Letter from J M Barrie to Arthur Quiller-Couch (‘Q’), Christmas Day, 1893, sent from Kirriemuir.
My dear Couch,
You are a low ruffian not to answer my letter, but I wish you a happy Christmas time all the same. If you will stay away from London you will miss much. I don’t believe, for instance, that you know the new thing in shirt studs. For the sake of Mrs Couch I am remembering the fashionable colours and the new waists, and I have a novel blow delivered from the shoulder for the boy.
The Delectable Duchy is far and away the best fiction of the year. I enjoyed Catriona immensely though not quite equal I think to Kidnapped, but I would be much better satisfied with myself had I written your book. It is a good deal better than Noughts and Crosses. The ‘new movement’ (taradiddle dido) in fiction is sending all the clever young men off the lines I think but they’ll get on the right track if they are much good. Tess was right, because it was Hardy’s natural output. That is the whole thing surely. Blessed is the novelist who has no idea how he does it.
How does your book move on? I often think of it. Mine goes so slowly that it won’t be ready for a year. The children won’t grow up. The fact is that I find smoking an occupation in itself. I expect to be here for some time. Have you read Zangwill’s Ghetto Tragedies? He is improving immensely with each book, dropping smartness and vulgarity, and I believe in him. I see from the papers that I am in Switzerland with Maarten Maartens. Hope I’m enjoying myself.
Yours ever, J. M. Barrie
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