[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1890.]
To Henry James [Colvin 1911, 3, pp- 22-24]
[Saranac Lake, 6 October 1887]
I know not the day; but the month it is the drear
October by the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
My dear Henry James,
This is to say First, the voyage was a huge success. We all enjoyed it (bar my wife) to the ground: sixteen days at sea with a cargo of hay, matches, stallions, and monkeys, and in a ship with […] no style on, and plenty of sailors to talk to, and the endless pleasures of the sea − the romance of it, the sport of the scratch dinner and the smashing of crockery, the pleasure − an endless pleasure − of balancing to the swell: well, it’s over.
Second, I had a fine time, rather a troubled one, at Newport and New York; saw much of and liked hugely the Fairchilds, St. Gaudens the sculptor, Gilder of the Century
− just saw the dear Alexander
− saw a lot of my old and admirable friend Will Low, whom I wish you knew and appreciated
− was medallioned by St. Gaudens,
and at last escaped to Third, Saranac Lake, where we now are, and which I believe we mean to like and pass the winter at.
Our house − emphatically ‘Baker’s’ −
− is on a hill, and has a sight of a stream turning a corner in the valley − bless the face of running water! − and sees some hills too, and the paganly prosaic roofs of Saranac itself; the Lake it does not see, nor do I regret that; I like water (fresh water I mean) either running swiftly among stones, or else largely qualified with whisky. As I write, the sun (which has been long a stranger) shines in at my shoulder; from the next room, the bell of Lloyd’s typewriter makes an agreeable music as it patters off (at a rate which astonishes this experienced novelist) the early chapters of a humorous romance;
from still further off − the walls of Baker’s are neither ancient nor massive − rumours of Valentine about the kitchen stove come to my ears; of my mother and Fanny I hear nothing, for the excellent reason that they have gone sparking off, one to Niagara, one to Indianapolis.
People complain that I never give news in my letters. I have wiped out that reproach.
But now, Fourth, I have seen the article;
and it may be from natural partiality, I think it the best you have written. O − I remember the Gautier, which was an excellant performance; and the Balzac, which was good;
and the Daudet,
over which I licked my chops; but the R.L.S. is better yet. It is so humorous, and it hits my little frailties with so neat (and so friendly) a touch; and Alan is the occasion for so much happy talk, and the quarrel is so generously praised.
I read it twice, though it was only some hours in my possession; and Low, who got it for me from the Century, sat up to finish it ere he returned it; and, sir, we were all delighted. Here is the paper out, nor will anything, not even friendship, not even gratitude for the article, induce me to begin a second sheet; so here, with the kindest remembrances and the warmest good wishes, I remain, yours affectionately,