I always feel as if I must write a work of genius some time or other

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 698.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 335-336]

P.O. S.F. Cal. [East Oakland, mid-April 1880.]

My dear Colvin,

I received your letter and proof today, and was greatly delighted with the last. […] I am now out of danger; in but a short while (i.e. as soon as the weather is settled), F[anny] and I marry and go up to the hills to look for a place; ‘I to the hills will lift mine eyes, from whence doth come mine aid’: once the place found, […] the furniture will follow.

There, sir, in, I hope, a ranche among the pine-trees and hard by a running brook, we are to fish, hunt, sketch, study Spanish, French, Latin, Euclid, and History; and, if possible, not quarrel. Far from man, sir, in the virgin forest. Thence, as my strength returns, you may expect works of genius. I always feel as if I must write a work of genius some time or other; and when is it more likely to come off, than just after I have paid a visit to Styx and go thence to the eternal mountains?

On the river Styx [http://photos1.blogger.com/]

Calistoga, Napa Valley: “I to the hills…”[http://calistogaranch.aubergeresorts.com/]

Such a revolution in a man’s affairs, as I have somewhere written, would set anybody singing. When we get installed, Lloyd and I are going to print my poetical works; so all those who have been poetically addressed shall receive copies of their addresses. They are, I believe, pretty correct literary exercises, or will be, with a few filings; but they are not remarkable for white-hot vehemence of inspiration; tepid works! respectable versifications of very proper and even original sentiments: kind of Hayleyistic, I fear – but no, this is morbid self-depreciation.

William Hayley (1745-1820): his poetry was ridiculed by Byron as ‘for ever feeble and for ever tame’ [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

[…] The family is all very shaky in health, but our motto is now Al Monte! in the words of Don Lope, in the play the sister and I are just beating through with two bad dictionaries and an insane grammar.

Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio (1562–1635), Spanish playwright and poet [http://www.biografiasyvidas.com/]

I to the hills. – Yours ever,


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4 Responses to I always feel as if I must write a work of genius some time or other

  1. Maria Finzi says:

    wonderful Styx!!!Mimma

    Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2015 09:13:41 +0000 To: maria.finzi32@hotmail.it


  2. I take note and in the bad moments I will also say ¡Al monte!


  3. mafalda says:

    Perhaps you know from which work by Lope de Vega it was taken?
    I find mountains in ‘Contra valor no hay desdicha’ and ‘Del monte sale quien el monte quema’. It would be nice to know what work RLS and his sister-in-law were translating then!


  4. Ufff…, Lope de Vega wrote about 1800 plays… I’ve just saw that before the editon of 2007 there were only 5 copies of “Del monte sale quien el monte quema”, all preserved at the Spanish National Library (one was the original, another one was a copy done in the XIX, and the other 3 were from the XX century), so it is highly unlikely to be this play the one that RLS was reading.
    It could be “Contra el valor no hay desdicha”, the “monte” is mentioned 32 times, but it could be also many other plays from the 1800 that Lope de Vega wrote… 😉


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