“Had I taken time, I would not have set pen to paper to you about this wretchedness”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 2057.]

To Charles Baxter [Baxter Letters, 1956, pp. 206-207, at www.hathitrust.org]

[Envelope marked ‘Private’]

[Saranac Lake, 10 April 1888]

My dear Charles,

I have written you today already, and here I must write again, having found not only the paper for the archives announced before, but also a bill which should be paid, and having (forbye) received one from [you] which deserves answer. Bless God you acted as you did! and may the Lord lighten my poor befogged wits! It was Lord Pollexfen I wished to withdraw from:

Lord Pollexfen was actually John Horace Savile, Vicount Pollington, later the Earl of Mexborough (1843-1916), secretary at the Athenaeum Club, London. His tomb is at the Cimitero evangelico degli allori, Florence [www.findagrave.com]

the Athenaeum I think (as you think) it would be impudent not to accept; so pray announce my resignation to Lord Pollexfen (or whatever his name is – he used to live in Indy Street, didn’t he no?) and try to pardon so hopelessly obscure a correspondent.


The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London. In March 1888, RLS was elected to be a member of it elected [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The Main Hall, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The Coffee Room, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The Drawing Room, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The Morning Room, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The West Library, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The South Library, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The North Library, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]
The Smoking Room, Athenaeum Club, London [www.athenaeumclub.co.uk]

I do not wish to make this letter bitter to you, as all mine must be. I have lain awake night after night sorrowing to think of Henley receiving mine, and the hash it might make of his Dumas, and how it would dash the pleasure of his verses.

Portrait of W.E. Henley, by A. Rodin, 1884-1886 [www.victorianweb.org]
Henley’s essay on Dumas was to be published in 1890.
First page of Henley’s essay on Dumas, 1890.

But to pretend that one is not thinking of this is almost an unseemly affectation. Think of it I do; and when I don’t think of it, start up to wonder what load is at my heart. But you at least ought to have been kept clear, and had I taken time, I would not have set pen to paper to you about this wretchedness; but at the first blow I had not the self-restraint. To no one else have I referred, or do I mean to refer, to it; if I could only stop referring to it to myself, I would do yet.

Weel, weel, I didnae mean to girn [= snarl] nae mair. Faur ye weel.

Yours affectionately,

R.L.S.

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