Wednesday, May 28, 2008

through the barren months

Henry James to Robert Louis Stevenson.

34 De Vere Gardens, W.
April 29th, 1889.

This is really dreadful news, my dear Louis, odious news to one who had neatly arranged that his coming August should be spent gobbling down your yarns--by some garden-window of Skerryvore--as the Neapolitan lazzarone puts away the lubricating filaments of the vermicelli. And yet, with my hideous capacity to understand it, I am strong enough, superior enough, to say anything, for conversation, later. It's in the light of unlimited conversation that I see the future years, and my honoured chair by the ingleside will require a succession of new cushions. I miss you shockingly--for, my dear fellow, there is no one--literally no one; and I don't in the least follow you--I can't go with you ( I mean in conceptive faculty and the "realising sense,") and you are for the time absolutely as if you were dead to me--I mean to my imagination of course--not to my affection or my prayers. And so I shall keep humble that you may pump into me--and make me stare and sigh and look simple and be quite out of it--for ever and ever. It's the best thing that can happen to one to see it written in your very hand that you have been so uplifted in health and cheer, and if another year will screw you up so tight that you won't "come undone" again, I will try and hold on through the barren months. I will go to Mrs. Sitwell, to hear what has made you blush--it must be something very radical. Your chieftains are dim to me--why shouldn't they be when you yourself are? Va for another year--but don't stay away longer, for we should really, for self-defence, have to outlive [?] you. ... I myself do little but sit at home and write little tales--and even long ones--you shall see them when you come back. Nothing would induce me, by sending them to you, to expose myself to damaging Polynesian comparisons. For the rest, there is nothing in this land but the eternal Irish strife--the place is all gashed and gory with it. I can't tell you of it--I am too sick of it--more than to say that two or three of the most interesting days I ever passed were lately in the crowded, throbbing, thrilling little court of the Special Commission, over the astounding drama of the forged Times letters.

I have a hope, a dream, that your mother may be coming home and that one may go and drink deep of her narrations. But it's idle and improbable. A wonderful, beautiful letter from your wife to Colvin seemed, a few months ago, to make it clear that she has no quarrel with your wild and wayward life. I hope it agrees with her a little too--I mean that it renews her youth and strength. It is a woeful time to wait--for your prose as for your person--especially as the prose can't be better though the person may.
Your very faithful
Henry James.

-from The Letters of Henry James selected and edited by Percy Lubbock (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1920) p. 152-53.

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