In reply to a gift of books, including the correspondent’s wellknown translation of Sophocles.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1314.]
To Lewis Campbell [Colvin 1911, 2, p. 238-239]
[Wensleydale, Bournemouth, October 1884]
My dear Campbell,
The books came duly to hand.
My wife has occupied the translation ever since, nor have I yet been able to dislodge her.
As for the primer, I have read it with a very strange result: that I find no fault.
If you knew how, dogmatic and pugnacious, I stand warden on the literary art, you would the more appreciate your success and my – well, I will own it – disappointment. For I love to put people right (or wrong) about the arts. But what you say of Tragedy and of Sophocles very amply satisfies me; it is well felt and well said; a little less technically than it is my weakness to desire to see it put, but clear and adequate.
You are very right to express your admiration for the resource displayed in Oedipus King; it is a miracle.
Would it not have been well to mention Voltaire’s interesting onslaught, a thing which gives the best lesson of the difference of neighbour arts? – since all his criticisms, which had been fatal to a narrative, do not amount among them to exhibit one flaw in this masterpiece of drama.
For the drama, it is perfect; though such a fable in a romance might make the reader crack his sides, so imperfect, so ethereally slight is the verisimilitude required of these conventional, rigid, and egg-dancing arts.
I was sorry to see no more of you; but shall conclude by hoping for better luck next time. My wife begs to be remembered to both of you […]. – Yours sincerely,
Robert Louis Stevenson