‘Bummkopf’ was RLS’s name for the typical pedant (German or other).
‘A wicked and adulterous generation’ quotes Matthew 16:4.
Burns is the Cornhill essay, not the rejected Encyclopædia Britannica article.
The story mentioned at the end of this letter is The Story of a Lie, published in the New Quarterly Magazine for October 1879.
The Keats volume for the ‘English Men of Letters’ series went in fact to Colvin, 1887.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 637.]
To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 274-275]
17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh [28 July 1879].
My dear Colvin,
I am just in the middle of your Rembrandt.
The taste for Bummkopf and his works is agreeably dissembled so far as I have gone; and the reins have never for an instant been thrown upon the neck of that wooden Pegasus; he only perks up a learned snout from a footnote in the cellarage of a paragraph; just, in short, where he ought to be, to inspire confidence in a wicked and adulterous generation.
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,