The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XI— Life in Samoa, November 1890-December 1892

Letter: To E. L Burlingame


I WISH you to add to the words at the end of the prologue; they run, I think, thus, ‘And this is the yarn of Loudon Dodd’; add, ‘not as he told, but as he wrote it afterwards for his diversion.’ This becomes the more needful, because, when all is done, I shall probably revert to Tai-o-hae, and give final details about the characters in the way of a conversation between Dodd and Havers. These little snippets of information and FAITS-DIVERS have always a disjointed, broken-backed appearance; yet, readers like them. In this book we have introduced so many characters, that this kind of epilogue will be looked for; and I rather hope, looking far ahead, that I can lighten it in dialogue.

We are well past the middle now. How does it strike you? and can you guess my mystery? It will make a fattish volume!

I say, have you ever read the HIGHLAND WIDOW? I never had till yesterday: I am half inclined, bar a trip or two, to think it Scott’s masterpiece; and it has the name of a failure! Strange things are readers.

I expect proofs and revises in duplicate.

We have now got into a small barrack at our place. We see the sea six hundred feet below filling the end of two vales of forest. On one hand the mountain runs above us some thousand feet higher; great trees stand round us in our clearing; there is an endless voice of birds; I have never lived in such a heaven; just now, I have fever, which mitigates but not destroys my gusto in my circumstances. — You may envy


. . . O, I don’t know if I mentioned that having seen your new tail to the magazine, I cried off interference, at least for this trip. Did I ask you to send me my books and papers, and all the bound volumes of the mag.? QUORUM PARS. I might add that were there a good book or so — new — I don’t believe there is — such would be welcome.

I desire — I positively begin to awake — to be remembered to Scribner, Low, St. Gaudens, Russell Sullivan. Well, well, you fellows have the feast of reason and the flow of soul; I have a better-looking place and climate: you should hear the birds on the hill now! The day has just wound up with a shower; it is still light without, though I write within here at the cheek of a lamp; my wife and an invaluable German are wrestling about bread on the back verandah; and how the birds and the frogs are rattling, and piping, and hailing from the woods! Here and there a throaty chuckle; here and there, cries like those of jolly children who have lost their way; here and there, the ringing sleigh-bell of the tree frog. Out and away down below me on the sea it is still raining; it will be wet under foot on schooners, and the house will leak; how well I know that! Here the showers only patter on the iron roof, and sometimes roar; and within, the lamp burns steady on the tafa-covered walls, with their dusky tartan patterns, and the book-shelves with their thin array of books; and no squall can rout my house or bring my heart into my mouth. — The well-pleased South Sea Islander,

R. L. S.

Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — By some diabolical accident, I have mislaid your last. What was in it? I know not, and here I am caught unexpectedly by the American mail, a week earlier than by computation. The computation, not the mail, is supposed to be in error. The vols. of SCRIBNER’S have arrived, and present a noble appearance in my house, which is not a noble structure at present. But by autumn we hope to be sprawling in our verandah, twelve feet, sir, by eighty-eight in front, and seventy-two on the flank; view of the sea and mountains, sunrise, moonrise, and the German fleet at anchor three miles away in Apia harbour. I hope some day to offer you a bowl of kava there, or a slice of a pineapple, or some lemonade from my own hedge. ‘I know a hedge where the lemons grow’ - SHAKESPEARE. My house at this moment smells of them strong; and the rain, which a while ago roared there, now rings in minute drops upon the iron roof. I have no WRECKER for you this mail, other things having engaged me. I was on the whole rather relieved you did not vote for regular papers, as I feared the traces. It is my design from time to time to write a paper of a reminiscential (beastly word) description; some of them I could scarce publish from different considerations; but some of them — for instance, my long experience of gambling places — Homburg, Wiesbaden, Baden- Baden, old Monaco, and new Monte Carlo — would make good magazine padding, if I got the stuff handled the right way. I never could fathom why verse was put in magazines; it has something to do with the making-up, has it not? I am scribbling a lot just now; if you are taken badly that way, apply to the South Seas. I could send you some, I believe, anyway, only none of it is thoroughly ripe. If kept back the volume of ballads, I’ll soon make it a respectable size if this fit continue. By the next mail you may expect some more WRECKER, or I shall be displeased. Probably no more than a chapter, however, for it is a hard one, and I am denuded of my proofs, my collaborator having walked away with them to England; hence some trouble in catching the just note.

I am a mere farmer: my talk, which would scarce interest you on Broadway, is all of fuafua and tuitui, and black boys, and planting and weeding, and axes and cutlasses; my hands are covered with blisters and full of thorns; letters are, doubtless, a fine thing, so are beer and skittles, but give me farmering in the tropics for real interest. Life goes in enchantment; I come home to find I am late for dinner; and when I go to bed at night, I could cry for the weariness of my loins and thighs. Do not speak to me of vexation, the life brims with it, but with living interest fairly.

Christmas I go to Auckland, to meet Tamate, the New Guinea missionary, a man I love. The rest of my life is a prospect of much rain, much weeding and making of paths, a little letters, and devilish little to eat. — I am, my dear Burlingame, with messages to all whom it may concern, very sincerely yours,


Letter: To Henry James


MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, — It is terrible how little everybody writes, and how much of that little disappears in the capacious maw of the Post Office. Many letters, both from and to me, I now know to have been lost in transit: my eye is on the Sydney Post Office, a large ungainly structure with a tower, as being not a hundred miles from the scene of disappearance; but then I have no proof. THE TRAGIC MUSE you announced to me as coming; I had already ordered it from a Sydney bookseller: about two months ago he advised me that his copy was in the post; and I am still tragically museless.

News, news, news. What do we know of yours? What do you care for ours? We are in the midst of the rainy season, and dwell among alarms of hurricanes, in a very unsafe little two-storied wooden box 650 feet above and about three miles from the sea-beach. Behind us, till the other slope of the island, desert forest, peaks, and loud torrents; in front green slopes to the sea, some fifty miles of which we dominate. We see the ships as they go out and in to the dangerous roadstead of Apia; and if they lie far out, we can even see their topmasts while they are at anchor. Of sounds of men, beyond those of our own labourers, there reach us, at very long intervals, salutes from the warships in harbour, the bell of the cathedral church, and the low of the conch-shell calling the labour boys on the German plantations. Yesterday, which was Sunday - the QUANTIEME is most likely erroneous; you can now correct it — we had a visitor — Baker of Tonga. Heard you ever of him? He is a great man here: he is accused of theft, rape, judicial murder, private poisoning, abortion, misappropriation of public moneys — oddly enough, not forgery, nor arson: you would be amused if you knew how thick the accusations fly in this South Sea world. I make no doubt my own character is something illustrious; or if not yet, there is a good time coming.

But all our resources have not of late been Pacific. We have had enlightened society: La Farge the painter, and your friend Henry Adams: a great privilege — would it might endure. I would go oftener to see them, but the place is awkward to reach on horseback. I had to swim my horse the last time I went to dinner; and as I have not yet returned the clothes I had to borrow, I dare not return in the same plight: it seems inevitable — as soon as the wash comes in, I plump straight into the American consul’s shirt or trousers! They, I believe, would come oftener to see me but for the horrid doubt that weighs upon our commissariat department; we have OFTEN almost nothing to eat; a guest would simply break the bank; my wife and I have dined on one avocado pear; I have several times dined on hard bread and onions. What would you do with a guest at such narrow seasons? — eat him? or serve up a labour boy fricasseed?

Work? work is now arrested, but I have written, I should think, about thirty chapters of the South Sea book; they will all want rehandling, I dare say. Gracious, what a strain is a long book! The time it took me to design this volume, before I could dream of putting pen to paper, was excessive; and then think of writing a book of travels on the spot, when I am continually extending my information, revising my opinions, and seeing the most finely finished portions of my work come part by part in pieces. Very soon I shall have no opinions left. And without an opinion, how to string artistically vast accumulations of fact? Darwin said no one could observe without a theory; I suppose he was right; ‘tis a fine point of metaphysic; but I will take my oath, no man can write without one — at least the way he would like to, and my theories melt, melt, melt, and as they melt the thaw-waters wash down my writing, and leave unideal tracts — wastes instead of cultivated farms.

Kipling is by far the most promising young man who has appeared since — ahem — I appeared. He amazes me by his precocity and various endowment. But he alarms me by his copiousness and haste. He should shield his fire with both hands ‘and draw up all his strength and sweetness in one ball.’ (‘Draw all his strength and all His sweetness up into one ball’? I cannot remember Marvell’s words.) So the critics have been saying to me; but I was never capable of — and surely never guilty of — such a debauch of production. At this rate his works will soon fill the habitable globe; and surely he was armed for better conflicts than these succinct sketches and flying leaves of verse? I look on, I admire, I rejoice for myself; but in a kind of ambition we all have for our tongue and literature I am wounded. If I had this man’s fertility and courage, it seems to me I could heave a pyramid.

Well, we begin to be the old fogies now; and it was high time SOMETHING rose to take our places. Certainly Kipling has the gifts; the fairy godmothers were all tipsy at his christening: what will he do with them?

Goodbye, my dear James; find an hour to write to us, and register your letter. — Yours affectionately,

R. L. S.

Letter: To Rudyard Kipling

[VAILIMA, 1891.]

SIR, — I cannot call to mind having written you, but I am so throng with occupation this may have fallen aside. I never heard tell I had any friends in Ireland, and I am led to understand you are come of no considerable family. The gentleman I now serve with assures me, however, you are a very pretty fellow and your letter deserves to be remarked. It’s true he is himself a man of a very low descent upon the one side; though upon the other he counts cousinship with a gentleman, my very good friend, the late Mr. Balfour of the Shaws, in the Lothian; which I should be wanting in good fellowship to forget. He tells me besides you are a man of your hands; I am not informed of your weapon; but if all be true it sticks in my mind I would be ready to make exception in your favour, and meet you like one gentleman with another. I suppose this’ll be your purpose in your favour, which I could very ill make out; it’s one I would be sweir to baulk you of. It seems, Mr. McIlvaine, which I take to be your name, you are in the household of a gentleman of the name of Coupling: for whom my friend is very much engaged. The distances being very uncommodious, I think it will be maybe better if we leave it to these two to settle all that’s necessary to honour. I would have you to take heed it’s a very unusual condescension on my part, that bear a King’s name; and for the matter of that I think shame to be mingled with a person of the name of Coupling, which is doubtless a very good house but one I never heard tell of, any more than Stevenson. But your purpose being laudable, I would be sorry (as the word goes) to cut off my nose to spite my face. — I am, Sir, your humble servant,



He has read me some of your Barrack Room Ballants, which are not of so noble a strain as some of mine in the Gaelic, but I could set some of them to the pipes if this rencounter goes as it’s to be desired. Let’s first, as I understand you to move, do each other this rational courtesys; and if either will survive, we may grow better acquaint. For your tastes for what’s martial and for poetry agree with mine.

A. S.

Letter: To Marcel Schwob

SYDNEY, JANUARY 19th, 1891.

MY DEAR SIR, — SAPRISTI, COMME VOUS Y ALLEZ! Richard III. and Dumas, with all my heart; but not Hamlet. Hamlet is great literature; Richard III. a big, black, gross, sprawling melodrama, writ with infinite spirit but with no refinement or philosophy by a man who had the world, himself, mankind, and his trade still to learn. I prefer the Vicomte de Bragelonne to Richard III.; it is better done of its kind: I simply do not mention the Vicomte in the same part of the building with Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, or any of those masterpieces that Shakespeare survived to give us.

Also, COMME VOUS Y ALLEZ in my commendation! I fear my SOLIDE EDUCATION CLASSIQUE had best be described, like Shakespeare’s, as ‘little Latin and no Greek,’ and I was educated, let me inform you, for an engineer. I shall tell my bookseller to send you a copy of MEMORIES AND PORTRAITS, where you will see something of my descent and education, as it was, and hear me at length on my dear Vicomte. I give you permission gladly to take your choice out of my works, and translate what you shall prefer, too much honoured that so clever a young man should think it worth the pains. My own choice would lie between KIDNAPPED and the MASTER OF BALLANTRAE. Should you choose the latter, pray do not let Mrs. Henry thrust the sword up to the hilt in the frozen ground — one of my inconceivable blunders, an exaggeration to stagger Hugo. Say ‘she sought to thrust it in the ground.’ In both these works you should be prepared for Scotticisms used deliberately.

I fear my stepson will not have found time to get to Paris; he was overwhelmed with occupation, and is already on his voyage back. We live here in a beautiful land, amid a beautiful and interesting people. The life is still very hard: my wife and I live in a two- roomed cottage, about three miles and six hundred and fifty feet above the sea; we have had to make the road to it; our supplies are very imperfect; in the wild weather of this (the hurricane) season we have much discomfort: one night the wind blew in our house so outrageously that we must sit in the dark; and as the sound of the rain on the roof made speech inaudible, you may imagine we found the evening long. All these things, however, are pleasant to me. You say L’ARTISTE INCONSCIENT set off to travel: you do not divide me right. 0.6 of me is artist; 0.4, adventurer. First, I suppose, come letters; then adventure; and since I have indulged the second part, I think the formula begins to change: 0.55 of an artist, 0.45 of the adventurer were nearer true. And if it had not been for my small strength, I might have been a different man in all things,

Whatever you do, do not neglect to send me what you publish on Villon: I look forward to that with lively interest. I have no photograph at hand, but I will send one when I can. It would be kind if you would do the like, for I do not see much chance of our meeting in the flesh: and a name, and a handwriting, and an address, and even a style? I know about as much of Tacitus, and more of Horace; it is not enough between contemporaries, such as we still are. I have just remembered another of my books, which I re- read the other day, and thought in places good — PRINCE OTTO. It is not as good as either of the others; but it has one recommendation — it has female parts, so it might perhaps please better in France.

I will ask Chatto to send you, then — PRINCE OTTO, MEMORIES AND PORTRAITS, UNDERWOODS, and BALLADS, none of which you seem to have seen. They will be too late for the New Year: let them be an Easter present.

You must translate me soon; you will soon have better to do than to transverse the work of others. — Yours very truly,


With the worst pen in the South Pacific.

Letter: To Charles Baxter


MY DEAR CHARLES, — Perhaps in my old days I do grow irascible; ‘the old man virulent’ has long been my pet name for myself. Well, the temper is at least all gone now; time is good at lowering these distemperatures; far better is a sharp sickness, and I am just (and scarce) afoot again after a smoking hot little malady at Sydney. And the temper being gone, I still think the same. . . . We have not our parents for ever; we are never very good to them; when they go and we have lost our front-file man, we begin to feel all our neglects mighty sensibly. I propose a proposal. My mother is here on board with me; to-day for once I mean to make her as happy as I am able, and to do that which I know she likes. You, on the other hand, go and see your father, and do ditto, and give him a real good hour or two. We shall both be glad hereafter. — Yours ever,

R. L. S.

Letter: To H. B. Baildon


MY DEAR BAILDON, — This is a real disappointment. It was so long since we had met, I was anxious to see where time had carried and stranded us. Last time we saw each other — it must have been all ten years ago, as we were new to the thirties — it was only for a moment, and now we’re in the forties, and before very long we shall be in our graves. Sick and well, I have had a splendid life of it, grudge nothing, regret very little — and then only some little corners of misconduct for which I deserve hanging, and must infallibly be damned — and, take it all over, damnation and all, would hardly change with any man of my time, unless perhaps it were Gordon or our friend Chalmers: a man I admire for his virtues, love for his faults, and envy for the really A1 life he has, with everything heart — my heart, I mean — could wish. It is curious to think you will read this in the grey metropolis; go the first grey, east-windy day into the Caledonian Station, if it looks at all as it did of yore: I met Satan there. And then go and stand by the cross, and remember the other one — him that went down — my brother, Robert Fergusson. It is a pity you had not made me out, and seen me as patriarch and planter. I shall look forward to some record of your time with Chalmers: you can’t weary me of that fellow, he is as big as a house and far bigger than any church, where no man warms his hands. Do you know anything of Thomson? Of A-, B-, C-, D-, E-, F-, at all? As I write C.‘s name mustard rises my nose; I have never forgiven that weak, amiable boy a little trick he played me when I could ill afford it: I mean that whenever I think of it, some of the old wrath kindles, not that I would hurt the poor soul, if I got the world with it. And Old X-? Is he still afloat? Harmless bark! I gather you ain’t married yet, since your sister, to whom I ask to be remembered, goes with you. Did you see a silly tale, JOHN NICHOLSON’S PREDICAMENT, or some such name, in which I made free with your home at Murrayfield? There is precious little sense in it, but it might amuse. Cassell’s published it in a thing called YULE-TIDE years ago, and nobody that ever I heard of read or has ever seen YULE-TIDE. It is addressed to a class we never met — readers of Cassell’s series and that class of conscientious chaff, and my tale was dull, though I don’t recall that it was conscientious. Only, there’s the house at Murrayfield and a dead body in it. Glad the BALLADS amused you. They failed to entertain a coy public, at which I wondered, not that I set much account by my verses, which are the verses of Prosator; but I do know how to tell a yarn, and two of the yarns are great. RAHERO is for its length a perfect folk-tale: savage and yet fine, full of tailforemost morality, ancient as the granite rocks; if the historian, not to say the politician, could get that yarn into his head, he would have learned some of his A B C. But the average man at home cannot understand antiquity; he is sunk over the ears in Roman civilisation; and a tale like that of RAHERO falls on his ears inarticulate. The SPECTATOR said there was no psychology in it; that interested me much: my grandmother (as I used to call that able paper, and an able paper it is, and a fair one) cannot so much as observe the existence of savage psychology when it is put before it. I am at bottom a psychologist and ashamed of it; the tale seized me one-third because of its picturesque features, two-thirds because of its astonishing psychology, and the SPECTATOR says there’s none. I am going on with a lot of island work, exulting in the knowledge of a new world, ‘a new created world’ and new men; and I am sure my income will DECLINE and FALL off; for the effort of comprehension is death to the intelligent public, and sickness to the dull.

I do not know why I pester you with all this trash, above all as you deserve nothing. I give you my warm TALOFA (‘my love to you,’ Samoan salutation). Write me again when the spirit moves you. And some day, if I still live, make out the trip again and let us hob- a-nob with our grey pows on my verandah. — Yours sincerely,


Letter: To W. Craibe Angus


DEAR MR. ANGUS, — Surely I remember you! It was W. C. Murray who made us acquainted, and we had a pleasant crack. I see your poet is not yet dead. I remember even our talk — or you would not think of trusting that invaluable JOLLY BEGGARS to the treacherous posts, and the perils of the sea, and the carelessness of authors. I love the idea, but I could not bear the risk. However —

‘Hale be your heart, hale be your fiddle — ’

it was kindly thought upon.

My interest in Burns is, as you suppose, perennial. I would I could be present at the exhibition, with the purpose of which I heartily sympathise; but the NANCY has not waited in vain for me, I have followed my chest, the anchor is weighed long ago, I have said my last farewell to the hills and the heather and the lynns: like Leyden, I have gone into far lands to die, not stayed like Burns to mingle in the end with Scottish soil. I shall not even return like Scott for the last scene. Burns Exhibitions are all over. ‘Tis a far cry to Lochow from tropical Vailima.

‘But still our hearts are true, our hearts are Highland, And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.’

When your hand is in, will you remember our poor Edinburgh Robin? Burns alone has been just to his promise; follow Burns, he knew best, he knew whence he drew fire — from the poor, white-faced, drunken, vicious boy that raved himself to death in the Edinburgh madhouse. Surely there is more to be gleaned about Fergusson, and surely it is high time the task was set about. I way tell you (because your poet is not dead) something of how I feel: we are three Robins who have touched the Scots lyre this last century. Well, the one is the world’s, he did it, he came off, he is for ever; but I and the other — ah! what bonds we have — born in the same city; both sickly, both pestered, one nearly to madness, one to the madhouse, with a damnatory creed; both seeing the stars and the dawn, and wearing shoe-leather on the same ancient stones, under the same pends, down the same closes, where our common ancestors clashed in their armour, rusty or bright. And the old Robin, who was before Burns and the flood, died in his acute, painful youth, and left the models of the great things that were to come; and the new, who came after, outlived his greensickness, and has faintly tried to parody the finished work. If you will collect the strays of Robin Fergusson, fish for material, collect any last re-echoing of gossip, command me to do what you prefer — to write the preface — to write the whole if you prefer: anything, so that another monument (after Burns’s) be set up to my unhappy predecessor on the causey of Auld Reekie. You will never know, nor will any man, how deep this feeling is: I believe Fergusson lives in me. I do, but tell it not in Gath; every man has these fanciful superstitions, coming, going, but yet enduring; only most men are so wise (or the poet in them so dead) that they keep their follies for themselves. — I am, yours very truly,


Letter: To Edmund Gosse


MY DEAR GOSSE, — I have to thank you and Mrs. Gosse for many mementoes, chiefly for your LIFE of your father. There is a very delicate task, very delicately done. I noted one or two carelessnesses, which I meant to point out to you for another edition; but I find I lack the time, and you will remark them for yourself against a new edition. They were two, or perhaps three, flabbinesses of style which (in your work) amazed me. Am I right in thinking you were a shade bored over the last chapters? or was it my own fault that made me think them susceptible of a more athletic compression? (The flabbinesses were not there, I think, but in the more admirable part, where they showed the bigger.) Take it all together, the book struck me as if you had been hurried at the last, but particularly hurried over the proofs, and could still spend a very profitable fortnight in earnest revision and (towards the end) heroic compression. The book, in design, subject, and general execution, is well worth the extra trouble. And even if I were wrong in thinking it specially wanted, it will not be lost; for do we not know, in Flaubert’s dread confession, that ‘prose is never done’? What a medium to work in, for a man tired, perplexed among different aims and subjects, and spurred by the immediate need of ‘siller’! However, it’s mine for what it’s worth; and it’s one of yours, the devil take it; and you know, as well as Flaubert, and as well as me, that it is NEVER DONE; in other words, it is a torment of the pit, usually neglected by the bards who (lucky beggars!) approached the Styx in measure. I speak bitterly at the moment, having just detected in myself the last fatal symptom, three blank verses in succession — and I believe, God help me, a hemistich at the tail of them; hence I have deposed the labourer, come out of hell by my private trap, and now write to you from my little place in purgatory. But I prefer hell: would I could always dig in those red coals — or else be at sea in a schooner, bound for isles unvisited: to be on shore and not to work is emptiness — suicidal vacancy.

I was the more interested in your LIFE of your father, because I meditate one of mine, or rather of my family. I have no such materials as you, and (our objections already made) your attack fills me with despair; it is direct and elegant, and your style is always admirable to me — lenity, lucidity, usually a high strain of breeding, an elegance that has a pleasant air of the accidental. But beware of purple passages. I wonder if you think as well of your purple passages as I do of mine? I wonder if you think as ill of mine as I do of yours? I wonder; I can tell you at least what is wrong with yours — they are treated in the spirit of verse. The spirit — I don’t mean the measure, I don’t mean you fall into bastard cadences; what I mean is that they seem vacant and smoothed out, ironed, if you like. And in a style which (like yours) aims more and more successfully at the academic, one purple word is already much; three — a whole phrase — is inadmissible. Wed yourself to a clean austerity: that is your force. Wear a linen ephod, splendidly candid. Arrange its folds, but do not fasten it with any brooch. I swear to you, in your talking robes, there should be no patch of adornment; and where the subject forces, let it force you no further than it must; and be ready with a twinkle of your pleasantry. Yours is a fine tool, and I see so well how to hold it; I wonder if you see how to hold mine? But then I am to the neck in prose, and just now in the ‘dark INTERSTYLAR cave,’ all methods and effects wooing me, myself in the midst impotent to follow any. I look for dawn presently, and a full flowing river of expression, running whither it wills. But these useless seasons, above all, when a man MUST continue to spoil paper, are infinitely weary.

We are in our house after a fashion; without furniture, ‘tis true, camping there, like the family after a sale. But the bailiff has not yet appeared; he will probably come after. The place is beautiful beyond dreams; some fifty miles of the Pacific spread in front; deep woods all round; a mountain making in the sky a profile of huge trees upon our left; about us, the little island of our clearing, studded with brave old gentlemen (or ladies, or ‘the twa o’ them’) whom we have spared. It is a good place to be in; night and morning, we have Theodore Rousseaus (always a new one) hung to amuse us on the walls of the world; and the moon — this is our good season, we have a moon just now — makes the night a piece of heaven. It amazes me how people can live on in the dirty north; yet if you saw our rainy season (which is really a caulker for wind, wet, and darkness — howling showers, roaring winds, pit- blackness at noon) you might marvel how we could endure that. And we can’t. But there’s a winter everywhere; only ours is in the summer. Mark my words: there will be a winter in heaven — and in hell. CELA RENTRE DANS LES PROCEDES DU BON DIEU; ET VOUS VERREZ! There’s another very good thing about Vailima, I am away from the little bubble of the literary life. It is not all beer and skittles, is it? By the by, my BALLADS seem to have been dam bad; all the crickets sing so in their crickety papers; and I have no ghost of an idea on the point myself: verse is always to me the unknowable. You might tell me how it strikes a professional bard: not that it really matters, for, of course, good or bad, I don’t think I shall get into THAT galley any more. But I should like to know if you join the shrill chorus of the crickets. The crickets are the devil in all to you: ‘tis a strange thing, they seem to rejoice like a strong man in their injustice. I trust you got my letter about your Browning book. In case it missed, I wish to say again that your publication of Browning’s kind letter, as an illustration of HIS character, was modest, proper, and in radiant good taste. — In Witness whereof, etc., etc.,


Letter: To Miss Rawlinson


MY DEAR MAY, — I never think of you by any more ceremonial name, so I will not pretend. There is not much chance that I shall forget you until the time comes for me to forget all this little turmoil in a corner (though indeed I have been in several corners) of an inconsiderable planet. You remain in my mind for a good reason, having given me (in so short a time) the most delightful pleasure. I shall remember, and you must still be beautiful. The truth is, you must grow more so, or you will soon be less. It is not so easy to be a flower, even when you bear a flower’s name. And if I admired you so much, and still remember you, it is not because of your face, but because you were then worthy of it, as you must still continue.

Will you give my heartiest congratulations to Mr. S.? He has my admiration; he is a brave man; when I was young, I should have run away from the sight of you, pierced with the sense of my unfitness. He is more wise and manly. What a good husband he will have to be! And you — what a good wife! Carry your love tenderly. I will never forgive him — or you — it is in both your hands — if the face that once gladdened my heart should be changed into one sour or sorrowful.

What a person you are to give flowers! It was so I first heard of you; and now you are giving the May flower!

Yes, Skerryvore has passed; it was, for us. But I wish you could see us in our new home on the mountain, in the middle of great woods, and looking far out over the Pacific. When Mr. S. is very rich, he must bring you round the world and let you see it, and see the old gentleman and the old lady. I mean to live quite a long while yet, and my wife must do the same, or else I couldn’t manage it; so, you see, you will have plenty of time; and it’s a pity not to see the most beautiful places, and the most beautiful people moving there, and the real stars and moon overhead, instead of the tin imitations that preside over London. I do not think my wife very well; but I am in hopes she will now have a little rest. It has been a hard business, above all for her; we lived four months in the hurricane season in a miserable house, overborne with work, ill-fed, continually worried, drowned in perpetual rain, beaten upon by wind, so that we must sit in the dark in the evenings; and then I ran away, and she had a month of it alone. Things go better now; the back of the work is broken; and we are still foolish enough to look forward to a little peace. I am a very different person from the prisoner of Skerryvore. The other day I was three- and-twenty hours in an open boat; it made me pretty ill; but fancy its not killing me half-way! It is like a fairy story that I should have recovered liberty and strength, and should go round again among my fellow-men, boating, riding, bathing, toiling hard with a wood-knife in the forest. I can wish you nothing more delightful than my fortune in life; I wish it you; and better, if the thing be possible.

Lloyd is tinkling below me on the typewriter; my wife has just left the room; she asks me to say she would have written had she been well enough, and hopes to do it still. — Accept the best wishes of your admirer,


Letter: To Miss Adelaide Boodle

[VAILIMA, MAY 1891.]

MY DEAR ADELAIDE, — I will own you just did manage to tread on my gouty toe; and I beg to assure you with most people I should simply have turned away and said no more. My cudgelling was therefore in the nature of a caress or testimonial.

God forbid, I should seem to judge for you on such a point; it was what you seemed to set forth as your reasons that fluttered my old Presbyterian spirit — for, mind you, I am a child of the Covenanters — whom I do not love, but they are mine after all, my father’s and my mother’s — and they had their merits too, and their ugly beauties, and grotesque heroisms, that I love them for, the while I laugh at them; but in their name and mine do what you think right, and let the world fall. That is the privilege and the duty of private persons; and I shall think the more of you at the greater distance, because you keep a promise to your fellow-man, your helper and creditor in life, by just so much as I was tempted to think the less of you (O not much, or I would never have been angry) when I thought you were the swallower of a (tinfoil) formula.

I must say I was uneasy about my letter, not because it was too strong as an expression of my unregenerate sentiments, but because I knew full well it should be followed by something kinder. And the mischief has been in my health. I fell sharply sick in Sydney, was put aboard the LUBECK pretty bad, got to Vailima, hung on a month there, and didn’t pick up as well as my work needed; set off on a journey, gained a great deal, lost it again; and am back at Vailima, still no good at my necessary work. I tell you this for my imperfect excuse that I should not have written you again sooner to remove the bad taste of my last.

A road has been called Adelaide Road; it leads from the back of our house to the bridge, and thence to the garden, and by a bifurcation to the pig pen. It is thus much traversed, particularly by Fanny. An oleander, the only one of your seeds that prospered in this climate, grows there; and the name is now some week or ten days applied and published. ADELAIDE ROAD leads also into the bush, to the banana patch, and by a second bifurcation over the left branch of the stream to the plateau and the right hand of the gorges. In short, it leads to all sorts of good, and is, besides, in itself a pretty winding path, bound downhill among big woods to the margin of the stream.

What a strange idea, to think me a Jew-hater! Isaiah and David and Heine are good enough for me; and I leave more unsaid. Were I of Jew blood, I do not think I could ever forgive the Christians; the ghettos would get in my nostrils like mustard or lit gunpowder. Just so you as being a child of the Presbytery, I retain — I need not dwell on that. The ascendant hand is what I feel most strongly; I am bound in and in with my forbears; were he one of mine, I should not be struck at all by Mr. Moss of Bevis Marks, I should still see behind him Moses of the Mount and the Tables and the shining face. We are all nobly born; fortunate those who know it; blessed those who remember.

I am, my dear Adelaide, most genuinely yours,


Write by return to say you are better, and I will try to do the same.

Letter: To Charles Baxter


MY DEAR CHARLES, — I don’t know what you think of me, not having written to you at all during your illness. I find two sheets begun with your name, but that is no excuse. . . . I am keeping bravely; getting about better, every day, and hope soon to be in my usual fettle. My books begin to come; and I fell once more on the Old Bailey session papers. I have 1778, 1784, and 1786. Should you be able to lay hands on any other volumes, above all a little later, I should be very glad you should buy them for me. I particularly want ONE or TWO during the course of the Peninsular War. Come to think, I ought rather to have communicated this want to Bain. Would it bore you to communicate to that effect with the great man? The sooner I have them, the better for me. ‘Tis for Henry Shovel. But Henry Shovel has now turned into a work called ‘The Shovels of Newton French: Including Memoirs of Henry Shovel, a Private in the Peninsular War,’ which work is to begin in 1664 with the marriage of Skipper, afterwards Alderman Shovel of Bristol, Henry’s great- great-grandfather, and end about 1832 with his own second marriage to the daughter of his runaway aunt. Will the public ever stand such an opus? Gude kens, but it tickles me. Two or three historical personages will just appear: Judge Jeffreys, Wellington, Colquhoun, Grant, and I think Townsend the runner. I know the public won’t like it; let ‘em lump it then; I mean to make it good; it will be more like a saga. — Adieu, yours ever affectionately,


Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — I find among my grandfather’s papers his own reminiscences of his voyage round the north with Sir Walter, eighty years ago, LABUNTUR ANNI! They are not remarkably good, but he was not a bad observer, and several touches seem to me speaking. It has occurred to me you might like them to appear in the MAGAZINE. If you would, kindly let me know, and tell me how you would like it handled. My grandad’s MS. runs to between six and seven thousand words, which I could abbreviate of anecdotes that scarce touch Sir W. Would you like this done? Would you like me to introduce the old gentleman? I had something of the sort in my mind, and could fill a few columns rather A PROPOS. I give you the first offer of this, according to your request; for though it may forestall one of the interests of my biography, the thing seems to me particularly suited for prior appearance in a magazine.

I see the first number of the WRECKER; I thought it went lively enough; and by a singular accident, the picture is not unlike Tai- o-hae!

Thus we see the age of miracles, etc. — Yours very sincerely,

R. L. S.

Proofs for next mail.

Letter: To W. Craibe Angus

[SUMMER 1891.]

DEAR MR. ANGUS, — You can use my letter as you will. The parcel has not come; pray Heaven the next post bring it safe. Is it possible for me to write a preface here? I will try if you like, if you think I must: though surely there are Rivers in Assyria. Of course you will send me sheets of the catalogue; I suppose it (the preface) need not be long; perhaps it should be rather very short? Be sure you give me your views upon these points. Also tell me what names to mention among those of your helpers, and do remember to register everything, else it is not safe.

The true place (in my view) for a monument to Fergusson were the churchyard of Haddington. But as that would perhaps not carry many votes, I should say one of the two following sites:- First, either as near the site of the old Bedlam as we could get, or, second, beside the Cross, the heart of his city. Upon this I would have a fluttering butterfly, and, I suggest, the citation,

Poor butterfly, thy case I mourn.

For the case of Fergusson is not one to pretend about. A more miserable tragedy the sun never shone upon, or (in consideration of our climate) I should rather say refused to brighten. — Yours truly,


Where Burns goes will not matter. He is no local poet, like your Robin the First; he is general as the casing air. Glasgow, as the chief city of Scottish men, would do well; but for God’s sake, don’t let it be like the Glasgow memorial to Knox: I remember, when I first saw this, laughing for an hour by Shrewsbury clock.

R. L. S.

Letter: To H. C. Ide

[VAILIMA, JUNE 19, 1891.]

DEAR MR. IDE, — Herewith please find the DOCUMENT, which I trust will prove sufficient in law. It seems to me very attractive in its eclecticism; Scots, English, and Roman law phrases are all indifferently introduced, and a quotation from the works of Haynes Bayly can hardly fail to attract the indulgence of the Bench. — Yours very truly,


I, Robert Louis Stevenson, Advocate of the Scots Bar, author of THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE and MORAL EMBLEMS, stuck civil engineer, sole owner and patentee of the Palace and Plantation known as Vailima in the island of Upolu, Samoa, a British Subject, being in sound mind, and pretty well, I thank you, in body:

In consideration that Miss Annie H. Ide, daughter of H. C. Ide, in the town of Saint Johnsbury, in the county of Caledonia, in the state of Vermont, United States of America, was born, out of all reason, upon Christmas Day, and is therefore out of all justice denied the consolation and profit of a proper birthday;

And considering that I, the said Robert Louis Stevenson, have attained an age when O, we never mention it, and that I have now no further use for a birthday of any description;

And in consideration that I have met H. C. Ide, the father of the said Annie H. Ide, and found him about as white a land commissioner as I require:

HAVE TRANSFERRED, and DO HEREBY TRANSFER, to the said Annie H. Ide, ALL AND WHOLE my rights and priviledges in the thirteenth day of November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said Annie H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise, and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats, and receipt of gifts, compliments, and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors;

AND I DIRECT the said Annie H. Ide to add to the said name of Annie H. Ide the name Louisa — at least in private; and I charge her to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity, ET TAMQUAM BONA FILIA FAMILIAE, the said birthday not being so young as it once was, and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I can remember;

And in case the said Annie H. Ide shall neglect or contravene either of the above conditions, I hereby revoke the donation and transfer my rights in the said birthday to the President of the United States of America for the time being:

In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and seal this nineteenth day of June in the year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety-one.




Letter: To Henry James


MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, — From this perturbed and hunted being expect but a line, and that line shall be but a whoop for Adela. O she’s delicious, delicious; I could live and die with Adela — die, rather the better of the two; you never did a straighter thing, and never will.

DAVID BALFOUR, second part of KIDNAPPED, is on the stocks at last; and is not bad, I think. As for THE WRECKER, it’s a machine, you know — don’t expect aught else — a machine, and a police machine; but I believe the end is one of the most genuine butcheries in literature; and we point to our machine with a modest pride, as the only police machine without a villain. Our criminals are a most pleasing crew, and leave the dock with scarce a stain upon their character.

What a different line of country to be trying to draw Adela, and trying to write the last four chapters of THE WRECKER! Heavens, it’s like two centuries; and ours is such rude, transpontine business, aiming only at a certain fervour of conviction and sense of energy and violence in the men; and yours is so neat and bright and of so exquisite a surface! Seems dreadful to send such a book to such an author; but your name is on the list. And we do modestly ask you to consider the chapters on the NORAH CREINA with the study of Captain Nares, and the forementioned last four, with their brutality of substance and the curious (and perhaps unsound) technical manoeuvre of running the story together to a point as we go along, the narrative becoming more succinct and the details fining off with every page. — Sworn affidavit of

R. L. S.



A Sublime Poem to follow.

Adela, Adela, Adela Chart, What have you done to my elderly heart? Of all the ladies of paper and ink I count you the paragon, call you the pink. The word of your brother depicts you in part: ‘You raving maniac!’ Adela Chart; But in all the asylums that cumber the ground, So delightful a maniac was ne’er to be found.

I pore on you, dote on you, clasp you to heart, I laud, love, and laugh at you, Adela Chart, And thank my dear maker the while I admire That I can be neither your husband nor sire.

Your husband’s, your sire’s were a difficult part; You’re a byway to suicide, Adela Chart; But to read of, depicted by exquisite James, O, sure you’re the flower and quintessence of dames.

R. L. S.


My heart was inditing a goodly matter about Adela Chart. Though oft I’ve been touched by the volatile dart, To none have I grovelled but Adela Chart, There are passable ladies, no question, in art — But where is the marrow of Adela Chart? I dreamed that to Tyburn I passed in the cart — I dreamed I was married to Adela Chart: From the first I awoke with a palpable start, The second dumfoundered me, Adela Chart!

Another verse bursts from me, you see; no end to the violence of the Muse.

Letter: To E. L. Burlingame

OCTOBER 8TH, 1891.

MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — All right, you shall have the TALES OF MY GRANDFATHER soon, but I guess we’ll try and finish off THE WRECKER first. A PROPOS of whom, please send some advanced sheets to Cassell’s — away ahead of you — so that they may get a dummy out.

Do you wish to illustrate MY GRANDFATHER? He mentions as excellent a portrait of Scott by Basil Hall’s brother. I don’t think I ever saw this engraved; would it not, if you could get track of it, prove a taking embellishment? I suggest this for your consideration and inquiry. A new portrait of Scott strikes me as good. There is a hard, tough, constipated old portrait of my grandfather hanging in my aunt’s house, Mrs. Alan Stevenson, 16 St. Leonard’s Terrace, Chelsea, which has never been engraved — the better portrait, Joseph’s bust has been reproduced, I believe, twice — and which, I am sure, my aunt would let you have a copy of. The plate could be of use for the book when we get so far, and thus to place it in the MAGAZINE might be an actual saving.

I am swallowed up in politics for the first, I hope for the last, time in my sublunary career. It is a painful, thankless trade; but one thing that came up I could not pass in silence. Much drafting, addressing, deputationising has eaten up all my time, and again (to my contrition) I leave you Wreckerless. As soon as the mail leaves I tackle it straight. — Yours very sincerely,


Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — The time draws nigh, the mail is near due, and I snatch a moment of collapse so that you may have at least some sort of a scratch of note along with the

\ end
\ of

which I mean to go herewith. It has taken me a devil of a pull, but I think it’s going to be ready. If I did not know you were on the stretch waiting for it and trembling for your illustrations, I would keep it for another finish; but things being as they are, I will let it go the best way I can get it. I am now within two pages of the end of Chapter XXV., which is the last chapter, the end with its gathering up of loose threads, being the dedication to Low, and addressed to him: this is my last and best expedient for the knotting up of these loose cards. ‘Tis possible I may not get that finished in time, in which case you’ll receive only Chapters XXII. to XXV. by this mail, which is all that can be required for illustration.

I wish you would send me MEMOIRS OF BARON MARBOT (French); INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE HISTORY OF LANGUAGE, Strong, Logeman & Wheeler; PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY, William James; Morris & Magnusson’s SAGA LIBRARY, any volumes that are out; George Meredith’s ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS; LA BAS, by Huysmans (French); O’Connor Morris’s GREAT COMMANDERS OF MODERN TIMES; LIFE’S HANDICAP, by Kipling; of Taine’s ORIGINES DE LA FRANCE CONTEMPORAINE, I have only as far as LA REVOLUTION, vol. iii.; if another volume is out, please add that. There is for a book-box.

I hope you will like the end; I think it is rather strong meat. I have got into such a deliberate, dilatory, expansive turn, that the effort to compress this last yarn was unwelcome; but the longest yarn has to come to an end sometime. Please look it over for carelessnesses, and tell me if it had any effect upon your jaded editorial mind. I’ll see if ever I have time to add more.

I add to my book-box list Adams’ HISTORICAL ESSAYS; the Plays of A. W. Pinero — all that have appeared, and send me the rest in course as they do appear; NOUGHTS AND CROSSES by Q.; Robertson’s SCOTLAND UNDER HER EARLY KINGS.


The deed is done, didst thou not hear a noise? ‘The end’ has been written to this endless yarn, and I am once more a free man. What will he do with it?

Letter: To W. Craibe Angus


MY DEAR MR. ANGUS, — Herewith the invaluable sheets. They came months after your letter, and I trembled; but here they are, and I have scrawled my vile name on them, and ‘thocht shame’ as I did it. I am expecting the sheets of your catalogue, so that I may attack the preface. Please give me all the time you can. The sooner the better; you might even send me early proofs as they are sent out, to give me more incubation. I used to write as slow as judgment; now I write rather fast; but I am still ‘a slow study,’ and sit a long while silent on my eggs. Unconscious thought, there is the only method: macerate your subject, let it boil slow, then take the lid off and look in — and there your stuff is, good or bad. But the journalist’s method is the way to manufacture lies; it is will-worship — if you know the luminous quaker phrase; and the will is only to be brought in the field for study, and again for revision. The essential part of work is not an act, it is a state.

I do not know why I write you this trash.

Many thanks for your handsome dedication. I have not yet had time to do more than glance at Mrs. Begg; it looks interesting. — Yours very truly,


Letter: To Miss Annie H. Ide


MY DEAR LOUISA, — Your picture of the church, the photograph of yourself and your sister, and your very witty and pleasing letter, came all in a bundle, and made me feel I had my money’s worth for that birthday. I am now, I must be, one of your nearest relatives; exactly what we are to each other, I do not know, I doubt if the case has ever happened before — your papa ought to know, and I don’t believe he does; but I think I ought to call you in the meanwhile, and until we get the advice of counsel learned in the law, my name-daughter. Well, I was extremely pleased to see by the church that my name-daughter could draw; by the letter, that she was no fool; and by the photograph, that she was a pretty girl, which hurts nothing. See how virtues are rewarded! My first idea of adopting you was entirely charitable; and here I find that I am quite proud of it, and of you, and that I chose just the kind of name-daughter I wanted. For I can draw too, or rather I mean to say I could before I forgot how; and I am very far from being a fool myself, however much I may look it; and I am as beautiful as the day, or at least I once hoped that perhaps I might be going to be. And so I might. So that you see we are well met, and peers on these important points. I am VERY glad also that you are older than your sister. So should I have been, if I had had one. So that the number of points and virtues which you have inherited from your name-father is already quite surprising.

I wish you would tell your father — not that I like to encourage my rival — that we have had a wonderful time here of late, and that they are having a cold day on Mulinuu, and the consuls are writing reports, and I am writing to the TIMES, and if we don’t get rid of our friends this time I shall begin to despair of everything but my name-daughter.

You are quite wrong as to the effect of the birthday on your age. From the moment the deed was registered (as it was in the public press with every solemnity), the 13th of November became your own AND ONLY birthday, and you ceased to have been born on Christmas Day. Ask your father: I am sure he will tell you this is sound law. You are thus become a month and twelve days younger than you were, but will go on growing older for the future in the regular and human manner from one 13th November to the next. The effect on me is more doubtful; I may, as you suggest, live for ever; I might, on the other hand, come to pieces like the one-horse shay at a moment’s notice; doubtless the step was risky, but I do not the least regret that which enables me to sign myself your revered and delighted name-father,


Letter: To Fred Orr


DEAR SIR, — Your obliging communication is to hand. I am glad to find that you have read some of my books, and to see that you spell my name right. This is a point (for some reason) of great difficulty; and I believe that a gentleman who can spell Stevenson with a v at sixteen, should have a show for the Presidency before fifty. By that time

I, nearer to the wayside inn,

predict that you will have outgrown your taste for autographs, but perhaps your son may have inherited the collection, and on the morning of the great day will recall my prophecy to your mind. And in the papers of 1921 (say) this letter may arouse a smile.

Whatever you do, read something else besides novels and newspapers; the first are good enough when they are good; the second, at their best, are worth nothing. Read great books of literature and history; try to understand the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages; be sure you do not understand when you dislike them; condemnation is non-comprehension. And if you know something of these two periods, you will know a little more about to-day, and may be a good President.

I send you my best wishes, and am yours,



Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — The end of THE WRECKER having but just come in, you will, I dare say, be appalled to receive three (possibly four) chapters of a new book of the least attractive sort: a history of nowhere in a corner, for no time to mention, running to a volume! Well, it may very likely be an illusion; it is very likely no one could possibly wish to read it, but I wish to publish it. If you don’t cotton to the idea, kindly set it up at my expense, and let me know your terms for publishing. The great affair to me is to have per return (if it might be) four or five — better say half a dozen — sets of the roughest proofs that can be drawn. There are a good many men here whom I want to read the blessed thing, and not one would have the energy to read MS. At the same time, if you care to glance at it, and have the time, I should be very glad of your opinion as to whether I have made any step at all towards possibly inducing folk at home to read matter so extraneous and outlandish. I become heavy and owlish; years sit upon me; it begins to seem to me to be a man’s business to leave off his damnable faces and say his say. Else I could have made it pungent and light and lively. In considering, kindly forget that I am R. L. S.; think of the four chapters as a book you are reading, by an inhabitant of our ‘lovely but fatil’ islands; and see if it could possibly amuse the hebetated public. I have to publish anyway, you understand; I have a purpose beyond; I am concerned for some of the parties to this quarrel. What I want to hear is from curiosity; what I want you to judge of is what we are to do with the book in a business sense. To me it is not business at all; I had meant originally to lay all the profits to the credit of Samoa; when it comes to the pinch of writing, I judge this unfair — I give too much — and I mean to keep (if there be any profit at all) one- half for the artisan; the rest I shall hold over to give to the Samoans FOR THAT WHICH I CHOOSE AND AGAINST WORK DONE. I think I have never heard of greater insolence than to attempt such a subject; yet the tale is so strange and mixed, and the people so oddly charactered — above all, the whites — and the high note of the hurricane and the warships is so well prepared to take popular interest, and the latter part is so directly in the day’s movement, that I am not without hope but some may read it; and if they don’t, a murrain on them! Here is, for the first time, a tale of Greeks — Homeric Greeks — mingled with moderns, and all true; Odysseus alongside of Rajah Brooke, PROPORTION GARDEE; and all true. Here is for the first time since the Greeks (that I remember) the history of a handful of men, where all know each other in the eyes, and live close in a few acres, narrated at length, and with the seriousness of history. Talk of the modern novel; here is a modern history. And if I had the misfortune to found a school, the legitimate historian might lie down and die, for he could never overtake his material. Here is a little tale that has not ‘caret’- ed its ‘vates’; ‘sacer’ is another point.

R. L. S.

Letter: To Henry James


MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, — Thanks for yours; your former letter was lost; so it appears was my long and masterly treatise on the TRAGIC MUSE. I remember sending it very well, and there went by the same mail a long and masterly tractate to Gosse about his daddy’s life, for which I have been long expecting an acknowledgment, and which is plainly gone to the bottom with the other. If you see Gosse, please mention it. These gems of criticism are now lost literature, like the tomes of Alexandria. I could not do ‘em again. And I must ask you to be content with a dull head, a weary hand, and short commons, for to-day, as I am physically tired with hard work of every kind, the labours of the planter and the author both piled upon me mountain deep. I am delighted beyond expression by Bourget’s book: he has phrases which affect me almost like Montaigne; I had read ere this a masterly essay of his on Pascal; this book does it; I write for all his essays by this mail, and shall try to meet him when I come to Europe. The proposal is to pass a summer in France, I think in Royat, where the faithful could come and visit me; they are now not many. I expect Henry James to come and break a crust or two with us. I believe it will be only my wife and myself; and she will go over to England, but not I, or possibly incog. to Southampton, and then to Boscombe to see poor Lady Shelley. I am writing — trying to write in a Babel fit for the bottomless pit; my wife, her daughter, her grandson and my mother, all shrieking at each other round the house — not in war, thank God! but the din is ultra martial, and the note of Lloyd joins in occasionally, and the cause of this to-do is simply cacao, whereof chocolate comes. You may drink of our chocolate perhaps in five or six years from now, and not know it. It makes a fine bustle, and gives us some hard work, out of which I have slunk for to-day.

I have a story coming out: God knows when or how; it answers to the name of the BEACH OF FALESA, and I think well of it. I was delighted with the TRAGIC MUSE; I thought the Muse herself one of your best works; I was delighted also to hear of the success of your piece, as you know I am a dam failure, and might have dined with the dinner club that Daudet and these parties frequented.


I have just been breakfasting at Baiae and Brindisi, and the charm of Bourget hag-rides me. I wonder if this exquisite fellow, all made of fiddle-strings and scent and intelligence, could bear any of my bald prose. If you think he could, ask Colvin to send him a copy of these last essays of mine when they appear; and tell Bourget they go to him from a South Sea Island as literal homage. I have read no new book for years that gave me the same literary thrill as his SENSATIONS D’ITALIE. If (as I imagine) my cut-and- dry literature would be death to him, and worse than death — journalism — be silent on the point. For I have a great curiosity to know him, and if he doesn’t know my work, I shall have the better chance of making his acquaintance. I read THE PUPIL the other day with great joy; your little boy is admirable; why is there no little boy like that unless he hails from the Great Republic?

Here I broke off, and wrote Bourget a dedication; no use resisting; it’s a love affair. O, he’s exquisite, I bless you for the gift of him. I have really enjoyed this book as I— almost as I— used to enjoy books when I was going twenty — twenty-three; and these are the years for reading!

R. L. S.

Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — Overjoyed you were pleased with WRECKER, and shall consider your protests. There is perhaps more art than you think for in the peccant chapter, where I have succeeded in packing into one a dedication, an explanation, and a termination. Surely you had not recognised the phrase about boodle? It was a quotation from Jim Pinkerton, and seemed to me agreeably skittish. However, all shall be prayerfully considered.

To come to a more painful subject. Herewith go three more chapters of the wretched HISTORY; as you see, I approach the climax. I expect the book to be some 70,000 words, of which you have now 45. Can I finish it for next mail? I am going to try! ‘Tis a long piece of journalism, and full of difficulties here and there, of this kind and that, and will make me a power of friends to be sure. There is one Becker who will probably put up a window to me in the church where he was baptized; and I expect a testimonial from Captain Hand.

Sorry to let the mail go without the Scott; this has been a bad month with me, and I have been below myself. I shall find a way to have it come by next, or know the reason why. The mail after, anyway.

A bit of a sketch map appears to me necessary for my HISTORY; perhaps two. If I do not have any, ‘tis impossible any one should follow; and I, even when not at all interested, demand that I shall be able to follow; even a tourist book without a map is a cross to me; and there must be others of my way of thinking. I inclose the very artless one that I think needful. Vailima, in case you are curious, is about as far again behind Tanugamanono as that is from the sea.

M’Clure is publishing a short story of mine, some 50,000 words, I think, THE BEACH OF FALESA; when he’s done with it, I want you and Cassell to bring it out in a little volume; I shall send you a dedication for it; I believe it good; indeed, to be honest, very good. Good gear that pleases the merchant.

The other map that I half threaten is a chart for the hurricane. Get me Kimberley’s report of the hurricane: not to be found here. It is of most importance; I MUST have it with my proofs of that part, if I cannot have it earlier, which now seems impossible. — Yours in hot haste,


Letter: To J. M. Barrie


DEAR MR. BARRIE, — This is at least the third letter I have written you, but my correspondence has a bad habit of not getting so far as the post. That which I possess of manhood turns pale before the business of the address and envelope. But I hope to be more fortunate with this: for, besides the usual and often recurrent desire to thank you for your work-you are one of four that have come to the front since I was watching and had a corner of my own to watch, and there is no reason, unless it be in these mysterious tides that ebb and flow, and make and mar and murder the works of poor scribblers, why you should not do work of the best order. The tides have borne away my sentence, of which I was weary at any rate, and between authors I may allow myself so much freedom as to leave it pending. We are both Scots besides, and I suspect both rather Scotty Scots; my own Scotchness tends to intermittency, but is at times erisypelitous — if that be rightly spelt. Lastly, I have gathered we had both made our stages in the metropolis of the winds: our Virgil’s ‘grey metropolis,’ and I count that a lasting bond. No place so brands a man.

Finally, I feel it a sort of duty to you to report progress. This may be an error, but I believed I detected your hand in an article - it may be an illusion, it may have been by one of those industrious insects who catch up and reproduce the handling of each emergent man — but I’ll still hope it was yours — and hope it may please you to hear that the continuation of KIDNAPPED is under way. I have not yet got to Alan, so I do not know if he is still alive, but David seems to have a kick or two in his shanks. I was pleased to see how the Anglo-Saxon theory fell into the trap: I gave my Lowlander a Gaelic name, and even commented on the fact in the text; yet almost all critics recognised in Alan and David a Saxon and a Celt. I know not about England; in Scotland at least, where Gaelic was spoken in Fife little over the century ago, and in Galloway not much earlier, I deny that there exists such a thing as a pure Saxon, and I think it more than questionable if there be such a thing as a pure Celt.

But what have you to do with this? and what have I? Let us continue to inscribe our little bits of tales, and let the heathen rage! Yours, with sincere interest in your career,


Letter: To William Morris


MASTER, — A plea from a place so distant should have some weight, and from a heart so grateful should have some address. I have been long in your debt, Master, and I did not think it could be so much increased as you have now increased it. I was long in your debt and deep in your debt for many poems that I shall never forget, and for SIGURD before all, and now you have plunged me beyond payment by the Saga Library. And so now, true to human nature, being plunged beyond payment, I come and bark at your heels.

For surely, Master, that tongue that we write, and that you have illustrated so nobly, is yet alive. She has her rights and laws, and is our mother, our queen, and our instrument. Now in that living tongue WHERE has one sense, WHEREAS another. In the HEATHSLAYINGS STORY, p. 241, line 13, it bears one of its ordinary senses. Elsewhere and usually through the two volumes, which is all that has yet reached me of this entrancing publication, WHEREAS is made to figure for WHERE.

For the love of God, my dear and honoured Morris, use WHERE, and let us know WHEREAS we are, wherefore our gratitude shall grow, whereby you shall be the more honoured wherever men love clear language, whereas now, although we honour, we are troubled.

Whereunder, please find inscribed to this very impudent but yet very anxious document, the name of one of the most distant but not the youngest or the coldest of those who honour you.


Letter: To Mrs. Charles Fairchild


MY DEAR MRS. FAIRCHILD, — I am guilty in your sight, but my affairs besiege me. The chief-justiceship of a family of nineteen persons is in itself no sinecure, and sometimes occupies me for days: two weeks ago for four days almost entirely, and for two days entirely. Besides which, I have in the last few months written all but one chapter of a HISTORY OF SAMOA for the last eight or nine years; and while I was unavoidably delayed in the writing of this, awaiting material, put in one-half of DAVID BALFOUR, the sequel to KIDNAPPED. Add the ordinary impediments of life, and admire my busyness. I am now an old, but healthy skeleton, and degenerate much towards the machine. By six at work: stopped at half-past ten to give a history lesson to a step- grandson; eleven, lunch; after lunch we have a musical performance till two; then to work again; bath, 4.40, dinner, five; cards in the evening till eight; and then to bed — only I have no bed, only a chest with a mat and blankets — and read myself to sleep. This is the routine, but often sadly interrupted. Then you may see me sitting on the floor of my verandah haranguing and being harangued by squatting chiefs on a question of a road; or more privately holding an inquiry into some dispute among our familiars, myself on my bed, the boys on the floor — for when it comes to the judicial I play dignity — or else going down to Apia on some more or less unsatisfactory errand. Altogether it is a life that suits me, but it absorbs me like an ocean. That is what I have always envied and admired in Scott; with all that immensity of work and study, his mind kept flexible, glancing to all points of natural interest. But the lean hot spirits, such as mine, become hypnotised with their bit occupations — if I may use Scotch to you — it is so far more scornful than any English idiom. Well, I can’t help being a skeleton, and you are to take this devious passage for an apology.

I thought ALADDIN capital fun; but why, in fortune, did he pretend it was moral at the end? The so-called nineteenth century, OU VA- T-IL SE NICHER? ‘Tis a trifle, but Pyle would do well to knock the passage out, and leave his boguey tale a boguey tale, and a good one at that.

The arrival of your box was altogether a great success to the castaways. You have no idea where we live. Do you know, in all these islands there are not five hundred whites, and no postal delivery, and only one village — it is no more — and would be a mean enough village in Europe? We were asked the other day if Vailima were the name of our post town, and we laughed. Do you know, though we are but three miles from the village metropolis, we have no road to it, and our goods are brought on the pack-saddle? And do you know — or I should rather say, can you believe — or (in the famous old Tichborne trial phrase) would you be surprised to learn, that all you have read of Vailima — or Subpriorsford, as I call it — is entirely false, and we have no ice-machine, and no electric light, and no water supply but the cistern of the heavens, and but one public room, and scarce a bedroom apiece? But, of course, it is well known that I have made enormous sums by my evanescent literature, and you will smile at my false humility. The point, however, is much on our minds just now. We are expecting an invasion of Kiplings; very glad we shall be to see them; but two of the party are ladies, and I tell you we had to hold a council of war to stow them. You European ladies are so particular; with all of mine, sleeping has long become a public function, as with natives and those who go down much into the sea in ships.

Dear Mrs. Fairchild, I must go to my work. I have but two words to say in conclusion.

First, civilisation is rot.

Second, console a savage with more of the milk of that over civilised being, your adorable schoolboy.

As I wrote these remarkable words, I was called down to eight o’clock prayers, and have just worked through a chapter of Joshua and five verses, with five treble choruses of a Samoan hymn; but the music was good, our boys and precentress (‘tis always a woman that leads) did better than I ever heard them, and to my great pleasure I understood it all except one verse. This gave me the more time to try and identify what the parts were doing, and further convict my dull ear. Beyond the fact that the soprano rose to the tonic above, on one occasion I could recognise nothing. This is sickening, but I mean to teach my ear better before I am done with it or this vile carcase.

I think it will amuse you (for a last word) to hear that our precentress — she is the washerwoman — is our shame. She is a good, healthy, comely, strapping young wench, full of energy and seriousness, a splendid workwoman, delighting to train our chorus, delighting in the poetry of the hymns, which she reads aloud (on the least provocation) with a great sentiment of rhythm. Well, then, what is curious? Ah, we did not know! but it was told us in a whisper from the cook-house — she is not of good family. Don’t let it get out, please; everybody knows it, of course, here; there is no reason why Europe and the States should have the advantage of me also. And the rest of my housefolk are all chief-people, I assure you. And my late overseer (far the best of his race) is a really serious chief with a good ‘name.’ Tina is the name; it is not in the Almanach de Gotha, it must have got dropped at press. The odd thing is, we rather share the prejudice. I have almost always — though not quite always — found the higher the chief the better the man through all the islands; or, at least, that the best man came always from a highish rank. I hope Helen will continue to prove a bright exception.

With love to Fairchild and the Huge Schoolboy, I am, my dear Mrs. Fairchild, yours very sincerely,


Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — Herewith Chapters IX. and X., and I am left face to face with the horrors and dilemmas of the present regimen: pray for those that go down to the sea in ships. I have promised Henley shall have a chance to publish the hurricane chapter if he like, so please let the slips be sent QUAM PRIMUM to C. Baxter, W.S., 11 S. Charlotte Street, Edinburgh. I got on mighty quick with that chapter — about five days of the toughest kind of work. God forbid I should ever have such another pirn to wind! When I invent a language, there shall be a direct and an indirect pronoun differently declined — then writing would be some fun.


He Tu
Him Tum
His Tus

Ex.: HE seized TUM by TUS throat; but TU at the same moment caught HIM by HIS hair. A fellow could write hurricanes with an inflection like that! Yet there would he difficulties too.

Do what you please about THE BEACH; and I give you CARTE BLANCHE to write in the matter to Baxter — or telegraph if the time press — to delay the English contingent. Herewith the two last slips of THE WRECKER. I cannot go beyond. By the way, pray compliment the printers on the proofs of the Samoa racket, but hint to them that it is most unbusiness-like and unscholarly to clip the edges of the galleys; these proofs should really have been sent me on large paper; and I and my friends here are all put to a great deal of trouble and confusion by the mistake. — For, as you must conceive, in a matter so contested and complicated, the number of corrections and the length of explanations is considerable.

Please add to my former orders —

LE CHEVALIER DES TOUCHES } by Barbey d’Aurevilly.

Yours sincerely,


Letter: To T. W. Dover


SIR, — In reply to your very interesting letter, I cannot fairly say that I have ever been poor, or known what it was to want a meal. I have been reduced, however, to a very small sum of money, with no apparent prospect of increasing it; and at that time I reduced myself to practically one meal a day, with the most disgusting consequences to my health. At this time I lodged in the house of a working man, and associated much with others. At the same time, from my youth up, I have always been a good deal and rather intimately thrown among the working-classes, partly as a civil engineer in out-of-the-way places, partly from a strong and, I hope, not ill-favoured sentiment of curiosity. But the place where, perhaps, I was most struck with the fact upon which you comment was the house of a friend, who was exceedingly poor, in fact, I may say destitute, and who lived in the attic of a very tall house entirely inhabited by persons in varying stages of poverty. As he was also in ill-health, I made a habit of passing my afternoon with him, and when there it was my part to answer the door. The steady procession of people begging, and the expectant and confident manner in which they presented themselves, struck me more and more daily; and I could not but remember with surprise that though my father lived but a few streets away in a fine house, beggars scarce came to the door once a fortnight or a month. From that time forward I made it my business to inquire, and in the stories which I am very fond of hearing from all sorts and conditions of men, learned that in the time of their distress it was always from the poor they sought assistance, and almost always from the poor they got it.

Trusting I have now satisfactorily answered your question, which I thank you for asking, I remain, with sincere compliments,


Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — First of all, YOU HAVE ALL THE CORRECTIONS ON ‘THE WRECKER.’ I found I had made what I meant and forgotten it, and was so careless as not to tell you.

Second, of course, and by all means, charge corrections on the Samoa book to me; but there are not near so many as I feared. The Lord hath dealt bountifully with me, and I believe all my advisers were amazed to see how nearly correct I had got the truck, at least I was. With this you will receive the whole revise and a typewritten copy of the last chapter. And the thing now is Speed, to catch a possible revision of the treaty. I believe Cassells are to bring it out, but Baxter knows, and the thing has to be crammed through PRESTISSIMO, A LA CHASSEUR.

You mention the belated Barbeys; what about the equally belated Pineros? And I hope you will keep your bookshop alive to supplying me continuously with the SAGA LIBRARY. I cannot get enough of SAGAS; I wish there were nine thousand; talk about realism!

All seems to flourish with you; I also prosper; none the less for being quit of that abhorred task, Samoa. I could give a supper party here were there any one to sup. Never was such a disagreeable task, but the thing had to be told . . . .

There, I trust I am done with this cursed chapter of my career, bar the rotten eggs and broken bottles that may follow, of course. Pray remember, speed is now all that can be asked, hoped, or wished. I give up all hope of proofs, revises, proof of the map, or sic like; and you on your side will try to get it out as reasonably seemly as may be.

Whole Samoa book herewith. Glory be to God. — Yours very sincerely,


Letter: To Charles Baxter


MY DEAR CHARLES,- . . . I have been now for some time contending with powers and principalities, and I have never once seen one of my own letters to the TIMES. So when you see something in the papers that you think might interest the exiles of Upolu, do not think twice, out with your saxpence, and send it flying to Vailima. Of what you say of the past, eh, man, it was a queer time, and awful miserable, but there’s no sense in denying it was awful fun. Do you mind the youth in Highland garb and the tableful of coppers? Do you mind the SIGNAL of Waterloo Place? — Hey, how the blood stands to the heart at such a memory! — Hae ye the notes o’t? Gie’s them. — Gude’s sake, man, gie’s the notes o’t; I mind ye made a tune o’t an’ played it on your pinanny; gie’s the notes. Dear Lord, that past.

Glad to hear Henley’s prospects are fair: his new volume is the work of a real poet. He is one of those who can make a noise of his own with words, and in whom experience strikes an individual note. There is perhaps no more genuine poet living, bar the Big Guns. In case I cannot overtake an acknowledgment to himself by this mail, please let him hear of my pleasure and admiration. How poorly — compares! He is all smart journalism and cleverness: it is all bright and shallow and limpid, like a business paper — a good one, S’ENTEND; but there is no blot of heart’s blood and the Old Night: there are no harmonics, there is scarce harmony to his music; and in Henley — all of these; a touch, a sense within sense, a sound outside the sound, the shadow of the inscrutable, eloquent beyond all definition. The First London Voluntary knocked me wholly. — Ever yours affectionately, my dear Charles,


Kind memories to your father and all friends.

Letter: To W. E. Henley


MY DEAR HENLEY, — It is impossible to let your new volume pass in silence. I have not received the same thrill of poetry since G. M.‘s JOY OF EARTH volume and LOVE IN A VALLEY; and I do not know that even that was so intimate and deep. Again and again, I take the book down, and read, and my blood is fired as it used to be in youth. ANDANTE CON MOTO in the VOLUNTARIES, and the thing about the trees at night (No. XXIV. I think) are up to date my favourites. I did not guess you were so great a magician; these are new tunes, this is an undertone of the true Apollo; these are not verse, they are poetry — inventions, creations, in language. I thank you for the joy you have given me, and remain your old friend and present huge admirer,


The hand is really the hand of Esau, but under a course of threatened scrivener’s cramp.

For the next edition of the Book of Verses, pray accept an emendation. Last three lines of Echoes No. XLIV. read —

‘But life in act? How should the grave
Be victor over these,
Mother, a mother of men?’

The two vocatives scatter the effect of this inimitable close. If you insist on the longer line, equip ‘grave’ with an epithet.

R. L. S.

Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — Herewith MY GRANDFATHER. I have had rather a bad time suppressing the old gentleman, who was really in a very garrulous stage; as for getting him IN ORDER, I could do but little towards that; however, there are one or two points of interest which may justify us in printing. The swinging of his stick and not knowing the sailor of Coruiskin, in particular, and the account of how he wrote the lives in the Bell Book particularly please me. I hope my own little introduction is not egoistic; or rather I do not care if it is. It was that old gentleman’s blood that brought me to Samoa.

By the by, vols. vii., viii., and ix. of Adams’s HISTORY have never come to hand; no more have the dictionaries.

Please send me STONEHENGE ON HORSE, STORIES AND INTERLUDES by Barry Pain, and EDINBURGH SKETCHES AND MEMOIRS by David Masson. THE WRECKER has turned up. So far as I have seen, it is very satisfactory, but on pp. 548, 549, there has been a devil of a miscarriage. The two Latin quotations instead of following each other being separated (doubtless for printing considerations) by a line of prose. My compliments to the printers; there is doubtless such a thing as good printing, but there is such a thing as good sense.

The sequel to KIDNAPPED, DAVID BALFOUR by name, is about three- quarters done and gone to press for serial publication. By what I can find out it ought to be through hand with that and ready for volume form early next spring. — Yours very sincerely,

R. L. S.

Letter: To Andrew Lang


MY DEAR LANG, — I knew you would prove a trusty purveyor. The books you have sent are admirable. I got the name of my hero out of Brown — Blair of Balmyle — Francie Blair. But whether to call the story BLAIR OF BALMYLE, or whether to call it THE YOUNG CHEVALIER, I have not yet decided. The admirable Cameronian tract - perhaps you will think this a cheat — is to be boned into DAVID BALFOUR, where it will fit better, and really furnishes me with a desired foothold over a boggy place.

LATER; no, it won’t go in, and I fear I must give up ‘the idolatrous occupant upon the throne,’ a phrase that overjoyed me beyond expression. I am in a deuce of a flutter with politics, which I hate, and in which I certainly do not shine; but a fellow cannot stand aside and look on at such an exhibition as our government. ‘Taint decent; no gent can hold a candle to it. But it’s a grind to be interrupted by midnight messengers and pass your days writing proclamations (which are never proclaimed) and petitions (which ain’t petited) and letters to the TIMES, which it makes my jaws yawn to re-read, and all your time have your heart with David Balfour: he has just left Glasgow this morning for Edinburgh, James More has escaped from the castle; it is far more real to me than the Behring Sea or the Baring brothers either — he got the news of James More’s escape from the Lord Advocate, and started off straight to comfort Catriona. You don’t know her; she’s James More’s daughter, and a respectable young wumman; the Miss Grants think so — the Lord Advocate’s daughters — so there can’t be anything really wrong. Pretty soon we all go to Holland, and be hanged; thence to Dunkirk, and be damned; and the tale concludes in Paris, and be Poll-parrotted. This is the last authentic news. You are not a real hard-working novelist; not a practical novelist; so you don’t know the temptation to let your characters maunder. Dumas did it, and lived. But it is not war; it ain’t sportsmanlike, and I have to be stopping their chatter all the time. Brown’s appendix is great reading.

My only grief is that I can’t
Use the idolatrous occupant.

Yours ever,

R. L. S.

Blessing and praising you for a useful (though idolatrous) occupant of Kensington.

Letter: To the Countess of Jersey

AUGUST 14, 1745.

TO MISS AMELIA BALFOUR— MY DEAR COUSIN, — We are going an expedition to leeward on Tuesday morning. If a lady were perhaps to be encountered on horseback — say, towards the Gasi-gasi river — about six A.M., I think we should have an episode somewhat after the style of the ‘45. What a misfortune, my dear cousin, that you should have arrived while your cousin Graham was occupying my only guest-chamber — for Osterley Park is not so large in Samoa as it was at home — but happily our friend Haggard has found a corner for you!

The King over the Water — the Gasi-gasi water — will be pleased to see the clan of Balfour mustering so thick around his standard.

I have (one serious word) been so lucky as to get a really secret interpreter, so all is for the best in our little adventure into the WAVERLEY NOVELS. — I am your affectionate cousin,


Observe the stealth with which I have blotted my signature, but we must be political A OUTRANCE.

Letter: To the Countess of Jersey

MY DEAR COUSIN, — I send for your information a copy of my last letter to the gentleman in question. ‘Tis thought more wise, in consideration of the difficulty and peril of the enterprise, that we should leave the town in the afternoon, and by several detachments. If you would start for a ride with the Master of Haggard and Captain Lockhart of Lee, say at three o’clock of the afternoon, you would make some rencounters by the wayside which might be agreeable to your political opinions. All present will be staunch.

The Master of Haggard might extend his ride a little, and return through the marsh and by the nuns’ house (I trust that has the proper flavour), so as a little to diminish the effect of separation. — I remain, your affectionate cousin to command,


P.S. — It is to be thought this present year of grace will be historical.

Letter: To Mrs. Charles Fairchild


MY DEAR MRS. FAIRCHILD, — Thank you a thousand times for your letter. You are the Angel of (the sort of) Information (that I care about); I appoint you successor to the newspaper press; and I beg of you, whenever you wish to gird at the age, or think the bugs out of proportion to the roses, or despair, or enjoy any cosmic or epochal emotion, to sit down again and write to the Hermit of Samoa. What do I think of it all? Well, I love the romantic solemnity of youth; and even in this form, although not without laughter, I have to love it still. They are such ducks! But what are they made of? We were just as solemn as that about atheism and the stars and humanity; but we were all for belief anyway — we held atheism and sociology (of which none of us, nor indeed anybody, knew anything) for a gospel and an iron rule of life; and it was lucky enough, or there would have been more windows broken. What is apt to puzzle one at first sight in the New Youth is that, with such rickety and risky problems always at heart, they should not plunge down a Niagara of Dissolution. But let us remember the high practical timidity of youth. I was a particularly brave boy — this I think of myself, looking back — and plunged into adventures and experiments, and ran risks that it still surprises me to recall. But, dear me, what a fear I was in of that strange blind machinery in the midst of which I stood; and with what a compressed heart and what empty lungs I would touch a new crank and await developments! I do not mean to say I do not fear life still; I do; and that terror (for an adventurer like myself) is still one of the chief joys of living.

But it was different indeed while I was yet girt with the priceless robes of inexperience; then the fear was exquisite and infinite. And so, when you see all these little Ibsens, who seem at once so dry and so excitable, and faint in swathes over a play (I suppose — for a wager) that would seem to me merely tedious, smile behind your hand, and remember the little dears are all in a blue funk. It must be very funny, and to a spectator like yourself I almost envy it. But never get desperate; human nature is human nature; and the Roman Empire, since the Romans founded it and made our European human nature what it is, bids fair to go on and to be true to itself. These little bodies will all grow up and become men and women, and have heaps of fun; nay, and are having it now; and whatever happens to the fashion of the age, it makes no difference - there are always high and brave and amusing lives to be lived; and a change of key, however exotic, does not exclude melody. Even Chinamen, hard as we find it to believe, enjoy being Chinese. And the Chinaman stands alone to be unthinkable; natural enough, as the representative of the only other great civilisation. Take my people here at my doors; their life is a very good one; it is quite thinkable, quite acceptable to us. And the little dears will be soon skating on the other foot; sooner or later, in each generation, the one-half of them at least begin to remember all the material they had rejected when first they made and nailed up their little theory of life; and these become reactionaries or conservatives, and the ship of man begins to fill upon the other tack.

Here is a sermon, by your leave! It is your own fault, you have amused and interested me so much by your breath of the New Youth, which comes to me from so far away, where I live up here in my mountain, and secret messengers bring me letters from rebels, and the government sometimes seizes them, and generally grumbles in its beard that Stevenson should really be deported. O, my life is the more lively, never fear!

It has recently been most amusingly varied by a visit from Lady Jersey. I took her over mysteriously (under the pseudonym of my cousin, Miss Amelia Balfour) to visit Mataafa, our rebel; and we had great fun, and wrote a Ouida novel on our life here, in which every author had to describe himself in the Ouida glamour, and of which — for the Jerseys intend printing it — I must let you have a copy. My wife’s chapter, and my description of myself, should, I think, amuse you. But there were finer touches still; as when Belle and Lady Jersey came out to brush their teeth in front of the rebel King’s palace, and the night guard squatted opposite on the grass and watched the process; or when I and my interpreter, and the King with his secretary, mysteriously disappeared to conspire. - Ever yours sincerely,


Letter: To Gordon Browne


DEAR SIR, — I only know you under the initials G. B., but you have done some exceedingly spirited and satisfactory illustrations to my story THE BEACH OF FALESA, and I wish to write and thank you expressly for the care and talent shown. Such numbers of people can do good black and whites! So few can illustrate a story, or apparently read it. You have shown that you can do both, and your creation of Wiltshire is a real illumination of the text. It was exactly so that Wiltshire dressed and looked, and you have the line of his nose to a nicety. His nose is an inspiration. Nor should I forget to thank you for Case, particularly in his last appearance. It is a singular fact — which seems to point still more directly to inspiration in your case — that your missionary actually resembles the flesh-and-blood person from whom Mr. Tarleton was drawn. The general effect of the islands is all that could be wished; indeed I have but one criticism to make, that in the background of Case taking the dollar from Mr. Tarleton’s head — head — not hand, as the fools have printed it — the natives have a little too much the look of Africans.

But the great affair is that you have been to the pains to illustrate my story instead of making conscientious black and whites of people sitting talking. I doubt if you have left unrepresented a single pictorial incident. I am writing by this mail to the editor in the hopes that I may buy from him the originals, and I am, dear sir, your very much obliged,


Letter: To Miss Morse


DEAR MADAM, — I have a great diffidence in answering your valued letter. It would be difficult for me to express the feelings with which I read it — and am now trying to re-read it as I dictate this.

You ask me to forgive what you say ‘must seem a liberty,’ and I find that I cannot thank you sufficiently or even find a word with which to qualify your letter. Dear Madam, such a communication even the vainest man would think a sufficient reward for a lifetime of labour. That I should have been able to give so much help and pleasure to your sister is the subject of my grateful wonder.

That she, being dead, and speaking with your pen, should be able to repay the debt with such a liberal interest, is one of those things that reconcile us with the world and make us take hope again. I do not know what I have done to deserve so beautiful and touching a compliment; and I feel there is but one thing fit for me to say here, that I will try with renewed courage to go on in the same path, and to deserve, if not to receive, a similar return from others.

You apologise for speaking so much about yourselves. Dear Madam, I thought you did so too little. I should have wished to have known more of those who were so sympathetic as to find a consolation in my work, and so graceful and so tactful as to acknowledge it in such a letter as was yours.

Will you offer to your mother the expression of a sympathy which (coming from a stranger) must seem very airy, but which yet is genuine; and accept for yourself my gratitude for the thought which inspired you to write to me and the words which you found to express it.


Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — It is now, as you see, the 10th of October, and there has not reached the Island of Upolu one single copy, or rag of a copy, of the Samoa book. I lie; there has come one, and that in the pocket of a missionary man who is at daggers drawn with me, who lends it to all my enemies, conceals it from all my friends, and is bringing a lawsuit against me on the strength of expressions in the same which I have forgotten, and now cannot see. This is pretty tragic, I think you will allow; and I was inclined to fancy it was the fault of the Post Office. But I hear from my sister-in-law Mrs. Sanchez that she is in the same case, and has received no ‘Footnote.’ I have also to consider that I had no letter from you last mail, although you ought to have received by that time ‘My Grandfather and Scott,’ and ‘Me and my Grandfather.’ Taking one consideration with another, therefore, I prefer to conceive that No. 743 Broadway has fallen upon gentle and continuous slumber, and is become an enchanted palace among publishing houses. If it be not so, if the ‘Footnotes’ were really sent, I hope you will fall upon the Post Office with all the vigour you possess. How does THE WRECKER go in the States? It seems to be doing exceptionally well in England. — Yours sincerely,


Letter: To J. M. Barrie


DEAR MR. BARRIE, — I can scarce thank you sufficiently for your extremely amusing letter. No, THE AULD LICHT IDYLS never reached me — I wish it had, and I wonder extremely whether it would not be good for me to have a pennyworth of the Auld Licht pulpit. It is a singular thing that I should live here in the South Seas under conditions so new and so striking, and yet my imagination so continually inhabit that cold old huddle of grey hills from which we come. I have just finished DAVID BALFOUR; I have another book on the stocks, THE YOUNG CHEVALIER, which is to be part in France and part in Scotland, and to deal with Prince Charlie about the year 1749; and now what have I done but begun a third which is to be all moorland together, and is to have for a centrepiece a figure that I think you will appreciate — that of the immortal Braxfield — Braxfield himself is my GRAND PREMIER, or, since you are so much involved in the British drama, let me say my heavy lead . . . .

Your descriptions of your dealings with Lord Rintoul are frightfully unconscientious. You should never write about anybody until you persuade yourself at least for the moment that you love him, above all anybody on whom your plot revolves. It will always make a hole in the book; and, if he has anything to do with the mechanism, prove a stick in your machinery. But you know all this better than I do, and it is one of your most promising traits that you do not take your powers too seriously. The LITTLE MINISTER ought to have ended badly; we all know it did; and we are infinitely grateful to you for the grace and good feeling with which you lied about it. If you had told the truth, I for one could never have forgiven you. As you had conceived and written the earlier parts, the truth about the end, though indisputably true to fact, would have been a lie, or what is worse, a discord in art. If you are going to make a book end badly, it must end badly from the beginning. Now your book began to end well. You let yourself fall in love with, and fondle, and smile at your puppets. Once you had done that, your honour was committed — at the cost of truth to life you were bound to save them. It is the blot on RICHARD FEVEREL, for instance, that it begins to end well; and then tricks you and ends ill. But in that case there is worse behind, for the ill-ending does not inherently issue from the plot — the story HAD, in fact, ENDED WELL after the great last interview between Richard and Lucy — and the blind, illogical bullet which smashes all has no more to do between the boards than a fly has to do with the room into whose open window it comes buzzing. It MIGHT have so happened; it needed not; and unless needs must, we have no right to pain our readers. I have had a heavy case of conscience of the same kind about my Braxfield story. Braxfield — only his name is Hermiston — has a son who is condemned to death; plainly, there is a fine tempting fitness about this; and I meant he was to hang. But now on considering my minor characters, I saw there were five people who would — in a sense who must — break prison and attempt his rescue. They were capable, hardy folks, too, who might very well succeed. Why should they not then? Why should not young Hermiston escape clear out of the country? and be happy, if he could, with his — But soft! I will not betray my secret of my heroine. Suffice it to breathe in your ear that she was what Hardy calls (and others in their plain way don’t) a Pure Woman. Much virtue in a capital letter, such as yours was.

Write to me again in my infinite distance. Tell me about your new book. No harm in telling ME; I am too far off to be indiscreet; there are too few near me who would care to hear. I am rushes by the riverside, and the stream is in Babylon: breathe your secrets to me fearlessly; and if the Trade Wind caught and carried them away, there are none to catch them nearer than Australia, unless it were the Tropic Birds. In the unavoidable absence of my amanuensis, who is buying eels for dinner, I have thus concluded my despatch, like St. Paul, with my own hand.

And in the inimitable words of Lord Kames, Faur ye weel, ye bitch. - Yours very truly,


Letter: To E. L. Burlingame


MY DEAR BURLINGAME, — In the first place, I have to acknowledge receipt of your munificent cheque for three hundred and fifty dollars. Glad you liked the Scott voyage; rather more than I did upon the whole. As the proofs have not turned up at all, there can be no question of returning them, and I am therefore very much pleased to think you have arranged not to wait. The volumes of Adams arrived along with yours of October 6th. One of the dictionaries has also blundered home, apparently from the Colonies; the other is still to seek. I note and sympathise with your bewilderment as to FALESA. My own direct correspondence with Mr. Baxter is now about three months in abeyance. Altogether you see how well it would be if you could do anything to wake up the Post Office. Not a single copy of the ‘Footnote’ has yet reached Samoa, but I hear of one having come to its address in Hawaii. Glad to hear good news of Stoddard. — Yours sincerely,


P.S. — Since the above was written an aftermath of post matter came in, among which were the proofs of MY GRANDFATHER. I shall correct and return them, but as I have lost all confidence in the Post Office, I shall mention here: first galley, 4th line from the bottom, for ‘AS’ read ‘OR.’

Should I ever again have to use my work without waiting for proofs, bear in mind this golden principle. From a congenital defect, I must suppose, I am unable to write the word OR— wherever I write it the printer unerringly puts AS— and those who read for me had better, wherever it is possible, substitute OR for AS. This the more so since many writers have a habit of using AS which is death to my temper and confusion to my face.

R. L. S.

Letter: To Lieutenant Eeles


DEAR EELES, — In the first place, excuse me writing to you by another hand, as that is the way in which alone all my correspondence gets effected. Before I took to this method, or rather before I found a victim, it SIMPLY didn’t get effected.

Thank you again and again, first for your kind thought of writing to me, and second for your extremely amusing and interesting letter. You can have no guess how immediately interesting it was to our family. First of all, the poor soul at Nukufetau is an old friend of ours, and we have actually treated him ourselves on a former visit to the island. I don’t know if Hoskin would approve of our treatment; it consisted, I believe, mostly in a present of stout and a recommendation to put nails in his water-tank. We also (as you seem to have done) recommended him to leave the island; and I remember very well how wise and kind we thought his answer. He had half-caste children (he said) who would suffer and perhaps be despised if he carried them elsewhere; if he left them there alone, they would almost certainly miscarry; and the best thing was that he should stay and die with them. But the cream of the fun was your meeting with Burn. We not only know him, but (as the French say) we don’t know anybody else; he is our intimate and adored original; and — prepare your mind — he was, is, and ever will be, TOMMY HADDON! As I don’t believe you to be inspired, I suspect you to have suspected this. At least it was a mighty happy suspicion. You are quite right: Tommy is really ‘a good chap,’ though about as comic as they make them.

I was extremely interested in your Fiji legend, and perhaps even more so in your capital account of the CURACOA’S misadventure. Alas! we have nothing so thrilling to relate. All hangs and fools on in this isle of misgovernment, without change, though not without novelty, but wholly without hope, unless perhaps you should consider it hopeful that I am still more immediately threatened with arrest. The confounded thing is, that if it comes off, I shall be sent away in the Ringarooma instead of the CURACOA. The former ship burst upon by the run — she had been sent off by despatch and without orders — and to make me a little more easy in my mind she brought newspapers clamouring for my incarceration. Since then I have had a conversation with the German Consul. He said he had read a review of my Samoa book, and if the review were fair, must regard it as an insult, and one that would have to be resented. At the same time, I learn that letters addressed to the German squadron lie for them here in the Post Office. Reports are current of other English ships being on the way — I hope to goodness yours will be among the number. And I gather from one thing and another that there must be a holy row going on between the powers at home, and that the issue (like all else connected with Samoa) is on the knees of the gods. One thing, however, is pretty sure — if that issue prove to be a German Protectorate, I shall have to tramp. Can you give us any advice as to a fresh field of energy? We have been searching the atlas, and it seems difficult to fill the bill. How would Rarotonga do? I forget if you have been there. The best of it is that my new house is going up like winking, and I am dictating this letter to the accompaniment of saws and hammers. A hundred black boys and about a score draught-oxen perished, or at least barely escaped with their lives, from the mud-holes on our road, bringing up the materials. It will be a fine legacy to H.I.G.M.‘s Protectorate, and doubtless the Governor will take it for his country-house. The Ringarooma people, by the way, seem very nice. I liked Stansfield particularly.

Our middy has gone up to San Francisco in pursuit of the phantom Education. We have good word of him, and I hope he will not be in disgrace again, as he was when the hope of the British Navy — need I say that I refer to Admiral Burney? — honoured us last. The next time you come, as the new house will be finished, we shall be able to offer you a bed. Nares and Meiklejohn may like to hear that our new room is to be big enough to dance in. It will be a very pleasant day for me to see the Curacoa in port again and at least a proper contingent of her officers ‘skipping in my ‘all.’

We have just had a feast on my birthday at which we had three of the Ringaromas, and I wish they had been three CURACOAS— say yourself, Hoskin, and Burney the ever Great. (Consider this an invitation.) Our boys had got the thing up regardless. There were two huge sows — oh, brutes of animals that would have broken down a hansom cab — four smaller pigs, two barrels of beef, and a horror of vegetables and fowls. We sat down between forty and fifty in a big new native house behind the kitchen that you have never seen, and ate and public spoke till all was blue. Then we had about half an hour’s holiday with some beer and sherry and brandy and soda to restrengthen the European heart, and then out to the old native house to see a siva. Finally, all the guests were packed off in a trackless black night and down a road that was rather fitted for the CURACOA than any human pedestrian, though to be sure I do not know the draught of the CURACOA. My ladies one and all desire to be particularly remembered to our friends on board, and all look forward, as I do myself, in the hope of your return. — Yours sincerely,


And let me hear from you again!

Letter: To Charles Baxter

1ST DEC. ‘92.

. . . I have a novel on the stocks to be called THE JUSTICE-CLERK. It is pretty Scotch, the Grand Premier is taken from Braxfield — (Oh, by the by, send me Cockburn’s MEMORIALS) — and some of the story is — well — queer. The heroine is seduced by one man, and finally disappears with the other man who shot him. . . . Mind you, I expect the JUSTICE-CLERK to be my masterpiece. My Braxfield is already a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, and so far as he has gone FAR my best character.


Second thought. I wish Pitcairn’s CRIMINAL TRIALS QUAM PRIMUM. Also, an absolutely correct text of the Scots judiciary oath.

Also, in case Pitcairn does not come down late enough, I wish as full a report as possible of a Scotch murder trial between 1790- 1820. Understand, THE FULLEST POSSIBLE.

Is there any book which would guide me as to the following facts?

The Justice-Clerk tries some people capitally on circuit. Certain evidence cropping up, the charge is transferred to the J.-C.‘s own son. Of course, in the next trial the J.-C. is excluded, and the case is called before the Lord-Justice General.

Where would this trial have to be? I fear in Edinburgh, which would not suit my view. Could it be again at the circuit town?


Letter: To Mrs. Jenkin


MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, — . . . So much said, I come with guilty speed to what more immediately concerns myself. Spare us a month or two for old sake’s sake, and make my wife and me happy and proud. We are only fourteen days from San Francisco, just about a month from Liverpool; we have our new house almost finished. The thing CAN be done; I believe we can make you almost comfortable. It is the loveliest climate in the world, our political troubles seem near an end. It can be done, it must! Do, please, make a virtuous effort, come and take a glimpse of a new world I am sure you do not dream of, and some old friends who do often dream of your arrival.

Alas, I was just beginning to get eloquent, and there goes the lunch bell, and after lunch I must make up the mail.

Do come. You must not come in February or March — bad months. From April on it is delightful. — Your sincere friend,


Letter: To Henry James


MY DEAR JAMES, — How comes it so great a silence has fallen? The still small voice of self-approval whispers me it is not from me. I have looked up my register, and find I have neither written to you nor heard from you since June 22nd, on which day of grace that invaluable work began. This is not as it should be. How to get back? I remember acknowledging with rapture the — of the MASTER, and I remember receiving MARBOT: was that our last relation?

Hey, well! anyway, as you may have probably gathered from the papers, I have been in devilish hot water, and (what may be new to you) devilish hard at work. In twelve calendar months I finished THE WRECKER, wrote all of FALESA but the first chapter (well, much of), the HISTORY OF SAMOA, did something here and there to my LIFE OF MY GRANDFATHER, and began And Finished DAVID BALFOUR. What do you think of it for a year? Since then I may say I have done nothing beyond draft three chapters of another novel, THE JUSTICE- CLERK, which ought to be shorter and a blower — at least if it don’t make a spoon, it will spoil the horn of an Aurochs (if that’s how it should be spelt).

On the hot water side it may entertain you to know that I have been actually sentenced to deportation by my friends on Mulinuu, C. J. Cedercrantz, and Baron Senfft von Pilsach. The awful doom, however, declined to fall, owing to Circumstances over Which. I only heard of it (so to speak) last night. I mean officially, but I had walked among rumours. The whole tale will be some day put into my hand, and I shall share it with humorous friends.

It is likely, however, by my judgment, that this epoch of gaiety in Samoa will soon cease; and the fierce white light of history will beat no longer on Yours Sincerely and his fellows here on the beach. We ask ourselves whether the reason will more rejoice over the end of a disgraceful business, or the unregenerate man more sorrow over the stoppage of the fun. For, say what you please, it has been a deeply interesting time. You don’t know what news is, nor what politics, nor what the life of man, till you see it on so small a scale and with your own liberty on the board for stake. I would not have missed it for much. And anxious friends beg me to stay at home and study human nature in Brompton drawing-rooms! FARCEURS! And anyway you know that such is not my talent. I could never be induced to take the faintest interest in Brompton QUA Brompton or a drawing-room QUA a drawing-room. I am an Epick Writer with a k to it, but without the necessary genius.

Hurry up with another book of stories. I am now reduced to two of my contemporaries, you and Barrie — O, and Kipling — you and Barrie and Kipling are now my Muses Three. And with Kipling, as you know, there are reservations to be made. And you and Barrie don’t write enough. I should say I also read Anstey when he is serious, and can almost always get a happy day out of Marion Crawford — CE N’EST PAS TOUJOURS LA GUERRE, but it’s got life to it and guts, and it moves. Did you read the WITCH OF PRAGUE? Nobody could read it twice, of course; and the first time even it was necessary to skip. E PUR SI MUOVE. But Barrie is a beauty, the LITTLE MINISTER and the WINDOW IN THRUMS, eh? Stuff in that young man; but he must see and not be too funny. Genius in him, but there’s a journalist at his elbow — there’s the risk. Look, what a page is the glove business in the WINDOW! knocks a man flat; that’s guts, if you please.

Why have I wasted the little time that is left with a sort of naked review article? I don’t know, I’m sure. I suppose a mere ebullition of congested literary talk I am beginning to think a visit from friends would be due. Wish you could come!

Let us have your news anyway, and forgive this silly stale effusion. — Yours ever,


Letter: To J. M. Barrie


DEAR J. M. BARRIE, — You will be sick of me soon; I cannot help it. I have been off my work for some time, and re-read the EDINBURGH ELEVEN, and had a great mind to write a parody and give you all your sauce back again, and see how you would like it yourself. And then I read (for the first time — I know not how) the WINDOW IN THRUMS; I don’t say that it is better than THE MINISTER; it’s less of a tale — and there is a beauty, a material beauty, of the tale IPSE, which clever critics nowadays long and love to forget; it has more real flaws; but somehow it is — well, I read it last anyway, and it’s by Barrie. And he’s the man for my money. The glove is a great page; it is startlingly original, and as true as death and judgment. Tibbie Birse in the Burial is great, but I think it was a journalist that got in the word ‘official.’ The same character plainly had a word to say to Thomas Haggard. Thomas affects me as a lie — I beg your pardon; doubtless he was somebody you knew, that leads people so far astray. The actual is not the true.

I am proud to think you are a Scotchman — though to be sure I know nothing of that country, being only an English tourist, quo’ Gavin Ogilvy. I commend the hard case of Mr. Gavin Ogilvy to J. M. Barrie, whose work is to me a source of living pleasure and heartfelt national pride. There are two of us now that the Shirra might have patted on the head. And please do not think when I thus seem to bracket myself with you, that I am wholly blinded with vanity. Jess is beyond my frontier line; I could not touch her skirt; I have no such glamour of twilight on my pen. I am a capable artist; but it begins to look to me as if you were a man of genius. Take care of yourself, for my sake. It’s a devilish hard thing for a man who writes so many novels as I do, that I should get so few to read. And I can read yours, and I love them.

A pity for you that my amanuensis is not on stock to-day, and my own hand perceptibly worse than usual. — Yours,



P.S. — They tell me your health is not strong. Man, come out here and try the Prophet’s chamber. There’s only one bad point to us — we do rise early. The Amanuensis states that you are a lover of silence — and that ours is a noisy house — and she is a chatterbox - I am not answerable for these statements, though I do think there is a touch of garrulity about my premises. We have so little to talk about, you see. The house is three miles from town, in the midst of great silent forests. There is a burn close by, and when we are not talking you can hear the burn, and the birds, and the sea breaking on the coast three miles away and six hundred feet below us, and about three times a month a bell — I don’t know where the bell is, nor who rings it; it may be the bell in Hans Andersen’s story for all I know. It is never hot here — 86 in the shade is about our hottest — and it is never cold except just in the early mornings. Take it for all in all, I suppose this island climate to be by far the healthiest in the world — even the influenza entirely lost its sting. Only two patients died, and one was a man nearly eighty, and the other a child below four months. I won’t tell you if it is beautiful, for I want you to come here and see for yourself. Everybody on the premises except my wife has some Scotch blood in their veins — I beg your pardon — except the natives — and then my wife is a Dutchwoman — and the natives are the next thing conceivable to Highlanders before the forty-five. We would have some grand cracks!

R. L. S.

COME, it will broaden your mind, and be the making of me.

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30