Friday, May 9, 2008

elegant epistle

Algernon Charles Swinburne to Edwin Hatch

Oxford. April 26th, [1858].

My Dear Hatch,
I am very sorry to have missed seeing you, before you left us for the improving recreation of canes and chemistry, Gregorians and castigation. I trust you will some day have had enough, and set up the staff of your tent even among Philistines to whom the penetralia of Chambers' Magazine are unknown land. Have you yet seen Montegut's article on Kingsley in the Revue des Deux Mondes? Get it up when you have time, it is well worth while. Item: a review of Guenevere in The Tablet I believe by Pollen, certainly the best as well as most favourable review Morris has had.

That party has given us no signs of life as yet; in vain has the Oxford County Chronicle been crammed with such notices as the following:

"If W. M. will return to his disconsolate friends, all shall be forgiven. One word would relieve them from the most agonising anxiety why is it withheld?"

"If the Gentleman who left an MS. (apparently in verse) in George St. will communicate with his bereaved and despairing Publishers, he will hear of something to his advantage. Otherwise the MS. will be sold (to pay expenses) as waste paper, together with the stock in hand of a late volume of Poems which fell stillborn from the press."

Even this latter a touching effusion of the creative fancy and talented pen "which now traces these imperfect records with a faltering hand" has failed to move him. The town-crier is to proclaim our loss to-morrow:

"Lost, stolen, or strayed, an eminent artist and promising litterateur. (The description of his person is omitted for obvious reasons.) Had on when he was last seen the clothes of another gentleman, much worn, of which he had possessed himself in a fit of moral and physical abstraction. Linen (questionable) marked W. M. Swears awfully, and walks with a rolling gait, as if partially intoxicated."

Enough of so painful a subject. I hope you are not breaking your brains upon Sordello. Read the other poets now alive (whom it would be invidious to particularise too minutely) and you will outgrow your absurd veneration for "an author of some talent, but more extravagance" vide Saturday Review, Art. Men and Women. I shall be busy till Whitsuntide, so this elegant epistle is my last for some time.

Receive the assurance of my respectful consideration, and believe me Ever yours sincerely,
A. C. Swinburne.

-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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