Item 92 - Letter from R. C. Trevelyan to Elizabeth des Amorie van der Hoeven

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TRER/9/92

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Letter from R. C. Trevelyan to Elizabeth des Amorie van der Hoeven

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  • 10 Dec - 12 Dec 1899 (Creation)

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Pension Palumbo, Ravello, preso Amalfi. - Corrects Bessie's Italian for his address. Details of post times. The weather continues to be bad so he has been reading, writing letters, and finishing copying out [Thomas Sturge Moore's] "Danaë". Thanks her for sending on the "Chronicle". Has written for the "Manchester Guardian", as he agrees with it about the [Second Boer] War; its editor [C.P.] Scott was here when he arrived, and he had a long talk with him about the war. The "Guardian" is 'almost the best paper in England, being cosmopolitan'; is encouraged that Scott says he has 'kept most of his public, in spite of his attitude to the war', and that opposition to their policy led to the resignation of the "Chronicle's" editors, rather than public opinion. Hopes Bessie's visit to the dentist went well. Discussion of the lack of interest in romantic love in Sophocles and its treatment by the other ancient tragedians; contrasts this with the way 'almost all the great modern dramatis, Shakespear [sic], Racine, Molière, de Vega etc. fetch their subjects from Venus' archives'. Continues the letter later, after 'scribbling off a severe commentary on some of the obscurities in Moore's "Danaë"' and reading the first chapters of [Joseph Henry Shorthouse's] "John Inglesant", which Mrs Reid lent him this afternoon. Has told her about Bessie and she took a great interest; she is 'a dear old lady, and very kind' to him. Improvises a poem about being a black beetle crawling under Bessie's door to give her kisses.

Returns to the letter next evening; has been outside most of the day, spending the morning in Mrs Reid's garden, though not really able to work, and walking in the afternoon. Hopes to start work in a day or two on another play, not the one he showed Bessie. Has begun his commentary on Moore's "Danaë," but it will take him hours. Tells her to show the photographs his mother sent her to her uncle and aunt. Is touched by what she says about trusting him. Hopes that [Ambrose Hubrecht's] whale 'has been successfully dissected'; disappointed to hear 'he is not going to Utrecht whole, to be stuffed, or bottled.'

Continues the letter next day. Has been reading Chaucer and 'commenting on Danaë's little faults'. Perhaps exaggerated when he said 'modern art scarcely seemed to exist at all', but does feel that modern art is 'on the wrong lines', though 'men like Degas and Puvis de Chavannes and Whistler, and even often Watts and Burne Jones, have done great things'. Would be wrong to persuade himself that bad art was good, and there are times when 'circumstances have made great art difficult or impossible', such as literature in the middle ages. Does not think the Frys' attitude to art is exclusive; they may well be in music, but they know less about that.

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