[ 1882 September, 17 ]Letters
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[Alexandria] 17 September 1882

My dear little brother,
     Your nice letter of the 2nd and mamma’s of the 6th to hand this morning, after having been en route 11 days owing to some unaccountable delay of the Austrian.
     Pray tell mother that I carefully note the contents of her letter, and that we will take the necessary steps in re. indemnity at once. Mr. Moss’ lawyer is a certain Semiani who, in his capacity of advocate at the Tribunals and English Barrister at law, combines all that can be desired for the careful attention of the interests of a British subject.
     Paul’s salaries I remitted last week and I shall be glad to hear that the cheque reached you safely.
     Avierino (about whom mamma writes) has been sent “to blazes” by Mr. Moss, and disappeared into “thin air”. Debbane and Nacouz are both at present in Syria. The Crédit Ìobilier lottery I always keep in mind and expect to see the drawings in this week’s Pays Financier. The numbers of your tickets I have, say: Serie 284 No. 29 and Serie 2615 No. 52.
Pray confirm this for my guidance. Also tell mother that, ¯ as I have already written her ¯ the claim for indemnity must be made in Peter’s name in conformity with the contract, and subsequent declaration made by him of the value of the furniture. We will write fuller details after we have seen the lawyer. Aleko’s letter to Schilizzi I have delivered and trust that his illness is only a temporary indisposition ¯ give him James’ best love and remembrances.
     I am well pleased to see you like the “Death of Phocas”; but, as you know, cannot concur in your preference of “magnificent” to “frugal” ¯ True, as you say, by contrasting light and dark colours, a vivid effect is produced ¯ but this is not the main point of the question ¯ for, I maintain, that simplicity is expressive of as complete a grandeur as any gorgeousness. Again, such splendour would be inconsistent with the manner of thought of the man ¯ not with the customs of a Christian of the early ages.
     By this time you will have received “By the rivers of Babylon”. What say you to the metre? ’tis a perilous flight, with many snares and pitfalls for an unexperienced Pegasus.
     “Crabbed age and youth” etc. are lines I know well, and have always admired ¯ Perhaps you are not aware that they are taken from the “Passionate Pilgrim”, a poem of considerable beauty but unfortunately written in a loose, disconnected sort of way, that impresses one with a sense of incompleteness and aimlessness.
     Your genealogical notes are always interesting, and the genealogical tree, will be gladly received and duly appreciated by an unworthy descendant of the Imperial House of Ducas, which however will, in days to be, rise to greater eminence and renown through the labouring genius of Constantinus.
     I say this in earnest ¯ for I feel confident that the day will come, when you will reap great advantages from the lore you have amassed, and use it to your benefit and fame.
     My dear Constantine, for some reasons, business habits are admirable and tend to the dispersion of much unnecessary confusion. I would recommend you in future ¯ in order that our correspondence may be complete ¯ to mention in your letters the dates of those you have received from me.
     By the bye, you never told me whether the Queens reach you regularly, nor whether grandfather was pleased to receive my letter. Stivala is always Robertson’s head-man and I keep goading him continually about your magazines. I am afraid however that you must give up all hopes of the July and August numbers ¯ but September I trust to be able to send forward this week.
     The stench of our streets, ¯ I referred to some time ago ¯ was produced by the opening and repairing of the sewers but all that is now over, and the authorities have succeeded so well in piling up the ruins and gathering all the stones and rubbish together, that positively the damage done appears much less now, than when I arrived.
     How do I spend my Sundays? Much the same as other week-days. This for instance is a Sunday. I turned out of bed at six (since I left Constantinople I have become an early bird) and sat down at my little table to read the Weekly Times. At seven I began dressing and left the house at eight for church, where I remained till about nine and whence I proceeded to the Office. Work till about noon, when I got your letters, read them and went to show them to Peter at the Intendance. Thence together we went to have something to eat, and returned home to lie down for an hour or so. The weather is exceedingly hot. As I write Mrs. Jones’ hall-clock strikes 2, and although I am arrayed in an airy dress i.e. drawers and flannel-singlet the sweat comes gushing through every pore. When I finish this letter I intend to take a nap till three, then dress and sit down to work at a poem I have in hand, then go out for a stroll and then return to my room again to read and think, to think of you mostly, of you whose voice is ever ringing in my ears, and to wonder what the future has in store for us. God knows the day may be far distant yet when I shall see you again: ¯ and so I creep to bed, and the fingers of the clock move round, and time goes on, and everything repeats itself.
     David Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit are yours, most decidedly yours, and I only wish I had the means to supply you with more books. Poor boy, you must feel the want of books sorely, as I do myself.
     Mamma’s postscript to your letter is veracity itself.
     I scarcely need assure you that I fully appreciate your communications and carefully preserve them.
     The war, as I daresay you know, is now over. General Wolseley telegraphs that he was received at Cairo with open arms and that he does not require any further troops.
     Cairo has not shared the fate of Alexandria, and the gas and water works have been working uninterruptedly. Arabi and Toulba are held prisoners. The disbandment and disarmament of the rebels at Kafr-Dawar is still proceeding and is not expected to be completed till tomorrow, when the surrender and disarmament of the garrisons at Aboukir and Damietta will be proceeded with. Abdel-Al still holds out at Damietta but, as the Egyptian Gazette says, he will soon awake out of his dreams to learn that it is a risky game to play at rebellion. After all the English have been quicker about it than I expected. Wolseley has kept his promise. Before leaving London and, whilst explaining to an attentive audience in the drawing room of Duchess ¯¯¯ his plan de campagne, he said that, with the help of God, he would be in Cairo by the 15th September, and actually on that date he entered the Egyptian capital. You know, they have had some hot work at Tel-el-Kebir. They stormed the place in twenty minutes without firing a shot: the enemy lost 2,000, the English 200 men, mostly officers of good families ¯ Sir Garnet is now residing at Abdeen Palace and the Khedive has placed the Kasr-el-Noussa palace at the disposal of the Duke of Connaught.
     Now that the war is practically over, several important arrests are being effected here as well as in Cairo. Several pashas who wore the mask of hypocrisy are being discovered, and it is to be hoped they will be dealt with severely. They are all men who signed a document the day after the bombardment swearing allegiance (if I may be allowed the term) to the Prophet’s champion Araby, and death to the infidel and christian-guided Khedive. They say they are going to bring Araby here ¯ the scoundrel will put a long face on, when he is driven about in the streets as a rebel, where, if you remember, three months ago he passed with the bearing of a sovereign! He will meet his just reward ¯ as it is, he was never worth anything ¯ Fortune led him on, not genius. You remember the lines in Lear?
     “Have more than thou showest,
     Speak less than thou knowest,
     Lend less than thou owest.” ¯
These lines suddenly cross my mind and I put them down not because they bear any direct reference to Araby, but because they beset my thoughts and I want to get rid of them.
     Lo! I have come to the end of my tether ¯ Farewell, dear brother, and give dear love to all
          from your faithful
               John
 
C.F. Cavafy Esquire
Constantinople

From John C. Cavafy
To Constantine Cavafy

Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika