Eleven Autograph Letters Signed from the diplomat Sir William Alexander Smart to Ernest Frederick Gye of the Foreign Office, from New York, Saloncia, Beirut, Damascus, and five from Paris, with references to James Joyce, Sylvia Beach and Proust.

Sir William Alexander Smart (1883-1962), British diplomat in the Levant and Egypt [Ernest Frederick Gye (1879-1955), diplomat; Sylvia Beach; James Joyce; Marcel Proust]
Publication details: 
Dating from between 1917 and 1926. One from New York (1917); one from Salonica (1919); five from Paris (one undated, the other four 1922); one from Beirut (1923); three from Damascus (1924, 1925 and 1926).
SKU: 11250

Totalling 68 pp, comprising 50 pp, 12mo; 18 pp, 4to. In good condition, on lightly-aged paper. Two signed 'W. A. Smart' and the others 'WAS.' All addressed to 'My dear Ernest'. Written in a spirited, chatty, and (for a diplomat) surprisingly indiscreet style, of which the beginning of the second letter (Salonica; 19 August 1919), concerning the appointment of Victor Vincent Cusden (1893-1980), gives a good example: 'Were you not content with condemning me to physical and financial ruin in this death-trap? Why, to add to my afflictions, did you send me this pathetic shop-boy? | He presented himself a few days ago in my office, his Tommy's love-lock drooping over a pimply forehead. His cap he held with both hands over his private parts - an attitude which, I subsequently perceived, he assumes on introduction. I thought he was the office-boy of some local Jew-merchant, but, to my horror, he introduced himself as the long expected Probation Vice Consul. He had come with a tooth-brush and a sponge, and one of those cavalierish light overcoats affected by counter-jumpers in the jauntier of [sic] our provincial cities.' In the same letter urges Gye: 'turn to those you affect to dislike - Guillaume Apollinaire (requiescat in pace), Derain, Jacob, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, Paul Nash, Nevenson [sic] etc etc. And you will find, in every country, a youthful vanguard reasserting, with violence perhaps, the long neglected tradition of duty.' Hence the austerity of the New Art, which, in the end, will be the New Classicism. No wonder our romantic democracies dislike it.' In the first letter, written from New York on 2 June [1917], he boasts of 'how once at Shiraz I slipped out of the Consulate alone with a trusty pimp and made my way incognito to a house prepared for the occasion. After our embraces, rather prolonged owing to my inadequacy, the Jewish maiden, to whom I had been passing myself off as a Frank merchant, suddenly announced that she had a petition (very darum). And in reply to my encouraging "befermayid", she asked timidly whether I could take on her husband at the Consulate in the place of one of the Consular farrashes whom she deemed incompetent'. Describes New York as resembling 'nothing within 3000 miles of Boul' Mich. Nor are its inanities reminsicent of Chelsea. [...] I am obsessed in the New World by associations of the Old.' The letters from Paris are written during his father's death there, while Smart is having 'a rotten time', his father, 'a great humanist, who knows perfectly well how to die', having 'to go on suffering in this hypocritical atmosphere!' 27 June 1922: He sees Mistinguette at the Concert Mayol, complaining that 'tights seem to have disappeared with the war, and feminine modesty, complete and decent, to have become de rigeur'. Goes to a dinner at which 'Fargue kept me in fits of laughter and Jules Romains [sic] excited all my admiration [...] I also heard, from Riviere, a lot of interesting details about Proust and his work. But I forgot that you are not an admirer of the most genial novelist of the century. | Everybody here is mad about James Joyce. I had not heard of him until he was "boosted" to me by my French friends'. He has only been able to '"feuilleter' his masterpiece "Ulysses" in the shop of the astounding Sylvia Beach (Shakespeare & C.) who brought it out, England and America having refused to publish it. As says, it is not indecent but obscene. "Et la langue anglaise est riche en expressions obscenes." [...] While I was looking at it (Ulysses I mean), Sylvia's father, a most respectable and simple New York clergyman, turned up and said he thought Ulysses was fine stuff. Fortunately, he had read less of it than even I, and no doubt took Sylvia's word for it. It is an enormous work, was privately printed, and the whole edition is exhausted.' Ends with reference to Gide. On 16 July 1922 discusses reasons for 'not returning to Persia'. On 22 November [1922] reports: 'I ran into Marcel Boulestan the other day. Staying at the Continental. Hardly looks as if his penury were complete. He can hardly hope any longer to get his hotel bills paid. He said Miss Otter had become eccentric and turned him out of her house. He was occupying himself with brokerage of many kinds - decorations, first editions, and internal decorations, i.e. food and wine.' Reports how the death of Proust has 'provoked a great emotion. The fatal news was brought to the Boeuf sur le Toit, the Bar of the Moment, on Saturday evening, to the consternation of the avant-garde habitues, without, however, muting the orchestra or the negro sexaphone. [sic] Apparently his great Comedie Humaine is finished. But he has not had time to resee the proofs of the last volumes. He was wont to deal with proofs as disciples deal with their religions. So we shall have the opportunity of seeing his first effort, before being overlaid with after-thoughts. Rather interesting.' Writing from 'Beyrout', 20 July 1923, he thanks Gye for having got him out of Aleppo. He is 'plunged again in Proust' and urges Gye to 'get over' his 'irritation with him', discussing his 'illumination of some experience or thought or sensation of yours by the searchlight he turns on his own [...] Proust must be read like the Thousand and One nights'. On 22 July 1924 he writes from Damascus, requesting a posting in Algiers. 'The more I see of the Levant, the more I wonder at Gobineau's divination. All ignobleness comes from the muddling of races. What wide tablelands remain from which another "noble" race may descend to exterminate these levantine bastardies and give to the Near East again a form and a tradition?' A letter of 8 March 1925, also from Damascus, discusses the 'combination' of 'Mr. Russell & Mr. Mayers', which is 'bound to be unhappy': 'Beyrout is a decorative post, this is a working one.' In the last letter, Damascus, 28 March 1926, he discerns Gye's 'friendly guiding hand' in his appointment to Cairo. He discusses Gide's 'Faux Monnayeurs' and 'Cocteau's conversion. He is too frailly built for farming. But I fear that the great retreat is not for such as him.'?>?>