Dear Nathaniel,

Having read your letter over many times and, quite frankly, basking in your anguish, I think I am now ready to answer you – having curtailed my fits of hysteria, too (you should have seen me attempt to write you before; my giggles made the pen skitter over the page like a seismograph on a bad day in California).

Really, Nathaniel, you must end these bouts of melodrama. It is all well and good for a brooding Irish poet to go wading into the gray moors to unclasp his rusting soul but you are none of these things, my dear friend, and if you keep up this miserable correspondence you shall be out one more friend as well! It is not that I do not care for you, Nathaniel; you are a good man (perhaps more boyish than mannish, really, but let maturity be wasted on those souls as deserve it, eh?) and I do hate to see you torment yourself. After all, too much laughter is ill for my constitution. I am practically paying the wages of an entire department store with my demand for unsoiled knickers!

Mr. Portsmith, your enclosed poem is a legitimate exercise in aesthetic pleasure. The acatalectic lines of your sonnet conjure up sylvan bowers ripe for intrigues and romances; their descriptions vaguely illicit yet formally correct; and you do toss up a crafty simile from time to time, Nathaniel, I shan’t deny you that; but really! How shall I interpret a poem’s literary significance when I am a mere woman, and you are, as you say, a professional. I think it is beyond my capacity to render you the proper criticism, for I would know not where to begin.

Nathaniel, the bitter truth is that your creative endeavors have always granted me an evanescent delight. Send sheets of them and I will read them, as ever, but do not expect me to remember the lines of this or that great consummation, the jots or tittles of titillation, somber remonstrances to the masses, unfeeling masses, the O’s! O Nathaniel, it is not my place to judge your brilliant torment. So do not ask me to. Ask me to read, and I shall read. Ask me to whittle away at your celestial blandishments and I will send them back to you, as I do now, tittering to myself and jotting a note to purchase a fresh pair of knickers. Do you understand?

Give me your truths and your grey moors to while away a slow Sunday afternoon in the garden, while I walk and ponder when I shall need to affect a parasol. I shall be so grateful, Nathaniel, to puzzle myself cross-eyed over the acarpous plum tree, the cat that can’t nap, and other such metaphors as you unwind from that grotesquely knotty brain of yours. I do so admire your tenacity, sir. So please write me soon.

With love,

Helen Debussy

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