59. 6 November 1994 [ES] (Rilke; Jonathan Hope and stylometry)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs. Mathew’s letters)

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours. Such a splendid response from Vickers. [...]

   I boggled a bit at Mrs. Mathews sieves, perhaps because I might rather have expected Mrs. Mathews, Nieves. I try to imagine what it's like to have two or more names; I feel that one is more than enough for me. Anything more would entail an identity crisis. Indeed, for some of us, identity is a crisis.

   If I read your card aright, it seems to say that you're going to Mombasa, indeed to M’ ombasa, with an impressively knowledgeable glottal stop. I wondered what the reason was; I think of you as a highly European person. Still, others have traversed that same track, finding however no crock of gold at the Rimbaud's end. Well, take care.

  I've finished a revision of my 1987 edition of Edward III, and am relaxing with Rilke; mostly the Sonette an Orpheus, but also some of the Neue Gedichte, such as Der Tod der Geliebten and Liebes-Lied. Why do I like such sentiment, so much? And why (despite my efforts) are there still so few satisfying songs to Rilke texts?

   Yes, I've read Jonathan Hope's book, which says that I'm a dotty and cantankerous old neo-Baconian who may nevertheless be right about Edward III and even Edmund Ironside. Being of an indulgent disposition, sometimes, I gave young Jonathan lunch yesterday and began by explaining that I'd been sent his book for review by Notes and Queries. Unlike the Beaver (who went pale/to the tip of his tail) he seemed to bear up quite well. I don't think the book deserves your detailed attention, though; it's all about yet another method of stylometry, which seems to me a modern equivalent of phrenology. Still, it's quite hard to quarrel with the stated results, though there are other findings which impress me less.

   No new articles until Dec. N&Q and 1995 Hamlet Studies. My Yale book, about which you also kindly enquire, should be available here in bound copies later this month; but the retentive not to say costive publishing pipeline procedures will delay publication until January 95 here and February in North America. Which reminds me of a recent letter, enclosed, which may interest you. I was once a visiting professor in the environs of Toronto, pronounced Tronner, and much enjoyed that sojourn.

   I haven't heard from Christopher lately; but I gather we shall see his Schubert film, and perhaps Du Pré too, on our TV screens this coming Christmas.

   Warmest good wishes, as ever,

   Yours Eric