Your subject peeps every here and there out of the crannies like a shy violet

Edmund Gosse had mistaken the name of the Peeblesshire manse, and is reproached accordingly. ‘Gray’ is Gosse’s volume on that poet in Morley’s series of English Men of Letters.

‘Bobo’ is a French childish word for hurt, sore or bruise.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 968.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 99-100]

Stobo Manse, Peeblesshire [Early July 1882]

I would shoot you, but I have no bow;

The place is not called Stobs, but Stobo.

As Gallic Kids complain of ‘Bobo,’

I mourn for your mistake of Stobo.

First, we shall be gone in September. But if you think of coming in August, my mother will hunt for you with pleasure. We should all be overjoyed — though Stobo it could not be, as it is but a kirk and manse, but possibly somewhere within reach. Let us know.


Second, I have read your Gray with care.




A more difficult subject I can scarce fancy; it is crushing; yet I think you have managed to shadow forth a man, and a good man too; and honestly, I doubt if I could have done the same. This may seem egoistic; but you are not such a fool as to think so. It is the natural expression of real praise.

Thomas Gray, English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and professor at Cambridge University, widely known for his ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’, 1751 []

The book as a whole is readable; your subject peeps every here and there out of the crannies like a shy violet — he could do no more — and his aroma hangs there.


I write to catch a minion of the post. Hence brevity.

Victorian postman []

Answer about the house. Yours affectionately,




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