Thursday, January 31, 2008

a skreen full of puzzles

Thomas Lovell Beddoes to Thomas Forbes Kelsall


Göttingen13 May 1827

'One of my friends sent me a week or two ago the following poem, wh. he had transcribed out of an old album in the library at Hamburg. The date 1604 was on the binding of it--He cannot give a more decided description of the book. The lines are written in a neat old English hand.

My thoughts are winged with hopes, my hopes with Love,

Mount love unto the moon in clearest night

And saie, as she doth in the heaven move

In earth so wanes and waxeth my delight,

And whisper this but softly in her ears

How oft doubt hange the head and trust shed teares.

And you, my thoughts that seem mistrust to varye

If for mistrust my mistris do you blame

Saie, though you alter yet you do notvarye

As shee doth change and yett remaine the same.

Distrust doth enter hartes but not infect

And love is sweetest seasoned with suspect.

If shee, for this, with clouds do mask her eyes

And make the heavens dark with her disdaine,

With windie sights disperse them in the skyes,

Or with thy teares desolve them in to rayne

Thoughts, hopes and love returne to me no more

Till Cinthia shyne as shee hath done before.

I have communicated the lines, with a strict regard ever to the interpunctuation, exactly as I received them.' (I too--T.L.B.) Benecke in the Wunschelrathe--(Divining Rod) A dead Göttingen periodical No. 34. April 27. 1818. Göthe gave this translation in his periodical Vol. 2. No. 3 Stuttgard 1820. p. 32
Here grunteth the old pig of Weimar--
* * *
Göthe has done no good here, first he says out of an album of 1604--whereas the book was bound in 1604--was it bound before or after the sheets were written on--I suppose according to English custom, it was a blank book bought by some dilletante for a scrap: M.S. book--Such are seldom very soon filled--and therefore in all probability the lines were written, here at least, in the latter days of Shakspeare. Two lines of it wh I need not point out to you give the thing a possibility--But who is Cynthia? In the sonnets &c is no Cynthia mentioned & altogether there is scarce any evidence of Shakspeares being in love in a sonneteering way--he was probably too well acquainted with the tricks of Authorship, too intimate with the artifice and insincerity of poetry to think of availing himself of it in any serious passion at this time of his life (see Sonnet 130).

His sonnets I take to be early productions dictated by an ardent attachment to W.H. who was younger than himself, and written all before he had become a poetical artist. It may be that these lines were written hastily by him for W.H. or perhaps some Court gentlemen to serve as a complimentary poem or song for his lady--But is there any necessity for raising so great a spirit, is it absolutely necessory that no other W.S. cod have written these lines? The internal evidence is so little satisfactory to my feelings that I cannot think Göethe pardonable for his temerity in printing Shakspeares name at the end of the verses upon such deficient historical grounds. Compare too the Italian frivolity, the careless superficial playfulness, the constrained elegance & roundness of this little bit of verse with the deep & ardent expressions of that wondrous book of sonnets where he has turned his heart inside out & given us all to read all that the tender & true spirit had written on the walls of his chamber,: the former is as the dimple of the coquetting man of the world to the ′ανηριθμον γελασμα--the starry tremulous universal smile of an ocean of passion, which ebbed & flowed about the roots of a love, as firm & sacred as the foundations of the world.

So far from being ready to attribute anything he cd have written to S. I am inclined to deny the authenticity of many smaller pieces & songs such as that to Silvia in 2 Gent. of Verona. At this period of his life--(40 years of age) his spirit was at rest, he was wearied of the "light airs & recollected terms. Of those most brisk and giddy-paced times," that feeling was awakened to full consciousness, wh dictated the true, self condemning expressions of the 110th Sonnet, & he was yearning for the quiet truth of enjoyment, the peace of life. He had long learned that there were mysteries in the feelings and passions of the soul, some of wh he had too rashly revealed; that the most exquisite happiness is silent, it's delights unutterable. He had uncovered to profaner eyes some of the farthest sanctuaries of the heart, he had lent to vulgar tongues the sacred language of truth & divine passion & it was this repentance & sorrow for the violation, which speaks so sorrowfully in that little poem, which deterred him from printing the compositions in wh he had made his own soul a thoroughfare for the world. At this time, wearied and disgusted as he clearly was with the fate wh. had necessitated him to feed cold eyes with the emotions of his eternal nature, cd he have so returned to the cold conceits with wh he had dallied before he had learned the truth & sacredness of human feeling? I cannot think so.

But that an old fellow of letter-press, an author of our days, who wd send the paper wet with his own heart's blood to the printer that fools might wonder & bookmen adore his art, shd think so, is what we can but expect from this vulgar prostituted age. I fear that Printing is a devil whom we have raised to feed & fatten with our best blood & trembling vitals. I (excuse, if you laugh at, this egotism of insignificance) will not again draw the veil from my own feelings to gratify the cold prying curiosity of such, as the million are, & will remain T.L.B--

You will hardly thank me for this letter, I have gone on with it without attending to the laws & purposes of correspondence--but send it that you may gather from the expressions a way of thinking wh grows upon me daily--Do you think I am right both with relation to the lines wh have occasioned them & the sentiment in general or in neither? I hope your instinct will lead you thro' this labyrinth of remark, note Query--it looks like a skreen full of puzzles--

Addressed to

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Polar Virtue of Perseverance

Thomas Lovell Beddoes to Thomas Forbes Kelsall


Tuesday. 19. July 1825

MY DEAR KELSALL,--und mein lieber herr Thomas,--If you will take the sails of the Harwich packet, walk across the German Ocean, trot up the Elbe, & turn into the Roman Emperor at Hamburg be so good as to enquire for mein Herr T.L.B. No 12 up two pair of stairs, & you will find him sitting on a horse-hair sofa, looking over the Elbe with his meerschaum at his side full of Grave & abundantly prosaic.

Tomorrow, according to the prophecies of the diligence he will set out for Hanovver (we Germans (here a puff.) always spell it with 2 v's--) & by the end of this week mein Herr Thomas will probably be a Dr of the university of Göttingen. What his intentions further may be I cannot say precisely as you & I between ourselves recollect that he is not altogether endued with the polar virtue of perseverance, & that the needle with wh he embroiders his cloth of life has not been rubbed with the magnet of steady determination. I rather think however that he will return to England with a rather quaint and unintelligible tragedy, which will set all critical pens nib upwards, a la fretful porcupine.

When he embarked from Harwich & observed that his only companions were two Oxford men, professors of genteel larking, without the depth, vivacity or heartiness wh is necessary to render such people tolerable, he instantly drew his shell over him, & remained impenetrably proud & silent every wave of the way, dropping now and then a little venom into the mixture of conversation to make it effervesce.

Hamburg, where he now is, poor young man, is a new brick built town a fit place to embellish the ugly genius of the broad flat sided muddy Elbe--The very churches of brick & emetical unto the eye--The people honest and civil, & God fill their purse for it, no custom house no passport required--but then the women are of a coarse quality--there are no pictures no sculpture & if one meets more upright & manly forms in life, than in Italy, yet you seek in vain paintings superior to signs or sculpture beyond a tobacco-stopper.

Herr Procter, the Boet as George the Second says, will tell you what a confusion was caused by your hoaxing letter to a B.A of Pemb. Coll. Oxon--what a scrawl it ilicited from his drowsy quill & how underlined was the reply. Now leb wohl--for the post leaves us soon.

Fahrend oder reitend
Der Genius von T.L.B

[Addressed to]
3 Houndwell Lane

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Oxford Idleness

Thomas Lovell Beddoes to Thomas Forbes Kelsall
Wednesday[Postmark 8 Ju: 1825]

Yet once more O thou Kelsall yet once more I bestow on you a chance of investigating Alfred's university. On Wednesday next is the commemoration, a high and solemn act of academic mummery at wh Chantrey is to receive a degree of LLD--I therefore recommend you to take a place on the roof of the Southton on Monday morng you will get here by dinner time--Tuesday will be consumed in seeing leonine wonders, Wednesday you shall go to the theatre, & (if so inclined) hear the spouting of prize verses &c--& in the eveg a concert--on Thursday then you may rush back to your sheepskins in the Lane--Besides here is another attraction wh I had well nigh forgotten, the new No. of the Oxford Quarterly is to be produced on the occasion, in wh there will be a translation of a very curious high German piece of Schiller's called the "Philosophische Briefe"--executed by your obedient servant--

Oxford is the most indolent place on earth--I have fairly done nothing in the world but read a play or two of Schiller, Aeschylus, & Euripides--you I suppose read German now as fast as English--There is a cheap copy of Schiller's Drama to be had in Tottenham Court Road--about 1£. wh I shall be happy to get on commission as I go to town next week.

I do not intend to finish that 2nd Brother you saw but am thinking of a very Gothic-styled tragedy for wh I have a jewel of a name--
DEATH'S JESTBOOK--of course no one will ever read it--Mr. Milman (our poetry professor) has made me quite unfashionable here by denouncing me, as one of a "villainous school." I wish him another son--

Oxford idleness, the heat of the day, & the clock wh is just striking the hour for my lecture on Comparative anatomy break me off--Let me see you on Monday or Tuesday--the former day I recommend as it will give you an opportunity of seeing the last boat race this season.
Yours ever

Addressed to
3 Houndwell Lane

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

Monday, January 28, 2008

Break the ice of this frank

Thomas Lovell Beddoes to Thomas Forbes Kelsall

14 Southampton Row Friday Morng
[Postmark 25 March 1825]

MY DEAR KELSALL,--After a long & shameful period of silence I venture to address you, having got Procter to break the ice of this frank.* I will leave out all explanations, excuses & apologies--painful & unnecessary things--& go straight to the communication of such stuff as my brain entertains this morning. In the first place, lo! I am expert in reading German, even so far as now to be employing an hour a day or so in the metrical translation of the old obscure tedious Nibelungen-lied--about 100 lines is all as yet finished of this work--a grain from the mountain of 9560 of wh it is compact.

As usual I have begun a new tragedy wh at present I think of completing. I understand that Mr. Thomas Campbell has in some newspaper in a paltry refutation of some paltry charge of plagiarism regarding his paltry poem in the paltry Edinburgh touched the egg of my last man--the gentleman is completely addled, & the steam of my teapot will never be powerful enough to supply the place of incubation; nevertheless sometime or other I will treat it, not in the style of Hopkins & Campbell.

You have seen or heard of the Oxford Magazine--I am told that it is the progeny of my college and one or two others--it's best & principal contributor in the Praed line being one ingenious Mr White, a clever youth who is my successor in the literary chair at Pembroke. They have dunned me for a contribution & tho' I anticipate precocious dullness & an early death I believe I shall be foolish enough to write them some special bad rhymes--shd you think of going on with German I can get you a book or two very cheap--e.g. Schiller's Gedichte--bound (if they are not sold) the best edition 7/6. Bohte selling it in it's unwedded sheets for 14s--I have two or three odd volumes of works but complete as poems, wh I will save you too if you speak. Learn it by all means--it's literature touches the heaven of the Greek in many places--& the language is as easy as possible, to my notion more so than French--I have been seriously studying it since New Year's day only--& can read Schiller with little difficulty--Goëthe in his poems &c unvulgarised & cant-stuffed writings easily--Noëhdens dicty the best little one--if you are discontented with your own, is to be had cheaply I know where--

For many reasons at this moment it is impossible to Southamptonise--I must soon go to Ireland. At Present the law is on me--you know what a beast it is, & after my return from the Emerald mother of potatoes I shall have to settle my sisters, settle my affairs, sell & pay & impoverish myself to the bone & then set off for Germany; but be sure I do not leave England without seeing you, nor, if I can but finish, without dropping into the press some frail memorial of my existence--

The state of literature now is painful & humiliating enough--every one will write for £15 a sheet--who for love of art, who for fame, who for the purpose of continuing the noble stream of English minds? We ought too to look back with late repentance & remorse on our intoxicated praise, now cooling, of Lord Byron--such a man to be so spoken of when the world possessed Goëthe, Schiller, Shelley!

Oh self satisfied England--this comes of Always looking at herself in the looking-glass of the sea, I suppose.
6 Devereux Ct

Addressed to
"London March the twenty fifth 1825
Houndwell Lane Southampton"

*B. W. Procter used the first part of Beddoes' sheet of writing paper to write Kelsall a letter.
-from Letters of Thomas Lovell Beddoes edited by Edmund Gosse (London: Elkin, Matthews & John Lane, 1894)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Biped knock of the post alighted

Thomas Lovell Beddoes to Thomas Forbes Kelsall

26 Mall. Clifton
[Postmark Jan 11:1825]

Dear Kelsall,

Day after day since Xmas I have intended to write or go to London & day after day I have deferred both projects--and now--I will give you the adventures and mishaps of this present sunday. Remorse, and startling conscience, in the form of an old sulky & a shying horse, hurried me to the Regulator coach-office on saturday-- "Does the regulator & its team conform to the Mosaic decalogue, Mr. Book-keeper?" He broke Priscian's head & thro' the aperture assured me that it did not--I was booked for the inside--call at 26 Mall for me--"Yes sir at 1/2 p. 5 AM."--at 5 I rose like a ghost from the tomb & betook me to coffee. No wheels rolled through the streets but the inaudible ones of that uncreated hour--It struck 6--a coach was called--we hurried to the office but the coach was gone--here followed a long Brutus & Cassius discourse between a shilling-buttoned waist-coatteer of a porter and myself--which ended in my extending mercy to the suppliant coach-owners--& agreeing to accept a place for Monday--

All well thus far. The Biped knock of the post alighted on the door at 12--& two letters were placed upon my german dictionary--Your own-- which I at first intended to reply to vivã voce--had not the second informed [me] of my brother's arrival in England, his short leave of absence, & his intention to visit me here next week. This twisted my strong purpose like a thread,--and disposed me to remain here about 10 days further. On the 21st at latest I go to London. Be there & I will join you, or if not pursue you to Southampton.

The fatal dowry has been cobbled sure, by some purblind ultracrepidarian. McReady's friend Walker very likely--but nevertheless I maintain 'tis a good play--& might have been rendered very effective--by docking it of the whole fifth Act which is an excrescence--re-creating Novall--& making Beaumelle a good deal more ghost-gaping & moonlightish--The cur: tailor has taken out the most purple piece in the whole weft--the end of the 4th act--& shouldered himself into toleration thro' the prejudices of the pit, when he should have built his admiration on their necks.

Say what you will--I am convinced the man who is to awaken the drama must be a bold trampling fellow--no creeper into worm-holes--no reviser even--however good. These reanimations are vampire-cold-- Such ghosts as Marloe--Webster &c are better dramatists, better poets, I dare say, than any contemporary of ours--but they are ghosts--the worm is in their pages--& we want to see something that our great-grandsires did not know. With the greatest reverence for all the antiquities of the drama I still think, that we had better beget than revive--attempt to give the literature of this age an idiosyncrasy & spirit of its own & only raise a ghost to gaze on not to live with--just now the drama is a haunted ruin.

I am glad that you are awakening to a sense of Darley--he must have no little perseverance to have gone thro so much of that play--it will perchance be the first star of a new day. Remember me to Procter & reproach him for his idleness to the fullest extent of vituperative civility--if I could find a reproof as heavy as the new London Mag I'd hurl it on him--I have written a new plot--& forgotten it. Will Keene (?) anatomize Mr. T. Campbell? even after

But, reaching home, terrific omen! there

The straw-laid street preluded his despair--
The servants' look: the table that revealed
His letter sent to Charlotte last still sealed--&c

Stay in town if you can.
Yours truly

Addressed to"T.F. KELSALL Esqre 67 Gt Portland St Oxford St London"

-from Letters of Thomas Lovell Beddoes edited by Edmund Gosse (London: Elkin, Matthews & John Lane, 1894)
T. L. Beddoes died on January 26, 1849.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Candid Greyhound

Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge

October 9, 1800.

I suppose you have heard of the death of Amos Cottle. I paid a solemn visit of condolence to his brother, accompanied by George Dyer, of burlesque memory. I went, trembling, to see poor Cottle so immediately upon the event. He was in black, and his younger brother was also in black. Everything wore an aspect suitable to the respect due to the freshly dead. For some time after our entrance, nobody spake, till George modestly put in a question, whether "Alfred" was likely to sell. This was Lethe to Cottle, and his poor face wet with tears, and his kind eye brightened up in a moment. Now I felt it was my cue to speak. I had to thank him for a present of a magnificent copy, and had promised to send him my remarks,--the least thing I could do; so I ventured to suggest that I perceived a considerable improvement he had made in his first book since the state in which he first read it to me. Joseph, who till now had sat with his knees cowering in by the fireplace, wheeled about, and with great difficulty of body shifted the same round to the corner of a table where I was sitting, and first stationing one thigh over the other, which is his sedentary mood, and placidly fixing his benevolent face right against mine, waited my observations. At that moment it came strongly into my mind that I had got Uncle Toby before me, he looked so kind and so good. I could not say an unkind thing of "Alfred." So I set my memory to work to recollect what was the name of Alfred's queen, and with some adroitness recalled the well-known sound to Cottle's ears of Alswitha. At that moment I could perceive that Cottle had forgot his brother was so lately become a blessed spirit. In the language of mathematicians, the author was as 9, the brother as 1. I felt my cue, and strong pity working at the root, I went to work and beslabber'd "Alfred" with most unqualified praise, or only qualifying my praise by the occasional polite interposition of an exception taken against trivial faults, slips, and human imperfections, which, by removing the appearance of insincerity, did but in truth heighten the relish. Perhaps I might have spared that refinement, for Joseph was in a humor to hope and believe all things. What I said was beautifully supported, corroborated, and confirmed by the stupidity of his brother on my left hand, and by George on my right, who has an utter incapacity of comprehending that there can be anything bad in poetry. All poems are good poems to George; all men are fine geniuses. So what with my actual memory, of which I made the most, and Cottle's own helping me out, for I really had forgotten a good deal of "Alfred," I made shift to discuss the most essential parts entirely to the satisfaction of its author, who repeatedly declared that he loved nothing better than candid criticism. Was I a candid greyhound now for all this? or did I do right? I believe I did. The effect was luscious to my conscience. For all the rest of the evening Amos was no more heard of, till George revived the subject by inquiring whether some account should not be drawn up by the friends of the deceased to be inserted in "Phillips's Monthly Obituary;" adding, that Amos was estimable both for his head and heart, and would have made a fine poet if he had lived. To the expediency of this measure Cottle fully assented, but could not help adding that he always thought that the qualities of his brother's heart exceeded those of his head. I believe his brother, when living, had formed precisely the same idea of him; and I apprehend the world will assent to both judgments. I rather guess that the brothers were poetical rivals. I judged so when I saw them together. Poor Cottle, I must leave him, after his short dream, to muse again upon his poor brother, for whom I am sure in secret he will yet shed many a tear.

Now send me in return some Greta news.
C. L.

-from The Best Letters of Charles Lamb edited with an Introduction by Edward Gilpin Johnson (London: 1892).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

They Impend

Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge

August 14, 1800.

. . . . Now I am on the subject of poetry, I must announce to you, who, doubtless, in your remote part of the island, have not heard tidings of so great a blessing, that George Dyer hath prepared two ponderous volumes full of poetry and criticism. They impend over the town, and are threatened to fall in the winter. The first volume contains every sort of poetry except personal satire, which George, in his truly original prospectus, renounceth forever, whimsically foisting the intention in between the price of his book and the proposed number of subscribers. (If I can, I will get you a copy of his handbill.) He has tried his vein in every species besides,--the Spenserian, Thomsonian, Masonic, and Akensidish more especially. The second volume is all criticism; wherein he demonstrates to the entire satisfaction of the literary world, in a way that must silence all reply forever, that the pastoral was introduced by Theocritus and polished by Virgil and Pope; that Gray and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George's brain) have a good deal of poetical fire and true lyric genius; that Cowley was ruined by excess of wit (a warning to all moderns); that Charles Lloyd, Charles Lamb, and William Wordsworth, in later days, have struck the true chords of poesy. Oh, George, George, with a head uniformly wrong and a heart uniformly right, that I had power and might equal to my wishes; then would I call the gentry of thy native island, and they should come in troops, flocking at the sound of thy prospectus-trumpet, and crowding who shall be first to stand in thy list of subscribers! I can only put twelve shillings into thy pocket (which, I will answer for them, will not stick there long) out of a pocket almost as bare as thine. Is it not a pity so much fine writing should be erased? But, to tell the truth, I began to scent that I was getting into that sort of style which Longinus and Dionysius Halicarnassus fitly call "the affected."

C. L.

-from The Best Letters of Charles Lamb edited with an Introduction by Edward Gilpin Johnson (London: 1892).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Negative Quantities

Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning.

August, 1800.

Dear Manning,

I am going to ask a favor of you, and am at a loss how to do it in the most delicate manner. For this purpose I have been looking into Pliny's Letters, who is noted to have had the best grace in begging of all the ancients (I read him in the elegant translation of Mr.Melmoth); but not finding any case there exactly similar with mine, I am constrained to beg in my own barbarian way. To come to the point, then, and hasten into the middle of things, have you a copy of your Algebra [1] to give away? I do not ask it for myself; I have too much reverence for the Black Arts ever to approach thy circle, illustrious Trismegist! But that worthy man and excellent poet, George Dyer, made me a visit yesternight on purpose to borrow one, supposing, rationally enough, I must say, that you had made me a present of one before this; the omission of which I take to have proceeded only from negligence: but it is a fault. I could lend him no assistance. You must know he is just now diverted from the pursuit of BELL LETTERS by a paradox, which he has heard his friend Frend [2] (that learned mathematician) maintain, that the negative quantities of mathematicians were merae nugae,--things scarcely in rerum naturâ, and smacking too much of mystery for gentlemen of Mr. Frend's clear Unitarian capacity. However, the dispute,once set a-going, has seized violently on George's pericranick; and it is necessary for his health that he should speedily come to a resolution of his doubts. He goes about teasing his friends with his new mathematics; he even frantically talks of purchasing Manning's Algebra,which shows him far gone, for, to my knowledge, he has not been master of seven shillings a good time. George's pockets and ----'s brains are two things in nature which do not abhor a vacuum.... Now, if you could step in, in this trembling suspense of his reason, and he should find on Saturday morning, lying for him at the Porter's Lodge, Clifford'sInn.--his safest address,--Manning's Algebra, with a neat manuscriptum in the blank leaf, running thus, "FROM THE AUTHOR!" it might save his wits and restore the unhappy author to those studies of poetry and criticism which are at present suspended, to the infinite regret of the whole literary world.

N.B.--Dirty books, smeared leaves, and dogs' ears will be rather a recommendation than otherwise. N.B.--He must have the book as soon as possible, or nothing can withhold him from madly purchasing the book on tick.... Then shall we see him sweetly restored to the chair of Longinus,--to dictate in smooth and modest phrase the laws of verse; to prove that Theocritus first introduced the Pastoral, and Virgil and Pope brought it to its perfection; that Gray and Mason (who always hunt in couples in George's brain) have shown a great deal of poetical fire in their lyric poetry; that Aristotle's rules are not to be servilely followed, which George has shown to have imposed great shackles upon modern genius. His poems, I find, are to consist of two vols., reasonable octavo; and a third book will exclusively contain criticisms, in which he asserts he has gone pretty deeply into the laws of blank verse and rhyme, epic poetry, dramatic and pastoral ditto,--all which is to come out before Christmas. But above all he has touched most deeply upon the Drama, comparing the English with the modern German stage, their merits and defects. Apprehending that his studies (not to mention his turn, which I take to be chiefly towards the lyrical poetry) hardly qualified him for these disquisitions, I modestly inquired what plays he had read. I found by George's reply that he had read Shakspeare, but that was a good while since: he calls him a great but irregular genius, which I think to be an original and just remark. (Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Ben Jonson, Shirley, Marlowe, Ford, and the worthies of Dodsley's Collection,--he confessed he had read none of them, but professed his intention of looking through them all, so as to be able to touch upon them in his book.) So Shakspeare, Otway, and I believe Rowe, to whom he was naturally directed by Johnson's Lives, and these not read lately, are to stand him in stead of a general knowledge of the subject. God bless his dear absurd head!

By the by, did I not write you a letter with something about an invitation in it?--but let that pass; I suppose it is not agreeable.

N.B. It would not be amiss if you were to accompany your present with a dissertation on negative quantities.
C. L.

[1] Manning, while at Cambridge, published a work on Algebra.

[2] The Rev. William Frend, who was expelled from Cambridge for Unitarianism.

-from The Best Letters of Charles Lamb edited with an Introduction by Edward Gilpin Johnson (London: 1892).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Histories of the past

Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning*

March 1, 1800.

hope by this time you are prepared to say the "Falstaff's Letters" area bundle of the sharpest, queerest, profoundest humors of any these juice-drained latter times have spawned. I should have advertised you that the meaning is frequently hard to be got at,--and so are the future guineas that now lie ripening and aurifying in the womb of some undiscovered Potosi; but dig, dig, dig, dig, Manning! I set to with an unconquerable propulsion to write, with a lamentable want of what to write. My private goings on are orderly as the movements of the spheres, and stale as their music to angels' ears. Public affairs, except as they touch upon me, and so turn into private, I cannot whip up my mind to feel any interest in, I grieve, indeed, that War and Nature and Mr.Pitt, that hangs up in Lloyd's best parlour, should have conspired to call up three necessaries, simple commoners as our fathers knew them, into the upper house of luxuries,--bread and beer and coals, Manning. But as to France and Frenchmen, and the Abbé Siéyès and his constitutions, I cannot make these present times present to me. I read histories of the past, and I live in them; although, to abstract senses, they are far less momentous than the noises which keep Europe awake. I am reading Burnet's "Own Times." Did you ever read that garrulous, pleasant history? He tells his story like an old man, past political service, bragging to his sons on winter evenings of the part he took in public transactions when "his old cap was new." Full of scandal, which all true history is. No palliatives; but all the stark wickedness that actually gives the momentum to national actors. Quite the prattle of age and outlived importance. Truth and sincerity staring out upon you perpetually in alto relievo. Himself a party man, he makes you a party man. None of the cursed philosophical Humeian indifference, so cold and unnatural and inhuman! None of the cursed Gibbonian fine writing, so fine and composite. None of Dr. Robertson's periods with three members. None of Mr. Roscoe's sage remarks, all so apposite, and coming in so clever, lest the reader should have had the trouble of drawing an inference. Burnet's good old prattle I can bring present to my mind; I can make the Revolution present to me: the French Revolution, by a converse perversity in my nature, I fling as far from me. To quit this tiresome subject, and to relieve you from two or three dismal yawns, which I hear in spirit, I here conclude my more than commonly obtuse letter,--dull up to the dulness of a Dutch commentator on Shakspeare.

My love to Lloyd and Sophia
C. L.

* To this remarkable person we are largely indebted for some of the best of Lamb's letters. He was mathematical tutor at Caius College, Cambridge, and in later years became somewhat famous as an explorer of the remoter parts of China and Thibet. Lamb had been introduced to him, during a Cambridge visit, by Charles Lloyd, and afterwards told Crabb Robinson that he was the most "wonderful man" he ever met. An account of Manning will be found in the memoir prefixed to his "Journey to Lhasa," in 1811-12. (George Bogle and Thomas Manning's Journey to Thibet and Lhasa, by C.R. Markham, 1876.)
-from The Best Letters of Charles Lamb edited with an Introduction by Edward Gilpin Johnson (London: 1892).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Romanticism and Mariners

Charles Lamb to Robert Southey

November 8, 1798.

I perfectly accord with your opinion of old Wither. Quarles is a wittier writer, but Wither lays more hold of the heart. Quarles thinks of his audience when he lectures; Wither soliloquizes in company with a full heart. What wretched stuff are the "Divine Fancies" of Quarles! Religion appears to him no longer valuable than it furnishes matter for quibbles and riddles; he turns God's grace into wantonness. Wither is like an old friend, whose warm-heartedness and estimable qualities make us wish he possessed more genius, but at the same time make us willing to dispense with that want. I always love W., and sometimes admire Q. Still, that portrait is a fine one; and the extract from "The Shepherds' Hunting" places him in a starry height far above Quarles.

If you wrote that review in "Crit. Rev.," I am sorry you are so sparing of praise to the"Ancient Marinere;" [1] so far from calling it, as you do, with some wit but more severity, "A Dutch Attempt," etc., I call it a right English attempt, and a successful one, to dethrone German sublimity. You have selected a passage fertile in unmeaning miracles, but have passed by fifty passages as miraculous as the miracles they celebrate. I never so deeply felt the pathetic as in that part,-- "A spring of love gush'd from my heart, And I bless'd them unaware." It stung me into high pleasure through sufferings. Lloyd does not like it; his head is too metaphysical, and your taste too correct,--at least I must allege something against you both, to excuse my own dotage,--But you allow some elaborate beauties; you should have extracted 'em. "The Ancient Marinere" plays more tricks with the mind than that last poem, which is yet one of the finest written. But I am getting too dogmatical; and before I degenerate into abuse, I will conclude with assuring you that I am,

Sincerely yours,
C. Lamb.

[1] The "Lyrical Ballads" of Wordsworth and Coleridge had just appeared.The volume contained four pieces, including the "Ancient Mariner," byColeridge.

-from The Best Letters of Charles Lamb edited with an Introduction by Edward Gilpin Johnson (London: 1892).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Own

Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murray

(Sunday, December 26, 1915)

My own!

Just a little note so as not to let the day pass. It is a lovely day, and even yesterday became fair after all. If you could but see my roses! I heard today from Kay whose card I send you (!), and from Father and Mother. Their letters I have jsut answered, Bogey. They made me very sad. Indeed I understand that as 'the silence' descends on them, their loss becomes ever greater. Now, for instance, that letters about him are infrequent and few--and the English mail arrives, as Father says, and seems each week to make the dreadful gap more real. Dearest, in my letter I wrote a great deal about you and Chummie.* I wanted to make them feel that you had been real to each other and played together. I wish you would write a note to them. Please do if you can, but send it to me to post, for I have not told them that you have gone back to England. I thought it wiser not to; it was so difficult to explain from this distance, and not necessary.

I heard from Lawrence today. Shall I send you his letter? It left me cold. He wants us to join him, but you know we are not made to do that kind of thing, ever. We are two, rich and happy apart. If you do not want me back yet, Bogey (you understand) I would like to stay here a little longer.

I send you all my love.

*'Chummie': Katherine's brother who was killed at the front in 1915.

-from Katherine Mansfield's Letters to John Middleton Murray 1913-1922 edited by John Middleton Murray (London: Constable & Co., 1951, 1958) p.73.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This New Life

D. H. Lawrence to Katherine Mansfield

1, Byron Villas,
Vale of Health,
Monday, 20 Dec., 1915.

My Dear Katherine,

Your letter came this morning. I am so sorry you are so ill. Yesterday Murray was here when the letter came--Kot brought it--and he was much upset.

Do not be sad. It is one life which is passing away from us, one "I" is dying; but there is another coming into being, which is the happy, creative you. I knew you would have to die with your brother; you also, go down into death and be extinguished. But for us there is a rising from the grave, there is a resurrection, and a clean life to begin from the start, new, and happy. Don't be afraid, don't doubt it, it is so.

You have gone further into your death than Murray has. He runs away. But one day he too will submit, he will dare to go down, and be killed, to die in this self which he is. Then he will become a man; not till. He is not a man yet.

When you get better, you must come back and we will begin afresh, it will be the first struggling days of spring, after winter. Our lives have been all autumnal and wintry. Now it is mid-winter. But we are strong enough to give way, to pass away, and to be born again.

I want so much that we should create a life in common, a new spirit, a spirit of unanimity between a few of us who are desirous in spirit, that we should add our lives together, to make one tree, each of us free and producing in his separate fashion, but all of us together forming one spring, a unanimous blossoming. It needs that we be one in spirit, that is all. What we are personally is of second importance.

And it is in its inception, this new life. From the old life, all is gone. There remain only you and Murray in our lives. We look at the others as across the grave. A death, and a grave lies between us and them. They are the other side of the grave, the old, far side, these---------s and ----------s. We must not look back. There must be no looking back. There must be no more retrospection, which is introspection, no more remembering and interpreting. We must look forward into the unknown that is to be, like flowers that come in the spring. Because we really are born again.

We have met one or two young people, just one or two, who have the germ of the new life in them. It doesn't matter what they are personally. Murray dismisses them with a sneer, for all that which is the past in them, but I hold on by that which is the future, which is gladdening.

We give up this flat to-morrow. For Christmas we go to my sister's in Derbyshire: c/o Mrs. Clarke, Grosvenor Rd., Ripley, Derbyshire. We stay there till the 29th December. Then we go to the Beresfords' cottage in Cornwall, to live there till March. One or two others will come too. I want it now that we live together. When you come back, I want you and Murray to live with us, or near us, in unanimity; not these separations. Let us all live together and create a new world. If it is too difficult in England, because here all is destruction and dying and corruption, let us go away to Florida: soon. But let us go together, and keep together, several of us, as being of one spirit. Let it be a union in the unconsciousness, not in the consciousness. Get better soon, and come back, and let us all try to be happy together, in unanimity, not in hostility, creating not destroying.

Love from me.
D. H. Lawrence

-from The Letters of D. H. Lawrence edited by Aldous Huxley (London: William Heinemann, 1956.) p. 296-97.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Our Own Kingdom

Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murray

Sunday before Xmas
(December 19, 1915)

My dearest love,
I have just got the letter that you wrote me on Thursday night, with the money in it. Papers have come, too, which I have not opened yet, and other letters are waiting--but I want to speak to you tres serieusement. Your letter made you 'real' to me in the deepest sense of the word, I believe, almost for the first time. You say just those things which I have felt I am of you as you write just as you are of me.

Now I will say Toujours because now at last I know you. We are in a world apart, and we always shall be in a world apart--in our own kingdom which is finer and rarer. Shut the gates of it for a minute and let us stand there. Let us kiss each other, we three. Yes, Bogey, I shall love you for always.

. . . I've just read the Times Lit. Sup., The New Statesman, The Daily News, and letters from Beatrice Campbell, Kay and Marie. For the papers many thanks, darling; they were a great feast. The New Statesman is a dead horse--but still--horse it is and there you are. Beatrice (tres entre nous) wrote me a nice letter. She's a queer mixture for she is really loving and affectionate, and yet she is malicious. She was about you and Lawrence re me, you understand. How you were so happy on your own and a lot of rubbish, and how Lawrence had spoken against me at Clive Bell's. It is unpleasant hearing that kind of thing, and smells faintly of their drawing-room, which is a most distasteful memory to me. By the way, I wrote to Lawrence the other day--a wild kind of letter, if I think of it, and not fair to 'us.' You understand? It was just after I had been in bed and without letters, and I had a fit of positive despair, when life seemed to me to be absolutely over--and I wrote rather in that strain. I only tell you because when I have read your despairing letters to your friends I have always felt that you betrayed us and our love a little, and I feel if you should see mine (don't --for it's nothing and the mention is making it a mountain) you might feel a little the same. I am sorry I wrote it. To tell you the truth, I am come to the conclusion that our happiness rests with us and with nobody else at all, and that we ought to build for ourselves and by ourselves. We are very rich people, for we are real true lovers--and we are young and born in each other. Therefore, I think we ought to develop together--keep very close together (spiritually, mon cheri) and make ourselves, on our island, a palace and gardens and arbours, and boats for you and flowery bushes for me--and we ought not to court other people at all yet awhile. Later it will be different. Do you know what I mean and do you agree with me? Writing to you, I love you simply boundlessly. My love for you is always being new born; the heavenly dews descend upon it, and I'll not believe it is the same flower as yesterday--you see--how I believe in you! I have a store of belief in you that couldn't be exhausted! How I admire you! How I love you! . . . We must not fail our love.

At the end of your letter you ask me how long I am going to stay. I do not know at all, my precious. You'd better tell me what you think. I'll add a word tomorrow.

-from Katherine Mansfield's Letters to John Middleton Murray 1913-1922 edited by John Middleton Murray (London: Constable & Co., 1951, 1958)p.60-61.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sawdust and Elephants

Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murray

(December 14, 1915)

Dearest of all,

on't you worry about me. My femme de chambre, when she goes off duty, leaves me in her 'friend's' charge and her 'friend' is a little spry creature with a pale blue nose who is very gentille indeed to me. 'Il ne faut pas vous gener,' she keeps saying to me. 'Je veux faire tout ce que je peux pour vous.' In fact, the servants here seem to think I'm a dear little thing! And after midday that Englishman, terribly shy, knocked at my door. It appears he has a most marvellous cure for just my kind of rheumatism. Would I try it? All this was explained in the most preposterous rigmarole, in an attempt to appear off-hand and at his poor unfortunate case. I never saw a man so shy! Finally he says that if the pharmacien can't make it up here he will take the first train to Toulon this afternoon and get it for me. It is a rubbing mixture which he got off a German doctor one year when he was at Switzerland for winter sports and had an attack of sciatic rheumatism. It sounds to me--very hopeful--but I'd catch any straw! So I thanked him and bowing and humming and hawing he went off. I can't think what frightened him so. I shall have to put on a hat and a pair of gloves when he brings me back the unguent.

Oh, that postman is a tortoise, a detestable tortoise--half a tortoise. (Bogey, I am an awful little cod. My bed is going to my brain. Now I'll wait for your letter before I go on.)

Later. I did wait with a vengeance. At half past 3 I rang the bell. 'Le courier, a-t-il deja passe?' 'Ah, oui, Madame--une bonne demi-heure!' 'Merci bien.' But when she had gone I confess I turned to the wall and cried bitterly. . . . .I think mostly from rage. Then I began to think how my Father always always had time to write every single day to my Mother, etc., etc., etc. Then in despair I climbed out of bed, found a piece of ribbon and sat up and made myself a hat. Once before, I remember, when I was ill at Rottingdean and alone and waiting for a letter that didn't come I made myself a hat out of pins and fury and it was the hat of my life. So is this. But I am desperately disappointed, I must confess and I think it is awfully awfully cruel. Once I get better I'll forgive you if you don't write, but Oh--to lie in this silent room and know the postman has been. You wouldn't like it, Bogey..

Now I've had dinner, an omelette, some cauliflower and a stewed apple. I am getting thin. There are 2 hollows in my cheeks but no little love kisses them. My Englishman has arrived with his pot of ointment and refuses to take even a pin or a bead in pavement. How kind he is--It's easy to see he hasn't lived with me 3 years.

I am very angry--but not really with you. You couldn't help your letter missing the post, I suppose. Or perhaps you were handing cups and saucers for that quiet lady with the cast eye.

I should like to be at a large circus tonight: in a box--very luxurious you know, very warm, very gay with a smell of sawdust and elephants. A superb clown called Pistachio--white poneys, little blue monkeys drinking out of Chinese cups. I should like to be dressed beautifully, beautifully, down to the last fragment of my chemise--and I should like Colette Willy to be dressed just exactly like me and to be in the same box. And during the entr'actes while the orchestra blared Pot Pourri from The Toreador we would eat tiny little jujubes out of a much too big bag and tell each other all about our childhood.
A demain, then. Are you a darling? Oh, I forgive you. I love you. I hug your blessed little head against my breast and kiss you. I love you, you bad wicked precious adorable and enchanting Boge. I am,
Wig Tig

-from Katherine Mansfield's Letters to John Middleton Murray 1913-1922 edited by John Middleton Murray (London: Constable & Co., 1951, 1958)p.52-54.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Good Reviews

Evelyn Underhill to her Husband

Hotel de Lille et d'Albion,
223 Rue St. Honore,
Thursday eveing [1911].

To Hubert Stuart Moore.

most mysterious thing happened here. A Dr. Colquhoun of New Zealand, staying in this hotel, sent in his card to me, with my name written on it, saying he would like to see me! I looked out for him but we didn't meet and this morning he left for me a friendly letter, saying he was so sorry not to have caught me, but was leaving to-day, gives me his London address and says he hopes we shall soon meet on my return to England and I haven't the least idea who he is! The Horticultural plants sound quite a decent lot on the whole: I asked for the Prims and Campanulas I knew, and think you were quite right to pot'em up, the weather being so uncertain. It's really quite cool here out of the sun today. It's rather nice that Methuen thinks it worth while to print a 2nd ed. of Mysticism, isn't it? I've written begging him to wait till I get home and send my corrections. Did you read the letter from Edmund* you sent on to me? Very amusing! To-night a review by ------ in The Record has come--most generous in its language, "great book," "classic work," etc.: but with a beautiful characteristic little dab at my mystical saints whose "transcendental eroticism" he finds "nauseating." There's also a long and splendid review signed "C. E. Lawrence" from the Daily Graphic--so I'm purring.

*Edmund Gardner

-from The Letters of Evelyn Underhill edited with an introduction by Charles Williams (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1945) p. 124-25.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ladder of Contemplation

Evelyn Underhill to J. A. Herbert*

50 Campden Hill Square, W.
Sunday [12 June, 1910.]

To J. A. Herbert.

am perfectly ashamed of myself for leaving your various kind postcards unanswered! My only excuse is that I am working very hard against time and everything else seems to get "left." However, I am on my last chapter now, glory be! and only the ghastly processes of revision and appendix-making will remain.

. . . I wonder whether you have been to the show at the Antiquaries yet. We went yesterday and I thought it most fascinating. Hubert did not send you a card because he thought you would have more than you wanted. I wonder whether you noticed the lovely little panel of the Fractio Panis amongst the "additional objects." Not a very usual subject is it? I have seen it in Flemish art of course: and this exhibition seems to show pretty clearly the community of feeling between England and Flanders, don't you think? In St. Erasmus, for instance. I last saw him, and also the Fractio Panis oddly enough, in the Cathedral of Louvain.

Edmund Gardner has been giving some glorious lectures on Dante's mysticism at University College. They were highly stimulating but also extremely depressing in their goodness for anyone in the same line of business! A young ladies' school attended regularly, and sat open-mouthed with a bunny-rabbit expression whilst E. G. discoursed ecstatically about the ladder of contemplation, and the soul's ascent to the vision of Truth!

*J. A. Herbert: Deputy Keeper of MSS at the British Museum, and author of Illuminated Manuscripts (London: Methuen, 1911).

-from The Letters of Evelyn Underhill edited with an introduction by Charles Williams (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1945) p.119.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reverend Piece of Church Furniture

[Evelyn Underhill to her Husband]

Hotel Flora,
9 April, 1910.

To Hubert Stuart Moore,

Yesterday I had a rather nice solitary prowl on the Coelian Hill--in fact, very nice. It's a lovely solitary place beyond the Colosseum, with nothing but a few old churches and convents and a farm-housey villa garden or two and steep paved roads with old archways over them and little views of the mountains here and there. I went into four old churches--one I'd seen before but not the others. I think I most enjoyed St. Gregorio; it has been rather rebuilt and done up, but there are a lot of nice things in it and as there was a sudden downpour of rain just then I was there some time and saw it at my ease. Tell Dickums [Richard, her cat] that it is built on the site of the house in which Gregory the Great retired from the world in the 6th century, taking with him nothing but his favourite cat: so I was very pleased to see, in one of the front chairs in the nave, a very nice black and white cat, sleeping soundly. The old woman who was bossing about told me it always slept there, and during Mass was often curled up in the sanctuary. As St. Gregory was a Benedictine and wore black and the church is now kept by Camaldolese monks who wear white, the cat was rather suitably coloured wasn't it? I felt I was stroking quite a reverend piece of church furniture.

I saw the "miraculous" picture of the Virgin which St. Gregory thought talked to him when he was meditating before it--it's very beautiful and alive, and I'm not surprised he thought it!--and the splendid marble table sitting on the backs of lions, where he used to have twelve beggars to dinner every day. One day a 13th came in and insisted on joining the party, and when Gregory looked at him attentively, he saw that he was an angel! What with that, and the cat, and Gregorian music, and the "Non angli sed angeli" I think he was a really nice saint. . . .

Good night, darling. I am all right and resigned without being mournful, and seeing some nice things, but I do wish you were here.

-from The Letters of Evelyn Underhill edited with an introduction by Charles Williams (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1945) p.114-15.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Far from the World

[Evelyn Underhill to her Husband]

Hotel Bethell,
Saturday in Easter Week [1910]

To Hubert Stuart Moore,

. . . Now I must tell you about my audience. I went with a weird old female staying here who was having one the same day and we arrived at the Vatican pretty early and walked up I don't know how many hundred stairs. At all the corners there were lovely mediaeval servants in crimson damask doublets and the Swiss Guard in their full dress at the entrance of the the throne room. The throne room is immense, all hung with crimson silk, and with a frescoed ceiling, and at one end the gold throne Venice gave him when he was made Pope. There were chairs all round the edge and we sat patiently and watched the people arrive--such a mixed lot, every country in the world I should think. There was a Canadian sitting next me and beyond two Greeks, and a French lady the other side. Presently an officer of the Noble Guard came in and picked out a few favoured people who were having private audiences. The room got fearfully full and we saw there would be no possibility of each person kissing the Pope's hand. Then some purple ecclesiastics came and made us all close up into a big semi-circle round the throne. Fortunately we were near the front or would have seen nothing. Then the Papal Guard came in and then the Pope in his white things and ascended the throne so quietly and simply that he was there before one had noticed him. He has a beautiful voice and gives one an intense impression of great holiness, kindness and simplicity. He made us a little speech in Italian saying he thanked everyone for their kindness in coming to see him, and that he blessed us, our families and friends, but we must remember that only those who were trying to live good and Christian lives, etc., were capable of receiving the blessing. Then he gave the full blessing, very elaborate, to all the rosaries, etc., which had been brought to receive it: made the sign of the Cross over us: and went quietly away. There was a rush when he descended the throne to try and kiss his hand but I was not quite near enough to manage it. . . .

I went out to St. Lorenzo yesterday morning where SS. Lawrence and Stephen are buried. Such a beautiful basilica, right away from everywhere, standing by the side of the road in a clump of cypresses and a flock of sheep feeding in front of it. The choir is the 6th century church, and the nave the 13 century church tacked on. There was hardly anyone there but a nice brown Cistercian lay-brother who gave me pious cards; and it seemed so peaceful and far from the world.

-from The Letters of Evelyn Underhill edited with an introduction by Charles Williams (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1945) p. 113-14.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Caps and Spectacles

Charlotte Bronte to Miss Ellen Nussey

January 20th, 1842.

Dear Ellen,

cannot quite enter into your friends’ reasons for not permitting you to come to Haworth; but as it is at present, and in all human probability will be for an indefinite time to come, impossible for me to get to Brookroyd, the balance of accounts is not so unequal as it might otherwise be. We expect to leave England in less than three weeks, but we are not yet certain of the day, as it will depend upon the convenience of a French lady now in London, Madame Marzials, under whose escort we are to sail. Our place of destination is changed. Papa received an unfavourable account from Mr. or rather Mrs. Jenkins of the French schools in Brussels, and on further inquiry, an Institution in Lille, in the North of France, was recommended by Baptist Noel and other clergymen, and to that place it is decided that we are to go. The terms are fifty pounds for each pupil for board and French alone.

I considered it kind in aunt to consent to an extra sum for a separate room. We shall find it a great privilege in many ways. I regret the change from Brussels to Lille on many accounts, chiefly that I shall not see Martha Taylor. Mary has been indefatigably kind in providing me with information. She has grudged no labour, and scarcely any expense, to that end. Mary’s price is above rubies. I have, in fact, two friends—you and her—staunch and true, in whose faith and sincerity I have as strong a belief as I have in the Bible. I have bothered you both, you especially; but you always get the tongs and heap coals of fire upon my head. I have had letters to write lately to Brussels, to Lille, and to London. I have lots of chemises, night-gowns, pocket-handkerchiefs, and pockets to make, besides clothes to repair. I have been, every week since I came home, expecting to see Branwell, and he has never been able to get over yet. We fully expect him, however, next Saturday. Under these circumstances how can I go visiting? You tantalise me to death with talking of conversations by the fireside. Depend upon it, we are not to have any such for many a long month to come. I get an interesting impression of old age upon my face, and when you see me next I shall certainly wear caps and spectacles.—Yours affectionately,
C. B.

-from Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement Shorter (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896) p.98-99.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

In Haste

Charlotte Bronte to Miss Ellen Nussey

Rawdon, December 10th, 1841.

y dear Ellen,

I hear from Mary Taylor that you are come home, and also that you have been ill. If you are able to write comfortably, let me know the feelings that preceded your illness, and also its effects. I wish to see you. Mary Taylor reports that your looks are much as usual. I expect to get back to Haworth in the course of a fortnight or three weeks. I hope I shall then see you. I would rather you came to Haworth than I went to Brookroyd. My plans advance slowly and I am not yet certain where I shall go, or what I shall do when I leave Upperwood House. Brussels is still my promised land, but there is still the wilderness of time and space to cross before I reach it. I am not likely, I think, to go to the Château de Kockleberg. I have heard of a less expensive establishment. So far I had written when I received your letter. I was glad to get it. Why don’t you mention your illness. I had intended to have got this note off two or three days past, but I am more straitened for time than ever just now. We have gone to bed at twelve or one o’clock during the last three nights. I must get this scrawl off to-day or you will think me negligent. The new governess, that is to be, has been to see my plans, etc. My dear Ellen, Good-bye.—Believe me, in heart and soul, your sincere friend,
C. B.

-from Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement Shorter (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896) p. 92-93.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

When a note is written

Charlotte Bronte to Miss Ellen Nussey
Upperwood House, June 10th, 1841.

Dear Nell,

If I don’t scrawl you a line of some sort I know you will begin to fancy that I neglect you, in spite of all I said last time we met. You can hardly fancy it possible, I dare say, that I cannot find a quarter of an hour to scribble a note in; but when a note is written it is to be carried a mile to the post, and consumes nearly an hour, which is a large portion of the day. Mr. and Mrs. White have been gone a week. I heard from them this morning; they are now at Hexham. No time is fixed for their return, but I hope it will not be delayed long, or I shall miss the chance of seeing Anne this vacation. She came home, I understand, last Wednesday, and is only to be allowed three weeks’ holidays, because the family she is with are going to Scarborough. I should like to see her to judge for myself of the state of her health. I cannot trust any other person’s report, no one seems minute enough in their observations. I should also very much have liked you to see her.

I have got on very well with the servants and children so far, yet it is dreary, solitary work. You can tell as well as me the lonely feeling of being without a companion. I offered the Irish concern to Mary Taylor, but she is so circumstanced that she cannot accept it. Her brothers have a feeling of pride that revolts at the thought of their sister “going out.” I hardly knew that it was such a degradation till lately.

Your visit did me much good. I wish Mary Taylor would come, and yet I hardly know how to find time to be with her. Good-bye. God bless you.
C. Brontë.

I am very well, and I continue to get to bed before twelve o’clock p.m. I don’t tell people that I am dissatisfied with my situation. I can drive on; there is no use in complaining. I have lost my chance of going to Ireland.

-from Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement Shorter (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896) p.89-90.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Wondrous Hauteur

Charlotte Bronte to Miss Ellen Nussey re her new position as Governess in the White household at Upperwood House, Rawdon.

Upperwood House, May 4th, 1841.

Dear Nell,

have been a long time without writing to you; but I think, knowing as you do how I am situated in the matter of time, you will not be angry with me. Your brother George will have told you that he did not go into the house when we arrived at Rawdon, for which omission of his Mrs. White was very near blowing me up. She went quite red in the face with vexation when she heard that the gentleman had just driven within the gates and then back again, for she is very touchy in the matter of opinion. Mr. White also seemed to regret the circumstance from more hospitable and kindly motives. I assure you, if you were to come and see me you would have quite a fuss made over you. During the last three weeks that hideous operation called “a thorough clean” has been going on in the house. It is now nearly completed, for which I thank my stars, as during its progress I have fulfilled the twofold character of nurse and governess, while the nurse has been transmuted into cook and housemaid. That nurse, by-the-bye, is the prettiest lass you ever saw, and when dressed has much more the air of a lady than her mistress. Well can I believe that Mrs. White has been an exciseman’s daughter, and I am convinced also that Mr. White’s extraction is very low. Yet Mrs. White talks in an amusing strain of pomposity about his and her family and connections, and affects to look down with wondrous hauteur on the whole race of tradesfolk, as she terms men of business. I was beginning to think Mrs. White a good sort of body in spite of all her bouncing and boasting, her bad grammar and worse orthography, but I have had experience of one little trait in her character which condemns her a long way with me. After treating a person in the most familiar terms of equality for a long time, if any little thing goes wrong she does
not scruple to give way to anger in a very coarse, unladylike manner. I think passion is the true test of vulgarity or refinement.

This place looks exquisitely beautiful just now. The grounds are certainly lovely, and all is as green as an emerald. I wish you would just come and look at it. Mrs. White would be as proud as Punch to show it you. Mr. White has been writing an urgent invitation to papa, entreating him to come and spend a week here. I don’t at all wish papa to come, it would be like incurring an obligation. Somehow, I have managed to get a good deal more control over the children lately—this makes my life a good deal easier; also, by dint of nursing the fat baby, it has got to know me and be fond of me. I suspect myself of growing rather fond of it. Exertion of any kind is always beneficial. Come and see me if you can in any way get, I want to see you. It seems Martha Taylor is fairly gone. Good-bye, my lassie.—Yours insufferably,
C. Brontë.

-from Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement Shorter (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896) p. 86-87.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Oceans of Needlework

Charlotte Bronte to Miss Emily J. Bronte concerning her position as private Governess to the Sidgwick family at Stonegappe, Lothersdale, Yorkshire.

Stonegappe, June 8th, 1839.

earest Lavinia,—I am most exceedingly obliged to you for the trouble you have taken in seeking up my things and sending them all right. The box and its contents were most acceptable. I only wish I had asked you to send me some letter-paper. This is my last sheet but two. When you can send the other articles of raiment now manufacturing, I shall be right down glad of them.

I have striven hard to be pleased with my new situation. The country, the house, and the grounds are, as I have said, divine. But, alack-a-day! there is such a thing as seeing all beautiful around you—pleasant woods, winding white paths, green lawns, and blue sunshiny sky—and not having a free moment or a free thought left to enjoy them in. The children are constantly with me, and more riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs never grew. As for correcting them, I soon quickly found that was entirely out of the question: they are to do as they like. A complaint to Mrs. Sidgwick brings only black looks upon oneself, and unjust, partial excuses to screen the children. I have tried that plan once. It succeeded so notably that I shall try it no more. I said in my last letter that Mrs. Sidgwick did not know me. I now begin to find that she does not intend to know me, that she cares nothing in the world about me except to contrive how the greatest possible quantity of labour may be squeezed out of me, and to that end she overwhelms me with oceans of needlework, yards of cambric to hem, muslin night-caps to make, and, above all things, dolls to dress. I do not think she likes me at all, because I can’t help being shy in such an entirely novel scene, surrounded as I have hitherto been by strange and constantly changing faces. I see now more clearly than I have ever done before that a private governess has no existence, is not considered as a living and rational being except as connected with the wearisome duties she has to fulfil. While she is teaching the children, working for them, amusing them, it is all right. If she steals a moment for herself she is a nuisance. Nevertheless, Mrs. Sidgwick is universally considered an amiable woman. Her manners are fussily affable. She talks a great deal, but as it seems to me not much to the purpose. Perhaps I may like her better after a while. At present I have no call to her. Mr. Sidgwick is in my opinion a hundred times better—less profession, less bustling condescension, but a far kinder heart. It is very seldom that he speaks to me, but when he does I always feel happier and more settled for some minutes after. He never asks me to wipe the children’s smutty noses or tie their shoes or fetch their pinafores or set them a chair. One of the pleasantest afternoons I have spent here—indeed, the only one at all pleasant—was when Mr. Sidgwick walked out with his children, and I had orders to follow a little behind. As he strolled on through his fields with his magnificent Newfoundland dog at his side, he looked very like what a frank, wealthy, Conservative gentleman ought to be. He spoke freely and unaffectedly to the people he met, and though he indulged his children and allowed them to tease himself far too much, he would not suffer them grossly to insult others.

I am getting quite to have a regard for the Carter family. At home I should not care for them, but here they are friends. Mr. Carter was at Mirfield yesterday and saw Anne. He says she was looking uncommonly well. Poor girl, she must indeed wish to be at home. As to Mrs. Collins’ report that Mrs. Sidgwick intended to keep me permanently, I do not think that such was ever her design. Moreover, I would not stay without some alterations. For instance, this burden of sewing would have to be removed. It is too bad for anything. I never in my whole life had my time so fully taken up. Next week we are going to Swarcliffe, Mr. Greenwood’s place near Harrogate, to stay three weeks or a month. After that time I hope Miss Hoby will return. Don’t show this letter to papa or aunt, only to Branwell. They will think I am never satisfied wherever I am. I complain to you because it is a relief, and really I have had some unexpected mortifications to put up with. However, things may mend, but Mrs. Sidgwick expects me to do things that I cannot do—to love her children and be entirely devoted to them. I am really very well. I am so sleepy that I can write no more. I must leave off. Love to all.—Good-bye.

Direct your next dispatch—J. Greenwood, Esq., Swarcliffe, near Harrogate.
C. Brontë.

-from Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement Shorter (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896) p80-82.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

On Dewsbury Moor

Charlotte Bronte to Miss Ellen Nussey

Dewsbury Moor, January 4th, 1838.

Your letter, Ellen, was a welcome surprise, though it contained something like a reprimand. I had not, however, forgotten our agreement. You were right in your conjectures respecting the cause of my sudden departure. Anne continued wretchedly ill, neither the pain nor the difficulty of breathing left her, and how could I feel otherwise than very miserable. I looked on her case in a different light to what I could wish or expect any uninterested person to view it in. Miss Wooler thought me a fool, and by way of proving her opinion treated me with marked coldness. We came to a little éclaircissement one evening. I told her one or two rather plain truths, which set her a-crying; and the next day, unknown to me, she wrote papa, telling him that I had reproached her bitterly, taken her severely to task, etc. Papa sent for us the day after he had received her letter. Meantime I had formed a firm resolution to quit Miss Wooler and her concerns for ever; but just before I went away, she took me to her room, and giving way to her feelings, which in general she restrains far too rigidly, gave me to understand that in spite of her cold, repulsive manners, she had a considerable regard for me, and would be very sorry to part with me. If any body likes me, I cannot help liking them; and remembering that she had in general been very kind to me, I gave in and said I would come back if she wished me. So we are settled again for the present, but I am not satisfied. I should have respected her far more if she had turned me out of doors, instead of crying for two days and two nights together. I was in a regular passion; my “warm temper” quite got the better of me, of which I don’t boast, for it was a weakness; nor am I ashamed of it, for I had reason to be angry.

Anne is now much better, though she still requires a great deal of care. However, I am relieved from my worst fears respecting her. I approve highly of the plan you mention, except as it regards committing a verse of the Psalms to memory. I do not see the direct advantage to be derived from that. We have entered on a new year. Will it be stained as darkly as the last with all our sins, follies, secret vanities, and uncontrolled passions and propensities? I trust not; but I feel in nothing better, neither humbler nor purer. It will want three weeks next Monday to the termination of the holidays. Come to see me, my dear Ellen, as soon as you can; however bitterly I sometimes feel towards other people, the recollection of your mild, steady friendship consoles and softens me. I am glad you are not such a passionate fool as myself. Give my best love to your mother and sisters. Excuse the most hideous scrawl that ever was penned, and—Believe me always tenderly yours,
C. Brontë.

-from Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Clement Shorter (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896) p. 78-79.