Wednesday, October 8, 2008

part by part

Mrs. Oliphant to Mr Blackwood.

November 4, 1861.

send you with this the third part of the 'Doctor's Family.'* One number more will conclude it. But I should like to go on with a succession of others under the main title of 'Chronicles of Carlingford,' if it so pleases you. . . . My cares, as you can easily understand, came up by express before me, and were waiting my arrival. However, they were not such as appalled me, only the certainty of having a little reserve on which I could draw would be a comfort. If you will think this over and let me know I shall be very glad. I should continue to send you the said stories part by part only; for I think it seems to succeed better that what is read bit by bit should be written in the same way. One looks more carefully to one's points, and by dint of requiring to keep up one's own interest, has a better chance of keeping up one's reader's. Your approbation lately has given me great encouragement: a person in my position feels afraid to say much on the subject of her own cares and prospects, lest it should look like an appeal for sympathy; but at the same time it was cheerless work last winter, when necessity and failure came in such forlorn conjunction. Notwithstanding, fortunately, I could not help being hopeful if I tried; and indeed I suppose the over-exuberance of that quality must have wanted all the heavy weight I have had to keep me steady. However, this has nothing to do with the matter in hand. ... I should like to send you perhaps three more stories of equal length with the 'Doctor's Family,' and fill up with shorter ones if you approve.

I enclose proof of 'Pugin.'** Just one word in reference to your note about his being sent to Bedlam. He was actually sent, as pauper lunatics are, by what extraordinary chance or device of Satan nobody knows. Ferrey in the Life admits without apparently being in the least able to explain the fact; and all the little world which knew Pugin is entirely aware of it. He was removed only when a commotion was made about it in the papers, and Lord John Russell wrote to the 'Times' offering 10 pounds to a subscription in his favour, and nobody has ever attempted to explain the mystery.

May I get Ruskin's late volumes of 'Modern Painters' from Mr Langford? I have got the 'Life of Turner,' but I believe the last of these volumes is much occupied with that strange, shabby divinity. I suppose it does not much matter in choosing a god what sort of creature it is you choose, as persistent worship seems always to gain a certain amount of credit for the object of it.

I heard something about your friend George Eliot the other day from my friend Mrs Carlyle (wife of that great Tom whom you have set your heart so entirely against). Her opinion, I am sure, will amuse you. She says "Mrs Lewes" has mistaken her role--that nature intended her to be the properest of women, and that her present equivocal position is the most extraordinary blunder and contradiction possible.

I am rather anxious at present about my youngest little boy, who has hurt the bone of his arm by a fall, and is quite crippled by it.

* Eventually published with The Chronicles of Carlingford : The Perpetual Curate (1864 Blackwood) - 3 vols.
** Mrs. Oliphant reviewed, at her request, Benjamin Ferrey's Recollections of A. N. Welby Pugin, and his father, Augustus Pugin; with notices of their works (London: Edward Stanford, 1861) for Blackwood's Magazine.

-from The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs. M. O. W. Oliphant / arranged and edited by Mrs. Harry Coghill (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899) pp. 155-57.

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