[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 682.]
To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1912, pp. 132-135]
608 Bush Street, San Francisco, California, Jan. 23, 1880.
My dear and kind Weg,
It was a lesson in philosophy that would have moved a bear, to receive your letter in my present temper. For I am now well and well at my ease, both by comparison. First, my health has turned a corner; it was not consumption this time, though consumption it has to be some time, as all my kind friends sing to me, day in, day out. Consumption! how I hate that word; yet it can sound innocent, as, e.g., consumption of military stores. What was wrong with me, apart from colds and little pleuritic flea-bites, was a lingering malaria; and that is now greatly overcome. I eat once more, which is a great amusement and, they say, good for the health. Second, many of the thunderclouds that were overhanging me when last I wrote, have silently stolen away like Longfellow’s Arabs:
and I am now engaged to be married to the woman whom I have loved for three years and a half. I do not yet know when the marriage can come off; for there are many reasons for delay. But as few people before marriage have known each other so long or made more trials of each other’s tenderness and constancy, I permit myself to hope some quiet at the end of all. At least I will boast myself so far; I do not think many wives are better loved than mine will be.
Third and last, in the order of what has changed my feelings, my people have cast me off, and so that thundercloud, as you may almost say, has overblown. You know more than most people whether or not I loved my father […]. These things are sad; nor can any man forgive himself for bringing them about; yet they are easier to meet in fact than by anticipation. I almost trembled whether I was doing right, until I was fairly summoned; then, when I found that I was not shaken one jot, that I could grieve, that I could sharply blame myself, for the past, and yet never hesitate one second as to my conduct in the future, I believe my cause was just and I leave it with the Lord. I certainly look for no reward, nor any abiding city either here or hereafter, but I please myself with hoping that my father will not always think so badly of my conduct nor so very slightingly of my affection as he does at present.
You may now understand that the quiet economical citizen of San Francisco who now addresses you, a bon homme given to cheap living, early to bed though scarce early to rise in proportion (que diable! let us have style, anyway) busied with its little bits of books and essays and with a fair hope for the future, is no longer the same desponding, invalid son of a doubt and an apprehension who last wrote to you from Monterey. I am none the less warmly obliged to you and Mrs. Gosse for your good words. I suppose that I am the devil (hearing it so often), but I am not ungrateful. Only please, Weg, do not talk of genius about me; I do not think I want for a certain talent, but I am heartily persuaded I have none of the other commodity; so let that stick to the wall: you only shame me by such friendly exaggerations.
When shall I be married? When shall I be able to return to England? When shall I join the good and blessed […] in a forced march upon the New Jerusalem? That is what I know not in any degree; some of them, let us hope, will come early, some after a judicious interval. I have three little strangers knocking at the door of Leslie Stephen: The Pavilion on the Links, a blood and thunder story, accepted; Yoshida Torajiro, a paper on a Japanese hero who will warm your blood, postulant; and Henry David Thoreau: his character and opinions – postulant also. I give you these hints knowing you to love the best literature, that you may keep an eye at the masthead for these little tit-bits.Write again, and soon, and at greater length to your friend,