To Charles Wentworth Dilke (Hampstead, September 21, 1818)
Hampstead, September 21, 1818
My dear Dilke
According to the Wentworth place Bulletin you have left Brighton much improved: therefore now a few lines will be more of a pleasure than a bore. I have things to say to you, and would fain begin upon them in this fourth line: but I have a Mind too well regulated to proceed upon anything without due preliminary remarks.—You may perhaps have observed that in the simple process of eating radishes I never begin at the root but constantly dip the little green head in the salt—that in the Game of Whist if I have an ace I constantly play it first. So how can I with any face begin without a dissertation on letter-writing? Yet when I consider that a sheet of paper contains room only for three pages and a half, how can I do justice to such a pregnant subject? However, as you have seen the history of the world stamped as it were by a diminishing glass in the form of a chronological Map, so will I “with retractile claws” draw this into the form of a table—whereby it will occupy merely the remainder of this first page—
Folio—Parsons, Lawyers, Statesmen, Physicians out of place—ut—Eustace—Thornton—out of practice or on their travels.
Foolscap—1. Superfine—Rich or noble poets—ut Byron. 2. common ut egomet.
Quarto—Projectors, Patentees, Presidents, Potato growers.
Bath—Boarding schools, and suburbans in general.
Gilt edge—Dandies in general, male, female, and literary.
Octavo or tears—All who make use of a lascivious seal.
Duodec.—May be found for the most part on Milliners’ and Dressmakers’ Parlour tables.
Strip—At the Playhouse-doors, or anywhere.
Slip—Being but a variation.
Snip—So called from its size being disguised by a twist.
I suppose you will have heard that Hazlitt has on foot a prosecution against Blackwood. I dined with him a few days since at Hessey’s—there was not a word said about it, though I understand he is excessively vexed. Reynolds, by what I hear, is almost over-happy, and Rice is in town. I have not seen him, nor shall I for some time, as my throat has become worse after getting well, and I am determined to stop at home till I am quite well. I was going to Town to-morrow with Mrs. D. but I thought it best to ask her excuse this morning. I wish I could say Tom was any better. His identity presses upon me so all day that I am obliged to go out—and although I intended to have given some time to study alone, I am obliged to write and plunge into abstract images to ease myself of his countenance, his voice, and feebleness—so that I live now in a continual fever. It must be poisonous to life, although I feel well. Imagine “the hateful siege of contraries”—if I think of fame, of poetry, it seems a crime to me, and yet I must do so or suffer. I am sorry to give you pain—I am almost resolved to burn this—but I really have not self-possession and magnanimity enough to manage the thing otherwise—after all it may be a nervousness proceeding from the Mercury.
Bailey I hear is gaining his spirits, and he will yet be what I once thought impossible, a cheerful Man—I think he is not quite so much spoken of in Little Britain. I forgot to ask Mrs. Dilke if she had anything she wanted to say immediately to you. This morning look’d so unpromising that I did not think she would have gone—but I find she has, on sending for some volumes of Gibbon. I was in a little funk yesterday, for I sent in an unseal’d note of sham abuse, until I recollected, from what I heard Charles say, that the servant could neither read nor write—not even to her Mother as Charles observed. I have just had a Letter from Reynolds—he is going on gloriously. The following is a translation of a line of Ronsard.
Love pour’d her beauty into my warm veins.
You have passed your Romance, and I never gave in to it, or else I think this line a feast for one of your Lovers. How goes it with Brown?
Your sincere friend