[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1079.]
To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 131-132]
Chalet la Solitude, Hyères [? March 1883]
My dear Gosse,
I am very guilty; I should have written to you long ago; and now, though it must be done, I am so stupid that I can only boldly recapitulate. A phrase of three members is the outside of my syntax.
First, I liked the Rover better than any of your other verse. I believe you are right, and can make stories in verse. The last two stanzas and one or two in the beginning – but the two last above all – I thought excellent.
I suggest a pursuit of the vein. If you want a good story to treat, get the Memoirs of the Chevalier Johnstone, and do his passage of the Tay; it would be excellent: the dinner in the field, the woman he has to follow, the dragoons, the timid boatmen, the brave lasses. It would go like a charm; look at it, and you will say you owe me one.
Second, Gilder asking me for fiction, I suddenly took a great resolve, and have packed off to him my new work, The Silverado Squatters. I do not for a moment suppose he will take it; but pray say all the good words you can for it. I should be awfully glad to get it taken. But if it does not mean dibbs at once, I shall be ruined for life. Pray write soon and beg Gilder your prettiest for a poor gentleman in pecuniary sloughs.[…]
Fourth, next time I am supposed to be at death’s door, write to me like a Christian, and let not your correspondence attend on business. – Yours ever,
P. S. – I see I have led you to conceive the Squatters are fiction. They are not, alas!