Letter 1: Wilde to Tafani, 15 April 1877
15 APRIL, 1877
My dearest Signore Tafanito,
How I wish you had been able to undertake this trip with me. How much I should have valued your eyes, your guidance, in this country of your glorious ancestors. I know only too well that you would best the commentary that my nevertheless much-respected Mahaffy offers me. Your blood would be stirred, as mine is. The place is a museum to him, but a beloved relic to me.
I have been long alert to the possibility that, as in Hawthorn [sic], certain exemplars of the Italian population, man and other, might still roam modern Rome. The prospect excites me particularly when it comes to Rome and that city-within-a-city, La Cittá del Vaticano [sic]. As you know, I have a theory about churchmen—to be concealed from the Reverend Professor, who may be exempted by that latter title—and their visual appeal: that derives from always repeating until eighty that which they learnt to say at eighteen, and so keeping their appearance unspotted. I hope that my wandering in the Vatican will provide further confirmation of that theory.
As I wrote to you from our first stop in Genoa, the Faun continues to fascinate, and I have begun in earnest my project of revising it such as one who was familiar with the subtle pleasures and histories of our blessed Europe might have written it. The long journeys have allowed me ample time. I enclose the first few chapters for your criticism. Be kind, but frank!
I must say that the Faun itself—I should properly, I think, call it Satyr, as it arrives to us from Greece—strikes me as far closer to a youth than any Faun worthy of the name ought. I spent almost twenty minutes considering it from all angles, and I fear that Mahaffy and the other visitors to that chamber thought me rather gone. But it is the very embodiment of the metaphor that teasing gentlemen use for their young friends, colleagues and admirers; the statue seems on the cusp of final transition into manhood, as though his ears might day by day round according to his throat and chin, the voluptuousness simply not yet having reached them, despite it having reached those curls. It is a parable whose moral has not yet been spoken, and at which I tremble to guess.
Do write to me your thoughts.
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