Thursday, May 22, 2008

long alienation

Henry James to Robert Louis Stevenson.

{H. J.'s article on R. L. S. appeared in the Century Magazine, April, 1888, and was reprinted in Partial Portraits.}

34 De Vere Gardens, W.
October 30th, 1887.

My dear Louis,
It is really a delight to get your charming letter (from the undecipherable lake) just this very blessed minute. Long alienation has made my American geography vague, and not knowing what your lake is I know still less where it is. Nevertheless I roughly suspect it of being in the Adirondacks; if it isn't, may it excuse the injury. Let me tell you, quickly and crudely, that I am quite exhilarated that you like the Article. I thought--or rather I hoped--that you would, and yet I feared you wouldn't--i.e. mightn't--and altogether I was not so convinced but that your expression of pleasure is a reassurance to me as well as a gratification. I felt, while I wrote, that you served me well; you were really, my dear fellow, a capital subject--I will modestly grant you that, though it takes the bloom from my merit. To be not only witty one's self but the cause in others of a wit that is not at one's expense--that is a rare and high character, and altogether yours. I devoutly hope that it's in the November Century that the thing appears, and also that it was not too apparent to you in it that I hadn't seen a proof--a privation I detest. I wrote to you some three weeks or so ago--c/o Scribners. Wondrous seems to me the fate that leads you to the prospect of wintering at--well, wherever you are. The succession of incidents and places in your career is ever romantic. May you find what you need--white, sunny Winter hours, not too stove-heated nor too pork-fed, with a crisp dry air and a frequent leisure and no desperation of inanition. And may much good prose flow from it all. I wish I could see you--in my mind s eye: but que dis-je? I do--and the minutest particularities of your wooden bower rise before me. I see the clap boards and the piazza and the door-step and the door-handle, and the road in front and the yard behind. Don't yearn to extinction for the trim little personality of Skerryvore. I have great satisfaction in hearing (from Mrs. Procter, of course) that that sweet house is let--to those Canadians. May they be punctual with their rent. Do tell your wife, on her return from the wild West, that I supplicate her to write to me, with items, details, specifications, and insistences. I am now collecting some papers into a volume; and the Article, par excellence, in the midst. May the American air rest lightly on you, my dear friend: I wish it were mine to turn it on! Ever faithfully yours,
Henry James.

P.S. My love to your wife goes without saying but I send a very explicit friendliness to your mother. I hope she returns the liking of America. And I bless the ticking Lloyd.

-from The Letters of Henry James selected and edited by Percy Lubbock (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1920) p. 130-131.

No comments: