Up will rise on the other side, sane, pleasurable, human knowledge: a thing of beauty and a joy


‘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.


Colvin’s ‘Rembrandt’ , The Edinburgh Review, July 1879, p. 78 ff. [https://ia600408.us.archive.org/]

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.

Rembrandt, ‘Athena’, 1655 [http://25.media.tumblr.com/]

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.

Dagon, the Philistine idol of 1 Samuel 5:3-4 [http://www.mushroomstone.com/]

Philip James de Loutherbourg, ‘The destruction of Dagon’, 1793 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

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.

H.D. Thoreau (1817-18629, American author, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, etc., best known for his book ‘Walden’, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay ‘Resistance to Civil Government’ [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

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,


George Meredith (1828-1909), novelist, poet, publishers’ reader, and a friend of RLS’s, c. 1863 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

John Morley, 1st Viscount of Blackburn (1838-1923), editor, for the Macmillian, of ‘English Men of Letters,’ a series of literary biographies, 1878-1892 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

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