This correspondent, living at the time in Australia, was probably the first to write and seek RLS’s acquaintance from admiration of his work, meaning especially the Cornhill essays of the Virginibus Puerisque series so far as they had yet appeared, August 1976. Arthur Patchett Martin was a civil servant in Melbourne, establishing himself as a writer and editing The Melbourne Review, 1876-1882.
The ‘present’ herein referred to is Martin’s volume called A Sweet Girl Graduate: A Christmas Story and Random Rhymes (Melbourne, 1876).
The Charles Lamb quote is from his essay Distant Correspondents: ‘… it is no easy effort to set about a correspondence at our distance… It is a sort of presumption to expect that one’s thoughts should live so far. It is like writing for posterity…’
The last line quote is the penultimate verse of Martin’s poem running: ‘The worldy wise employ their hours / in various ways fot filthy lucre, / While poets pipe in fairy bowers, / Or play in hostelries at euchre’.
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 273.]
To Arthur Patchett Martin [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 253-254]
[? Edinburgh. June or July 1877.]
It would not be very easy for me to give you any idea of the pleasure I found in your present. People who write for the magazines (probably from a guilty conscience) are apt to suppose their works practically unpublished. It seems unlikely that any one would take the trouble to read a little paper buried among so many others; and reading it, read it with any attention or pleasure. And so, I can assure you, your little book, coming from so far, gave me all the pleasure and encouragement in the world.I suppose you know and remember Charles Lamb’s essay on distant correspondents?
Well, I was somewhat of his way of thinking about my mild productions. 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,