Vailima Letters, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XXXIX

My Dear Colvin, — Your proposals for the Edinburgh edition are entirely to my mind. About the Amateur Emigrant, it shall go to you by this mail well slashed. If you like to slash some more on your own account, I give you permission. ’Tis not a great work; but since it goes to make up the two first volumes as proposed, I presume it has not been written in vain. — Miscellanies. I see with some alarm the proposal to print Juvenilia; does it not seem to you taking myself a little too much as Grandfather William? I am certainly not so young as I once was — a lady took occasion to remind me of the fact no later agone than last night. ‘Why don’t you leave that to the young men, Mr. Stevenson?’ said she — but when I remember that I felt indignant at even John Ruskin when he did something of the kind I really feel myself blush from head to heel. If you want to make up the first volume, there are a good many works which I took the trouble to prepare for publication and which have never been republished. In addition to roads and dancing Children, referred to by you, there is an Autumn effect in the portfolio, and a paper on Fontainebleau — Forest Notes is the name of it — in Cornhill. I have no objection to any of these being edited, say with a scythe, and reproduced. But I heartily abominate and reject the idea of reprinting the Pentland Rising. For God’s sake let me get buried first.

Tales and Fantasies. Vols. I. and II. have my hearty approval. But I think III. and IV. had better be crammed into one as you suggest. I will reprint none of the stories mentioned. They are below the mark. Well, I dare say the beastly Body-Snatcher has merit, and I am unjust to it from my recollections of the Pall Mall. But the other two won’t do. For vols. V. and VI., now changed into IV. and V., I propose the common title of South Sea yarns. There! These are all my differences of opinion. I agree with every detail of your arrangement, and, as you see, my objections have turned principally on the question of hawking unripe fruit. I daresay it is all pretty green, but that is no reason for us to fill the barrow with trash. Think of having a new set of type cast, paper especially made, etc., in order to set up rubbish that is not fit for the Saturday Scotsman. It would be the climax of shame.

I am sending you a lot of verses, which had best, I think, be called Underwoods Book III., but in what order are they to go? Also, I am going on every day a little, till I get sick of it, with the attempt to get the Emigrant compressed into life; I know I can — or you can after me — do it. It is only a question of time and prayer and ink, and should leave something, no, not good, but not all bad — a very genuine appreciation of these folks. You are to remember besides there is that paper of mine on Bunyan in The Magazine of Art. O, and then there’s another thing in Seeley called some spewsome name, I cannot recall it.

Well — come, here goes for Juvenilia. Dancing Infants, Roads, An Autumn Effect, Forest Notes (but this should come at the end of them, as it’s really rather riper), the t’other thing from Seeley, and I’ll tell you, you may put in my letter to the Church of Scotland — it’s not written amiss, and I daresay the Philosophy of Umbrellas might go in, but there I stick — and remember that was a collaboration with James Walter Ferrier. O, and there was a little skit called the charity bazaar, which you might see; I don’t think it would do. Now, I do not think there are two other words that should be printed. — By the way, there is an article of mine called The day after to-morrow in the Contemporary which you might find room for somewhere; it is no’ bad.

Very busy with all these affairs and some native ones also.

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