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. When one lies awake in the morning, before the nerves are braced by contact with the wholesome day; when one has done a tiring piece of work, and is alone, and in that frame of mind when one needs occupation but yet is not brisk enough to turn to the work one loves; in those dreary intervals between one's work, when one is off with the old and not yet on with the new—well I know all the corners of the road, the shadowy cavernous places where the demons lie in wait for one, as they do for the wayfarer (do you remember?), in Bewick, who, desiring to rest by the roadside, finds the dingle all alive with ambushed fiends, horned and heavy-limbed, swollen with the oppressive clumsiness of nightmare. But you are not inexperienced or weak. You have enough philosophy to wait until the frozen mood thaws, and the old thrill comes back....