Chapter Thirteen

© William F. Halloran, CC BY 4.0 https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0196.02

Life: July–December, 1895

For the first three weeks of July, Sharp was “wildly busy” in London, writing and negotiating with Herbert Stone about American editions of The Gypsy Christ and Other Tales (by W. S.) and Pharais and The Sin-Eater (by F. M.). He told Stone that his arrangement with Elkin Mathews specified Stone and Kimble had the right to publish another collection by Sharp, Ecce Puella and Other Prose Imaginings, in America, and the book was issued simultaneously by the two publishers in November. On July 5, he and Elizabeth went to Hindhead in Haslemere, Surrey to spend the weekend with the Grant Allens — which Sharp, in a letter to J. Stanley Little, called “a brief respite.” In a letter thanking Mrs. Allen for a very enjoyable time, Sharp assured her she need not be concerned about a rumor floating through London involving her husband and a “literary Parisian.” Sharp must have mentioned the rumor during the weekend since he was anxious to assure Mrs. Allen it would soon pass. Most people, he wrote, knew Allen had been in Paris not with a French woman named Belloc, but with his wife. Sharp’s focus on this rumor is notable given the likelihood that he himself was recently in Paris with a woman who was not his wife.

Fig. 5. “The Croft,” Grant Allen’s House in Hindhead, Haslemere, Surrey (1906). © The Francis Frith Collection, https://www.francisfrith.com/hindhead/hindhead-grant-allen-s-house-1906_55569

In an interesting postscript, Sharp declared the publisher John Lane “should be careful how he speaks,” and advised Allen “not to give himself away.” Having received the manuscript of Allen’s The Woman Who Did and agreed to publish it, Lane let it be known Allen was its author. Allen intended to publish the novel pseudonymously, and Sharp advised him to stick with that intent despite Lane’s indiscretion. When the novel appeared several months later, its author was Grant Allen. The book attracted a great deal of attention, positive and negative, and made its author both famous and infamous. Soon after it appeared, Victoria Crosse produced The Woman Who Didn’t, and Mrs. Lovett Cameron produced The Man Who Didn’t. The woman in one and the man in the other adhered closely to the norms of Victorian society. Allen’s woman believed women should throw off the shackles of male dominance and assert their equal rights, views shared by Sharp. In recommending Allen publish pseudonymously, Sharp knew the book would generate a good deal of outrage. The novel has recently emerged from obscurity as an important contribution to the fin de siècle feminist movement known as the “New Woman.” The Paris rumor, Sharp’s concern about Lane’s indiscretion, and the negative response to Allen’s novel offer a glimpse of the self-reflective and interconnected London publishing scene in the 1890s.

Allen shared Sharp’s interest in authorial deception. He published several books as the work of invented males, and in 1897 he issued The Type-Writer Girl as the work of a woman, Olive Pratt Rayner. By that time, he knew Fiona Macleod was William Sharp, and Sharp’s use of a female pseudonym may have encouraged him to follow suit. In 1895, however, Sharp worried Allen might learn the truth and not keep the secret. Writing to Allen on July 15 as Fiona, he made a “small request.” If Allen intended to write anything about her Mountain Lovers, she hoped he would “not hint playfully at any other authorship having suggested itself.” She continued, “And, sure, it will be a pleasure to me if you will be as scrupulous with Mr. Meredith or anyone else, in private, as in public, if chance should ever bring my insignificant self into any chit-chat.” Sharp was especially concerned that George Meredith not be apprised of Fiona’s identity. He had praised her work and Sharp thought he might lose his friendship if he discovered Sharp had deceived him. Fiona ended her letter by telling Allen she looked forward to meeting him “when she came south in late Autumn.” Sharp may have planned to take Edith Rinder, posing as Fiona, to meet Allen, just as he would take her to meet Meredith.

Sharp was also worried about finding time to prepare the lectures he promised for Patrick Geddes’s Summer School in August, “over 70,000 words to write in 10 days or so.” On July 13, he found time to go down to the Burford Bridge Hotel in Surrey for a dinner meeting of the Omar Khayyam Club, an organization of literary figures dedicated to the pleasures of good wine and food. Many important writers, including Grant Allen, attended, chief among them George Meredith who was the guest of honor (Memoir, p. 246). He was lured to the dinner by his friend Edward Clodd, the club’s president, and arrived only for the dessert course. Clodd welcomed him “in a charming and eloquent speech not devoid of pathos,” and Meredith, overcoming his famed reticence about speaking in public, responded graciously and wittily. After attending this dinner as a guest, Edward Clodd recommended Sharp for membership in the Club, and he joined in November.

In a letter dated July 15, Sharp told Richard Le Gallienne, who was living near Allen and Meredith in Surrey, that he was sorry to have missed him at the Omar dinner, since he needed to talk with him. Le Gallienne could not meet that week, and Sharp could not meet the following week. He was leaving London and would not return until October, by which time Le Gallienne would be in America. Since Le Gallienne missed the Omar dinner and a meeting was impossible, Sharp made the point he had hoped to make in person: “Yes, my boy, be just to Miss Macleod. Anything you can say for her will be gratefully appreciated, but she as well as her worthy cousin [Sharp himself] earnestly hope for no more confusion respecting her actual authorship of The Mountain Lovers etc., publicly or privately.” Having concluded, through textual comparison, that Fiona Macleod was William Sharp, Le Gallienne had already shared his opinion with Grant Allen, who remained skeptical. Sharp was especially hopeful that Le Gallienne would not share it with Meredith, who had just sent Fiona a letter of praise and encouragement. “He knows she is my cousin,” Sharp wrote, “but, I hope, will never be ‘put about’ by hearing any other rumors.” Wherever the fires might arise, Sharp tried to contain, if not extinguish, them.

The Sharps planned to spend August in Edinburgh to take part in Patrick Geddes’s Summer School, and then continue on to the Kyles of Bute in Argyll for September. On the July 13 Sharp told Murray Gilchrist that he would like to pay him a visit on his way to Scotland in approximately ten days. When Geddes learned that Sharp was coming north in advance of his wife, he proposed a hiking trip. Sharp declined, saying he could “see no one for the week I shall be ‘hanging about.’” Until the end of July, he would be in Edinburgh only intermittently. Thereafter he would be available to talk with Geddes about The Evergreen and other publications of the new firm. On July 18 Sharp told Gilchrist that he was unable to leave London until the morning of July 22 and that he had to be in Edinburgh that evening. Because of this, he would be unable to visit Gilchrist Gilchrist in Homesfield on the way north. On July 20, before he left London, Sharp wrote a heartfelt letter to Annie Alden, whose mother (the wife of Henry Mills Alden) had recently died after a long and debilitating illness. While visiting the Aldens in Metuchen, New Jersey during his visit to America in 1891, he developed a sincere affection for the family. His letter to Annie reveals a good deal about his conception of the afterlife and, indeed, life: “I am sure that there are some people who go through life as white spirits clothed with the accident of the body — rather than, as most of us, as human beings animated by a spirit — and that she was one of these.” In the afterlife, Sharp asserts, her spirit had been released from the confines of her body. At the age of nearly forty, Sharp had settled on a realm of disembodied spirits as a means of coping with evolutionary theories that undermined Biblical teachings. Sharp must have told the Aldens he was Fiona, since, after expressing his hope that Annie would enjoy the copy of Fiona’s The Mountain Lovers he sent to her father, he asked her to preserve the secret of her identity.

A clue to Sharp’s whereabouts after he went to Scotland alone on July 22 appears in a late July letter from Fiona to Grant Allen thanking him for his favorable review of The Mountain Lovers in the Westminster Review. As he passed through Edinburgh, Sharp had his sister copy this letter into the Fiona hand with a “temporary” return address of 144 North St. | St. Andrews | Fife, (now a shopping area across the street from the University), and Sharp mailed it from there. In the letter, Fiona says she is visiting friends in St. Andrews and that her cousin Will Sharp is “coming to spend the weekend” with her — “or I with him, I should say, as I am to be his guest, at almost the only Celtic place we know of on this too ‘dour’ shoreland of Fife.” From later correspondence, we know that Edith Rinder was vacationing in or near St. Andrews until late August, when she left for Brittany to collect folklore. Sharp’s insistence on being alone that week, and his claim that Fiona was visiting him in St. Andrews, suggests he was using a rendezvous with Fiona as a cover for one with Edith. As the years went by, Sharp claimed Fiona as his cousin, and sometimes he implied they were romantically involved, though both were married to another. Fiona’s movements as portrayed by Sharp in correspondence and conversations often modeled those of Edith. When Edith was in Scotland, Fiona was there; when Edith was abroad, so was Fiona; when Edith was with him, Fiona was with him. This tracking was a convenient way for Sharp to remember Fiona’s whereabouts. It also signaled his predisposition to conflate the two women, one real and the other imagined.

In an early August note to Stanley Little, Sharp said his lectures were going well but they had “told upon” him heavily, and he was “far from well.” According to Elizabeth, while he was delivering the first of ten scheduled lectures on “Life & Art” at Geddes’s Summer School, Sharp “was seized with a severe heart attack and all his notes fell to the ground. It was with the greatest effort that he was able to bring the lecture to a close: and he realized that he must not attempt to continue the course; the risk was too great” (Memoir, p. 251). The plural in the letter to Little implies more than one lecture was delivered, but that seems not to have been the case. At the end of August, he informed Herbert Stone that he had not been at all well, “the strain of lecturing” had been too great. As much as he liked to sketch out the topic of lectures, Sharp was less successful in forming his notes into a coherent narrative, and delivering a lecture provoked great anxiety. The “heart attack” was probably an attack of angina brought on by nervous apprehension. Whatever the case, he quickly repaired across the Firth of Forth to recuperate at the Pettycur Inn in Kinghorn where Edith Rinder could visit from St. Andrews. Elizabeth stayed on in Ramsay Gardens “to keep open house for the entertainment of the students.”

Fig. 6. Ramsay Gardens from Princess Street, Edinburgh. Photograph by David Monniaux (2005), Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=228032#/media/File:Edinburgh_old_town_dsc06355.jpg

Sharp’s illness did not prevent him from continuing his correspondence with Herbert Stone in August. Two letters dated August 12, one from Fiona and one from Sharp, illustrate his careful manipulation of the duplicity. In the Sharp letter, with a Ramsey Gardens return address, he informed Stone that “Miss Macleod” was staying with him and Elizabeth for a day or two to hear his lectures, “particularly that on The Celtic Renascence.” This was the fifth lecture of the ten he had planned to give, and, if Elizabeth’s recollection was correct, he did not get beyond the first. But having Fiona with him at Ramsey Gardens at the halfway point of his planned lectures explains why he was able to add a brief note of his own to Fiona’s letter of the same day. The simultaneity of the two letters was possible because Sharp’s sister Mary was close by in Murrayfield to supply the Fiona handwriting.

In an August 30 letter to Stone, Sharp reported that Edith Rinder had entered the Ramsay Gardens milieu: during the previous week, he wrote, they had “a short visit from Mrs. Wingate Rinder.” He reports that she had been staying in Fifeshire during August, and she was leaving the next day for Brittany “to work up Breton legends and folklore.” Sharp was sure Stone would be pleased with her Belgian book, The Massacre of the Innocents and other Tales by Belgian Writers, which Stone published in 1896. To publicize the book, he offered to write “a short article on the Belgian Renascence” for Stone’s Chap-Book. There followed one of Sharp’s more curious stratagems. Edith, he wrote, was “Miss Macleod’s most intimate woman-friend” and the “dedicatee of Pharais.” She was certainly Sharp’s “most intimate woman friend,” and he did indeed dedicate Pharais to her. Having equated himself with the imagined Fiona, he went on to say Edith and Fiona had been “staying together recently and (I believe) writing or planning something to do together.” The phrasing reinforces the likelihood of Edith’s presence at the Pettycur Inn. After broaching the possibility of joint authorship, Sharp quickly dismissed it — “that, from what I know of Miss F. M., will never come off, as she is far too essentially F. M. to work in harness with anyone.” The underlying import is that Edith is not Fiona; nor is she collaborating with Fiona. Rather, Edith is translating and editing continental stories and folktales, including those of Celtic Brittany. By sharing these details of the Sharp | Macleod | Rinder triangle with Stone, Sharp reinforced the separate identity of Fiona. The three were good friends and compatriots in the Celtic cause, but quite independent of each other.

Sharp’s careful manipulation of people’s locations was not limited to Edinburgh. He and Elizabeth had taken a cottage with his mother and sisters for September in the west of Scotland, and in his August 30 letter to Stone Sharp said he was leaving the next day for Tigh-Na-Bruaich in the Kyles of Bute, in Argyll. A postscript to Fiona’s August 12 letter informed Stone that throughout September her address would be “c/o Mrs. William Sharp [not Mr.] | Woodside | Tigh-Na-Bruaich | Kyles of Bute | Argyll | Scotland.” After bringing Fiona to Ramsey Gardens in mid-August, he had arranged for her to stay with him in the West during September. More correspondence with Stone about his publication of Fiona’s Sin-Eater and Pharais would be necessary, and sister Mary would be on hand to supply the requisite handwriting. This sort of manipulation of Fiona’s whereabouts was a fact of Sharp’s life for the next decade, until his death in 1905. It was necessary to sustain the fiction of Fiona’s separate existence, and Sharp enjoyed orchestrating the complexities.

In mid-September, the Sharps were joined in the Kyles of Bute by Elizabeth’s mother, travelling from London. On September 18 Sharp told Stone their party was breaking up the next day, but he and Elizabeth would stay on till the end of the month. By September 26, however, the plans had changed. Sharp had to take his mother-in-law back to London, he wrote to Gilchrist, “as she is prostrated by a telegram from abroad saying that her son has suddenly developed a malignant cancer and is dying — so rapidly that he must give up hope of coming home.” This turn of events disrupted his plans to spend “three days in Edinburgh on important business: my day and night in York: & my two days with you,” but he assured Gilchrist he would stop to visit in late October when he would be returning to Edinburgh.

On September 27, William and Elizabeth, with her mother, left the Kyles of Bute for Edinburgh, where Sharp posted a long birthday letter to E. C. Stedman. Stedman should receive from Stone and Kimball “on or about the 8th — Stedman’s birthday — a copy of The Gypsy Christ. He had hoped to send a book of “prose imaginings,” Ecce Puella, but Elkin Mathews had delayed publication until late October. Stedman would also soon receive from Stone and Kimball as a special present a copy of the American edition of The Sin-Eater by his cousin Fiona Macleod, who “is now admitted,” Sharp said, “to be the head of the Scots-Celtic movement — as W. B. Yeats is of the Irish-Celtic.” The British edition of The Sin-Eater, which was to be published in Edinburgh, “is novel & beautiful as a piece of book-making — though I say it, who am responsible for its type, paper, binding, & general format! For (apart from The Evergreen) it is the first publication of the new Edinburgh firm, ‘Patrick Geddes & Colleagues,’ of which I am chief literary partner.” The books published by the Geddes firm in 1895–1896 are, indeed, beautiful examples of bookmaking, and Sharp did play a significant role in their design. That he also played a critical role in their content is clear enough, for they were all written by Fiona Macleod (The Sin-Eater, The Washer of the Ford, and From the Hills of Dream), by his wife (Lyra Celtica, with a lengthy introduction by her husband), and by his close friends Edith Rinder (The Shadow of Arvor) and Ernest Rhys (The Fiddler of Carne).

Fig. 7. Fiona Macleod, The Sin-Eater and Other Tales (Edinburgh: Patrick Geddes & Colleagues, 1895). Photograph by William F. Halloran (2019).

From Edinburgh on 28 September, Sharp sent Stone an article on the Belgian Renaissance for publication in The Chap-Book. Sharp told Stone that it would not be necessary to send Mrs. Rinder proofs of her Massacre of the Innocents and Other Tales, since she was anxious for it to appear. As it turned out, those translations of stories by twelve Belgian writers was not published until 1896 in Stone’s Green Tree Library series. The book took its title from its first story, “The Massacre of the Innocents,” by Maurice Maeterlinck, whose dramas had established his substantial reputation. In her introduction, Edith said Maeterlinck was amazed she had unearthed his only published prose tale from “an obscure and long since defunct French periodical where it made its first appearance before anyone had heard a word concerning its author.”

Sharp wanted to issue works by W. S. and F. M. at about the same time “in part to sustain what reputation belonged to his older Literary self, and in part to help preserve the younger literary self’s incognito” (Memoir, p. 251). To counterbalance the publication of Fiona’s Sin-Eater by the Geddes firm in October 1895, Sharp produced two books by W. S. One was The Gypsy Christ and Other Tales, which Stone and Kimball published in Chicago as the first in their “Carnation Series.” The volume’s first story, which provided its name, drew upon Sharp’s experience as an adolescent with a band of gypsies in Scotland, and on a recent encounter while walking with Murray Gilchrist on the moors of Derbyshire. When the book was published in England by Archibald Constable and Co. in 1897, it was named after the volume’s second story: Madge o’ the Pool: The Gypsy Christ and Other Tales.

Sharp dedicated a second book, Ecce Puella and Other Prose Imaginings (published by Elkin Mathews in London on November 1) to his friend George Cotterell, editor of the Yorkshire Herald. Not one to pass up dedicatory possibilities, he ascribed each of the book’s sketches to a close female friend. The title piece, “Ecce Puella,” a revised and condensed rendition of “Fair Women in Painting and Prose,” which Sharp wrote for P. G. Hamerton’s Portfolio of Artistic Monographs in 1894, celebrates the beauty of women. Dedicated “To the Woman of Thirty,” it begins with a quotation by H. P. Siwaarmill, an anagram of William Sharp: “A Dream of Fair Women: Every man dreams his dream. With some it happens early in the teens. It fades with some, during the twenties. With others it endures, vivid and beautiful under grey hairs, till it glorifies the grave.” Sharp’s dream of a fair woman endured and became a reality in the person of Edith Rinder — the dedicatee — who, in 1895, was a “Woman of Thirty.”

The second piece in the book, “Fragments from the Lost Journals of Piero di Cosimo,” is one of Sharp’s attempts to produce a prose version of Robert Browning’s “dramatic monologues.” Cosimo, an Italian Renaissance painter, records in old age his failure to measure up to the promise of his youth. Sharp dedicated this piece to E. A. S. — Elizabeth Amelia Sharp — who introduced him to the paintings of Cosimo and his more accomplished contemporaries. The next piece — “The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of a Tear” — is dedicated “To A. C.” whose identity is still a mystery. She must have been a woman of great beauty, since the narrator elaborately parallels the course of his unrequited love for her with the course of a tear which falls down “the lovely sunbrown cheek no bloom of any ‘sun’d September apricock’ could outvie.” Next, “The Sister of Compassion,” is dedicated “To A. M. C.” — Alice Mona Caird — Elizabeth’s “dear friend” (Memoir, p. 252). The woman of the title is “so wrought by the tragic pain of the weak and helpless” that she laid down her life in order that she might be “a messenger of that tardy redemption which man must make in spirit and deed for the incalculable wrong which he had done to that sacred thing he most values — Life.” Mrs. Caird was a well-known spokeswoman not only for the rights of women but also for the animal rights movement in the 1890s. The first-person narrator, a stand-in for Sharp, “loves and honors” her as Sharp surely did since she supplied shelter and sustenance for the Sharps whenever they were in need.

The next piece, “The Hill-Wind,” resembles the impressionistic prose poems Sharp was writing as Fiona Macleod, and he dedicated it to F. M. Personified as a beautiful woman, the Hill-Wind sees the “whiteness of her limbs beneath the tremulous arrowy leaves and the thick clusters of scarlet and vermillion berries” as she descends to become the bride of the Sea-Wind. The image of red berries against the white flesh recalls Sharp’s “Swimmer of Nemi” in Sospiri di Roma, the volume of poems he published in Italy in 1891. Since he associated that poem with the birth of Fiona Macleod, the dedication to Fiona is fitting, but the overwrought description of the forest through which the winds blow contrasts sharply with the restrained language of the poem. “Love in a Mist,” the final piece in the volume, is dedicated “To a Midsummer Memory.” In this poem, “Love” is a young Cupid who spends a good deal of time examining a beautiful forest in search of something to do. He comes upon a handsome man and a beautiful woman who provide an opportunity to carry out his designed function; he shoots each with an arrow. He is concerned as they appear to fall in agony, but he soon realizes “they were not dead or even dying, but merely kissing and fondling each other, and this too in the most insensate fashion.” Sharp’s memory of this encounter, one supposes with the woman of thirty who was his dedicatee in the first essay, enabled him to end a book dedicated to the women in his life with a note of titillation for his female readers. Ecce Puella thus constitutes a further example of Sharp’s preoccupation with women.

In a series of letters to Murray Gilchrist in the fall of 1895, Sharp revealed his deeply conflicted state of mind. His unfulfilled promises to visit caused Gilchrist to wonder if a rift had developed. From Argyle on September 26, addressing Gilchrist as “My dear boy,” he wrote, “Of course, my dear fellow, there is no ‘shadow of a shadow of hill or sea,’ as they say here, between us. At all times I bear you in affectionate remembrance: and then, we are comrades.” He was sorry Gilchrist’s year was filled with “mischances and misadventures.” His own year had such extremes of “light and shade’ that it was no wonder his friends noted the progressive greying of his hair. To further allay Gilchrist’s concern, he closed the letter: “to you, my dear friend & comrade, my love, sympathy, & affectionate heed.” With the letter, he sent a set of proofs of the “Tragic Landscapes” section of Fiona’s Sin-Eater and asked Gilchrist, who knew the Fiona secret, what he thought of the three prose poems. He especially wanted to know what Gilchrist thought of the third piece — “Summer Sleep” — which Gilchrist would know was

an exact transcript of — Phenice Croft at Rudgwick, and that the three men are — you, Garfitt, and myself. I cannot explain aright: you must read into what you read. The most tragic & momentous epoch of my life followed that visit of yours to Phenice Croft, & is, so far, indissolubly linked with that day I met you, and that time.

Published as the work of Fiona Macleod, the “Summer Sleep” section of “Tragic Landscapes” recounts an incident that occurred when Gilchrist and Garfitt were staying with Sharp at Phenice Croft in 1894. As discussed at some length in Chapter Eleven of Volume 1, Sharp wanted Gilchrist to read that section carefully and recognize its hidden meaning.

Shortly after returning to London, Sharp wrote another letter to Gilchrist to say he would spend a day with him between the October 13 and October 19. He was disappointed by Gilchrist’s failure, in his note of acknowledgement, to say what he thought of “Tragic Landscapes.” He would elicit Gilchrist’s thoughts when they met in person. Sharp returned to Edinburgh on October 12 without stopping to see Gilchrist, and, on October 14, he asked Gilchrist by what means he could go from York to his house in Derbyshire when he returned to London at the weekend. Two days later, he told Gilchrist he was ill with a diarrheic weakness, and wondered if Gilchrist could meet him on Friday 18 after 9:00 p.m. at the Station Hotel in York where he would spend that night and where Gilchrist would be his guest. The meeting did not take place.

On November first, Sharp wrote again to Gilchrist thanking him for a letter praising The Sin-Eater. Grateful for Gilchrist’s favorable opinion, he remained unsatisfied by what he did not say in his “little message.” He wanted to know what Gilchrist felt and thought about the entire book which, he wrote, “is full of myself, of my life — more than any (save one other than myself) can ever know.” Edith Rinder, as we shall see, must have been the only one other than himself who knew The Sin-Eater was full of his life. That he would make Gilchrist the third to know shows Sharp considered him an intimate friend and trusted him to preserve the secret. He continued with a deeper confession: “I am in the valley of Deep Shadow just now. Great suffering, of a kind that must not be shown, has led me stumbling and blindfold among morasses and quicksands. I see the shining of my star — and so have hope still, and courage. But, while I stumble on, I suffer.” The language implies a deep depression.

What, we must wonder, had Sharp embedded in The Sin-Eater that he hoped Gilchrist would uncover? The tales in the first section — “The Sin-Eater,” “The Ninth Wave,” and “The Judgment of God” — each tell the story of a man who commits an infraction of the norms of the Gaelic islands and ends up naked and consumed by the sea. In his depressed state, Sharp must have identified with these poor bedraggled men. In each of the volume’s final three stories — “The Daughter of the Sun,” “The Birdeen,” and “Silk o’ the Kine” — Sharp, disguised as Fiona, described a beautiful woman. In the first, she is Ethlenn “with her tall, lithe, slim figure, her dark-brown dusky hair, her gloaming eyes, her delicate features, with, above all, her radiant expression of joyous life.” In the second, the Birdeen, or baby girl, grows into a young lady who is

tall and slim, with a flower-like way wither: the way of the flower in the sunlight, of the wave on the sea, of the tree-top in the wind. Her changing hazel eyes, now grey-green, now dusked with sea-gloom or a violet shadowiness; her wonderful arched eye brows, dark so that they seemed black; the beautiful bonnie face of her, wither mobile mouth and white flawless teeth; the ears that lay against the tangle of her sun-brown shadowed hair, like pink shells on a drift of seaweed; the exquisite poise of head and neck and body.

In the third, Eilidh was the “most beautiful woman of her time.” Because of her “soft, white beauty, for all the burning brown of her by the sun and wind, she was also called Silk o’ the Kine.” She slays the man the King forces her to marry and joins Isla, the man she loves. They shed their clothes and swim out “together against the sun and were never seen again by any of their kin or race.” Sharp hoped Gilchrest, reading deeply, would recognize that in each of these stories of female beauty, intense love, and inevitable tragedy, Sharp was telling the story of his troubled relationship with Edith Rinder, which he had described to Gilchrist when they met at Phenice Croft. He concluded the November first letter with a dramatic appeal to Gilchrist: he needed his help, and he needed it “just now.”

That plea reached its apotheosis in a late December letter, where he recalled for Gilchrist the “tragic issues” underlying his despair:

To me, 1896 comes with a gauntleted hand. It will be a hard fight against the squadrons of Destiny (for I hear the trampling of an obscure foe and menacing vague cries) — but perhaps I may — for a time, and that is the utmost each of us can expect — emerge victor. What a bitter strange mystery fate is! You know, dimly and in part, out of what tragic pain and amid what tragic issues I wrote “Summersleep,” the third of the “Tragic Landscapes”? Well, every environment is changed, and circumstances are different, and yet the same two human souls are once more whelmed in the same disastrous tides & have once more to struggle blindly against what seems a baffling doom.

The imagery recalls that of the “Silk o’ the Kine,” but Sharp and Edith could not shed their responsibilities and swim out “together against the sun,” never to be seen again “by any of their kin or race.” Sharp was “wrought by overwork, anxiety, and the endless flame of life,” and he needed to have a long talk with Gilchrist. He was in financial trouble due to the indisposition of his wife, who had to leave England for the three winter months in Italy. He asked again if The Sin-Eater “wore” with Gilchrist. He wished Gilchrist would write a long letter, not “one of his usual notelets.” He would be thankful if he could leap over “the black gulf of January” and be “safe on the shores of February.”

Over-dramatized, but with a ring of truth, the letter is a long cry of desperation and a plea for help. It ends with an “offering” to Gilchrist, a “specially bound proof-revise copy of his last book: Ecce Puella: And Other Prose Imaginings.” The volume’s extensive ruminations on beautiful women were unlikely to interest Gilchrist, but the intensity of Sharp’s adoration might drive home the seriousness of his dilemma. The letter raises Gilchrist to the status of a secular priest whose receipt of an offering might elicit an absolution, a way forward. It is not clear how Sharp thought Gilchrist could help, but he must have thought the restrictions placed on Gilchrist’s relationship with Garfitt resembled those on his relationship with Edith (see below). Gilchrist’s experience may have produced insights that would alleviate Sharp’s depression. But Gilchrist’s writings offer another clue to the intense language of Sharp’s appeal for help and to his repeated requests for Gilchrist’s response to Fiona’s “Summer Sleep” in which Sharp saw and feared the “Gates of Hell.”

In his writings and his conversations with Sharp, Gilchrist was drawn to speculating about the dark mysteries embedded in the human psyche. Hugh Walpole, in his The Apple Trees: Four Reminiscences (Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berskhire: Golden Cockerel Press, 1932), described a visit to Gilchrist (pp. 42–51):

So dark was the house that we lived for most of the day in candle-light. […] He liked candles and Elizabethan thickness of atmosphere and, if possible, the rain beating on the leaded windows. […] He liked to sit in the low heavily-beamed room and, as the candles flickered in the old silver candlesticks, and read aloud some of his favorite pieces from his writings.

In their introduction to a selection of Gilchrist’s tales (R. Murray Gilchrist, The Baselisk and Other Tales of Dread, (Ashcroft, British Columbia: Ash Tree Press, 2003), pp. ix–xvi), John Pelan and Christopher Roden wrote:

The themes of madness and doomed love echo through the majority of his stories and in rare instances where his protagonists survive their encounters with the supernatural, it is a close call, and we know that they will carry the psychic scars left by their encounter with the Other-worldly for ever more. Gilchrist’s tales are High Tragedy; stories with an air of the morbid and grim, compressed into vignettes of just a few thousand words.

Sharp was especially interested in Gilchrist’s response to The Sin-Eater because he saw in Gilchrist’s tales of “doomed love” and “psychic scars” a reflection of those he was writing as Fiona Macleod, and he thought their author’s view of the world resembled his own.

Pelan and Roden also describe the “duality of Gilchrist,” as shown by his shift in the late 1890s from “ornately crafted fantasies” to “deftly limned sketches of the Peakland District,” from horror stories to local color. “It has been posited” they continue, “that Gilchrist abandoned the realm of the fantastic due to concerns for his own safety following the arrest of Oscar Wilde.” Pedan and Roden, however, reject that view. While they agree that Gilchrist, as “a homosexual living in homophobic times,” “had reason to be concerned,” their analysis of the full scope of his writings indicates that Gilchrist turned to “charming travel books and mainstream novels” primarily because he recognized a change in the literary market and decided to produce writings that would sell.

In addition to the duality in his writing, Gilchrist, like Sharp, experienced a further, more basic splitting of self. Though he was living with George Garfitt (see Endnote 55, Chapter 10, Volume 1) in a homosexual relationship, to those outside the relationship its nature remained obscure. Less flamboyant than Wilde, Gilchrist was not averse to distinctive role-playing. In Eyam — The “Milton” of Robert Murray Gilchrist [a small pamphlet of unknown date written by a resident of Eyam and available locally], Clarence Daniel recalled his father saying Gilchrist attended church services wearing “a cassock and girdle, as though it indicated membership of some religious order,” while another villager said that Gilchrist was “a huge man, full of tricksy humor, who could rattle off anything on a piano and surprise the stranger with the sweetness of a tenor voice coming from his massive frame.” With occasional lapses, Gilchrist projected a distinctive but decidedly masculine image to the world. Sharp also projected that image while secretly wondering if he was more a woman than a man. Gender identity is not openly addressed in Sharp’s letters to Gilchrist, but it is clearly a subtext. The confidential tone and confessional content of Sharp’s letters suggest they shared while together their concerns about dual identities and gender fluidity. Gilchrist must have been surprised, if not perplexed, by the desperation projected in Sharp’s letters, but he must also have recognized similarities in their circumstances. Several qualities that Sharp observed in Gilchrist likely prompted Sharp to pursue an intimate relationship with the younger man in the hope that Gilchrist might provide him with some solace, and a path of escape of depression: the fascination, expressed by Gilchrist in his writings, with the supernatural and the psychic traumas lurking below accepted patterns of behavior; the dark atmosphere of the large old house he shared with his mother and sister; his unconventional relationship with Garfitt who shared his bleak section of the manse; and the periodic emergence of a softer, “tricksy” self.

Sharp seems not to have desired or needed a sexual relationship with another man, but he had a compelling need for a male friend to whom he could confide his deepest feelings. That need appeared to be rooted in his emotional distance from his father during his childhood, and in his father’s early death, which prevented a healing of the breach. In the late 1870s and 1880s, Sharp confided in John Elder, the brother of Elizabeth Sharp’s close friend, Adelaide Elder. They met just before Elder immigrated to New Zealand for reasons of health, and the record of their relationship, which ended abruptly in Elder’s premature death, is preserved in Sharp’s letters. Dante Gabriel Rossetti adopted Sharp as an acolyte in the early 1880s, and Sharp became a willing supplicant. Recently discovered letters to Hall Caine show how Caine became Sharp’s confidant when Rossetti died in 1882. In the early 1890s, Sharp developed a close friendship with J. Stanley Little, whom he remained friends with for many years, and who informed the Sharps they could let Phenice Croft, and who lived nearby in West Sussex. When he met Gilchrist in 1894, Sharp, sensing their compatibility and the comparability of their circumstances, adopted him first as a confidant and then a confessor.

Sharp met his first cousin, Elizabeth Amelia Sharp, a well-educated girl from London, when they were children, and they became engaged when they were twenty. She became his companion, his mentor, and his confidant, and remained such until he died. In his mid-life, he met, and came to depend on, the beautiful and brilliant Edith Rinder. The “needs and desires, interests and friends” of the Fiona Macleod side of his “nature,” which was “deepening and becoming dominant,” needed her presence. It was she who enabled him to summon and objectify his female self. “Without her,” he said, “there would have been no ‘Fiona Macleod’” (Memoir, p. 222). He came to love her; he needed to be with her; and several Sharp sonnets in the National Library of Scotland suggest his despair was deepened by the circumstances that prevented them from having a child. A passage in Elizabeth’s Memoir (p. 292) offers further insight into the state of mind that caused Sharp to reach out in despair to Gilchrist:

The production of the Fiona Macleod work was accomplished at a heavy cost to the author as that side of his nature deepened and became dominant. The strain upon his energies was excessive: not only from the necessity of giving expression to the two sides of his nature; but because of his desire, that, while under the cloak of secrecy F. M. should develop and grow, the reputation of William Sharp should at the same time be maintained. Moreover, each of the two natures had its own needs and desires, interests, and friends. The needs of each were not always harmonious one with the other but created a complex condition that led to a severe nervous collapse.

Here Elizabeth addressed her husband’s condition in 1898, although the problem had surfaced four years earlier when he tried to come to terms with the effects on his psyche of his creation of a female persona who gradually assumed a separate identity.

To the extent that Sharp identified Edith with the woman he experienced in himself, one might say one part of his nature had fallen in love with another — that, like Narcissus, he had fallen in love with himself. In November 1880, when he was twenty-five years old, he unabashedly declared this love to John Elder: “Don’t despise me when I say that in some things I am more a woman than a man — and when my heart is touched strongly I lavish more love upon the one who does so than I have perhaps any right to expect returned; and then I have so few friends that when I do find one I am ever jealous of his or her absence.” This sentence should be read in the broader historical context of Tennyson’s relationship with Arthur Henry Hallam, Matthew Arnold’s with Arthur Hugh Clough, and many similar relationships between men in nineteenth-century Britain. In this case, however, Sharp was seriously attempting to come to terms with his gender identity: sometimes he identified as a man, and other times as a woman. The norms of his society, however, dictated that he be one or the other, not both.

Despite his mental anguish, Sharp continued writing and negotiating with Stone and Kimball about the publication of his Gypsy Christ and Fiona’s Pharais and Sin-Eater. Annoyed by the firm’s delays in sending proofs and checks, he was unaware of the managerial and financial problems that soon led to its dissolution. At the end of December, Sharp wrote to Sir George Douglas, a family friend in Scotland who had guessed the Fiona Macleod writings were the work of William Sharp. He admitted the truth and asked Douglas to refrain from telling anyone. He also spoke of Fiona as though she were a separate person. He included several lines about the role of Edith Rinder in the emergence of Fiona Macleod, and then crossed them out as “too personal.” Sharp’s characterization of Fiona Macleod in this letter as a “puzzling literary entity” is both apt and revealing of the limits to his understanding of the phenomenon with which he was living. In his response to Sharp’s letter (Memoir, pp. 253–34), Douglas obliged him by speaking of Miss Macleod as a separate person, but said he detected her “mystical tendency” in the poems Sharp wrote in the early 1880s. He insightfully implied that Fiona had been there all along. In Sharp’s letter to Douglas, there is no hint of the troubled state of mind expressed so forcefully in his letters to Gilchrist.

He told Douglas that Elizabeth’s doctor had ordered her to spend the three winter months in a warm climate, but only with Gilchrist did he share his worries about the strain this development placed on their finances. Far more worrying, however, was his state of mind. “Two human souls,” he wrote in his December letter to Gilchrist, “struggle blindly against what seems a baffling doom.” He and Edith were bound together in a hopeless love. In the story entitled “Daughter of the Sun” in The Sin-Eater, the narrator states: “We have all our dreams of impossible love. Somewhere, sometimes, the impossible happens. Then a man and a woman know that oblivious rapture of love […] the ecstasy of the life of dream paramount over the ordinary human gladness of the life of actuality.” For Sharp, the impossible had happened, but the fact that he and Edith could not live together and build a family was tearing him apart. One cannot help but wonder if Elizabeth’s decision to spend three months in Italy was motivated, at least in part, by her desire to remove herself from what seemed a hopeless situation and give her husband and Edith time and space to work matters out for themselves.

1895 saw the launching of the Geddes publishing firm in Edinburgh with Sharp in control of its literary affairs; the appearance from the Geddes firm of The Evergreen; the publication in London of Fiona’s The Mountain Lovers and Sharp’s Ecce Puella; the publication in Edinburgh of Fiona’s The Sin-Eater; and the publication in the United States of Sharp’s Vistas and The Gypsy Christ, and Fiona’s Pharais and The Sin-Eater. It is not surprising that this level of productivity under two names, his extensive negotiations with publishers, his responsibilities with the Geddes firm, and the frustrations and fears in his personal life had, by the end of the year, taken a heavy toll on Sharp’s physical and mental well-being.

Letters: July–December, 1895

To J. Stanley Little, July 5, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead | 5/7/95

My dear Stanley

Just a hurried line (as I am off to stay overnight with the Grant Allens)1 to say that if you can do anything — as, I remember, you did so well before — for my cousin & dear friend, Miss Fiona Macleod’s new book, I hope you will generously do so. It is called “The Mountain Lovers”, & will be published on Tuesday next by John Lane, in the Keynotes series.

“Pharais” — Miss F. M.’s first book, you will recollect — made a great impression, & has made her name well known in America as well as here.

I am wildly busy — literally working from 12 to 14 hours daily. Thankful for a brief respite. I have also all my lectures to prepare yet — over 70,000 words to write in 10 days or so!2

Affectionate greetings to you and la sposa — | Will

P.S. I have directed Lane to send you a copy direct. I hope he’ll do so.

ALS Princeton University

To J. Stanley Little, July 9, 18953

Thanks, old man.

I am indeed distressed to hear of your serious anxieties. I do hope things will get better than at the moment they appear. No man has worked more steadfastly, more courageously, & in every way worthily: & you do deserve to have your shares of the spoils of Egypt. One good big spoil came to you with “la belle Maud” — & that must bring good fortune with it.4

If good wishes could smooth your way, you would simply slide!

Ever yours affectly, | Will

ACS Princeton University

To Herbert Stuart Stone, [July 9?, 1895]5

Ecce Puella | And Other Prose Imaginings.6

I. Ecce Puella. | II. The Lost Journal of Piero di Cosimo. | III. The Birth, Death, & Resurrection of a Tear. | IV. The Sister of Compassion | V. The Hill Wind | VI. Love in a Mist

All are fantasies of one kind or another — Nos. 3, 4, & 5 quite short, especially 4 and 5. Of the reprints, No. II was much noted 2 or 3 years ago when it appeared in two nos. of The Scottish Art Review.7 I like it one of my best prose things. No. I is a condensed version of the successful monograph on “Fair Women” I wrote to commission of P. G. Hamerton for Seeley & Co.8 It has I think, verve. No. 6, is a narrative-fantasy on “Young Love”: and appeared with illustrations in Good Words.9

I told E. Mathews (who suggested someone, I forget whom, but I think Copeland and Day)10 that I had virtually promised that so far as I am concerned I must give you the first offer of all my books for America. He said he wd. write to you. I have signed my E. & A.11 rights with him — on this condition.

So, I hope you may be able to issue it there.

All the more reason for the G/C12 to come out, as arranged, at the beginning of October.

I do hope you are having a good time, but not overtiring yourself. When do you leave Paris — & when are you to be here again?

It is an awful rush here just now.

Cordial greetings, amico mio, | Yours sincerely, | William Sharp

P.S. I note by the evening paper that my cousin Miss Macleod’s new book is out — but I have not yet seen it.13

It is just possible I may be able to post a few more galleys today. If not, all remaining will go by next mail. Have just done up Mrs. Rinder’s MS for her.14

P.S. By registered Book-Post goes herewith (in one packet):

(1) The Revised Type-Copy of “The Gypsy Christ” itself

(2) First Galleys of Proofs so far received –


last 3 galleys of “Madge o’ the Pool” (7, 8, & 9)

first 3 Galleys of “The Coward” (10, 11, & 12)

& first 2 Galleys of “A Venetian Idyl” (16 & 17)

So that, I have not up to date recd. galleys 1 to 6 inclusive, or 13, 14, or 15

ALS Huntington Library

To George Meredith, [July 10,? 1895]

Upper Coltbridge Terrace, | Murrayfield.

Dear Sir,

Will you gratify one of your most loyal readers by the acceptance of the accompanying book?15 Nothing helped me so much, or gave me so much enduring pleasure, as your generous message to me about my first book, Pharais, which you sent through my cousin, Mr. William Sharp.

Naturally, I was eager it should appeal to you — not only because I have long taken keener delight in your writings than in those of any living author, but also because you are Prince of Celtland… .

I hope you will be able to read, and perhaps care for, The Mountain Lovers. It is not a story of the Isles, like Pharais, but of the remote hill-country in the far northwest. I know how busy you are: so do not consider it necessary to acknowledge either the book or this letter. Still, if some happy spirit move you, I need not say that even the briefest line from you would be a deep pleasure to16

Yours, with gratitude and homage, | Fiona Macleod

Memoir, pp. 244–45

To Mrs. Grant Allen, July 11, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens, | So. Hampstead | 11/7/95

Dear Mrs. Allen,

(Pray excuse a pencilled line — as I have to write away from home & enroute) I am going to put a further strain upon your hospitality by asking you to give a small space on your shelves to the accompanying two recent books of mine.17 Both are (revised & augmented) American new editions — but I have no English copies, in fact I am myself without copies of some of my books.

We did so very much enjoy our visit to Hind Head. It was a pleasure to breathe that fine air, & to stay in your more than pretty house: to meet Mr. Clodd18 again, and to make the acquaintance of Dr. Bird19 (who is as sweet & sunshining as a mellow day in St. Martin’s Summer) — to see and hear your Nightjar! — and above all to see something of and get to know better G.A. & yourself.

He is in every sense of the term “a good fellow” — and you (let me speak moré Scotico) — “a bonnie winsome lassie”: and it will always be a South Wind for us — as my Island-cousin would say — whenever & wherever we meet you or “Grant”.

Friendship & Comradeship give something of the best that Life has to offer: and I, who already account myself rich, am now the wealthier by two new fortunes!

Chère Amie — think no more of that other matter.20 It seems to have died a natural death. The man who told it to me admitted that it was the crudest rumour — & that he himself had contradicted it the moment he heard you were both together in Paris. Honestly, it appears to be dead & done for. The lady’s name turns out to be — Belloc! So you will at once see how the confusion came about. “Marie Belloc”21 sounds French: that she was “a literary Parisian” was presumably inferred from the fact that she translated the De Goncourt Journals: — in a word, it is clear, how, with a heedless tongue to wag, the story grew from a shadowy ill-conditioned guess into a foolish rumour.

So set your mind at rest. (Cotton22 has heard nothing — and he hears “everything”: which is another proof.) Frankly, you & G. A. have no cause now to worry. “Let be,” as the Aberdonian motto has it. Let me add that you have too many & loyal friends to make it possible for any foolish or cruel rumour to survive. As a matter of fact, this unfortunate affair is really moribund, & will soon be dead.

You & G.A. are built to be happy & comradely throughout life: how, indeed, could he fail to be so with one so winsome and so young in all ways always beside him — or you, with so brilliant & interesting & good a fellow.

The gods are with you — so, Prosper!!!

Cordially & let me say affectionately | Your friend, | William Sharp

P.S. Please tell G. A. that I have written to Stone. Also that I have written to Mr. Alden23 of Harper’s Magazine.

P.S. Lane24 shd be more careful how he speaks. Tell G. A. (subrosa) not to give himself away. (I am referring to the MS. book in L’s hands.) But this of course is strictly private.

ALS Pierpont Morgan Library

To Richard Le Gallienne, July 11, 1895

Rutland House, | Greencroft Gardens. | So. Hampstead. | 11th July. 1895

My dear Le Gallienne,

Will you be at the Omar Khayyám dinner at Burford Bridge on Saturday night?25 I suppose it is likely, as you are a member. If so, we can have a few words as to our ability to arrange a meeting, either here or with you (for my wife is anxious to see the little one, & also your house — as well as you).

I am forwarding the cutting from tonight’s Star to my cousin, Miss Fiona Macleod; who, I know, will be gratified by your kind words of praise for “The Mountain Lovers.” I must again,

though, make a friendly protest against your inference as to her pseudonymity.26 Please Don’t! — for her sake much more than for that of

Yours ever in friendship, | William Sharp

ALS University of Texas, Austin

To Herbert Stuart Stone, [July 12?, 1895]

9. Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield, Midlothian

Dear Mr. Stone

Herewith I send to you one of the first published copies of The Mountain Lovers which Mr. Lane has forwarded to me. I should much like to know what you think of it, when you have time to write.

With hopes that you will have a pleasant sojourn in Paris (for your address in which city I am indebted to Mr. Sharp).

Believe me | Yours Very Truly | Fiona Macleod

P.S. Shall I, when ready about the end of the month or early in August, send the retouched Pharais and the “Sin-Eater” volume (my best, I think) direct to you or to America?27

ALS Huntington Library

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, July 13, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead | Saty | 13:7:95

My dear Gilchrist,

If I am to have the pleasure of a glimpse of you & your mother & sisters, on my way to Scotland (& I won’t be returning till after the beginning of October) it must, alas, be a very brief one: & about the beginning of the week after next. Will you please send me a line by return to say (1) if this date (i.e. abt 23rd) will suit you & (2) how Holmesfield is to be reached from Sheffield. If I were to leave by the 10.15 from London on Tuesday morning — that is, on Tuesday the 23rd — which is due at Sheffield at 1.42 p.m. how could I get on to you? (I shd. perforce need to leave next morning.)

It is possible I may be able to leave London on Monday night — sleep at Sheffield (arriving at 2.30 am.) — & go on in the morning: but this is not likely: indeed if I can leave on Monday (22nd) at all it wd. probably be in the morning at 10.15. Even thus, I must add that my plans are still uncertain. But I would like to get a glimpse of you, if possible. I’ll know definitely in a few days.

Our friend Fiona Macleod did not send you a copy of “The Mountain Lovers” as she sent one to your mother.28 She hopes you will read it, & let me know what you think of it. It seems to me to strike a deeper & stronger note than Pharais.

Cordial regards to your Mother & Sisters | Affectionately yours | William Sharp

Am just off to Surrey, where (Burford Bridge) the Omar Khayyam banquet is to be held, with George Meredith as the Presiding Genius.29

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To Grant Allen, [July 15? 1895]30

Kilcreggan, Argyll | Letter Address | 9. Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield, Midlothian

Dear Mr. Grant Allen

You are very kind indeed — both to write to me, you who are so busy, and to promise to do anything you can for my book.31 It is very good of you. Truly, it is the busiest people who find time to do what is impossible to idle folk.

But, really, you must disengage from your mind that idea of yours as to my being my cousin, Will Sharp. It makes me smile to think how surprised you will be someday. Except that we are both tall, he as a man and I as a woman, there is not even any likeness between us. I am very dark, in hair and eyes: and, what is more important, we are very different otherwise, despite our remarkable affinity in literary sentiment and expression. If you will allow me, I will send you my photograph someday.

I have just had a letter of deeply gratifying praise and recognition from Mr. George Meredith, who says he finds my work absolutely “rare and distinctive.” He writes one phrase, memorable as coming from him: “Be sure that I am among those readers of yours whom you kindle.”32

Permit me, dear Mr. Allen, to make a small request of you. If you are really going to be so kind as to say anything about my book I trust you will not hint playfully at any other authorship having suggested itself to you — or, indeed, at my name being a pseudonym. And, sure, it will be for pleasure to me if you will be as scrupulous with Mr. Meredith or anyone else, in private, as in public, if chance should ever bring my insignificant self into any chit-chat.

My name is really Fiona (i.e. Fionnaghal — of which it is the diminutive: as Maggie, Nellie, or Dair are diminutives of Margaret, Helen, or Alasdair).

Again thanking you most cordially and hoping to have the great pleasure to seeing Mrs. Allen and yourself when (as is probable) I come south in the late Autumn or sometime in November.

Sincerely and gratefully yours | Fiona Macleod

ALS Pierpont Morgan Library

To Patrick Geddes, July 15, 1895

Rutland House, | Greencroft Gardens, | So. Hampstead | Monday 15th July:’95

My dear Geddes,

In my concurrent note to your wife, I have told her how elated I am by a letter I have had (i.e. F. M. has had) from George Meredith. He slips the laurel into Fiona’s dark locks right royally, & prophesies big things of her. I know you will be glad to hear this. Also, you will be glad to know that I am in robust health again.

I am to be in Scotland next week, but shall not be in Edinburgh, save intermittently & by swallow-flights of an hour’s duration at most, until the 30th or 31st. On the latter date my wife arrives — so that we shall have 3 or 4 days before the Session begins.

No, my dear fellow, gladly as I would be off with you somewhere for a day or two, it is not practicable. I can see no one for the week I shall be “hanging about.” I must be alone for a bit.33

As soon as we can, though, we must have a talk about the Evergreen, & publishing schemes. I have enlisted the promised support of Wm. Strang,34 the West-Country etcher & painter (the strongest living etcher, I think) & others for future Evergreens: & have also been prowling through several literary preserves, with fierce publisher-eyes. And done well, prospectively.

When you are in Edinburgh will you speak to Constable’s35 in connection with the Printing etc, of The Sin-Eater etc. It will make a book about the size of The Mountain Lovers, & should, I think, be got up in somewhat the same way as to type, paper, & general format. I should like to send it to the printers early in August: as it has to come out simultaneously in America & this country early in October. I’ll see to its being well announced, in due time.

Lyra Celtica need not, indeed cannot, go to Press till September. Coming after The Mountain Lovers, I think The S/Eater will go well: & will probably attract much more attention.

My “Lectures” will be as over.36

“Art and Life”

  1. Life & Art: Art & Nature: Nature.
  2. Disintegration: Degeneration: Regeneration.
  3. The Return to Nature: In Art, in Literature. The Literary Outlook in England and America.
  4. The Celtic Renascence, Ossian, Mathew Arnold, The Ancient Celtic Writers.
  5. The Celtic Renascence. Contemporary. The School of Celtic Ornament.
  6. The Science of Criticism: What it is, what it is not. The Critical Ideal.
  7. Ernest Hello.
  8. The Drama of Life, and Dramatists.
  9. The Ideals of Art — pagan. Medieval. The Modern Ideal.

In great haste, | Ever yours, | William Sharp

ALS National Library of Scotland

To Richard Le Gallienne, July 15, 1895

Rutland House, | Greencroft Gardens, | So. Hampstead, | Monday | 15/7/95

My dear Le Gallienne

Thanks for your note. I am sorry you were unable to get to the Omar dinner: a memorable as well as a pleasant one, because of George Meredith.

I am sorry we cannot meet this week. I wanted to have a long chat with you — for I too have missed the pleasant intimacy of old. And now, I fear, there must be a postponement until you return from America: for I leave town next Sunday or Monday for Scotland, & shall not be back until early in October, by which time you will be in the States, I suppose. (Do you know Hall Caine? He goes out to America also sometime in September.) However, my dear fellow, I am now & always your admiring confrère as well as your affectionate friend — and so a further lapse of time won’t be a douche upon our cordiality when we do meet!

I suppose there is no chance of your being Grosvenor Club (Bond St) way any late afternoon this week? If so, & if I knew in advance, I could arrange that.

In one of the lectures (that on “The Return to Nature”) I have to give before long in Edinburgh I lay great success on your recent poetic work, and quote the lovely “Ode to Spring” and “Tree Worship”: as, in another, that on Contemp: Pessimism, I give your delightful “Animalcule on Man”.37

I have read this last book of yours 3 or 4 times now, & with increasing appreciation and pleasure.

Yes, my boy, be just to Miss Macleod. Anything you can say for her will be gratefully appreciated, but she as well as her unworthy cousin earnestly hope for no more confusion respecting her actual authorship of “The Mountain Lovers” etc., publicly or privately.

More about her when we meet. (George Meredith has just sent to her present Argyllshire address a letter of splendid praise & encouragement. He knows that she is my cousin: but, I hope, will never be “put about” by hearing any other rumour.)

Affectionately Your Friend, | William Sharp

P.S. I shall have a book of my own to send to you early in October.38 I’ll send it to Mulberry Cottage — unless you are to be away till late in the year, in wh. case I’ll get your American address from Lane.

ALS University of Texas, Austin

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, July 18, [1895]

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead | 18th July

My dear Boy

I am so very sorry, but it is now impossible for me to stop on my way north. I regret this the less, however, as it would have to be a few hours visit at best: while, on my return south early in October, it will be possible for me to stay a day or two.

In a word, I must be in Edinburgh on Monday night — & as I cannot possibly leave London before Monday morning, my stopping en route is out of the question. I did warn you of this, I remember. Please, too, express my regret to your mother & sisters. But I promise, so far as it is possible to foresee, to stop with you on the way back.

I am glad you like “The Mountain Lovers.” But do write to me about how you feel it, & what you think of it. You, & a few like you, constitute the sole public for whose opinion I really care. Your mother, too, has kindly promised to write: & I need hardly say that she, likewise, is one of the few I allude to. Did I tell you of the letter of splendid praise & recognition which George Meredith wrote to Miss Macleod. It is one of several, some wholly unexpected: but a letter like that of GM’s remains a kind of beacon in one’s life. “Be assured,” he adds, “that I am among those whom you kindle.” Yes: to kindle: that is what one wants to do. Elsewhere, alluding to a certain quality in the book, he says: “How rare is this! I do not know it elsewhere.”

I know you will be glad.

Your affectionate friend | William Sharp

P.S. On & after Monday my address will be (for July–August) | c/o J. Oliphant Esq. | 14 Ramsey Garden | Edinburgh

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To Miss Anne Alden, July 20, [1895]

Saty July 20th

My Dear Miss Alden

I am very grateful to you for your letter — a letter full of beautiful thought & emotion, as though illumined by the light of the fair mind & spirit so recently taken from you. And indeed I am grateful, too, that you should have told me so fully the story of her last days and hours.39 She was one of the white souls of the world — and born into new life as she is she must yet have still another resurrection — that resurrection in the minds of all who knew her, which keeps green and fresh a vivid and dear memory.

I suppose all who came in contact with her loved her, or came soon to love her. Certainly I did. And, in, truth, some mental or spiritual link seemed to unite us. It may seem to you very strange — but I have actually suffered when she had to undergo an operation or any severe stress of pain: & sometimes I could hardly bear to think of it. Again & again through the early part of this year I dreamed of her: & once I think I wrote to your father to tell him how I had a kind of vision of her, white and sunlit, walking through a shadowy wood that was all bright where she went.

I am sure that there are some people who go through life as white spirits clothed with the accident of the body — rather than, as most of us, as human beings animated by a spirit — and that she was one of these.

I am indeed glad that my little tale of “The Foster Mother of Christ”40 reached her in time to give her pleasure.

To you, dear Miss Alden, (though I think of you as “Annie” always) I would send a copy of my new book The Mountain Lovers (I know you are cognizant of & will preserve my secret as to my identity with Fiona Macleod) but that I have already sent one to your father, at Metuchen. If misadventure befall that copy please let me know, & I will send another. I know it will please you to hear that George Meredith has written to Miss Macleod a letter of splendid praise & recognition, and that other letters have already made our friend Fiona very proud & glad — but glad mostly.

I go to Edinburgh in a day or two, where I have to deliver, at University Hall, ten lectures on “Life and Art”. In the first and tenth I shall be reading extracts from (& thus, I hope send many readers to) “God in His World”41.

Please give your father my comradely love and deepest sympathy. In the book upon which he is engaged he will find not only some measure of solace, but also know that he builds his House of Dream about a fair and sacred memory.42

I hope, dear Miss Alden, we may meet again in a year or so: but in any case you know that I am now and always

Affectionately Your Friend | William Sharp

ALS University of Delaware Library

To Grant Allen, [?,1895]

Temporary address | 144. North St. | St. Andrews. | Fife.

Dear Mr. Grant Allen

How generous you are! If it were not for fear of what you say about my Gaelic phrases I should quote one to the effect that the wild bees that make the beautiful thoughts in your brain also leave their honey on your lips.

Your Westminster review has given me keen pleasure — and for everything in it, and for all the kind interest behind it, I thank you cordially.43

What you say about the survival of folklore as a living heritage is absolutely true — how true perhaps few know, except those who have lived among the Gaels, of their blood, and speaking the ancient language. The Celtic paganism lies profound and potent still beneath the fugitive drift of Christianity and Civilization, as the deep sea beneath the coming and going of the tides.

No one can understand the Islander and remote Albion Gael who ignores or is oblivious of the potent pagan and indeed elementally barbaric forces behind all exterior appearances. (This will be more clearly shown in my next published book, a vol. of ten Celtic tales and episodes44 — with, I suppose, a more wide and varied outlook on life, tho’ narrow at that! — than either of its predecessors.)

Your review and that of Miss (or Mrs.?) Annie MacDonell in the August Bookman have pleased and interested me most of all I have seen.45 But, sure, I have no reason but for gratitude all round. Even The Athenaeum says some pleasant things,46 though its critic betrays his own limited knowledge of Gaelic in his faultfinding with some of mine — for he ought to know that the signs of the genitive and aspirations vary considerably; and that the Gaelic of the Isles, for example, differs much in these and kindred minor matters from that (say) of Inverness, and still more from that of the more Anglo-Celtic districts. He objects to “Oona” and wants “Una” which is non-existent in Gaelic — unless, which may be, English people pronounce the U as Oa.

But excuse this rambling. Your review is all the more welcome to me as it comes to me during a visit to friends at St. Andrews — and to me, alas, the East Coast of Scotland is as foreign and remote in all respects as though it were Jutland or Finland.

It has also been the cause of a letter from my cousin, Will Sharp, who, in sending the Westminster review, adds that he is coming to spend the week-end with me — or I with him, I should say, as I am to be his guest, at almost the only Celtic place we know of on this too “dour” shoreland of Fife.

Again with thanks, dear Mr. Allen,

Believe me | Most sincerely yours | Fiona Macleod.

P. S. In his letter Mr. Sharp says (writing to me in his delightful shaky Gaelic) that “[both Grant and Nellie Allen are] clach-chreadhain.” It took me some time to understand the compliment. Clach-Chreadh means “stone of clay” — i.e. Brick!

ALS Pierpont Morgan Library

To J. Stanley Little, [early August, 1895]

14 Ramsey Garden | Edinburgh

My dear Stanley

Just a hurried line (for I am far from well, and am frightfully busy) of affectionate sympathy with you from us both in your great loss, of which we hear for the first time thro’ your note. It was expected, but the loss is nonetheless severe. I hope things may move better for you, later.47

My lectures here have been a marked success — but they have told upon me heavily.48

Forgive more just now, old chap.

Love from both of us to both of you, | Ever affectly yrs, | Will

ALS Princeton University

To Herbert Stuart Stone, August 12, 1895

9 Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield | Midlothian | 12th August. 1895.

Dear Mr. Stone,

Herewith I send, by registered Book-Post, the “copy” for The Sin-Eater volume. You said you would have it set up at once, so that I could see proofs (needful, with the numerous Gaelic names and words, and peculiar idioms, and for other reasons). I suppose that about 25 days must elapse in the coming and returning of these proofs?

As the book is to be published simultaneously in this country and America, early in October (if possible by the 5th) — this leaves little time. So will you kindly give immediate and urgent instructions. Also, please let me remind you that, if practicable, the proofs be sent in page, and in triplicate. I append my September letter-address at left hand top-margin [see P.S. below]. I expect to write to you by next mail with exact particulars as to publication here. (I estimate the book to be about 53,000 words.)

Also by next mail, I hope to send you the slightly amended Pharais, in the Green Tree Library issue. When you acknowledge this, may I ask you kindly to remit the £10 which you agreed to pay for the reprint of Pharais in the “Green Tree Library”.

I wonder if you received a copy of The Mountain Lovers I sent to you. I forwarded it to you while you were at the Hotel Voltaire in Paris. You will be interested to hear that the book has attracted a great deal of attention, and is going well.

Please acknowledge receipt of The Sin-Eater by return, and state if you will be able to publish on (say) Saturday the 5th of October.

With kind regards, |Yours Sincerely | Fiona Macleod

P.S. Throughout September my address will be c/o Mrs. William Sharp | Woodside | Tigh-Na-Bruaich | Kyles of Bute | Argyll. | Scotland.49

ALS Newberry Library

To: Herbert S. Stone, [August 12, 1895]50

14 Ramsay Gardens | Edinburgh

My dear Herbert

Miss Macleod is staying with us for a day or two (for my lectures — particularly that on The Celtic Renascence) — & I add this to her note, to say that the date of publicn. for her book is arranged here to be on Oct. 5th. thro’ Patrick Geddes & Colleagues.

By the way, let me write a short Chap-Book article on the Belgian chaps, to help the book, her, & the publisher.51

Yours ever, | Will

I am more chagrined than I can say about the extraordinary delay with The Gypsy Christ. Not a sign yet of a proof. I do trust for every reason financially & otherwise, I am not to lose my Autumn pubn. as I have already lost the late Spring.

ALS Huntington Library

To Herbert S. Stone, [August 25?, 1895]

9. Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield. | Midlothian.

Dear Mr. Stone.

Thank you for your letter of Aug. 15th.

By this time you will have received the complete “copy” of The Sin-Eater: of which I am now awaiting proofs. As I told you then, the date fixed for publication here is Saturday 5th. October.

By this mail (and even if it should miss the mail I shall post it all the same on chance — and I mention this simply because of some alteration in the mail hour, for registered packets, concerning which I am at present ignorant.) — by this mail I send you the slightly amended “Pharais” for the Green Tree Library. Kindly oblige me by letting me have this amended copy back again: as it is the only large paper copy I have, and none other is now procurable.

If not already dispatched, would you kindly remit the sum promised on account of Pharais.

I think I told you in my last letter that throughout the month of September I shall be staying with Mr. and Mrs. William Sharp at Woodside Cottage | Tigh-Na-Bruaich | The Kyles of Bute | Argyll | Scotland — | after which date please address to me as usual to my Murrayfield address.

Yes, I have every reason to be deeply gratified by the success of The Mountain Lovers. Besides warmly sympathetic notices on all sides, there have been signed articles of a rarely emphatic kind by Mr. Grant Allen, Mr. Traill, Mr. George Cotterell, Mr. Ashcroft Noble, and others. Herewith I send you the last which has appeared by Mr. Ashcroft Noble, in The New Age, from which doubtless you may wish to quote: also, perhaps, this from a leader in The Yorkshire Herald: — “Wordsworth’s beautiful suggestion of ‘The light that never was on sea or land’ is…52

ALS Huntington Library

To Herbert S. Stone, August 30, 1895

14 Ramsay Gardens | Edinburgh | 30th August 1895

My dear Herbert,

At last the long delayed proofs have reached this often blaspheming author — albeit in an incomplete form, like the abortive baby that was born the other day minus a hand and a leg. The galleys containing the first part of “Madge o’ the Pool,” and several other galleys later in the series, are missing, and have not, at the moment I write, yet come to hand.

To save time, I send you by this post the revised type-copy of “The Gypsy Christ” itself. Proofs of this can, of course, be revised by you, or any capable person whom you may depute:

as there will be no time to send proofs oversea. I have had no opportunity to reread this revise since I left London: so if you notice anything to delete or improve, act freely on your discretion.

I’ll return by this post, also, those galleys which I can get through in time: the others will go by the next mail, three days hence.

By the way, when you remit cheque as promised (& its non-receipt happens to be very inconvenient, confound you!) — which I hope will be forthwith — please say if you have made any arrangement for the Gypsy Christ volume in this country. I never heard if you had come to an arrangement with Methuen or Lane or Mathews or anyone: as I hope you have.53

I think you have the fore-pages of the G.C. vol.,54 with dedication To my Friend, Lady Colin Campbell, etc.

Glad things promise well in America. I hope the G.C. may prove a Redeemer of lost output!

“Wives in Exile” won’t reach you till near the end of October, I fear. It will be a book of about 60,000 words: and is, as I explained to you, a blithe comedy of “high life,” told, I hope, both with verve and picturesqueness. Of the two heroines, one, Mrs. Leonora Wester, is a beautiful American: the other, her cousin, Mrs. Helen Adair, an equally lovely Irishwoman. If you prefer it, the novel could be sent out in installments for you to set up: otherwise, it will be best to dispatch it complete. It will, I believe, be a sure “draw” — so far as it is possible to foretell.

I have not been at all well, but am now better. I found the strain of lecturing too great. Tomorrow we go to Tigh-Na-Bruaich in the Kyles of Bute, in Argyll.55 I must have an absolute holiday (save for proofs) for at least a week or 10 days. We shall have my cousin Miss Macleod with us most of the time. I understand that her new book has duly gone to you. Personally I like The Sin-Eater better than either of its predecessors, and I have read nearly all its contents: though The Mountain Lovers has unquestionably had a remarkable reception.

Last week we had a short visit from Mrs. Wingate Rinder, who has been staying in Fifeshire during August but leaves tomorrow for Brittany, where she hopes to work up Breton legends and folk-lore. I am sure you will be pleased with her Belgian book,56 which she has taken endless pains to make adequately representative, and has, I think, translated admirably. The difficulties in some cases were almost overpowering, for Flemish French when obscurer than its wont is as obscure and involved as a German treatise on Simplicity!

I hope, my dear chap, you are now much better, & not overworking. Take care of yourself. Have you seen Bliss C. since your return?57 By the way, I have not yet had the promised “proofs” from Theodore Watts58 — but as soon as he transmits them I’ll send you the Chap-Book article. Also, if you want it, a short article on the Belgian Renascence as exemplified by Mrs. E. W. R.’s book. Did I ever tell you that she is Miss Macleod’s most intimate woman-friend, and that she is the dedicatee of Pharais? They have been staying together recently, and (I believe) writing or planning something to do together–though that, from what I know of Miss F. M., will never come off, as she is far too essentially F. M. to work in harness with anyone.59

Don’t forget your promise about the photograph of yourself.

Good luck to you, my boy — Be a good man if you can, but whatever happens be a good publisher, & so earn the Blessing of your

Affectionate friend | William Sharp

I’ll be at Tigh-Na-Bruaich till the end of September, then at my Hampstead address as usual.

ALS New York Public Library, Berg Collection

To Herbert S. Stone, [early September, 1895]

Woodside | Tigh-Na-Bruaich | Kyles of Bute | Argyll | Scotland

My dear Herbert

By this post I return all the proofs of “The G/Christ” vol60 — except the missing galleys, which have never yet come to hand. These must now just be revised in the office — to my regret, particularly in the instance of the opening galleys of “Madge o’ the Pool.” Please don’t let the printer forget my Dedica. | To my Friend | The Lady Colin Campbell.

By the last mail I sent you the G/C itself & other sets of proof.

The order of the stories is:

(1) The G/Christ (2) Madge o’ the Pool (3) The Coward (4) A Venetian Idyl (5) The Graven Image (6) The Lady in Hosea (7) Fröken Bergliot.


I also wrote to you last mail abt. Wives in Exile.

What abt. publicn. in England of the G/C vol? Did you arrange with Methuen? And if so, are they simply to bind & fresh title-page your American sheets?

E. Mathews writes that he [?has] communicated with you.

In haste, | Yours Affectly | William Sharp

P.S. My dear Herbert,

These missing proofs, & other “vaguenesses” annoy me somewhat. Believe me, my dear boy, these things tell ill. A close scrutiny at first hand is absolutely necessary. Hope you are better now,

Ever yrs. | Will

ALS Huntington Library

To Herbert Stuart Stone, September 6, [1895]

The lost proofs have at [last] turned up & I have at once revised & now send them back to you herewith. It is just possible they may reach you at the same time as the other proofs sent on Wednesday, as the steamer from the West was late owing to a gale.

I hope these & the others will reach you in good time.

By the way, in case I forget, please send the 25 gratis copies you promised me of The G.C. vol. to Rutland House etc. — marked “not to be forwarded”.

William Sharp

ACS Huntington Library

To Herbert S. Stone, [mid-September, 1895]

9 Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield | Midlothian

Dear Mr. Stone

Your letter of the 26th just to hand, forwarded to me by Mrs. Sharp from Tigh-Na-Bruaich, where I go the day after tomorrow.

I have sent word to Messrs. W. H. White & Co, of the Riverside Press St., Bernard’s Row, Edinburgh (who are printing the book)61 to send you revised Proofs so far as done, and to follow up with revises, which should all be ready by middle of next week. You can then, as you say, revise the American sheets from these. This will save time, of course: as well as possible miscarriage and delay here.

In accordance with your letter I have written to Messrs. Patrick Geddes & Colleagues to postpone the date of publication till Tuesday the 15th of October: but as this will be, I know, an inconvenient delay, I must beg of you not to postpone it a day later. Kindly send a line by return (to my Murrayfield address) saying if you can fix on this date, the 15th.

In great haste | Yours Sincerely | Fiona Macleod.

ALS New York Public Library, Berg Collection

To Stone and Kimball, [mid-September 1895]62

Dear Sirs,

On hearing from Miss Fiona Macleod, we at once instructed Messrs. W. H. White & Co., of the Edinburgh Riverside Press, to forward to you Sigs. A. to F. (pp. 1 to 96 of text) of The Sin-Eater, and the remainder as the Revises are passed. There are a good many textual & other alterations from the type-written copy: so your readers will have to collate carefully.

It is now definitely arranged that the book in question is to be published on Tuesday the 15th of October — a date later than was quite convenient for us, but which we have accepted as (we understand from Miss Macleod) more suitable for you.

Yours faithfully | Patrick Geddes & Colleagues | per William Sharp

Messrs. Stone and Kimball | Chicago

P.S. Until after the end of October, all communications for Patrick Geddes & Colleagues to be addressed to Mr. William Sharp, Rutland House, Greencroft Gardens, So. Hampstead, London, N.W.

ALS Huntington Library

To Herbert Stuart Stone, September 18, 1895

Tigh-Na-Bruaich | The Kyles of Bute | Argyll | 18/9/95

My dear Herbert

Theodore Watts — or his printers, to him — has proved faithless. At any rate, he has not yet sent the promised advance copy, typed, or printed, of his Poems.

Unless I hear from you to the contrary, within 2 mails from now, that is by the beginning of next week, — my suggestion about a Chap Book paper on the leading men of the Belgian Renaissance, àpropos of Mrs. Wingate Rinder’s book63 — about which I wrote to you about a month ago or less — I’ll write and send out the paper in question.

I trust that one of the two mails in question will bring me the long expected Gypsy Christ Cheque — whose non-arrival has, as it happens, seriously inconvenienced me.

I heard yesterday from Elkin Mathews that you had by cable declined my Ecce Puella volume. Is this because you did not want it, or because you have enough of W. S. on hand as it is? I thought at the time that it was a mistake as you have The G/Christ ready and Wives in Exile to handle later.64

By the way, will you send me the promised copies of The G/Christ, when published, to my home address as usual: Rutland House, 15 Greencroft Gardens, South Hampstead, London. When is Mrs. E. Wingate Rinder’s book to be published? I see, in the latest Chap Book, you announce it as an imminent “Green Tree.” Please send me an unbound copy in page, as soon as printed. By the way, the advt. is wrong abt. that book’s containing C. Van Lerberghe’s “drama-let.”

Herewith I send you, for the Chap Book, if you care for it, & there is time, in lieu of the Watts article, my authorized translation of Charles Van Lerberghe’s Les Flaireurs.65 It is to appear in the Second Part of The Evergreen, which will be published about Oct. 12th–15th, but copies of which will not reach America till late in the month probably.

C. Van L. is one of the foremost younger men of the Belgian Renascence — though really only by virtue of Les Flaireurs, which was not only anterior to Maeterlinck but was the first thing of its kind, & had a marked influence on Maeterlinck66 and several of the young men who rally to the flag of “La Jeune Belgigue” or “Le Coq Rouge”.67

Our small party breaks up here tomorrow, though my wife & I do not leave till the 28th or 30th.68 After that date, I shall be in London. Miss Macleod leaves us tomorrow also, to our regret. I was to have enclosed a note from her, but I see she has done it up separately.

In haste for our mail-steamer,

Ever yours, my dear boy, | William Sharp

ALS Huntington Library

To Patrick Geddes, [mid-September,1895]

Of course I’d look at the “Prefatory Note” again if you wish — & if there is ample time — but I did not feel free to alter what I had nothing to do with in the writing.

Editorially, I didn’t care for it. But that did not warrant me in altering it, as I am not Editor but only a colleague.69

Hoping you will have a good time in the North.

W. S.


To Robert Murray Gilchrist, [September 26, 1895]70

Tigh-Na-Bruaich | The Kyles of Bute | Argyle

My dear Boy,

Your letter has been forwarded to me here. Of course, my dear fellow, there is no “shadow of a shadow of hill or sea” as they say here, between us. At all times I bear you in affectionate remembrance: and then, we are comrades.71

I am sorry you have had so ill a time of it this year, and trust that it is all over now, the mischances and the misadventures. For myself I have gone through a year of such varied experiences of light and shade (both in extremes) and innumerable interblent gleams of life of all kinds, that no wonder my friends note the greying of my hair more & more, though less now than a year ago.

It has been lovely here, in this beautiful fjïord between the hills and Bute, with the open sea & the mountains of the Isle of Arran to the south. I wish you could have been here. But tomorrow I leave — though we intended to be here for a week or 10 days yet: as I have to take my mother-in-law (at present on a short visit to us) back to London, as she is prostrated by a telegram from abroad saying that her son has suddenly developed a malignant cancer and is dying — so rapidly that he must give up hope of coming home.

This has upset all our plans — including my three days in Edinburgh on important business: my day & night at York: & my two days with you. On the other hand, it is almost certain that I must go back to Edinburgh about the end of October — & on my way north shall stay with you. If, however, I do not require to go I’ll still take a run to join you for a day or two, then or early in November, if you can’t come south.

Fiona Macleod’s new book The Sin Eater will soon be out (Oct. 15th) — and I think it will afford you some pleasure. Also, Stone & Kimball of Chicago are about to publish (probably in both countries simultaneously) a vol. by W. S., The Gypsy Christ: and Other Tales. The titular story is inspired, so far, by Eyam-surroundings. You shall have a copy of each book. In The Sin Eater there is a small section called Tragic Landscapes: wherein (or rather preeminently in the first of which) the human element is wholly insignificant and accidental. I find I have a proof of this, which you may have. You will read the third piece, “Summersleep,” with mingled feelings, when you know that it is an exact transcript of — Phenice Croft at Rudgwick, and that the three men are — you, Garfitt, and myself. I cannot explain aright: you must read into what you read. The most tragic & momentous epoch of my life followed that visit of yours to Phenice Croft, & is, so far, indissolubly linked with that day I met you, and that time.72

Let me have a line from you at Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead

on (or after) Tuesday 1st, by which time I shall be there from Mrs. S’s house.

My cordial regards to your mother & sisters, and to you, my dear friend & comrade, my love, sympathy, & affectionate heed.

Yours | William Sharp

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To Edmund Clarence Stedman, September 27, 1895

Tigh-na-Bruaich | in the Kyles of Bute | Argyll

27th Sept, 1895 | For the morning of the 8th

My dear Stedman

It is an age since I have written to you, and my conscience smites me — but, alas, never has correspondence been so difficult as during this last year, when a hundred adverse influences have combined to make me seem forgetful of my dearest friends. However, I am going to make amends, in this my new year — for a month ago I entered another “shadowy portal.”73 And now, of course, I am writing to greet you on the morning of your new year and to wish for you the beauty of the world, the music of life, fresh joy and energy to the beautiful young heart and poet’s brain of which you are the royal possessor; — love, and sympathy, and homage; health and prosperity and largesse of good, & everything to make your life fair and sweet.

How I wish I could see you! What a lot I have to tell you that cannot well be told in letter. My life has never been richer and deeper than in this last year. Looking back upon it I can see scores of days going crowned with sunshine and deathless flowers, & can hear the clapping of the hands of innumerable rejoicing proud-eyed hours.

With you, I hope things now go well. Do not write a letter, for I love and admire you too much to wish to lay even the pleasantest tyranny of love upon you: but send me a P/C, or a brief line through your secretary.

The “Anthology” marches, I hope: also I trust the “Poe” goes well. (By the way, I saw Lugné Poë, a French kinsman of E.A.P., acting in one of Maeterlinck’s dramas, when I was last in Paris. He bore a striking resemblance to the best portrait of E.A.P.)

For myself I have been and am very busy. On or about the 8th you ought to receive from Stone & Kimball a copy of “The Gypsy Christ,” a volume of tales they commissioned. All of them have grown out of personal experiences. The same firm is, later, to publish a “comedy in romance” by me, called “Wives in Exile,” which ought to be the most widely successful thing I have written. Also, I had hoped to send you a copy of a book of “Prose Imaginings” on your birthday, but Ecce Puella ( as it is called from the longest, & titular, piece) will not be out till late in October.

As a special birthday gift, however, I shall post to you, in 10 days or so, an early copy of my cousin’s, Miss Fiona Macleod’s, heavy new book, The Sin-Eater. Doubtless you have heard of her Pharais and The Mountain Lovers, two books which have given her a leader’s place in the Celtic Renascence which is like to prove so remarkable a tributary to the stream of literature within the next few years. She is now admitted to be the head of the Scots-Celtic movement — as W. B. Yeats is of the Irish-Celtic. The new book is novel & beautiful as a piece of book-making — though I say it, who am responsible for its type, paper, binding, & general format! For (apart from The Evergreen) it is the first publication of the new Edinburgh firm, “Patrick Geddes & Colleagues,” of which I am chief literary partner. At the end of The Sin-Eater you will see some of our announcements. (By the way, Stone & Kimball are issuing in October Miss Fiona Macleod’s Pharais in their “Green Tree Library”: and Messrs. Roberts Bros. have already issued (with John Lane, here) her “Mountain Lovers” — and Harper’s Magazine is to have an illustrated series of Celtic “episodes” by her in the Xmas number.)

Tell Mrs. Stedman (to whom my love, & all affectionate greetings) that the copy of the Evergreen I shall send in a fortnight or so is really for her. It is a beautiful production in its format, & she is to keep it in her drawing room for a little & show it to your literary friends as the organ of “Young Scotland.”

Well, the steamer is coming round the distant promontory of this beautiful & romantic place in the West Highlands, where I have been for a month. I have to go to Edinburgh by it, where I shall post this. Two days later I shall be in London again.

Soon I hope to write again, & more fully. Meanwhile, my homageful love, dear Poet, Friend, & Comrade.

Your affectionate | William Sharp

I have a “big” book on hand — but of this more, later.

ALS University of British Columbia Library

To Herbert Stuart Stone, September 28, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | South Hampstead | London | 28th Septr./95

My dear Herbert

Belgian Article

Herewith (from Edinburgh, where I am for a night or two, en route from the West Highlands to London) I send you the promised article for the Chap-Book, “A Note on the Belgian Renaissance,” àpropos of Mrs. Wingate Rinder’s admirably representative book.74

Will you kindly direct that a dozen copies of the Chap-Book containing it be sent me?

Van Lerberghe

As to the Van Lerberghe drama-let75 I sent to you recently, there need be no hesitation so far as the date the Evergreen is published. Owing to unforeseen trouble with type etc. Messrs. Patrick Geddes & Colleagues cannot issue The Evergreen before October 15th at earliest, & more probably, now, about the 20th — but certainly not before the 15th.

I have just had a letter from Mrs. Wingate Rinder from a remote place in Brittany. She asks me to decide for her, as she has no time to catch the mail (& indeed only writes a pencilled line on your letter to her of the 5th, which she had just received (25th) — as to the question of seeing proofs. As for your sake, and hers, delay would distinctly be disadvantageous, I write to say that in accordance with your suggestion, proofs of “The Massacre of the Innocents” need not be sent: so that the book may come out this Autumn.

But please, yourself, or B.C., or some true craftsman, give a glance over the proofs as well as the proof-reader’s textual revision. The book had to be typed at lightning speed at the last — and there are probably many instances where a deletion or an alteration of some kind, in a word or words, might be an advantage. However, Mrs. E.W.R. certainly did her best to make it independent of further revision, so far as time & other circumstances permitted.

To save time, & enable you to get the book out earlier, I shall cable you “Essankay, Chicago” today (“Proofs unnecessary, Rinder”)

Just saw the covers & end-papers for Miss Macleod’s “Sin Eater,” which is now printed, and ready to be issued on the 15th of Oct. as arranged. It will be a beautiful book, & ought to attract notice to the new firm.

What glorious weather we are having — though the heat-wave is becoming trying, especially in London.

Ever yours, | In haste, | William Sharp

ALS Huntington Library

To Catherine Ann Janvier, Autumn, 1895

Sometimes I am tempted to believe I am half a woman, and so far saved as I am by the hazard of chance from what a woman can be made to suffer if one let the light of the common day illuminate the avenues and vistas of her heart… .76

William Sharp

Memoir, pp. 227–28

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, [October 1?, 1895]77

My dear Gilchrist

I have just returned. Thanks for your note: & I know you will be pleased to hear that I shall have to be north earlier than I anticipated, so that I shall have a day at least with you, somewhere between 13th & 19th of this month.

But of this later. (You don’t say what you thought of my experiment in these Tragic Landscapes particularly in “The Tempest”).

My cordial greetings to you & yours — 

Your affectionate friend | W. S.

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To Elkin Matthews, [October] 11, [1895]

Rutland House, | Greencroft Gardens, | So. Hampstead. | Friday 11th

Dear Mr. Mathews

I thought I shd. have heard from you, as our meeting failed to come off yesterday.

If you have not already written — or your representative — please do so to me at | 9 Up. Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield | Edinburgh | where I shall be for a week to come from tomorrow night.

I wish to know the date of publication of Ecce Puella, & if any American arrangement has been made.78

In haste | Yours sincerely | William Sharp

ALS Private

To J. Stanley Little, [October 11?, 1895]

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead

My dear Stanley

Just got back. Hope to see you soon: but not till next week, as I have to be off again. E. not very well — & sorrowing for sudden death of brother. Nor am I as fit as I shd. be.

Will you do what you can for Frank Rinder’s charming first book, “Old World Japan.”79 I have asked that a copy be sent to you. Also, I have asked the publisher (Elkin M.) to send you for yourself a copy of a new little book of mine — “Ecce Puella & other Prose Imaginings.” I hope you will like it. No other literary news, save that my cousin Miss Macleod also brings out her new book this week.80 When I saw her in Scotland recently she told me she was going to send you a copy. If you can help it you will I know.

How are you both, — & prospects, how are they? What a drive life is — For me, I am willing to stop — or to go. But, I’m beginning to feel a little tired of this flame of life.

My love to you both, | Always your affectionate friend, | Will

ALS Princeton University

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, [October 14, 1895]81

9 Up. Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield | Midlothian

Please send me by return a line to say

(1) How I am to get to you (from York) from Sheffield tho’ I fear it will be impossible for me to stay more than one night —

(2) If, supposing I cannot manage to get to you you could come to York (as my guest there) (at the moment this seems to me likeliest)

In Great Haste | W. S.

ACS Sheffield City Archives

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, [October 16, 1895]

9 Up. Coltbridge | Murrayfield

My dear Boy

I too am far from well (at the moment, with a diarrheic weakness) — & it is as difficult, if not more so, for me to get to you, as for you to come to York.

In any case, I could not manage more than the night (with early departure next morning) — & that I do not now feel able to undertake. I am sorry, as you know — but… !

Either I must wait till business or domestic affairs take me north again (& time and opportunity permit a visit) or else I could see you in York on Friday evening. If you can come to the Station Hotel (as my guest there) I would suggest the late evening. I could join you from 9 p.m. till as late as the Spirit & Hotel-Hours permit! I leave Edinburgh now on Friday morning, and shall get to my friend in York about 3 p.m. or so. My address there is c/o George Cotterell Esq., 3 Grosvenor Terrace, but if you think you can come, please send me a line tomorrow (if in time for the Scotch mail for first delivery in Edinburgh) or a wire.

I miss much in not seeing again your mother, and you & yours, but I musn’t play with my health just now, I find — & I have been “so harassed & driven lately” that he dreaded any avoidable fatigue.

Always your affectionate friend | William Sharp

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To Richard Garnett, October 25, 1895

Rutland House, | Greencroft Gardens, | So. Hampstead. | 25:Oct:95

My dear Garnett

You have been so infinitely serviceable a friend to me and innumerable others, that another straw cannot break your back! The straw is my friend, W. E. Garrett Fisher,82 a brilliant young journalist & man of letters, who has just settled in London. If he should require a word of help, in any difficulty, I trust you will not grudge him that privilege. In any case I would like him to have the pleasure of meeting you — whose own literary work he knows & admires.

Mr. & Mrs. Garrett Fisher are, I think, settling in or near Bloomsbury. It is a change from Edinburgh — but, after all, all roads lead to the B.M. — as all bothering scribes come at last to R.G.!

I shall soon have a little book of prose imaginings of which to ask your acceptance. It is called Ecce Puella: but there is no Marie Corellian or other Satanry in it — nor do I advertise that Harems are supplied with E.P. at a reduction!

Ever Cordially Yours | William Sharp

ALS University of Texas, Austin

To ___________, Fall, 189583

9. Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield | Midlothian

Dear Sir

I thank you for your letter. I have directed (through the publisher) that a copy of The Sin-Eater be sent to you.

Although I permitted certain personal details in The Bookman for September at the request of the Editor, I did not consent there and have not consented elsewhere, to reproduction of my portrait — mainly because this is a kind of publicity I don’t court.

Therefore, while thanking you for your suggestion, I must beg of you to excuse me.

If you wish, I could give you a page of the original MS of one of my books for reproduction — though this seems but a poor alternative to the granting of your request.

Yours faithfully | Fiona Macleod

ALS, Princeton University

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, November 1, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead | 1 Nov 95

My dear Comrade,

I can do no more than send you the briefest line today: & that only to thank you for your little message.

You gladden me, when you tell me that my work sinks in profundis. The book is full of myself, of my life — more than any (save one other than myself) can ever know.84 But I am in the valley of Deep Shadow just now. Great suffering, of a kind that must not be shown, has led me stumbling and blindfold among morasses and quicksands. I see the shining of my star — and so have hope still, and courage. But, while I stumble on, I suffer.

Write to me about what you feel & think of “The Sin Eater” — particularly of the barbaric section, & the more intimate final section, dedicated “Ri mo Aisling” — It will help me, and I need help just now.85

Your loving friend | William Sharp

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To Edward Clodd,86 November 2, 1895

Rutland House | 2nd Nov., 1895.

Dear Brother-in-Omar,

On my return from Scotland the other day I found a note informing me that I had been elected an Omarian on the nomination of your distinguished self.

My thanks, cher confrère. “A drop of my special grape to you,” as Omar might say, if he were now among us with a Hibernian accent! Herewith I post to you another babe, born into this ungrateful world so recently as yesterday… . Such as it is, I hope you may like it. “Ecce Puella” itself was written at white heat — and ran in ripples off the drain: and so is probably readable.

“Fragments from The Lost Journals of Piero di Cosimo”87 when they appeared (some few years ago) won the high praise of Pater — but perhaps their best distinction is that they took in the cocksure and leveled the omniscient. One critical wight complained that I was not literal (probably from the lack of knowledge of medieval Italian), which he clinched by the remark that he had compared my version with the original! I see that Silas Hocking has just published a book called “All men are liars.” I would fain send a copy to that critic, even now. By the way, my cousin Miss Fiona Macleod wrote to me the other day for your address. I understand she wanted to send you a copy of her new book. If you got it, you should, as a folklorist, read the titular story, The Sin-Eater.

My wife joins with me in cordial regards, and I am

Sincerely yours, | William Sharp.

Memoir, p. 247

To Hannibal Ingalls Kimball,88 November 8, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead. | London | 8th Nov/95

Dear Mr. Kimball

Herewith the signed agreement. It is all clear to me save the wording in lines 10 & 11 on the first page.

If no arrangement has been made to publish the book in England simultaneously as I infer has not been done — and as I lose not only immediate profit but English Copyright by this not having been done, which I had all along understood Mr. Stone was to see to — I suppose I am at liberty now to bring out the book in this country, either with the same contents under a fresh title or as The Gypsy Christ.89 Kindly let me have a line about “this” by return.

With kind regards, | yours very truly, | William Sharp

P.S. In the circumstances, should not the words “and in England” in 12th line, be struck out and the deletion initialed by you?

ALS Huntington Library

To [Hannibal Ingalls Kimball], November 23, 1895

9 Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield, Midlothian | 23rd. Nov.1895

My dear Sir

Your note of the 25th. Oct. duly came to hand about a fortnight ago with Contracts for “The Sin-Eater” and Memd. of agreement about Pharais — but I have delayed acknowledgment, as I have expected that each successive post would bring me the draft on honour for £10 (a/c Pharais) which you say you enclose, but which was not enclosed. Some six or seven mails have passed, and still no sign of the Draft.

I await, therefore, its receipt, either any day now, or after you write to this communication, before I send you the Note of Agreement (with a slight amendment) which you enclosed in duplicate.

Yours faithfully, | Fiona Macleod

P.S. Kindly let me have a dozen copies of Pharais, if now published.

The note with enclosed cheque for £10 has just reached me this moment. Will write by next mail. | F. M.

ALS Huntington Library

To [Hannibal Ingalls Kimball], November 25, 1895

9. Upper Coltbridge Terrace. | Murrayfield, Midlothian. | 25th. November. /95

Dear Sir,

As stated in P/S. to my note per last mail, the delayed draft for £10 on a/c Pharais came to hand.

Herewith I return formal receipt, but not one of the forms you sent to me. In the first place, I am not legally describable as “Fiona Macleod of London, England” — but as “Fiona Macleod of Murrayfield, Midlothian” — and in the next you are under some misapprehension as to the conditions of the American issue of Pharais. The honorarium of £10 was not to be for “the entire American rights in the book entitled Pharais to have and to hold for themselves and for their assigns for ever” — but for the alterations I made in that book, in order to protect you against piracy of the English edition. It is true, I have no further rights in your Green Tree issue of said book: but, on the other hand, neither have you the right to issue the book in any other form or price without agreement with me or my representative.

Naturally, I would not dispose of the whole American rights, and in perpetuity, for the sum of £10 — which sum in any case was not of my fixing, but Mr. Stone’s offer in consideration of my making alterations which would make the reprinted American issue different here and there from the original English edition. The Sin-Eater contract you will have already received.

Hoping that both books — and other writings of mine — will in every way justify the confidence of your firm,

Believe me, | Yours very truly, | Fiona Macleod

P.S. I send one stamped and signed Receipt-Agreement, for you to keep. The other please endorse with your firm’s signature, and kindly return to me.

ALS Huntington Library

[November 25, 1895]90

Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield | Midlothian

In consideration of 10 (Ten Pounds) Sterling to me in hand paid, the receipt of which is now acknowledged, I, Fiona Macleod, of Murrayfield, Midlothian, Scotland, do hereby assign to Messrs. Stone and Kimball, a corporation organized under the laws of Illinois, doing business principally in Chicago, Cook County, State of Illinois, U.S.A., all rights in the Green Tree Library issue of “Pharais”, which book, in consideration of said honorarium, I have amended so as to safeguard the said firm’s rights in said issue of “Pharais”. But this with the reservation that all other rights of alteration and republication of said book remain with me, and that the said Stone and Kimball bind themselves to publish no other edition of “Pharais” than said Green Tree Library issue unless by special consent of and compact with me or my legal representative.

Fiona Macleod

ALS Huntington Library

To the Editor of Blackwood’s Magazine, [late Fall, 1895]

(Letter address.) | 9. Upper Coltbridge Terrace | Murrayfield

Dear Sir

Will the enclosed suit you for Blackwood’s? I must add at once (1) that I reserve my copyright, with freedom to reprint in volume form after Xmas 1895: and (2) that the American serial newspaper’s rights of this story are already bought beforehand by a New York Syndicate.

The circumstances may make your acceptance of “Morag of the Glen” infeasible — but I hope not, as it would be a great pleasure to me to have one of my Celtic stories in Blackwood’s.

I am at present in Skye, but I give the address (that of a cousin) where all my letters are sent to.

Believe me | Yours very truly | Fiona Macleod

P.S. May I beg the favour of a reply at your earliest convenience, as I have both Syndicate and Magazine applications for any work of mine I have to dispose of.

ALS National Library of Scotland

To ____________, December 11, 1895

11th Dec/95

Dear Sir

In continuation of my letter per last mail,91 I may add that The Strayed Reveller and other early poems of Matthew Arnold have now lapsed out of copyright. “The Stayed Reveller” has long been worth literally its weight in gold — so rare is it. I knew Matthew Arnold, & know his work well, & wd. gladly write upon him in this connection.

Faithfully Yours | William Sharp

ALS University of Kentucky, W. Hugh Peal Collection

To Henry Mills Alden, [December, 1895]

30 Greencroft Gardens | South Hampstead | London

My dear Alden, | and dear Miss Annie, | and dear everyone else at the home in Metuchen,

My cordial greetings for Christmastide & the coming year — from your ever affectionate & unforgetting friend.

William Sharp

who sends herewith, as a Xmas offering, his recently taken “image”.

My wife though unknown, demands a share in a full half of the Love Sent!

ACS University of Delaware Library

To Sir George Douglas,92 December 21, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead | 21/Dec/95

My dear Douglas:

I send you my cordial thanks for your friendly and helpful letter — helpful because it comes from one whose trained intelligence I respect, and whose insight and swift response to any genuine keen manifestation of intellective or spiritual emotion I discovered a long time ago now — and friendly, because at once so generously sympathetic and so honest.

Yes, though Traill and some other critics (& let me say that not one of these “big guns” suspects what you have all along felt sure of, and which I can no longer, in fairness, keep from you, trusting you however to be scrupulous in your guarding of my secret — namely, that I am Fiona Macleod) — prefer its two predecessors to “The Sin-Eater,” I entirely agree with you in ranking the latter as a worthier achievement — so far as it is an achievement at all: — and this I say in no false modesty, for “in finding myself” in F. M. I have lost all literary arrogance, and work now in what someone once called “a passionate humility”.

Certainly, I have wrought it as well as been profoundly wrought by this development of my childhood & boyhood “tendenz.” The movement — to speak largely about small matters — began with “Sospiri di Roma” (with more obvious notes first struck in “The Weird of Michael Scott” & “The Death Child”) and “Vistas.” Then I suddenly harked back — and wrote straight out of my own life, knowledge, experience, and inner self. Pharais was in this sense inspirational.

Please forgive these deleted lines.93 They contained something as to the strange complexities which underlie the puzzling literary entity, “Fiona Macleod”: but, after all, were too private — though, some day, I may allude to their drift.

À propos; when a rumour got about last season that F. M. was “a man, and a well-known man of letters, it was denied by an eminent critic on the ground of “impossibility.” “There is no more pronounced individuality among our living writers,” he declared: “and even if F. M. were not a woman, as she almost certainly is — even her very “wildness” and strange atavistic barbarism confirming rather than dissuading me in this — she could not be any one of the possible names mentioned. If she were, it would be one of the strangest episodes in Victorian literature — and a puzzling nut to crack for the critics & psychologists of the next century.”

As a matter of fact, this is the view now held apparently — and even the one or two who suspected W. S. (Grant Allen, W. B. Yeats, Garrett Fisher94 the critic) have at last admitted they were wrong. Yeats, I believe, went so far as to say that, after careful examination, he had come to the conclusion that “it was impossible.”

Well: F. M. hopes to do something that will last — better, something that will deserve to last.

I do not think “The Washer of the Ford” will please “the general reader.” It is much more austere, for one thing, than anything F. M. has done — but, I think, as great an advance upon “The Sin-Eater,” as that upon the others. The two books, however, that are most near her heart, will not (probably) be done (or at any rate published) for a year or two.

By the way, she has a “legendary romance” in the current Evergreen95 (of course: I forgot, you must have seen this comrade to “Cobweb Hall”) — and a series of illustrated Hebridean & Highland episodes, runes, etc., in the Xmas number of Harper’s.96

Herewith I send you a copy of the first note from George Meredith:97 also a digest of the press opinions to hand. Please let me have both again at your convenience.

I am extremely interested in what you say by way of critical remonstrance.98 Very likely you are wholly right. For myself, some instinct seems to tell me you are right in what you say about the four “damning” words on the last page of “The Dan non Ron” — “a red irrecognisable mass”, of course. Yes, I do admit it. You are right. Possibly, too, you are right about the bloodthirstiness in “Green Branches”. I think you are wrong about the beginning of “The Ninth Wave,” and I am certain I am right about the fittingness of the close of “The Sin-Eater”.

But you are right in your attitude, & I thank you for writing to me. I will remember your warning. I wonder why the strangeness & horror of madness, and the lust of blood, are so potent factors in my imagination — when I know also the wells of tenderness and love for men, women & children, for beasts & all living things, out of which “Fiona” draws her draught of tears and pain and tragic joy.

Do you think you would care to help me by overlooking for me (next February probably) the type-duplicate, or proofs, of the “Washer of the Ford” volume? Or is this asking too much? Say frankly.

A matter that amused me at first has assumed a more tragic hue. A man (a Scottish clergyman — and a Highlander) has read & reread F. M.’s books till — he has fallen passionately in love with her!! He created an ideal “Fiona,” poor chap, and has “pinned all to his passionate hope.” I thought I had definitely prevented all further idea of anything of the kind, or even any correspondence — but I have had a letter from his mother, saying that her son is desperate because of my rebuff, and is dying for love of me; and she begs me to be merciful, & even if I cannot become his wife, at least to see him. She warns me, too, that she fears he will take his life, “as he has become almost distraught by his mad love for you.” Then she makes a personal appeal, about her age, & her belief in & pride in him, & so forth. It may seem only amusing to you — as it did to me at first — but upon my soul I am very uncomfortable about it. After the first definite proposal of marriage (by the way, this is the second Fiona has had!) I made enquiries, & found that, wild as it all sounds, everything is “on the square.” Strangely enough, a friend of mine has an estate near where my “lover” resides with his mother.

I am damnably put out about the whole affair.

Did I tell you of my wife’s serious ill-health? She has to leave England for 3 months or so — & starts on the 5th Jany for central Italy. It is impossible for me to go with her, alas: but she will be with friends. We are hopeful that this complete change to a fine climate will prove wholly remedial.

Ever yours, my dear Douglas, | William Sharp

ALS Yale University

To Messrs. Stone and Kimball, December 21, 1895

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | South Hampstead | 21 Dec ’95

Messrs. Stone & Kimball | Chicago

Dear Sirs,

If, partly by lateness in placing the book on the market and because of the great pressure of long-arranged-for books this winter season here, & for other reasons also (because of the nature of the “Gypsy Christ” story, I hear from one source — tho’ that seems to me rather absurd) there is no likelihood of The Gypsy Christ volume being on the English market soon — I suggest that it would surely he much the best plan for you to publish it (if you have not already done so — as I infer from your advts., though I have not yet received any copy) in the States, and simply send over a certain number of copies here for sale through an agent. If you have not already issued the book, simultaneous issue would give copyright here. I have no doubt whatever that, if you do not make arrangements with your regular agents here, copies on sale would be taken by Messrs. Patrick Geddes & Colleagues of Edinburgh. Only, in that case how about advertising & other incidental expenses. For several reasons I would prefer another arrangement. Has the book been submitted to Mr. Lane?99

Please note

(1) That I wrote, to commission, an article on the Belgian Renaissance, for the ChapBook — and posted it in September last. Its receipt was never acknowledged, nor has it appeared, nor have I heard anything about it.

(2) I also sent to you about same date tho’ a little earlier, with a letter, my translation of a short play by Charles Van Lerberghe.100 This has never been acknowledged or taken notice of in any way.

(3) At Mr. Stone’s request, the recently published vol. (which I am glad to say is going very well) Ecce Puella was submitted to your firm, for publication in America. To this day I have never heard why it was declined, or had any word about it (save a line from Mr. Stone acknowledging a copy I sent him).

(4) Three letters of mine about these matters seem to have been ignored.

As we are, I hope, to have many dealings with each other in future, I trust such lapses of memory will no longer be a source of annoyance & loss of time.101

Yours faithfully | William Sharp

Will you kindly let me have the promised number of copies of “The Gypsy Christ” (if not already dispatched). I liked the format of Miss Macleod’s Sin-Eater very much (By the way, will you please furnish me with a copy of her Pharais and of Mrs. Wingate Rinder’s “Green Tree”?)

ALS New York Public Library, Berg Collection

To Robert Murray Gilchrist, [December 22?, 1895]

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead

My dear Gilchrist

I hope Christmastide comes with happiness to you & yours.

To me, 1896 comes with a gauntleted hand. It will be a hard fight against the squadrons of Destiny (for I hear the trampling of an obscure foe, and menacing vague cries) — but perhaps I may — for a time, and that is the utmost each of us can expect — emerge victor. What a bitter strange mystery fate is! You know, dimly and in part, out of what tragic pain and amid what tragic issues I wrote “Summersleep,” the third of the “Tragic Landscapes”? Well, every environment is changed, and circumstances are different, and yet the same two human souls are once more whelmed in the same disastrous tides, & have once more to struggle blindly against what seems a baffling doom.102

At least, thank God, there is grip.

I wish very much I could have a long talk with you. I wonder when it is to be. (In case you shd. be coming to town, note that I shall be away from London from the 4th to the 10th inclusive).

Meanwhile, I am wrought by overwork, anxiety, and the endless flame of life.

I am in financial and other trouble, too, partly because of the serious indisposition of my wife. The doctor says she must leave England for three months — so in less than a fortnight now she goes to Central Italy. It is impossible for me to get away — but she goes to a relative, & afterward with a dear friend and among friends. Perhaps you would come here for a few days, say in February?

I wish you would write to me — a long letter, not one of your usual notelets! I need something just now.

Does The Sin Eater volume wear with you? It seems to have made a profound impression on George Meredith and the few whom I particularly wanted to reach — and indeed upon many, known and unknown. It has received praise, too, in the best quarters, that makes me almost shy — for a great word has been used more than once by scrupulous critics.

I hope your mother cared for at least something in the book (you told me she was “deep” in it, & would write to me: but as I have never heard from her I fear that she has been disappointed.)

Herewith as a small Xmas offering I send you a specially bound proof-revise copy of my last book: “Ecce Puella: And other Prose Imaginings.” It is rather larger, & is differently bound, in the published edition.

If I could leap from now over this black gulf of January, & be safe on the shores of February, how thankful I should be! And yet — there are gulfs beyond, I know.

What are you doing? What have you done?

Write to me as comrade, and intimate friend. I have a weary feeling as tho’ I had done nothing, & could never write a line worth reading.

My love to you, & Cordial Greetings to all of you.

Your friend | William Sharp

ALS Sheffield City Archives

To John S. Stuart-Glennie, December 26, 1895 103

Rutland House, | Greencroft Gardens, | So. Hampstead. | Dec. 26, 1895.

Dear Sir,

It has been very difficult to arrive at a conclusion as to how best to meet your wishes, and also to consider our own interests, on account of the several plans of publication specified by you.

In the first place we do not see our way to purchasing the whole or half the edition for a cash sale, as you suggest in your letter of the 15th.

It seems to me that the simplest plan is for us to undertake the publication at our own expense, and to grant you what you consider an adequate royalty on all copies sold, with a stipulation that we guarantee you the sum of fifty pounds (£50.) irrespective of possible failure of the book’s sales to reach that sum in royalties. Further, I suggest that the book be published at 5/ nett (so as to aid it toward a larger sale) and that you be paid a royalty at the rate of a shilling a copy on all copies sold. In this way you are freed from all responsibility of production, guaranteed (to the extent of £50.) against non-receipt of any income from your book, and we, on our part, are not so heavily handicapped with a volume whose sales at the best cannot be large, and in the present state of the book market are highly problematical.

On hearing from you, I shall at once reply to you decisively: when, too, I shall return, with many thanks, Mr. Carmichael’s ballad.104 Let me add that the “Arthurian Localities” seem to me a work in every way worthy of republication and that I shall very gladly see it introduced to a wider public, and to a younger generation of writers,

Yours faithfully | W. S.

MS Copy National Library of Scotland

[To Patrick Geddes, December 27, 1895]105

Herewith copy of letter sent yesterday to Stuart Glennie. You advised me to be as liberal as practicable — but I don’t think we can do more than suggested here, do you? (He is mistaken in saying he has not heard from me since he wrote on Nov. 28th — he has heard from me twice.)

ALS National Library of Scotland

To Richard Le Gallienne, [December] 28, [1895]

Rutland House | Greencroft Gardens | So. Hampstead | Saty 28th

My dear Le Gallienne,

It is long since we met, & I miss our friendly intimacy. Can we not meet soon?

Is there likelihood of your being at home & disengaged tomorrow week (i.e. on Sunday the 5th) — and, if so, would it suit you if I came that evening?

If agreeable to you, this would suit me particularly — for on that forenoon I have a bad separation to go through, & would rather be with one who is at once a friend & not a relative. To be explicit: my wife’s health has given way, and the doctor says her chance lies in leaving the country for some months to come. So, on Sunday, she starts for Central Italy.106 It is, alas, impossible for me to get away also: tho’, fortunately, she goes to friends — first to a relative who has a villa outside Florence, and then to a dear friend, at Frascoti, in the Alban Hills above Rome.

Please let me have a line from you by return if practicable.

Meanwhile — as always —

Your friend, | William Sharp

ALS Princeton University

To Herbert S. Stone December 30, 1895

9 Upper Coltbridge Terrace. | Murrayfield, Midlothian.

Dear Mr. Stone,

Let me begin by wishing you health, prosperity, and happiness in 1896.

Herewith I send you the précis of the press-opinions here about “The Sin-Eater.” The latest — a long and important article in The Daily Chronicle — has attracted many more readers. I believe there is to be an article on the book in next week’s Academy, or the week after.

I hope to be able to send you the completed M.S. of The Washer of the Ford by the end of January.107 Messrs. Patrick Geddes & Colleagues wish to issue the book early in March. Will this suit you? Please specify a date, if you can: and kindly let me have a reply by return. May I ask you to give me £50 on date of publication, in advance of royalties?

Of late, and particularly since the issue of The Sin-Eater, I have had many offers as to publication: and I can easily get £50 (or more), only that I bear in mind my promise to you. If I remember rightly, our original understanding was a 15% royalty, with £25 advance on publication.

Have you forgotten your promise about sending me the 25 copies of the “Green Tree Library” edition of Pharais? I am eager to see the book in that form. (Mr. Lane, I understand, is about to issue a second edition of “The Mountain Lovers.”)108

Bliadhua mhath ùr duit!109 and believe me,

Sincerely yours, | Fiona Macleod

30th December/95

The contents, as at present arranged, are

The Washer of the Ford and Other Legendary Moralities

I. The Washer of the Ford | Muime Chriosd | The Kind of the World | Joseph Macrae | Black Dougal | The Hidden Years | The Fisher of Men

II. Marlin the Wild | The Annir-Coilyä | The Swineherd | The Love of Hydullan | The Helot

III. The Colloquy of the Ancients |

ALS Huntington Library