Here I am living like a fighting-cock

RLS, hard at work upon Providence and the Guitar, New Arabian Nights, and Travels with a Donkey, was occupying for a few days Sidney Colvin’s rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge, in his friend’s absence. The college buildings and gardens, the ideal setting and careful tutelage of English academic life – in these respects so strongly contrasted with the Scotch – affected him always with a sense of unreality. The college servant mentioned was the head porter of the college.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 582.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 266-267]

[Trinity College, Cambridge, Autumn 1878.]

My dear Henley,

Here I am living like a fighting-cock, and have not spoken to a real person for about sixty hours.

Cambridge University, Great Court, Trinity College, c. 1870 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

From the master’s lodge, Trinity College, Cambridge [http://micheleroohani.com/]

Those who wait on me are not real. The man I know to be a myth, because I have seen him acting so often in the Palais Royal. He plays the Duke in Tricoche et Cacolet; I knew his nose at once. The part he plays here is very dull for him, but conscientious.

Paris, Palais Royal, 1863 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Paris, Palais Royal, Comedie Francaise [http://www.insecula.com/]

Porter’s lodge, Trinity College, Cambridge [http://micheleroohani.com/]

The Head Porter leads the procession with his staff and top hat and gown, , Trinity College, Cambridge [http://1.bp.blogspot.com/]

Tricoche et Cacolet, a vaudeville by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, 1871 [https://ia600400.us.archive.org/]

As for the bedmaker, she’s a dream, a kind of cheerful, innocent nightmare; I never saw so poor an imitation of humanity. I cannot work – cannot. Even the Guitar is still undone; I can only write ditch-water. ’Tis ghastly; but I am quite cheerful, and that is more important. Do you think you could prepare the printers for a possible breakdown this week? I shall try all I know on Monday; but if I can get nothing better than I got this morning, I prefer to drop a week. Telegraph to me if you think it necessary. I shall not leave till Wednesday at soonest. Shall write again.

R.L.S.

[…]

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