I did not indeed imagine they were read, and (I suppose I may say) enjoyed right round upon the other side of the big Football we have the honour to inhabit. And as your present was the first sign to the contrary, I feel I have been very ungrateful in not writing earlier to acknowledge the receipt. I dare say, however, you hate writing letters as much as I can do myself (for if you like my article, I may presume other points of sympathy between us); and on this hypothesis you will be ready to forgive me the delay.
I may mention with regard to the piece of verses called 'Such is Life,' that I am not the only one on this side of the Football aforesaid to think it a good and bright piece of work, and recognised a link of sympathy with the poets who 'play in hostelries at euchre.' - Believe me, dear sir, yours truly,
R. L S.
Letter: TO A. PATCHETT MARTIN
17 HERIOT ROW, EDINBURGH [DECEMBER 1877].
MY DEAR SIR, - I am afraid you must already have condemned me for a very idle fellow truly. Here it is more than two months since I received your letter; I had no fewer than three journals to acknowledge; and never a sign upon my part. If you have seen a CORNHILL paper of mine upon idling, you will be inclined to set it all down to that. But you will not be doing me justice. Indeed, I have had a summer so troubled that I have had little leisure and still less inclination to write letters. I was keeping the devil at bay with all my disposable activities; and more than once I thought he had me by the throat. The odd conditions of our acquaintance enable me to say more to you than I would to a person who lived at my elbow. And besides, I am too much pleased and flattered at our correspondence not to go as far as I can to set myself right in your eyes.
In this damnable confusion (I beg pardon) I have lost all my possessions, or near about, and quite lost all my wits. I wish I could lay my hands on the numbers of the REVIEW, for I know I wished to say something on that head more particularly than I can from memory; but where they have escaped to, only time or chance can show. However, I can tell you so far, that I was very much pleased with the article on Bret Harte; it seemed to me just, clear, and to the point. I agreed pretty well with all you said about George Eliot: a high, but, may we not add? - a rather dry lady. Did you - I forget - did you have a kick at the stern works of that melancholy puppy and humbug Daniel Deronda himself? - the Prince of prigs; the literary abomination of desolation in the way of manhood; a type which is enough to make a man forswear the love of women, if that is how it must be gained. . . . Hats off all the same, you understand: a woman of genius.
Of your poems I have myself a kindness for 'Noll and Nell,' although I don't think you have made it as good as you ought: verse five is surely not QUITE MELODIOUS. I confess I like the Sonnet in the last number of the REVIEW - the Sonnet to England.
Please, if you have not, and I don't suppose you have, already read it, institute a search in all Melbourne for one of the rarest and certainly one of the best of books - CLARISSA HARLOWE. For any man who takes an interest in the problems of the two sexes, that book is a perfect mine of documents. And it is written, sir, with the pen of an angel. Miss Howe and Lovelace, words cannot tell how good they are! And the scene where Clarissa beards her family, with her fan going all the while; and some of the quarrel scenes between her and Lovelace; and the scene where Colonel Marden goes to Mr. Hall, with Lord M. trying to compose matters, and the Colonel with his eternal 'finest woman in the world,' and the inimitable affirmation of Mowbray - nothing, nothing could be better! You will bless me when you read it for this recommendation; but, indeed, I can do nothing but recommend Clarissa. I am like that Frenchman of the eighteenth century who discovered Habakkuk, and would give no one peace about that respectable Hebrew.