E. du Perron
Sunderland, 26-27 september 1929
14, Ashby Street, Sunderland
jeudi - 26 Septembre 1929.
Dear Mr. du Perron, -
First may I apologise for the notepaper. The other has run out - & either I must use this - or wait until tomorrow. As your letter interested me very much, I prefer to write now. - Thank you so much for the information I wanted & which you have so kindly given me. I should very much like to attempt to read your works. I have the misfortune not to know Dutch, but I know Old English & this ought to be fairly closely related to Dutch - so that probably the mystery would not be so great.
- You sound a particularly interesting mixture, if you will allow my saying so - & I envy you starting off with two languages to your credit - & evidently you know English well too. -
As for your queries -
I. ‘Dites-moi ce que vous faîtes’. To save a lot of bother, I enclose a cutting about my academic self. Otherwise there is little to tell. I am twenty-two, English to the core - & very interested in everything - except when black melancholy settles down - which phenomenon repeats itself fairly frequently - but by now I treat it as a phenomenon - & wait for the return of the ‘relatif bonheur complet’. - In a fortnight I shall be at Oxford, getting on with my doctorate work. I shall send you some snaps of Oxford so that you can form your own opinion of the architecture of the world's foremost University city. (This sounds like an American boast). I shall send you some of Durham too - which is my old University town - & my first & best love - & quite the nicest place in the world. -
II. ‘Parlez-moi un peu de la jeune poésie anglaise.’ First, I would have you form your own impressions by going through the volume I despatched yesterday. (It is now ‘vendredi’ - as I went to sleep at the end of the first page of this epistle). I have put a cross beside the best known of the modern poets. - I think you would be especially interested in the prose movement - as some of our young novelists & playwrights are particularly brilliant, I shall see that you know them by heart soon. Thus for the moment ‘je vais me taire’.
III. ‘Envoyez- moi de vos poésies ou de votre prose’. I unfortunately am not a poet - & so far have published merely short stories & articles in various journals. But many projects are on foot - a modern novel, a 17th century French historical novel - an edition of translated modern French poets - more articles, etc., etc. However, life is very full - & the two novels are still merely projects. Pray heaven I may have my desire one day soon! -
IV. ‘Dites-moi ce que vous préférez dans la littérature française contemporaine’. For the moment I have sought refuge in the works of those whom time has consecrated as a year's vigorous training in contemporary ideals left me a trifle ‘à plat’. There is no contemporary French writer who gives me the same satisfaction as Villon & the Old French Writers of still earlier date - as even Descartes & Pascal & Racine & La Rochefoucauld & Voltaire & the rest of them. I do not admit of the 19th century, which I detest & loathe. - However, I read more or less everything that comes my way - find joy in Apollinaire according to mood - in a whole lot of contemporary young Belgian poets - especially in one George Adam who is a great friend of mine. He is very young but ought to produce some very good work later. - I am especially interested in the first cousin of contemporary verse - i.e. pictorial art - but still think there is no one quite so exquisite as Watteau - although the Italian Renaissance school has all my admiration. -
On the point of translations, I heartily agree with you that no translation can give an adequate notion of the original - prose or poetry. However, we different nations need to know each other better if the dream of the League of Nations is to come true. Remarque & Rival & Sherman & the others are doing their respective works of propaganda - & perhaps in trying to give some idea of the mind of contemporary French artists, I might do a little to help things on. Thus my project of translating the moderns. -
Thank you so much for the delightful little recueil you sent me this morning. I have just perused it - & very much appreciate Slauerhoff who to my mind, is indeed a poet. - May I say what attracted me to your historiettes? First of all the delicious fantasy - & secondly a sort of good ‘bon sens’ & saneness - which is so often lacking in contemporary poets. Fantasy is all very well, but sheer morbidness - suggestive of unhealthy livers & closed windows & too much liquor & smoking - does no-one any good. It is so easy to be pessimistic - & to imagine oneself the most sinned against man in the world. I, like all the other young writers, thought that once, but I have decided that one isn't alone in the world - that it is a joy that there are always thousands of people much more interesting than oneself - & thousands of feeble ones whom it would be a dirty trick to leave to get out of the mess themselves. One cannot permit oneself the luxury of suicide as there is always someone who would be disagreeably affected by the tragedy - & some one a little weaker than oneself whom one ought to try & help to the best of one's ability. -
This sounds like a sermon - but you will understand. Thank you so much again. - I should very much like to try & read your works - & if there is any work you would like to read in English merely say so - & I shall do my best to fulfil your request. -
Yours very sincerely,
I shall probably be in Belgium next week-end - round about the 6th of October until the 9th or 10th - when I am due at Oxford. I am going to see friends - but should be very happy to know you a little more. If you are likely to be in Belgium then, let me know by return of post - & perhaps we may be able to shake hands & discuss things a little.
Origineel: Den Haag, Letterkundig Museum