The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2016, Volume 37
A Transnational Literary Network Around 1900: The Correspondence between Laurence Binyon and Olivier-Georges DestréeEdited by Eloise Forestier, Gero Guttzeit, and Marysa Demoor
Letter 2: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Dearest friend. Your letter gave me much pleasure because your arrival here seems almost a certainty. And to make quite sure of it I hasten my answer to your letter with precise details. You have quite enough with 20 pounds and even more than enough as you will see. The return journey with an excursion in Pisa or even more excursions if you take a circular ticket costs I believe about 10 pounds – no more. You will then have 10 pounds left. That is 250 frcs. You will find here on the Piazza del Duomo in front of the Giotto Campanile – the nardini pension where I have often stayed and whose price is 5 fcs a day service included – so 2 weeks adds up to 70 frcs - a generous reckoning, with coffees and museum entrance fees, may amount to let us say 100 frcs for your two weeks here – you still have 150 frcs left for excursions – Now if at Nardini you only pay for lodgings and breakfast as I used to do and if you dine in the best restaurant in Florence at Mellini, which is more entertaining and which I was doing only a few weeks ago – I reckon that it will be a little bit more expensive with 150 instead of 100 frcs. But even in that case you still have 100 frcs left over – which you may devote to going on excursions, with me I hope. So you are coming – dear Laurence – and the dream we had made up of being reunited over here will then become true. The only thing I will ask if it is possible for you would be to move up your journey; if you can it would be better for me; but if it is not possible for you it doesn’t matter. I am happy to know you are at work on a big poem and I hope the final result will be as beautiful as the 4 verses that you sent me and that are so clear and evocative. As to me I have been working for the last week on my poem of the Three Wise Men which I told you about in England I believe. I left the centre of Florence for a more peaceful place and have moved into this quiet and charming little apartment 77 via niccolo Machiavelli (Florence) – at the foot of the hills of San Domenico and Fiegoli. When you will come all the flowers will be in bloom and it will be the best time to see this wonderful city. My poem, which swells in my mind to the size of an entire volume, will be I hope at least half the size, and I will be delighted to read you here some chapters from it and hear your opinion. Now I must get back to work because half the morning has already gone by and I work the most regularly from 10 to 5. So dear Laurence see you soon, that is here, we will converse at our ease and resume our strolls and excursions together. My best wishes to you and Image. O. Georges Destree About Image and since we spoke business or money at the beginning of this letter – when you see him ask him please if one of the volumes I suggested to him would suit Elkin Matthews. Image will explain to you what it is about. You will then be able to see for yourself if such a volume could please Matthews and if you do so, I will ask you to suggest it to him yourself and tell me when you write back what Matthews will have answered. Thank you very much O. GD PS Horne is well, working a lot and his volume on Botticelli will be I think a model of its kind.
Letter 3: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 4: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
10 June 1986 Ixelles to 25 Great College Street 12 rue Van Elewyck B. Carissime Dunque Sono tornato a casa, and I have found here your letter and the letter that makes me Hon[orary] Memb[er] Of the B.F.A.C. I wrote to Ionides and to Virtue Tebbs to thank them – Alas my dear friend we have had the same disappointment when we came back, your poem was refused at Ox[ford] and mine was refused here because my volumes were not accepted in the contest under the pretense that they did not fit the subject matter of the contest. Good humbugs all of them! But it does not matter. I envy you dear friend for having finished your poem whereas I still need many months of work on mine. I was 9 days at the Chartreuse before I left Florence and I have fortunately worked well over there, I managed to introduce the beautiful legend of Barlaam in my poem and combine it in a successful way I think with the story of Father Damian. Going to London? It is unfortunately out of the question – added to the fact that I have no money I must get back to work, hopefully on a regular basis, next week. But you know that you made me a solemn promise to come here by autumn. Your room is already made and expecting your arrival. Horne should go back to London at the end of the month and everyone was well in Fl[orence]. Best wishes G.
Letter 5: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
17 June 1896 Ixelles 25 Great College Street Thank you very much my dear friend. Such a pretty little edition you have sent me and it will fit well next to the Golden Treasury, the Coleridge, the Byron and the Landor that you have given me. I have just finished reading the preface and am very happy to have it because all I need to do now is translate it to have a decent introduction to my translations, but he is quite right in saying that the comments he makes in this preface – are made for young scholars – and not as evidence that he always follows his own rules. For the criticism he formulates against Keats’ Isabella is valid but would have been all the more valid had it been against The Scholar Gipsy, The Strayed Reveller, Tristram, and all those poems that I however appreciate so much, as you know. I have read a very beautiful one that I didn’t know in this edition – Philomela – I would be grateful to you again for a postcard. OG.
Letter 6: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
29 June 1896 Ixelles to Great College Street My dear Laurence. Thank you so much for all that you have tried on my behalf with Seel: about Fra A[ngelico] I have been waiting day after day to thank you because I was expecting a letter from Seeley but nothing came. So I consider the case closed and with all my heart I thank you for having tried to make it succeed. It did not materialize also because I have had a bad spell for the last two weeks. I have told you already have I not that I didn’t receive the prize I was hoping for either, and the worst thing is that my work has been very bad during all that time. But a new week is starting now – I feel more confident and of course the tide will turn. I have forgotten Taras Bulba by Gogol again – I will have it sent to you at my next outing. And Mayer, don’t we have any news? And the bicycle? Mine has come back: it is the only thing I enjoyed these days. You must come several days in September, for a week if possible. There are some charming rides to do by bicycle around Brussels. G.
Letter 7: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 9: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
12 Aug 1896 Ixelles to Binyon chez Pye Cliff Cottage Dear friend. Dunque. Do not send me a volume of Blake but if you can find a cheap edition of Keats’s letters in a single volume I would be very happy to receive it – because I translated with great enthusiasm the Odes – a part of the sonnets and a few odd pieces such as: la Belle dame sans merci – and The Imitation of Spenser – but I was greatly disappointed when I translated the Song "O Sorrow – why dost borrow ?" etc Do you find it very beautiful? I hope there are some much more beautiful things in Endymion? For to be honest I don’t see him at all in those easy rimes and general chaos. (PS you must tell the truth, I will be very interested to know if you like that song by Endymion) And I would like you to point out two things to me in a postcard: 1. the most beautiful excerpt(s) from Endymion that could be parted from the poem 2. The most beautiful or the two most beautiful prose dialogues by Landor. Because my translation is in prose, I see no reason after all why we should not make an exception in his favour – especially as Landor (of which I am most pleased) is considered by poets as a true poet and particularly for his prose poetry. I have added the charming poem Lewti to my Coleridge. Regards to lord Bollicini. G.
Letter 10: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
14 Aug 1896 Ixelles to Great College Street Ne cherche jamais à dire ton amour L’amour qui ne peut jamais être dit Car ce zéphyr charmant se meurt Silencieux et invisible Je dis mon amour, je dis mon amour Je lui dis tout mon cœur Tremblant, transi, en de craintes mortelles Hélas ! Elle partit ! Tôt après qu’elle m’avait quitté Un voyageur arriva Silencieux, invisible Il la prit avec un soupir ! That is dear friend the little poem by Blake that I told you about, I will also translate the Infant Joy and the Cradle Song from the Golden Treas[ury] (also To the Muses) but it is not enough. I will need at least a dozen of these little pieces. You are right dear friend, I know very little about Devonshire and I ask nothing better than to admire it but I will always prefer the blue sky and the country’s wealth of master pieces, its fill of memories of Saints and unequalled artists and superb provinces – to any other country. But after this holy land, you know well that like you it is the south of England that I prefer. These days I also reread, after having translated Keats (the Odes), your "I have too happy been" it is a charming piece that I had at first – mea culpa – read very foolishly. I will reread your 2 volumes before your arrival and will be better prepared to give you my opinion about them. Regards. G I have translated Mutability very beautiful except the awful pleonasm in the 2 first verses – PS fortunately the last one makes up for the whole thing.
Letter 12: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
22 Aug 1896 Ixelles 25 Great College Street Dear Laurence thank you very much but really it is too much I will never dare ask you for anything anymore. I am very happy to have both books because I really enjoy these "imaginary conversations". I will read with great pleasure Epicurus and Leontion but will not translate it - because with what I have already translated it would be too long. I translated today the very pretty story of Enallos and Cymodamelia. I will translate the Hamadryad again I think and would like to finish with Rose Aylmer and some of the short poems at the end of the volume. But Rose Aylmer’s charm is mostly in the words and it is difficult to give their equivalent. In the meantime I have read in the Havelock Ellis edition the life of the very entertaining Walter Savage (Savage indeed) and was very amused at the story of the cook and the violets – it is a pity we haven’t known this good old Savage, we would have been good friends. And lastly, thank you for the 3 Blakes that are charming and that I rehearse with as much strong feeling as I used to rehearse Omar Khayyam’s verses in Florence and thank you for Emily Brontë whom I discovered with interest this morning through the poems you pointed out and the poems and the notice written by her sister. The verses are charming, but to my mind what you like so much about her is mainly your love for Devonshire landscapes. What I mean is that you project yourself a little in your reading. Also reread London Nights. The 1st poem August – The Escape are very good the Impressions are also suggestive of light and especially London noise or any other big city. Regards You must come at least for 8 days on the 20th.
Letter 13: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Sept 2nd 1896 Ixelles to 25 Great College Street "Blake was the first to revive the lost lyric art of the Elizabethans" I do not quite understand what you mean by that dear Laurence. I suppose you are referring to a specific type of "Lyric" – because in the Golden Treasury that you gave me there are, if I am not mistaken, three parts – first those very poets of the time of Elizabeth – then a second part in which Blake is in himself but in which others who were there before him have also written "Lyrics". And then have not Dryden and Milton, who came after Elizabeth and before Blake also written "Lyrics"? There is here something that my ignorance of English poetry does not permit me to understand. Would there be an affordable Blake edition with a very good preface which would explain Blake’s distinction in this? If it does not exist you will explain it to me when you come but what I would like for the time being is, if you can spare the time, for you to leaf through a Blake collection and find one or two beautiful poems (2nd card) or poem excerpts somewhere in his work. Is there really nothing good in Hell’s book or in his other long poems? I translated yesterday - tiger tiger – a cradle song. An Infant Joy – To the Muses – How Sweetly I roamed (How sweet I roam’d) etc. ah Sunflower – I was angry with my friend.It is very good. But as you can understand poems lose a lot of their quality in French and it is rather unsatisfactory! – the most beautiful is the one you sent me – Sweetly I roamed – If I had three or four like that one I would be happy. I should not have asked you to copy them in poems. I had forgotten that I had a n° of the portfolio composed by Richard Garnett in which I found them. I finished Matthew Arnold yesterday, it includes 1 The Strayed Reveller 2 a fragment of the 1st poem of Tristram – 3 Iseult of Brittany 4 The Church of Brou (3rd part) 5 Dover Beach 6 Self Dependence. I will endeavour to include one or two verses from Thyrsis and the Scholar Gipsy in my literary notice – I have now finished Byron. Wordsworth. Coleridge. Keats. Tennyson. Landor (very good translation!) D.G. Rossetti. Swinburne and Shelley almost. I still need to finish Browning – of which I do not know at all what to translate – then do Emily Brontë and Christina [Rossetti] and finish Blake. I would like to have finished all my translations for your arrival so we can go over them together – or at least some passages together and we can discuss the notices that I still need to write.
Letter 15: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Sept 4th 1896 Ixelles to 25 Great College Street No! No! Don’t send me a Blake’s edition with a bad preface. The preface is all I want. If you see Johnson tell him that his mysterious and wild bardic Friend Yeats ought to send me, not his large book on Blake – but a study, an essay as he is sure to have written one and as he - Yeats- promised me once to do. You begin to understand quite well what a good thing is a postcard and the lot you can write on it. Everything you have told me about Blake is clear and you include Dryden and Milton in the Elizabethans – and if you put Burns aside – then I understand very well without any other explanation what you were telling me. If I ask for an essay on Blake it is to have details about these literary works. Rest assured, our holidays will not be compromised by the inspection of my work. Everything will be settled for it to be over – for our discussions it is another thing and while we stroll and eat and smoke I will interview you about the Lyrists but you like them well enough for it to be pleasant for you. I am translating Browning – I have found out the reason why I dislike him – he is a virtuoso, a man of taste and a scholar, an artist, a playwright, but not that which is so difficult to define and is a "Lyrist" – non è vero? Next week I will devote to Christina and Emily [Brontë]. Then I will review the whole – annotate it and I will wait for our discussions before I write my critical notices. As you speak so clearly about Blake, could you give me an explicit, precise and conclusive definition of a lyrist – it is difficult to say because Browning who has written drama is not a lyrist. Aeschylus, Shakespeare, through their dramas only are lyrists. What is a lyrist? I eagerly anticipate your next p. card. But what is this new book you are speaking of – the one you are writing at Florence. Landor’s book is really very well made. You can congratulate him on my behalf if he still remembers me.
Letter 17: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Sept 14 1896 Amsterdam to Hotel Doelen Amsterdam [in red, hasty] have written at Krasnopolsky that I am expecting you tomorrow Tuesday at 11.8 in the evening at Bruxelles nord – inside the station – on your arrival platform – near the locomotive!
Letter 19: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
25 Sept 1896 Ixelles to Great College Street My dear Laurence. If you are happy with what you have seen I am certainly as happy to have seen it again with you and that my two favourite parts of Belgium, the pious and silent Bruges and the Meuse (which I refrain from commenting upon, in deference to your poem – that I will delight in reading) pleased you and inspired you with poems. When I got back I looked in vain for Keats’s poem in the two editions I have at home. When you come back to Bruges bring it along, we will read it as we go in a canoe along one of the sleeping canals. The book – very gorgeous – I received yesterday is perfect and will be very useful to me – if you would be kind enough when you are at the British to copy out the notices relevant to – Bowning, Arnold, and Christina it would be perfect – what I mean by notices – only 4 or 5 lines of biographical information – for those 3 poets – with the notices I have concerning them – it will be more than enough. I have already written to Seeley – I told him we were in Bruges together – that you had hired (!) me to write a book on Bruges and that you were kind enough to promise me to go to him, Seeley, to explain how it could be interesting. I have also sent a little poem – a bad one – to the Pall Mall G[azette] and I have resumed work today thanks to your book – very happy with my holidays and thanking you most sincerely for having come. Yours. G.
Letter 20: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
29 Sept 1896 Ixelles to Great College Street Scott. Moore. Campbell. Hood. Lamb. Wolfe. And even E. Barett [Browning] Scott’s Melrose Abbey – the pride of youth – The maid of neidpath – moore Dear Harp of my country – the young may moon – At the mid Hour of Night. Echo. Oft in the stilly night E.B.B Two sonnets from the S[onnets] F[rom] the Portuguese Wolfe The burial Of SJ Moore to Mary Campbell. Ye mariners of England and Hohenlinden (« far flashed the red artillery » very fine work) Lamb the old familiar faces. Parental recollections Hood I remember I remember – The death bed. And even Samuel Rogers the Sleeping Beauty A Wish and 10 lines from Italy. That is definitely all now. I am happy I added these names because Campbell, Moore, Lamb, Wolfe and Hood deserve to be there and it is complete from the point of view of the public with the addition of Scott, E.B.B. and Rogers who are poor poets – I have started to translate all these people for the notices bored me so much I will work on them today because I intend to start on other tasks after the 15th, on which date I hope this anthology will be entirely done – When was Swinburne born? – if you could also give me 4 or 5 lines (no more) on him it would be perfect. Why did you say in a postcard that you though I wouldn’t like Campbell? – on the contrary I like it – it is heart-warming and I recite those words gesturing wildly as if I had myself performed all the deeds. Do read in the same Heroic line the poem by V.H. that I told you about. The poem I am referring to is in the 1st volume of the Légende des Siècles and is entitled Aymerillot. The verse at which I would always stop, being unable to continue, is at the end of Aymerillot’s speech "mais tout le grand ciel bleu" etc. Do not read anything else in the volume – apart from the Chevaliers Errants. Regards O.G.D.
Letter 21: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
2 Oct 1896 from Ixelles, Brussels 25 Great College Street You are the most charming of friends and the best of young English poets. The poem you have sent me is very beautiful and I would translate it easily if I could include you in my anthology – but it will be for another edition – in which I will be both pleased and proud to give you a central stand. I wished for the dedication you gave me – I am very happy to have it and send you my most heartfelt thanks. You are quite right to think of that pretty fragment from Keats – reminiscent of Bruges – I will endeavour to find a small place for him – for Scott – as well, you were right to point out to me the two pieces of work, which are far better, to my mind, to those I have translated – but what kept me from translating the 1st one is that I didn’t know if in Donuil Dhu, Dhu was a proper noun –as he writes further on Clan with a capital C I thought that Dhu might be a qualifier – is it a proper noun? And Coronach, which is the best verse of all – I did not translate it because I do not know what Coronach means and what it has to do with Duncan. I wrote half of my preface yesterday and hope to have finished it by today or tomorrow – that was the most difficult – the notices will go quickly and I am finally able to catch my breath. The weather is more beautiful since 2 days. I will resume my sonnet!
Impossible to put everything on a single card! I wanted to tell you that I cannot go to London because I have neither time nor money – and especially not time – the anthology is a useful volume though it is but a hobby – I will not be happy until I have finished it. It is my poem that I will resume as soon as the anthology is done – but I was thinking this morning that we should nonetheless see each other more often – and we could do it if not every month at least every other month for a day. According to the guide a train leaves Charing Cross at 5.35 p.m. and arrives at Bruges at half past midnight. We could both stay at the Panier d’Or and spend the whole of Sunday together. So as soon as you can write to me and I will go to Bruges – when we will have had enough of Bruges – we could go to the sea – and we could also see each other more often by each going half the way towards the other. The 2 addresses are Mlle Evrard 12 etc. – and madame Marie Destrée- chemin des Hauchies. Marcinelle – Charleroi. As soon as I find a publisher I will tell him about Walker’s idea. Thank you very much. And finally, thank you for the biographies – when you will have sent me the six proper lines on Christina you shall be free! Regards to H[erbert]P[ercy]H[orne] X.S.I
Letter 23: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Oct 5 1896 From Ixelles to 25 Great College Street My dear Laurence thank you for your postcard received this morning. Before anything else let me congratulate you on your red ink – quite beautiful and do tell me where it came from when you write next – thank you for the biographies and the indications I asked for. I will translate Coronach and Donuil Dhu. The announcement of a photograph of Rossetti is a fascinating thing to me – I still admire him immensely – and no modern painter has yet matched those feelings. I will write to Jackson as soon as I receive it. I suppose you have seen Seeley? And that he has told you that he would write to me what he did write, that is that Bruges would not be a success – it has troubled me – and somewhat compromised my voyage to Italy – but not in the least discouraged – I have nearly finished writing the preface I was worrying about – the notices will go fast and I can then go back to my poem. I read all day today a large biography on Emily B. by Mary Robinson and I found the analysis of her novel very interesting. I will take it from my cousin’s bookcase next week – the topic reminded me of the strange topics – from the strange Britannic author I told you about in Marcinelle: Barbey d’Aurevilly I have not forgotten about the name I promised I would send you – but have been out so little! When I next go out I will send it.
Letter 24: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 26: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Oct 7 1896 Bruxelles to 25 Great College Street My dear Laurence. Thank you for the journals and indications about Morris. We agree about what you say of him as a poet and on the pieces that should be translated. I want to write this article because what I loved (?) about him was the ideal craftsman that he was. I will send you the article when it is published. About what you tell me of Mr. Garnett – it gives me great pleasure (because of the house in London) – I have incidentally found out about this translation by Mr Angellier and I think that Mr Garnett’s recommendation could be very useful to me with Hachette who remain my dream editors. So if Mr Garnett would be kind enough to write a letter of introduction for me for Mr Angellier I will write or call on him to ask if there is a way I could reach Hachette – and if not Hachette another – please thank Mr Garnett on my behalf and believe me, dear friend – yours eternally grateful – thank you for Seeley as well of course and do not worry anymore. I have received the beautiful Shoolbread Miss Evrard is "aux anges" (a pretty expression which you do not have [in English]) and is very grateful to you.
Letter 28: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Oct 17 1896 Brussels to 25 Great College Street My dear Laurence. I received this morning your letter with Garnett’s letter enfolded. And thank you very much for it. I had not written to acknowledge receipt of your postcard because it said "Garnett is writing" so I waited from day to day to tell you at the same time that I received the letter. I have been very busy all week writing my article on Morris for the next issue of the Mercure de France it is only half done but I hope to have finished by tomorrow or Monday and I am rather pleased about it. I will write to Angellier as soon as I have finished the article that they are expecting at the Mercure and I have already written to Mr Garnett to thank him. Next week I will resume my preface that I have rewritten – because I would like to explain two things – how the taste for English literature came to France 2. The main differences between the two poems. It has never been properly explained and is not an easy task. Thus I presume that I will only have finished the anthology by the end of the month. And you, what have you been up to and why are you so "hurried"? Thank you for the ink and maple.
Letter 29: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
20 Oct 1896 Brussels to 25 Great College Street (part of the post card has been torn away) Each time I write to you I must start by saying "thank you" I do not complain – quite the opposite I admire your considerate kind-heartedness and pointlessly wish I could be useful to you in turn. Dunque let me first answer your card. Angellier I will write to him this morning – I went to see his two books on Burns at the library yesterday. The work is remarkably well done exhaustive and well written. I had found (…) address on his book thank you. Smith: yes, yes he paid me when I was (…) as much as he told me he would but sufficiently – I wanted precisely with you (…) for them – and now for me – the honour of being received at the British to give you the letters of (…)–[Sé]verin and also a volume by Goffin (Arnold) le fou raisonnable – at Alexandre (…) librarian in Brussels. Giraud. Pierrot lunaire. (Lemerre Paris) Pierrot narcisse. Comédie fiabesque (in verse) Hors du Siècle - 2 volumes – Les dernières fêtes –all published by Lacomblez Bruxelles Séverin – le don d’enfance. Un chant dans l’ombre Lacomblez (…) –ter buy also the Goffin if possible. His collection is one of the best collections of prose poems that I know. He has only sold three! I think. Is very ill. And to know that the British has accepted his book would be for him a little pleasure I would be glad to have contributed to – I have written a good article – better at least than those on him that I have seen – for the next Mercure de France. There will be a special issue I think. I will probably add one or two beautiful poems by Morris – translated – and some reproductions (…) to his work that will make for an amusing "presentation". I have read the Saturday Review and the Athenaeum at the Library without finding the article mentioned by H[erbert]P[ercy]H[orne] which I found amusing as it made me believe that once again it had come too late! With my warmest regards. G.
Letter 30: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
9 Nov 1896 from Brussels monsieur Olivier Gerry, 25 Great College Street Westminster (crossed out) Laurence Binyon, The British Museum Do you think, dear friend, that I am dead? One could have thought so as I haven’t been communicating for so long, this silence is due to my expecting until now and wishing to impart to you an answer from Angellier, that devil of a man – to whom I wrote two letters – (specifying well on both envelopes the name and the address) and from whom I received no answer to the point that I wonder if he is not dead! It would be amusing yet also baffling this correspondence with a deceased person. I suppose that in a few days or a few weeks the French post will send me back my letters but what seems certain is that this mischievous man is not in Lille anymore and I do not know where to find out his address. Has his volume of sonnets been published after the "Burns"? If it has I could in that case write to the address that you gave me, but I think his volume of sonnets was published before. Would you believe it my dear friend – I am ashamed to say so – that I will not have finished my volume until the end of the month! I was held up by my article on Morris which appeared in the last issue of the Mercure and that I will send on although it will not be very interesting to you. Then my notices that I believed would be quickly done have taken me a day each – and sometimes as with
Blake’s two to three days. That one is very well done. I summarized well the postcards you sent me about him and after having thought about the Macmillan books that I recommend in my volume I wrote to him to ask if he deems it appropriate to send me the 4 volumes by Humphrey Ward? And with the explanations that I gave him I believe he will send them and I will then be able to send yours back after having kept it for so long. I saw again a volume today that I think is very well done – by a Florentine poet - Domenico Tumiati. I thought I would give you both pleasure by asking him to send you this interesting and poetically inspired volume – and by promising that you would mention it or would have it mentioned by the Saturday Review. So if you are not doing artistic books for the Saturday look through the volume when you get it – then send it on – and recommend it please – to the editor of the Saturday Review – and if possible when ours will have come out – send it please to Domenico Tumiati-Ferrara. I realize that I have forgotten to tell you that the topic of the volume is our dear friend "Fra Angelico" I read yesterday some prose (translated) by Lamb - The South Sea House and Oxford in the Vacation, it is exquisite. As soon as I go out I will buy the Tauchnitz that is about him to read it in English and make him a "good" notice. And you my dear friend, what have you been doing. I hope you will also need two cards to tell me about it and I send you my warmest regards. O.G.D. Could we not meet at Bruges at Xmas?
Letter 31: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
14 Nov 1896 from Brussels 25 Great College Street My dear friend. I have asked the author of "Fra A." to send it to Horne if it had not already been done. If he sends it to you, could you change the address and send it to Horne c/o m. Cantagalli 1 via Michele di Lando. F/T ? One of my Parisian friends whom I begged to see Chailley, the editor, tells me that they do not know any other address for Angellier – found the ones in Lille – to which I had written twice – my friend tells me that he thinks he has seen this Angellier at Heredia’s – and apart from his surely immense talent – he is a shy and blushing little man who does not seem – at first sight – to have any influence with an editor such as Hachette. And now, listen – if I wrote a clear and detailed letter to Garnett explaining in detail the content of the volume (either Garnett or Colvin) do you think one of them might recommend me to Hachette? I also think as my Parisian friend does that the recommendation of a director of the British would have more weight than that of Angellier – supposing he would answer, which seems unlikely. Please advise me on what you deem is the best thing to do. If Garnett is surprised because Angellier has not answered tell him I am all the more puzzled – because I had naturally written a particularly cordial letter to Ang. and I had read his two volumes on Burns to make it all the more flattering. If you think that it is too complicated, do say so freely because I am starting to think that the best thing to do would be to take a train at the end of the month and explain myself to Hachette without further ado. Regards. O.G.D.
Letter 33: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
20 Nov 1896 Ixelles to 25 Great College Street Et [illegible] reinvexit Angellier subtle scholar of Lille university. To my astonishment I received this morning a very gracious letter in which he apologizes for his delay due to his parents’ illness – and in which he proposes to recommend me to Colin which is to his mind better than Hachette. He asks me to send my notebook on Keats that I had offered to send him so he could look at my translations. I will send it to him tomorrow and suggest to go and see him on Sunday to show him all of my work. I hope it will work out but I do not dare speak of when I will be through with my notices as they each take a day or two to finish. And I still have 12 to do! Would you please thank Mr Garnett on my behalf for his kind suggestion of an introduction to Beljame Angellier is evidently better. I will write myself to Garnett to thank him as soon as something is arranged - your Praise of Life is most welcome. I envy you and beg you to forgive me if I do not write anymore today as I am weighed down considerably by all these notices I still have to do. Regards, and till next week. O.G.D.
Letter 35: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Dec 9 ? 1896 Brussels to 25 Great College Street Dear Laurence. Thank you for your card. The arrangements for Italy are perfect and I hope we will be able to tour Tuscany together. – Angellier is dead again, but I suppose I will receive an invitation one of these days to spend a Sunday in Lille. I am not really concerned about it though because I must before anything else finish my notices and my preface and I will be busy at it until Dec 31. You would be most kind and extremely patient as well for how much information have I not asked from you! If you could give me a little more information about Christina Rossetti and Swinburne. One postcard for each would be perfect. But you have time to do so at your convenience because they are the two last poets I will do and I will not need the information for another eight or ten days. I have the list of Swinburne’s work in these volumes, but what would be interesting would be a few details about his life. I am very curious to see your woodcuts because it is the only kind of sculpting that I value. Regards and a thousand apologies for disturbing you again with this anthology. PS I do not think any editor would consent to publish the text in English, considering. But I thought that what I could do is to append one or two original short poems to give an idea of their verse.
Letter 36: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 37: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
11 Jan 1897 Brussels to Great College Street Dear Laurence. I suddenly realized last night that I hadn’t thanked you yet for the interesting Saturday Review issue, very interesting the Rossetti and Horne’s article on Morris. I was very grateful when I received it – belatedly because of the silly Christmas and New Year disturbances and thank you warmly. I remembered at the same time that I have not yet sent you the strange novel by Barbey which I told you about. I ordered it from my librarian, but it will take a little time because it must be sent from Paris – And if you are still busy when you get it don’t read it, keep it for when you have some free time. There is no item of news in the book and I send it to you to keep until your thoughts go back to Emily’s Wuthering Heights. And if you still have time that day read l’Encorcelée there is an interesting analogy between the two minds. Since the 1st of this month my anthology is almost finished and I have resumed my poem on the Wise Men, my progress is very slow but I am very happy to be working at it. I wrote to Angellier ten days ago to ask him to send me a letter of introduction for Hachette and once again there is no answer. I will wait till the end of this week and then write directly to Hachette. How about you? How far are you on your great poem with the "tousled? Clouds". Horne says his mother is writing again on Botticini!!
Letter 39: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
22 Jan 1897 Charleroi to 25 Great College Street Very very very good. I am greatly pleased my dear Laurence that you in turn will lock yourself up for a month for a kind of "anthology" of Norwich poets. At the end of the month you will sympathise all the more with the great misfortune that befell upon me when I took on this Sisyphean task. Your postcard on Norwich is charming and if I come to England this summer we must go there together as you say – finished, my anthology? No. No. Perhaps on the 31st of January will I be rid of it – the camels did not fall in the snow but one of the Wise Men started talking with such loyalty that I simply cannot stop him – he talks at night in the mountains – and every day I must throw more wood over the fire for the people who are listening to him. If he goes on he will burn every pine tree in the mountains, but I have no more influence over him than Mr Speaker would have on a member of the House of Commons and I am resigned to let him have it his way. Angellier is a pig. He never answered my letters and I have now written to my friend Primoli and expect his reply. Certainly at the end of the month the Government will give me an order for the sculptors’ book. It will delay the Rois Mages – and we will thus both be busy at our "great poem" throughout summer. Regards. G.
Letter 41: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 43: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
2 Fev 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Lorenzo. Vi ringrazio molto per tu bellissima copia dei Essays del Lamb, per la leggiadra edizione di Dent & per la sua perfetta incisione in legno. It is really a very good engraving. I do not like the last Strange. But you very cleverly understood the strength and simplicity of the old wood engraving masters. I haven’t had time to read Lamb now but I am delighted to have it by me and at my disposal and delighted with the edition and the portrait – which enchanted and surprised me at the same time because as I was reading Lamb I would always think of Image telling a story! And between Image and Lamb there is at the very least a difference in hairstyle! Do not send any other edition for Lamb, this one is charming and is quite enough for me. I will read with care the bookmarked sonnets by dear Philip Sidney. If I cannot do it at the moment it is because I must finish my notices, my preface and review everything carefully for the 15th, at which date I must send the manuscript to Hachette. Dear Count Primoli to whom I had written in my distress sent a note to Paris immediately and I received a letter from the director of Hachette last Sunday, informing me that they are very willing to see my anthology – The Tyrol, no. It is all German there, but I would be delighted to go with Streatfield to Tuscany since he is your friend and I expect you both in Bruges next month. Regards G. And again, my warmest thanks.
Letter 44: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 45: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
8 Fev 97 Ixelles to Great College Street Samuel taylor. C[oleridge]! I was very happy to see him with the clever look of his eyes and the sensuous indolence of his mouth. – and I think that after all and from this portrait there wasn’t much he could complain about in his personal appearance. As for Keats – it is rather a disappointment – we see so little of him and so much of the horrible chair he is leaning against. I once saw a far better portrait of him in one of Mr Boyer’s collections. We must ask Cust to buy it for the National Gallery – but of course I am very grateful to you because I was delighted to see it – and to know what this portrait by Severin that I so much wanted to see looked like. Yesterday afternoon I read a little of Lamb – Captain Jackson – and amicus redivivus! How funny – I took it last night to my dear Paul Tiberghien so he could admire the fine soft smiling lips – and the eyes - of our dearest Elia and I read Captain Jackson to P Tiberghien and Goffin and they enjoyed it very much. There is only Banville whom I can think of who has written a book of prose so exquisitely witty and charming – but of course with the difference of wit instead of humour. Could you indicate to me the names of the poets whom Walker has photographed? I will enclose both pictures with the manuscript and send it soon to Hachette.
Letter 47: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
11 Mar 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Dear Laurence. Thank you very much for your kind card. I am of those « who make the best of things » I do not lose faith easily – and if I do – it is for a few hours only – and I would keep faith I believe – in any given situation – as long as I can see and hear – for every poet – and for every man our senses are blessed treasures that can last our whole lives – yes – do come to Bruges the 21st or the 28th – it is the same for me – come on the 28th if you prefer – but do come – we will then know precisely what our plans are and agree on what can be altered – We will alter them better over there – than in evanescent correspondence. And we will see each other, and in the old town we will talk for the whole of a long expected day. Is my portrait a woodcut – it looks like a lithograph and I think much better than the first print you have done. I think that you are improving very much. Have you read all the beautiful interviews of king Georgos? I like him very much and hope our friend Ionides and all the keepers of the British are supporting him as much as they can. Ionid: he should lend a boat with voluntary workers and take us to Greece – we could have Image aboard serving as chaplain – and we would be in charge of writing the epic. I am looking again at my portrait – I like it – and thank you very much for it. But don’t forget will you, to send me the address of Walker. Do you think that mayer is still able to speak properly any language after having travelled for prints in so many countries?
Letter 49: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
22 Mar 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Change in sight in my plans! And I would like to say in our plans. I do not have any money to travel to Italy and I could hardly, even if I borrowed some, leave before April 20. I think it is too late to go to Florence this year. The Cantagalli are in mourning for madame’s father who passed away very recently. And especially – spring – which came yesterday, is evolving so quickly and so beautifully that I really do not feel like leaving for the South at the moment. I hadn’t seen spring here for such a long time. With the greening shade of the coppices, buds cracking open at the tip of branches, clusters of blossoming daisies in the lawns, softening skies which
sweetly recall all springs past, everything beckons me to stay up North and witness the refreshing sweetness of flourishing spring. Only I need towns just as you do – and if I remember well we had planned to go to Devonshire and I was wondering if we could spend our holiday there together. What do you think? Perhaps you would rather go to Florence – if you can do both, go to Florence first on your own, and spare a few days to spend with me in Caerleon, Tintagel and over Lyonesse. We will discuss it at any rate on Saturday evening and Sunday at Bruges and these days Bruges will be gorgeous. Could you not stay till Monday evening? At any rate, unless otherwise instructed, I will be waiting for you on Saturday evening at 12.45 in Bruges. I will be inside the station on the platform at your arrival by train, and before you come I will have booked our rooms at the hotel Panier d’Or Grand Place. Write a postcard to tell me it is all fixed.
Letter 52: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
9 May 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Your postcard in [La Lykeion [?] Lacédémonienne] contained 2 good pieces of news for me. The confirmation of our Cornwall excursion ("where Mark is king") and the very pleasant perspective of writing an entertaining book on old Flemish towns. From what you tell me I think the best thing to do would be to set up a little scheme, with a summary of the chapters, and send it to you when it is done. I will do so and send it to you when I am through. If you find the project feasible and likely to be to your friend’s taste, forward my letter to him – or else make the comments which you deem necessary for its acceptance – and after having taken them into account I will send you a revised version. Squire is very pleasant and interesting it is true – but I cannot refrain from considering him a dangerous lunatic – because in our talk he repeatedly said that Florence was "a horrid place"! I still can’t get over it! I have no news of the anthology yet, but I have many things to tell you – but we will soon be able to talk about them and that will be better. A magazine from here is devoting a special issue to my poems on Saints and this will give me work till the end of the month. And then all will be well! I hope they will take it at the Mercure. Regards to Streatfield and even Sq[uire] and thank you for your postcard. G.
Letter 54: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 56: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
23 May 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Sunday morning is undoubtedly a good day because it regularly brings me good tidings in a postcard from London. I was about to write to you, to tell you that Allen could change my scheme however much he wants to. As soon as he writes to me I will let you know what he suggests and would be very happy if "our" scheme would work out. If I am going to Torquay? I will write to my friend today, and I will ask her if she is home during the first days of July and ask her to answer straight back – as soon as I get her reply (this week I presume) I will write to tell you if I will stop at Torquay or not. Yes – it would have been quite delightful to go to Oxford with you and Streatfield - let’s try to go there on our return from Cornwall if we still have some money – please send my regards to Streatfield to whom I will write one of these days to thank him for Nepenthe and soon some indications regarding Allen and Torquay. Regards. G. I saw last week some sights of Montenegro. What a beautiful country – and what a beautiful poem you wrote about it, I have read it again since. G.
Letter 57: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
5 Jun 1897 Ypres to Great College Street I really do not have anything special to tell you – apart from the few days I spent near Ghent and that I am today at Ypres at the Epée Royale hotel – that I have been on a lovely walk on the old ramparts that surround the city – lovely walk that to my mind only has its equal in the walk along the ramparts of Lucca. In both cities the ramparts are taller than the city itself – in such a way that you can see as you walk on your left hand side the city’s towers and picturesque rooftops and on the right hand side a wide stretch of country-side. I thought about you during the whole time of the walk because I am sure you would have enjoyed it very much – with the stagnant water crowded with blooming water lilies gently lapping the walls – and it certainly is beautiful because it makes you neglect the halls and the cathedral despite their splendour – but once you have seen the ramparts there is nowhere else you would rather go.
Letter 59: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
16 June? 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Dear Laurence. Thank you for the letter about Allen – and do not look for anything else for the time being. Let’s go away and on our return from Cornwall we will try something else. Now about our departure – arrange it yourself – I am not at all keen on seeing the Jubilee – it would be better to go straight to Cornwall. Tell me which day I should come. (that day will be the eve of our departure) As soon as you know which day we leave let me know through a letter because I would like to warn my friends in Torquay and be ready as well. Must I take my evening dress for our return from Cornwall? Regards, G.
Letter 60: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
19 Jun 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Understood, I will be there on the 29th and would be happy if you could book me a room for the night because the snobs will not be gone yet at that date and it is always better to make sure we have a gite ahead of time. I will write in a few days to confirm my arrival time. I will write to my friends to warn them of my coming on the 30th in the evening – two days with them – it is perfect and everything is sorting itself out. And if you walk by an agency with some travel literature on Cornwall please send me some – so I can see for myself – and first on a map – where Ruan and Tintagel are. We must gather a collection of marvellous and wonderful legends to animate and glorify the landscapes we will see.
Letter 61: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 62: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
11 Aout 1897 Ixelles to Great College Street Dearest. Thank you very much for the amusing narration of the Adventures of Alice, I read it with great pleasure – and a special thank you for your so charming letter which was sent at the same time as mine on our birthdays. For several years now, on the evening of the Saint Laurent I have watched stars shooting across the sky over the large and beautiful garden under my windows. I thought I would do so last night but I got so engrossed and thrilled with a short life of Saint Peter Celestine which I read in the evening that I forgot about everything else. It is one of the most wonderful lives which one could read about – I suppose you vaguely know about it - the hermit who was living in a cell on the most inaccessible heights of the Abruzzo and who acquired such a reputation of holiness that the cardinals who couldn’t agree on the choice of a successor at the death of Nicholas IV all agreed to elect him. The story of his life before his election, that of his five months of reign, the story of his abdication and the final years of his life – as well as the story of his countless miracles – are all so marvellous that they recall both Dante’s Paradise and the labours of the Angelus. I would very much like to send it to you but I read it in a magazine which doesn’t belong to me. Maybe the life has been published in a booklet since the article was published. If I can find it I will send it to you. Warm regards and see you soon. G.
Letter 65: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Aug 30 1897 Brussels to Great College Street Carissime. Thank you for your postcard which I found on my return from Marcinelle where I spent the last week. On one of the days of the week I went to the old abbey close to Marcinelle that they are restoring. The ruins of the abbey, a beautiful sunshine, and a river running at its feet all made me long to have you at my side. It will be for your next tour of Belgium, and we must think of it soon if as I hope you can come for a few days at the beginning of the autumn. I am glad to know that you liked the photograph of Reims as much as it deserves it – the portal is remarkable and we must see it together. When are you going to Dresde? Do stay somewhere, be it for a couple of hours only, in Belgium. I received a cordial letter from the director of the Dome for whom I will straight away write an article on ivory sculpting at the Brussels Exposition. Thank you very much for this article! I am starting a project on a new museum of industrial arts which will give me a lot of work but probably has a chance to succeed. My affairs are overall better and I am gaining strength and courage – very happy to hear that you have lost nothing of your productive verve. I am greatly anticipating reading le Banquet. P. Tibergh has ordered the apology of Newman from London. We are very intrigued and amused at your great dedication to him. We are hoping to find out why you admire him so much by reading the apology. Matthews told me this morning that he is sending what he owes me. I had threatened to sue him! (which I wouldn’t have done) but the threat bore its fruit. Regards to Image and Mayer. When is Mayer coming?
Letter 67: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Sept 12 1897 Brussels to Great College Street My dear Laurence. Thank you for the card received yesterday and the friendly offer of Mr Vieuxpré - but as you say – and as the dairy merchant of Exeter would say « it would be such a disappointment » for the friend who has translated the article and is waiting expectantly for its impression – and as it is only a few notes – and because you are willing to review the translation I would rather it were published in English. I wrote to Oldmeadow to tell him that I am writing to you this morning and that I will ask you to send the article in English and I told him that at some other time I would be very happy to see his article printed in French – I even suggested an article on the Halls of Ypres for a next issue – thank you for what you might add to the translation – what a pity you aren’t coming until October – if Dresde doesn’t work out and isn’t essential to see – do come over here – the weather is so bad in September that it will probably be better in October. The sky is all blue in anticipation and the last two mornings have been dazzling. And the banquet. I am waiting impatiently to sit down and listen to the tales of your guests – P. Tibergh. gave me yesterday Newman’s apology and I will read it this week. Regards. G.
Letter 76: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 78: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Dec 16 1897 Ixelles to 3BS My dear Laurence. How amusing it is to read my own letter remarkably improved by your translation, and I thank you most gratefully for all the trouble you have gone through for me once again. I have not much to say to you but I wanted to say directly at least how grateful I am. Nothing has been decided yet about the anthology, because I am still waiting for the letter from the ministry. They tell me he will certainly answer but the wait is always long. I have better hope for next year in any case. While I was at a friend of mine’s place (an abbot, great admirer of my humble prose), I met an editor whom he recommended to me as a very good and honest man, and who would like to edit Bruges, my book on sculptors, and some poems if I feel like giving him some. He even said through the abbot yesterday that if my arrangement with the anthology was not to my liking, I could go and talk to him about it – unfortunately his field is rather art works and I don’t think his clientele is big enough for the anthology – but I am nonetheless very pleased to have met him. The talk with Image about the bottle of Rum must have been very funny indeed. We will soon go and listen to him at Henekey at this rate, as one use to listen to Coleridge at Hampstead. As soon as the edition of your poems is decided on write to tell me. I am correcting the drafts of poems that will come out for Christmas, I will send them to you then. At the same time I will send you a portrait that a friend of mine will do next week – and when you have time for it I would be grateful if you could go to Hollyer’s. I will transcribe the letter to B.J. straight away and send it to him and let you know his answer as soon as I receive it. Thank you again and send my regards to Image. I will write to Squire one of these days. Regards to Pye as well, I will write to him at Christmas.
Letter 80: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 81: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Feb 1898 It is so hard and straining to write a letter instead of meeting and having a real talk with a friend. How much more pleasant and charming it would have been to tell you in person why I did not answer your letter straight away. Well, if there is no other way, let’s write. My dear friend, you well know, and will be neither jealous nor upset, for you know how much this friendship with Paul Tiberghien is longer and prior to ours – that there is no man on earth I love more than him. Added to the regard that I have had for him for so long I feel a venerable veneration for his life, which is the most devoted, the most loving and the most charitable among all I have observed around me – despite this regard, this genuine veneration, and despite the fact that we have been raised together intellectually, artistically and that we were converted together – despite all that there have often been, as you can imagine, some disagreements between us – disagreements do happen between people who love each other most dearly. But our friendship was so true and so solidly established that it could only become stronger and firmer after those discussions and transitory disagreements which reasonably occur between two friends who see each other constantly. Was ours of the same nature? I thought so up till now, dear Laurence, and it has only been for the last few days that I doubted its strength. Certainly it has been perfect and charming, but don’t you think that having been in perfect agreement on nearly every subject we ever broached, we carefully avoided the others? And as I read your letter, a few reproaches springing to my mind, I wondered how you would bear these reproaches if I exposed them to you? And I hesitated to do so – until I realized that if I didn’t our friendship would become a friendship of Procurement, an exchange of courtesies which would eventually blot out our personalities and what we truly think. – and I told myself that this was not what either of us would want and so it would be better to write what I felt. Here is what I really think: yes, I am indeed very grateful for the kind and supportive letter you sent me, but also it seems to me that you deserve a few reproofs, because you neglected to do some little things that I asked you to do last year. You believe dear friend, don’t you, that you have an accomplished mind, and that to achieve your objectives you only need to improve your art, your versification or your form, in a word your poetry writing. I believe the contrary – that your mind is not accomplished at all – that your beautiful, almost perfect, form – will naturally reach that perfection through constant work – and what you must work on is the improvement, the broadening of your mind and the refining of your thoughts. How? Generally speaking it is not up to me to show you how, but I do blame you for having neglected and brushed aside the few means I had suggested to you. You have not the faintest idea of what religious life is about – do understand me, I am not at all trying to convert you – it would be preposterous and absurd – but do understand dear Laurence that you must know what religious life is. When you will have read yourself, through the story of the life of a few saints for example – what this religion, which you believe is narrow and formalistic, truly is – then will you see what absolute happiness one can find in it. You are clearly and undoubtedly a gifted poet. You must remain as such, we certainly agree on this point! But if you want to fulfil your objective, if you want your poems to spread out like a beautiful picture book but also convey love and inspire thought – you must steep your writing in belief and faith. Think of the book which stirred you the most among the new books you have read these last few years. You mentioned Tolstoy one day, and it is indeed not the form you admired in him, but the faith, dear friend, belief and truth. It is now that your mind shapes itself, believe me. Your "London Visions" are but sensations, various fleeting emotions. Your "Supper" and your "Porphyrion" are two first attempts to collect and gather your thoughts in an artistic fashion. Those two poems are appealing, because the verse is beautiful and especially because they are infused with a powerful and remarkable proclivity to conjure suggestive images, which all gifted poets, such as yourself, possess. They are appealing indeed, but they will never stir and inflame me. I hasten to add that Porphyrion for example has for me the charm of one of Tennyson’s Idylls, and you know that to my mind that is a very high rating indeed, but I will never find the emotion, the high emotion I feel as I read the third part of Tolstoy’s tale. Very well you will say – it is not given to everyone to be or to write like Tolstoy. That is true – but it could be given to you, if you would just look around you simply and without prejudice. Tolstoy understood life so well and defined its objective so clearly, dear friend, because like his godson, like the better of his two old men, he preferred action and charity work to vain protest. Think of The Cossacks, such a wonderful book – so sincere, so true, as you know, although the end is sad and a little disheartening. Why? Because the improvised Cossack loses heart and goes back to the city. - Since then he became a peasant, and this time in an absolutely sincere way, he writes with ease the most encouraging and poignant book that his country has ever produced. Now – to conclude – one always gets confused when settling matters in a letter. "nondum amabam, et amare amabam i quaerebam quod amareus amaus amare" Those are the words you used I think, to introduce your beautiful poem on St Augustine. And how true they are about yourself. But reproaches, you will ask – what are you reproaching me of? Only this – that being hesitant and solicited as you yourself admit in these words, solicited in various ways – through prejudice mostly and laziness only a little, you refused to read two or three little books that, with certainly much moderation, I had selected for you. I asked you one day to read the Fioretti – it would have had for you the exquisite charm of a voyage to Tuscany and Umbria, with marvelously pure Angelicos everywhere within your reach. Fioretti – niente! I asked you one day to open a Golden Legend at the British to read – 2 pages only – the dialogue or rather the answers of Saint James Intercisus to his executioners. J. Intercisus- niente? I gave you a poem, the Visions of sister Emmerich, yes – but the title was - The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For Emmerich niente. What were all these denials – incidental coincidences, memory slips due to your numerous occupations? Dear, no – it is defiance – defiance towards the most loving of your friends – let it cease, by all means, now that I have exposed this defiance to you my dear friend. I have never asked you, and never will I ask you to try to pray, or embark upon any religious practice – but when from very far off I do try, and admit to it quite freely, to help you see through yourself more clearly and to let you see "what you love and seek" by advising you to read a book carefully selected for you and which is consequently beautiful, do not be defiant anymore, and if there still is a little effort to make, make it for me, because these readings should not imply any commitment on your part, and they can, to my mind, contribute to your happiness and to your fame. How long this letter is, yet I must still add a few words to make our positions quite clear; for with your defiance which I am most certain exists, I would like to make sure that you do not lend me any hidden feelings – According to the information I have read these last days about Benedictine convents – the life of these monks – who endeavor to be pious, industrious and artistic at the same time (any man entering the convent and who displays certain skills for an art is indeed encouraged to promote it: it is specified in the rules) a life devoid of tedious social duties, would probably be more to my liking than priesthood – I would however remain accessible to the world because I have a duty to fulfil, which is to bring back to God those souls who do not know Him or knowing Him prefer a life of slavery to their petty routines rather than being a servant of God. Considering that you (despite yourself) belong to the first category – would I seek to convert you? Of course I would, dear friend! How could you think that I would love you any other way. And this alarms you, bothers and distresses you, and you fear that I would appeal to and take advantage of your kindness towards me by asking you to try and make an effort which would be most distasteful to you, as for example saying a prayer for me. But dear friend – once again and once for all – rest assured – all I ask of you I have told you already, it is to show no ill will, it is not to turn your back to the feelings that are shaping my life – and especially I repeat that I will never seek to make you see the Light under any other form than a poetic or a heroic one, for I know who you are. And now I think the radiance of our friendship is breaking through the little cloud that was looming over it – and though it has been longstanding, I think I was justified in writing at such length, so we can each enjoy – as we have until last month – full trust in one another. Regards Georges. A last word, remember dear friend that the only book you read at my bidding – inspired you with Porphyrion – or at the least with one of its most beautiful songs – Dunque… As Mrs Bartoli would say… let’s take up postcards again and tell me when your book volume will be here. I can’t wait to receive it. A very condensed postcard today: I received a charming note from Pye about the poems – and wrote back to him.
Letter 83: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
12 Mar 1898 Ixelles to 3BS My dear friend. I guess you do not write anymore because you are daily expecting the publication of your book that I am equally eager to see. As to me, I lead an unvarying life, engaged in the study of logic that I am through with thank goodness, and psychology that I am about to finish. I hope to have finished my studies of philosophy by April – it will not be much of a change! But it will probably make theology easier - my editor has been delayed for the publication of my anthology – he will send out leaflets next week – a page of these leaflets should be a portrait of Keats. Would you get Emery Walker’s permission to reproduce it on leaflets – my editor would like to reproduce all of Walker’s portraits in the book, and is quite ready to pay the rights to Walker – right now he only asks for the permission to reproduce Keats on the leaflets. And he will even pay for this reproduction if Walker should demand it, if such is the case would he be kind enough (Walker) to write me a note telling me how much it would cost. May I ask you to do this for me? I thank you very much if you can do it and I trust I will hear from you soon, about your book and your news. Regards. G.
Letter 85: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Undated: March 23 1898 ? 3rd day of spring My dear friend. As soon as I received Porphyrion I read one of his songs, which kept me under a spell of enchantment. It was Monday morning: and every passing day (having had no time to resume my reading) I think about you as I gaze admiringly at the sweet and harmonious softness of these spring mornings where the exquisite blue colour of the dawn lit sky (at the hour when you foolishly doze under your bedclothes) is imperceptibly veiled in a morning mist that Memling and Metsys would paint as backgrounds to their paintings. And I would have liked you to be at my side all those mornings to show you these unparalleled skies, for you who love nature and life so dearly and have such a gift to describe and depict it in your verses. You are blessed, really you are my dear friend, to have such a marvelous gift for poetry, and to constantly perceive novel and radiant images of nature rendered in a natural succession of beauty and consecrated harmony. You have become immortal and ranked amongst the greatest poets of your country, now that Porphyrion has been published. It is my present opinion at any rate. As it was the first time I read it – and I have no doubt of the great success that awaits you. It is all the more obvious to me now since you have so beautifully revised this first song. And do not think that my friendship amplifies all the good I think of your poem: I do think even better of it compared to the first readings, but as with the first readings I am far from thinking it perfect. The IVth book, despite its dazzling title, Orophernes, and the brilliant final battle, is to my mind rather vague, wavering, and the entire beginning seems to unravel with no definite purpose but to lead to the final picturesque battle. I would excuse the IVth book, but the ending of the previous one is very unfortunate – it is clear that you didn’t know how to close it and that you were eager to be done with it. – you didn’t dare finish a Stoic nor did you a skeptic, and you let him die unfairly, this most interesting Porphyrion, at the very moment when he was about to reveal his thoughts about life. – what does this prove – but that you are still young, and that you have not yet chosen what you are to believe in – you believe for now that it is good to let yourself live, and pour your soul into the contemplation of nature, devote all your energy into seeing it, loving it, and conveying these feelings to others – very well – it is a good start, and as I know you, and have chosen you for a friend, I trust you completely, confident that you will soon see beyond the faint gleam of dawn into the full light of day, if you would only look into the aspects of life that I will point out to you, and that I would like to show you through the books that I have already mentioned to you and that I will ask of you from time to time – for let me tell you: it is not TO JOY that you should have dedicated your book, but TO LIFE – it would have been much more accurate – you did not wish to because of your previous collection The Praise of Life – for there the title was true – joy is not what you love – joy has nothing to do with the Vth book of Porphyrion, nor with Martha, nor with The Supper – but life does, under many differing aspects, it transports the genuine soul of the poet within you. For a genuine poet you are, and I insist upon it, for having spoken ill of the end of the poem, you must know how highly I think of it, on the whole and in detail. The changes you have made in the first book have considerably enhanced its appeal, and the similes remain what they are, images, metaphors of classical beauty and that one feels, as I stated above, are destined to remain forever as such – (that of the wine blending with water for example, and that of the dreaming warriors whose movements are likened to the slow unravelling of weeds in the rivers – those and a thousand others beside). Porphyrion unmistakeably brings to mind Endymion and Hyperion – and that is what prompted me to say earlier that you can from now on be certain of your fame – because to my mind Porphyrion is by far superior to those two classical poems by Keats, and the pretty verses in Martha and the beautifully soothing verses of Augustine would suffice to rank you once and for all, as I said, among the greatest true poets of this century – I have not yet read the other pieces of the book volume, but as I have known you as such before recognition, I would not want to be of the last to hail you in your glory. I am writing all this to you sincerely and merrily, because you are my friend, my dear friend Laurence Binyon and that I know that neither praise nor blame will change your behaviour towards me or towards others. – indeed one feels no pride in being gifted – you are born as such – and can only thank God for having bestowed these skills upon you, and rejoice about it with your friends. It is what I have done with you in this letter through my praise of Porphyrion. I will now take it with me and show it off this very day to my friends Paul Tiberghien and Arnold Goffin. The newspaper articles will certainly be good – but if some were to be dull, crush them under your foot like a "Conquistador". I am a better judge than all those hack writers, and I have read enough English poetry to know what to think of the very beautiful and very dear Porphyrion! Regards to Pye. G.
Letter 87: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 91: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 95: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
28 Jun 1898 Ixelles to 3BS And however it is a wig ! That you have not written for so long does not matter for we are such good friends that if one of us doesn’t write, the other knows that it is not through lack of friendly feelings but due to time that flies so fast for those who live in big cities and especially London. – and good old Burne Jones died since I last saw you – if some good article about him were to be published or a beautiful portrait appear in an illustrated journal I would be very happy to have it – if you happen to come across one – I met my publisher the other day, he declared that he had finally started on my anthology and I have settled my accounts with Walker, thanking him profusely for his helpfulness, and I did the same for Hyatt, begging him to send me the two portraits of Swinburne and that of Tennyson that I do not have and that I am eager to receive so we can directly start to sort the portraits – I would be delighted to see your book and Strang’s etchings. I will try to have the book purchased by the library. My warmest regards to Strang and Pye and even more so to lei signorinor Egram peccato non possiamo habitare tutti e due la Stessa citta, non è vero? Do not stay too long in the West Flanders so you can start and turn your full attention to "the forest".
Letter 97: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 98: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 100: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 101: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 103: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Letter 106: Olivier-Georges Destrée to Laurence Binyon
5 Dec 1918 What a delightful feeling to be able to write Laurence Binyon Esq. British Museum and be confident that the letter will arrive as it should and that relationships can resume as they used to! I was very touched when I received your letter dear Laurence and as I read, and I certainly thought you would, that you had taken an interest in my whereabouts from afar and were sometimes worried as to my fate during those 4 years. There were indeed some moments of fear and anxiety, especially in what you call – the burning of Louvain. That night I was in the centre of the city – having been to town as every morning for my confessing duties, I couldn’t go back to the abbey because of the troops on horseback that were cluttering the streets. I stayed in a seminary which was next to the Halls of the university – these burned down – and for most of the night we were faced with the unpleasant alternative of either being killed if we left the seminary – or burned alive if we remained there – as I believed it was the end I went to the chapel and I gave communion to the sisters who served in the seminary. I received communion myself and served at the mass of the director of the seminary and when I returned to the courtyard I saw to my immense and understandable relief that the wind was blowing in another direction so that the danger of spreading of the fire was over! I also remember distinctly how beautiful that night of the fire was, we could see most of the town burning, we could hear the shots of cannon balls between Malines and Louvain – and shotguns inside town – and the garden of the seminary seemed, all the while, just like a haven of peace and happiness. And then came those 4 years, during which, despite what you have probably read in the newspapers, you can hardly imagine how heroic and brave our people were, whatever their social background, workmen, gentlemen, magistrates or civil servants fought boldly against the invaders. There would be a beautiful book to put together if we gathered all the documents that describe the pluck and determination displayed by this resistance, we could easily do it without any fear of exaggeration because most of these documents, especially the letters of Cardinal Mercier and the protests of the magistrates, have been published and read with much interest – they have sustained our hopes and our courage during the occupation. And now that all is over, there is much that I would, now that all is finished, have been sad not to have lived through. And I am sure it is your opinion as well. And now that you are reassured about my fate tell me if you were able to stay at the British Museum. Were you not mobilised? Why is your writing paper headed "the Athenaeum" are you working for this magazine? And Selwyn Image? And Horne? Do ease my mind on their account and tell me if you were able to work and on what during all this time? I guess that in France as in England some quite beautiful books have been published during those 4 years. If you have heard of some that might be of particular interest to me would you let me know about them? No – I received nothing during the war that went through Holland but that does not surprise me, at least ¾ of the correspondence transiting there was systematically thrown away. My respects to Mrs Binyon and to your young ladies who are surely quite grown up now, and believe me, my dear Laurence, yours forever, devoted and grateful Dom Bruno D. O.S.B. Please send my regards to Image if he still lives, as I hope, in Fitzroy St. PS Have there been works at the Westminster Cathedral during the 4 years – I mean the completion of the inside? I suppose my sister in law will have told you that my MS on modern religious art burned in the fire of Louvain!
Letter 107: Jules Destrée to Laurence Binyon
Dear Sir, My brother loved you dearly and spoke to me a lot about you. I very much appreciate the sentiments you have expressed to me. J[ules] Destrée