33. 12 September 1989 [ES] (Clara Schumann; Baudelairisation; Schubert; Hamlet; Edward III)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   it's St Clara's Eve, to be accompanied by appropriate ceremonies and devotions for the first lady of music's 170th birthday. Nine years younger than Robert, and fourteen older than Johannes ('he that should come', as Robert confusedly called him); but now the same age as they. And not just for an age either, but for - well, for some time yet. They'll see mine out.

   All this and more, much more, has been brought on by working on Brahms; the last of the great composers? He too had a theme signifying

   Thanks for your letter. Vous êtes la bonté même, as my dear friend Henry Lazard (with whom I was quite famillionaire, so to speak) used to say. He loved all things English, 'avant tout ce sens d'humour anglais que tant j'apprécie', which was apparently especially commendable for something which he believed to be called a pum (= calembour). How he'd have loved your Baudelairisation.

   You're very kind about my Hamlet piece. Such readers I wish me. We agree, perhaps, in thinking (mainlycontra mundum, at the moment) that Shakespeare was a very great artist: a tribe in my experience characterised by the custom of obsessive revision and the gift of endless invention. Like Schubert, - often to my despair in preparing the Grove work-list but otherwise to everyone's deep delight - writing his songs twice and three times, often in quite different versions. And it goes with impracticably long masterpieces. Not everyone thought with Schumann that the great C major was notable for its 'himmlische Länge', or even bearable. Wasn't it the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra that once shouted, as one bandsman, 'Die Neunte spielen wir nicht'? So, yes, I reckon that Hamlet in its later versions came to Shakespeare as a very long play, or else as a written work of art. I rather feel that the final versions he prepared for Folio publication were, pace the Oxford editors, plays that were meant to be read. Which reminds me that pace is now like bello - whether of rage or pain - from the Oxford editors, after the enclosed declaration of hostilities. Reactions are awaited, from the reactionary. I'm lying doggo (as, it is said, Lord Catto once did, on a state occasion).

   You kindly ask after Edward III; I've sent text and notes to a publisher, without much hope of success. As to comments on Hamlet, they're generally favourable; but I hear mainly from the laity, to whom I hope to appeal in every sense. The professionals concerned would be supermen if they could manage to be magnanimous about an attempt to reduce their lifetime's publications to waste paper and pulp.

   Best wishes and warmest regards

   yours, as ever,