PALMER, SAMUEL (1805-1881, visionary painter and etcher, friend of William Blake)
Thirty-four of these letters, including the fragments, are published in The Letters, edited by Raymond Lister, 1974; the other sixteen are apparently unpublished.
Palmer met the Wright brothers, then boys, when he moved to Furze Hill near Reigate. Palmer saw them during university vacations and spent long evenings with them, their conversations ranging over every imaginable subject, as in these letters. Lister, in his biography of Palmer, states that the visits of John Preston Wright at Furze Hill especially 'were among Palmer's greatest consolations.'
Palmer's son, A.H. Palmer, asserts that writing was his father's favourite form of expression and goes so far as to say: 'He wrote with his right hand and painted with his left'. Letters were quite evidently an art form to Palmer and he is widely acclaimed as a gifted correspondent. This was true on both verbal and visual levels. He expresses himself with the insight of the artist and the palette and eye for detail of a painter. Moreover, he plays with styles of handwriting including using miniature writing, reversing the pen, employing long 'esses', capitals and musical notation, writing round the sheets of paper, drawing on black edges, underlinings, blottings out and divisions of the text in such a way that their visual impact is an integral part of their appeal and could never be fully represented in print. They will always be important items in any exhibition about his life and work.
'...One of our family (permit me to say, neither Mrs Palmer or myself) at prayers this morning turned pale and nearly fainted through TIGHT STAYS. It is the business of the Devil to deface the works of God, and of God's loveliest work these hateful corsets cramp and impede the vitals, utterly destroy the shapeliness and grace, which we in our hopeless barbarism fancy they improve, and even twist & distort the bony structure. They impair the action of the lungs & heart corrupt the breath, prevent ease & gracefulness of movement and sometimes any sudden movement at all but at the cost of sudden death. To call these Babylonish gyres Satanic would be to libel him against whom St Michael would not bring a railing accusation...'
'...the glory of the poet's art is that he converts the bonds of metre into indispensible conditions of perfect beauty...'
'...Many thanks for your DAY IN DETAIL. What much comforts me is your sticking close to the "publicans & sinners". When the "respectable" people have done with these poor creatures especially the women, their one only tie of sympathy with their kind is through the clergyman -- I hate cant, but really cannot see how any of us can be quite sure that we are better than they, so much depends on surrounding influences & early habits. Sin however lies heavily at the door of those who have suffered their poor to live in pig-sties & have filched from them their gardens...'
'...Men, rats & pike are distinguished in natural history by their propensity to prey on their own kind. The "rights of man" are the right of the less voracious to restrain those who are more so; the rights of the poor majority are pure air, & pure water, & sufficient space to walk about in, -- when the rich minority are befouling the air with manufactories, poisoning the rivers, and, as in the Neighbourhood of Footscray and St. Mary's, adding "field to field till there is no place left" & the villagers can not step out of the dusty high road without a trespass. The rich & the middle classes for ages befouled the air by retiring into their coffins beneath churches which were frequented by all classes, - and when in an agony of accommodation I was trying to please our "learned friend" by naming some instance in my own times of progress, fortunately I thought of the abolition of mural interments...'
'...there is nothing like biography, it is the nutritious roast beef of literature even if we must allow the best poetry to be its turtle, and, versus the science-of-history-gentlemen, I doubt not you will agree with me that men make circumstances much more than circumstances men. Nelson made the circumstance of Trafalgar after circumstances had for years been doing their best to unmake Nelson...'
'...In the poetry of prudence a word is a word, in the poetry of (Plato's) madness it is many, - and all the best poets are out of the body while they write though the bodily hand holds the pen. Yet on referring to most superhuman passages, we find the words simple: so placed however under the Divine frenzy that one word does duty for many. So in real music the simplest change of key, occurring at the right time in the right place, effects everything - as the "Shadows brown" in Handel's setting of Il Penseroso are solemnized in a moment by descending one semi tone upon the adjective: going into the key of the 4th, if I remember rightly...'