122 Typed; Signed: August 31, 1940

Article excerpt











August 31st, 1940.

Mrs. Woolf,

c/o The Hogarth Press,

37, Mecklenburg Square,


Dear Madam,

I have read, with the greatest interest and delight, the very important book that you have written on Roger Fry. I knew him well, from the time when he asked me to come over and see him at Dorking, and during his strange and eventful life. We differed upon almost every important matter, except in one respect. I wrote a little book on Velasquez, which Roger Fry praised in no measured terms, to my great joy. But, though we differed in many other respects, we were none the less friends. I loved the work of Gainsborough, and hated that of Cezanne, and twice I declined to write articles upon Post-Impressionist Exhibitions, because I told him I could say nothing in favour of the work.

You have entered into the details of his life with extraordinary skill, if I may be allowed to say so, and I am greatly obliged to you for having written the book.

I do want, however, to protest against what you have put on page 137. I knew Mr. Morgan intimately, and as a personal friend. He was constantly at my house in London, and I was often at his in America, and I traveled for him all over Europe, gathering up information from archives and documents in various languages. You say that his "ignorance was colossal." He took a very high degree at his university, he was a sound classical scholar, he spoke and read French, and in mathematics he took an especially high position, particularly in the more difficult kind of mathematics--trigonometry, the integral calculus, and so on. There his knowledge was so important that he would have been welcomed as a tutor or professor in any university, and was in fact offered such a position. Moreover, he had a sound knowledge of Italian art and a considerable knowledge of portraiture, and he knew about carved woodwork, jewels and precious stones, so that what you mean by "colossal ignorance" I cannot conceive.

Again, you say that his "vanity was prodigious." On the contrary, he was a very humble man, he kept his own skill and knowledge carefully hidden. He was a religious man, a constant attendant at religious services, and he was always ready to say things in discredit of his own knowledge. Then you say he "required flattery." No man required it less, no man more resented it, no man saw more quickly through it. He did wish to make his museum as good as possible, and I have heard him say again and again that he wished to have as fine things in it as in any of the museums of the old country, and he did everything in his power to carry out this wish.

He did "buy in batches," as you say, because his remark was "I cannot live long enough to make a collection, and therefore I will buy the whole collection of some great collector, and hand it over to my museum. …


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