Vailima Letters, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XXXVII

Dear Colvin, — By a reaction, when your letter is a little decent, mine is to be naked and unashamed. We have been much exercised. No one can prophesy here, of course, and the balance still hangs trembling, but I think it will go for peace.

The mail was very late this time; hence the paltryness of this note. When it came and I had read it, I retired with The Ebb Tide and read it all before I slept. I did not dream it was near as good; I am afraid I think it excellent. A little indecision about Attwater, not much. It gives me great hope, as I see I can work in that constipated, mosaic manner, which is what I have to do just now with Weir of Hermiston.

We have given a ball; I send you a paper describing the event. We have two guests in the house, Captain-Count Wurmbrand and Monsieur Albert de Lautreppe. Lautreppe is awfully nice — a quiet, gentlemanly fellow, Gonfle de Reves, as he describes himself — once a sculptor in the atelier of Henry Crosse, he knows something of art, and is really a resource to me.

Letter from Meredith very kind. Have you seen no more of Graham?

What about my grandfather? The family history will grow to be quite a chapter.

I suppose I am growing sensitive; perhaps, by living among barbarians, I expect more civility. Look at this from the author of a very interesting and laudatory critique. He gives quite a false description of something of mine, and talks about my ‘insolence.’ Frankly, I supposed ‘insolence’ to be a tapua word. I do not use it to a gentleman, I would not write it of a gentleman: I may be wrong, but I believe we did not write it of a gentleman in old days, and in my view he (clever fellow as he is) wants to be kicked for applying it to me. By writing a novel — even a bad one — I do not make myself a criminal for anybody to insult. This may amuse you. But either there is a change in journalism, too gradual for you to remark it on the spot, or there is a change in me. I cannot bear these phrases; I long to resent them. My forbears, the tenant farmers of the Mains, would not have suffered such expressions unless it had been from Cauldwell, or Rowallan, or maybe Auchendrane. My Family Pride bristles. I am like the negro, ‘I just heard last night’ who my great, great, great, great grandfather was. — Ever yours,

R. L. S.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00