“It was a project I went into with horrid diffidence; and lucre was my only motive”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 2043.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1912, pp. 236-237]

[Saranac Lake, 31 March 1888.]

My dear Gosse,

Why so plaintive? Either the post-office has played us false, or you were in my debt. In case it should be my letter that has failed to come to post, I must tell again the fate of Mrs. Gosse’s thermometer. It hangs in our sitting-room, where it has often marked freezing point and below; “See what Gosse says”, is a common word of command.


Edmund Gosse with his wife and children [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com]

But the point is this: in the verandah hangs another thermometer, condemned to register minus 40° and the class of temperatures; and to him, we have given the name of the Quarterly Reviewer.


From left to right, on the veranda at Baker’s Cottage, Saranac Lake: Valentine Roch with another servant, Lloyd Osbourne, Fanny and RLS. Top right: the thermometer on the verandah, aka “the Quarterly Reviewer” [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]

I hope the jape likes you.


RLS refers to the notorious attack by John Churton Collins in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for October 1886 on the inaccuracies in Gosse’s essay ‘From Shakespeare to Pope’, 1885.


Please tell the Fortnightly man that I am sorry but I can do nothing of that sort this year, as I am under a pledge to Scribner’s; and indeed my monthly articles take the best of my time.

Frank Harris.

Frank Harris ( 1855–1931), Irish-born American journalist and man of letters, editor of the Fortnightly Review 1886-1894 [https://cdn.britannica.com]

It was a project I went into with horrid diffidence; and lucre was my only motive. I get on better than I expected, but it is difficult to find an article of the sort required for each date, and to vary the matter and keep up (if possible) the merit. I do not know if you think I have at all succeeded; it seemed to me this really worked paper was more money’s worth (as well as probably better within my means) than the Lang business at the Sign of the Ship.

Andrew Lang, by Elliott & Fry, 1901 - NPG x82452 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Andrew Lang (1844-1912) was running a monthly causerie in Longman’s Magazine, called ‘At the Sign of the Ship’, “pages of Gossip on Men and Books”, 1886-1905 [https://collectionimages.npg.org.uk]

Indeed I feel convinced I could never have managed that; it takes a gift to do it. Here is lunch. – Yours afftly.,






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