Sign in or register
for additional privileges

The Faun of Rome: A Romance

by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nate Maturin

Nate Maturin, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Letter 3: Wilde to Tafani, 22 April 1877

22 April, 1877

Dear friend,

I must apologize (sic) for the slight delay in <my> writing. I wished to convey to you so many of the little pleasures of my visit to Rome that it has taken me some while to gather them together.

You are very kind to have read my little, hastily scratched out pages, and to pass your gentle judgment of them, although I must persist in my own view of Praxiteles’ work. I suspect you did not have Hawthorne’s original immediately to hand with which to confer, but turn to its pages and see how Hawthorne’s description of that picturesque and spectral model references the Satyr, as a trite distinction from the fair Donatello. As I wrote to you, the sculpture that lies at the heart of all is more properly a Satyr than a Faun, to my way of thinking; so my new phrasing gives rather an added relish to the dichotomy than Hawthorne’s trite ethical schema allows. {Dear Oscar has a fixed idea!} There is an oddity in that fellow’s response to Kenyon that I retained because it suggested a rather curious penchant for the dramatic, although it serves no purpose for that most prosaic of spectres, and it might have improved the mood of the piece to have him refuse to speak at all. But not [sic] matter! My intellectual interest in the dramatic nature of the piece is quite up to matching it. And it provides a rather fascinating moment with which to contrast him with young Kenyon, who I must say is blooming rather forthrightly in my new version here. 

I have already the beginnings of a notion as to how to proceed, so I needs must confess to intending to ignore your good advice a second time, although I shall refrain from showing you any further chapters until I return to gentle Oxford and need not go to the trouble of writing them out twice. Your kind words about my poems suggest that perhaps I overreach, ambitious, in my exploration of this most [illegible NM] of genres. But I find it an excellent exercise in discriminating between the fine and the merely passable, in both prose and in the art of Rome. 

Hawthorne joins with G.G. Ramsay as my guide for this portion of my trip. Although I suspect that I have spent rather more time at the Vatican than did our New-England friend! I find always that to have a literary Virgil is an excellent complement to that of a more prosaic guide. I recall following in Byron’s footsteps around the city of the laguna and to the island of Saint Lazarus, and the Armenian monastery there, and my trip was much improved for that. But to the Vatican, rather than Armenain monks, however, my thoughts continue to turn. I recollect only too well the remarks of dear Hunter, only a few years ago, after his first visit to that holy place after his turn to the bosom of the Mother Church. It is as he describes! {Why does he continue on thus and leave the real gem of his thinking to a final postscript on a leaf of hotel paper?}

Of course, our visits have not been of a solely Religious nature. Our literary forebears call also, with a voice just as sweet and strong. The bas of Keat’s head, however, which we encountered was rather vulgar. I do not think this very ugly thing ought to be allowed to remain. It is a shame that in this city of such great beauty there are objets such as that.


Comment on this page

Discussion of "Letter 3: Wilde to Tafani, 22 April 1877"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path 1877 Correspondence between Oscar Wilde and Arturo Michel Tafani, page 3 of 19 Next page on path