I am in a mad fury about these explosions

These years were those of the Fenian dynamite outrages at Clerkenwell Prison, the Tower of London, the House of Lords, etc. Jeremiah O’Donovan ‘Rossa’ (1831-1915) was an “Irish Fenian revolutionary leader, journalist and propagandist. After being imprisoned in England he was amnestied and went to America in 1871, becoming one of the leaders of the Irish nationalists. His bitter hostility and his rustless advocacy of terrorism, including the use of dynamite, against England, made his name notorious. On 25 July the Government announced the discovery earlier in the month of infernal machines containing dynamite on board two ships at Liverpool. This was a period of riots and agrarian outrages in Ireland and Gladstone’s Irish Land Bill was passing through Parliament”. [Mehew 3, p. 214 n. 3.]

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 831.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 51-53]

[Kinnaird Cottage, Pitlochry, c. 29 July 1881.]

My dear Colvin,

This is the first letter I have written this good while. I have had a brutal cold, not perhaps very wisely treated; lots of blood for me, I mean […]. I was so well, however, before, that I seem to be sailing through with it splendidly. My appetite never failed; indeed, as I got worse, it sharpened a sort of reparatory instinct. Now I feel in a fair way to get round soon.

Monday, August (2nd, is it?). We set out for the Spital of Glenshee, and reach Braemar on Tuesday.

Glenshee is Scotland’s hidden route north to the Highlands, and a southern gateway to the Cairngorms National Park and Royal Deeside. The Spittal of Glenshee is at a height of 1125 ft on the road to Braemar [http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/]

Glenshee, 1920s [www.mountblairarchive.org/]

W.H. Paton (1828-1895), ‘Castletown of Braemar’. Braemar is a picturesque village at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park [http://4.bp.blogspot.com/]

Braemar Castle [http://live.moviesite.biz/]

Braemar Coaches poster, 19th century [http://lowres-picturecabinet.com.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/]

The Mill on the Clunie, Braemar [www.pressandjournal.co.uk/]

The Mill on the Clunie, Braemar [www.oldukphotos.com/]

The Braemar address we cannot learn; it looks as if ‘Braemar’ were all that was necessary; if particular, you can address 17 Heriot Row. We shall be delighted to see you whenever, and as soon as ever, you can make it possible. […]

I hope heartily you will survive me, and do not doubt it. There are seven or eight people it is no part of my scheme in life to survive – yet if I could but heal me of my bellowses, I could have a jolly life – have it, even now, when I can work and stroll a little, as I have been doing till this cold. I have so many things to make life sweet to me, it seems a pity I cannot have that other one thing – health. But though you will be angry to hear it, I believe, for myself at least, what is, is best. I believed it all through my worst days, and I am not ashamed to profess it now. Landor has just turned up; but I had read him already. I like him extremely; I wonder if the ‘cuts’ were perhaps not advantageous. It seems quite full enough; but then you know I am a compressionist.

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), English writer and poet: the reference is to a volume of Colvin’s in Morley’s series of ‘English Men of Letters’ [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

[…] If I am to criticise, it is a little staid; but the classical is apt to look so. It is in curious contrast to that inexpressive, unplanned wilderness of Forster’s; clear, readable, precise, and sufficiently human.

RLS compares Colvin’s essay with John Forster’s biography ,1869 [https://ia700400.us.archive.org/]

I see nothing lost in it, though I could have wished, in my Scotch capacity, a trifle clearer and fuller exposition of his moral attitude, which is not quite clear ‘from here.’ He and his tyrannicide! I am in a mad fury about these explosions. If that is the new world! Damn O’Donovan Rossa; […]; damn him behind and before, above, below, and roundabout; damn, deracinate, and destroy him, root and branch, self and company, world without end. Amen. I write that for sport if you like, but I will pray in earnest, O Lord, if you cannot convert, kindly delete him!

Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa (1831–1915), Irish Fenian leader and prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood [https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/]

“The Fenian Guy Fawkes” by J. Tenniel, published in Punch magazine, 28 Dec. 1867 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/]

The Clerkenwell explosion, London, 13 Dec. 1867: an attempt to free one of the Fenian members, killed 12 people and caused 120 injuries, none of the prisoners escaped [http://lowres-picturecabinet.com.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/]

House of detention, Clerkenwell, after the explosion [http://lowres-picturecabinet.com.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/]

The explosion at the tower of London, Jan. 1885 [www.theirishstory.com/]

‘Dynamite outrages in London’ [http://patrickbaty.co.uk/]

Stories naturally at halt. Henley has seen one and approves. I believe it to be good myself, even real good. He has also seen and approved one of Fanny’s. It will make a good volume. We have now

Thrawn Janet (with Stephen), proof today. The Shadow on the Bed (Fanny’s – copying). The Merry Men (scrolled). The Body Snatchers (scrolled).

In germis: […] The Travelling Companion. The Torn Surplice (not final tit.’e).

Yours ever,


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