To THOMAS FORBES KELSALL
14 Southampton Row
[Postmark 25 March 1825]
DEAR KELSALL,–As Beddoes has offered me the use of part of his frank, I am desirous of taking advantage of it so far as to enable me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter–which I hereby do accordingly. I will endeavour shortly to answer it, but not to answer it shortly. I shall be infinitely amusing & not inconsiderably dextrous, & so I give thee warning.–Touching myself and my pursuits, I have been for some time on the sort of thing you hint at, & have done, what I have done, better than I was afraid I could. You shall see something by the time you & June come together to Southampton, both of you in flower while I am in fruit. Tell me–or rather my wife (who makes this enquiry, while she desires her best remembrances to you) when we may expect you in London–& whether it is to be for 2 months or for 3? My tragedy goes on slowly–a poor dozen lines, or fragment of speech now & then, but what has been added is in my ‘best manner’–as they take [?] of Raffaelle & such folks.
Of Beddoes I will give you no account. Let him speak for himself, & say why he has not done anything lately. I can give no reason for it, unless it be that he idles over Greek and German, & leave[s] the English Parnassus for the Transalpine & transmarine places. I reserve my news for a future sheet of paper. You shall have everything down to the advertisements–What should you say if you were to see me some green morning (or evening) stepping out of the Southampton ‘Intelligence’ with a bundle of MS under one arm & my portmantel under the other? You, who are a believer in ghosts, would go home & secure your mutton chop without delay, of course; knowing what a chamelion from the other world would do if he came suddenly upon the eatables of this. But, be easy. I am long time projecting you know, although I am so rapid in my executions. You may therefore sleep quietly on your straw for this fortnight to come, if conscience & the warm weather will permit it.
Have you read the ‘Odes & Addresses to Great People’?–It is a joint production by that united Beaumont & Fletcher brotherhood–Reynolds & Hood. What a pity it is that Hood should have given up serious poetry for the sake of cracking the shells of jokes which have not always a kernel! But Adieu! I leave the rest of this virgin sheet for Beddoes’s eloquence to stir itself–& you. He says that he shall be lively beyond measure & give you part of his reason in rhyme
MY DEAR KELSALL,–After a long & shameful period of silence I venture to address you, having got Procter to break the ice of this frank. I will leave out all explanations, excuses & apologies–painful & unnecessary things–& go straight to the communication of such stuff as my brain entertains this morning. In the first place, lo! I am expert in reading German, even so far as now to be employing an hour a day or so in the metrical translation of the old obscure tedious Nibelungen-lied–about 100 lines is all as yet finished of this work–a grain from the mountain of 9560 of wh it is compact.
As usual I have begun a new tragedy wh at present I think of completing. I understand that Mr. Thomas Campbell has in some newspaper in a paltry refutation of some paltry charge of plagiarism regarding his paltry poem in the paltry Edinburgh touched the egg of my last man–the gentleman is completely addled, & the steam of my teapot will never be powerful enough to supply the place of incubation; nevertheless sometime or other I will treat it, not in the style of Hopkins & Campbell.
You have seen or heard of the Oxford Magazine–I am told that it is the progeny of my college and one or two others–it’s best & principal contributor in the Praed line being one ingenious Mr White, a clever youth who is my successor in the literary chair at Pembroke. They have dunned me for a contribution & tho’ I anticipate precocious dullness & an early death I believe I shall be foolish enough to write them some special bad rhymes–shd you think of going on with German I can get you a book or two very cheap–e.g. Schiller’s Gedichte–bound (if they are not sold) the best edition 7/6. Bohte selling it in it’s unwedded sheets for 14s–I have two or three odd volumes of works but complete as poems, wh I will save you too if you speak. Learn it by all means–it’s literature touches the heaven of the Greek in many places–& the language is as easy as possible, to my notion more so than French–I have been seriously studying it since New Year’s day only–& can read Schiller with little difficulty–Goëthe in his poems &c unvulgarised & cant-stuffed writings easily–Noëhdens dicty the best little one–if you are discontented with your own, is to be had cheaply I know where–
For many reasons at this moment it is impossible to Southamptonise–I must soon go to Ireland. At Present the law is on me–you know what a beast it is, & after my return from the Emerald mother of potatoes I shall have to settle my sisters, settle my affairs, sell & pay & impoverish myself to the bone & then set off for Germany; but be sure I do not leave England without seeing you, nor, if I can but finish, without dropping into the press some frail memorial of my existence–
The state of literature now is painful & humiliating enough–every one will write for £15 a sheet–who for love of art, who for fame, who for the purpose of continuing the noble stream of English minds? We ought too to look back with late repentance & remorse on our intoxicated praise, now cooling, of Lord Byron–such a man to be so spoken of when the world possessed Goëthe, Schiller, Shelley!
Oh self satisfied England–this comes of Always looking at herself in the looking-glass of the sea, I suppose.
6 Devereux Ct
“London March the twenty fifth 1825
THOMAS KELSALL Esqre
Not quite so much as you deserve, my dear Kelsall, not quite a quire of spoiled paper accompanies this. I believe the valuable autumn-hued envelope is the most deserving of the collection–read if you can–& the Lord have mercy on you & pardon your wilfulness. I cannot find your larking cloud song, I daresay it is in my desk wh is apud te in Houndwell lane–but I wrote in the coach wh brought me from Southampton to London 5 months since–a famous one beginning–
Ho! Adam the carrion crow
The old crow of Cairo &c
wh is sung with much applause by one of my dramatis personae in the unfinished drama No. 3 in my possession. Procter saw the enclosed sheets & pretended to have read them but I thought he looked as if he was talking loud only & did not believe him.
I am clear of the Oxford, but have been dunned for No. 2 & as I shall very likely be there in a week or so–I shall give ’em some such stuff as Netley Abbey–wh I turned up in looking for the canine cloud–because I want to get a criticism wh I have just begun on Montezuma–a thing I like vastly, to be printed–& hope they’ll be bribed by my rhyme to swallow my reason–& there is an excellent sonnet of mine to a terrier whose biography & portrait I will append pathetically. I have not sent you Schiller’s Gedichte: because there is an edition of his whole work Taschen-buch size, that is like your stupid Herman & Dorothea but printed in a real and very good German type–wh is printing by subscription for £1.16.0. 12 vols are out, there are to be 20–& you will receive them safely–this is what I recommend.
All that one hears of Schiller inclines one to admire him much more than his fat, leather-chopped, fish-eyed rival with the mock star of Vonity on his padded coat. I have read that fellow’s Tasso wh is a disgraceful apology for the conduct of the Duke of Ferrara, & represents poor Torquato, who was no great wit I fear, as an absolute spoiled poetic madman, a sort of Italian Tom Campbell–as touchy as tinder and as valuable. This was bound in a volume with his Iphigenie in Tauris, a poem faultlessly delightful, unless it be a fault that instead of being an imitation of Euripides it is a victory over him. I never felt so much disgust or much more admiration for any poet than for this Goëthe, as I read thro’ it–& I believe every one who reads all his works must have this double feeling of contempt of & delight in him–both nearly measureless–but he has no principle; in thinking of Schiller you have more to admire than the paper he has written on.
The metrical translation I was rash enough to speak about stands thus–
Nibelungen-lied (German) 9965 lines.
you see why I don’t send it. It is waiting to be finished–meantime I have abandoned my last new act–& begun the 3rd of that wh I was writing at South ton I believe I may make an end of one or two in this way–
Be so good as to read–(if you can or do intend it) with a pencil in your hand & scratch all that is more particularly detestable & bad
than ye rest.
I send you an easy little poem of Wieland’s it is complete in itself. The best of rhyme is that it teaches pronunciation.
Avoid Noehden in this particular he tells you to pronounce [u(e) & au(e)?] oi–ei–or i is the right thing but I suppose his friend Dr. Stoddart (in partnership with whom he perpetrated that vile translation of Don Carlos you boast of behind your law-books) is Worcestershire and says bile–ile–tile &c as bad rhymers do instead of boil oil & even to think of wh makes ones blood crawl as if there were spiders in the veins–Bohte is publishing a catalogue with preface by A.W. Schlegel–& when you are German in every pore, as you will want some, apply for them to the man whose card I enclose–he has a small collection of second-hand Germanities & will get them for you new at a discount of 12 per cent (ready money new English books the same.)
I have most completely mastered the art of living in London & can hardly bring myself to leave it it is so cheap–Antrobus & Co. Teamen nearly opposite Northumberland St. Strand sell some of the best black tea I ever tasted for 6s a pound put a piece of lemon-peel into your pot & it gives the flavour of green–(a fee for that) All we invalids take a piece of broiled bacon with our breakfast each morn, try it (ditto)
I will do the last man before I die but it is a subject I save up for a time when I have more knowledge, a freer pencil, a little menschen-lehre, a command of harmony & an accumulation of picturesque ideas, & dramatic characters fit for the theme. Meantime let Tom Campbell rule his roast & mortify the ghost of Sternhold–it is a subject for Michael Angelo not for the painter of Admiral Granby on the sign post. Did I tell ye, I had a very dull interview with that dealer in broken English, Dr. Spurzheim, the ambassador from Golgotha? he is a strange breeches-full of mankind & seems inclined to the asinine.
Procter is–Oh I mustn’t tell, if you don’t choose to buy Schillers Sämmtliche Werke wh I mention, I have an odd vol of Schiller’s Gedichte much at your service. Bohte, has the other but the Jew wants 7s for it–they fit very well.
T.F. KELSALL Esqre