I just read in the paper (=the TLS) that Kipling burned all his letters before he died, and that after his death his wife bought and burned most of the rest of his correspondence and 45 volumes of her diaries. I am overcome. Not that I wanted to read those 45 volumes or that I am ever likely to read a biography of Kipling – I do not read biographies – but I might have read those letters dammit.
But I am so ornery that I can be annoyed by found texts as well as lost ones. A few weeks ago I discovered (this time by reading Christopher Hitchens’ illuminating review of a biography of Saki in the Atlantic, for I do read reviews of biographies) that my Penguin edition of Saki’s Complete Short Stories is missing six. Stupid me, I assumed that the complete short stories would contain all of them. Fortunately the missing six are in the public domain and available on the web. But don’t get the idea that I was overjoyed to discover them. The pleasure of reading Saki is rereading: reading over and over again, immersing myself once again in the world of preposterously clever young men and revenge taken on cruel aunts, a world from which I emerge with sharper, longer, better patterns of speech. These new stories are strangers to me, and I resent their existence. In short, I have missed 25 years with what I may now not be able to make old friends.