Saturday, May 31, 2008

tragically museless

Robert Louis Stevenson to Henry James

{The pinch in the matter of eatables only lasted for a little while, until Mrs. Stevenson had taken her bearings and made her arrangements in the matter of marketing, etc.}

Vailima, Apia, Samoa,
December 29th, 1890.

My Dear Henry James,--It is terrible how little everybody writes, and how much of that little disappears in the capacious maw of the Post Office. Many letters, both from and to me, I now know to have been lost in transit: my eye is on the Sydney Post Office, a large ungainly structure with a tower, as being not a hundred miles from the scene of disappearance; but then I have no proof. The Tragic Muse you announced to me as coming; I had already ordered it from a Sydney book-seller: about two months ago he advised me that his copy was in the post; and I am still tragically museless.

News, news, news. What do we know of yours? What do you care for ours? We are in the midst of the rainy season, and dwell among alarms of hurricanes, in a very unsafe little two-storied wooden box 650 feet above and about three miles from the sea-beach. Behind us, till the other slope of the island, desert forest, peaks, and loud torrents; in front green slopes to the sea, some fifty miles of which we dominate. We see the ships as they go out and in to the dangerous roadstead of Apia; and if they lie far out, we can even see their topmasts while they are at anchor. Of sounds of men, beyond those of our own labourers, there reach us, at very long intervals, salutes from the warships in harbour, the bell of the cathedral church, and the low of the conch-shell calling the labour boys on the German plantations. Yesterday, which was Sunday--the quantieme is most likely erroneous; you can now correct it--we had a visitor--Baker of Tonga. Heard you ever of him? He is a great man here: he is accused of theft, rape, judicial murder, private poisoning, abortion, misappropriation of public moneys--oddly enough, not forgery, nor arson: you would be amused if you knew how thick the accusations fly in this South Sea world. I make no doubt my own character is something illustrious; or if not yet there is a good time coming.

But all our resources have not of late been Pacific. We have had enlightened society: Lafarge the painter, and your friend Henry Adams: a great privilege--would it might endure. I would go oftener to see them, but the place is awkward to reach on horseback. I had to swim my horse the last time I went to dinner; and as I have not yet returned the clothes I had to borrow, I dare not return in the same plight: it seems inevitable--as soon as the wash comes in, I plump straight into the American consul's shirt or trousers! They, I believe, would come oftener to see me but for the horrid doubt that weighs upon our commissariat department; we have often almost nothing to eat; a guest would simply break the bank; my wife and I have dined on one avocado pear; I have several times dined on hard bread and onions. What would you do with a guest at such narrow seasons?--eat him ? or serve up a labour boy fricasseed?

Work? work is now arrested, but I have written, I should think, about thirty chapters of the South Sea book; they will all want rehandling, I dare say. Gracious, what a strain is a long book! The time it took me to design this volume, before I could dream of putting pen to paper, was excessive; and then think of writing a book of travels on the spot, when I am continually extending my information, revising my opinions, and seeing the most finely finished portions of my work come part by part in pieces. Very soon I shall have no opinions left. And without an opinion, how to string artistically vast accumulations of fact? Darwin said no one could observe without a theory; I suppose he was right; 'tis a fine point of metaphysic; but I will take my oath, no man can write without one--at least the way he would like to, and my theories melt, melt, melt, and as they melt the thaw-waters wash down my writing, and leave unideal tracts--wastes instead of cultivated farms.

Kipling is by far the most promising young man who has appeared since--ahem--I appeared. He amazes me by his precocity and various endowment. But he alarms me by his copiousness and haste. He should shield his fire with both hands 'and draw up all his strength and sweetness in one ball.' ('Draw all his strength and all His sweetness up into one ball'? I cannot remember Marvell's words.) So the critics have been saying to me; but I was never capable of--and surely never guilty of--such a debauch of production. At this rate his works will soon fill the habitable globe; and surely he was armed for better conflicts than these succinct sketches and flying leaves of verse? I look on, I admire, I rejoice for myself; but in a kind of ambition we all have for our tongue and literature I am wounded. If I had this man's fertility and courage, it seems to me I could heave a pyramid.

Well, we begin to be old fogies now; and it was high time something rose to take our places. Certainly Kipling has the gifts; the fairy godmothers were all tipsy at his christening: what will he do with them?

Good-bye, my dear James; find an hour to write to us, and register your letter.--Yours affectionately, R. L. S.

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson edited by Sidney Colvin (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911) Volume III, 1887-1891, pp. 268-71.

Friday, May 30, 2008

much at sea

Robert Louis Stevenson to Henry James

Union Club, Sydney,
August 1890

My Dear Henry James,
Kipling is too clever to live. The Bete Humaine I had already perused in Noumea, listening the while to the strains of the convict band. He is a Beast; but not human, and, to be frank, not very interesting. 'Nervous maladies : the homicidal ward,' would be the better name: O, this game gets very tedious.

Your two long and kind letters have helped to entertain the old familiar sickbed. So has a book called The Bondman, by Hall Caine; I wish you would look at it. I am not half-way through yet. Read the book, and communicate your views. Hall Caine, by the way, appears to take Hugo's view of History and Chronology. (Later; the book doesn't keep up; it gets very wild.)

I must tell you plainly--I can't tell Colvin--I do not think I shall come to England more than once, and then it'll be to die. Health I enjoy in the tropics; even here, which they call sub- or semi-tropical, I come only to catch cold. I have not been out since my arrival; live here in a nice bedroom by the fireside, and read books and letters from Henry James, and send out to get his Tragic Muse, only to be told they can't be had as yet in Sydney, and have altogether a placid time. But I can't go out! The thermometer was nearly down to 50° the other day--no temperature for me, Mr. James: how should I do in England? I fear not at all. Am I very sorry? I am sorry about seven or eight people in England, and one or two in the States. And outside of that, I simply prefer Samoa. These are the words of honesty and soberness. (I am fasting from all but sin, coughing, The Bondman, a couple of eggs and a cup of tea.) I was never fond of towns, houses, society, or (it seems) civilisation. Nor yet it seems was I ever very fond of (what is technically called) God's green earth. The sea, islands, the islanders, the island life and climate, make and keep me truly happier. These last two years I have been much at sea, and I have never wearied; sometimes I have indeed grown impatient for some destination; more often I was sorry that the voyage drew so early to an end; and never once did I lose my fidelity to blue water and a ship. It is plain, then, that for me my exile to the place of schooners and islands can be in no sense regarded as a calamity.

Good-bye just now: I must take a turn at my proofs.

N.B. --Even my wife has weakened about the sea. She wearied, the last time we were ashore, to get afloat again.--Yours ever,
R. L. S.


-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson edited by Sidney Colvin (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911) Volume III, 1887-1891, pp. 204-06.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

lead him back blooming, by the hand

Henry James to Robert Louis Stevenson.

{Stevenson was now beginning to break to his friends at home the possibility that he might settle permanently in the South Seas; but he still projected a preliminary visit to England, or at least to Europe.}

34 De Vere Gardens, W.
March 21st, 1890.

My dear Louis and my dear Mrs. Louis,
It comes over me with horror and shame that, within the next very few months, your return to England may become such a reality that I shall before long stand face to face with you branded with the almost blood-guilt of my long silence. Let me break that silence then, before the bliss of meeting you again (heaven speed the day) is qualified, in prospect, by the apprehension of your disdain. I despatch these incoherent words to Sydney, in the hope they may catch you before you embark for our palpitating England. My despicable dumbness has been a vile accident--I needn't assure you that it doesn't pretend to the smallest backbone of system or sense. I have simply had the busiest year of my life and have been so drained of the fluid of expression--so tapped into the public pitcher--that my whole correspondence has dried up and died of thirst. Then, somehow, you had become inaccessible to the mind as well as to the body, and I had the feeling that, in the midst of such desperate larks, any news of mine would be mere irrelevant drivel to you. Now, however, you must take it, such as it is. It won't, of course, be news to you at all that the idea of your return has become altogether the question of the day. The other two questions (the eternal Irish and Rudyard Kipling) aren't in it. (We'll tell you all about Rudyard Kipling--your nascent rival; he has killed one immortal--Rider Haggard; the star of the hour, aged 24 and author of remarkable Anglo-Indian and extraordinarily observed barrack life--Tommy Atkins--tales.) What I am pledged to do at the present moment (pledged to Colvin) is to plead with you passionately on the question of Samoa and expatriation. But somehow, when it comes to the point, I can't do it--partly because I can't really believe in anything so dreadful (a long howl of horror has gone up from all your friends), and partly because before any step so fatal is irretrievably taken we are to have a chance to see you and bind you with flowery chains. When you tell me with your own melodious lips that you're committed, I'll see what's to be done; but I won't take a single plank of the house or a single hour of the flight for granted. Colvin has given me instantly all your recent unspeakable news--I mean the voyage to Samoa and everything preceding, and your mother has kindly communicated to me her own wonderful documents. Therefore my silence has been filled with sound--sound infinitely fearful sometimes. But the joy of your health, my dear Louis, has been to me as an imparted sensation--making me far more glad than anything that I could originate with myself. I shall never be as well as I am glad that you are well. We are poor tame, terrified products of the tailor and the parlour-maid; but we have a fine sentiment or two, all the same. . . . I, thank God, am in better form than when you first took ship. I have lately finished the longest and most careful novel I have ever written (it has gone 16 months in a periodical) and the last, in that form, I shall ever do--it will come out as a book in May. Also other things too flat to be bawled through an Australasian tube. But the intensest throb of my literary life, as of that of many others, has been the Master of Ballantrae--a pure hard crystal, my boy, a work of ineffable and exquisite art. It makes us all as proud of you as you can possibly be of it. Lead him on blushing, lead him back blooming, by the hand, dear Mrs. Louis, and we will talk over everything, as we used to lang syne at Skerryvore. When we have talked over everything and when all your tales are told, then you may paddle back to Samoa. But we shall call time. My heartiest greeting to the young Lloyd--grizzled, I fear, before his day. I have been very sorry to hear of your son-in-law's bad case. May all that tension be over now. Do receive this before you sail--don't sail till you get it. But then bound straight across. I send a volume of the Rising Star to goad you all hither with jealousy. He has quite done for your neglected even though neglectful friend,
Henry James.

-from The Letters of Henry James selected and edited by Percy Lubbock (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1920) p. 155-57.

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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

philosophic drudges

Robert Louis Stevenson to Henry James

Honolulu [March 1889]

My Dear James,
Yes--I own up--I am untrue to friendship and (what is less, but still considerable) to civilisation. I am not coming home for another year. There it is, cold and bald, and now you won't believe in me at all, and serve me right (says you) and the devil take me. But look here, and judge me tenderly. I have had more fun and pleasure of my life these past months than ever before, and more health than any time in ten long years. And even here in Honolulu I have withered in the cold; and this precious deep is filled with islands, which we may still visit; and though the sea is a deathful place, I like to be there, and like squalls (when they are over); and to draw near to a new island, I cannot say how much I like. In short, I take another year of this sort of life, and mean to try to work down among the poisoned arrows, and mean (if it may be) to come back again when the thing is through, and converse with Henry James as heretofore; and in the meanwhile issue directions to H. J. to write to me once more. Let him address here at Honolulu, for my views are vague; and if it is sent here it will follow and find me, if I am to be found; and if I am not to be found, the man James will have done his duty, and we shall be at the bottom of the sea, where no post-office clerk can be expected to discover us, or languishing on a coral island, the philosophic drudges of some barbarian potentate: perchance, of an American Missionary. My wife has just sent to Mrs. Sitwell a translation (tant bien que mal) of a letter I have had from my chief friend in this part of the world: go and see her, and get a hearing of it; it will do you good; it is a better method of correspondence than even Henry James's. I jest, but seriously it is a strange thing for a tough, sick, middle-aged scrivener like R. L. S. to receive a letter so conceived from a man fifty years old, a leading politician, a crack orator, and the great wit of his village: boldly say, 'the highly popular M. P. of Tautira.' My nineteenth century strikes here, and lies alongside of something beautiful and ancient. I think the receipt of such a letter might humble, shall I say even_____? and for me, I would rather have received it than written Redgauntlet or the sixth Aeneid. All told, if my books have enabled or helped me to make this voyage, to know Rui, and to have received such a letter, they have (in the old prefatorial expression) not been writ in vain. It would seem from this that I have been not so much humbled as puffed up; but, I assure you, I have in fact been both. A little of what that letter says is my own earning; not all, but yet a little; and the little makes me proud, and all the rest ashamed; and in the contrast, how much more beautiful altogether is the ancient man than him of to-day!

Well, well, Henry James is pretty good, though he is of the nineteenth century, and that glaringly. And to curry favour with him, I wish I could be more explicit; but, indeed, I am still of necessity extremely vague, and cannot tell what I am to do, nor where I am to go for some while yet. As soon as I am sure, you shall hear. All are fairly well--the wife, your countrywoman, least of all; troubles are not entirely wanting; but on the whole we prosper, and we are all affectionately yours,
Robert Louis Stevenson

[ spoken word- The Vagabond ]

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson edited by Sidney Colvin (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911) Volume III, 1887-1891, pp. 127-29.

Monday, May 26, 2008

grow not too thin

Henry James to Robert Louis Stevenson.

{The novel, just begun, was The Tragic Muse.}

34 De Vere Gardens, W.
July 31st [1888].

My dear Louis,
ou are too far away--you are too absent--too invisible, inaudible, inconceivable. Life is too short a business and friendship too delicate a matter for such tricks--for cutting great gory masses out of 'em by the year at a time. Therefore come back. Hang it all--sink it all and come back. A little more and I shall cease to believe in you: I don t mean (in the usual implied phrase) in your veracity, but literally and more fatally in your relevancy--your objective reality. You have become a beautiful myth--a kind of unnatural uncomfortable unburied mort. You put forth a beautiful monthly voice, with such happy notes in it--but it comes from too far away, from the other side of the globe, while I vaguely know that you are crawling like a fly on the nether surface of my chair. Your adventures, no doubt, are wonderful; but I don't successfully evoke them, understand them, believe in them. I do in those you write, heaven knows--but I don't in those you perform, though the latter, I know, are to lead to new revelations of the former and your capacity for them is certainly wonderful enough. This is a selfish personal cry: I wish you back; for literature is lonely and Bournemouth is barren without you. Your place in my affection has not been usurped by another--for there is not the least little scrap of another to usurp it. If there were I would perversely try to care for him. But there isn't--I repeat, and I literally care for nothing but your return. I haven't even your novel to stay my stomach withal. The wan wet months elapse and I see no sign of it. The beautiful portrait of your wife shimmers at me from my chimney-piece--brought some months ago by the natural McClure--but seems to refer to one as dim and distant and delightful as a "toast" of the last century. I wish I could make you homesick--I wish I could spoil your fun. It is a very featureless time. The summer is rank with rheumatism--a dark, drowned, unprecedented season. The town is empty but I am not going away. I have no money, but I have a little work. I have lately written several short fictions--but you may not see them unless you come home. I have just begun a novel which is to run through the Atlantic from January 1st and which I aspire to finish by the end of this year. In reality I suppose I shall not be fully delivered of it before the middle of next. After that, with God's help, I propose, for a longish period, to do nothing but short lengths. I want to leave a multitude of pictures of my time, projecting my small circular frame upon as many different spots as possible and going in for number as well as quality, so that the number may constitute a total having a certain value as observation and testimony. But there isn't so much as a creature here even to whisper such an intention to. Nothing lifts its hand in these islands save blackguard party politics. Criticism is of an abject density and puerility--it doesn't exist--it writes the intellect of our race too low. Lang, in the D.N., every morning, and I believe in a hundred other places, uses his beautiful thin facility to write everything down to the lowest level of Philistine twaddle--the view of the old lady round the corner or the clever person at the dinner party. The incorporated society of authors (I be long to it, and so do you, I think, but I don't know what it is) gave a dinner the other night to American literati to thank them for praying for international copyright. I carefully forbore to go, thinking the gratulation premature, and I see by this morning's Times that the banquetted boon is further off than ever. Edmund Gosse has sent me his clever little life of Congreve, just out, and I have read it but it isn't so good as his Raleigh. But no more was the insufferable subject. . . . Come, my dear Louis, grow not too thin. I can't question you--because, as I say, I don't conjure you up. You have killed the imagination in me that part of it which formed your element and in which you sat vivid and near. Your wife and Mother and Mr. Lloyd suffer also--I must confess it by this failure of breath, of faith. Of course I have your letter--from Manasquan (is that the idiotic name?) of the--ingenuous me, to think there was a date! It was terribly impersonal--it did me little good. A little more and I shan't believe in you enough to bless you. Take this, therefore, as your last chance. I follow all with an aching wing, an inadequate geography and an ineradicable hope. Ever, my dear Louis, yours, to the last snub--
Henry James.




-from The Letters of Henry James selected and edited by Percy Lubbock (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1920) p. 136-39.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

this denouement

Robert Louis Stevenson to Henry James

[Saranac Lake, March 1888.]

My Dear Delightful James.
To quote your heading to my wife, I think no man writes so elegant a letter, I am sure none so kind, unless it be Colvin, and there is more of the stern parent about him. I was vexed at your account of my admired Meredith: I wish I could go and see him; as it is I will try to write; and yet (do you understand me?) there is something in that potent, genialisch affection that puts one on the strain even to address him in a letter. He is not an easy man to be yourself with; there is so much of him, and the veracity and the high athletic intellectual humbug are so intermixed.* I read with indescribable admiration your Emerson. I begin to long for the day when these portraits of yours shall be collected : do put me in. But Emerson is a higher flight. Have you a Tourgueneff? You have told me many interesting things of him, and I seem to see them written, and forming a graceful and bildend sketch. (I wonder whence comes this flood of German I haven't opened a German book since I teethed.) My novel is a tragedy; four parts out of six or seven are written, and gone to Burlingame. Five parts of it are bound, human tragedy; the last one or two, I regret to say, not so soundly designed; I almost hesitate to write them; they are very picturesque, but they are fantastic; they shame, perhaps, degrade, the beginning. I wish I knew; that was how the tale came to me however. I got the situation; it was an old taste of mine: The older brother goes out in the '45, the younger stays; the younger, of course, gets title and estate and marries the bride designate of the elder a family match, but he (the younger) had always loved her, and she had really loved the elder. Do you see the situation? Then the devil and Saranac suggested this denouement, and I joined the two ends in a day or two of constant feverish thought, and began to write. And now I wonder if I have not gone too far with the fantastic? The elder brother is an INCUBUS: supposed to be killed at Culloden, he turns up again and bleeds the family of money; on that stopping he comes and lives with them, whence flows the real tragedy, the nocturnal duel of the brothers (very naturally, and indeed, I think, inevitably arising), and second supposed death of the elder. Husband and wife now really make up, and then the cloven hoof appears. For the third supposed death and the manner of the third reappearance is steep; steep, sir. It is even very steep, and I fear it shames the honest stuff so far; but then it is highly pictorial, and it leads up to the death of the elder brother at the hands of the younger in a perfectly cold-blooded murder, of which I wish (and mean) the reader to approve. You see how daring is the design. There are really but six characters, and one of these episodic, and yet it covers eighteen years, and will be, I imagine, the longest of my works.
Yours ever,
R. L. S.

Read Gosse's Raleigh. First-rate. Yours ever,

*Alluding to a kind of lofty posturing way of G. M's. in mind and speech, quite different from any real insincerity.



-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson edited by Sidney Colvin (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911) Volume III, 1887-1891, pp.57-59.

Friday, May 23, 2008

the complexion of your days

Henry James to Robert Louis Stevenson.

{Stevenson's letter (answered by the following) of admiration of Roderick Hudson and execration of The Portrait of a Lady is included in the Letters to his Family and Friends, edited by Sir Sidney Colvin.}

34 De Vere Gardens, W.
December 5th [1887].

My dear Louis,
I could almost hate poor Roderick H. (in whom, at best, as in all my past and shuffled off emanations and efforts, my interest is of the slenderest,) for making you write so much more about him than about a still more fascinating hero. If you had only given me a small instalment of that romantic serial, The Mundane Situation of R. L. S.! My dear fellow, you skip whole numbers at a time. Your correspondent wouldn't. I am really delighted you can find something at this late day in that work in which my diminutive muse first tried to elongate her little legs. It is a book of considerable good faith, but I think of limited skill. Besides, directly my productions are finished, or at least thrust out to earn their living, they seem to me dead. They dwindle when weaned--removed from the parental breast, and only flourish, a little, while imbibing the milk of my plastic care. None the less am I touched by your excellent and friendly words. Perhaps I am touched even more by those you dedicate to the less favoured Portrait. My dear Louis, I don't think I follow you here--why does that work move you to such scorn--since you can put up with Roderick, or with any of the others? As they are, so it is, and as it is, so they are. Upon my word you are unfair to it--and I scratch my head bewildered. 'Tis surely a graceful, ingenious, elaborate work--with too many pages, but with (I think) an interesting subject, and a good deal of life and style. There! All my works may be damnable but I don't perceive the particular damnability of that one. However I feel as if it were almost gross to defend myself--for even your censure pleases and your restrictions refresh. I have this very day received from Mr. Bain your Memories and Portraits, and I lick my chops in advance. It is very delectable, I can see, and it has the prettiest coat and face of any of your volumes. --London is settling to its winter pace, and the cool rich fogs curtain us in. I see Colvin once in a while dans le monde, which however I frequent less and less. I miss you too sensibly. My love to your wife and mother--my greeting to the brave Lloyd.
Ever yours very faithfully,
H. JAMES.

P.S. I am unspeakably vexed at the Century's long delay in printing my paper on you--it is quite sickening. But I am helpless--and they tell me it won't come out till March----d----n 'em all. I am also sorry--very--not to have any other prose specimens of my own genius to send you. I have really written a good deal lately--but the beastly periodicals hold them back: I can't make out why. But I trust the dance will begin before long, and that then you may glean some pleasure. I pray you, do write something yourself for one who knows and yet is famished : for there isn't a morsel here that will keep one alive. I won't question you--'twere vain--but I wish I knew more about you. I want to see you--where you live and how--and the complexion of your days. But I don't know even the name of your habitat nor the date of your letter: neither were on the page. I bless you all the same.


-from The Letters of Henry James selected and edited by Percy Lubbock (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1920) p. 132-33.

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Yorkais d'origine

Henry James to George du Maurier.

{The article on George du Maurier was that reprinted in Partial Portraits (1888).}

115 East 25th Street,
New York.
April 17th, 1883.

My dear Du Maurier,
I send you by this post the sheets of that little tribute to your genius which I spoke of to you so many months ago and which appears in the Century for May. The magazine is not yet out, or I would send you that, and the long delay makes my article so slight in itself, rather an impotent conclusion. Let me hasten to assure you that the "London Society", tacked to the title, is none of my doing, but that of the editors of the Magazine, who put in an urgent plea for it. Such as my poor remarks are, I hope you will find in them nothing disagreeable, but only the expression of an exceeding friendliness. May my blessing go with them and a multitude of good wishes!

I should have been to see you again long ago if I had not suddenly been called to America (by the death of my father) in December last. The autumn, before that, I spent altogether abroad, and have scarcely been in England since I bade you good-bye, after that very delightful walk and talk we had together last July an episode of which I have the happiest, tenderest memory. Romantic Hampstead seems very far away from East 25th St: though East 25th St. has some good points. I have been spending the winter in Boston and am here only on a visit to a friend, and though I am "New Yorkais d'origine" I never return to this wonderful city without being entertained and impressed afresh. New York is full of types and figures and curious social idiosyncrasies, and I only wish we had some one here, to hold up the mirror, with a 15th part of your talent. It is altogether an extraordinary growing, swarming, glittering, pushing, chattering, good-natured, cosmopolitan place, and perhaps in some ways the best imitation of Paris that can be found (yet with a great originality of its own. ) But I didn t mean to be so geographical; I only meant to shake hands, and to remind myself again that if my dear old London life is interrupted, it isn't, heaven be praised, finished, and that therefore there is a use--a delightful and superior use--in "keeping up" my relations. I am talking a good deal like Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns, but when you reflect that you are not Sir Gorgius Midas, you will acquit me. I have a fair prospect of returning to England late in the summer, and that will be for a long day. I hope your winter has used you kindly and that Mrs. du Maurier is well, and also the other ornaments of your home, including the Great St. Bernard. I greet them all most kindly and am ever very faithfully yours,
Henry James.


-from The Letters of Henry James selected and edited by Percy Lubbock (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1920) p. 98-99.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the millions assembled

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

Buckingham Palace,
2nd July 1838.

My Dearest Uncle,
Many thanks for two kind letters, one which I got last Monday and one this morning. The kind interest you take in me and my country (of which, and of the nation, I'm more proud than I ever was, since I've witnessed their excessive affection and loyalty to me) makes me certain that you will be glad to hear how beautifully everything went off. It was a memorable and glorious day for me. The millions assembled to witness the progress to and from the Abbey was beyond belief, and all in the highest good humour. It is a fine ceremony, and a scene I shall ever remember, and with pleasure. I likewise venture to add that people thought I did my part very well.

The amiable Duc de Nemours dined with me on Friday, comes to my ball to-night, and dines again with me on Wednesday. Pray tell dearest Aunt Louise that I thank her much for her very kind letter, and will avail myself of her kindness and not write to her this mail.

Feodore is writing in my room, well and happy, Uncle Ernest still very lame, and Charles well. There's an account of the family. Ever and ever your most devoted Niece,
Victoria R.


[ music - Handel - Zadok the Priest]


-The Letters of Queen Victoria: a selection from Her Majesty's Correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861 / edited by Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher (New York: Longman's, Green, and Co., 1907) vol. 1, p. 11o-111.

Monday, May 19, 2008

really and truly

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

11th July 1837.
My Dearest, Best Uncle, --
... I have got very little time and very little to say. I really and truly go into Buckingham Palace the day after to-morrow, but I must say, though I am very glad to do so, I feel sorry to leave for ever my poor old birthplace. . . .

25th. -- I shall not go out of town, I think, before the 20th or thereabouts of next month. Windsor requires thorough cleaning, and I must say I could not think of going in sooner after the poor King's death. Windsor always appears very melancholy to me, and there are so many sad associations with it. These will vanish, I daresay, if I see you there soon after my arrival there. I have very pleasant large dinners every day.

I invite my Premier generally once a week to dinner as I think it right to show publicly that I esteem him and have confidence in him, as he has behaved so well. Stockmar is of this opinion and is his great admirer. . . .

[video - Victoria ]

-The Letters of Queen Victoria: a selection from Her Majesty's Correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861 / edited by Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher (New York: Longman's, Green, and Co., 1907) vol. 1, p. 11o-111.

Friday, May 16, 2008

to encourage or discourage

Algernon Charles Swinburne to the 18 year old Edmund Gosse

Holmwood,
Shiplake,
Henley-on- Thames.
September 14th, 1867.

Sir,
I have received your letter and its enclosure. I have not much time for correspondence, but I answer it at once, as you desire my advice. I certainly do not urge you to resign the habit of writing if it gives you pleasure without interfering with other things; I have no right to give such counsel. What prospect of growth and advance in the art you may have is impossible to say. Less promising verses than yours have perhaps been the forerunners of success, and more promising ones of ultimate failure. A man's first attempts can never possibly afford reasonable ground for pronouncing decisively whether he is qualified or disqualified for the attainment of his hope.

One thing, while sympathising with your wishes, I do advise you against: too much thinking and working in one channel. Neither you nor I can tell what kind of work you will in the long run be able to accomplish; but it is certain that good or ill success in this matter of poetry need neither make nor mar a man's work in life. I understand the impulse to write of which you speak, and the pain of checking or suppressing it; nor do I tell you to suppress or check it: only not to build upon it over-much. To fret yourself in the meantime with alternations of hope and fear is useless if you are to succeed, and more than useless if you are not: I always thought so for myself, before I had sent anything to press. One wishes of course for success as for other pleasant things; but the readier we hold ourselves to dispense with it, if necessary, the better. I am not old enough to preach, but I am old enough to tell you how I thought at your age of this matter, which of course was to me as serious an aspiration as to you now. To encourage or discourage another is a responsibility I cannot undertake, especially as I think one ought to need or heed neither encouragement nor discouragement,
With good wishes, Yours truly,
A. C. Swinburne.

[ Edmund Gosse was a young assistant in the department of printed books in the British Museum; it was the following year that the youthful librarian caught his first sight of Swinburne. The year 1868 was a difficult year for Swinburne for both health and creativity, his heavy drinking and carousing with the likes of Richard Burton and company had begun to take its toll. The poet had fainted in the Reading Room of the British Museum and was in a most pathetic condition as related by Gosse : It was in the evening of July 10, 1868, that I first cast eyes on the poet who was at that time the divinity, the object of feverish worship, to every budding artist and faltering singer in England. The occasion was accidental, the circumstances painful; it is enough to say that the idol was revealed to the juvenile worshipper at a startling moment of physical suffering and distress, and that the impression was one of curious terror, never, even under happier auspices, to be wholly removed. I shall not lose that earliest, and entirely unanticipated, image of a languishing and pain-stricken Swinburne, like some odd conception of Aubrey Bcardsley, a Cupido cnicifixiis on a chair of anguish. [Portraits and Sketches (London: William Heinemann, 1913) p. 18.] (pepys)


[music - Johannes Brahms - Hungarian Dance No. 1]


-from The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne Edited by Edmund Gosse, G.B. and Thomas James Wise (London : William Heinemann, 1918.) vol. 1.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It is very jolly here

Algernon Charles Swinburne (visiting Lord Lytton at Knebworth) to Charles Augustus Howell

Knebworth, Stevenage, Herts.
[August, 1866.]

My Dear Howell,
You never turned up on Wednesday night, and kept my unhappy old female sitting up for you till three, and on Thursday I was very seedy and awaited you in vain. O monstre! homme infame!

I want you to get for me two Chastelards and a Byron, and send them here at once if possible. Excuse my troubling you about my errands, but I know you won't mind, and I can't write to Moxons. I've had a note from Hotten which I must answer at once. Lord Lytton advises my reissuing the Poems and Ballads at once with him, and breaking off wholly with Payne*, which is satisfactory. He says either Hotten should buy the surplus copies of the edition in his own interest, which would be impaired if Payne sold it as waste paper; or I must buy them up under a friend's name. Or, Payne must be compelled to destroy them instead. This is his advice as a man of business. Will you tell Hotten this, and let him act on it? Please, too, find out what Hotten proposes about my Blake, which is nearly all in type. If he offers to buy it up I shall not allow Payne to publish it or anything more of mine. Please ask also about the remainders and next edition of Chastelard, Atalanta, and The Queen Mother. Lytton thinks Hotten's offers very fair, and advises me to arrange in the same way about the other books. So if Hotten likes to offer for them and arrange with Payne separately, well and good. I will reply as soon as he makes his offer. With Payne I will hold no further communication except through a third party.

All this you may shew or read to Hotten if you please. Pardon for the trouble my friendship entails on you, and believe me, Your affectionate
A. C. Swinburne.

P.S. I hope your cousin is well; please remember me to her. It is very jolly here, people, place, and weather. The furniture would at once cause Gabriel to attempt murder of the owner through envy so rich are the cabinets, etc., in every hole and corner.

[bibliography for A. C. Swinburne]

* J. Bertrand Payne, successor of Edward Moxon who died in 1858.
[ music - Richard Wagner - Rienzi - Ouverture]


-from The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne Edited by Edmund Gosse, G.B. and Thomas James Wise (London : William Heinemann, 1918.) vol. 1.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

deserting one's colours



22a, Dorset Street W.
August 13th [1866].

Dear Lord Lytton,
I am much obliged by the letter of advice you wrote me, and if Lord Houghton had not gone off to Vichy, I should certainly take counsel with him. As it is, I am compelled to decide without further help. I have no relation with Messrs. Moxon except of a strictly business character, and considering that the head of this firm has broken his agreement by refusing to continue the sale of my poems, without even speaking to me on the matter, I cannot but desire, first of all, to have no further dealings with anyone so untrustworthy. The book is mine. I agreed with him to issue an edition of 1,000 copies, he undertaking to print, publish and sell them, and if the edition sold off, I was to have two-thirds of the profits. He does not now deny the contract which he refuses to fulfil; he simply said to a friend who called on him as my representative, that on hearing there was to be an article in The Times attacking my book as improper, he could not continue the sale. As to the suppression of separate passages or poems, it could not be done without injuring the whole structure of the book, where every part has been as carefully considered and arranged as I could manage, and under the circumstances, it seems to me that I have no choice but to break off my connection with the publisher.

I have consulted friends older than myself, and more experienced in the business ways of the world, and really it seems to me I have no alternative. Before the book was published, if my friends had given me strong and unanimous advice to withdraw or to alter any passage, I should certainly have done so in two instances I did, rather against my own impulse, which is a fair proof that I am not too headstrong or conceited to listen to friendly counsel. But now to alter my course or mutilate my published work seems to me somewhat like deserting one's colours. One may or may not repent having enlisted, but to lay down one's arms, except under compulsion, remains intolerable. Even if I did not feel the matter in this way, my withdrawal would not undo what has been done, nor unsay what has been said.
Yours truly,
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.

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.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

dolorous expedient

Algernon Charles Swinburne to Richard Monckton Milnes

16, Grafton Street, Fifzroy Square.
October 4th, 1860.

My Dear Mr. Milnes,
I send you to-morrow, as you wished, my article on Wells's Joseph and his Brethren which has been some time doing, but I wanted to make it as satisfactory as I could without transcribing half the book. It is still finer, I think, than it seemed in my recollection of it after the first reading, and I should be very glad if I had anything to do with helping it to a little of the credit it must gain in the end. I have consulted with Rossetti about the choice of extracts. How on earth a copy could now be got, I can't think. I was driven to the dolorous expedient of hunting up the British Museum copy (entered in the wildest way in that slough of a catalogue) so as to collate it with a MS. copy sent to Rossetti by the author. I ought to have thanked you before both for my parcel which came on safely to me at the Trevelyans', and for the invitation you sent me from Lady de Grey; I had a very nice week with them.

Since I came back to London about a fortnight since, I have done some more work to Chastelard and rubbed up one or two other things. My friend George Meredith has asked me to send some to Once a Week which valuable publication he props up occasionally with fragments of his own. Rossetti has just done a drawing of a female model and myself embracing I need not say in the most fervent and abandoned style, meant for a frontispiece to his Italian Translations.* Everybody who knows me already salutes the likeness with a yell of recognition. When the book comes out, I shall have no refuge but the grave.

I would also have kept another promise, and send you my De la Touche but until I know it will go straight to your hands I dare not trust La Reine d'Espagne out of my sight. Reserving always your corresponding promise that I am yet to live and look upon the mystic pages of the martyred Marquis de Sade, ever since which the vision of that illustrious and ill-requited benefactor of humanity has hovered by night before my eyes.

With best remembrances to Mrs. Milnes, I remain, yours most sincerely,
A. C. Swinburne.

* The Early Italian Poets, Translated by D. G. Rossetti. 8vo, 1861. The "drawing" in question, though duly engraved upon wood, was not ultimately employed for the purpose for which it had been prepared.




-from The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne Edited by Edmund Gosse, G.B. and Thomas James Wise (London : William Heinemann, 1918.) vol. 1.

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.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

perseverance is the point

Edward Young to Samuel Richardson

11 November 1746.

thank you for enabling me, at my time of day, to think with great pleasure of living another year. A summer bearing such fruits as you kindly give me cause to expect, may excuse me for wishing to see longer days than we at present enjoy. I consider Clarissa as my last amour; I am as tender of her welfare, as I am sensible of her charms. This amour differs from all others in one respect I should rejoice to have all the world my rivals in it.

The waters here are not new things; they were in great vogue fifty years ago; but an eminent physician of this place dying, by degrees they were forgot. We have a physician now near us who drinks them himself all the winter; and a lady comes seven miles every morning for the same purpose. They are the same as Tunbridge; and I myself have found from them just the same effect. . . .

I heartily rejoice that at length you find benefit from your tar-water. Tar by winter, and steel by summer, are the two champions sent forth by Providence to encounter, and subdue the spleen.

In long chronical cases, perseverance is the point; and so it is in the greatest point of all. No man is so profligate, but he is good for moments; perseverance only is wanting to make him a saint. As you persevere in the great point, persevere in this to a good heart, add a good constitution; and then you are (not only an angel) as happy as mortality can admit.

I bless God I am well: and I am composing, but it is in wood and stone; for I am building a steeple to my church; and as a wise man in everything, I expect from you, as an architect, a critique upon it. I had almost forgot to tell you, that an Irishman has run away with one of my neighbours, and that with such circumstances of intrigue and distress, than its truth alone hinders it from being an excellent romance; just as fiction alone hinders yours from being an excellent history.

You say, my dear friend, that I cannot but think. True! but to live as one ought, requires constant, if not intense, thinking. The shortness and uncertainty of life is so evident, that all take it for granted it wants no proof; and what follows? why this: because we cannot deny it, therefore we forget it; because it wants no proof, therefore we give it no attention; that is, we think not of it at all, for a very odd reason, viz., because we should think of nothing else. This is too strictly expressed, but very near the truth. Ask Cibber if he's of my opinion.
[Edward Young]



-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

descending shades

Edward Young to the Duchess of Portland

May 3, 1742.

uch is my opinion of your Grace's goodness, that I can choose no subject more agreeable to you than to speak of your friends. Last week a neighbour of poor Dr. Clarke's now in Huntingdonshire called on me; he told me our friend was still living, and that his physician said he might possibly live four or five years longer. That is in the ever blessed will of God. After this melancholy account, I will give your Grace something more comfortable. The doctor retains his spirits, and is cheerful under circumstances that fright the bystander. Now this would be impossible, was there not an indulgent Being who frights us with the appearance of remote evils, in order to give entrance to His fear into our hearts, and when those evils come supports us under them beyond our expectation, and more still beyond our deserts. Dr. Clarke's behaviour brings to my memory some lines which I have formerly read, whether it be in Fletcher perhaps your Grace can tell. After the author has represented a good man, whose name is Philander, on his death-bed behaving to the surprise of all about him, he adds

As some tall tower, or lofty mountain's brow
Detains the sun, illustrious from its height,
When rising vapours, and descending shades,
In damps and darkness drown the spacious vale,
Philander thus augustly reared his head
Undamped by doubt, undarkened by despair;
At that black hour, which general horror sheds
On the low level of inglorious minds,
Sweet peace, and heavenly hope, and humble joy,
Divinely beamed on his exalted soul.
With incommunicable lustre bright.' *

I hope in God, Madam, we may see our Philander again, before these verses are applicable to him in their full extent. Heaven is pleased to permit our friends to be so very dear to us, that our parting with them, which must necessarily be sometimes the case, might in some degree lessen that strong hold which the world is apt to take on our hearts: the most deplorable case of all is, when the world so entirely fills our hearts, as not to leave room even for our friends. If such there are, Heaven keep your Grace as distant from them, as your disposition is from theirs.
[Edward Young]

*Young was usually so secretive about his poetical compositions that the Duchess of Portland may have been momentarily misled by his reference to Fletcher; but if her Grace had turned to the works of either of the four poets of that name she must soon have realised the hopelessness of discovering that tribute to Philander. For, of course, Young was quoting from himself. And the fact that he should have cited those lines from the second of the Night Thoughts in the May of 1742 is presumptive proof that the first poem, The Complaint; or Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality, was already completed. Such, indeed, must have been the case, for in the following month, the June of 1742, that poem was issued by Dodsley as a quarto pamphlet in blue paper covers, with a picture of the poet absorbed in nocturnal meditation in the moon-lit churchyard of Welwyn.



-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

redundancy, or want of spirits

Edward Young to the Duchess of Portland

Tunbridge Wells, August 1741.

here are but two distempers, and those very different, that bring people to this place, either redundancy, or want of spirits. The first makes people mad, the last fools; the first, I observe in this place, like persons bit by the tarantula, dance immoderately, till the distemper flows off; the last, like poor Job's friends, sit silent for seven days together, till the water gives them utterance. The virtue of the water is yet got no higher than my fingers' ends, which enables me to write, but when it will arrive at my lips is uncertain; but when it does, I shall have the pleasure of conversing with your Grace's friends, many of whom are here, but all my conversation with them hitherto has been carried on by signs only on my part, for sound to one in my state is too great an expense.

By this time your Grace begins to guess the reason why I left the town without taking leave: that was rude, but I should have been much ruder, had I attempted it. To have made your Grace a dumb visit would have been very unpolite, and at best, like Hamlet's ghost, I should have been able to have spoke in dismal monosyllables only, and therefore I humbly hope your Grace will pardon me for not frighting you out of your wits, for I know no lady on earth that would have lost more by such an accident.

Sir John Stanley, between the waters and a high relish of your Grace's regard to him is so elevated, that he talks of dancing at the next ball. Mrs. Donellan, whom I have studied, I find to be of an excellent mind and heart; I had once thoughts of drawing so amiable a character at length, but I shall abridge it in one sentence which implies all. 'She is worthy to be your Grace's friend.' I am heartily sorry my Lord Duke has been in such pain, but I hope by this time he is reaping the advantage of it, in a quicker relish of health. There are none here who have so distinguished themselves either by their wisdom or folly, as to contribute to your amusement by their history. Here is a great fortune, which is followed by a pack of noble beagles, but which shall be the happy dog no one yet can tell. I am much obliged to your Grace and to the Duke and Duchess of Leeds; when I recover my own country, I shall prevent the honour of their sending to me. I proposed writing a long letter, but your Grace is reprieved from the execution of that design by the waters. I can neither stand, nor see, nor think, and if your Grace can read what I have already written, his Majesty's affairs, at this critical juncture, need not be at a stand for want of a decipherer.
[Edward Young]



-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914

Monday, May 5, 2008

letters from the dead

Edward Young to John Williams in Nice, France.

25th of November, 1739

etters from the dead are so entertaining, that many wits have lied their friends out of hell so agreeably, that mankind has forgiven the imposition, for the sake of the pleasure. Next to letters from the dead, are those from the living at a great distance, and, in some sense, inhabitants of another world. But, as far as I can learn from your letter, that other world I mean is itself dead since I was there, at least much out of order. Poor sun! give him a glass of your pupil's October, to cure his November dumps; it will make him gay, and dance as in our Rehearsal; but leave a glass for his holiness the Pope; and, that it may go down with him the better, you may let him know it is prescribed by the Council of Nice. When I was there, I contracted a great intimacy with the Mediterranean. Every day I made him a solemn visit. He roared very agreeably. I hope our men of war will soon learn his art, for the entertainment of his Spanish Majesty; this is a kind of opera that will receive no improvement from the loss of manhood. If here you are at a loss for my meaning (for I think I am a little obscure), consult Mr. Patterson's little wife; she will let you into the secret; for I am mistaken, or our friend P. has taught her to look on all eunuchs with high disdain, and to detest music for the execrable damage it has done the whole sex.

If you visit my quondam habitation, you will pass a solemn assembly of cypresses; I have great regard for their memory and welfare; they took up my quarrel against the sun, and often defended me from his insults, when he was much more furious than you now represent him. You are so kind as often to remember me with Mr. P. When you drink my health, regard your own. I would have you eat my health, and I will drink yours; the north wants spirits; and the south flesh; but take care you get not more than your own. There is great plenty in Italian markets, and it comes cheap; if anything can be called cheap which may possibly cost a whole Roman nose. I hope you have nothing of Rome about you but that noble feature; if you have, post away to his Holiness. No man makes more Protestants than the Pope, or more saints than the devil, when either of them is thoroughly known; for truth and virtue have no better friends upon earth than a near inspection and intimate acquaintance with the deformity and madness of their opposites.

This, dear sir, comes of your conversing with parsons; I forgot I was writing a letter, and was providing myself for next Sunday with a sermon against drinking, wenching, etc., etc. Pardon a friend's infirmity, and manfully bear your own calamity. May this be the greatest you meet with in your travels, and then you need not be in haste to return to your farm in Wales! My best wishes and services to Mr. P. Lady Betty sends her compliments to you and Mr. P.
[Edward Young]





-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

nothing can be more

Edward Young in Welwyn to John Williams in Nice, France.

23rd of February, 1739.

othing can be more kind than the continuance of your friendship; nothing more unjust than your suspicion of my backwardness to embrace it. I esteem you for yourself, and the good company you keep. Homer was a very honest gentleman, who talked of many gods, and believed but one. Horace says, Quanta tibi negaveris, a diis plura feres. Fenelon was half an angel; and Newton looked so far and clearly into Nature, that he found himself under the necessity to clap a God at the head of it, in order to render any thing accountable. As to Voltaire, he is content with the contemplation of his own parts, without looking for any other immortality than they shall give him.

Thus, sir, my sermon ends. But why this sermon? To show myself qualified for the deanery or mitre you so kindly wish me. But these things are long in coming. If in your travels you should pick up a little vacant principality, it would do as well; I am as qualified for it, and as likely to succeed in it. Monaco would be a pretty sinecure; for, as I take it, the most Christian king is so good as to do all the duty. I have brought you to the borders of Italy; I heartily wish you pleasure in the land of Kantys. But before that I hope to be censured by you in another letter, which would give me great satisfaction.

You inquire after writers. Here is a libel published, called Manners, for which the author is fled, and the minister has been reprimanded: there are two or three things well enough said in it to balance a deal of gross abuse. The last publication I have read was about suicide, in which the author endeavours to persuade an Englishman not to hang himself when the wind is N.E. Mustapha, a new tragedy, is treading the stage with some applause. Nothing shoots in abundance this spring but divinity; a forward plant like the snow-drop, but of little flavour. I desire you to re-enter me into your little list of friends.
[Edward Young]




-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914)