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)

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