[ 1883 November, 29 ]Letters
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[Alexandria] 29 November 1883

My dearest Constantine,
     Since writing you some time ago ¯ ’tis really such a long time ago that I don’t remember ¯ I have received your entertaining epistle of the 18th instant, and thank you for its enclosure, the which however I have so far been unable to clothe in English poetical language for the simple reason I suppose that the spirit cannot be made to move at one’s will or fancy. The news you give me is really very interesting and I was much amused at what you say about grandfather. Please give the dear old man my very kind regards and make some sort of an apology for my not writing. In fact, how can I write? To compose letters of that sort and with no distinct purpose, the mind must be easy and unpreoccupied: but such is not the case with me. During business hours ¯ from early morning to late at night ¯ my mind is preoccupied with the work I am in the act of doing, and after business hours with the business that has to be done on the morrow ¯ So you see, but little time is left for quiet meditation or relaxation of the mental faculties, and such time is best employed in sleep (“nature’s sweet restorer”) of which I take as ample a share as I possibly can. Life nowadays is very much like a treadmill and our principals are little better than slave-drivers.
     You will doubtless have heard something about the late commotion in the Soudan. ’Tis some time now since the news came that the Mahdi was victorious and had cut to pieces the Egyptian army under General Hicks: but this has not yet been confirmed, and all is doubt and uncertainty ¯ In any case this disaster ¯ (should the news prove true) has been the cause of some good, i.e. the counter orders for the non-withdrawal of any of the troops of the army of occupation from Egypt, and Cairo consequently will not be vacated. In the meantime the effect of these events has been disastrous indeed on the Egyptian funds: at one moment they touched 60 or say a fall of 8 points. In an indirect way even exchange was influenced, and I was enabled to sell some of the firm’s paper the other day at a price that has been long unknown on our Bourse.
     By the bye I have not told you that Kneen has been seriously ill: in fact he very nearly “kicked the bucket” last week ¯ He is now convalescent in Ramleh, but I am afraid will not be good for work for another ten days or so ¯
     Have you read Bulwer’s Athens? I am now reperusing this work and find it extremely interesting ¯ Alexander tells me that you are reading Herodotus together and that he discovers the Father of History to be rather lax in his descriptions of morals. I was much amused at the remark. What would Alexander think of Plato’s Symposium? or the third book of the Iliad or the Bacchae of Euripides!! and here I pause, for I have mother’s and Alexander’s letters to answer. So with much love believe me,
          my dear Constantinus
               Your affectionate brother
                    Johannisberg.


From John C. Cavafy
To Constantine Cavafy

Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika