I should also write to others; but indeed I am jack-tired, and must go to bed to a French novel to compose myself for slumber. - Ever your affectionate friend,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY
608 BUSH STREET, SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., FEBRUARY 1880.
MY DEAR HENLEY, - Before my work or anything I sit down to answer your long and kind letter.
I am well, cheerful, busy, hopeful; I cannot be knocked down; I do not mind about the EMIGRANT. I never thought it a masterpiece. It was written to sell, and I believe it will sell; and if it does not, the next will. You need not be uneasy about my work; I am only beginning to see my true method.
(1) As to STUDIES. There are two more already gone to Stephen. YOSHIDA TORAJIRO, which I think temperate and adequate; and THOREAU, which will want a really Balzacian effort over the proofs. But I want BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND THE ART OF VIRTUE to follow; and perhaps also WILLIAM PENN, but this last may be perhaps delayed for another volume - I think not, though. The STUDIES will be an intelligent volume, and in their latter numbers more like what I mean to be my style, or I mean what my style means to be, for I am passive. (2) The ESSAYS. Good news indeed. I think ORDERED SOUTH must be thrown in. It always swells the volume, and it will never find a more appropriate place. It was May 1874, Macmillan, I believe. (3) PLAYS. I did not understand you meant to try the draft. I shall make you a full scenario as soon as the EMIGRANT is done. (4) EMIGRANT. He shall be sent off next week. (5) Stories. You need not be alarmed that I am going to imitate Meredith. You know I was a Story-teller ingrain; did not that reassure you? The VENDETTA, which falls next to be finished, is not entirely pleasant. But it has points. THE FOREST STATE or THE GREENWOOD STATE: A ROMANCE, is another pair of shoes. It is my old Semiramis, our half-seen Duke and Duchess, which suddenly sprang into sunshine clearness as a story the other day. The kind, happy DENOUEMENT is unfortunately absolutely undramatic, which will be our only trouble in quarrying out the play. I mean we shall quarry from it. CHARACTERS - Otto Frederick John, hereditary Prince of Grunwald; Amelia Seraphina, Princess; Conrad, Baron Gondremarck, Prime Minister; Cancellarius Greisengesang; Killian Gottesacker, Steward of the River Farm; Ottilie, his daughter; the Countess von Rosen. Seven in all. A brave story, I swear; and a brave play too, if we can find the trick to make the end. The play, I fear, will have to end darkly, and that spoils the quality as I now see it of a kind of crockery, eighteenth century, high-life-below- stairs life, breaking up like ice in spring before the nature and the certain modicum of manhood of my poor, clever, feather-headed Prince, whom I love already. I see Seraphina too. Gondremarck is not quite so clear. The Countess von Rosen, I have; I'll never tell you who she is; it's a secret; but I have known the countess; well, I will tell you; it's my old Russian friend, Madame Z. Certain scenes are, in conception, the best I have ever made, except for HESTER NOBLE. Those at the end, Von Rosen and the Princess, the Prince and Princess, and the Princess and Gondremarck, as I now see them from here, should be nuts, Henley, nuts. It irks me not to go to them straight. But the EMIGRANT stops the way; then a reassured scenario for HESTER; then the VENDETTA; then two (or three) Essays - Benjamin Franklin, Thoughts on Literature as an Art, Dialogue on Character and Destiny between two Puppets, The Human Compromise; and then, at length - come to me, my Prince. O Lord, it's going to be courtly! And there is not an ugly person nor an ugly scene in it. The SLATE both Fanny and I have damned utterly; it is too morbid, ugly, and unkind; better starvation.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO SIDNEY COLVIN
608 BUSH STREET, SAN FRANCISCO, [MARCH 1880].
MY DEAR COLVIN, - My landlord and landlady's little four-year-old child is dying in the house; and O, what he has suffered.