Letter 11


Clifton Decr 6 [1824]

DEAR KELSALL,–I shall not fail you in London, tho’ the time is but ill defined by ‘Christmas’, which in vulgar acceptation may shadow forth some week or fortnight from the 25th Decr inclusive. I take it for granted that you are one of those comfortable mortals, who have fire places with open arms & expectg arm-chairs to embrace them at whatever town they visit; otherwise for quiet, attention, & economy I could recommend 6 D. Court, where a bed room, with or without sitting room, is to be had by the night or week. (You see when I have worn out my wings I shall make a very passable and praiseworthy advertisement-writer.)

I shall be there however if not before, immediately after the day after carols & mincepies. Meantime lost to all German and all humane learning, o’erhusked with sweet dozing sloth, writing now and then some such an unsightly scrawl as this, or scratching a tuneless and abortive verse, I ensconce myself in the hospitality of my Clifton demi-uncle. He is a man worthy of no slight mention, connected to me slightly by marriage with my mother’s sister.

Born in the town of Berne, bred in Germany, a fugitive from his relations & theology, he left behind him a fair Swiss fortune in hand, & Church dignity had he but stepped in the shoes of Jack Calvin, & submitted quietly his shoulders & belief to the Geneva gown. This not being his will, he shipped himself for England & began his London existence as an engraver & painter. This failed, and after making literary proposals, which were coldly received by the booksellers of that unGermanized time, he took to surgery & came to Bristol, in the democratic dawn of Southey, Coleridge &c. To the former he was closely attached, corresponded & hexameterized with him–made acquaintance with Davy, the opium-eater, my father, & all that was then–& might, had not a fatal democratic boldness & ecclesiastical antipathy barred his ascent, have been one of the most opulent & celebrated, as he is confessedly one of the best, living surgeons. But this is not all: to the dead he adds a radical acquaintance with the living tongues of Europe, an intimacy with the practice & theory of the pictorial art, & an inexhaustible fund of literary knowledge, German & English being both his native tongues. This is nothing higher than the truth, & yet his name is quite unknown out of the circle of his present & former professions.

O ghost of butcher-basket-born Kirke White! hast thou read the last London & its proposal of geminating its monthly birth-anticipation of much lead. Yet were I P[rocter] I would rather lend it a shoulder than Colburn’s. But I asked you whether you had seen it, because it contains a review of Darley’s first English product–his Exstatic Errors–which, from the extracts, I should say was more talented and rich in indication of good than what he has since done. How he will be hunted & abused when he appears in propria, for the rudeness & arrogance of John Lacy! A new tragic abortion of mine has absolutely extended its foetus to a quarter of the fourth act: when finished–if finished–I think it will satisfy you and myself of my poetical and dramatic impotence…The mystery, you see, is torn from Ravenna; which, if it persists, in spite of the dramatic calvinism of the pit, in being alive when it ought to be damned, we’ll see. And so good night–
Yours truly


Addressed to
Houndwell Lane 3

[Gosse, 1894]