12 Charleville Circus
15 July 1914
My dear Betty
What an unsatisfactory brother I have been this term. I have a letter from you that has rested in my pocket for over a month, inspiring day by day resolves to write in reply, but the inspiration has never been strong enough. I have been out of terms with my pen for some long while past. The poor thing grew stale in consequence of a wear strain that I put upon it. This came of a rash promise that I made to Mrs Williams, when at Dowlais, that I would send her a copy of the infamous “French Penny”. I had not looked at the thing for years, so you will understand easily that when I read it through again in cold blood I found it appalling in its badness: not only had it every fault, it had not a single merit except, perhaps, a few accidental passages. Nothing was left to do but to rewrite it: I could not send it out, as it was, as an acknowledged work of my hand. Oh the weary task! I would never have begun it if I had known how I should hate it. I crossed out and crossed out and crossed out until there was only about half the original remaining; then I altered what was left till it was unrecognisable; then I had to supply fresh passages to replace those cut out. Not merely replacing dialogue, though: situations had to be schemed afresh, motives revised, characters given some semblance of reality. Then when it was all finished after three weary weeks, it was like a misfit, ill-made garment that had been altered as best could be by a tailor a little more skilful than the maker; like all such garments it will never be fit to wear.
Boo told me about Deirdre, and Kath has been saying this evening that she has discoursed with you about holiday plans; so, you see, I know a good deal about your recent doings and future schemes. I hope you will be able to stop on at Newport until and after I arrive there. It would be such fun to cast sportive stones into the ocean together and to see what each other looks like when emulating the playful porpoise. I have never been at the seaside with you, so spare me a week if it can be done.
I have played tennis with great abandon and regularity all this summer and I have done a day’s work each day with customary serenity. Beyond this I don’t think I have anything much to say about myself. Magnum Opus, as I have indicated (did I indicate this clearly), has rested in his drawer almost untouched. I am ready at any time to continue and finish him, but I am a marvellously lazy scribe, and the attack of pen-sickness that I have had, coupled with the attraction of the tennis courts has left poor old MO terribly in the lurch. Literary work is best pursued in cold rainy weather when evenings are long and other occupations scanty. Especially when the degree of magnumness is so highly problematical and the severity of the opus so undeniable.
I hear that Miss Lacey wore a glorious pair of patched boots when she received Kath today. I should like to see that very remarkable woman one day. That reminds me that I am treasuring up a severe attack of J-ness because I have never yet been invited up to one of your shows at The Grove. There has been a distinct coolness between Boo and me on account of the favour that has been shown him but denied to
Your affectionate brother