSIA, Aug. 25, 1867.


We have been representing the United States all we knew how today. We went to Sebastopol, after we got tired of Constantinople (got your letter there, and one at Naples,) and there the Commandant and the whole town came aboard and were as jolly and sociable as old friends. They said the Emperor of Russia was at Yalta, 30 miles or 40 away, and urged us to go there with the ship and visit him--promised us a cordial welcome. They insisted on sending a telegram to the Emperor, and also a courier overland to announce our coming. But we knew that a great English Excursion party, and also the Viceroy of Egypt, in his splendid yacht, had been refused an audience within the last fortnight, so we thought it not safe to try it. They said, no difference--the Emperor would hardly visit our ship, because that would be a most extraordinary favor, and one which he uniformly refuses to accord under any circumstances, but he would certainly receive us at his palace. We still declined. But we had to go to Odessa, 250 miles away, and there the Governor General urged us, and sent a telegram to the Emperor, which we hardly expected to be answered, but it was, and promptly. So we sailed back to Yalta.

We all went to the palace at noon, today, (3 miles) in carriages and on horses sent by the Emperor, and we had a jolly time. Instead of the usual formal audience of 15 minutes, we staid 4 hours and were made a good deal more at home than we could have been in a New York drawing- room. The whole tribe turned out to receive our party-Emperor, Empress, the oldest daughter (Grand-Duchess Marie, a pretty girl of 14,) a little Grand Duke, her brother, and a platoon of Admirals, Princes, Peers of the Empire, etc., and in a little while an aid-de-camp arrived with a request from the Grand Duke Michael, the Emperor's brother, that we would visit his palace and breakfast with him. The Emperor also invited us, on behalf of his absent eldest son and heir (aged 22,) to visit his palace and consider it a visit to him. They all talk English and they were all very neatly but very plainly dressed. You all dress a good deal finer than they were dressed. The Emperor and his family threw off all reserve and showed us all over the palace themselves. It is very rich and very elegant, but in no way gaudy.

I had been appointed chairman of a committee to draught an address to the Emperor in behalf of the passengers, and as I fully expected, and as they fully intended, I had to write the address myself. I didn't mind it, because I have no modesty and would as soon write to an Emperor as to anybody else--but considering that there were 5 on the committee I thought they might have contributed one paragraph among them, anyway. They wanted me to read it to him, too, but I declined that honor--not because I hadn't cheek enough (and some to spare,) but because our Consul at Odessa was along, and also the Secretary of our Legation at St. Petersburgh, and of course one of those ought to read it.

The Emperor accepted the address--it was his business to do it--and so many others have praised it warmly that I begin to imagine it must be a wonderful sort of document and herewith send you the original draught of it to be put into alcohol and preserved forever like a curious reptile.

They live right well at the Grand Duke Michael's their breakfasts are not gorgeous but very excellent--and if Mike were to say the word I would go there and breakfast with him tomorrow.
Yrs aff SAM.

P. S. They had told us it would be polite to invite the Emperor to visit the ship, though he would not be likely to do it. But he didn't give us a chance--he has requested permission to come on board with his family and all his relations tomorrow and take a sail, in case it is calm weather. I can, entertain them. My hand is in, now, and if you want any more Emperors feted in style, trot them out.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Twain Welcomes the Wind

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family in St. Louis:

NEW YORK, June 7th, 1867.


I suppose we shall be many a league at sea tomorrow night, and goodness knows I shall be unspeakably glad of it.

I haven't got anything to write, else I would write it. I have just written myself clear out in letters to the Alta, and I think they are the stupidest letters that were ever written from New York. Corresponding has been a perfect drag ever since I got to the states. If it continues abroad, I don't know what the Tribune and Alta folks will think. I have withdrawn the Sandwich Island book--it would be useless to publish it in these dull publishing times. As for the Frog book, I don't believe that will ever pay anything worth a cent. I published it simply to advertise myself--not with the hope of making anything out of it.

Well, I haven't anything to write, except that I am tired of staying in one place--that I am in a fever to get away. Read my Alta letters--they contain everything I could possibly write to you. Tell Zeb and John Leavenworth to write me. They can get plenty of gossip from the pilots.

An importing house sent two cases of exquisite champagne aboard the ship for me today--Veuve Clicquot and Lac d'Or. I and my room-mate have set apart every Saturday as a solemn fast day, wherein we will entertain no light matters of frivolous conversation, but only get drunk. (That is a joke.) His mother and sisters are the best and most homelike people I have yet found in a brown stone front. There is no style about them, except in house and furniture.

I wish Orion were going on this voyage, for I believe he could not help but be cheerful and jolly.

I often wonder if his law business is going satisfactorily to him, but knowing that the dull season is setting in now (it looked like it had already set in before) I have felt as if I could almost answer the question myself--which is to say in plain words, I was afraid to ask. I wish I had gone to Washington in the winter instead of going West. I could have gouged an office out of Bill Stewart for him, and that would atone for the loss of my home visit. But I am so worthless that it seems to me I never do anything or accomplish anything that lingers in my mind as a pleasant memory. My mind is stored full of unworthy conduct toward Orion and towards you all, and an accusing conscience gives me peace only in excitement and restless moving from place to place. If I could say I had done one thing for any of you that entitled me to your good opinion, (I say nothing of your love, for I am sure of that, no matter how unworthy of it I may make myself, from Orion down you have always given me that, all the days of my life, when God Almighty knows I seldom deserve it,) I believe I could go home and stay there and I know I would care little for the world's praise or blame. There is no satisfaction in the world's praise anyhow, and it has no worth to me save in the way of business. I tried to gather up its compliments to send to you, but the work was distasteful and I dropped it.

You observe that under a cheerful exterior I have got a spirit that is angry with me and gives me freely its contempt. I can get away from that at sea, and be tranquil and satisfied-and so, with my parting love and benediction for Orion and all of you, I say goodbye and God bless you all--and welcome the wind that wafts a weary soul to the sunny lands of the Mediterranean!

Yrs. Forever, SAM.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Twain: Impatience and Departure

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:



I know I ought to write oftener (just got your last,) and more fully, but I cannot overcome my repugnance to telling what I am doing or what I expect to do or propose to do. Then, what have I left to write about? Manifestly nothing.

It isn't any use for me to talk about the voyage, because I can have no faith in that voyage till the ship is under way. How do I know she will ever sail? My passage is paid, and if the ship sails, I sail in her--but I make no calculations, have bought no cigars, no sea-going clothing --have made no preparation whatever--shall not pack my trunk till the morning we sail. Yet my hands are full of what I am going to do the day before we sail--and what isn't done that day will go undone.

All I do know or feel, is, that I am wild with impatience to move--move --move! Half a dozen times I have wished I had sailed long ago in some ship that wasn't going to keep me chained here to chafe for lagging ages while she got ready to go. Curse the endless delays! They always kill me--they make me neglect every duty and then I have a conscience that tears me like a wild beast.

I wish I never had to stop anywhere a month. I do more mean things, the moment I get a chance to fold my hands and sit down than ever I can get forgiveness for.

Yes, we are to meet at Mr. Beach's next Thursday night, and I suppose we shall have to be gotten up regardless of expense, in swallow-tails, white kids and everything en regle.
I am resigned to Rev. Mr. Hutchinson's or anybody else's supervision. I don't mind it. I am fixed. I have got a splendid, immoral, tobacco- smoking, wine-drinking, godless room-mate who is as good and true and right-minded a man as ever lived--a man whose blameless conduct and example will always be an eloquent sermon to all who shall come within their influence. But send on the professional preachers--there are none I like better to converse with. If they're not narrow minded and bigoted they make good companions.

I asked them to send the N. Y. Weekly to you--no charge. I am not going to write for it. Like all other, papers that pay one splendidly it circulates among stupid people and the 'canaille.' I have made no arrangement with any New York paper--I will see about that Monday or Tuesday.
Love to all Good bye,

Yrs affy SAM.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Twain: Juggles Career

To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:



Don't expect me to write for a while. My hands are full of business on account of my lecture for the 6th inst., and everything looks shady, at least, if not dark. I have got a good agent--but now after we have hired Cooper Institute and gone to an expense in one way or another of $500, it comes out that I have got to play against Speaker Colfax at Irving Hall, Ristori, and also the double troupe of Japanese jugglers, the latter opening at the great Academy of Music--and with all this against me I have taken the largest house in New York and cannot back water. Let her slide! If nobody else cares I don't.

I'll send the book soon. I am awfully hurried now, but not worried.

Yrs. SAM.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Old English Oak

[Henry Fox Talbot to Sir John Barrow]

31 Sackville St London,

2d September 1837.


Upon opening the testimony directions of the late Rear Admiral Charles Feilding it appears that he expresses a wish to be buried in a coffin of old English oak, taken from one of Her Majesty’s ships- I have therefore to request the Lords of the Admiralty to be so kind as to grant their permission to his family, to receive from one her Majesty’s dockyards a sufficient quantity of old English oak for that purpose. And should their Lordships be please to assent to this request, I shall direct Mr Mower upholsterer, of 208 Oxford St to make application for the same- Trusting that their Lordships will be pleased to comply with this last request,
I remain Sir Your obedient & humble servant

Sir John Barrow
at the Admiralty