TERMINUS HOTEL, MARSEILLES, OCTOBER 16, 1882.
SIR, — It has come to my ears that you have lent the authority of your columns to an error.
More than half in pleasantry — and I now think the pleasantry ill- judged — I complained in a note to my NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS that some one, who shall remain nameless for me, had borrowed the idea of a story from one of mine. As if I had not borrowed the ideas of the half of my own! As if any one who had written a story ill had a right to complain of any other who should have written it better! I am indeed thoroughly ashamed of the note, and of the principle which it implies.
But it is no mere abstract penitence which leads me to beg a corner of your paper — it is the desire to defend the honour of a man of letters equally known in America and England, of a man who could afford to lend to me and yet be none the poorer; and who, if he would so far condescend, has my free permission to borrow from me all that he can find worth borrowing.
Indeed, sir, I am doubly surprised at your correspondent’s error. That James Payn should have borrowed from me is already a strange conception. The author of LOST SIR MASSINGBERD and BY PROXY may be trusted to invent his own stories. The author of A GRAPE FROM A THORN knows enough, in his own right, of the humorous and pathetic sides of human nature.
But what is far more monstrous — what argues total ignorance of the man in question — is the idea that James Payn could ever have transgressed the limits of professional propriety. I may tell his thousands of readers on your side of the Atlantic that there breathes no man of letters more inspired by kindness and generosity to his brethren of the profession, and, to put an end to any possibility of error, I may be allowed to add that I often have recourse, and that I had recourse once more but a few weeks ago, to the valuable practical help which he makes it his pleasure to extend to younger men.
I send a duplicate of this letter to a London weekly; for the mistake, first set forth in your columns, has already reached England, and my wanderings have made me perhaps last of the persons interested to hear a word of it. — I am, etc.,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
TERMINUS HOTEL, MARSEILLE, SATURDAY (OCTOBER 1882).
MY DEAR BOB, — We have found a house! — at Saint Marcel, Banlieue de Marseille. In a lovely valley between hills part wooded, part white cliffs; a house of a dining-room, of a fine salon — one side lined with a long divan — three good bedrooms (two of them with dressing-rooms), three small rooms (chambers of BONNE and sich), a large kitchen, a lumber room, many cupboards, a back court, a large, large olive yard, cultivated by a resident PAYSAN, a well, a berceau, a good deal of rockery, a little pine shrubbery, a railway station in front, two lines of omnibus to Marseille.
48 pounds per annum.
It is called Campagne Defli! query Campagne Debug? The Campagne Demosquito goes on here nightly, and is very deadly. Ere we can get installed, we shall be beggared to the door, I see.
I vote for separations; F.‘s arrival here, after our separation, was better fun to me than being married was by far. A separation completed is a most valuable property; worth piles. — Ever your affectionate cousin,
R. L. S.
TERMINUS HOTEL, MARSEILLE, LE 17TH OCTOBER 1882.
MY DEAR FATHER, — . . We grow, every time we see it, more delighted with our house. It is five miles out of Marseilles, in a lovely spot, among lovely wooded and cliffy hills — most mountainous in line — far lovelier, to my eyes, than any Alps. To- day we have been out inventorying; and though a mistral blew, it was delightful in an open cab, and our house with the windows open was heavenly, soft, dry, sunny, southern. I fear there are fleas — it is called Campagne Defli — and I look forward to tons of insecticide being employed.
I have had to write a letter to the NEW YORK TRIBUNE and the ATHENAEUM. Payn was accused of stealing my stories! I think I have put things handsomely for him.
Just got a servant!!! — Ever affectionate son,
R. L. STEVENSON.
Our servant is a Muckle Hash of a Weedy!
CAMPAGNE DEFLI, ST. MARCEL, BANLIEUE DE MARSEILLE, NOVEMBER 13, 1882.
MY DEAR MOTHER, — Your delightful letters duly arrived this morning. They were the only good feature of the day, which was not a success. Fanny was in bed — she begged I would not split upon her, she felt so guilty; but as I believe she is better this evening, and has a good chance to be right again in a day or two, I will disregard her orders. I do not go back, but do not go forward - or not much. It is, in one way, miserable — for I can do no work; a very little wood-cutting, the newspapers, and a note about every two days to write, completely exhausts my surplus energy; even Patience I have to cultivate with parsimony. I see, if I could only get to work, that we could live here with comfort, almost with luxury. Even as it is, we should be able to get through a considerable time of idleness. I like the place immensely, though I have seen so little of it — I have only been once outside the gate since I was here! It puts me in mind of a summer at Prestonpans and a sickly child you once told me of.
Thirty-two years now finished! My twenty-ninth was in San Francisco, I remember — rather a bleak birthday. The twenty-eighth was not much better; but the rest have been usually pleasant days in pleasant circumstances.
Love to you and to my father and to Cummy.
From me and Fanny and Wogg.
R. L. S.
GRAND HOTEL, NICE, 12TH JANUARY ‘83.
DEAR CHARLES, — Thanks for your good letter. It is true, man, God’s truth, what ye say about the body Stevison. The deil himsel, it’s my belief, couldnae get the soul harled oot o’ the creature’s wame, or he had seen the hinder end o’ they proofs. Ye crack o’ Maecenas, he’s naebody by you! He gied the lad Horace a rax forrit by all accounts; but he never gied him proofs like yon. Horace may hae been a better hand at the clink than Stevison — mind, I’m no sayin’ ‘t — but onyway he was never sae weel prentit. Damned, but it’s bonny! Hoo mony pages will there be, think ye? Stevison maun hae sent ye the feck o’ twenty sangs — fifteen I’se warrant. Weel, that’ll can make thretty pages, gin ye were to prent on ae side only, whilk wad be perhaps what a man o’ your GREAT idees would be ettlin’ at, man Johnson. Then there wad be the Pre-face, an’ prose ye ken prents oot langer than po’try at the hinder end, for ye hae to say things in’t. An’ then there’ll be a title-page and a dedication and an index wi’ the first lines like, and the deil an’ a’. Man, it’ll be grand. Nae copies to be given to the Liberys.
I am alane myself, in Nice, they ca’t, but damned, I think they micht as well ca’t Nesty. The Pile-on, ‘s they ca’t, ‘s aboot as big as the river Tay at Perth; and it’s rainin’ maist like Greenock. Dod, I’ve seen ‘s had mair o’ what they ca’ the I-talian at Muttonhole. I-talian! I haenae seen the sun for eicht and forty hours. Thomson’s better, I believe. But the body’s fair attenyated. He’s doon to seeven stane eleeven, an’ he sooks awa’ at cod liver ile, till it’s a fair disgrace. Ye see he tak’s it on a drap brandy; and it’s my belief, it’s just an excuse for a dram. He an’ Stevison gang aboot their lane, maistly; they’re company to either, like, an’ whiles they’ll speak o’Johnson. But HE’S far awa’, losh me! Stevison’s last book’s in a third edeetion; an’ it’s bein’ translated (like the psaulms o’ David, nae less) into French; and an eediot they ca’ Asher — a kind o’ rival of Tauchnitz - is bringin’ him oot in a paper book for the Frenchies and the German folk in twa volumes. Sae he’s in luck, ye see. — Yours,
[NICE FEBRUARY 1883.]
MY DEAR CUMMY, — You must think, and quite justly, that I am one of the meanest rogues in creation. But though I do not write (which is a thing I hate), it by no means follows that people are out of my mind. It is natural that I should always think more or less about you, and still more natural that I should think of you when I went back to Nice. But the real reason why you have been more in my mind than usual is because of some little verses that I have been writing, and that I mean to make a book of; and the real reason of this letter (although I ought to have written to you anyway) is that I have just seen that the book in question must be dedicated to
the only person who will really understand it. I don’t know when it may be ready, for it has to be illustrated, but I hope in the meantime you may like the idea of what is to be; and when the time comes, I shall try to make the dedication as pretty as I can make it. Of course, this is only a flourish, like taking off one’s hat; but still, a person who has taken the trouble to write things does not dedicate them to any one without meaning it; and you must just try to take this dedication in place of a great many things that I might have said, and that I ought to have done, to prove that I am not altogether unconscious of the great debt of gratitude I owe you. This little book, which is all about my childhood, should indeed go to no other person but you, who did so much to make that childhood happy.
Do you know, we came very near sending for you this winter. If we had not had news that you were ill too, I almost believe we should have done so, we were so much in trouble.
I am now very well; but my wife has had a very, very bad spell, through overwork and anxiety, when I was LOST! I suppose you heard of that. She sends you her love, and hopes you will write to her, though she no more than I deserves it. She would add a word herself, but she is too played out. — I am, ever your old boy,
R. L. S.
[NICE, MARCH 1883.]
MY DEAR LAD, — This is to announce to you the MS. of Nursery Verses, now numbering XLVIII. pieces or 599 verses, which, of course, one might augment AD INFINITUM.
But here is my notion to make all clear.
I do not want a big ugly quarto; my soul sickens at the look of a quarto. I want a refined octavo, not large — not LARGER than the DONKEY BOOK, at any price.
I think the full page might hold four verses of four lines, that is to say, counting their blanks at two, of twenty-two lines in height. The first page of each number would only hold two verses or ten lines, the title being low down. At this rate, we should have seventy-eight or eighty pages of letterpress.
The designs should not be in the text, but facing the poem; so that if the artist liked, he might give two pages of design to every poem that turned the leaf, I.E. longer than eight lines, I.E. to twenty-eight out of the forty-six. I should say he would not use this privilege (?) above five times, and some he might scorn to illustrate at all, so we may say fifty drawings. I shall come to the drawings next.
But now you see my book of the thickness, since the drawings count two pages, of 180 pages; and since the paper will perhaps be thicker, of near two hundred by bulk. It is bound in a quiet green with the words in thin gilt. Its shape is a slender, tall octavo. And it sells for the publisher’s fancy, and it will be a darling to look at; in short, it would be like one of the original Heine books in type and spacing.
Now for the pictures. I take another sheet and begin to jot notes for them when my imagination serves: I will run through the book, writing when I have an idea. There, I have jotted enough to give the artist a notion. Of course, I don’t do more than contribute ideas, but I will be happy to help in any and every way. I may as well add another idea; when the artist finds nothing much to illustrate, a good drawing of any OBJECT mentioned in the text, were it only a loaf of bread or a candlestick, is a most delightful thing to a young child. I remember this keenly.
Of course, if the artist insists on a larger form, I must I suppose, bow my head. But my idea I am convinced is the best, and would make the book truly, not fashionably pretty.
I forgot to mention that I shall have a dedication; I am going to dedicate ‘em to Cummy; it will please her, and lighten a little my burthen of ingratitude. A low affair is the Muse business.
I will add no more to this lest you should want to communicate with the artist; try another sheet. I wonder how many I’ll keep wandering to.
O I forgot. As for the title, I think ‘Nursery Verses’ the best. Poetry is not the strong point of the text, and I shrink from any title that might seem to claim that quality; otherwise we might have ‘Nursery Muses’ or ‘New Songs of Innocence’ (but that were a blasphemy), or ‘Rimes of Innocence’: the last not bad, or — an idea — ‘The Jews’ Harp,’ or — now I have it — ‘The Penny Whistle.’
THE PENNY WHISTLE: NURSERY VERSES BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. ILLUSTRATED BY—— —
And here we have an excellent frontispiece, of a party playing on a P. W. to a little ring of dancing children.
THE PENNY WHISTLE is the name for me.
Fool! this is all wrong, here is the true name:-
PENNY WHISTLES FOR SMALL WHISTLERS.
The second title is queried, it is perhaps better, as simply PENNY WHISTLES.
Nor you, O Penny Whistler, grudge That I your instrument debase: By worse performers still we judge, And give that fife a second place!
Crossed penny whistles on the cover, or else a sheaf of ‘em.
IV. The procession — the child running behind it. The procession tailing off through the gates of a cloudy city.
IX. FOREIGN LANDS. — This will, I think, want two plates — the child climbing, his first glimpse over the garden wall, with what he sees — the tree shooting higher and higher like the beanstalk, and the view widening. The river slipping in. The road arriving in Fairyland.
X. WINDY NIGHTS. — The child in bed listening — the horseman galloping.
XII. The child helplessly watching his ship — then he gets smaller, and the doll joyfully comes alive — the pair landing on the island - the ship’s deck with the doll steering and the child firing the penny canon. Query two plates? The doll should never come properly alive.
XV. Building of the ship — storing her — Navigation — Tom’s accident, the other child paying no attention.
XXXI. THE WIND. — I sent you my notion of already.
XXXVII. FOREIGN CHILDREN. — The foreign types dancing in a jing-a- ring, with the English child pushing in the middle. The foreign children looking at and showing each other marvels. The English child at the leeside of a roast of beef. The English child sitting thinking with his picture-books all round him, and the jing-a-ring of the foreign children in miniature dancing over the picture- books.
XXXIX. Dear artist, can you do me that?
XLII. The child being started off — the bed sailing, curtains and all, upon the sea — the child waking and finding himself at home; the corner of toilette might be worked in to look like the pier.
XLVII. The lighted part of the room, to be carefully distinguished from my child’s dark hunting grounds. A shaded lamp.
R. L. S.
HOTEL DES ILES D’OR, HYERES, VAR, MARCH 2, .
MY DEAR MOTHER, — It must be at least a fortnight since we have had a scratch of a pen from you; and if it had not been for Cummy’s letter, I should have feared you were worse again: as it is, I hope we shall hear from you to-day or to-morrow at latest.
Our news is good: Fanny never got so bad as we feared, and we hope now that this attack may pass off in threatenings. I am greatly better, have gained flesh, strength, spirits; eat well, walk a good deal, and do some work without fatigue. I am off the sick list.
We have found a house up the hill, close to the town, an excellent place though very, very little. If I can get the landlord to agree to let us take it by the month just now, and let our month’s rent count for the year in case we take it on, you may expect to hear we are again installed, and to receive a letter dated thus:-
La Solitude, Hyeres-les-Palmiers, Var.
If the man won’t agree to that, of course I must just give it up, as the house would be dear enough anyway at 2000 f. However, I hope we may get it, as it is healthy, cheerful, and close to shops, and society, and civilisation. The garden, which is above, is lovely, and will be cool in summer. There are two rooms below with a kitchen, and four rooms above, all told. — Ever your affectionate son,
R. L. STEVENSON.
HOTEL DES ILES D’OR, BUT MY ADDRESS WILL BE CHALET LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LE-PALMIERS, VAR, FRANCE, MARCH 17, 1883.
DEAR SIR, — Your undated favour from Eastbourne came to hand in course of post, and I now hasten to acknowledge its receipt. We must ask you in future, for the convenience of our business arrangements, to struggle with and tread below your feet this most unsatisfactory and uncommercial habit. Our Mr. Cassandra is better; our Mr. Wogg expresses himself dissatisfied with our new place of business; when left alone in the front shop, he bawled like a parrot; it is supposed the offices are haunted.
To turn to the matter of your letter, your remarks on GREAT EXPECTATIONS are very good. We have both re-read it this winter, and I, in a manner, twice. The object being a play; the play, in its rough outline, I now see: and it is extraordinary how much of Dickens had to be discarded as unhuman, impossible, and ineffective: all that really remains is the loan of a file (but from a grown-up young man who knows what he was doing, and to a convict who, although he does not know it is his father — the father knows it is his son), and the fact of the convict-father’s return and disclosure of himself to the son whom he has made rich. Everything else has been thrown aside; and the position has had to be explained by a prologue which is pretty strong. I have great hopes of this piece, which is very amiable and, in places, very strong indeed: but it was curious how Dickens had to be rolled away; he had made his story turn on such improbabilities, such fantastic trifles, not on a good human basis, such as I recognised. You are right about the casts, they were a capital idea; a good description of them at first, and then afterwards, say second, for the lawyer to have illustrated points out of the history of the originals, dusting the particular bust — that was all the development the thing would bear. Dickens killed them. The only really well EXECUTED scenes are the riverside ones; the escape in particular is excellent; and I may add, the capture of the two convicts at the beginning. Miss Havisham is, probably, the worst thing in human fiction. But Wemmick I like; and I like Trabb’s boy; and Mr. Wopsle as Hamlet is splendid.
The weather here is greatly improved, and I hope in three days to be in the chalet. That is, if I get some money to float me there.
I hope you are all right again, and will keep better. The month of March is past its mid career; it must soon begin to turn toward the lamb; here it has already begun to do so; and I hope milder weather will pick you up. Wogg has eaten a forpet of rice and milk, his beard is streaming, his eyes wild. I am besieged by demands of work from America.
The 50 pounds has just arrived; many thanks; I am now at ease. — Ever your affectionate son, PRO Cassandra, Wogg and Co.,
R. L. S.
CHALET LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, [APRIL 1883].
MY DEAR FRIEND, — I am one of the lowest of the — but that’s understood. I received the copy, excellently written, with I think only one slip from first to last. I have struck out two, and added five or six; so they now number forty-five; when they are fifty, they shall out on the world. I have not written a letter for a cruel time; I have been, and am, so busy, drafting a long story (for me, I mean), about a hundred CORNHILL pages, or say about as long as the Donkey book: PRINCE OTTO it is called, and is, at the present hour, a sore burthen but a hopeful. If I had him all drafted, I should whistle and sing. But no: then I’ll have to rewrite him; and then there will be the publishers, alas! But some time or other, I shall whistle and sing, I make no doubt.
I am going to make a fortune, it has not yet begun, for I am not yet clear of debt; but as soon as I can, I begin upon the fortune. I shall begin it with a halfpenny, and it shall end with horses and yachts and all the fun of the fair. This is the first real grey hair in my character: rapacity has begun to show, the greed of the protuberant guttler. Well, doubtless, when the hour strikes, we must all guttle and protube. But it comes hard on one who was always so willow-slender and as careless as the daisies.
Truly I am in excellent spirits. I have crushed through a financial crisis; Fanny is much better; I am in excellent health, and work from four to five hours a day — from one to two above my average, that is; and we all dwell together and make fortunes in the loveliest house you ever saw, with a garden like a fairy story, and a view like a classical landscape.
Little? Well, it is not large. And when you come to see us, you will probably have to bed at the hotel, which is hard by. But it is Eden, madam, Eden and Beulah and the Delectable Mountains and Eldorado and the Hesperidean Isles and Bimini.
We both look forward, my dear friend, with the greatest eagerness to have you here. It seems it is not to be this season; but I appoint you with an appointment for next season. You cannot see us else: remember that. Till my health has grown solid like an oak- tree, till my fortune begins really to spread its boughs like the same monarch of the woods (and the acorn, ay de mi! is not yet planted), I expect to be a prisoner among the palms.
Yes, it is like old times to be writing you from the Riviera, and after all that has come and gone who can predict anything? How fortune tumbles men about! Yet I have not found that they change their friends, thank God.
Both of our loves to your sister and yourself. As for me, if I am here and happy, I know to whom I owe it; I know who made my way for me in life, if that were all, and I remain, with love, your faithful friend,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
CHALET LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, [APRIL 1883].
MY DEAR GOSSE, — I am very guilty; I should have written to you long ago; and now, though it must be done, I am so stupid that I can only boldly recapitulate. A phrase of three members is the outside of my syntax.
First, I liked the ROVER better than any of your other verse. I believe you are right, and can make stories in verse. The last two stanzas and one or two in the beginning — but the two last above all — I thought excellent. I suggest a pursuit of the vein. If you want a good story to treat, get the MEMOIRS OF THE CHEVALIER JOHNSTONE, and do his passage of the Tay; it would be excellent: the dinner in the field, the woman he has to follow, the dragoons, the timid boatmen, the brave lasses. It would go like a charm; look at it, and you will say you owe me one.
Second, Gilder asking me for fiction, I suddenly took a great resolve, and have packed off to him my new work, THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS. I do not for a moment suppose he will take it; but pray say all the good words you can for it. I should be awfully glad to get it taken. But if it does not mean dibbs at once, I shall be ruined for life. Pray write soon and beg Gilder your prettiest for a poor gentleman in pecuniary sloughs.
Fourth, next time I am supposed to be at death’s door, write to me like a Christian, and let not your correspondence attend on business. — Yours ever,
R. L. S.
P.S. — I see I have led you to conceive the SQUATTERS are fiction. They are not, alas!
CHALET SOLITUDE, MAY 5, .
MY DEAREST PEOPLE, — I have had a great piece of news. There has been offered for TREASURE ISLAND— how much do you suppose? I believe it would be an excellent jest to keep the answer till my next letter. For two cents I would do so. Shall I? Anyway, I’ll turn the page first. No — well — A hundred pounds, all alive, O! A hundred jingling, tingling, golden, minted quid. Is not this wonderful? Add that I have now finished, in draft, the fifteenth chapter of my novel, and have only five before me, and you will see what cause of gratitude I have.
The weather, to look at the per contra sheet, continues vomitable; and Fanny is quite out of sorts. But, really, with such cause of gladness, I have not the heart to be dispirited by anything. My child’s verse book is finished, dedication and all, and out of my hands — you may tell Cummy; SILVERADO is done, too, and cast upon the waters; and this novel so near completion, it does look as if I should support myself without trouble in the future. If I have only health, I can, I thank God. It is dreadful to be a great, big man, and not be able to buy bread.
O that this may last!
I have to-day paid my rent for the half year, till the middle of September, and got my lease: why they have been so long, I know not.
I wish you all sorts of good things.
When is our marriage day? — Your loving and ecstatic son,
It has been for me a Treasure Island verily.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, MAY 8, 1883.
MY DEAR PEOPLE, — I was disgusted to hear my father was not so well. I have a most troubled existence of work and business. But the work goes well, which is the great affair. I meant to have written a most delightful letter; too tired, however, and must stop. Perhaps I’ll find time to add to it ere post.
I have returned refreshed from eating, but have little time, as Lloyd will go soon with the letters on his way to his tutor, Louis Robert (!!!!), with whom he learns Latin in French, and French, I suppose, in Latin, which seems to me a capital education. He, Lloyd, is a great bicycler already, and has been long distances; he is most new-fangled over his instrument, and does not willingly converse on other subjects.
Our lovely garden is a prey to snails; I have gathered about a bushel, which, not having the heart to slay, I steal forth withal and deposit near my neighbour’s garden wall. As a case of casuistry, this presents many points of interest. I loathe the snails, but from loathing to actual butchery, trucidation of multitudes, there is still a step that I hesitate to take. What, then, to do with them? My neighbour’s vineyard, pardy! It is a rich, villa, pleasure-garden of course; if it were a peasant’s patch, the snails, I suppose, would have to perish.
The weather these last three days has been much better, though it is still windy and unkind. I keep splendidly well, and am cruelly busy, with mighty little time even for a walk. And to write at all, under such pressure, must be held to lean to virtue’s side.
My financial prospects are shining. O if the health will hold, I should easily support myself. — Your ever affectionate son,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, [MAY 20, 1883].
MY DEAR GOSSE, — I enclose the receipt and the corrections. As for your letter and Gilder’s, I must take an hour or so to think; the matter much importing — to me. The 40 pounds was a heavenly thing.
I send the MS. by Henley, because he acts for me in all matters, and had the thing, like all my other books, in his detention. He is my unpaid agent — an admirable arrangement for me, and one that has rather more than doubled my income on the spot.
If I have been long silent, think how long you were so and blush, sir, blush.
I was rendered unwell by the arrival of your cheque, and, like Pepys, ‘my hand still shakes to write of it.’ To this grateful emotion, and not to D.T., please attribute the raggedness of my hand.
This year I should be able to live and keep my family on my own earnings, and that in spite of eight months and more of perfect idleness at the end of last and beginning of this. It is a sweet thought.
This spot, our garden and our view, are sub-celestial. I sing daily with my Bunyan, that great bard,
‘I dwell already the next door to Heaven!’
If you could see my roses, and my aloes, and my fig-marigolds, and my olives, and my view over a plain, and my view of certain mountains as graceful as Apollo, as severe as Zeus, you would not think the phrase exaggerated.
It is blowing to-day a HOT mistral, which is the devil or a near connection of his.
This to catch the post. — Yours affectionately,
R. L. STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, FRANCE, MAY 21, 1883.
MY DEAR GOSSE, — The night giveth advice, generally bad advice; but I have taken it. And I have written direct to Gilder to tell him to keep the book back and go on with it in November at his leisure. I do not know if this will come in time; if it doesn’t, of course things will go on in the way proposed. The 40 pounds, or, as I prefer to put it, the 1000 francs, has been such a piercing sun-ray as my whole grey life is gilt withal. On the back of it I can endure. If these good days of LONGMAN and the CENTURY only last, it will be a very green world, this that we dwell in and that philosophers miscall. I have no taste for that philosophy; give me large sums paid on the receipt of the MS. and copyright reserved, and what do I care about the non-beent? Only I know it can’t last. The devil always has an imp or two in every house, and my imps are getting lively. The good lady, the dear, kind lady, the sweet, excellent lady, Nemesis, whom alone I adore, has fixed her wooden eye upon me. I fall prone; spare me, Mother Nemesis! But catch her!
I must now go to bed; for I have had a whoreson influenza cold, and have to lie down all day, and get up only to meals and the delights, June delights, of business correspondence.
You said nothing about my subject for a poem. Don’t you like it? My own fishy eye has been fixed on it for prose, but I believe it could be thrown out finely in verse, and hence I resign and pass the hand. Twig the compliment? — Yours affectionately
R. L. S.
[HYERES, MAY 1883.]
. . . THE influenza has busted me a good deal; I have no spring, and am headachy. So, as my good Red Lion Counter begged me for another Butcher’s Boy — I turned me to — what thinkest ‘ou? — to Tushery, by the mass! Ay, friend, a whole tale of tushery. And every tusher tushes me so free, that may I be tushed if the whole thing is worth a tush. THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF TUNSTALL FOREST is his name: tush! a poor thing!
Will TREASURE ISLAND proofs be coming soon, think you?
I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot John Silver in TREASURE ISLAND. Of course, he is not in any other quality or feature the least like you; but the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you.
Otto is, as you say, not a thing to extend my public on. It is queer and a little, little bit free; and some of the parties are immoral; and the whole thing is not a romance, nor yet a comedy; nor yet a romantic comedy; but a kind of preparation of some of the elements of all three in a glass jar. I think it is not without merit, but I am not always on the level of my argument, and some parts are false, and much of the rest is thin; it is more a triumph for myself than anything else; for I see, beyond it, better stuff. I have nine chapters ready, or almost ready, for press. My feeling would be to get it placed anywhere for as much as could be got for it, and rather in the shadow, till one saw the look of it in print. - Ever yours,
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, MAY 1883.
MY DEAR LAD, — The books came some time since, but I have not had the pluck to answer: a shower of small troubles having fallen in, or troubles that may be very large.
I have had to incur a huge vague debt for cleaning sewers; our house was (of course) riddled with hidden cesspools, but that was infallible. I have the fever, and feel the duty to work very heavy on me at times; yet go it must. I have had to leave FONTAINEBLEAU, when three hours would finish it, and go full-tilt at tushery for a while. But it will come soon.
I think I can give you a good article on Hokusai; but that is for afterwards; FONTAINEBLEAU is first in hand
By the way, my view is to give the PENNY WHISTLES to Crane or Greenaway. But Crane, I think, is likeliest; he is a fellow who, at least, always does his best.
Shall I ever have money enough to write a play? O dire necessity!
A word in your ear: I don’t like trying to support myself. I hate the strain and the anxiety; and when unexpected expenses are foisted on me, I feel the world is playing with false dice. — Now I must Tush, adieu,
AN ACHING, FEVERED, PENNY-JOURNALIST.
A lytle Jape of TUSHERIE.
By A. Tusher.
The pleasant river gushes Among the meadows green; At home the author tushes; For him it flows unseen.
The Birds among the Bushes May wanton on the spray; But vain for him who tushes The brightness of the day!
The frog among the rushes Sits singing in the blue. By’r la’kin! but these tushes Are wearisome to do!
The task entirely crushes The spirit of the bard: God pity him who tushes — His task is very hard.
The filthy gutter slushes, The clouds are full of rain, But doomed is he who tushes To tush and tush again.
At morn with his hair-brUshes, Still, ‘tush’ he says, and weeps; At night again he tushes, And tushes till he sleeps.
And when at length he pushes Beyond the river dark — ‘Las, to the man who tushes, ‘Tush’ shall be God’s remark!
[CHALET LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, MAY 1883.]
DEAR HENLEY, — You may be surprised to hear that I am now a great writer of verses; that is, however, so. I have the mania now like my betters, and faith, if I live till I am forty, I shall have a book of rhymes like Pollock, Gosse, or whom you please. Really, I have begun to learn some of the rudiments of that trade, and have written three or four pretty enough pieces of octosyllabic nonsense, semi-serious, semi-smiling. A kind of prose Herrick, divested of the gift of verse, and you behold the Bard. But I like it.
R. L. S.
HYERES [JUNE 1883].
DEAR LAD, — I was delighted to hear the good news about —. Bravo, he goes uphill fast. Let him beware of vanity, and he will go higher; let him be still discontented, and let him (if it might be) see the merits and not the faults of his rivals, and he may swarm at last to the top-gallant. There is no other way. Admiration is the only road to excellence; and the critical spirit kills, but envy and injustice are putrefaction on its feet.
Thus far the moralist. The eager author now begs to know whether you may have got the other Whistles, and whether a fresh proof is to be taken; also whether in that case the dedication should not be printed therewith; Bulk Delights Publishers (original aphorism; to be said sixteen times in succession as a test of sobriety).
Your wild and ravening commands were received; but cannot be obeyed. And anyway, I do assure you I am getting better every day; and if the weather would but turn, I should soon be observed to walk in hornpipes. Truly I am on the mend. I am still very careful. I have the new dictionary; a joy, a thing of beauty, and - bulk. I shall be raked i’ the mools before it’s finished; that is the only pity; but meanwhile I sing.
I beg to inform you that I, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of BRASHIANA and other works, am merely beginning to commence to prepare to make a first start at trying to understand my profession. O the height and depth of novelty and worth in any art! and O that I am privileged to swim and shoulder through such oceans! Could one get out of sight of land — all in the blue? Alas not, being anchored here in flesh, and the bonds of logic being still about us.
But what a great space and a great air there is in these small shallows where alone we venture! and how new each sight, squall, calm, or sunrise! An art is a fine fortune, a palace in a park, a band of music, health, and physical beauty; all but love — to any worthy practiser. I sleep upon my art for a pillow; I waken in my art; I am unready for death, because I hate to leave it. I love my wife, I do not know how much, nor can, nor shall, unless I lost her; but while I can conceive my being widowed, I refuse the offering of life without my art. I AM not but in my art; it is me; I am the body of it merely.
And yet I produce nothing, am the author of BRASHIANA and other works: tiddy-iddity — as if the works one wrote were anything but ‘prentice’s experiments. Dear reader, I deceive you with husks, the real works and all the pleasure are still mine and incommunicable. After this break in my work, beginning to return to it, as from light sleep, I wax exclamatory, as you see.
Sursum Corda: Heave ahead: Here’s luck. Art and Blue Heaven, April and God’s Larks. Green reeds and the sky-scattering river. A stately music. Enter God!
R. L. S.
Ay, but you know, until a man can write that ‘Enter God,’ he has made no art! None! Come, let us take counsel together and make some!
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES [SUMMER 1883].
DEAR LAD, — Glad you like FONTAINEBLEAU. I am going to be the means, under heaven, of aerating or liberating your pages. The idea that because a thing is a picture-book all the writing should be on the wrong tack is TRISTE but widespread. Thus Hokusai will be really a gossip on convention, or in great part. And the Skelt will be as like a Charles Lamb as I can get it. The writer should write, and not illustrate pictures: else it’s bosh . . . .
Your remarks about the ugly are my eye. Ugliness is only the prose of horror. It is when you are not able to write MACBETH that you write THERESE RAQUIN. Fashions are external: the essence of art only varies in so far as fashion widens the field of its application; art is a mill whose thirlage, in different ages, widens and contracts; but, in any case and under any fashion, the great man produces beauty, terror, and mirth, and the little man produces cleverness (personalities, psychology) instead of beauty, ugliness instead of terror, and jokes instead of mirth. As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be ever, world without end. Amen!
And even as you read, you say, ‘Of course, QUELLE RENGAINE!’
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES [SUMMER 1883].
MY DEAR CUMMY, — Yes, I own I am a real bad correspondent, and am as bad as can be in most directions.
I have been adding some more poems to your book. I wish they would look sharp about it; but, you see, they are trying to find a good artist to make the illustrations, without which no child would give a kick for it. It will be quite a fine work, I hope. The dedication is a poem too, and has been quite a long while written, but I do not mean you to see it till you get the book; keep the jelly for the last, you know, as you would often recommend in former days, so now you can take your own medicine.
I am very sorry to hear you have been so poorly; I have been very well; it used to be quite the other way, used it not? Do you remember making the whistle at Mount Chessie? I do not think it WAS my knife; I believe it was yours; but rhyme is a very great monarch, and goes before honesty, in these affairs at least. Do you remember, at Warriston, one autumn Sunday, when the beech nuts were on the ground, seeing heaven open? I would like to make a rhyme of that, but cannot.
Is it not strange to think of all the changes: Bob, Cramond, Delhi, Minnie, and Henrietta, all married, and fathers and mothers, and your humble servant just the one point better off? And such a little while ago all children together! The time goes swift and wonderfully even; and if we are no worse than we are, we should be grateful to the power that guides us. For more than a generation I have now been to the fore in this rough world, and been most tenderly helped, and done cruelly wrong, and yet escaped; and here I am still, the worse for wear, but with some fight in me still, and not unthankful — no, surely not unthankful, or I were then the worst of human beings!
My little dog is a very much better child in every way, both more loving and more amiable; but he is not fond of strangers, and is, like most of his kind, a great, specious humbug.
Fanny has been ill, but is much better again; she now goes donkey rides with an old woman, who compliments her on her French. That old woman — seventy odd — is in a parlous spiritual state.
Pretty soon, in the new sixpenny illustrated magazine, Wogg’s picture is to appear: this is a great honour! And the poor soul whose vanity would just explode if he could understand it, will never be a bit the wiser! — With much love, in which Fanny joins, believe me, your affectionate boy,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, SUMMER 1883.
DEAR LAD, — Snatches in return for yours; for this little once, I’m well to windward of you.
Seventeen chapters of OTTO are now drafted, and finding I was working through my voice and getting screechy, I have turned back again to rewrite the earlier part. It has, I do believe, some merit: of what order, of course, I am the last to know; and, triumph of triumphs, my wife — my wife who hates and loathes and slates my women — admits a great part of my Countess to be on the spot.
Yes, I could borrow, but it is the joy of being before the public, for once. Really, 100 pounds is a sight more than TREASURE ISLAND is worth.
The reason of my DECHE? Well, if you begin one house, have to desert it, begin another, and are eight months without doing any work, you will be in a DECHE too. I am not in a DECHE, however; DISTINGUO— I would fain distinguish; I am rather a swell, but NOT SOLVENT. At a touch the edifice, AEDIFICIUM, might collapse. If my creditors began to babble around me, I would sink with a slow strain of music into the crimson west. The difficulty in my elegant villa is to find oil, OLEUM, for the dam axles. But I’ve paid my rent until September; and beyond the chemist, the grocer, the baker, the doctor, the gardener, Lloyd’s teacher, and the great thief creditor Death, I can snap my fingers at all men. Why will people spring bills on you? I try to make ‘em charge me at the moment; they won’t, the money goes, the debt remains. — The Required Play is in the MERRY MEN.
Q. E. F.
I thus render honour to your FLAIR; it came on me of a clap; I do not see it yet beyond a kind of sunset glory. But it’s there: passion, romance, the picturesque, involved: startling, simple, horrid: a sea-pink in sea-froth! S’AGIT DE LA DESENTERRER. ‘Help!’ cries a buried masterpiece.
Once I see my way to the year’s end, clear, I turn to plays; till then I grind at letters; finish OTTO; write, say, a couple of my TRAVELLER’S TALES; and then, if all my ships come home, I will attack the drama in earnest. I cannot mix the skeins. Thus, though I’m morally sure there is a play in OTTO, I dare not look for it: I shoot straight at the story.
As a story, a comedy, I think OTTO very well constructed; the echoes are very good, all the sentiments change round, and the points of view are continually, and, I think (if you please), happily contrasted. None of it is exactly funny, but some of it is smiling.
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES [SUMMER 1883].
MY DEAR GOSSE, — I have now leisurely read your volume; pretty soon, by the way, you will receive one of mine.
It is a pleasant, instructive, and scholarly volume. The three best being, quite out of sight — Crashaw, Otway, and Etherege. They are excellent; I hesitate between them; but perhaps Crashaw is the most brilliant
Your Webster is not my Webster; nor your Herrick my Herrick. On these matters we must fire a gun to leeward, show our colours, and go by. Argument is impossible. They are two of my favourite authors: Herrick above all: I suppose they are two of yours. Well, Janus-like, they do behold us two with diverse countenances, few features are common to these different avatars; and we can but agree to differ, but still with gratitude to our entertainers, like two guests at the same dinner, one of whom takes clear and one white soup. By my way of thinking, neither of us need be wrong.
The other papers are all interesting, adequate, clear, and with a pleasant spice of the romantic. It is a book you may be well pleased to have so finished, and will do you much good. The Crashaw is capital: capital; I like the taste of it. Preface clean and dignified. The handling throughout workmanlike, with some four or five touches of preciosity, which I regret.
With my thanks for information, entertainment, and a pleasurable envy here and there. — Yours affectionately,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, SEPTEMBER 19, 1883.
DEAR BOY, — Our letters vigorously cross: you will ere this have received a note to Coggie: God knows what was in it.
It is strange, a little before the first word you sent me — so late - kindly late, I know and feel — I was thinking in my bed, when I knew you I had six friends — Bob I had by nature; then came the good James Walter — with all his failings — the GENTLEMAN of the lot, alas to sink so low, alas to do so little, but now, thank God, in his quiet rest; next I found Baxter — well do I remember telling Walter I had unearthed ‘a W.S. that I thought would do’ — it was in the Academy Lane, and he questioned me as to the Signet’s qualifications; fourth came Simpson; somewhere about the same time, I began to get intimate with Jenkin; last came Colvin. Then, one black winter afternoon, long Leslie Stephen, in his velvet jacket, met me in the SPEC. by appointment, took me over to the infirmary, and in the crackling, blighting gaslight showed me that old head whose excellent representation I see before me in the photograph. Now when a man has six friends, to introduce a seventh is usually hopeless. Yet when you were presented, you took to them and they to you upon the nail. You must have been a fine fellow; but what a singular fortune I must have had in my six friends that you should take to all. I don’t know if it is good Latin, most probably not: but this is enscrolled before my eye for Walter: TANDEM E NUBIBUS IN APRICUM PROPERAT. Rest, I suppose, I know, was all that remained; but O to look back, to remember all the mirth, all the kindness, all the humorous limitations and loved defects of that character; to think that he was young with me, sharing that weather-beaten, Fergussonian youth, looking forward through the clouds to the sunburst; and now clean gone from my path, silent — well, well. This has been a strange awakening. Last night, when I was alone in the house, with the window open on the lovely still night, I could have sworn he was in the room with me; I could show you the spot; and, what was very curious, I heard his rich laughter, a thing I had not called to mind for I know not how long.
I see his coral waistcoat studs that he wore the first time he dined in my house; I see his attitude, leaning back a little, already with something of a portly air, and laughing internally. How I admired him! And now in the West Kirk.
I am trying to write out this haunting bodily sense of absence; besides, what else should I write of?
Yes, looking back, I think of him as one who was good, though sometimes clouded. He was the only gentle one of all my friends, save perhaps the other Walter. And he was certainly the only modest man among the lot. He never gave himself away; he kept back his secret; there was always a gentle problem behind all. Dear, dear, what a wreck; and yet how pleasant is the retrospect! God doeth all things well, though by what strange, solemn, and murderous contrivances!
It is strange: he was the only man I ever loved who did not habitually interrupt. The fact draws my own portrait. And it is one of the many reasons why I count myself honoured by his friendship. A man like you HAD to like me; you could not help yourself; but Ferrier was above me, we were not equals; his true self humoured and smiled paternally upon my failings, even as I humoured and sorrowed over his.
Well, first his mother, then himself, they are gone: ‘in their resting graves.’
When I come to think of it, I do not know what I said to his sister, and I fear to try again. Could you send her this? There is too much both about yourself and me in it; but that, if you do not mind, is but a mark of sincerity. It would let her know how entirely, in the mind of (I suppose) his oldest friend, the good, true Ferrier obliterates the memory of the other, who was only his ‘lunatic brother.’
Judge of this for me, and do as you please; anyway, I will try to write to her again; my last was some kind of scrawl that I could not see for crying. This came upon me, remember, with terrible suddenness; I was surprised by this death; and it is fifteen or sixteen years since first I saw the handsome face in the SPEC. I made sure, besides, to have died first. Love to you, your wife, and her sisters.
- Ever yours, dear boy,
R. L. S.
I never knew any man so superior to himself as poor James Walter. The best of him only came as a vision, like Corsica from the Corniche. He never gave his measure either morally or intellectually. The curse was on him. Even his friends did not know him but by fits. I have passed hours with him when he was so wise, good, and sweet, that I never knew the like of it in any other. And for a beautiful good humour he had no match. I remember breaking in upon him once with a whole red-hot story (in my worst manner), pouring words upon him by the hour about some truck not worth an egg that had befallen me; and suddenly, some half hour after, finding that the sweet fellow had some concern of his own of infinitely greater import, that he was patiently and smilingly waiting to consult me on. It sounds nothing; but the courtesy and the unselfishness were perfect. It makes me rage to think how few knew him, and how many had the chance to sneer at their better.
Well, he was not wasted, that we know; though if anything looked liker irony than this fitting of a man out with these rich qualities and faculties to be wrecked and aborted from the very stocks, I do not know the name of it. Yet we see that he has left an influence; the memory of his patient courtesy has often checked me in rudeness; has it not you?
You can form no idea of how handsome Walter was. At twenty he was splendid to see; then, too, he had the sense of power in him, and great hopes; he looked forward, ever jesting of course, but he looked to see himself where he had the right to expect. He believed in himself profoundly; but HE NEVER DISBELIEVED IN OTHERS. To the roughest Highland student he always had his fine, kind, open dignity of manner; and a good word behind his back.
The last time that I saw him before leaving for America — it was a sad blow to both of us. When he heard I was leaving, and that might be the last time we might meet — it almost was so — he was terribly upset, and came round at once. We sat late, in Baxter’s empty house, where I was sleeping. My dear friend Walter Ferrier: O if I had only written to him more! if only one of us in these last days had been well! But I ever cherished the honour of his friendship, and now when he is gone, I know what I have lost still better. We live on, meaning to meet; but when the hope is gone, the, pang comes.
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, 26TH SEPTEMBER 1883.
MY DEAR GOSSE, — It appears a bolt from Transatlantica is necessary to produce four lines from you. It is not flattering; but as I was always a bad correspondent, ‘tis a vice to which I am lenient. I give you to know, however, that I have already twice (this makes three times) sent you what I please to call a letter, and received from you in return a subterfuge — or nothing . . . .
My present purpose, however, which must not be postponed, is to ask you to telegraph to the Americans.
After a summer of good health of a very radiant order, toothache and the death of a very old friend, which came upon me like a thunderclap, have rather shelved my powers. I stare upon the paper, not write. I wish I could write like your Sculptors; yet I am well aware that I should not try in that direction. A certain warmth (tepid enough) and a certain dash of the picturesque are my poor essential qualities; and if I went fooling after the too classical, I might lose even these. But I envied you that page.
I am, of course, deep in schemes; I was so ever. Execution alone somewhat halts. How much do you make per annum, I wonder? This year, for the first time, I shall pass 300 pounds; I may even get halfway to the next milestone. This seems but a faint remuneration; and the devil of it is, that I manage, with sickness, and moves, and education, and the like, to keep steadily in front of my income. However, I console myself with this, that if I were anything else under God’s Heaven, and had the same crank health, I should make an even zero. If I had, with my present knowledge, twelve months of my old health, I would, could, and should do something neat. As it is, I have to tinker at my things in little sittings; and the rent, or the butcher, or something, is always calling me off to rattle up a pot-boiler. And then comes a back- set of my health, and I have to twiddle my fingers and play patience.
Well, I do not complain, but I do envy strong health where it is squandered. Treasure your strength, and may you never learn by experience the profound ENNUI and irritation of the shelved artist. For then, what is life? All that one has done to make one’s life effective then doubles the itch of inefficiency.
I trust also you may be long without finding out the devil that there is in a bereavement. After love it is the one great surprise that life preserves for us. Now I don’t think I can be astonished any more. — Yours affectionately,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR [OCTOBER 1883].
COLVIN, COLVIN, COLVIN, — Yours received; also interesting copy of P. WHISTLES. ‘In the multitude of councillors the Bible declares there is wisdom,’ said my great-uncle, ‘but I have always found in them distraction.’ It is extraordinary how tastes vary: these proofs have been handed about, it appears, and I have had several letters; and — distraction. ‘AEsop: the Miller and the Ass.’ Notes on details:-
1. I love the occasional trochaic line; and so did many excellent writers before me.
2. If you don’t like ‘A Good Boy,’ I do.
3. In ‘Escape at Bedtime,’ I found two suggestions. ‘Shove’ for ‘above’ is a correction of the press; it was so written. ‘Twinkled’ is just the error; to the child the stars appear to be there; any word that suggests illusion is a horror.
4. I don’t care; I take a different view of the vocative.
5. Bewildering and childering are good enough for me. These are rhymes, jingles; I don’t go for eternity and the three unities.
I will delete some of those condemned, but not all. I don’t care for the name Penny Whistles; I sent a sheaf to Henley when I sent ‘em. But I’ve forgot the others. I would just as soon call ‘em ‘Rimes for Children’ as anything else. I am not proud nor particular.
Your remarks on the BLACK ARROW are to the point. I am pleased you liked Crookback; he is a fellow whose hellish energy has always fired my attention. I wish Shakespeare had written the play after he had learned some of the rudiments of literature and art rather than before. Some day, I will re-tickle the Sable Missile, and shoot it, MOYENNANT FINANCES, once more into the air; I can lighten it of much, and devote some more attention to Dick o’ Gloucester. It’s great sport to write tushery.
By this I reckon you will have heard of my proposed excursiolorum to the Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece, and kindred sites. If the excursiolorum goes on, that is, if MOYENNANT FINANCES comes off, I shall write to beg you to collect introductiolorums for me.
Distinguo: 1. SILVERADO was not written in America, but in Switzerland’s icy mountains. 2. What you read is the bleeding and disembowelled remains of what I wrote. 3. The good stuff is all to come — so I think. ‘The Sea Fogs,’ ‘The Hunter’s Family,’ ‘Toils and Pleasures’ — BELLES PAGES. — Yours ever,
O! — Seeley is too clever to live, and the book a gem. But why has he read too much Arnold? Why will he avoid — obviously avoid — fine writing up to which he has led? This is a winking, curled- and-oiled, ultra-cultured, Oxford-don sort of an affectation that infuriates my honest soul. ‘You see’ — they say — ‘how unbombastic WE are; we come right up to eloquence, and, when it’s hanging on the pen, dammy, we scorn it!’ It is literary Deronda-ism. If you don’t want the woman, the image, or the phrase, mortify your vanity and avoid the appearance of wanting them.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, OCTOBER .
MY DEAR LOW, — . . . Some day or other, in Cassell’s MAGAZINE OF ART, you will see a paper which will interest you, and where your name appears. It is called ‘Fontainebleau: Village Communities of Artists,’ and the signature of R. L. Stevenson will be found annexed
Please tell the editor of MANHATTAN the following secrets for me: 1ST, That I am a beast; 2ND, that I owe him a letter; 3RD, that I have lost his, and cannot recall either his name or address; 4TH, that I am very deep in engagements, which my absurd health makes it hard for me to overtake; but 5TH, that I will bear him in mind; 6TH and last, that I am a brute.
My address is still the same, and I live in a most sweet corner of the universe, sea and fine hills before me, and a rich variegated plain; and at my back a craggy hill, loaded with vast feudal ruins. I am very quiet; a person passing by my door half startles me; but I enjoy the most aromatic airs, and at night the most wonderful view into a moonlit garden. By day this garden fades into nothing, overpowered by its surroundings and the luminous distance; but at night and when the moon is out, that garden, the arbour, the flight of stairs that mount the artificial hillock, the plumed blue gum- trees that hang trembling, become the very skirts of Paradise. Angels I know frequent it; and it thrills all night with the flutes of silence. Damn that garden;- and by day it is gone.
Continue to testify boldly against realism. Down with Dagon, the fish god! All art swings down towards imitation, in these days, fatally. But the man who loves art with wisdom sees the joke; it is the lustful that tremble and respect her ladyship; but the honest and romantic lovers of the Muse can see a joke and sit down to laugh with Apollo.
The prospect of your return to Europe is very agreeable; and I was pleased by what you said about your parents. One of my oldest friends died recently, and this has given me new thoughts of death. Up to now I had rather thought of him as a mere personal enemy of my own; but now that I see him hunting after my friends, he looks altogether darker. My own father is not well; and Henley, of whom you must have heard me speak, is in a questionable state of health. These things are very solemn, and take some of the colour out of life. It is a great thing, after all, to be a man of reasonable honour and kindness. Do you remember once consulting me in Paris whether you had not better sacrifice honesty to art; and how, after much confabulation, we agreed that your art would suffer if you did? We decided better than we knew. In this strange welter where we live, all hangs together by a million filaments; and to do reasonably well by others, is the first prerequisite of art. Art is a virtue; and if I were the man I should be, my art would rise in the proportion of my life.
If you were privileged to give some happiness to your parents, I know your art will gain by it. BY GOD, IT WILL! SIC SUBSCRIBITUR,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS [OCTOBER 1883].
MY DEAR BOB, — Yes, I got both your letters at Lyons, but have been since then decading in several steps Toothache; fever; Ferrier’s death; lung. Now it is decided I am to leave to-morrow, penniless, for Nice to see Dr. Williams.
I was much struck by your last. I have written a breathless note on Realism for Henley; a fifth part of the subject, hurriedly touched, which will show you how my thoughts are driving. You are now at last beginning to think upon the problems of executive, plastic art, for you are now for the first time attacking them. Hitherto you have spoken and thought of two things — technique and the ARS ARTIUM, or common background of all arts. Studio work is the real touch. That is the genial error of the present French teaching. Realism I regard as a mere question of method. The ‘brown foreground,’ ‘old mastery,’ and the like, ranking with villanelles, as technical sports and pastimes. Real art, whether ideal or realistic, addresses precisely the same feeling, and seeks the same qualities — significance or charm. And the same — very same — inspiration is only methodically differentiated according as the artist is an arrant realist or an arrant idealist. Each, by his own method, seeks to save and perpetuate the same significance or charm; the one by suppressing, the other by forcing, detail. All other idealism is the brown foreground over again, and hence only art in the sense of a game, like cup and ball. All other realism is not art at all — but not at all. It is, then, an insincere and showy handicraft.
Were you to re-read some Balzac, as I have been doing, it would greatly help to clear your eyes. He was a man who never found his method. An inarticulate Shakespeare, smothered under forcible- feeble detail. It is astounding to the riper mind how bad he is, how feeble, how untrue, how tedious; and, of course, when he surrendered to his temperament, how good and powerful. And yet never plain nor clear. He could not consent to be dull, and thus became so. He would leave nothing undeveloped, and thus drowned out of sight of land amid the multitude of crying and incongruous details. There is but one art — to omit! O if I knew how to omit, I would ask no other knowledge. A man who knew how to omit would make an ILIAD of a daily paper.
Your definition of seeing is quite right. It is the first part of omission to be partly blind. Artistic sight is judicious blindness. Sam Bough must have been a jolly blind old boy. He would turn a corner, look for one-half or quarter minute, and then say, ‘This’ll do, lad.’ Down he sat, there and then, with whole artistic plan, scheme of colour, and the like, and begin by laying a foundation of powerful and seemingly incongruous colour on the block. He saw, not the scene, but the water-colour sketch. Every artist by sixty should so behold nature. Where does he learn that? In the studio, I swear. He goes to nature for facts, relations, values — material; as a man, before writing a historical novel, reads up memoirs. But it is not by reading memoirs that he has learned the selective criterion. He has learned that in the practice of his art; and he will never learn it well, but when disengaged from the ardent struggle of immediate representation, of realistic and EX FACTO art. He learns it in the crystallisation of day-dreams; in changing, not in copying, fact; in the pursuit of the ideal, not in the study of nature. These temples of art are, as you say, inaccessible to the realistic climber. It is not by looking at the sea that you get
‘The multitudinous seas incarnadine,’
nor by looking at Mont Blanc that you find
‘And visited all night by troops of stars.’
A kind of ardour of the blood is the mother of all this; and according as this ardour is swayed by knowledge and seconded by craft, the art expression flows clear, and significance and charm, like a moon rising, are born above the barren juggle of mere symbols.
The painter must study more from nature than the man of words. But why? Because literature deals with men’s business and passions which, in the game of life, we are irresistibly obliged to study; but painting with relations of light, and colour, and significances, and form, which, from the immemorial habit of the race, we pass over with an unregardful eye. Hence this crouching upon camp-stools, and these crusts. But neither one nor other is a part of art, only preliminary studies.
I want you to help me to get people to understand that realism is a method, and only methodic in its consequences; when the realist is an artist, that is, and supposing the idealist with whom you compare him to be anything but a FARCEUR and a DILETTANTE. The two schools of working do, and should, lead to the choice of different subjects. But that is a consequence, not a cause. See my chaotic note, which will appear, I fancy, in November in Henley’s sheet.
Poor Ferrier, it bust me horrid. He was, after you, the oldest of my friends.
I am now very tired, and will go to bed having prelected freely. Fanny will finish.
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, 12TH OCTOBER 1883.
MY DEAR FATHER, — I have just lunched; the day is exquisite, the air comes though the open window rich with odour, and I am by no means spiritually minded. Your letter, however, was very much valued, and has been read oftener than once. What you say about yourself I was glad to hear; a little decent resignation is not only becoming a Christian, but is likely to be excellent for the health of a Stevenson. To fret and fume is undignified, suicidally foolish, and theologically unpardonable; we are here not to make, but to tread predestined, pathways; we are the foam of a wave, and to preserve a proper equanimity is not merely the first part of submission to God, but the chief of possible kindnesses to those about us. I am lecturing myself, but you also. To do our best is one part, but to wash our hands smilingly of the consequence is the next part, of any sensible virtue.
I have come, for the moment, to a pause in my moral works; for I have many irons in the fire, and I wish to finish something to bring coin before I can afford to go on with what I think doubtfully to be a duty. It is a most difficult work; a touch of the parson will drive off those I hope to influence; a touch of overstrained laxity, besides disgusting, like a grimace, may do harm. Nothing that I have ever seen yet speaks directly and efficaciously to young men; and I do hope I may find the art and wisdom to fill up a gap. The great point, as I see it, is to ask as little as possible, and meet, if it may be, every view or absence of view; and it should be, must be, easy. Honesty is the one desideratum; but think how hard a one to meet. I think all the time of Ferrier and myself; these are the pair that I address. Poor Ferrier, so much a better man than I, and such a temporal wreck. But the thing of which we must divest our minds is to look partially upon others; all is to be viewed; and the creature judged, as he must be by his Creator, not dissected through a prism of morals, but in the unrefracted ray. So seen, and in relation to the almost omnipotent surroundings, who is to distinguish between F. and such a man as Dr. Candlish, or between such a man as David Hume and such an one as Robert Burns? To compare my poor and good Walter with myself is to make me startle; he, upon all grounds above the merely expedient, was the nobler being. Yet wrecked utterly ere the full age of manhood; and the last skirmishes so well fought, so humanly useless, so pathetically brave, only the leaps of an expiring lamp. All this is a very pointed instance. It shuts the mouth. I have learned more, in some ways, from him than from any other soul I ever met; and he, strange to think, was the best gentleman, in all kinder senses, that I ever knew. — Ever your affectionate son,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
[CHALET LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, OCT. 23, 1883.]
MY DEAR LOW, — C’EST D’UN BON CAMARADE; and I am much obliged to you for your two letters and the inclosure. Times are a lityle changed with all of us since the ever memorable days of Lavenue: hallowed be his name! hallowed his old Fleury! — of which you did not see — I think — as I did — the glorious apotheosis: advanced on a Tuesday to three francs, on the Thursday to six, and on Friday swept off, holus bolus, for the proprietor’s private consumption. Well, we had the start of that proprietor. Many a good bottle came our way, and was, I think, worthily made welcome.
I am pleased that Mr. Gilder should like my literature; and I ask you particularly to thank Mr. Bunner (have I the name right?) for his notice, which was of that friendly, headlong sort that really pleases an author like what the French call a ‘shake-hands.’ It pleased me the more coming from the States, where I have met not much recognition, save from the buccaneers, and above all from pirates who misspell my name. I saw my book advertised in a number of the CRITIC as the work of one R. L. Stephenson; and, I own, I boiled. It is so easy to know the name of the man whose book you have stolen; for there it is, at full length, on the title-page of your booty. But no, damn him, not he! He calls me Stephenson. These woes I only refer to by the way, as they set a higher value on the CENTURY notice.
I am now a person with an established ill-health — a wife — a dog possessed with an evil, a Gadarene spirit — a chalet on a hill, looking out over the Mediterranean — a certain reputation — and very obscure finances. Otherwise, very much the same, I guess; and were a bottle of Fleury a thing to be obtained, capable of developing theories along with a fit spirit even as of yore. Yet I now draw near to the Middle Ages; nearly three years ago, that fatal Thirty struck; and yet the great work is not yet done — not yet even conceived. But so, as one goes on, the wood seems to thicken, the footpath to narrow, and the House Beautiful on the hill’s summit to draw further and further away. We learn, indeed, to use our means; but only to learn, along with it, the paralysing knowledge that these means are only applicable to two or three poor commonplace motives. Eight years ago, if I could have slung ink as I can now, I should have thought myself well on the road after Shakespeare; and now — I find I have only got a pair of walking- shoes and not yet begun to travel. And art is still away there on the mountain summit. But I need not continue; for, of course, this is your story just as much as it is mine; and, strange to think, it was Shakespeare’s too, and Beethoven’s, and Phidias’s. It is a blessed thing that, in this forest of art, we can pursue our wood- lice and sparrows, AND NOT CATCH THEM, with almost the same fervour of exhilaration as that with which Sophocles hunted and brought down the Mastodon.
Tell me something of your work, and your wife. — My dear fellow, I am yours ever,
R. L. STEVENSON.
My wife begs to be remembered to both of you; I cannot say as much for my dog, who has never seen you, but he would like, on general principles, to bite you.
[HYERES, NOVEMBER 1883.]
MY DEAR LAD, — . . . Of course, my seamanship is jimmy: did I not beseech you I know not how often to find me an ancient mariner — and you, whose own wife’s own brother is one of the ancientest, did nothing for me? As for my seamen, did Runciman ever know eighteenth century buccaneers? No? Well, no more did I. But I have known and sailed with seamen too, and lived and eaten with them; and I made my put-up shot in no great ignorance, but as a put-up thing has to be made, I.E. to be coherent and picturesque, and damn the expense. Are they fairly lively on the wires? Then, favour me with your tongues. Are they wooden, and dim, and no sport? Then it is I that am silent, otherwise not. The work, strange as it may sound in the ear, is not a work of realism. The next thing I shall hear is that the etiquette is wrong in Otto’s Court! With a warrant, and I mean it to be so, and the whole matter never cost me half a thought. I make these paper people to please myself, and Skelt, and God Almighty, and with no ulterior purpose. Yet am I mortal myself; for, as I remind you, I begged for a supervising mariner. However, my heart is in the right place. I have been to sea, but I never crossed the threshold of a court; and the courts shall be the way I want ‘em.
I’m glad to think I owe you the review that pleased me best of all the reviews I ever had; the one I liked best before that was —‘s on the ARABIANS. These two are the flowers of the collection, according to me. To live reading such reviews and die eating ortolans — sich is my aspiration.
Whenever you come you will be equally welcome. I am trying to finish OTTO ere you shall arrive, so as to take and be able to enjoy a well-earned — O yes, a well-earned — holiday. Longman fetched by Otto: is it a spoon or a spoilt horn? Momentous, if the latter; if the former, a spoon to dip much praise and pudding, and to give, I do think, much pleasure. The last part, now in hand, much smiles upon me. — Ever yours,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, [NOVEMBER 1883].
MY DEAR MOTHER, — You must not blame me too much for my silence; I am over head and ears in work, and do not know what to do first. I have been hard at OTTO, hard at SILVERADO proofs, which I have worked over again to a tremendous extent; cutting, adding, rewriting, until some of the worst chapters of the original are now, to my mind, as good as any. I was the more bound to make it good, as I had such liberal terms; it’s not for want of trying if I have failed.
I got your letter on my birthday; indeed, that was how I found it out about three in the afternoon, when postie comes. Thank you for all you said. As for my wife, that was the best investment ever made by man; but ‘in our branch of the family’ we seem to marry well. I, considering my piles of work, am wonderfully well; I have not been so busy for I know not how long. I hope you will send me the money I asked however, as I am not only penniless, but shall remain so in all human probability for some considerable time. I have got in the mass of my expectations; and the 100 pounds which is to float us on the new year can not come due till SILVERADO is all ready; I am delaying it myself for the moment; then will follow the binders and the travellers and an infinity of other nuisances; and only at the last, the jingling-tingling.
Do you know that TREASURE ISLAND has appeared? In the November number of Henley’s Magazine, a capital number anyway, there is a funny publisher’s puff of it for your book; also a bad article by me. Lang dotes on TREASURE ISLAND: ‘Except TOM SAWYER and the ODYSSEY,’ he writes, ‘I never liked any romance so much.’ I will inclose the letter though. The Bogue is angelic, although very dirty. It has rained — at last! It was jolly cold when the rain came.
I was overjoyed to hear such good news of my father. Let him go on at that! Ever your affectionate,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, [NOVEMBER 1883].
MY DEAR COLVIN, — I have been bad, but as you were worse, I feel no shame. I raise a blooming countenance, not the evidence of a self- righteous spirit.
I continue my uphill fight with the twin spirits of bankruptcy and indigestion. Duns rage about my portal, at least to fancy’s ear.
I suppose you heard of Ferrier’s death: my oldest friend, except Bob. It has much upset me. I did not fancy how much. I am strangely concerned about it.
My house is the loveliest spot in the universe; the moonlight nights we have are incredible; love, poetry and music, and the Arabian Nights, inhabit just my corner of the world — nest there like mavises.
Here lies The carcase of Robert Louis Stevenson, An active, austere, and not inelegant writer, who, at the termination of a long career, wealthy, wise, benevolent, and honoured by the attention of two hemispheres, yet owned it to have been his crowning favour TO INHABIT LA SOLITUDE.
(With the consent of the intelligent edility of Hyeres, he has been interred, below this frugal stone, in the garden which he honoured for so long with his poetic presence.)
I must write more solemn letters. Adieu. Write.
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, [NOVEMBER 1883].
MY DEAR HENRIETTA, — Certainly; who else would they be? More by token, on that particular occasion, you were sailing under the title of Princess Royal; I, after a furious contest, under that of Prince Alfred; and Willie, still a little sulky, as the Prince of Wales. We were all in a buck basket about half-way between the swing and the gate; and I can still see the Pirate Squadron heave in sight upon the weather bow.
I wrote a piece besides on Giant Bunker; but I was not happily inspired, and it is condemned. Perhaps I’ll try again; he was a horrid fellow, Giant Bunker! and some of my happiest hours were passed in pursuit of him. You were a capital fellow to play: how few there were who could! None better than yourself. I shall never forget some of the days at Bridge of Allan; they were one golden dream. See ‘A Good Boy’ in the PENNY WHISTLES, much of the sentiment of which is taken direct from one evening at B. of A. when we had had a great play with the little Glasgow girl. Hallowed be that fat book of fairy tales! Do you remember acting the Fair One with Golden Locks? What a romantic drama! Generally speaking, whenever I think of play, it is pretty certain that you will come into my head. I wrote a paper called ‘Child’s Play’ once, where, I believe, you or Willie would recognise things . . . .
Surely Willie is just the man to marry; and if his wife wasn’t a happy woman, I think I could tell her who was to blame. Is there no word of it? Well, these things are beyond arrangement; and the wind bloweth where it listeth — which, I observe, is generally towards the west in Scotland. Here it prefers a south-easterly course, and is called the Mistral — usually with an adjective in front. But if you will remember my yesterday’s toothache and this morning’s crick, you will be in a position to choose an adjective for yourself. Not that the wind is unhealthy; only when it comes strong, it is both very high and very cold, which makes it the d-v- l. But as I am writing to a lady, I had better avoid this topic; winds requiring a great scope of language.
Please remember me to all at home; give Ramsay a pennyworth of acidulated drops for his good taste. — And believe me, your affectionate cousin,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, VAR, NOVEMBER 22, 1883.
DEAR MISS FERRIER, — Many thanks for the photograph. It is — well, it is like most photographs. The sun is an artist of too much renown; and, at any rate, we who knew Walter ‘in the brave days of old’ will be difficult to please.
I was inexpressibly touched to get a letter from some lawyers as to some money. I have never had any account with my friends; some have gained and some lost; and I should feel there was something dishonest in a partial liquidation even if I could recollect the facts, WHICH I CANNOT. But the fact of his having put aside this memorandum touched me greatly.
The mystery of his life is great. Our chemist in this place, who had been at Malvern, recognised the picture. You may remember Walter had a romantic affection for all pharmacies? and the bottles in the window were for him a poem? He said once that he knew no pleasure like driving through a lamplit city, waiting for the chemists to go by.
All these things return now.
He had a pretty full translation of Schiller’s AESTHETIC LETTERS, which we read together, as well as the second part of FAUST, in Gladstone Terrace, he helping me with the German. There is no keepsake I should more value than the MS. of that translation. They were the best days I ever had with him, little dreaming all would so soon be over. It needs a blow like this to convict a man of mortality and its burthen. I always thought I should go by myself; not to survive. But now I feel as if the earth were undermined, and all my friends have lost one thickness of reality since that one passed. Those are happy who can take it otherwise; with that I found things all beginning to dislimn. Here we have no abiding city, and one felt as though he had — and O too much acted.
But if you tell me, he did not feel my silence. However, he must have done so; and my guilt is irreparable now. I thank God at least heartily that he did not resent it.
Please remember me to Sir Alexander and Lady Grant, to whose care I will address this. When next I am in Edinburgh I will take flowers, alas! to the West Kirk. Many a long hour we passed in graveyards, the man who has gone and I— or rather not that man — but the beautiful, genial, witty youth who so betrayed him. — Dear Miss Ferrier, I am yours most sincerely,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, VAR, 13TH DECEMBER 1883.
MY DEAR LOW, — . . . I was much pleased with what you send about my work. Ill-health is a great handicapper in the race. I have never at command that press of spirits that are necessary to strike out a thing red-hot. SILVERADO is an example of stuff worried and pawed about, God knows how often, in poor health, and you can see for yourself the result: good pages, an imperfect fusion, a certain languor of the whole. Not, in short, art. I have told Roberts to send you a copy of the book when it appears, where there are some fair passages that will be new to you. My brief romance, PRINCE OTTO— far my most difficult adventure up to now — is near an end. I have still one chapter to write DE FOND EN COMBLE, and three or four to strengthen or recast. The rest is done. I do not know if I have made a spoon, or only spoiled a horn; but I am tempted to hope the first. If the present bargain hold, it will not see the light of day for some thirteen months. Then I shall be glad to know how it strikes you. There is a good deal of stuff in it, both dramatic and, I think, poetic; and the story is not like these purposeless fables of to-day, but is, at least, intended to stand FIRM upon a base of philosophy — or morals — as you please. It has been long gestated, and is wrought with care. ENFIN, NOUS VERRONS. My labours have this year for the first time been rewarded with upwards of 350 pounds; that of itself, so base we are! encourages me; and the better tenor of my health yet more. — Remember me to Mrs. Low, and believe me, yours most sincerely,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, DECEMBER 20, 1883.
MY DEAR FATHER, — I do not know which of us is to blame; I suspect it is you this time. The last accounts of you were pretty good, I was pleased to see; I am, on the whole, very well — suffering a little still from my fever and liver complications, but better.
I have just finished re-reading a book, which I counsel you above all things NOT to read, as it has made me very ill, and would make you worse — Lockhart’s SCOTT. It is worth reading, as all things are from time to time that keep us nose to nose with fact; though I think such reading may be abused, and that a great deal of life is better spent in reading of a light and yet chivalrous strain. Thus, no Waverley novel approaches in power, blackness, bitterness, and moral elevation to the diary and Lockhart’s narrative of the end; and yet the Waverley novels are better reading for every day than the Life. You may take a tonic daily, but not phlebotomy.
The great double danger of taking life too easily, and taking it too hard, how difficult it is to balance that! But we are all too little inclined to faith; we are all, in our serious moments, too much inclined to forget that all are sinners, and fall justly by their faults, and therefore that we have no more to do with that than with the thunder-cloud; only to trust, and do our best, and wear as smiling a face as may be for others and ourselves. But there is no royal road among this complicated business. Hegel the German got the best word of all philosophy with his antinomies: the contrary of everything is its postulate. That is, of course, grossly expressed, but gives a hint of the idea, which contains a great deal of the mysteries of religion, and a vast amount of the practical wisdom of life. For your part, there is no doubt as to your duty — to take things easy and be as happy as you can, for your sake, and my mother’s, and that of many besides. Excuse this sermon. — Ever your loving son,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, DECEMBER 25, 1883.
MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER, — This it is supposed will reach you about Christmas, and I believe I should include Lloyd in the greeting. But I want to lecture my father; he is not grateful enough; he is like Fanny; his resignation is not the ‘true blue.’ A man who has gained a stone; whose son is better, and, after so many fears to the contrary, I dare to say, a credit to him; whose business is arranged; whose marriage is a picture — what I should call resignation in such a case as his would be to ‘take down his fiddle and play as lood as ever he could.’ That and nought else. And now, you dear old pious ingrate, on this Christmas morning, think what your mercies have been; and do not walk too far before your breakfast — as far as to the top of India Street, then to the top of Dundas Street, and then to your ain stair heid; and do not forget that even as LABORARE, so JOCULARI, EST ORARE; and to be happy the first step to being pious.
I have as good as finished my novel, and a hard job it has been — but now practically over, LAUS DEO! My financial prospects better than ever before; my excellent wife a touch dolorous, like Mr. Tommy; my Bogue quite converted, and myself in good spirits. O, send Curry Powder per Baxter.
R. L. S.
[LA SOLITUDE, HYERES], LAST SUNDAY OF ‘83.
MY DEAR MOTHER, — I give my father up. I give him a parable: that the Waverley novels are better reading for every day than the tragic Life. And he takes it backside foremost, and shakes his head, and is gloomier than ever. Tell him that I give him up. I don’t want no such a parent. This is not the man for my money. I do not call that by the name of religion which fills a man with bile. I write him a whole letter, bidding him beware of extremes, and telling him that his gloom is gallows-worthy; and I get back an answer — Perish the thought of it.
Here am I on the threshold of another year, when, according to all human foresight, I should long ago have been resolved into my elements; here am I, who you were persuaded was born to disgrace you — and, I will do you the justice to add, on no such insufficient grounds — no very burning discredit when all is done; here am I married, and the marriage recognised to be a blessing of the first order, A1 at Lloyd’s. There is he, at his not first youth, able to take more exercise than I at thirty-three, and gaining a stone’s weight, a thing of which I am incapable. There are you; has the man no gratitude? There is Smeoroch: is he blind? Tell him from me that all this is
NOT THE TRUE BLUE!
I will think more of his prayers when I see in him a spirit of PRAISE. Piety is a more childlike and happy attitude than he admits. Martha, Martha, do you hear the knocking at the door? But Mary was happy. Even the Shorter Catechism, not the merriest epitome of religion, and a work exactly as pious although not quite so true as the multiplication table — even that dry-as-dust epitome begins with a heroic note. What is man’s chief end? Let him study that; and ask himself if to refuse to enjoy God’s kindest gifts is in the spirit indicated. Up, Dullard! It is better service to enjoy a novel than to mump.
I have been most unjust to the Shorter Catechism, I perceive. I wish to say that I keenly admire its merits as a performance; and that all that was in my mind was its peculiarly unreligious and unmoral texture; from which defect it can never, of course, exercise the least influence on the minds of children. But they learn fine style and some austere thinking unconsciously. — Ever your loving son,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, JANUARY 1 (1884).
MY DEAR PEOPLE, — A Good New Year to you. The year closes, leaving me with 50 pounds in the bank, owing no man nothing, 100 pounds more due to me in a week or so, and 150 pounds more in the course of the month; and I can look back on a total receipt of 465 pounds, 0s. 6d. for the last twelve months!
And yet I am not happy!
Yet I beg! Here is my beggary:-
1. Sellar’s Trial.
2. George Borrow’s Book about Wales.
3. My Grandfather’s Trip to Holland.
4. And (but this is, I fear, impossible) the Bell Rock Book.
When I think of how last year began, after four months of sickness and idleness, all my plans gone to water, myself starting alone, a kind of spectre, for Nice — should I not be grateful? Come, let us sing unto the Lord!
Nor should I forget the expected visit, but I will not believe in that till it befall; I am no cultivator of disappointments, ‘tis a herb that does not grow in my garden; but I get some good crops both of remorse and gratitude. The last I can recommend to all gardeners; it grows best in shiny weather, but once well grown, is very hardy; it does not require much labour; only that the husbandman should smoke his pipe about the flower-plots and admire God’s pleasant wonders. Winter green (otherwise known as Resignation, or the ‘false gratitude plant’) springs in much the same soil; is little hardier, if at all; and requires to be so dug about and dunged, that there is little margin left for profit. The variety known as the Black Winter green (H. V. Stevensoniana) is rather for ornament than profit.
‘John, do you see that bed of resignation?’ — ‘It’s doin’ bravely, sir.’ — ‘John, I will not have it in my garden; it flatters not the eye and comforts not the stomach; root it out.’ — ‘Sir, I ha’e seen o’ them that rase as high as nettles; gran’ plants!’ — ‘What then? Were they as tall as alps, if still unsavoury and bleak, what matters it? Out with it, then; and in its place put Laughter and a Good Conceit (that capital home evergreen), and a bush of Flowering Piety — but see it be the flowering sort — the other species is no ornament to any gentleman’s Back Garden.’
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, 9TH MARCH 1884.
MY DEAR S. C., — You will already have received a not very sane note from me; so your patience was rewarded — may I say, your patient silence? However, now comes a letter, which on receipt, I thus acknowledge.
I have already expressed myself as to the political aspect. About Grahame, I feel happier; it does seem to have been really a good, neat, honest piece of work. We do not seem to be so badly off for commanders: Wolseley and Roberts, and this pile of Woods, Stewarts, Alisons, Grahames, and the like. Had we but ONE statesman on any side of the house!
Two chapters of OTTO do remain: one to rewrite, one to create; and I am not yet able to tackle them. For me it is my chief o’ works; hence probably not so for others, since it only means that I have here attacked the greatest difficulties. But some chapters towards the end: three in particular — I do think come off. I find them stirring, dramatic, and not unpoetical. We shall see, however; as like as not, the effort will be more obvious than the success. For, of course, I strung myself hard to carry it out. The next will come easier, and possibly be more popular. I believe in the covering of much paper, each time with a definite and not too difficult artistic purpose; and then, from time to time, drawing oneself up and trying, in a superior effort, to combine the facilities thus acquired or improved. Thus one progresses. But, mind, it is very likely that the big effort, instead of being the masterpiece, may be the blotted copy, the gymnastic exercise. This no man can tell; only the brutal and licentious public, snouting in Mudie’s wash-trough, can return a dubious answer.
I am to-day, thanks to a pure heaven and a beneficent, loud- talking, antiseptic mistral, on the high places as to health and spirits. Money holds out wonderfully. Fanny has gone for a drive to certain meadows which are now one sheet of jonquils: sea-bound meadows, the thought of which may freshen you in Bloomsbury. ‘Ye have been fresh and fair, Ye have been filled with flowers’ — I fear I misquote. Why do people babble? Surely Herrick, in his true vein, is superior to Martial himself, though Martial is a very pretty poet.
Did you ever read St. Augustine? The first chapters of the CONFESSIONS are marked by a commanding genius. Shakespearian in depth. I was struck dumb, but, alas! when you begin to wander into controversy, the poet drops out. His description of infancy is most seizing. And how is this: ‘Sed majorum nugae negotia vocantur; puerorum autem talia cum sint puniuntur a majoribus.’ Which is quite after the heart of R. L. S. See also his splendid passage about the ‘luminosus limes amicitiae’ and the ‘nebulae de limosa concupiscentia carnis’; going on ‘UTRUMQUE in confuso aestuabat et rapiebat imbecillam aetatem per abrupta cupiditatum.’ That ‘Utrumque’ is a real contribution to life’s science. Lust ALONE is but a pigmy; but it never, or rarely, attacks us single- handed.
Do you ever read (to go miles off, indeed) the incredible Barbey d’Aurevilly? A psychological Poe — to be for a moment Henley. I own with pleasure I prefer him with all his folly, rot, sentiment, and mixed metaphors, to the whole modern school in France. It makes me laugh when it’s nonsense; and when he gets an effect (though it’s still nonsense and mere Poery, not poesy) it wakens me. CE QUI NE MEURT PAS nearly killed me with laughing, and left me — well, it left me very nearly admiring the old ass. At least, it’s the kind of thing one feels one couldn’t do. The dreadful moonlight, when they all three sit silent in the room — by George, sir, it’s imagined — and the brief scene between the husband and wife is all there. QUANT AU FOND, the whole thing, of course, is a fever dream, and worthy of eternal laughter. Had the young man broken stones, and the two women been hard-working honest prostitutes, there had been an end of the whole immoral and baseless business: you could at least have respected them in that case.
I also read PETRONIUS ARBITER, which is a rum work, not so immoral as most modern works, but singularly silly. I tackled some Tacitus too. I got them with a dreadful French crib on the same page with the text, which helps me along and drives me mad. The French do not even try to translate. They try to be much more classical than the classics, with astounding results of barrenness and tedium. Tacitus, I fear, was too solid for me. I liked the war part; but the dreary intriguing at Rome was too much.
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, VAR, 12TH MARCH 1884.
MY DEAR MR. DICK, — I have been a great while owing you a letter; but I am not without excuses, as you have heard. I overworked to get a piece of work finished before I had my holiday, thinking to enjoy it more; and instead of that, the machinery near hand came sundry in my hands! like Murdie’s uniform. However, I am now, I think, in a fair way of recovery; I think I was made, what there is of me, of whipcord and thorn-switches; surely I am tough! But I fancy I shall not overdrive again, or not so long. It is my theory that work is highly beneficial, but that it should, if possible, and certainly for such partially broken-down instruments as the thing I call my body, be taken in batches, with a clear break and breathing space between. I always do vary my work, laying one thing aside to take up another, not merely because I believe it rests the brain, but because I have found it most beneficial to the result. Reading, Bacon says, makes a full man, but what makes me full on any subject is to banish it for a time from all my thoughts. However, what I now propose is, out of every quarter, to work two months’ and rest the third. I believe I shall get more done, as I generally manage, on my present scheme, to have four months’ impotent illness and two of imperfect health — one before, one after, I break down. This, at least, is not an economical division of the year.
I re-read the other day that heartbreaking book, the LIFE OF SCOTT. One should read such works now and then, but O, not often. As I live, I feel more and more that literature should be cheerful and brave-spirited, even if it cannot be made beautiful and pious and heroic. We wish it to be a green place; the WAVERLEY NOVELS are better to re-read than the over-true life, fine as dear Sir Walter was. The Bible, in most parts, is a cheerful book; it is our little piping theologies, tracts, and sermons that are dull and dowie; and even the Shorter Catechism, which is scarcely a work of consolation, opens with the best and shortest and completest sermon ever written — upon Man’s chief end. — Believe me, my dear Mr. Dick, very sincerely yours,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
P.S. — You see I have changed my hand. I was threatened apparently with scrivener’s cramp, and at any rate had got to write so small, that the revisal of my MS. tried my eyes, hence my signature alone remains upon the old model; for it appears that if I changed that, I should be cut off from my ‘vivers.’
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, MARCH 16, 1884.
MY DEAR MONKHOUSE, — You see with what promptitude I plunge into correspondence; but the truth is, I am condemned to a complete inaction, stagnate dismally, and love a letter. Yours, which would have been welcome at any time, was thus doubly precious.
Dover sounds somewhat shiveringly in my ears. You should see the weather I have — cloudless, clear as crystal, with just a punkah- draft of the most aromatic air, all pine and gum tree. You would be ashamed of Dover; you would scruple to refer, sir, to a spot so paltry. To be idle at Dover is a strange pretension; pray, how do you warm yourself? If I were there I should grind knives or write blank verse, or — But at least you do not bathe? It is idle to deny it: I have — I may say I nourish — a growing jealousy of the robust, large-legged, healthy Britain-dwellers, patient of grog, scorners of the timid umbrella, innocuously breathing fog: all which I once was, and I am ashamed to say liked it. How ignorant is youth! grossly rolling among unselected pleasures; and how nobler, purer, sweeter, and lighter, to sip the choice tonic, to recline in the luxurious invalid chair, and to tread, well-shawled, the little round of the constitutional. Seriously, do you like to repose? Ye gods, I hate it. I never rest with any acceptation; I do not know what people mean who say they like sleep and that damned bedtime which, since long ere I was breeched, has rung a knell to all my day’s doings and beings. And when a man, seemingly sane, tells me he has ‘fallen in love with stagnation,’ I can only say to him, ‘You will never be a Pirate!’ This may not cause any regret to Mrs. Monkhouse; but in your own soul it will clang hollow - think of it! Never! After all boyhood’s aspirations and youth’s immoral day-dreams, you are condemned to sit down, grossly draw in your chair to the fat board, and be a beastly Burgess till you die. Can it be? Is there not some escape, some furlough from the Moral Law, some holiday jaunt contrivable into a Better Land? Shall we never shed blood? This prospect is too grey.
‘Here lies a man who never did Anything but what he was bid; Who lived his life in paltry ease, And died of commonplace disease.’
To confess plainly, I had intended to spend my life (or any leisure I might have from Piracy upon the high seas) as the leader of a great horde of irregular cavalry, devastating whole valleys. I can still, looking back, see myself in many favourite attitudes; signalling for a boat from my pirate ship with a pocket- handkerchief, I at the jetty end, and one or two of my bold blades keeping the crowd at bay; or else turning in the saddle to look back at my whole command (some five thousand strong) following me at the hand-gallop up the road out of the burning valley: this last by moonlight.
ET POINT DU TOUT. I am a poor scribe, and have scarce broken a commandment to mention, and have recently dined upon cold veal! As for you (who probably had some ambitions), I hear of you living at Dover, in lodgings, like the beasts of the field. But in heaven, when we get there, we shall have a good time, and see some real carnage. For heaven is — must be — that great Kingdom of Antinomia, which Lamb saw dimly adumbrated in the COUNTRY WIFE, where the worm which never dies (the conscience) peacefully expires, and the sinner lies down beside the Ten Commandments. Till then, here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowling, with neither health nor vice for anything more spirited than procrastination, which I may well call the Consolation Stakes of Wickedness; and by whose diligent practice, without the least amusement to ourselves, we can rob the orphan and bring down grey hairs with sorrow to the dust.
This astonishing gush of nonsense I now hasten to close, envelope, and expedite to Shakespeare’s Cliff. Remember me to Shakespeare, and believe me, yours very sincerely,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, MARCH 17, 1884.
MY DEAR GOSSE, — Your office — office is profanely said — your bower upon the leads is divine. Have you, like Pepys, ‘the right to fiddle’ there? I see you mount the companion, barbiton in hand, and, fluttered about by city sparrows, pour forth your spirit in a voluntary. Now when the spring begins, you must lay in your flowers: how do you say about a potted hawthorn? Would it bloom? Wallflower is a choice pot-herb; lily-of-the-valley, too, and carnation, and Indian cress trailed about the window, is not only beautiful by colour, but the leaves are good to eat. I recommend thyme and rosemary for the aroma, which should not be left upon one side; they are good quiet growths.
On one of your tables keep a great map spread out; a chart is still better — it takes one further — the havens with their little anchors, the rocks, banks, and soundings, are adorably marine; and such furniture will suit your ship-shape habitation. I wish I could see those cabins; they smile upon me with the most intimate charm. From your leads, do you behold St. Paul’s? I always like to see the Foolscap; it is London PER SE and no spot from which it is visible is without romance. Then it is good company for the man of letters, whose veritable nursing Pater-Noster is so near at hand.
I am all at a standstill; as idle as a painted ship, but not so pretty. My romance, which has so nearly butchered me in the writing, not even finished; though so near, thank God, that a few days of tolerable strength will see the roof upon that structure. I have worked very hard at it, and so do not expect any great public favour. IN MOMENTS OF EFFORT, ONE LEARNS TO DO THE EASY THINGS THAT PEOPLE LIKE. There is the golden maxim; thus one should strain and then play, strain again and play again. The strain is for us, it educates; the play is for the reader, and pleases. Do you not feel so? We are ever threatened by two contrary faults: both deadly. To sink into what my forefathers would have called ‘rank conformity,’ and to pour forth cheap replicas, upon the one hand; upon the other, and still more insidiously present, to forget that art is a diversion and a decoration, that no triumph or effort is of value, nor anything worth reaching except charm. — Yours affectionately,
R. L. S.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, [MARCH 22, 1884].
MY DEAR MISS FERRIER, — Are you really going to fall us? This seems a dreadful thing. My poor wife, who is not well off for friends on this bare coast, has been promising herself, and I have been promising her, a rare acquisition. And now Miss Burn has failed, and you utter a very doubtful note. You do not know how delightful this place is, nor how anxious we are for a visit. Look at the names: ‘The Solitude’ — is that romantic? The palm-trees? - how is that for the gorgeous East? ‘Var’? the name of a river — ‘the quiet waters by’! ‘Tis true, they are in another department, and consist of stones and a biennial spate; but what a music, what a plash of brooks, for the imagination! We have hills; we have skies; the roses are putting forth, as yet sparsely; the meadows by the sea are one sheet of jonquils; the birds sing as in an English May — for, considering we are in France and serve up our song- birds, I am ashamed to say, on a little field of toast and with a sprig of thyme (my own receipt) in their most innocent and now unvocal bellies — considering all this, we have a wonderfully fair wood-music round this Solitude of ours. What can I say more? — All this awaits you. KENNST DU DAS LAND, in short. — Your sincere friend,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES-LES-PALMIERS, VAR, [APRIL 1884].
MY DEAR LOW, — The blind man in these sprawled lines sends greeting. I have been ill, as perhaps the papers told you. The news — ‘great news — glorious news — sec-ond ed-ition!’ — went the round in England.
Anyway, I now thank you for your pictures, which, particularly the Arcadian one, we all (Bob included, he was here sick-nursing me) much liked.
Herewith are a set of verses which I thought pretty enough to send to press. Then I thought of the MANHATTAN, towards whom I have guilty and compunctious feelings. Last, I had the best thought of all — to send them to you in case you might think them suitable for illustration. It seemed to me quite in your vein. If so, good; if not, hand them on to MANHATTAN, CENTURY, or LIPPINCOTT, at your pleasure, as all three desire my work or pretend to. But I trust the lines will not go unattended. Some riverside will haunt you; and O! be tender to my bathing girls. The lines are copied in my wife’s hand, as I cannot see to write otherwise than with the pen of Cormoran, Gargantua, or Nimrod. Love to your wife. — Yours ever,
R. L. S.
Copied it myself.
LA SOLITUDE, APRIL 19, 1884.
MY DEAR FATHER, — Yesterday I very powerfully stated the HERESIS STEVENSONIANA, or the complete body of divinity of the family theologian, to Miss Ferrier. She was much impressed; so was I. You are a great heresiarch; and I know no better. Whaur the devil did ye get thon about the soap? Is it altogether your own? I never heard it elsewhere; and yet I suspect it must have been held at some time or other, and if you were to look up you would probably find yourself condemned by some Council.
I am glad to hear you are so well. The hear is excellent. The CORNHILLS came; I made Miss Ferrier read us ‘Thrawn Janet,’ and was quite bowled over by my own works. The ‘Merry Men’ I mean to make much longer, with a whole new denouement, not yet quite clear to me. ‘The Story of a Lie,’ I must rewrite entirely also, as it is too weak and ragged, yet is worth saving for the Admiral. Did I ever tell you that the Admiral was recognised in America?
When they are all on their legs this will make an excellent collection.
Has Davie never read GUY MANNERING, ROB ROY, or THE ANTIQUARY? All of which are worth three WAVERLEYS. I think KENILWORTH better than WAVERLEY; NIGEL, too; and QUENTIN DURWARD about as good. But it shows a true piece of insight to prefer WAVERLEY, for it IS different; and though not quite coherent, better worked in parts than almost any other: surely more carefully. It is undeniable that the love of the slap-dash and the shoddy grew upon Scott with success. Perhaps it does on many of us, which may be the granite on which D.‘s opinion stands. However, I hold it, in Patrick Walker’s phrase, for an ‘old, condemned, damnable error.’ Dr. Simson was condemned by P. W. as being ‘a bagful of’ such. One of Patrick’s amenities!
Another ground there may be to D.‘s opinion; those who avoid (or seek to avoid) Scott’s facility are apt to be continually straining and torturing their style to get in more of life. And to many the extra significance does not redeem the strain.
LA SOLITUDE, HYERES, [APRIL 24, 1884].
DEAR MONKHOUSE, — If you are in love with repose, here is your occasion: change with me. I am too blind to read, hence no reading; I am too weak to walk, hence no walking; I am not allowed to speak, hence no talking; but the great simplification has yet to be named; for, if this goes on, I shall soon have nothing to eat — and hence, O Hallelujah! hence no eating. The offer is a fair one: I have not sold myself to the devil, for I could never find him. I am married, but so are you. I sometimes write verses, but so do you. Come! HIC QUIES! As for the commandments, I have broken them so small that they are the dust of my chambers; you walk upon them, triturate and toothless; and with the Golosh of Philosophy, they shall not bite your heel. True, the tenement is falling. Ay, friend, but yours also. Take a larger view; what is a year or two? dust in the balance! ‘Tis done, behold you Cosmo Stevenson, and me R. L. Monkhouse; you at Hyeres, I in London; you rejoicing in the clammiest repose, me proceeding to tear your tabernacle into rags, as I have already so admirably torn my own.
My place to which I now introduce you — it is yours — is like a London house, high and very narrow; upon the lungs I will not linger; the heart is large enough for a ballroom; the belly greedy and inefficient; the brain stocked with the most damnable explosives, like a dynamiter’s den. The whole place is well furnished, though not in a very pure taste; Corinthian much of it; showy and not strong.
About your place I shall try to find my way alone, an interesting exploration. Imagine me, as I go to bed, falling over a blood- stained remorse; opening that cupboard in the cerebellum and being welcomed by the spirit of your murdered uncle. I should probably not like your remorses; I wonder if you will like mine; I have a spirited assortment; they whistle in my ear o’ nights like a north- easter. I trust yours don’t dine with the family; mine are better mannered; you will hear nought of them till, 2 A.M., except one, to be sure, that I have made a pet of, but he is small; I keep him in buttons, so as to avoid commentaries; you will like him much — if you like what is genuine.
Must we likewise change religions? Mine is a good article, with a trick of stopping; cathedral bell note; ornamental dial; supported by Venus and the Graces; quite a summer-parlour piety. Of yours, since your last, I fear there is little to be said.
There is one article I wish to take away with me: my spirits. They suit me. I don’t want yours; I like my own; I have had them a long while in bottle. It is my only reservation. — Yours (as you decide),
R. L. MONKHOUSE.
HYERES, MAY 1884.
DEAR BOY, — OLD MORTALITY is out, and I am glad to say Coggie likes it. We like her immensely.
I keep better, but no great shakes yet; cannot work — cannot: that is flat, not even verses: as for prose, that more active place is shut on me long since.
My view of life is essentially the comic; and the romantically comic. AS YOU LIKE IT is to me the most bird-haunted spot in letters; TEMPEST and TWELFTH NIGHT follow. These are what I mean by poetry and nature. I make an effort of my mind to be quite one with Moliere, except upon the stage, where his inimitable JEUX DE SCENE beggar belief; but you will observe they are stage-plays — things AD HOC; not great Olympian debauches of the heart and fancy; hence more perfect, and not so great. Then I come, after great wanderings, to Carmosine and to Fantasio; to one part of La Derniere Aldini (which, by the by, we might dramatise in a week), to the notes that Meredith has found, Evan and the postillion, Evan and Rose, Harry in Germany. And to me these things are the good; beauty, touched with sex and laughter; beauty with God’s earth for the background. Tragedy does not seem to me to come off; and when it does, it does so by the heroic illusion; the anti-masque has been omitted; laughter, which attends on all our steps in life, and sits by the deathbed, and certainly redacts the epitaph, laughter has been lost from these great-hearted lies. But the comedy which keeps the beauty and touches the terrors of our life (laughter and tragedy-in-a-good-humour having kissed), that is the last word of moved representation; embracing the greatest number of elements of fate and character; and telling its story, not with the one eye of pity, but with the two of pity and mirth.
R. L. S.
FROM MY BED, MAY 29, 1884.
DEAR GOSSE, — The news of the Professorate found me in the article of — well, of heads or tails; I am still in bed, and a very poor person. You must thus excuse my damned delay; but, I assure you, I was delighted. You will believe me the more, if I confess to you that my first sentiment was envy; yes, sir, on my blood-boltered couch I envied the professor. However, it was not of long duration; the double thought that you deserved and that you would thoroughly enjoy your success fell like balsam on my wounds. How came it that you never communicated my rejection of Gilder’s offer for the Rhone? But it matters not. Such earthly vanities are over for the present. This has been a fine well-conducted illness. A month in bed; a month of silence; a fortnight of not stirring my right hand; a month of not moving without being lifted. Come! CA Y EST: devilish like being dead. — Yours, dear Professor, academically,
R. L. S.
I am soon to be moved to Royat; an invalid valet goes with me! I got him cheap — second-hand.
In turning over my late friend Ferrier’s commonplace book, I find three poems from VIOL AND FLUTE copied out in his hand: ‘When Flower-time,’ ‘Love in Winter,’ and ‘Mistrust.’ They are capital too. But I thought the fact would interest you. He was no poetist either; so it means the more. ‘Love in W.!’ I like the best.
HOTEL CHABASSIERE, ROYAT, [JULY 1884].
MY DEAR PEOPLE, — The weather has been demoniac; I have had a skiff of cold, and was finally obliged to take to bed entirely; to-day, however, it has cleared, the sun shines, and I begin to
(SEVERAL DAYS AFTER.)
I have been out once, but now am back in bed. I am better, and keep better, but the weather is a mere injustice. The imitation of Edinburgh is, at times, deceptive; there is a note among the chimney pots that suggests Howe Street; though I think the shrillest spot in Christendom was not upon the Howe Street side, but in front, just under the Miss Graemes’ big chimney stack. It had a fine alto character — a sort of bleat that used to divide the marrow in my joints — say in the wee, slack hours. That music is now lost to us by rebuilding; another air that I remember, not regret, was the solo of the gas-burner in the little front room; a knickering, flighty, fleering, and yet spectral cackle. I mind it above all on winter afternoons, late, when the window was blue and spotted with rare rain-drops, and, looking out, the cold evening was seen blue all over, with the lamps of Queen’s and Frederick’s Street dotting it with yellow, and flaring east-ward in the squalls. Heavens, how unhappy I have been in such circumstances — I, who have now positively forgotten the colour of unhappiness; who am full like a fed ox, and dull like a fresh turf, and have no more spiritual life, for good or evil, than a French bagman.
We are at Chabassiere’s, for of course it was nonsense to go up the hill when we could not walk.
The child’s poems in a far extended form are likely soon to be heard of — which Cummy I dare say will be glad to know. They will make a book of about one hundred pages. — Ever your affectionate,
R. L. S.
[ROYAT, JULY 1884.]
. . . HERE is a quaint thing, I have read ROBINSON, COLONEL JACK, MOLL FLANDERS, MEMOIRS OF A CAVALIER, HISTORY OF THE PLAGUE, HISTORY OF THE GREAT STORM, SCOTCH CHURCH AND UNION. And there my knowledge of Defoe ends — except a book, the name of which I forget, about Peterborough in Spain, which Defoe obviously did not write, and could not have written if he wanted. To which of these does B. J. refer? I guess it must be the history of the Scottish Church. I jest; for, of course, I KNOW it must be a book I have never read, and which this makes me keen to read — I mean CAPTAIN SINGLETON. Can it be got and sent to me? If TREASURE ISLAND is at all like it, it will be delightful. I was just the other day wondering at my folly in not remembering it, when I was writing T. I., as a mine for pirate tips. T. I. came out of Kingsley’s AT LAST, where I got the Dead Man’s Chest — and that was the seed — and out of the great Captain Johnson’s HISTORY OF NOTORIOUS PIRATES. The scenery is Californian in part, and in part CHIC.
I was downstairs to-day! So now I am a made man — till the next time.
R. L. STEVENSON.
If it was CAPTAIN SINGLETON, send it to me, won’t you?
LATER. — My life dwindles into a kind of valley of the shadow picnic. I cannot read; so much of the time (as to-day) I must not speak above my breath, that to play patience, or to see my wife play it, is become the be-all and the end-all of my dim career. To add to my gaiety, I may write letters, but there are few to answer. Patience and Poesy are thus my rod and staff; with these I not unpleasantly support my days.
I am very dim, dumb, dowie, and damnable. I hate to be silenced; and if to talk by signs is my forte (as I contend), to understand them cannot be my wife’s. Do not think me unhappy; I have not been so for years; but I am blurred, inhabit the debatable frontier of sleep, and have but dim designs upon activity. All is at a standstill; books closed, paper put aside, the voice, the eternal voice of R. L. S., well silenced. Hence this plaint reaches you with no very great meaning, no very great purpose, and written part in slumber by a heavy, dull, somnolent, superannuated son of a bedpost.
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