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This article is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

A Letter (translated by Michael Hofmann) Hugo von Hofmannsthal

This is the letter which Philip Lord Chandos, younger son of the Earl of Bath, wrote to his friend Francis Bacon, later Lord Verulam and Viscount St. Albans, to apologise for his renunciation of all literary activity.

It was kind of you, my dear, honoured friend, to overlook my two years of silence, and to write to me as you did. It was more than kind to express your anxiety, and your dismay at the intellectual torpor into which I seemed to you to be falling, with the good humour and the lightness of touch of which only great men are capable, steeped as they are in life's perils, but not demoralized by them.

You close with the aphorism from Hippocrates: 'Qui gravi morbo correpti dolores non sentiunt, iis mens aegrotat,' and conclude that I need medical attention not only to curb my illness, but even more to sharpen my awareness of my inner condition. I would like to answer you as your concern merits, would like to open my heart to you, and don't quite know how to set about it. I hardly know if I am still the person to whom your precious letter is addressed: am I, at twenty-six, the same person who, at nineteen, wrote that 'Second Paris', that 'Daphne's Dream', that 'Epithalamium', those pastoral plays tumbling along under the splendour of their words, which a heavenly Queen and a few all-too-generous Lords and gentlemen are gracious enough to recall? And ...


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