I like these lines that Symonds writes to Edmund Gosse in 1891, when he’s working feverishly at his biography of Michelangelo, because they kind of remind me of how I feel about working on Symonds himself:
With the man’s spirit I am intoxicated, and I have wrestled with his “psyche” so that I seem absorbed in him. But I cannot say that this close study makes me sympathetic to his artistic ideal. I think it has even dispelled some illusions I had formed.
One thing is certain, that if he had any sexual energy at all (which is doubtful) he was a U.[rning].
Tomorrow I am moving from London to Bristol: staying very near to the house where Symonds grew up, and where he lived until he moved to Switzerland; working in his archives at the university he helped to found, and which now owns said house; living in a place that was important to him becoming the person he became. My relationship with this long-dead man continues to walk a fine line between hagiographical admiration and scholarly disinterest. It is strange to think that these next three weeks will be—for the moment—my last three weeks in England, a country in which in the past several months I have come to feel very much at home. But I am excited to see what they will bring me Symonds-wise, and quite content to end this transatlantic sojourn as I began it seven months ago, when I jetlaggedly dragged three suitcases down Broad Street: feeling my way through the places that shaped the man whom I will, back in my old haunt in the basement of a university library in darkest New Jersey, spend the next year writing about.