Mrs Jayfer, Millais, Dicky Doyle and Wilkie Collins in an Edward Lear Letter

Among the many subjects touched in the letter to Henry Bruce, Lord Aberdare transcribed below from the scans available on the Florida State University website, is Edward Lear’s statement that the second part of “Mr and Mrs Discobbolos” was suggested by Wilkie Collins (see previous post), and that he was thinking of publishing a new collection of his nonsense songs with additions; he also mentions Richard Doyle as a “wonderfully beautiful artist,” and complains of the difficulty he has in “getting rid” of some of his paintings:

Villa Tennyson

25th. Septer. 1884.

My dear Lord Aberdare,

Your letter of the 22nd has just reached me: I had already known of your choice, both from Williams (Foord’s) & from Drummond’s who announced your payment of £31.8.0 ― for which many thanks. I think you chose admirably; the Campagna Arch had long been one of my chief favorites. Ceylon scenery is always very difficult to render, but I think the specimen you have taken is about one of my best of the kind.

Thank you ^[also] for mentioning the spottiottibottiness of the Corsica Mounts. In writing to Williams this day I will mention the matter.

Regarding the 4 large pictures, which I tried to render with fidelity and contshientiumsness, I am glad you like them. I live still in hopes that the Duke of Westminster (who has written to me that he is going to visit Wardour St.,) may buy one or two ― particularly the Gwalior. I am thankful that I have never known what it is to envy anyone, but it cannot be otherwise than strange to me that with all my labour I find a difficulty in getting rid of such works, while Johnny Millais gets 1,000, 2,000, or 3,000£ for what costs him hardly any labour at all. Yet I should not use the word “strange” ― for Fashion explains all things odd, & besides Johnny M.’s works have great talent.

For all that, (though the technical workmanship is very inferior & pottering) the real likenesses of such places as Ravenna Gwalior & Argos seem to claim 300 guineas each, not unrighteaously if compared with a portrait head for a thousand pound.

Of the 4th painting ― there have been frequent talks of 30 people who admire the Laureate’s works, buying it for 10.10 each, as a wedding present for his son. I however do not choose to move actively in this matter.

Thank you also for your advice or confirmation of my suggestion about the Advertisements. Williams of Foord’s says the same; ― he will on no account resort to the “Sandwich men.”

I am negotiating with Hogg of 32 Charing Cross about a republication of the Corsica ― small ― in 2 vols. ― And, if possible, of all the Nonsense Songs & stories (not the “old persons”) in one vol., with additions. You, for instance have never read what I wrote from Wilkie Collins’s suggestion ^[viz.] ― the 2nd part of Mr. & Mrs. Discobbolos. ――― nor have you ever come to know the wisdom of Mrs. Jayfer.

(Mrs. Jayfer said, it’s safer
If you walk along a Road,
First to fill your shoes with pepper,
Lest you tread upon a toad.
For when the Toad the pepper smells
He will squeeble awful yells,
And ^[far] in his remote abode,
Live, a disappointed toad.) ――

I have a very long letter from C. Fortescue yesterday [sic]. The stuff in the papers about his resignation & going as Ambassador to Constantinople I hardly required to be told was bosh. Frank (Lord) Baring writes: if his Father don’t return in October, he will come out this way, & join him at Cairo. I do not at all like what I hear of Evelyn B.’s health: ― he has had so much illness in India & elsewhere that I am anxious to know that he gets stronger.

I wonder if you saw much of Dicky Doyle in his later days. He was ― to my taste, a wonderfully beautiful Artist.

Isn’t it strange that my eyesight keeps what it is? And I am now constantly at work on the 200 AT illustrations, which I rather expect will be published as small photographs, &, if successful, as enlarged Autotypes later.

As you affirm that Mountain Ash is a real town, I am bound to believe you. But would it not be better then to separate the ideas of town & tree by writing the name differently ― say for instance, MOUNTY GNASH?

My kindest remembrances to all at Duffryn. Yrs affly,

Edward Lear.

MS letter HAB 1884-09-25 1

MS letter HAB 1884-09-25 2

MS letter HAB 1884-09-25 3

MS letter HAB 1884-09-25 4

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