Monday, May 12, 2008

filial shortsightedness

Algernon Charles Swinburne to Paulina, Lady Trevelyan

Turf Hotel, Newcastle. Monday [December 1862],

My Dear Lady Trevelyan,

I hope you are prepared for one thing, the natural consequence of your unnatural conduct; viz. to come and bail me out when the hated minions of oppressive law have haled me to a loathsome dungeon for inability to pay a fortnight's unlooked-for hotel expenses. Nothing on earth is likelier; and all because I relied with filial shortsightedness on that rather fallacious letter of invitation which carried me off from Fryston. If I had but heard in time, I should have run down to London, and come up later. As it is I see Destitution and Despair ahead of me, and have begun an epitaph in the Micawber style for my future grave in the precincts of my native County's jail.

If by any wild chance--say by offering the head waiter a post-obit, or a foreclosure, or a mortgage, or a bill payable at three months, or a Federal bond, or an African loan, or a voucher, or something equally practicable I can stave off the period of my incarceration so as to get to Wallington on Wednesday, I shall take the train that leaves Morpeth at 2.15 and gets to Scotus's Gap* at 2.50. But I cannot disguise for myself, and will not for you, that this contingency is most remote. It is far more probable that posterity will appear, a weeping pilgrim, in the prison-yard of this city, to drop the tear of indignant sympathy on a humble stone affording scanty and dishonourable refuge To The Nameless Dust of A. C. S.

* Scott's Gap is the name of the station which serves Wallington.

[ music - Hector Berlioz - La Damnation de Faust: Hungarian March]

-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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