07 December 1920

7 December 1920

Villa Isola Bella, Menton, France

I have now read your book and though we can't really discuss it until you come I should feel ungracious were I not to write you quelques mots.

Well, Bogey, Im your admirer. Accept my admiration. Its from my very heart & head! There is real achievement in that book. While I read you on Tchekhov, Butler, the first essay, Shakespeare criticism, I liked to pretend you were a stranger. I imagined what Id feel like if this book had fallen out of the sky - and that really gave me your measure. There's a female standard! At your best no one can touch you. You simply are first chop. [. . .] There! Shake hands with me. And of course I want to ‘criticise' - to tell you all I feel. But not before you realise how firm and unyielding are the foundations of my praise. Here goes.

It always seems to me you let yourself go in the Nation especially; you count on Massingham's weakness. The worst of it is that whenever one is less than true to oneself in work, even what is true becomes tainted. I feel whenever I am true my good angel wipes out one bad mark - doesn't give me a good one - but at any rate, next time, there is one bad mark the less to get over. Now you only get half marks, and they are no marks at all, because you cannot resist this awful insidious temptation to show your wounds. Until you do, you are a great writer marred. Lynd called it "highbrowism". Its much more subtle.
There you are. If you were to send me back my 1/9 wedding ring for this letter I should send the letter just the same & keep the ring in a matchbox & be very sorry.

[To J. M. Murry in Collected Letters]