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The Faun of Rome: A Romance

by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nate Maturin

Nate Maturin, Author

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Letter 2: Tafani to Wilde, 18 April 1877

18 April, 1877

Jesus College, Oxford

Dear Oscar,

Thank you for your letter. You and the Reverend Professor appear to be having a jolly time, my absence notwithstanding. I am sure Mahaffy is proving a more able guide than I could have hoped to, having been kept apart from my native land for so long. The pressures of my manuscript are rather severe right now, and those of the impending start of term. It is a gentle relief to have your letters and share in in some small part of your travels, although I pray that you do not allow the Eternal City to enchant you for too long. 

I am not sure that I can agree with you about Praxiteles’s Faun, although your previous assessment of Hawthorne’s novel did, to my mind, do that piece of ART all the justice it deserves. It seems to me that the statue represents precisely the animal nature of the Faun or Satyr that so many other renderings exaggerate to the very edge of hateful hyperbole. The furred legs and cloven feet displayed in portraiture exaggerate to avoid the risk of their figures being misunderstood—a problem that was at no point shared by paintings nymphs or nereids or the like. Praxiteles goes precisely far enough but no further.

Allow me once more to say that I cannot quite admire your proposal to re-render Hawthorne’s tale, although I am most grateful for your copy of your first endeavours. I fear that the effort as a whole may be a sore waste of your talents, however; your greatest genius lies still, and I suspect always, in your poems. The poem suggested to you by Ravenna, for instance, seems to me to suggest the skill and wit of which you are capable, if you apply yourself to that form with all the will of your genius. To weigh yourself down with prose, and the fretting over commas for grammar’s sake, rather than their own, would be a leap into middle-age before you have even reached your prime of youth. 

I should be so interested to hear your thoughts about La Città, which I have not visited since I was a boy. Do write, and send a photograph if you are able. 


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