My Dear Colvin, — Quite impossible to write. Your letter is due today; a nasty, rainy-like morning with huge blue clouds, and a huge indigo shadow on the sea, and my lamp still burning at near 7. Let me humbly give you news. Fanny seems on the whole the most, or the only, powerful member of the family; for some days she has been the Flower of the Flock. Belle is begging for quinine. Lloyd and Graham have both been down with ‘belly belong him’ (Black Boy speech). As for me, I have to lay aside my lawn tennis, having (as was to be expected) had a smart but eminently brief hemorrhage. I am also on the quinine flask. I have been re-casting the beginning of the Hanging Judge or Weir of Hermiston; then I have been cobbling on my grandfather, whose last chapter (there are only to be four) is in the form of pieces of paper, a huge welter of inconsequence, and that glimmer of faith (or hope) which one learns at this trade, that somehow and some time, by perpetual staring and glowering and rewriting, order will emerge. It is indeed a queer hope; there is one piece for instance that I want in — I cannot put it one place for a good reason — I cannot put it another for a better — and every time I look at it, I turn sick and put the Ms. away.
Well, your letter hasn’t come, and a number of others are missing. It looks as if a mail-bag had gone on, so I’ll blame nobody, and proceed to business.
It looks as if I was going to send you the first three chapters of my Grandfather. . . . If they were set up, it would be that much anxiety off my mind. I have a strange feeling of responsibility, as if I had my ancestors’ souls in my charge, and might miscarry with them.
There’s a lot of work gone into it, and a lot more is needed. Still Chapter I. seems about right to me, and much of Chapter II. Chapter III. I know nothing of, as I told you. And Chapter IV. is at present all ends and beginnings; but it can be pulled together.
This is all I have been able to screw up to you for this month, and I may add that it is not only more than you deserve, but just about more than I was equal to. I have been and am entirely useless; just able to tinker at my Grandfather. The three chapters — perhaps also a little of the fourth — will come home to you next mail by the hand of my cousin Graham Balfour, a very nice fellow whom I recommend to you warmly — and whom I think you will like. This will give you time to consider my various and distracted schemes.
All our wars are over in the meantime, to begin again as soon as the war-ships leave. Adieu.
R. L. S.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00