But, mind you, Bummkopf is not human; he is Dagon the fish god, and down he will come, sprawling on his belly or his behind, with his hands broken from his helpless carcase, and his head rolling off into a corner. Up will rise on the other side, sane, pleasurable, human knowledge: a thing of beauty and a joy, etc.
I'm three parts through Burns; long, dry, unsympathetic, but sound and, I think, in its dry way, interesting. Next I shall finish the story, and then perhaps Thoreau. Meredith has been staying with Morley, who is about, it is believed, to write to me on a literary scheme. Is it Keats, hope you? My heart leaps at the thought. - Yours ever,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO EDMUND GOSSE
17 HERIOT ROW, EDINBURGH [JULY 29, 1879].
MY DEAR GOSSE, - Yours was delicious; you are a young person of wit; one of the last of them; wit being quite out of date, and humour confined to the Scotch Church and the SPECTATOR in unconscious survival. You will probably be glad to hear that I am up again in the world; I have breathed again, and had a frolic on the strength of it. The frolic was yesterday, Sawbath; the scene, the Royal Hotel, Bathgate; I went there with a humorous friend to lunch. The maid soon showed herself a lass of character. She was looking out of window. On being asked what she was after, 'I'm lookin' for my lad,' says she. 'Is that him?' 'Weel, I've been lookin' for him a' my life, and I've never seen him yet,' was the response. I wrote her some verses in the vernacular; she read them. 'They're no bad for a beginner,' said she. The landlord's daughter, Miss Stewart, was present in oil colour; so I wrote her a declaration in verse, and sent it by the handmaid. She (Miss S.) was present on the stair to witness our departure, in a warm, suffused condition. Damn it, Gosse, you needn't suppose that you're the only poet in the world.
Your statement about your initials, it will be seen, I pass over in contempt and silence. When once I have made up my mind, let me tell you, sir, there lives no pock-pudding who can change it. Your anger I defy. Your unmanly reference to a well-known statesman I puff from me, sir, like so much vapour. Weg is your name; Weg. W E G.
My enthusiasm has kind of dropped from me. I envy you your wife, your home, your child - I was going to say your cat. There would be cats in my home too if I could but get it. I may seem to you 'the impersonation of life,' but my life is the impersonation of waiting, and that's a poor creature. God help us all, and the deil be kind to the hindmost! Upon my word, we are a brave, cheery crew, we human beings, and my admiration increases daily - primarily for myself, but by a roundabout process for the whole crowd; for I dare say they have all their poor little secrets and anxieties. And here am I, for instance, writing to you as if you were in the seventh heaven, and yet I know you are in a sad anxiety yourself. I hope earnestly it will soon be over, and a fine pink Gosse sprawling in a tub, and a mother in the best of health and spirits, glad and tired, and with another interest in life. Man, you are out of the trouble when this is through. A first child is a rival, but a second is only a rival to the first; and the husband stands his ground and may keep married all his life - a consummation heartily to be desired. Good-bye, Gosse. Write me a witty letter with good news of the mistress.
R. L. S.
CHAPTER IV - THE AMATEUR EMIGRANT, MONTEREY AND SAN FRANCISCO, JULY 1879-JULY 1880
Letter: TO SIDNEY COLVIN
ON BOARD SS. 'DEVONIA,' AN HOUR OR TWO OUT OF NEW YORK [AUGUST 1879].
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I have finished my story. The handwriting is not good because of the ship's misconduct: thirty-one pages in ten days at sea is not bad.
I shall write a general procuration about this story on another bit of paper. I am not very well; bad food, bad air, and hard work have brought me down. But the spirits keep good. The voyage has been most interesting, and will make, if not a series of PALL MALL articles, at least the first part of a new book.