Grant me the Duke!

Edmund Gosse’s anthology, English Odes, was published by Kegan Paul in 1881. Among the odes suggested him by RLS, he did not include Dryden’s ‘Threnodia Augustalis’, the ode on the death of Charles II.

John Addington Symonds, translator, biographer and historian of the Italian Renaissance, had established his home at Davos in search of cure for tubercolosis.

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 752.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 17-18]

Hôtel Bélvedère, Davos. [December 6, 1880.]

My dear Weg,

I have many letters that I ought to write in preference to this; but a duty to letters and to you prevails over any private consideration. You are going to collect odes; I could not wish a better man to do so; but I tremble lest you should commit two sins of omission. You will not, I am sure, be so far left to yourself as to give us no more of Dryden than the hackneyed St. Cecilia;

E. Gosse, English Odes, London 1881 [https://ia902704.us.archive.org/]

Beginning of Dryden’s ode ‘For St Cecilia’s Day’, selected by E. Gosse [https://ia902704.us.archive.org/]

I know you will give us some others of those surprising masterpieces where there is more sustained eloquence and harmony of English numbers than in all that has been written since; there is a machine about a poetical young lady, and another about either Charles or James, I know not which; and they are both indescribably fine.

Beginning of Dryden’s ode, ‘To the Pious Memory of Miss Anne Killigrew’, selected by E. Gosse [https://ia902704.us.archive.org/]

(Is Marvell’s Horatian Ode good enough? I half think so.)

Beginning of Marvell’s ode ‘Upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’, selected by E. Gosse [https://ia902704.us.archive.org/]

But my great point is a fear that you are one of those who are unjust to our old Tennyson’s Duke of Wellington.

Beginning of Tennyson’s ode ‘On the Death of the Duke of Wellington’, selected by E. Gosse [https://ia902704.us.archive.org/]

 I have just been talking it over with Symonds;

John Addington Symonds in Davos, 1880-1890: translator and historian, he had established his home there, in search of cure for tubercolosis [http://www.bristol.ac.uk/]

and we agreed that whether for its metrical effects, for its brief, plain, stirring words of portraiture, as – he ‘that never lost an English gun,’ or – the soldier salute; or for the heroic apostrophe to Nelson; that ode has never been surpassed in any tongue or time. Grant me the Duke, O Weg!

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, British Army officer and statesman who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

The Duke of Wellington in 1844, daguerrotype [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

I suppose you must not put in yours about the warship;

HMS Eurydice was a 26-gun Royal Navy corvette which was the victim of one of Britain’s worst peace-time naval disasters when she sank in 1878, with the loss of 300 men [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

The only survivors of the Eurydice shipwreck, 1878 [http://www.memorials.inportsmouth.co.uk/]

The raising of the Eurydices [http://ecx.images-amazon.com/]

Memorial of the Eurydice shipwreck, Portsmouth 1880 [http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/]

you will have to admit worse ones, however. – Ever yours,

R.L.S.

 

 

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