Edmund Gosse’s anthology, English Odes, was published by Kegan Paul in 1881.
John Addington Symonds, translator, biographer and historian of the Italian Renaissance, had established his home at Davos in search of cure for tubercolosis, and made friends with RLS.
The word ‘sederunt’ (Latin: “they sat down”) in Scottish legal usage describes a meeting or a discussion. To continue the joke RLS uses the word ‘steterunt’ (Latin: “they stood”).
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 762.]
To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 18-19]
[Hôtel Bélvedère], Davos, Dec. 19, 1880.
This letter is a report of a long sederunt, also steterunt in small committee at Davos Platz, December 15th, 1880. Its results are unhesitatingly shot […] at your head.
My dear Weg,We both insist on the ‘Duke of Wellington’. Really it cannot be left out. Symonds said you would cover yourself with shame, and I add, your friends with confusion, if you leave it out. […] Really, you know it is the only thing you have, since Dryden, where that irregular odic, odal, odous (?) verse is used with mastery and sense. And it’s one of our few English blood-boilers.(2) Byron: if anything: Prometheus.
(3) Shelley (1) The World’s Great Age from Hellas; we are both dead on. After that you have, of course, The West Wind thing. But we think (1) would maybe be enough; no more than two any way.(4) Herrick. Meddowes and Come, my Corinna. After that Mr. Wickes: two any way.
(5) Leave out stanza 3rd of Congreve’s thing, like a dear; we can’t stand the ‘sigh’ nor the ‘peruke.’
(6) Milton. Time and the Solemn Music. We both agree we would rather go without L’Allegro and Il Penseroso than these; for the reason that these are not so well known to the brutish herd.(7) Is the Royal George an ode, or only an elegy? It’s so good. (8) We leave Campbell to you.
(9) If you take anything from Clough, but we don’t either of us fancy you will, let it be Come back.
(10) Quite right about Dryden. I had a hankering after Threnodia Augustalis; but I find it long and with very prosaic holes: though, O! what fine stuff between whiles.(11) Right with Collins.
(12) Right about Pope’s Ode. But what can you give? The Dying Christian? or one of his inimitable courtesies? These last are fairly odes, by the Horatian model, just as my dear Meddowes is an ode in the name and for the sake of Bandusia.(13) Whatever you do, you’ll give us the Greek Vase.
(14) Do you like Jonson’s ‘loathèd stage’? Verses 2, 3, and 4 are so bad, also the last line. But there is a fine movement and feeling in the rest.We will have the Duke of Wellington by God. Pro Symonds and Stevenson.