16. 16 March 1988 [ES] (Power of detraction?; Der Fall Wagners as classic case)
Thank you for your saintly letter. It's exactly the reaction I would (rather presumptuously) have predicted, but am heartily relieved to find, all the same.
When I mentioned the 'you-and-Bacon' book that Colin H. or anyone would gladly publish I was giving my own view, based on some experience as a publishers' reader and adviser. I've become rather conditioned to thinking in terms of pulling power as distinguishable from interest, merit, achievement and so on. These latter aren't in dispute. But do you actually know any other book about the power of detraction and on equally massive effort of rehabilitation?
Of course your idea speaks to me; indeed, it sings, in close harmony. The nearest (indeed, only other) approach I know is what I'm trying to do in defence of early Shakespeare plays, a much maligned and misrepresented category. But there's a distinguo, and a caveat or two. I have a confession to make: even if everyone agreed that Shakespeare was a crook I fear I wouldn't much care, not even if it were true! Der Fall Wagners is the classic, or rather romantic, case. I just don't have your generous and protective spirit: a sort of nun-errant. I fear it's very rare: but it's required for your readership, if you're a rampant rehabilitatrix. And this seems to me the book's burden, in every sense: I note that even in the other chapters you're still preoccupied with 'factually nailing an actual lie', 'showing up the lie', and so on. Isn't there some danger of reemphasising the old falsehoods, to the detriment of the new truths? But no doubt you highlight the latter in the chapters I'm to receive, to which I'm much looking forward.
With warmest good wishes, yours Eric