[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 655.]
To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 288-290]
Monterey, 8th October 1879.
My dear Weg,I know I am a rogue and the son of a dog. Yet let me tell you, when I came here I had a week’s misery and a fortnight’s illness, and since then I have been more or less busy in being content. This is a kind of excuse for my laziness. I hope you will not excuse yourself. My plans are still very uncertain, and it is not likely that anything will happen before Christmas. In the meanwhile, I believe I shall live on here ‘between the sandhills and the sea,’ as I think Mr. Swinburne hath it.
I was pretty nearly slain; my spirit lay down and kicked for three days; I was up at an Angora goat-ranche in the Santa Lucia Mountains, nursed by an old frontiersman, a mighty hunter of bears, and I scarcely slept, or ate, or thought for four days.
Two nights I lay out under a tree in a sort of stupor, doing nothing but fetch water for myself and horse, light a fire and make coffee, and all night awake hearing the goat-bells ringing and the tree-frogs singing when each new noise was enough to set me mad.
Then the bear-hunter came round, pronounced me ‘real sick,’ and ordered me up to the ranche.It was an odd, miserable piece of my life; and according to all rule, it should have been my death; but after a while my spirit got up again in a divine frenzy, and has since kicked and spurred my vile body forward with great emphasis and success.
My new book, The Amateur Emigrant, is about half drafted. I don’t know if it will be good, but I think it ought to sell in spite of the deil and the publishers; for it tells an odd enough experience, and one, I think, never yet told before. Look for my Burns in the Cornhill, and for my Story of a Lie in Paul’s withered babe, the New Quarterly. You may have seen the latter ere this reaches you: tell me if it has any interest, like a good boy, and remember that it was written at sea in great anxiety of mind. […] What is your news? Send me your works, like an angel, au fur et à mesure of their apparition, for I am naturally short of literature, and I do not wish to rust.
I fear this can hardly be called a letter. To say truth, I feel already a difficulty of approach; I do not know if I am the same man I was in Europe, perhaps I can hardly claim acquaintance with you.
My head went round and looks another way now; for when I found myself over here in a new land, and all the past uprooted in the one tug, and I neither feeling glad nor sorry, I got my last lesson about mankind; I mean my latest lesson, for of course I do not know what surprises there are yet in store for me.
But that I could have so felt astonished me beyond description. There is a wonderful callousness in human nature which enables us to live. I had no feeling one way or another, from New York to California, until, at Dutch Flat, a mining camp in the Sierra, I heard a cock crowing with a home voice; and then I fell to hope and regret both in the same moment.
Is there a boy or a girl […]? and how is your wife? I thought of you more than once, to put it mildly.I live here comfortably enough; but I shall soon be left all alone, perhaps till Christmas. Then you may hope for correspondence – and may not I? – Your friend,