Sursum corda; faint heart never writ romance

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1178.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1912, pp. 182-183]

La Solitude, Hyères [? 15 November 1883]

My dear excellent, admired, volcanic angel of a lad,


E. Burne-Jones, Angel Playing a Flageolet, 1878 []

trusty as a dog,


Briton Rivière, Requiescat, 1888 []

eruptive as Vesuvius,


Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius from Portici, 1774-1776 []

in all things great, in all the soul of loyalty: greeting.


William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) []

That you are better spirits me up good. I have had no colour of a Mag. of Art.


The Magazine of Art was an illustrated monthly British journal devoted to the visual arts, published from 1878 to 1904 in London and New York by Cassell & Co. Henley was its editor from 1881 to 1886 []

From here, here in Highairs the Palm-trees, I have heard your conversation. It came here in the form of a Mistral, and I said to myself, Damme, there is some Henley at the foot of this!


Hyères-Les-Palmiers, 1889 []


Winter Mistral wind, Var, France []


I shall try to do the Whistle as suggested; but I can usually do whistles only by giving my whole mind to it: to produce even such limping verse demanding the whole forces of my untuneful soul. I have other two anyway: better or worse.


‘Whistles’ or ‘Penny Whistles’ was the original name for A Child’s Garden of Verses, here in its first book edition, 1885 []

I am now deep, deep, ocean deep in Otto: a letter is a curst distraction. About 100 pp. are near fit for publication; I am either making a spoon or spoiling the horn of a Caledonian bull, with that airy potentate. God help me, I bury a lot of labour in that principality; and if I am not greatly a gainer, I am a great loser and a great fool. However, sursum corda; faint heart never writ romance.


Prince Otto, first English edition, 1885 []


Heracles and the Caledonian bull, Meissen porcelain, 18th century []


Your ‘Dumas’ I think exquisite; it might even have been stronglier said: the brave old godly pagan, I adore his big footprints on the earth.

Have you read Meredith’s Love in the Valley? It got me, I wept; I remembered that poetry existed.

‘When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror.’


George Meredith (1828–1909) []

I propose if they (Lippincotts) will let me wait till next Autumn, and go when it is safest, to accept £450 with £100 down; but it is now too late to go this year.


Joshua Ballinger Lippincott (1813-1886), founder of a publishing house in Philadelphia []


The proposal referred to was one which had reached RLS from the Lippincotts, the American publisher, for a sailing trip to be taken among the Greek Islands and made the subject of a book []

November and December are the months when it is safest; and the back of the season is broken. I shall gain much knowledge by the trip; this I look upon as one of the main inducements.


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