Enclosure – Rough draft of letter to Desmond Flower from RG

La Chevrie par Boisgervilly
Laura Riding is not very well at the moment[RG] and since she wishes your letter to be answered promptly has asked me to answer it for her; and[RG] I have some things to say myself at the end. She says that she is sorry that her letter put you in a mood to write as you did: there was nothing in her letter or in her feelings as she wrote it to earn a sarcastic answer. She regarded it as reasonable that she should pay any extra advertising expenses not covered by the usual allowance for a book of poems, and did not expect you to take it amiss that an author should take such an active interest in the sale of her books [I am myself lazy in this respect, I confess.] As for New Verse she would not have described it as a scurrilous rag to you had she thought
that you would not have instantly agreed – in respect of the scurrilities it has contained against Michael Roberts, Edith Sitwell1 and others besides herself[RG]. Why she suggested that Grigson should be sent a copy for a testimonial was that he had been blowing hot & cold about her work[RG] and she wished him to commit himself definitely: a vulgar insult from Grigson carries negative[RG] weight among the decent-minded. ×××× [crossed out] [I may add[RG] that she should have been put in the ×××× [indecipherable] because a few months[RG] a year or so[RG] before he had ×××× [indecipherable] successfully[RG] grovelled to her when a charge was pending against him for publishing[RG] sending her[RG] publishing[RG] an obscene libel] which would have cost him his job at the Morning Post] she ×××× let him off][RG]2
As for 'significant artist.' You quote the Norton [RG]3 O.E.D [Oxford English Dictionary] for an abridgement [RG]in explanation. The O.E.D. [Oxford English Dictionary] is not a dictionary so much as a corpus of precedents in the[RG]: current, obsolete, cant,[RG] cataphretic4 and nonce-words are all included. It is[RG] The expressed
view th[RG] of the Editors is[RG] that 'words cannot be put into strait-waistcoats.' and[RG] If you consult a desk much shorter phone table [RG] dictionary which makes rather considerably[RG] more effort than the ×××× [crossed out] abridged O.E.D. [Oxford English Dictionary] [RG] to define distinguish[RG] the current[RG] ×××× [indecipherable] meanings of words — Cassells [RG] Messrs Cassell's dictionary for example for examp [RG] — you will find no encouragement given to 'artist' except as applied to the one who practices[RG] a fine-arts[RG] ×××× [indecipherable] or[RG] a manual[RG] craft, or to who gives[RG] theatrical performances. The phrase significant artist'[RG] Nothing is said there about poetry.[RG] A poet is a poet; an artist is an artist; and though I have[RG] a musician is[RG] a musician ×××× [indecipherable] (not either[RG] an artist or a poet.) ×××× [indecipherable] ....You fence; if you are fence[RG] a good fencer the[RG] well you would surely prefer to[RG] regard yourself as a good swordsman rather than as[RG] an ×××× [indecipherable] artist with the foils? You enjoy bull-fights —[RG] Bull-fighters have the same [RG] (the real ones)[RG] — not the Barreras and Carniceritos) prefer to be toreros 5 to[RG] rather than artistas . As for 'sigficant' — 'significant' when[RG] this adjective[RG] means pointing to cannot [RG] govern[RG] governs[RG] a noun means that it is so absolutely unless the thing of of which[RG]
the noun is a sign is[RG] it implies[RG] some a reference is either expressed[RG] explicit[RG] or implicit. e.g. A look[RG] ×××× [indecipherable] look[RG] significant of ×××× [indecipherable] Fascism[RG]. ×××× [indecipherable] [RG] certain[RG] hate[RG] [RG] the ×××× [indecipherable] dislike[RG] she felt for him[RG]
or: A significant look (one[RG] implying that[RG] the[RG] things not said) wrong ×××× [indecipherable] discretion must[RG] be observed)
A[RG] What a[RG] significant artist is supposed to be[RG] significant of I bet you couldn't tell me offhand; though there is a historical[RG] historical[RG] explanation of the phrase.[RG] is ×××× [crossed out] nobody knows: the phrase ×××× [crossed out] attached to the phrase.[RG] In its cant use it[RG] dates from about 1910-1912 when in[RG] (in the English Weekly[RG] Review6, Chicago Poetry7 & similar journals) it[RG] meant[RG] implied[RG] that there was an artistic[RG] a literary[RG] renascence on the way, the ×××× [indecipherable] ×××× [indecipherable] spirit of which was to be[RG] artistic not[RG] rather than literary. ×××× [indecipherable] ×××× [indecipherable] [RG] This renascence, as you will recall,[RG] never really came off. It's a pity that when we met in London you neither you nor your wife gave [RG] and so the phrase was left high & dry.[RG]
¶ I don't know why you should have this[RG] taken this[RG] crack against my '[RG] modesty: ' vanity[RG] nobody likes to be called names. by the his publishers friends or publishers[RG] [RG] which is no doubt what[RG] you mean by my 'modesty'; ×××× [indecipherable] it is only that I ×××× [indecipherable] prefer not to be incorrectly labelled in[RG] advertisements.[RG] I hope that you have no secret literary ×××× that[RG] Most writers write compose[RG] their own blurbs & I shall[RG] should[RG] hate people to think that the phrase was ×××× [indecipherable] my testimony choice[RG].[RG]
With best wishes to Mrs Flower & ××××8
Yours sincerely

a reference is either explicit or implicit. eg.
a look significant of dislike she felt for him[RG]
a loo[RG] significant look (one implying things not said)
But 'significant' is ×××× [indecipherable] [RG] applied to[RG] actions and words, not to persons.[RG] What the cant[RG] odd[RG] phrase[RG] 'significant artist' is supposed to be[RG] means or meant[RG] I don't think that you could tell me is[RG] [RG] , could[RG] can[RG] only be fully[RG] explained even by the O.E.D. [Oxford English Dictionary] [RG] by a learned historical[RG] note: that in 1910 a literary renascence was thought to be[RG] on the way, the spirit of which was to be[RG] artistic rather than literary. This renascence never came[RG] was never acknowledged as having arrived[RG] but frequent[RG] the works of[RG] several[RG] writers were held in the years 1910-15[RG] to be significant of its imminent[RG] approach e.g. those of[RG] J. Masefield9, E.M. Forster, James Douglas10 [RG] Ford Madox Hueffer11, Wyndham Lewis12, James Joyce13, Virginia Woolf14. The phrase, by the 1920s[RG] nineteen twenties, had been left high & dry except in Paris and Australia.[RG] (I have looked at[RG] just consulted[RG] the Big[RG] unabridged[RG] O.E.D. [Oxford English Dictionary] including the Supplement and they[RG] have omitted the phrase and[RG] and the[RG] ×××× which we have here and find that they have[RG] it has[RG] no report of this usual[RG] period usage[RG]: we We keep a list of such[RG] must add it to the list we are compiling of O.E.D. [Oxford English Dictionary] [RG] omissions as[RG] we come across them a good many[RG] in the course of the[RG] work on the Dictionary of Exact Definitions[RG] which L.R. is now editing for Dent & Little Browne , and shall add this ×××× your sake to it, to send to Oxford in due course[RG] [RG] But I do not know why my[RG]
questioning of the phrase as applied to myself should have elicited this sarcasm from you about my modesty. Nobody ×××× [crossed out] [RG] I should have thought that you would have understood my point[RG] take[RG] expected you as a non-dictatorial publisher,[RG] to[RG] considered[RG] my objection as one of your authors [RG] as coming from that of ×××× [indecipherable] as[RG] an author of serious standards authors write their own blurbs and it might seem that the phrase was my own.[RG] [RG] less flippantly[RG] as an author[RG] a scrupulous author in a less[RG] less[RG] flippantly.[RG] way – especially since ×××× [crossed out] most [RG] as one of[RG] ×××× [crossed out] authors, in a more friendly way; and since our relations hitherto have been of the friendliest and that[RG] [RG] both[RG] Both[RG] Laura Riding & I have[RG] have had a warm feeling of personal liking for your work & yourself When we met you in London [RG] & have been extremely grateful to you for the great trouble you have taken to make the[RG] each of[RG]our Collected Poems a[RG] really handsome books[RG]. If[RG] there is[RG] Has[RG] some concealed[RG] subsequent [RG] animosity or resentment that[RG] >has [RG] prompted you to write ×××× [crossed out] in this sarcastic[RG] strain?[RG] way? Please let it be this ventilated appear ×××× [crossed out] clearly: to[RG] We hope not.[RG] make us all feel better and[RG] ×××× [indecipherable] Please do your best to clarify the situation which I, for one, find rather distressing[RG] most uncomfortable[RG]
Yours sincerely.

Editorial Notes

1Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell (1887-1964), British poet and biographer eds.
2vertical lines indicate that RG edited out the entire preceding section in square brackets. eds.
3Norton English Dictionary eds.
4cataphoric? eds.
5bullfighters eds.
6English Review (London, 1908-37) eds.
7Poetry (Chicago, 1912-) eds.
8RG has drawn a cross through this page, indicating that he rejected its contents eds.
9John Edward Masefield (1878-1967), poet and novelist eds.
10? eds.
11Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), English novelist and editor; born Ford Hermann Hueffer eds.
12(Percy) Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), artist and writer eds.
13James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882-1941), writer eds.
14(Adeline) Virginia Woolf [née Stephen] (1882-1941), writer and publisher eds.

Hands Referenced

    • Annotation: ink correction
    • Character: regular
    • Ink: black

Places Mentioned

  • Château de la Chevrie

    Montauban-de-la-Bretagne, Brittany, France
    translating as "Venison Castle," La Chevrie was manor of an estate that RG & LR rented with Alan Hodge and Beryl Pritchard during their stay in France in 1938
  • Boisgervilly

    Boisgervilly, Brittany, France
    town near Montauban, France eds.
  • Paris

  • London


People Mentioned

  • Laura

    Riding, Laura
    (1901-91) American poet. Laura Riding (née Reichenthal; then Laura Gottschalk).
  • Michael Roberts

    Roberts, Michael
    Editor; real name William Edward KG; L.R. & R.G. submitted poems for an anthology he was preparing, published by ? Faber & Faber. WG
  • Robert

    Graves, Robert
    [1st person]. (1895-1985). Poet, novelist, essayist, critic, and author of his diary. eds.
  • Desmond Flower

    Flower, Desmond
    associated with Cassell publishers KG
  • Geoffrey Grigson

    Grigson, Geoffrey
    Poet and literary critic C.P. & K.G. Founder and editor of New Verse, a poetry journal (1933-39). eds.
  • E.M. Forster

    Forster, E. M.
    Major 20th-century English novelist (1879-1970). An old friend of Graves' who had recommended him for the post of Professor of English Literature at Cairo, which Graves took up in 1926 (RPG 3).

Organizations Mentioned

  • Cassell and Company Ltd.

    Publishers of Robert Graves' Collected Poems [1938], and the novel Count Belisarius [1938].
  • J.M. Dent & Sons

    Dent, J.M.
    Publishing house founded in 1888 and absorbed by Nicholson in 1988 eds.
  • Little, Brown & Co.

    Little, Brown & Co.
    Publisher in Boston who agreed to take on LR's Dictionary of Related Meanings in 1938 eds.
  • Oxford University Press

    Oxford University Press
    publisher eds.
  • Editors

    Editors of the Graves Diary Project.


    • Title: New Verse [1933-39: a poetry journal]
    • Editor: Geoffrey Grigson
    • Title: Morning Post
    • PubPlace: London
    • Date: 1803-1967