Saturday, May 10, 2008

dolorous expedient

Algernon Charles Swinburne to Richard Monckton Milnes

16, Grafton Street, Fifzroy Square.
October 4th, 1860.

My Dear Mr. Milnes,
I send you to-morrow, as you wished, my article on Wells's Joseph and his Brethren which has been some time doing, but I wanted to make it as satisfactory as I could without transcribing half the book. It is still finer, I think, than it seemed in my recollection of it after the first reading, and I should be very glad if I had anything to do with helping it to a little of the credit it must gain in the end. I have consulted with Rossetti about the choice of extracts. How on earth a copy could now be got, I can't think. I was driven to the dolorous expedient of hunting up the British Museum copy (entered in the wildest way in that slough of a catalogue) so as to collate it with a MS. copy sent to Rossetti by the author. I ought to have thanked you before both for my parcel which came on safely to me at the Trevelyans', and for the invitation you sent me from Lady de Grey; I had a very nice week with them.

Since I came back to London about a fortnight since, I have done some more work to Chastelard and rubbed up one or two other things. My friend George Meredith has asked me to send some to Once a Week which valuable publication he props up occasionally with fragments of his own. Rossetti has just done a drawing of a female model and myself embracing I need not say in the most fervent and abandoned style, meant for a frontispiece to his Italian Translations.* Everybody who knows me already salutes the likeness with a yell of recognition. When the book comes out, I shall have no refuge but the grave.

I would also have kept another promise, and send you my De la Touche but until I know it will go straight to your hands I dare not trust La Reine d'Espagne out of my sight. Reserving always your corresponding promise that I am yet to live and look upon the mystic pages of the martyred Marquis de Sade, ever since which the vision of that illustrious and ill-requited benefactor of humanity has hovered by night before my eyes.

With best remembrances to Mrs. Milnes, I remain, yours most sincerely,
A. C. Swinburne.

* The Early Italian Poets, Translated by D. G. Rossetti. 8vo, 1861. The "drawing" in question, though duly engraved upon wood, was not ultimately employed for the purpose for which it had been prepared.

-from The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne Edited by Edmund Gosse, G.B. and Thomas James Wise (London : William Heinemann, 1918.) vol. 1.

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