Part 4 out of 7
ay, it is sad to sell 17; sad and fine were the old days: when I
was away in Apemama, I wrote two copies of verse about Edinburgh
and the past, so ink black, so golden bright. I will send them, if
I can find them, for they will say something to you, and indeed one
is more than half addressed to you. This is it -
TO MY OLD COMRADES
Do you remember - can we e'er forget? -
How, in the coiled perplexities of youth,
In our wild climate, in our scowling town,
We gloomed and shivered, sorrowed, sobbed, and feared?
The belching winter wind, the missile rain,
The rare and welcome silence of the snows,
The laggard morn, the haggard day, the night,
The grimy spell of the nocturnal town,
Do you remember? - Ah, could one forget!
As when the fevered sick that all night long
Listed the wind intone, and hear at last
The ever-welcome voice of the chanticleer
Sing in the bitter hour before the dawn, -
With sudden ardour, these desire the day:
(Here a squall sends all flying.)
So sang in the gloom of youth the bird of hope;
So we, exulting, hearkened and desired.
For lo! as in the palace porch of life
We huddled with chimeras, from within -
How sweet to hear! - the music swelled and fell,
And through the breach of the revolving doors
What dreams of splendour blinded us and fled!
I have since then contended and rejoiced;
Amid the glories of the house of life
Profoundly entered, and the shrine beheld:
Yet when the lamp from my expiring eyes
Shall dwindle and recede, the voice of love
Fall insignificant on my closing ears,
What sound shall come but the old cry of the wind
In our inclement city? what return
But the image of the emptiness of youth,
Filled with the sound of footsteps and that voice
Of discontent and rapture and despair?
So, as in darkness, from the magic lamp,
The momentary pictures gleam and fade
And perish, and the night resurges - these
Shall I remember, and then all forget.
They're pretty second-rate, but felt. I can't be bothered to copy
I have bought 314 and a half acres of beautiful land in the bush
behind Apia; when we get the house built, the garden laid, and
cattle in the place, it will be something to fall back on for
shelter and food; and if the island could stumble into political
quiet, it is conceivable it might even bring a little income. . . .
We range from 600 to 1500 feet, have five streams, waterfalls,
precipices, profound ravines, rich tablelands, fifty head of cattle
on the ground (if any one could catch them), a great view of
forest, sea, mountains, the warships in the haven: really a noble
place. Some day you are to take a long holiday and come and see
us: it has been all planned.
With all these irons in the fire, and cloudy prospects, you may be
sure I was pleased to hear a good account of business. I believed
THE MASTER was a sure card: I wonder why Henley thinks it grimy;
grim it is, God knows, but sure not grimy, else I am the more
deceived. I am sorry he did not care for it; I place it on the
line with KIDNAPPED myself. We'll see as time goes on whether it
goes above or falls below.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
SS. LUBECK, [BETWEEN APIA AND SYDNEY, FEBRUARY] 1890.
MY DEAR BURLINGAME, - I desire nothing better than to continue my
relation with the Magazine, to which it pleases me to hear I have
been useful. The only thing I have ready is the enclosed barbaric
piece. As soon as I have arrived in Sydney I shall send you some
photographs, a portrait of Tembinoka, perhaps a view of the palace
or of the 'matted men' at their singing; also T.'s flag, which my
wife designed for him: in a word, what I can do best for you. It
will be thus a foretaste of my book of travels. I shall ask you to
let me have, if I wish it, the use of the plates made, and to make
up a little tract of the verses and illustrations, of which you
might send six copies to H. M. Tembinoka, King of Apemama VIA
Butaritari, Gilbert Islands. It might be best to send it by
Crawford and Co., S. F. There is no postal service; and schooners
must take it, how they may and when. Perhaps some such note as
this might be prefixed:
AT MY DEPARTURE FROM THE ISLAND OF APEMAMA, FOR WHICH YOU WILL LOOK
IN VAIN IN MOST ATLASES, THE KING AND I AGREED, SINCE WE BOTH SET
UP TO BE IN THE POETICAL WAY, THAT WE SHOULD CELEBRATE OUR
SEPARATION IN VERSE. WHETHER OR NOT HIS MAJESTY HAS BEEN TRUE TO
HIS BARGAIN, THE LAGGARD POSTS OF THE PACIFIC MAY PERHAPS INFORM ME
IN SIX MONTHS, PERHAPS NOT BEFORE A YEAR. THE FOLLOWING LINES
REPRESENT MY PART OF THE CONTRACT, AND IT IS HOPED, BY THEIR
PICTURES OF STRANGE MANNERS, THEY MAY ENTERTAIN A CIVILISED
AUDIENCE. NOTHING THROUGHOUT HAS BEEN INVENTED OR EXAGGERATED; THE
LADY HEREIN REFERRED TO AS THE AUTHOR'S MUSE, HAS CONFINED HERSELF
TO STRINGING INTO RHYME FACTS AND LEGENDS THAT I SAW OR HEARD
DURING TWO MONTHS' RESIDENCE UPON THE ISLAND.
R. L. S.
You will have received from me a letter about THE WRECKER. No
doubt it is a new experiment for me, being disguised so much as a
study of manners, and the interest turning on a mystery of the
detective sort, I think there need be no hesitation about beginning
it in the fall of the year. Lloyd has nearly finished his part,
and I shall hope to send you very soon the MS. of about the first
four-sevenths. At the same time, I have been employing myself in
Samoa, collecting facts about the recent war; and I propose to
write almost at once and to publish shortly a small volume, called
I know not what - the War In Samoa, the Samoa Trouble, an Island
War, the War of the Three Consuls, I know not - perhaps you can
suggest. It was meant to be a part of my travel book; but material
has accumulated on my hands until I see myself forced into volume
form, and I hope it may be of use, if it come soon. I have a few
photographs of the war, which will do for illustrations. It is
conceivable you might wish to handle this in the Magazine, although
I am inclined to think you won't, and to agree with you. But if
you think otherwise, there it is. The travel letters (fifty of
them) are already contracted for in papers; these I was quite bound
to let M'Clure handle, as the idea was of his suggestion, and I
always felt a little sore as to one trick I played him in the
matter of the end-papers. The war-volume will contain some very
interesting and picturesque details: more I can't promise for it.
Of course the fifty newspaper letters will be simply patches chosen
from the travel volume (or volumes) as it gets written.
But you see I have in hand:-
Say half done. 1. THE WRECKER.
Lloyd's copy half done, mine not touched. 2. THE PEARL FISHER (a
novel promised to the LEDGER, and which will form, when it comes in
book form, No. 2 of our SOUTH SEA YARNS).
Not begun, but all material ready. 3. THE WAR VOLUME.
Ditto. 4. THE BIG TRAVEL BOOK, which includes the letters.
You know how they stand. 5. THE BALLADS.
EXCUSEZ DU PEU! And you see what madness it would be to make any
fresh engagement. At the same time, you have THE WRECKER and the
WAR VOLUME, if you like either - or both - to keep my name in the
It begins to look as if I should not be able to get any more
ballads done this somewhile. I know the book would sell better if
it were all ballads; and yet I am growing half tempted to fill up
with some other verses. A good few are connected with my voyage,
such as the 'Home of Tembinoka' sent herewith, and would have a
sort of slight affinity to the SOUTH SEA BALLADS. You might tell
me how that strikes a stranger.
In all this, my real interest is with the travel volume, which
ought to be of a really extraordinary interest
I am sending you 'Tembinoka' as he stands; but there are parts of
him that I hope to better, particularly in stanzas III. and II. I
scarce feel intelligent enough to try just now; and I thought at
any rate you had better see it, set it up if you think well, and
let me have a proof; so, at least, we shall get the bulk of it
straight. I have spared you Tenkoruti, Tenbaitake, Tembinatake,
and other barbarous names, because I thought the dentists in the
States had work enough without my assistance; but my chiefs name is
TEMBINOKA, pronounced, according to the present quite modern habit
in the Gilberts, Tembinok'. Compare in the margin Tengkorootch; a
singular new trick, setting at defiance all South Sea analogy, for
nowhere else do they show even the ability, far less the will, to
end a word upon a consonant. Loia is Lloyd's name, ship becomes
shipe, teapot, tipote, etc. Our admirable friend Herman Melville,
of whom, since I could judge, I have thought more than ever, had no
ear for languages whatever: his Hapar tribe should be Hapaa, etc.
But this is of no interest to you: suffice it, you see how I am as
usual up to the neck in projects, and really all likely bairns this
time. When will this activity cease? Too soon for me, I dare to
R. L. S.
Letter: TO JAMES PAYN
FEBRUARY 4TH, 1890, SS. 'LUBECK.'
MY DEAR JAMES PAYN, - In virtue of confessions in your last, you
would at the present moment, if you were along of me, be sick; and
I will ask you to receive that as an excuse for my hand of write.
Excuse a plain seaman if he regards with scorn the likes of you
pore land-lubbers ashore now. (Reference to nautical ditty.)
Which I may however be allowed to add that when eight months' mail
was laid by my side one evening in Apia, and my wife and I sat up
the most of the night to peruse the same - (precious indisposed we
were next day in consequence) - no letter, out of so many, more
appealed to our hearts than one from the pore, stick-in-the-mud,
land-lubbering, common (or garden) Londoner, James Payn. Thank you
for it; my wife says, 'Can't I see him when we get back to London?'
I have told her the thing appeared to me within the spear of
practical politix. (Why can't I spell and write like an honest,
sober, god-fearing litry gent? I think it's the motion of the
ship.) Here I was interrupted to play chess with the chief
engineer; as I grow old, I prefer the 'athletic sport of cribbage,'
of which (I am sure I misquote) I have just been reading in your
delightful LITERARY RECOLLECTIONS. How you skim along, you and
Andrew Lang (different as you are), and yet the only two who can
keep a fellow smiling every page, and ever and again laughing out
loud. I joke wi' deeficulty, I believe; I am not funny; and when I
am, Mrs. Oliphant says I'm vulgar, and somebody else says (in
Latin) that I'm a whore, which seems harsh and even uncalled for:
I shall stick to weepers; a 5s. weeper, 2s. 6d. laugher, 1s.
My dear sir, I grow more and more idiotic; I cannot even feign
sanity. Sometime in the month of June a stalwart weather-beaten
man, evidently of seafaring antecedents, shall be observed wending
his way between the Athenaeum Club and Waterloo Place. Arrived off
No. 17, he shall be observed to bring his head sharply to the wind,
and tack into the outer haven. 'Captain Payn in the harbour?' -
'Ay, ay, sir. What ship?' - 'Barquentin R. L. S., nine hundred and
odd days out from the port of Bournemouth, homeward bound, with
yarns and curiosities.'
Who was it said, 'For God's sake, don't speak of it!' about Scott
and his tears? He knew what he was saying. The fear of that hour
is the skeleton in all our cupboards; that hour when the pastime
and the livelihood go together; and - I am getting hard of hearing
myself; a pore young child of forty, but new come frae my Mammy, O!
Excuse these follies, and accept the expression of all my regards.
- Yours affectionately,
R. L. STEVENSON.
Letter: TO CHARLES BAXTER
UNION CLUB, SYDNEY, MARCH 7TH, 1890.
MY DEAR CHARLES, - I did not send off the enclosed before from
laziness; having gone quite sick, and being a blooming prisoner
here in the club, and indeed in my bedroom. I was in receipt of
your letters and your ornamental photo, and was delighted to see
how well you looked, and how reasonably well I stood. . . . I am
sure I shall never come back home except to die; I may do it, but
shall always think of the move as suicidal, unless a great change
comes over me, of which as yet I see no symptom. This visit to
Sydney has smashed me handsomely; and yet I made myself a prisoner
here in the club upon my first arrival. This is not encouraging
for further ventures; Sydney winter - or, I might almost say,
Sydney spring, for I came when the worst was over - is so small an
affair, comparable to our June depression at home in Scotland. . .
. The pipe is right again; it was the springs that had rusted, and
ought to have been oiled. Its voice is now that of an angel; but,
Lord! here in the club I dare not wake it! Conceive my impatience
to be in my own backwoods and raise the sound of minstrelsy. What
pleasures are to be compared with those of the Unvirtuous Virtuoso.
- Yours ever affectionately, the Unvirtuous Virtuoso,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO SIDNEY COLVIN
SS. 'JANET NICOLL,' OFF UPOLU [SPRING 1890].
MY DEAREST COLVIN, - I was sharply ill at Sydney, cut off, right
out of bed, in this steamer on a fresh island cruise, and have
already reaped the benefit. We are excellently found this time, on
a spacious vessel, with an excellent table; the captain,
supercargo, our one fellow-passenger, etc., very nice; and the
charterer, Mr. Henderson, the very man I could have chosen. The
truth is, I fear, this life is the only one that suits me; so long
as I cruise in the South Seas, I shall be well and happy - alas,
no, I do not mean that, and ABSIT OMEN! - I mean that, so soon as I
cease from cruising, the nerves are strained, the decline
commences, and I steer slowly but surely back to bedward. We left
Sydney, had a cruel rough passage to Auckland, for the JANET is the
worst roller I was ever aboard of. I was confined to my cabin,
ports closed, self shied out of the berth, stomach (pampered till
the day I left on a diet of perpetual egg-nogg) revolted at ship's
food and ship eating, in a frowsy bunk, clinging with one hand to
the plate, with the other to the glass, and using the knife and
fork (except at intervals) with the eyelid. No matter: I picked
up hand over hand. After a day in Auckland, we set sail again;
were blown up in the main cabin with calcium fires, as we left the
bay. Let no man say I am unscientific: when I ran, on the alert,
out of my stateroom, and found the main cabin incarnadined with the
glow of the last scene of a pantomime, I stopped dead: 'What is
this?' said I. 'This ship is on fire, I see that; but why a
pantomime?' And I stood and reasoned the point, until my head was
so muddled with the fumes that I could not find the companion. A
few seconds later, the captain had to enter crawling on his belly,
and took days to recover (if he has recovered) from the fumes. By
singular good fortune, we got the hose down in time and saved the
ship, but Lloyd lost most of his clothes and a great part of our
photographs was destroyed. Fanny saw the native sailors tossing
overboard a blazing trunk; she stopped them in time, and behold, it
contained my manuscripts. Thereafter we had three (or two) days
fine weather: then got into a gale of wind, with rain and a
vexatious sea. As we drew into our anchorage in a bight of Savage
Island, a man ashore told me afterwards the sight of the JANET
NICOLL made him sick; and indeed it was rough play, though nothing
to the night before. All through this gale I worked four to six
hours per diem, spearing the ink-bottle like a flying fish, and
holding my papers together as I might. For, of all things, what I
was at was history - the Samoan business - and I had to turn from
one to another of these piles of manuscript notes, and from one
page to another in each, until I should have found employment for
the hands of Briareus. All the same, this history is a godsend for
a voyage; I can put in time, getting events co-ordinated and the
narrative distributed, when my much-heaving numskull would be
incapable of finish or fine style. At Savage we met the missionary
barque JOHN WILLIAMS. I tell you it was a great day for Savage
Island: the path up the cliffs was crowded with gay islandresses
(I like that feminine plural) who wrapped me in their embraces, and
picked my pockets of all my tobacco, with a manner which a touch
would have made revolting, but as it was, was simply charming, like
the Golden Age. One pretty, little, stalwart minx, with a red
flower behind her ear, had searched me with extraordinary zeal; and
when, soon after, I missed my matches, I accused her (she still
following us) of being the thief. After some delay, and with a
subtle smile, she produced the box, gave me ONE MATCH, and put the
rest away again. Too tired to add more. - Your most affectionate,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
S.S. 'JANET NICOLL,' OFF PERU ISLAND, KINGSMILLS GROUP, JULY 13th,
MY DEAR BURLINGAME, - I am moved to write to you in the matter of
the end papers. I am somewhat tempted to begin them again. Follow
the reasons PRO and CON:-
1st. I must say I feel as if something in the nature of the end
paper were a desirable finish to the number, and that the
substitutes of occasional essays by occasional contributors somehow
fail to fill the bill. Should you differ with me on this point, no
more is to be said. And what follows must be regarded as lost
2nd. I am rather taken with the idea of continuing the work. For
instance, should you have no distaste for papers of the class
called RANDOM MEMORIES, I should enjoy continuing them (of course
at intervals), and when they were done I have an idea they might
make a readable book. On the other hand, I believe a greater
freedom of choice might be taken, the subjects more varied and more
briefly treated, in somewhat approaching the manner of Andrew Lang
in the SIGN OF THE SHIP; it being well understood that the broken
sticks method is one not very suitable (as Colonel Burke would say)
to my genius, and not very likely to be pushed far in my practice.
Upon this point I wish you to condense your massive brain. In the
last lot I was promised, and I fondly expected to receive, a vast
amount of assistance from intelligent and genial correspondents. I
assure you, I never had a scratch of a pen from any one above the
level of a village idiot, except once, when a lady sowed my head
full of grey hairs by announcing that she was going to direct her
life in future by my counsels. Will the correspondents be more
copious and less irrelevant in the future? Suppose that to be the
case, will they be of any use to me in my place of exile? Is it
possible for a man in Samoa to be in touch with the great heart of
the People? And is it not perhaps a mere folly to attempt, from so
hopeless a distance, anything so delicate as a series of papers?
Upon these points, perpend, and give me the results of your
3rd. The emolument would be agreeable to your humble servant.
I have now stated all the PROS, and the most of the CONS are come
in by the way. There follows, however, one immense Con (with a
capital 'C'), which I beg you to consider particularly. I fear
that, to be of any use for your magazine, these papers should begin
with the beginning of a volume. Even supposing my hands were free,
this would be now impossible for next year. You have to consider
whether, supposing you have no other objection, it would be worth
while to begin the series in the middle of a volume, or desirable
to delay the whole matter until the beginning of another year.
Now supposing that the CONS have it, and you refuse my offer, let
me make another proposal, which you will be very inclined to refuse
at the first off-go, but which I really believe might in time come
to something. You know how the penny papers have their answers to
correspondents. Why not do something of the same kind for the
'culchawed'? Why not get men like Stimson, Brownell, Professor
James, Goldwin Smith, and others who will occur to you more readily
than to me, to put and to answer a series of questions of
intellectual and general interest, until at last you should have
established a certain standard of matter to be discussed in this
part of the Magazine?
I want you to get me bound volumes of the Magazine from its start.
The Lord knows I have had enough copies; where they are I know not.
A wandering author gathers no magazines.
THE WRECKER is in no forrader state than in last reports. I have
indeed got to a period when I cannot well go on until I can refresh
myself on the proofs of the beginning. My respected collaborator,
who handles the machine which is now addressing you, has indeed
carried his labours farther, but not, I am led to understand, with
what we used to call a blessing; at least, I have been refused a
sight of his latest labours. However, there is plenty of time
ahead, and I feel no anxiety about the tale, except that it may
meet with your approval.
All this voyage I have been busy over my TRAVELS, which, given a
very high temperature and the saloon of a steamer usually going
before the wind, and with the cabins in front of the engines, has
come very near to prostrating me altogether. You will therefore
understand that there are no more poems. I wonder whether there
are already enough, and whether you think that such a volume would
be worth the publishing? I shall hope to find in Sydney some
expression of your opinion on this point. Living as I do among -
not the most cultured of mankind ('splendidly educated and perfect
gentlemen when sober') - I attach a growing importance to friendly
criticisms from yourself.
I believe that this is the most of our business. As for my health,
I got over my cold in a fine style, but have not been very well of
late. To my unaffected annoyance, the blood-spitting has started
again. I find the heat of a steamer decidedly wearing and trying
in these latitudes, and I am inclined to think the superior
expedition rather dearly paid for. Still, the fact that one does
not even remark the coming of a squall, nor feel relief on its
departure, is a mercy not to be acknowledged without gratitude.
The rest of the family seem to be doing fairly well; both seem less
run down than they were on the EQUATOR, and Mrs. Stevenson very
much less so. We have now been three months away, have visited
about thirty-five islands, many of which were novel to us, and some
extremely entertaining; some also were old acquaintances, and
pleasant to revisit. In the meantime, we have really a capital
time aboard ship, in the most pleasant and interesting society, and
with (considering the length and nature of the voyage) an excellent
table. Please remember us all to Mr. Scribner, the young chieftain
of the house, and the lady, whose health I trust is better. To
Mrs. Burlingame we all desire to be remembered, and I hope you will
give our news to Low, St. Gaudens, Faxon, and others of the
faithful in the city. I shall probably return to Samoa direct,
having given up all idea of returning to civilisation in the
meanwhile. There, on my ancestral acres, which I purchased six
months ago from a blind Scots blacksmith, you will please address
me until further notice. The name of the ancestral acres is going
to be Vailima; but as at the present moment nobody else knows the
name, except myself and the co-patentees, it will be safer, if less
ambitious, to address R. L. S., Apia, Samoa. The ancestral acres
run to upwards of three hundred; they enjoy the ministrations of
five streams, whence the name. They are all at the present moment
under a trackless covering of magnificent forest, which would be
worth a great deal if it grew beside a railway terminus. To me, as
it stands, it represents a handsome deficit. Obliging natives from
the Cannibal Islands are now cutting it down at my expense. You
would be able to run your magazine to much greater advantage if the
terms of authors were on the same scale with those of my cannibals.
We have also a house about the size of a manufacturer's lodge.
'Tis but the egg of the future palace, over the details of which on
paper Mrs. Stevenson and I have already shed real tears; what it
will be when it comes to paying for it, I leave you to imagine.
But if it can only be built as now intended, it will be with
genuine satisfaction and a growunded pride that I shall welcome you
at the steps of my Old Colonial Home, when you land from the
steamer on a long-merited holiday. I speak much at my ease; yet I
do not know, I may be now an outlaw, a bankrupt, the abhorred of
all good men. I do not know, you probably do. Has Hyde turned
upon me? Have I fallen, like Danvers Carew?
It is suggested to me that you might like to know what will be my
future society. Three consuls, all at logger-heads with one
another, or at the best in a clique of two against one; three
different sects of missionaries, not upon the best of terms; and
the Catholics and Protestants in a condition of unhealable ill-
feeling as to whether a wooden drum ought or ought not to be beaten
to announce the time of school. The native population, very
genteel, very songful, very agreeable, very good-looking,
chronically spoiling for a fight (a circumstance not to be entirely
neglected in the design of the palace). As for the white
population of (technically, 'The Beach'), I don't suppose it is
possible for any person not thoroughly conversant with the South
Seas to form the smallest conception of such a society, with its
grog-shops, its apparently unemployed hangers-on, its merchants of
all degrees of respectability and the reverse. The paper, of which
I must really send you a copy - if yours were really a live
magazine, you would have an exchange with the editor: I assure
you, it has of late contained a great deal of matter about one of
your contributors - rejoices in the name of SAMOA TIMES AND SOUTH
SEA ADVERTISER. The advertisements in the ADVERTISER are
permanent, being simply subsidies for its existence. A dashing
warfare of newspaper correspondence goes on between the various
residents, who are rather fond of recurring to one another's
antecedents. But when all is said, there are a lot of very nice,
pleasant people, and I don't know that Apia is very much worse than
half a hundred towns that I could name.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO CHARLES BAXTER
HOTEL SEBASTOPOL, NOUMEA, AUGUST 1890.
MY DEAR CHARLES, - I have stayed here a week while Lloyd and my
wife continue to voyage in the JANET NICOLL; this I did, partly to
see the convict system, partly to shorten my stay in the extreme
cold - hear me with my extreme! MOI QUI SUIS ORIGINAIRE D'EDINBOURG
- of Sydney at this season. I am feeling very seedy, utterly
fatigued, and overborne with sleep. I have a fine old gentleman of
a doctor, who attends and cheers and entertains, if he does not
cure me; but even with his ministrations I am almost incapable of
the exertion sufficient for this letter; and I am really, as I
write, falling down with sleep. What is necessary to say, I must
try to say shortly. Lloyd goes to clear out our establishments:
pray keep him in funds, if I have any; if I have not, pray try to
raise them. Here is the idea: to install ourselves, at the risk
of bankruptcy, in Samoa. It is not the least likely it will pay
(although it may); but it is almost certain it will support life,
with very few external expenses. If I die, it will be an endowment
for the survivors, at least for my wife and Lloyd; and my mother,
who might prefer to go home, has her own. Hence I believe I shall
do well to hurry my installation. The letters are already in part
done; in part done is a novel for Scribner; in the course of the
next twelve months I should receive a considerable amount of money.
I am aware I had intended to pay back to my capital some of this.
I am now of opinion I should act foolishly. Better to build the
house and have a roof and farm of my own; and thereafter, with a
livelihood assured, save and repay . . . There is my livelihood,
all but books and wine, ready in a nutshell; and it ought to be
more easy to save and to repay afterwards. Excellent, say you, but
will you save and will you repay? I do not know, said the Bell of
Old Bow. . . . It seems clear to me. . . . The deuce of the affair
is that I do not know when I shall see you and Colvin. I guess you
will have to come and see me: many a time already we have arranged
the details of your visit in the yet unbuilt house on the mountain.
I shall be able to get decent wine from Noumea. We shall be able
to give you a decent welcome, and talk of old days. APROPOS of old
days, do you remember still the phrase we heard in Waterloo Place?
I believe you made a piece for the piano on that phrase. Pray, if
you remember it, send it me in your next. If you find it
impossible to write correctly, send it me A LA RECITATIVE, and
indicate the accents. Do you feel (you must) how strangely heavy
and stupid I am? I must at last give up and go sleep; I am simply
The morrow: I feel better, but still dim and groggy. To-night I
go to the governor's; such a lark - no dress clothes - twenty-four
hours' notice - able-bodied Polish tailor - suit made for a man
with the figure of a puncheon - same hastily altered for self with
the figure of a bodkin - sight inconceivable. Never mind; dress
clothes, 'which nobody can deny'; and the officials have been all
so civil that I liked neither to refuse nor to appear in mufti.
Bad dress clothes only prove you are a grisly ass; no dress
clothes, even when explained, indicate a want of respect. I wish
you were here with me to help me dress in this wild raiment, and to
accompany me to M. Noel-Pardon's. I cannot say what I would give
if there came a knock now at the door and you came in. I guess
Noel-Pardon would go begging, and we might burn the fr. 200 dress
clothes in the back garden for a bonfire; or what would be yet more
expensive and more humorous, get them once more expanded to fit
you, and when that was done, a second time cut down for my gossamer
I hope you never forget to remember me to your father, who has
always a place in my heart, as I hope I have a little in his. His
kindness helped me infinitely when you and I were young; I recall
it with gratitude and affection in this town of convicts at the
world's end. There are very few things, my dear Charles, worth
mention: on a retrospect of life, the day's flash and colour, one
day with another, flames, dazzles, and puts to sleep; and when the
days are gone, like a fast-flying thaumatrope, they make but a
single pattern. Only a few things stand out; and among these -
most plainly to me - Rutland Square, - Ever, my dear Charles, your
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
P.S. - Just returned from trying on the dress clo'. Lord, you
should see the coat! It stands out at the waist like a bustle, the
flaps cross in front, the sleeves are like bags.
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
UNION CLUB, SYDNEY [AUGUST 1890].
MY DEAR BURLINGAME
The deuce is in this volume. It has cost me more botheration and
dubiety than any other I ever took in hand. On one thing my mind
is made up: the verses at the end have no business there, and
throw them down. Many of them are bad, many of the rest want nine
years' keeping, and the remainder are not relevant - throw them
down; some I never want to hear of more, others will grow in time
towards decent items in a second UNDERWOODS - and in the meanwhile,
down with them! At the same time, I have a sneaking idea the
ballads are not altogether without merit - I don't know if they're
poetry, but they're good narrative, or I'm deceived. (You've never
said one word about them, from which I astutely gather you are dead
set against: 'he was a diplomatic man' - extract from epitaph of
E. L. B. - 'and remained on good terms with Minor Poets.') You
will have to judge: one of the Gladstonian trinity of paths must
be chosen. (1st) Either publish the five ballads, such as they
are, in a volume called BALLADS; in which case pray send sheets at
once to Chatto and Windus. Or (2nd) write and tell me you think
the book too small, and I'll try and get into the mood to do some
more. Or (3rd) write and tell me the whole thing is a blooming
illusion; in which case draw off some twenty copies for my private
entertainment, and charge me with the expense of the whole dream.
In the matter of rhyme no man can judge himself; I am at the
world's end, have no one to consult, and my publisher holds his
tongue. I call it unfair and almost unmanly. I do indeed begin to
be filled with animosity; Lord, wait till you see the continuation
of THE WRECKER, when I introduce some New York publishers. . . It's
a good scene; the quantities you drink and the really hideous
language you are represented as employing may perhaps cause you one
tithe of the pain you have inflicted by your silence on, sir, The
R. L. S.
Lloyd is off home; my wife and I dwell sundered: she in lodgings,
preparing for the move; I here in the club, and at my old trade -
bedridden. Naturally, the visit home is given up; we only wait our
opportunity to get to Samoa, where, please, address me.
Have I yet asked you to despatch the books and papers left in your
care to me at Apia, Samoa? I wish you would, QUAM PRIMUM.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO HENRY JAMES
UNION CLUB, SYDNEY, AUGUST 1890.
MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, - Kipling is too clever to live. The BETE
HUMAINE I had already perused in Noumea, listening the while to the
strains of the convict band. He a Beast; but not human, and, to be
frank, not very interesting. 'Nervous maladies: the homicidal
ward,' would be the better name: O, this game gets very tedious.
Your two long and kind letters have helped to entertain the old
familiar sickbed. So has a book called THE BONDMAN, by Hall Caine;
I wish you would look at it. I am not half-way through yet. Read
the book, and communicate your views. Hall Caine, by the way,
appears to take Hugo's view of History and Chronology. (LATER; the
book doesn't keep up; it gets very wild.)
I must tell you plainly - I can't tell Colvin - I do not think I
shall come to England more than once, and then it'll be to die.
Health I enjoy in the tropics; even here, which they call sub- or
semi-tropical, I come only to catch cold. I have not been out
since my arrival; live here in a nice bedroom by the fireside, and
read books and letters from Henry James, and send out to get his
TRAGIC MUSE, only to be told they can't be had as yet in Sydney,
and have altogether a placid time. But I can't go out! The
thermometer was nearly down to 50 degrees the other day - no
temperature for me, Mr. James: how should I do in England? I fear
not at all. Am I very sorry? I am sorry about seven or eight
people in England, and one or two in the States. And outside of
that, I simply prefer Samoa. These are the words of honesty and
soberness. (I am fasting from all but sin, coughing, THE BONDMAN,
a couple of eggs and a cup of tea.) I was never fond of towns,
houses, society, or (it seems) civilisation. Nor yet it seems was
I ever very fond of (what is technically called) God's green earth.
The sea, islands, the islanders, the island life and climate, make
and keep me truly happier. These last two years I have been much
at sea, and I have NEVER WEARIED; sometimes I have indeed grown
impatient for some destination; more often I was sorry that the
voyage drew so early to an end; and never once did I lose my
fidelity to blue water and a ship. It is plain, then, that for me
my exile to the place of schooners and islands can be in no sense
regarded as a calamity.
Good-bye just now: I must take a turn at my proofs.
N.B. - Even my wife has weakened about the sea. She wearied, the
last time we were ashore, to get afloat again. - Yours ever,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO MARCEL SCHWOB
UNION CLUB, SYDNEY, AUGUST 19TH, 1890.
MY DEAR MR. SCHWOB, - MAIS, ALORS, VOUS AVEZ TOUS LES BONHEURS,
VOUS! More about Villon; it seems incredible: when it is put in
order, pray send it me.
You wish to translate the BLACK ARROW: dear sir, you are hereby
authorised; but I warn you, I do not like the work. Ah, if you,
who know so well both tongues, and have taste and instruction - if
you would but take a fancy to translate a book of mine that I
myself admired - for we sometimes admire our own - or I do - with
what satisfaction would the authority be granted! But these things
are too much to expect. VOUS NE DETESTEZ PAS ALORS MES BONNES
FEMMES? MOI, JE LES DETESTE. I have never pleased myself with any
women of mine save two character parts, one of only a few lines -
the Countess of Rosen, and Madame Desprez in the TREASURE OF
I had indeed one moment of pride about my poor BLACK ARROW: Dickon
Crookback I did, and I do, think is a spirited and possible figure.
Shakespeare's - O, if we can call that cocoon Shakespeare! -
Shakespeare's is spirited - one likes to see the untaught athlete
butting against the adamantine ramparts of human nature, head down,
breach up; it reminds us how trivial we are to-day, and what safety
resides in our triviality. For spirited it may be, but O, sure not
possible! I love Dumas and I love Shakespeare: you will not
mistake me when I say that the Richard of the one reminds me of the
Porthos of the other; and if by any sacrifice of my own literary
baggage I could clear the VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE of Porthos, JEKYLL
might go, and the MASTER, and the BLACK ARROW, you may be sure, and
I should think my life not lost for mankind if half a dozen more of
my volumes must be thrown in.
The tone of your pleasant letters makes me egotistical; you make me
take myself too gravely. Comprehend how I have lived much of my
time in France, and loved your country, and many of its people, and
all the time was learning that which your country has to teach -
breathing in rather that atmosphere of art which can only there be
breathed; and all the time knew - and raged to know - that I might
write with the pen of angels or of heroes, and no Frenchman be the
least the wiser! And now steps in M. Marcel Schwob, writes me the
most kind encouragement, and reads and understands, and is kind
enough to like my work.
I am just now overloaded with work. I have two huge novels on hand
- THE WRECKER and the PEARL FISHER, in collaboration with my
stepson: the latter, the PEARL FISHER, I think highly of, for a
black, ugly, trampling, violent story, full of strange scenes and
striking characters. And then I am about waist-deep in my big book
on the South Seas: THE big book on the South Seas it ought to be,
and shall. And besides, I have some verses in the press, which,
however, I hesitate to publish. For I am no judge of my own verse;
self-deception is there so facile. All this and the cares of an
impending settlement in Samoa keep me very busy, and a cold (as
usual) keeps me in bed.
Alas, I shall not have the pleasure to see you yet awhile, if ever.
You must be content to take me as a wandering voice, and in the
form of occasional letters from recondite islands; and address me,
if you will be good enough to write, to Apia, Samoa. My stepson,
Mr. Osbourne, goes home meanwhile to arrange some affairs; it is
not unlikely he may go to Paris to arrange about the illustrations
to my South Seas; in which case I shall ask him to call upon you,
and give you some word of our outlandish destinies. You will find
him intelligent, I think; and I am sure, if (PAR HASARD) you should
take any interest in the islands, he will have much to tell you. -
Herewith I conclude, and am your obliged and interested
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
P.S. - The story you refer to has got lost in the post.
Letter: TO ANDREW LANG
UNION CLUB, SYDNEY [AUGUST 1890].
MY DEAR LANG, - I observed with a great deal of surprise and
interest that a controversy in which you have been taking sides at
home, in yellow London, hinges in part at least on the Gilbert
Islanders and their customs in burial. Nearly six months of my
life has been passed in the group: I have revisited it but the
other day; and I make haste to tell you what I know. The upright
stones - I enclose you a photograph of one on Apemama - are
certainly connected with religion; I do not think they are adored.
They stand usually on the windward shore of the islands, that is to
say, apart from habitation (on ENCLOSED ISLANDS, where the people
live on the sea side, I do not know how it is, never having lived
on one). I gathered from Tembinoka, Rex Apemamae, that the pillars
were supposed to fortify the island from invasion: spiritual
martellos. I think he indicated they were connected with the cult
of Tenti - pronounce almost as chintz in English, the T being
explosive; but you must take this with a grain of salt, for I knew
no word of Gilbert Island; and the King's English, although
creditable, is rather vigorous than exact. Now, here follows the
point of interest to you: such pillars, or standing stones, have
no connection with graves. The most elaborate grave that I have
ever seen in the group - to be certain - is in the form of a RAISED
BORDER of gravel, usually strewn with broken glass. One, of which
I cannot be sure that it was a grave, for I was told by one that it
was, and by another that it was not - consisted of a mound about
breast high in an excavated taro swamp, on the top of which was a
child's house, or rather MANIAPA - that is to say, shed, or open
house, such as is used in the group for social or political
gatherings - so small that only a child could creep under its
eaves. I have heard of another great tomb on Apemama, which I did
not see; but here again, by all accounts, no sign of a standing
stone. My report would be - no connection between standing stones
and sepulture. I shall, however, send on the terms of the problem
to a highly intelligent resident trader, who knows more than
perhaps any one living, white or native, of the Gilbert group; and
you shall have the result. In Samoa, whither I return for good, I
shall myself make inquiries; up to now, I have neither seen nor
heard of any standing stones in that group. - Yours,
R. L. STEVENSON.
Letter: TO MRS. CHARLES FAIRCHILD
UNION CLUB, SYDNEY [SEPTEMBER 1890].
MY DEAR MRS. FAIRCHILD, - I began a letter to you on board the
JANET NICOLL on my last cruise, wrote, I believe, two sheets, and
ruthlessly destroyed the flippant trash. Your last has given me
great pleasure and some pain, for it increased the consciousness of
my neglect. Now, this must go to you, whatever it is like.
. . . You are quite right; our civilisation is a hollow fraud, all
the fun of life is lost by it; all it gains is that a larger number
of persons can continue to be contemporaneously unhappy on the
surface of the globe. O, unhappy! - there is a big word and a
false - continue to be not nearly - by about twenty per cent. - so
happy as they might be: that would be nearer the mark.
When - observe that word, which I will write again and larger -
WHEN you come to see us in Samoa, you will see for yourself a
healthy and happy people.
You see, you are one of the very few of our friends rich enough to
come and see us; and when my house is built, and the road is made,
and we have enough fruit planted and poultry and pigs raised, it is
undeniable that you must come - must is the word; that is the way
in which I speak to ladies. You and Fairchild, anyway - perhaps my
friend Blair - we'll arrange details in good time. It will be the
salvation of your souls, and make you willing to die.
Let me tell you this: In '74 or 5 there came to stay with my
father and mother a certain Mr. Seed, a prime minister or something
of New Zealand. He spotted what my complaint was; told me that I
had no business to stay in Europe; that I should find all I cared
for, and all that was good for me, in the Navigator Islands; sat up
till four in the morning persuading me, demolishing my scruples.
And I resisted: I refused to go so far from my father and mother.
O, it was virtuous, and O, wasn't it silly! But my father, who was
always my dearest, got to his grave without that pang; and now in
1890, I (or what is left of me) go at last to the Navigator
Islands. God go with us! It is but a Pisgah sight when all is
said; I go there only to grow old and die; but when you come, you
will see it is a fair place for the purpose.
Flaubert has not turned up; I hope he will soon; I knew of him only
through Maxime Descamps. - With kindest messages to yourself and
all of yours, I remain,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
CHAPTER XI - LIFE IN SAMOA, NOVEMBER 1890-DECEMBER 1892
Letter: TO E. L BURLINGAME
VAILIMA, APIA, SAMOA, NOV. 7, 1890.
I WISH you to add to the words at the end of the prologue; they
run, I think, thus, 'And this is the yarn of Loudon Dodd'; add,
'not as he told, but as he wrote it afterwards for his diversion.'
This becomes the more needful, because, when all is done, I shall
probably revert to Tai-o-hae, and give final details about the
characters in the way of a conversation between Dodd and Havers.
These little snippets of information and FAITS-DIVERS have always a
disjointed, broken-backed appearance; yet, readers like them. In
this book we have introduced so many characters, that this kind of
epilogue will be looked for; and I rather hope, looking far ahead,
that I can lighten it in dialogue.
We are well past the middle now. How does it strike you? and can
you guess my mystery? It will make a fattish volume!
I say, have you ever read the HIGHLAND WIDOW? I never had till
yesterday: I am half inclined, bar a trip or two, to think it
Scott's masterpiece; and it has the name of a failure! Strange
things are readers.
I expect proofs and revises in duplicate.
We have now got into a small barrack at our place. We see the sea
six hundred feet below filling the end of two vales of forest. On
one hand the mountain runs above us some thousand feet higher;
great trees stand round us in our clearing; there is an endless
voice of birds; I have never lived in such a heaven; just now, I
have fever, which mitigates but not destroys my gusto in my
circumstances. - You may envy
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
. . . O, I don't know if I mentioned that having seen your new tail
to the magazine, I cried off interference, at least for this trip.
Did I ask you to send me my books and papers, and all the bound
volumes of the mag.? QUORUM PARS. I might add that were there a
good book or so - new - I don't believe there is - such would be
I desire - I positively begin to awake - to be remembered to
Scribner, Low, St. Gaudens, Russell Sullivan. Well, well, you
fellows have the feast of reason and the flow of soul; I have a
better-looking place and climate: you should hear the birds on the
hill now! The day has just wound up with a shower; it is still
light without, though I write within here at the cheek of a lamp;
my wife and an invaluable German are wrestling about bread on the
back verandah; and how the birds and the frogs are rattling, and
piping, and hailing from the woods! Here and there a throaty
chuckle; here and there, cries like those of jolly children who
have lost their way; here and there, the ringing sleigh-bell of the
tree frog. Out and away down below me on the sea it is still
raining; it will be wet under foot on schooners, and the house will
leak; how well I know that! Here the showers only patter on the
iron roof, and sometimes roar; and within, the lamp burns steady on
the tafa-covered walls, with their dusky tartan patterns, and the
book-shelves with their thin array of books; and no squall can rout
my house or bring my heart into my mouth. - The well-pleased South
R. L. S.
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
[VAILIMA, DECEMBER 1890.]
MY DEAR BURLINGAME, - By some diabolical accident, I have mislaid
your last. What was in it? I know not, and here I am caught
unexpectedly by the American mail, a week earlier than by
computation. The computation, not the mail, is supposed to be in
error. The vols. of SCRIBNER'S have arrived, and present a noble
appearance in my house, which is not a noble structure at present.
But by autumn we hope to be sprawling in our verandah, twelve feet,
sir, by eighty-eight in front, and seventy-two on the flank; view
of the sea and mountains, sunrise, moonrise, and the German fleet
at anchor three miles away in Apia harbour. I hope some day to
offer you a bowl of kava there, or a slice of a pineapple, or some
lemonade from my own hedge. 'I know a hedge where the lemons grow'
- SHAKESPEARE. My house at this moment smells of them strong; and
the rain, which a while ago roared there, now rings in minute drops
upon the iron roof. I have no WRECKER for you this mail, other
things having engaged me. I was on the whole rather relieved you
did not vote for regular papers, as I feared the traces. It is my
design from time to time to write a paper of a reminiscential
(beastly word) description; some of them I could scarce publish
from different considerations; but some of them - for instance, my
long experience of gambling places - Homburg, Wiesbaden, Baden-
Baden, old Monaco, and new Monte Carlo - would make good magazine
padding, if I got the stuff handled the right way. I never could
fathom why verse was put in magazines; it has something to do with
the making-up, has it not? I am scribbling a lot just now; if you
are taken badly that way, apply to the South Seas. I could send
you some, I believe, anyway, only none of it is thoroughly ripe.
If kept back the volume of ballads, I'll soon make it a respectable
size if this fit continue. By the next mail you may expect some
more WRECKER, or I shall be displeased. Probably no more than a
chapter, however, for it is a hard one, and I am denuded of my
proofs, my collaborator having walked away with them to England;
hence some trouble in catching the just note.
I am a mere farmer: my talk, which would scarce interest you on
Broadway, is all of fuafua and tuitui, and black boys, and planting
and weeding, and axes and cutlasses; my hands are covered with
blisters and full of thorns; letters are, doubtless, a fine thing,
so are beer and skittles, but give me farmering in the tropics for
real interest. Life goes in enchantment; I come home to find I am
late for dinner; and when I go to bed at night, I could cry for the
weariness of my loins and thighs. Do not speak to me of vexation,
the life brims with it, but with living interest fairly.
Christmas I go to Auckland, to meet Tamate, the New Guinea
missionary, a man I love. The rest of my life is a prospect of
much rain, much weeding and making of paths, a little letters, and
devilish little to eat. - I am, my dear Burlingame, with messages
to all whom it may concern, very sincerely yours,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO HENRY JAMES
VAILIMA, APIA, SAMOA, DECEMBER 29TH, 1890.
MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, - It is terrible how little everybody writes,
and how much of that little disappears in the capacious maw of the
Post Office. Many letters, both from and to me, I now know to have
been lost in transit: my eye is on the Sydney Post Office, a large
ungainly structure with a tower, as being not a hundred miles from
the scene of disappearance; but then I have no proof. THE TRAGIC
MUSE you announced to me as coming; I had already ordered it from a
Sydney bookseller: about two months ago he advised me that his
copy was in the post; and I am still tragically museless.
News, news, news. What do we know of yours? What do you care for
ours? We are in the midst of the rainy season, and dwell among
alarms of hurricanes, in a very unsafe little two-storied wooden
box 650 feet above and about three miles from the sea-beach.
Behind us, till the other slope of the island, desert forest,
peaks, and loud torrents; in front green slopes to the sea, some
fifty miles of which we dominate. We see the ships as they go out
and in to the dangerous roadstead of Apia; and if they lie far out,
we can even see their topmasts while they are at anchor. Of sounds
of men, beyond those of our own labourers, there reach us, at very
long intervals, salutes from the warships in harbour, the bell of
the cathedral church, and the low of the conch-shell calling the
labour boys on the German plantations. Yesterday, which was Sunday
- the QUANTIEME is most likely erroneous; you can now correct it -
we had a visitor - Baker of Tonga. Heard you ever of him? He is a
great man here: he is accused of theft, rape, judicial murder,
private poisoning, abortion, misappropriation of public moneys -
oddly enough, not forgery, nor arson: you would be amused if you
knew how thick the accusations fly in this South Sea world. I make
no doubt my own character is something illustrious; or if not yet,
there is a good time coming.
But all our resources have not of late been Pacific. We have had
enlightened society: La Farge the painter, and your friend Henry
Adams: a great privilege - would it might endure. I would go
oftener to see them, but the place is awkward to reach on
horseback. I had to swim my horse the last time I went to dinner;
and as I have not yet returned the clothes I had to borrow, I dare
not return in the same plight: it seems inevitable - as soon as
the wash comes in, I plump straight into the American consul's
shirt or trousers! They, I believe, would come oftener to see me
but for the horrid doubt that weighs upon our commissariat
department; we have OFTEN almost nothing to eat; a guest would
simply break the bank; my wife and I have dined on one avocado
pear; I have several times dined on hard bread and onions. What
would you do with a guest at such narrow seasons? - eat him? or
serve up a labour boy fricasseed?
Work? work is now arrested, but I have written, I should think,
about thirty chapters of the South Sea book; they will all want
rehandling, I dare say. Gracious, what a strain is a long book!
The time it took me to design this volume, before I could dream of
putting pen to paper, was excessive; and then think of writing a
book of travels on the spot, when I am continually extending my
information, revising my opinions, and seeing the most finely
finished portions of my work come part by part in pieces. Very
soon I shall have no opinions left. And without an opinion, how to
string artistically vast accumulations of fact? Darwin said no one
could observe without a theory; I suppose he was right; 'tis a fine
point of metaphysic; but I will take my oath, no man can write
without one - at least the way he would like to, and my theories
melt, melt, melt, and as they melt the thaw-waters wash down my
writing, and leave unideal tracts - wastes instead of cultivated
Kipling is by far the most promising young man who has appeared
since - ahem - I appeared. He amazes me by his precocity and
various endowment. But he alarms me by his copiousness and haste.
He should shield his fire with both hands 'and draw up all his
strength and sweetness in one ball.' ('Draw all his strength and
all His sweetness up into one ball'? I cannot remember Marvell's
words.) So the critics have been saying to me; but I was never
capable of - and surely never guilty of - such a debauch of
production. At this rate his works will soon fill the habitable
globe; and surely he was armed for better conflicts than these
succinct sketches and flying leaves of verse? I look on, I admire,
I rejoice for myself; but in a kind of ambition we all have for our
tongue and literature I am wounded. If I had this man's fertility
and courage, it seems to me I could heave a pyramid.
Well, we begin to be the old fogies now; and it was high time
SOMETHING rose to take our places. Certainly Kipling has the
gifts; the fairy godmothers were all tipsy at his christening:
what will he do with them?
Goodbye, my dear James; find an hour to write to us, and register
your letter. - Yours affectionately,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO RUDYARD KIPLING
SIR, - I cannot call to mind having written you, but I am so throng
with occupation this may have fallen aside. I never heard tell I
had any friends in Ireland, and I am led to understand you are come
of no considerable family. The gentleman I now serve with assures
me, however, you are a very pretty fellow and your letter deserves
to be remarked. It's true he is himself a man of a very low
descent upon the one side; though upon the other he counts
cousinship with a gentleman, my very good friend, the late Mr.
Balfour of the Shaws, in the Lothian; which I should be wanting in
good fellowship to forget. He tells me besides you are a man of
your hands; I am not informed of your weapon; but if all be true it
sticks in my mind I would be ready to make exception in your
favour, and meet you like one gentleman with another. I suppose
this'll be your purpose in your favour, which I could very ill make
out; it's one I would be sweir to baulk you of. It seems, Mr.
McIlvaine, which I take to be your name, you are in the household
of a gentleman of the name of Coupling: for whom my friend is very
much engaged. The distances being very uncommodious, I think it
will be maybe better if we leave it to these two to settle all
that's necessary to honour. I would have you to take heed it's a
very unusual condescension on my part, that bear a King's name; and
for the matter of that I think shame to be mingled with a person of
the name of Coupling, which is doubtless a very good house but one
I never heard tell of, any more than Stevenson. But your purpose
being laudable, I would be sorry (as the word goes) to cut off my
nose to spite my face. - I am, Sir, your humble servant,
CHEVALIER DE ST. LOUIS.
TO MR. M'ILVAINE,
GENTLEMAN PRIVATE IN A FOOT REGIMENT,
UNDER COVER TO MR. COUPLING.
He has read me some of your Barrack Room Ballants, which are not of
so noble a strain as some of mine in the Gaelic, but I could set
some of them to the pipes if this rencounter goes as it's to be
desired. Let's first, as I understand you to move, do each other
this rational courtesys; and if either will survive, we may grow
better acquaint. For your tastes for what's martial and for poetry
agree with mine.
Letter: TO MARCEL SCHWOB
SYDNEY, JANUARY 19th, 1891.
MY DEAR SIR, - SAPRISTI, COMME VOUS Y ALLEZ! Richard III. and
Dumas, with all my heart; but not Hamlet. Hamlet is great
literature; Richard III. a big, black, gross, sprawling melodrama,
writ with infinite spirit but with no refinement or philosophy by a
man who had the world, himself, mankind, and his trade still to
learn. I prefer the Vicomte de Bragelonne to Richard III.; it is
better done of its kind: I simply do not mention the Vicomte in
the same part of the building with Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, or
any of those masterpieces that Shakespeare survived to give us.
Also, COMME VOUS Y ALLEZ in my commendation! I fear my SOLIDE
EDUCATION CLASSIQUE had best be described, like Shakespeare's, as
'little Latin and no Greek,' and I was educated, let me inform you,
for an engineer. I shall tell my bookseller to send you a copy of
MEMORIES AND PORTRAITS, where you will see something of my descent
and education, as it was, and hear me at length on my dear Vicomte.
I give you permission gladly to take your choice out of my works,
and translate what you shall prefer, too much honoured that so
clever a young man should think it worth the pains. My own choice
would lie between KIDNAPPED and the MASTER OF BALLANTRAE. Should
you choose the latter, pray do not let Mrs. Henry thrust the sword
up to the hilt in the frozen ground - one of my inconceivable
blunders, an exaggeration to stagger Hugo. Say 'she sought to
thrust it in the ground.' In both these works you should be
prepared for Scotticisms used deliberately.
I fear my stepson will not have found time to get to Paris; he was
overwhelmed with occupation, and is already on his voyage back. We
live here in a beautiful land, amid a beautiful and interesting
people. The life is still very hard: my wife and I live in a two-
roomed cottage, about three miles and six hundred and fifty feet
above the sea; we have had to make the road to it; our supplies are
very imperfect; in the wild weather of this (the hurricane) season
we have much discomfort: one night the wind blew in our house so
outrageously that we must sit in the dark; and as the sound of the
rain on the roof made speech inaudible, you may imagine we found
the evening long. All these things, however, are pleasant to me.
You say L'ARTISTE INCONSCIENT set off to travel: you do not divide
me right. 0.6 of me is artist; 0.4, adventurer. First, I suppose,
come letters; then adventure; and since I have indulged the second
part, I think the formula begins to change: 0.55 of an artist,
0.45 of the adventurer were nearer true. And if it had not been
for my small strength, I might have been a different man in all
Whatever you do, do not neglect to send me what you publish on
Villon: I look forward to that with lively interest. I have no
photograph at hand, but I will send one when I can. It would be
kind if you would do the like, for I do not see much chance of our
meeting in the flesh: and a name, and a handwriting, and an
address, and even a style? I know about as much of Tacitus, and
more of Horace; it is not enough between contemporaries, such as we
still are. I have just remembered another of my books, which I re-
read the other day, and thought in places good - PRINCE OTTO. It
is not as good as either of the others; but it has one
recommendation - it has female parts, so it might perhaps please
better in France.
I will ask Chatto to send you, then - PRINCE OTTO, MEMORIES AND
PORTRAITS, UNDERWOODS, and BALLADS, none of which you seem to have
seen. They will be too late for the New Year: let them be an
You must translate me soon; you will soon have better to do than to
transverse the work of others. - Yours very truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON,
With the worst pen in the South Pacific.
Letter: TO CHARLES BAXTER
SS. 'LUBECK,' AT SEA [ON THE RETURN VOYAGE FROM SYDNEY, MARCH
MY DEAR CHARLES, - Perhaps in my old days I do grow irascible; 'the
old man virulent' has long been my pet name for myself. Well, the
temper is at least all gone now; time is good at lowering these
distemperatures; far better is a sharp sickness, and I am just (and
scarce) afoot again after a smoking hot little malady at Sydney.
And the temper being gone, I still think the same. . . . We have
not our parents for ever; we are never very good to them; when they
go and we have lost our front-file man, we begin to feel all our
neglects mighty sensibly. I propose a proposal. My mother is here
on board with me; to-day for once I mean to make her as happy as I
am able, and to do that which I know she likes. You, on the other
hand, go and see your father, and do ditto, and give him a real
good hour or two. We shall both be glad hereafter. - Yours ever,
R. L. S.
Letter: TO H. B. BAILDON
VAILIMA, UPOLU [UNDATED, BUT WRITTEN IN 1891].
MY DEAR BAILDON, - This is a real disappointment. It was so long
since we had met, I was anxious to see where time had carried and
stranded us. Last time we saw each other - it must have been all
ten years ago, as we were new to the thirties - it was only for a
moment, and now we're in the forties, and before very long we shall
be in our graves. Sick and well, I have had a splendid life of it,
grudge nothing, regret very little - and then only some little
corners of misconduct for which I deserve hanging, and must
infallibly be damned - and, take it all over, damnation and all,
would hardly change with any man of my time, unless perhaps it were
Gordon or our friend Chalmers: a man I admire for his virtues,
love for his faults, and envy for the really A1 life he has, with
everything heart - my heart, I mean - could wish. It is curious to
think you will read this in the grey metropolis; go the first grey,
east-windy day into the Caledonian Station, if it looks at all as
it did of yore: I met Satan there. And then go and stand by the
cross, and remember the other one - him that went down - my
brother, Robert Fergusson. It is a pity you had not made me out,
and seen me as patriarch and planter. I shall look forward to some
record of your time with Chalmers: you can't weary me of that
fellow, he is as big as a house and far bigger than any church,
where no man warms his hands. Do you know anything of Thomson? Of
A-, B-, C-, D-, E-, F-, at all? As I write C.'s name mustard rises
my nose; I have never forgiven that weak, amiable boy a little
trick he played me when I could ill afford it: I mean that
whenever I think of it, some of the old wrath kindles, not that I
would hurt the poor soul, if I got the world with it. And Old X-?
Is he still afloat? Harmless bark! I gather you ain't married
yet, since your sister, to whom I ask to be remembered, goes with
you. Did you see a silly tale, JOHN NICHOLSON'S PREDICAMENT, or
some such name, in which I made free with your home at Murrayfield?
There is precious little sense in it, but it might amuse.
Cassell's published it in a thing called YULE-TIDE years ago, and
nobody that ever I heard of read or has ever seen YULE-TIDE. It is
addressed to a class we never met - readers of Cassell's series and
that class of conscientious chaff, and my tale was dull, though I
don't recall that it was conscientious. Only, there's the house at
Murrayfield and a dead body in it. Glad the BALLADS amused you.
They failed to entertain a coy public, at which I wondered, not
that I set much account by my verses, which are the verses of
Prosator; but I do know how to tell a yarn, and two of the yarns
are great. RAHERO is for its length a perfect folk-tale: savage
and yet fine, full of tailforemost morality, ancient as the granite
rocks; if the historian, not to say the politician, could get that
yarn into his head, he would have learned some of his A B C. But
the average man at home cannot understand antiquity; he is sunk
over the ears in Roman civilisation; and a tale like that of RAHERO
falls on his ears inarticulate. The SPECTATOR said there was no
psychology in it; that interested me much: my grandmother (as I
used to call that able paper, and an able paper it is, and a fair
one) cannot so much as observe the existence of savage psychology
when it is put before it. I am at bottom a psychologist and
ashamed of it; the tale seized me one-third because of its
picturesque features, two-thirds because of its astonishing
psychology, and the SPECTATOR says there's none. I am going on
with a lot of island work, exulting in the knowledge of a new
world, 'a new created world' and new men; and I am sure my income
will DECLINE and FALL off; for the effort of comprehension is death
to the intelligent public, and sickness to the dull.
I do not know why I pester you with all this trash, above all as
you deserve nothing. I give you my warm TALOFA ('my love to you,'
Samoan salutation). Write me again when the spirit moves you. And
some day, if I still live, make out the trip again and let us hob-
a-nob with our grey pows on my verandah. - Yours sincerely,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO W. CRAIBE ANGUS
VAILIMA, SAMOA, APRIL 1891.
DEAR MR. ANGUS, - Surely I remember you! It was W. C. Murray who
made us acquainted, and we had a pleasant crack. I see your poet
is not yet dead. I remember even our talk - or you would not think
of trusting that invaluable JOLLY BEGGARS to the treacherous posts,
and the perils of the sea, and the carelessness of authors. I love
the idea, but I could not bear the risk. However -
'Hale be your heart, hale be your fiddle - '
it was kindly thought upon.
My interest in Burns is, as you suppose, perennial. I would I
could be present at the exhibition, with the purpose of which I
heartily sympathise; but the NANCY has not waited in vain for me, I
have followed my chest, the anchor is weighed long ago, I have said
my last farewell to the hills and the heather and the lynns: like
Leyden, I have gone into far lands to die, not stayed like Burns to
mingle in the end with Scottish soil. I shall not even return like
Scott for the last scene. Burns Exhibitions are all over. 'Tis a
far cry to Lochow from tropical Vailima.
'But still our hearts are true, our hearts are Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.'
When your hand is in, will you remember our poor Edinburgh Robin?
Burns alone has been just to his promise; follow Burns, he knew
best, he knew whence he drew fire - from the poor, white-faced,
drunken, vicious boy that raved himself to death in the Edinburgh
madhouse. Surely there is more to be gleaned about Fergusson, and
surely it is high time the task was set about. I way tell you
(because your poet is not dead) something of how I feel: we are
three Robins who have touched the Scots lyre this last century.
Well, the one is the world's, he did it, he came off, he is for
ever; but I and the other - ah! what bonds we have - born in the
same city; both sickly, both pestered, one nearly to madness, one
to the madhouse, with a damnatory creed; both seeing the stars and
the dawn, and wearing shoe-leather on the same ancient stones,
under the same pends, down the same closes, where our common
ancestors clashed in their armour, rusty or bright. And the old
Robin, who was before Burns and the flood, died in his acute,
painful youth, and left the models of the great things that were to
come; and the new, who came after, outlived his greensickness, and
has faintly tried to parody the finished work. If you will collect
the strays of Robin Fergusson, fish for material, collect any last
re-echoing of gossip, command me to do what you prefer - to write
the preface - to write the whole if you prefer: anything, so that
another monument (after Burns's) be set up to my unhappy
predecessor on the causey of Auld Reekie. You will never know, nor
will any man, how deep this feeling is: I believe Fergusson lives
in me. I do, but tell it not in Gath; every man has these fanciful
superstitions, coming, going, but yet enduring; only most men are
so wise (or the poet in them so dead) that they keep their follies
for themselves. - I am, yours very truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO EDMUND GOSSE
VAILIMA, APRIL 1891.
MY DEAR GOSSE, - I have to thank you and Mrs. Gosse for many
mementoes, chiefly for your LIFE of your father. There is a very
delicate task, very delicately done. I noted one or two
carelessnesses, which I meant to point out to you for another
edition; but I find I lack the time, and you will remark them for
yourself against a new edition. They were two, or perhaps three,
flabbinesses of style which (in your work) amazed me. Am I right
in thinking you were a shade bored over the last chapters? or was
it my own fault that made me think them susceptible of a more
athletic compression? (The flabbinesses were not there, I think,
but in the more admirable part, where they showed the bigger.)
Take it all together, the book struck me as if you had been hurried
at the last, but particularly hurried over the proofs, and could
still spend a very profitable fortnight in earnest revision and
(towards the end) heroic compression. The book, in design,
subject, and general execution, is well worth the extra trouble.
And even if I were wrong in thinking it specially wanted, it will
not be lost; for do we not know, in Flaubert's dread confession,
that 'prose is never done'? What a medium to work in, for a man
tired, perplexed among different aims and subjects, and spurred by
the immediate need of 'siller'! However, it's mine for what it's
worth; and it's one of yours, the devil take it; and you know, as
well as Flaubert, and as well as me, that it is NEVER DONE; in
other words, it is a torment of the pit, usually neglected by the
bards who (lucky beggars!) approached the Styx in measure. I speak
bitterly at the moment, having just detected in myself the last
fatal symptom, three blank verses in succession - and I believe,
God help me, a hemistich at the tail of them; hence I have deposed
the labourer, come out of hell by my private trap, and now write to
you from my little place in purgatory. But I prefer hell: would I
could always dig in those red coals - or else be at sea in a
schooner, bound for isles unvisited: to be on shore and not to
work is emptiness - suicidal vacancy.
I was the more interested in your LIFE of your father, because I
meditate one of mine, or rather of my family. I have no such
materials as you, and (our objections already made) your attack
fills me with despair; it is direct and elegant, and your style is
always admirable to me - lenity, lucidity, usually a high strain of
breeding, an elegance that has a pleasant air of the accidental.
But beware of purple passages. I wonder if you think as well of
your purple passages as I do of mine? I wonder if you think as ill
of mine as I do of yours? I wonder; I can tell you at least what
is wrong with yours - they are treated in the spirit of verse. The
spirit - I don't mean the measure, I don't mean you fall into
bastard cadences; what I mean is that they seem vacant and smoothed
out, ironed, if you like. And in a style which (like yours) aims
more and more successfully at the academic, one purple word is
already much; three - a whole phrase - is inadmissible. Wed
yourself to a clean austerity: that is your force. Wear a linen
ephod, splendidly candid. Arrange its folds, but do not fasten it
with any brooch. I swear to you, in your talking robes, there
should be no patch of adornment; and where the subject forces, let
it force you no further than it must; and be ready with a twinkle
of your pleasantry. Yours is a fine tool, and I see so well how to
hold it; I wonder if you see how to hold mine? But then I am to
the neck in prose, and just now in the 'dark INTERSTYLAR cave,' all
methods and effects wooing me, myself in the midst impotent to
follow any. I look for dawn presently, and a full flowing river of
expression, running whither it wills. But these useless seasons,
above all, when a man MUST continue to spoil paper, are infinitely
We are in our house after a fashion; without furniture, 'tis true,
camping there, like the family after a sale. But the bailiff has
not yet appeared; he will probably come after. The place is
beautiful beyond dreams; some fifty miles of the Pacific spread in
front; deep woods all round; a mountain making in the sky a profile
of huge trees upon our left; about us, the little island of our
clearing, studded with brave old gentlemen (or ladies, or 'the twa
o' them') whom we have spared. It is a good place to be in; night
and morning, we have Theodore Rousseaus (always a new one) hung to
amuse us on the walls of the world; and the moon - this is our good
season, we have a moon just now - makes the night a piece of
heaven. It amazes me how people can live on in the dirty north;
yet if you saw our rainy season (which is really a caulker for
wind, wet, and darkness - howling showers, roaring winds, pit-
blackness at noon) you might marvel how we could endure that. And
we can't. But there's a winter everywhere; only ours is in the
summer. Mark my words: there will be a winter in heaven - and in
hell. CELA RENTRE DANS LES PROCEDES DU BON DIEU; ET VOUS VERREZ!
There's another very good thing about Vailima, I am away from the
little bubble of the literary life. It is not all beer and
skittles, is it? By the by, my BALLADS seem to have been dam bad;
all the crickets sing so in their crickety papers; and I have no
ghost of an idea on the point myself: verse is always to me the
unknowable. You might tell me how it strikes a professional bard:
not that it really matters, for, of course, good or bad, I don't
think I shall get into THAT galley any more. But I should like to
know if you join the shrill chorus of the crickets. The crickets
are the devil in all to you: 'tis a strange thing, they seem to
rejoice like a strong man in their injustice. I trust you got my
letter about your Browning book. In case it missed, I wish to say
again that your publication of Browning's kind letter, as an
illustration of HIS character, was modest, proper, and in radiant
good taste. - In Witness whereof, etc., etc.,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO MISS RAWLINSON
VAILIMA, APIA, SAMOA, APRIL 1891.
MY DEAR MAY, - I never think of you by any more ceremonial name, so
I will not pretend. There is not much chance that I shall forget
you until the time comes for me to forget all this little turmoil
in a corner (though indeed I have been in several corners) of an
inconsiderable planet. You remain in my mind for a good reason,
having given me (in so short a time) the most delightful pleasure.
I shall remember, and you must still be beautiful. The truth is,
you must grow more so, or you will soon be less. It is not so easy
to be a flower, even when you bear a flower's name. And if I
admired you so much, and still remember you, it is not because of
your face, but because you were then worthy of it, as you must
Will you give my heartiest congratulations to Mr. S.? He has my
admiration; he is a brave man; when I was young, I should have run
away from the sight of you, pierced with the sense of my unfitness.
He is more wise and manly. What a good husband he will have to be!
And you - what a good wife! Carry your love tenderly. I will
never forgive him - or you - it is in both your hands - if the face
that once gladdened my heart should be changed into one sour or
What a person you are to give flowers! It was so I first heard of
you; and now you are giving the May flower!
Yes, Skerryvore has passed; it was, for us. But I wish you could
see us in our new home on the mountain, in the middle of great
woods, and looking far out over the Pacific. When Mr. S. is very
rich, he must bring you round the world and let you see it, and see
the old gentleman and the old lady. I mean to live quite a long
while yet, and my wife must do the same, or else I couldn't manage
it; so, you see, you will have plenty of time; and it's a pity not
to see the most beautiful places, and the most beautiful people
moving there, and the real stars and moon overhead, instead of the
tin imitations that preside over London. I do not think my wife
very well; but I am in hopes she will now have a little rest. It
has been a hard business, above all for her; we lived four months
in the hurricane season in a miserable house, overborne with work,
ill-fed, continually worried, drowned in perpetual rain, beaten
upon by wind, so that we must sit in the dark in the evenings; and
then I ran away, and she had a month of it alone. Things go better
now; the back of the work is broken; and we are still foolish
enough to look forward to a little peace. I am a very different
person from the prisoner of Skerryvore. The other day I was three-
and-twenty hours in an open boat; it made me pretty ill; but fancy
its not killing me half-way! It is like a fairy story that I
should have recovered liberty and strength, and should go round
again among my fellow-men, boating, riding, bathing, toiling hard
with a wood-knife in the forest. I can wish you nothing more
delightful than my fortune in life; I wish it you; and better, if
the thing be possible.
Lloyd is tinkling below me on the typewriter; my wife has just left
the room; she asks me to say she would have written had she been
well enough, and hopes to do it still. - Accept the best wishes of
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO MISS ADELAIDE BOODLE
[VAILIMA, MAY 1891.]
MY DEAR ADELAIDE, - I will own you just did manage to tread on my
gouty toe; and I beg to assure you with most people I should simply
have turned away and said no more. My cudgelling was therefore in
the nature of a caress or testimonial.
God forbid, I should seem to judge for you on such a point; it was
what you seemed to set forth as your reasons that fluttered my old
Presbyterian spirit - for, mind you, I am a child of the
Covenanters - whom I do not love, but they are mine after all, my
father's and my mother's - and they had their merits too, and their
ugly beauties, and grotesque heroisms, that I love them for, the
while I laugh at them; but in their name and mine do what you think
right, and let the world fall. That is the privilege and the duty
of private persons; and I shall think the more of you at the
greater distance, because you keep a promise to your fellow-man,
your helper and creditor in life, by just so much as I was tempted
to think the less of you (O not much, or I would never have been
angry) when I thought you were the swallower of a (tinfoil)
I must say I was uneasy about my letter, not because it was too
strong as an expression of my unregenerate sentiments, but because
I knew full well it should be followed by something kinder. And
the mischief has been in my health. I fell sharply sick in Sydney,
was put aboard the LUBECK pretty bad, got to Vailima, hung on a
month there, and didn't pick up as well as my work needed; set off
on a journey, gained a great deal, lost it again; and am back at
Vailima, still no good at my necessary work. I tell you this for
my imperfect excuse that I should not have written you again sooner
to remove the bad taste of my last.
A road has been called Adelaide Road; it leads from the back of our
house to the bridge, and thence to the garden, and by a bifurcation
to the pig pen. It is thus much traversed, particularly by Fanny.
An oleander, the only one of your seeds that prospered in this
climate, grows there; and the name is now some week or ten days
applied and published. ADELAIDE ROAD leads also into the bush, to
the banana patch, and by a second bifurcation over the left branch
of the stream to the plateau and the right hand of the gorges. In
short, it leads to all sorts of good, and is, besides, in itself a
pretty winding path, bound downhill among big woods to the margin
of the stream.
What a strange idea, to think me a Jew-hater! Isaiah and David and
Heine are good enough for me; and I leave more unsaid. Were I of
Jew blood, I do not think I could ever forgive the Christians; the
ghettos would get in my nostrils like mustard or lit gunpowder.
Just so you as being a child of the Presbytery, I retain - I need
not dwell on that. The ascendant hand is what I feel most
strongly; I am bound in and in with my forbears; were he one of
mine, I should not be struck at all by Mr. Moss of Bevis Marks, I
should still see behind him Moses of the Mount and the Tables and
the shining face. We are all nobly born; fortunate those who know
it; blessed those who remember.
I am, my dear Adelaide, most genuinely yours,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Write by return to say you are better, and I will try to do the
Letter: TO CHARLES BAXTER
[VAILIMA], TUESDAY, 19TH MAY '91.
MY DEAR CHARLES, - I don't know what you think of me, not having
written to you at all during your illness. I find two sheets begun
with your name, but that is no excuse. . . . I am keeping bravely;
getting about better, every day, and hope soon to be in my usual
fettle. My books begin to come; and I fell once more on the Old
Bailey session papers. I have 1778, 1784, and 1786. Should you be
able to lay hands on any other volumes, above all a little later, I
should be very glad you should buy them for me. I particularly
want ONE or TWO during the course of the Peninsular War. Come to
think, I ought rather to have communicated this want to Bain.
Would it bore you to communicate to that effect with the great man?
The sooner I have them, the better for me. 'Tis for Henry Shovel.
But Henry Shovel has now turned into a work called 'The Shovels of
Newton French: Including Memoirs of Henry Shovel, a Private in the
Peninsular War,' which work is to begin in 1664 with the marriage
of Skipper, afterwards Alderman Shovel of Bristol, Henry's great-
great-grandfather, and end about 1832 with his own second marriage
to the daughter of his runaway aunt. Will the public ever stand
such an opus? Gude kens, but it tickles me. Two or three
historical personages will just appear: Judge Jeffreys,
Wellington, Colquhoun, Grant, and I think Townsend the runner. I
know the public won't like it; let 'em lump it then; I mean to make
it good; it will be more like a saga. - Adieu, yours ever
R. L. STEVENSON.
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
VAILIMA [SUMMER 1891].
MY DEAR BURLINGAME, - I find among my grandfather's papers his own
reminiscences of his voyage round the north with Sir Walter, eighty
years ago, LABUNTUR ANNI! They are not remarkably good, but he was
not a bad observer, and several touches seem to me speaking. It
has occurred to me you might like them to appear in the MAGAZINE.
If you would, kindly let me know, and tell me how you would like it
handled. My grandad's MS. runs to between six and seven thousand
words, which I could abbreviate of anecdotes that scarce touch Sir
W. Would you like this done? Would you like me to introduce the
old gentleman? I had something of the sort in my mind, and could
fill a few columns rather A PROPOS. I give you the first offer of
this, according to your request; for though it may forestall one of
the interests of my biography, the thing seems to me particularly
suited for prior appearance in a magazine.
I see the first number of the WRECKER; I thought it went lively
enough; and by a singular accident, the picture is not unlike Tai-
Thus we see the age of miracles, etc. - Yours very sincerely,
R. L. S.
Proofs for next mail.
Letter: TO W. CRAIBE ANGUS
DEAR MR. ANGUS, - You can use my letter as you will. The parcel
has not come; pray Heaven the next post bring it safe. Is it
possible for me to write a preface here? I will try if you like,
if you think I must: though surely there are Rivers in Assyria.
Of course you will send me sheets of the catalogue; I suppose it
(the preface) need not be long; perhaps it should be rather very
short? Be sure you give me your views upon these points. Also
tell me what names to mention among those of your helpers, and do
remember to register everything, else it is not safe.
The true place (in my view) for a monument to Fergusson were the
churchyard of Haddington. But as that would perhaps not carry many
votes, I should say one of the two following sites:- First, either
as near the site of the old Bedlam as we could get, or, second,
beside the Cross, the heart of his city. Upon this I would have a
fluttering butterfly, and, I suggest, the citation,
Poor butterfly, thy case I mourn.
For the case of Fergusson is not one to pretend about. A more
miserable tragedy the sun never shone upon, or (in consideration of
our climate) I should rather say refused to brighten. - Yours
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Where Burns goes will not matter. He is no local poet, like your
Robin the First; he is general as the casing air. Glasgow, as the
chief city of Scottish men, would do well; but for God's sake,
don't let it be like the Glasgow memorial to Knox: I remember,
when I first saw this, laughing for an hour by Shrewsbury clock.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO H. C. IDE
[VAILIMA, JUNE 19, 1891.]
DEAR MR. IDE, - Herewith please find the DOCUMENT, which I trust
will prove sufficient in law. It seems to me very attractive in
its eclecticism; Scots, English, and Roman law phrases are all
indifferently introduced, and a quotation from the works of Haynes
Bayly can hardly fail to attract the indulgence of the Bench. -
Yours very truly,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
I, Robert Louis Stevenson, Advocate of the Scots Bar, author of THE
MASTER OF BALLANTRAE and MORAL EMBLEMS, stuck civil engineer, sole
owner and patentee of the Palace and Plantation known as Vailima in
the island of Upolu, Samoa, a British Subject, being in sound mind,
and pretty well, I thank you, in body:
In consideration that Miss Annie H. Ide, daughter of H. C. Ide, in
the town of Saint Johnsbury, in the county of Caledonia, in the
state of Vermont, United States of America, was born, out of all
reason, upon Christmas Day, and is therefore out of all justice
denied the consolation and profit of a proper birthday;
And considering that I, the said Robert Louis Stevenson, have
attained an age when O, we never mention it, and that I have now no
further use for a birthday of any description;
And in consideration that I have met H. C. Ide, the father of the
said Annie H. Ide, and found him about as white a land commissioner
as I require:
HAVE TRANSFERRED, and DO HEREBY TRANSFER, to the said Annie H. Ide,
ALL AND WHOLE my rights and priviledges in the thirteenth day of
November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the
birthday of the said Annie H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise, and
enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine
raiment, eating of rich meats, and receipt of gifts, compliments,
and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors;
AND I DIRECT the said Annie H. Ide to add to the said name of Annie
H. Ide the name Louisa - at least in private; and I charge her to
use my said birthday with moderation and humanity, ET TAMQUAM BONA
FILIA FAMILIAE, the said birthday not being so young as it once
was, and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I
And in case the said Annie H. Ide shall neglect or contravene
either of the above conditions, I hereby revoke the donation and
transfer my rights in the said birthday to the President of the
United States of America for the time being:
In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and seal this
nineteenth day of June in the year of grace eighteen hundred and
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
WITNESS, LLOYD OSBOURNE,
WITNESS, HAROLD WATTS.
Letter: TO HENRY JAMES
[VAILIMA, OCTOBER 1891.]
MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, - From this perturbed and hunted being expect
but a line, and that line shall be but a whoop for Adela. O she's
delicious, delicious; I could live and die with Adela - die, rather
the better of the two; you never did a straighter thing, and never
DAVID BALFOUR, second part of KIDNAPPED, is on the stocks at last;
and is not bad, I think. As for THE WRECKER, it's a machine, you
know - don't expect aught else - a machine, and a police machine;
but I believe the end is one of the most genuine butcheries in
literature; and we point to our machine with a modest pride, as the
only police machine without a villain. Our criminals are a most
pleasing crew, and leave the dock with scarce a stain upon their
What a different line of country to be trying to draw Adela, and
trying to write the last four chapters of THE WRECKER! Heavens,
it's like two centuries; and ours is such rude, transpontine
business, aiming only at a certain fervour of conviction and sense
of energy and violence in the men; and yours is so neat and bright
and of so exquisite a surface! Seems dreadful to send such a book
to such an author; but your name is on the list. And we do
modestly ask you to consider the chapters on the NORAH CREINA with
the study of Captain Nares, and the forementioned last four, with
their brutality of substance and the curious (and perhaps unsound)
technical manoeuvre of running the story together to a point as we
go along, the narrative becoming more succinct and the details
fining off with every page. - Sworn affidavit of
R. L. S.
NO PERSON NOW ALIVE HAS BEATEN ADELA: I ADORE ADELA AND HER MAKER.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
A Sublime Poem to follow.
Adela, Adela, Adela Chart,
What have you done to my elderly heart?
Of all the ladies of paper and ink
I count you the paragon, call you the pink.
The word of your brother depicts you in part:
'You raving maniac!' Adela Chart;
But in all the asylums that cumber the ground,
So delightful a maniac was ne'er to be found.
I pore on you, dote on you, clasp you to heart,
I laud, love, and laugh at you, Adela Chart,
And thank my dear maker the while I admire
That I can be neither your husband nor sire.
Your husband's, your sire's were a difficult part;
You're a byway to suicide, Adela Chart;
But to read of, depicted by exquisite James,
O, sure you're the flower and quintessence of dames.
R. L. S.
ERUCTAVIT COR MEUM.
My heart was inditing a goodly matter about Adela Chart.
Though oft I've been touched by the volatile dart,
To none have I grovelled but Adela Chart,
There are passable ladies, no question, in art -
But where is the marrow of Adela Chart?
I dreamed that to Tyburn I passed in the cart -
I dreamed I was married to Adela Chart:
From the first I awoke with a palpable start,
The second dumfoundered me, Adela Chart!
Another verse bursts from me, you see; no end to the violence of
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
OCTOBER 8TH, 1891.
MY DEAR BURLINGAME, - All right, you shall have the TALES OF MY
GRANDFATHER soon, but I guess we'll try and finish off THE WRECKER
first. A PROPOS of whom, please send some advanced sheets to
Cassell's - away ahead of you - so that they may get a dummy out.
Do you wish to illustrate MY GRANDFATHER? He mentions as excellent
a portrait of Scott by Basil Hall's brother. I don't think I ever
saw this engraved; would it not, if you could get track of it,
prove a taking embellishment? I suggest this for your
consideration and inquiry. A new portrait of Scott strikes me as
good. There is a hard, tough, constipated old portrait of my
grandfather hanging in my aunt's house, Mrs. Alan Stevenson, 16 St.
Leonard's Terrace, Chelsea, which has never been engraved - the
better portrait, Joseph's bust has been reproduced, I believe,
twice - and which, I am sure, my aunt would let you have a copy of.
The plate could be of use for the book when we get so far, and thus
to place it in the MAGAZINE might be an actual saving.
I am swallowed up in politics for the first, I hope for the last,
time in my sublunary career. It is a painful, thankless trade; but
one thing that came up I could not pass in silence. Much drafting,
addressing, deputationising has eaten up all my time, and again (to
my contrition) I leave you Wreckerless. As soon as the mail leaves
I tackle it straight. - Yours very sincerely,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO E. L. BURLINGAME
VAILIMA [AUTUMN 1891].
MY DEAR BURLINGAME, - The time draws nigh, the mail is near due,
and I snatch a moment of collapse so that you may have at least
some sort of a scratch of note along with the
which I mean to go herewith. It has taken me a devil of a pull,
but I think it's going to be ready. If I did not know you were on
the stretch waiting for it and trembling for your illustrations, I
would keep it for another finish; but things being as they are, I
will let it go the best way I can get it. I am now within two
pages of the end of Chapter XXV., which is the last chapter, the
end with its gathering up of loose threads, being the dedication to
Low, and addressed to him: this is my last and best expedient for