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The Upton Letters   By: (1862-1925)

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THE UPTON LETTERS

By

ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON

aedae muri' eseidon oneirata, koudepo aos.

1905

PREFACE

These letters were returned to me, shortly after the death of the friend to whom they were written, by his widow. It seems that he had been sorting and destroying letters and papers a few days before his wholly unexpected end. "We won't destroy these," he had said to her, holding the bulky packet of my letters in his hand; "we will keep them together. T ought to publish them, and, some day, I hope he will." This was not, of course, a deliberate judgement; but his sudden death, a few days later, gives the unconsidered wish a certain sanctity, and I have determined to obey it. Moreover, she who has the best right to decide, desires it. A few merely personal matters and casual details have been omitted; but the main substance is there, and the letters are just as they were written. Such hurried compositions, of course, abound in literary shortcomings, but perhaps they have a certain spontaneity which more deliberate writings do not always possess. I wrote my best, frankest, and liveliest in the letters, because I knew that Herbert would value both the thought and the expression of the thought. And, further, if it is necessary to excuse so speedy a publication, I feel that they are not letters which would gain by being kept. Their interest arises from the time, the circumstance, the occasion that gave them birth, from the books read and criticised, the educational problems discussed; and thus they may form a species of comment on a certain aspect of modern life, and from a definite point of view. But, after all, it is enough for me that he appreciated them, and, if he wished that they should go out to the world, well, let them go! In publishing them I am but obeying a last message of love.

T. B. MONK'S ORCHARD, UPTON, Feb. 20, 1905.

THE UPTON LETTERS

MONK'S ORCHARD, UPTON, Jan. 23, 1904.

MY DEAR HERBERT, I have just heard the disheartening news, and I write to say that I am sorry toto corde. I don't yet know the full extent of the calamity, the length of your exile, the place, or the conditions under which you will have to live. Perhaps you or Nelly can find time to let me have a few lines about it all? But I suppose there is a good side to it. I imagine that when the place is once fixed, you will be able to live a much freer life than you have of late been obliged to live in England, with less risk and less overshadowing of anxiety. If you can find the right region, renovabitur ut acquila juventus tua; and you will be able to carry out some of the plans which have been so often interrupted here. Of course there will be drawbacks. Books, society, equal talk, the English countryside which you love so well, and, if I may use the expression, so intelligently; they will all have to be foregone in a measure. But fortunately there is no difficulty about money, and money will give you back some of these delights. You will still see your real friends; and they will come to you with the intention of giving and getting the best of themselves and of you, not in the purposeless way in which one drifts into a visit here. You will be able, too, to view things with a certain detachment and that is a real advantage; for I have sometimes thought that your literary work has suffered from the variety of your interests, and from your being rather too close to them to form a philosophical view. Your love of characteristic points of natural scenery will help you. When you have once grown familiar with the new surroundings, you will penetrate the secret of their charm, as you have done here. You will be able, too, to live a more undisturbed life, not fretted by all the cross currents which distract a man in his own land, when he has a large variety of ties. I declare I did not know I was so good a rhetorician; I shall end by convincing myself that there is no real happiness to be found except in expatriation!

Seriously, my dear Herbert, I do understand the sadness of the change; but one gets no good by dwelling on the darker side; there are and will be times, I know, of depression... Continue reading book >>




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