Transcript of a letter (undated)
circa August 1975
I go to your piece on the Thwaite [essay] and write something further as to that.
I think the Fugitives matter is not linkable with the influence, plagiary, discipleship, matter except very generally as characterised by a blind-seeming intentness on the vindictive manifestations towards me. As if groping for revenge for my, my work’s, not being an easily handlable material. The three authoritative books on the Fugitives (I shall mention the third in the revision of my article-essay on my relations with the Fugitives - its author is of the name ‘Stewart’ James [John L. Stewart], I think) are all pointlessly hostile. The personal animus that all show comes from Donald Davidson via Louise Cowan; but the general authorial-critical attitude is of that odd vindictiveness I note above. (It is found elsewhere towards me, my work.) The influence-plagiary discipleship area of treating of me is different in that the revenge-taking impulse is mingled with literary interests, or stands, Graves an orientation-point for a good deal of the lit. interest-positions. (In George Stade and Douglas Day on Graves and M[artin]. Seymour-Smith, the all-willed material as to myself from the ‘authoritative’ ‘Fugitives’ books is used to accent the already existent lit.-interest position of derogation of me in relation to Graves…line 14, p.1 of your article that it provides: I think your ‘merely’, 5 lines from foot, p.1, ought to be changed to ‘just’. Otherwise, I shall offer no criticism of your commentary. As a whole, the awkward bringing the trend that has your main attention is the Fugitive area peculiarity of treatment too close, I see it as a whole in feeling. This is of the first importance. I think, for the kind of article it is. (George [Fraser] will not like the passion in it. But George has rather thick insulations in my regard; he does not feel what has been done to me; he does not feel how it has been with me and others, Graves first of all. He actually said to me not very long ago, speaking of this matter of ‘plagiary’, “but you did no more surely than soothe smooth [?] their cracks & cramps.” Yes!!! - he wrote that!!!) Anyhow I want what you and Alan [Clark] present to make impress of feeling. Let me interfere as little as possible with content. You have plenty of content. You have an argument that races along with your feeling. At only one point did I note something that came back to me after I had finished, recalled as specially noted: your word ‘man-handled’ comes from my letter to the Modern Language Quarterly on that affair. I hold such things to be under a golden rule. Either quoted at [sic: quote it] as said by me in my letter to the ML Quarterly on what was done in that issue generally & by R. Graves in particular, or use an expression occurring fresh with you.
Alan will have told you how it now is with M.K. [Michael Kirkham] Let this be, then, between you & Alan, the working up something for the Seminar, by him & you jointly [?severally?], or in separate pieces as to which you consult with each other beforehand.
What [Anthony] Thwaite would do if sent such a commentary as yours, and something of Alan’s, denouncing his writing on me, I think would surely be to consider what he could now do for fresh ‘maltreatment’, to fortify himself against the unexpected counter-assault, so long afterwards. Having seen the very strong feeling of yours, and allowing for Alan’s having something ‘strong’ also, I judge it proper to have no communication with Thwaite at this time. After the MLSseminar, you & Alan, could try to place your two pieces, joined, in some other publication. I myself think that I shall at some time, after your, Alan’s pieces have been read at the MLS, write to Heinemann in protest against what was written in that book [Thwaite’s book], send copies of your and Alan’s piece.
But there is another aspect to this matter. The book is, apparently, used as a literary guide-book in Japan! I have had some correspondence with a ‘dean’ of Japanese specialists in English poetry, himself a poet who writes in English & is the Jap. Translator of Yeats, & has just been awarded a high order of merit for his literary labors. I shall ask him to recommend a journal in Japan that would publish an article on this dealing of Thwaite with Graves and myself - that the two persons who are preparing such an article would have interest in knowing this. Will you please tell Alan this? For such publication you would probably find it advisable to - not ‘tone down’ the passion but - lighten the passion here & there to a finer, sharper edge, which would make all cut more deeply, and as it were ‘silently’ and smoothly.
Thank you for your writing on ‘Jocasta’ [see Anarchism Is Not Enough, 1928]. You have indeed read it! I think this young woman [Joyce Wexler] ground her way intensively through some of my work (she gave it too much space in treating of some) and skimped in thinking on other portions of the whole; and that she worked more from her notes than from her developed understanding. I don't think she felt about her subject. (I think I have a copy of that Xerox piece on R. Graves. I’ll be checking as to this. I am grateful! I am glad you think to do such a thing!). - In general, as to the course of your treatment of my work, myself: if you will just try to let it say its say instead of to say for it or fill in with something else. And not try to get it over with, as to this or that feature of it. It does not try to get ‘it’ over with. It is very patient. Your weaknesses towards it would be impatiences of yours that did not have, verily, anything to do with what it was, is, concerned with, though this might seem to be the case with you - you'd be concerned with your own mental objects - not with a mental object presented by my work entertained as a common one between you and it, or me. This, I believe, accounts for Harry Kemp, etc. for one thing. But Mrs. Wexler cannot have had any initial commitment of concern with the work itself as of importance to her, even, an impure commitment of concern. It must have been all excited resolution to take on the job, as on that she - as I have said in my letter to Mr. [Samuel] Hynes, felt she could ‘handle’. (She was planning to go on to spend 3 years on a book on my work! And I had named her in my will as a young helper to the elder 3 in literary estate executorship cares, responsibilities (a very trying field, this, of determinations for me, 4 people having proved unsuitable to the commitment.)) (As to George [Fraser]: I shall add this little: I have come to feel that this distance, this enlargement of distance that has come about between George and myself has more substantiality of potential of purities of relation than the earlier actions of coming close - we each understood them differently. There will not be now any cross-assumptions. It was hard to lose the former state, see it fade, quite fast, and find the reality at a remove not to be doubted. But all is clearer. And that cannot but be to the good.)
Believe me not mistrustful!