Letter 7: Wilde to Tafani, 2 May 1877
2 May, 1877
My dear Tafani,
I write to you from the home of dear, old, kind Frank Miles, who has offered to provide me with a few days’ respite in town to recover from the rather distressing events in College. I have written as persuasively as was possibly in the circumstances, and I shall leave any final resolution of the matter to the consciences of those officers who so disdained my trip to Greece
While Rome was burning with heat only a few days ago, London still is robed in the clinging mist of tentative spring. The air is fresh, and there is much to be done, if one has the spirit for it. The opening of the new Grosvenor Gallery was a fitting way to pass the time, and Sir Coutts acquitted himself beautifully at last night’s reception. Whistler has done a grand job of the frieze, as I knew he would. He is a fine fellow and has great power, when he chooses to exercise it, rather than invite us to contemplate things tht [sic] are mere ephemera in the night’s sky. The fine scarlet of the damask was thought by some to distract, but I will attest that it did not a jot. Its sumptuous sheen only enhanced the spectacle of the grand occasion.
I acquired a battered but still masterful edition of James’ at the train station on my way down. Few men can rival James’ accomplishments and future promise as a novelist, though, and reading it may provide me with inspiration to continue my project. Having more or less completed Volume 1, I have found myself rather lapsed in enthusiasm, and I have been glad to have Hawthorne as a guide, or else the story would be all conversation. Still, I will not say that I have followed him too closely! There is rather a good deal of excess in his piece, as though he were paid by the word, and so chose to record the rowdy behaviour of artists on a moonlight stroll, so much like that of newly sent-up boys who stand beneath the windows of masters and call to rouse them before running away.
You may be right, and this caprice of mine might have produced little more than a prose writing exercise undertaken by an intended poet. Perhaps it is the sort of thing that you might suggest to future students of composition! I should be happy to let you have my manuscript for teaching materials.
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