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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

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sound like a game of my father's - I beg your pardon, you haven't
read it - I don't mean MY father, I mean Tristram Shandy's. He is
very clever, and it is an immense joke to hear him unrolling all
the problems of life - philosophy, science, what you will - in this
charmingly cut-and-dry, here-we-are-again kind of manner. He is
better to listen to than to argue withal. When you differ from
him, he lifts up his voice and thunders; and you know that the
thunder of an excited foreigner often miscarries. One stands
aghast, marvelling how such a colossus of a man, in such a great
commotion of spirit, can open his mouth so much and emit such a
still small voice at the hinder end of it all. All this while he
walks about the room, smokes cigarettes, occupies divers chairs for
divers brief spaces, and casts his huge arms to the four winds like
the sails of a mill. He is a most sportive Prince.

R. L. S.



WE are now at Swanston Cottage, Lothianburn, Edinburgh. The garden
is but little clothed yet, for, you know, here we are six hundred
feet above the sea. It is very cold, and has sleeted this morning.
Everything wintry. I am very jolly, however, having finished
Victor Hugo, and just looking round to see what I should next take
up. I have been reading Roman Law and Calvin this morning.

EVENING. - I went up the hill a little this afternoon. The air was
invigorating, but it was so cold that my scalp was sore. With this
high wintry wind, and the grey sky, and faint northern daylight, it
was quite wonderful to hear such a clamour of blackbirds coming up
to me out of the woods, and the bleating of sheep being shorn in a
field near the garden, and to see golden patches of blossom already
on the furze, and delicate green shoots upright and beginning to
frond out, among last year's russet bracken. Flights of crows were
passing continually between the wintry leaden sky and the wintry
cold-looking hills. It was the oddest conflict of seasons. A wee
rabbit - this year's making, beyond question - ran out from under
my feet, and was in a pretty perturbation, until he hit upon a
lucky juniper and blotted himself there promptly. Evidently this
gentleman had not had much experience of life.

I have made an arrangement with my people: I am to have 84 pounds
a year - I only asked for 80 pounds on mature reflection - and as I
should soon make a good bit by my pen, I shall be very comfortable.
We are all as jolly as can be together, so that is a great thing

WEDNESDAY. - Yesterday I received a letter that gave me much
pleasure from a poor fellow-student of mine, who has been all
winter very ill, and seems to be but little better even now. He
seems very much pleased with ORDERED SOUTH. 'A month ago,' he
says, 'I could scarcely have ventured to read it; to-day I felt on
reading it as I did on the first day that I was able to sun myself
a little in the open air.' And much more to the like effect. It
is very gratifying. - Ever your faithful friend,




STRUGGLING away at FABLES IN SONG. I am much afraid I am going to
make a real failure; the time is so short, and I am so out of the
humour. Otherwise very calm and jolly: cold still IMPOSSIBLE.

THURSDAY. - I feel happier about the FABLES, and it is warmer a
bit; but my body is most decrepit, and I can just manage to be
cheery and tread down hypochondria under foot by work. I lead such
a funny life, utterly without interest or pleasure outside of my
work: nothing, indeed, but work all day long, except a short walk
alone on the cold hills, and meals, and a couple of pipes with my
father in the evening. It is surprising how it suits me, and how
happy I keep.

SATURDAY. - I have received such a nice long letter (four sides)
from Leslie Stephen to-day about my Victor Hugo. It is accepted.
This ought to have made me gay, but it hasn't. I am not likely to
be much of a tonic to-night. I have been very cynical over myself
to-day, partly, perhaps, because I have just finished some of the
deedest rubbish about Lord Lytton's fables that an intelligent
editor ever shot into his wastepaper basket. If Morley prints it I
shall be glad, but my respect for him will be shaken.

TUESDAY. - Another cold day; yet I have been along the hillside,
wondering much at idiotic sheep, and raising partridges at every
second step. One little plover is the object of my firm adherence.
I pass his nest every day, and if you saw how he files by me, and
almost into my face, crying and flapping his wings, to direct my
attention from his little treasure, you would have as kind a heart
to him as I. To-day I saw him not, although I took my usual way;
and I am afraid that some person has abused his simple wiliness and
harried (as we say in Scotland) the nest. I feel much righteous
indignation against such imaginary aggressor. However, one must
not be too chary of the lower forms. To-day I sat down on a tree-
stump at the skirt of a little strip of planting, and thoughtlessly
began to dig out the touchwood with an end of twig. I found I had
carried ruin, death, and universal consternation into a little
community of ants; and this set me a-thinking of how close we are
environed with frail lives, so that we can do nothing without
spreading havoc over all manner of perishable homes and interests
and affections; and so on to my favourite mood of an holy terror
for all action and all inaction equally - a sort of shuddering
revulsion from the necessary responsibilities of life. We must not
be too scrupulous of others, or we shall die. Conscientiousness is
a sort of moral opium; an excitant in small doses, perhaps, but at
bottom a strong narcotic.

SATURDAY. - I have been two days in Edinburgh, and so had not the
occasion to write to you. Morley has accepted the FABLES, and I
have seen it in proof, and think less of it than ever. However, of
course, I shall send you a copy of the MAGAZINE without fail, and
you can be as disappointed as you like, or the reverse if you can.
I would willingly recall it if I could.

Try, by way of change, Byron's MAZEPPA; you will be astonished. It
is grand and no mistake, and one sees through it a fire, and a
passion, and a rapid intuition of genius, that makes one rather
sorry for one's own generation of better writers, and - I don't
know what to say; I was going to say 'smaller men'; but that's not
right; read it, and you will feel what I cannot express. Don't be
put out by the beginning; persevere, and you will find yourself
thrilled before you are at an end with it. - Ever your faithful




MY father and mother reading. I think I shall talk to you for a
moment or two. This morning at Swanston, the birds, poor
creatures, had the most troubled hour or two; evidently there was a
hawk in the neighbourhood; not one sang; and the whole garden
thrilled with little notes of warning and terror. I did not know
before that the voice of birds could be so tragically expressive.
I had always heard them before express their trivial satisfaction
with the blue sky and the return of daylight. Really, they almost
frightened me; I could hear mothers and wives in terror for those
who were dear to them; it was easy to translate, I wish it were as
easy to write; but it is very hard in this flying train, or I would
write you more.

CHESTER. - I like this place much; but somehow I feel glad when I
get among the quiet eighteenth century buildings, in cosy places
with some elbow room about them, after the older architecture.
This other is bedevilled and furtive; it seems to stoop; I am
afraid of trap-doors, and could not go pleasantly into such houses.
I don't know how much of this is legitimately the effect of the
architecture; little enough possibly; possibly far the most part of
it comes from bad historical novels and the disquieting statuary
that garnishes some facades.

On the way, to-day, I passed through my dear Cumberland country.
Nowhere to as great a degree can one find the combination of
lowland and highland beauties; the outline of the blue hills is
broken by the outline of many tumultuous tree-clumps; and the broad
spaces of moorland are balanced by a network of deep hedgerows that
might rival Suffolk, in the foreground. - How a railway journey
shakes and discomposes one, mind and body! I grow blacker and
blacker in humour as the day goes on; and when at last I am let
out, and have the fresh air about me, it is as though I were born
again, and the sick fancies flee away from my mind like swans in

I want to come back on what I have said about eighteenth century
and middle-age houses: I do not know if I have yet explained to
you the sort of loyalty, of urbanity, that there is about the one
to my mind; the spirit of a country orderly and prosperous, a
flavour of the presence of magistrates and well-to-do merchants in
bag-wigs, the clink of glasses at night in fire-lit parlours,
something certain and civic and domestic, is all about these quiet,
staid, shapely houses, with no character but their exceeding
shapeliness, and the comely external utterance that they make of
their internal comfort. Now the others are, as I have said, both
furtive and bedevilled; they are sly and grotesque; they combine
their sort of feverish grandeur with their sort of secretive
baseness, after the manner of a Charles the Ninth. They are
peopled for me with persons of the same fashion. Dwarfs and
sinister people in cloaks are about them; and I seem to divine
crypts, and, as I said, trap-doors. O God be praised that we live
in this good daylight and this good peace.

BARMOUTH, AUGUST 9TH. - To-day we saw the cathedral at Chester;
and, far more delightful, saw and heard a certain inimitable verger
who took us round. He was full of a certain recondite, far-away
humour that did not quite make you laugh at the time, but was
somehow laughable to recollect. Moreover, he had so far a just
imagination, and could put one in the right humour for seeing an
old place, very much as, according to my favourite text, Scott's
novels and poems do for one. His account of the monks in the
Scriptorium, with their cowls over their heads, in a certain
sheltered angle of the cloister where the big Cathedral building
kept the sun off the parchments, was all that could be wished; and
so too was what he added of the others pacing solemnly behind them
and dropping, ever and again, on their knees before a little shrine
there is in the wall, 'to keep 'em in the frame of mind.' You will
begin to think me unduly biassed in this verger's favour if I go on
to tell you his opinion of me. We got into a little side chapel,
whence we could hear the choir children at practice, and I stopped
a moment listening to them, with, I dare say, a very bright face,
for the sound was delightful to me. 'Ah,' says he, 'you're VERY
fond of music.' I said I was. 'Yes, I could tell that by your
head,' he answered. 'There's a deal in that head.' And he shook
his own solemnly. I said it might be so, but I found it hard, at
least, to get it out. Then my father cut in brutally, said anyway
I had no ear, and left the verger so distressed and shaken in the
foundations of his creed that, I hear, he got my father aside
afterwards and said he was sure there was something in my face, and
wanted to know what it was, if not music. He was relieved when he
heard that I occupied myself with litterature (which word, note
here, I do not spell correctly). Good-night, and here's the
verger's health!

R. L. S.



I HAVE been hard at work all yesterday, and besides had to write a
long letter to Bob, so I found no time until quite late, and then
was sleepy. Last night it blew a fearful gale; I was kept awake
about a couple of hours, and could not get to sleep for the horror
of the wind's noise; the whole house shook; and, mind you, our
house IS a house, a great castle of jointed stone that would weigh
up a street of English houses; so that when it quakes, as it did
last night, it means something. But the quaking was not what put
me about; it was the horrible howl of the wind round the corner;
the audible haunting of an incarnate anger about the house; the
evil spirit that was abroad; and, above all, the shuddering silent
pauses when the storm's heart stands dreadfully still for a moment.
O how I hate a storm at night! They have been a great influence in
my life, I am sure; for I can remember them so far back - long
before I was six at least, for we left the house in which I
remember listening to them times without number when I was six.
And in those days the storm had for me a perfect impersonation, as
durable and unvarying as any heathen deity. I always heard it, as
a horseman riding past with his cloak about his head, and somehow
always carried away, and riding past again, and being baffled yet
once more, AD INFINITUM, all night long. I think I wanted him to
get past, but I am not sure; I know only that I had some interest
either for or against in the matter; and I used to lie and hold my
breath, not quite frightened, but in a state of miserable

My first John Knox is in proof, and my second is on the anvil. It
is very good of me so to do; for I want so much to get to my real
tour and my sham tour, the real tour first: it is always working
in my head, and if I can only turn on the right sort of style at
the right moment, I am not much afraid of it. One thing bothers
me; what with hammering at this J. K., and writing necessary
letters, and taking necessary exercise (that even not enough, the
weather is so repulsive to me, cold and windy), I find I have no
time for reading except times of fatigue, when I wish merely to
relax myself. O - and I read over again for this purpose
Flaubert's TENTATION DE ST. ANTOINE; it struck me a good deal at
first, but this second time it has fetched me immensely. I am but
just done with it, so you will know the large proportion of salt to
take with my present statement, that it's the finest thing I ever
read! Of course, it isn't that, it's full of LONGUEURS, and is not
quite 'redd up,' as we say in Scotland, not quite articulated; but
there are splendid things in it.

I say, DO take your maccaroni with oil: DO, PLEASE. It's BEASTLY
with butter. - Ever your faithful friend,




MONDAY. - I have come from a concert, and the concert was rather a
disappointment. Not so my afternoon skating - Duddingston, our big
loch, is bearing; and I wish you could have seen it this afternoon,
covered with people, in thin driving snow flurries, the big hill
grim and white and alpine overhead in the thick air, and the road
up the gorge, as it were into the heart of it, dotted black with
traffic. Moreover, I CAN skate a little bit; and what one can do
is always pleasant to do.

TUESDAY. - I got your letter to-day, and was so glad thereof. It
was of good omen to me also. I worked from ten to one (my classes
are suspended now for Xmas holidays), and wrote four or five
Portfolio pages of my Buckinghamshire affair. Then I went to
Duddingston and skated all afternoon. If you had seen the moon
rising, a perfect sphere of smoky gold, in the dark air above the
trees, and the white loch thick with skaters, and the great hill,
snow-sprinkled, overhead! It was a sight for a king.

WEDNESDAY. - I stayed on Duddingston to-day till after nightfall.
The little booths that hucksters set up round the edge were marked
each one by its little lamp. There were some fires too; and the
light, and the shadows of the people who stood round them to warm
themselves, made a strange pattern all round on the snow-covered
ice. A few people with torches began to travel up and down the
ice, a lit circle travelling along with them over the snow. A
gigantic moon rose, meanwhile, over the trees and the kirk on the
promontory, among perturbed and vacillating clouds.

The walk home was very solemn and strange. Once, through a broken
gorge, we had a glimpse of a little space of mackerel sky, moon-
litten, on the other side of the hill; the broken ridges standing
grey and spectral between; and the hilltop over all, snow-white,
and strangely magnified in size.

This must go to you to-morrow, so that you may read it on Christmas
Day for company. I hope it may be good company to you.

THURSDAY. - Outside, it snows thick and steadily. The gardens
before our house are now a wonderful fairy forest. And O, this
whiteness of things, how I love it, how it sends the blood about my
body! Maurice de Guerin hated snow; what a fool he must have been!
Somebody tried to put me out of conceit with it by saying that
people were lost in it. As if people don't get lost in love, too,
and die of devotion to art; as if everything worth were not an
occasion to some people's end.

What a wintry letter this is! Only I think it is winter seen from
the inside of a warm greatcoat. And there is, at least, a warm
heart about it somewhere. Do you know, what they say in Xmas
stories is true? I think one loves their friends more dearly at
this season. - Ever your faithful friend,




MY DEAR COLVIN, - I have worked too hard; I have given myself one
day of rest, and that was not enough; I am giving myself another.
I shall go to bed again likewise so soon as this is done, and
slumber most potently.

9 P.M., slept all afternoon like a lamb.

About my coming south, I think the still small unanswerable voice
of coins will make it impossible until the session is over (end of
March); but for all that, I think I shall hold out jolly. I do not
want you to come and bother yourself; indeed, it is still not quite
certain whether my father will be quite fit for you, although I
have now no fear of that really. Now don't take up this wrongly; I
wish you could come; and I do not know anything that would make me
happier, but I see that it is wrong to expect it, and so I resign
myself: some time after. I offered Appleton a series of papers on
the modern French school - the Parnassiens, I think they call them
- de Banville, Coppee, Soulary, and Sully Prudhomme. But he has
not deigned to answer my letter.

I shall have another Portfolio paper so soon as I am done with this
story, that has played me out; the story is to be called WHEN THE
DEVIL WAS WELL: scene, Italy, Renaissance; colour, purely
imaginary of course, my own unregenerate idea of what Italy then
was. O, when shall I find the story of my dreams, that shall never
halt nor wander nor step aside, but go ever before its face, and
ever swifter and louder, until the pit receives it, roaring? The
Portfolio paper will be about Scotland and England. - Ever yours,




I GOT your nice long gossiping letter to-day - I mean by that that
there was more news in it than usual - and so, of course, I am
pretty jolly. I am in the house, however, with such a beastly cold
in the head. Our east winds begin already to be very cold.

O, I have such a longing for children of my own; and yet I do not
think I could bear it if I had one. I fancy I must feel more like
a woman than like a man about that. I sometimes hate the children
I see on the street - you know what I mean by hate - wish they were
somewhere else, and not there to mock me; and sometimes, again, I
don't know how to go by them for the love of them, especially the
very wee ones.

THURSDAY. - I have been still in the house since I wrote, and I
HAVE worked. I finished the Italian story; not well, but as well
as I can just now; I must go all over it again, some time soon,
when I feel in the humour to better and perfect it. And now I have
taken up an old story, begun years ago; and I have now re-written
all I had written of it then, and mean to finish it. What I have
lost and gained is odd. As far as regards simple writing, of
course, I am in another world now; but in some things, though more
clumsy, I seem to have been freer and more plucky: this is a
lesson I have taken to heart. I have got a jolly new name for my
old story. I am going to call it A COUNTRY DANCE; the two heroes
keep changing places, you know; and the chapter where the most of
this changing goes on is to be called 'Up the middle, down the
middle.' It will be in six, or (perhaps) seven chapters. I have
never worked harder in my life than these last four days. If I can
only keep it up.

SATURDAY. - Yesterday, Leslie Stephen, who was down here to
lecture, called on me and took me up to see a poor fellow, a poet
who writes for him, and who has been eighteen months in our
infirmary, and may be, for all I know, eighteen months more. It
was very sad to see him there, in a little room with two beds, and
a couple of sick children in the other bed; a girl came in to visit
the children, and played dominoes on the counterpane with them; the
gas flared and crackled, the fire burned in a dull economical way;
Stephen and I sat on a couple of chairs, and the poor fellow sat up
in his bed with his hair and beard all tangled, and talked as
cheerfully as if he had been in a King's palace, or the great
King's palace of the blue air. He has taught himself two languages
since he has been lying there. I shall try to be of use to him.

We have had two beautiful spring days, mild as milk, windy withal,
and the sun hot. I dreamed last night I was walking by moonlight
round the place where the scene of my story is laid; it was all so
quiet and sweet, and the blackbirds were singing as if it was day;
it made my heart very cool and happy. - Ever yours,



FEBRUARY 8, 1875.

MY DEAR COLVIN, - Forgive my bothering you. Here is the proof of
my second KNOX. Glance it over, like a good fellow, and if there's
anything very flagrant send it to me marked. I have no confidence
in myself; I feel such an ass. What have I been doing? As near as
I can calculate, nothing. And yet I have worked all this month
from three to five hours a day, that is to say, from one to three
hours more than my doctor allows me; positively no result.

No, I can write no article just now; I am PIOCHING, like a madman,
at my stories, and can make nothing of them; my simplicity is tame
and dull - my passion tinsel, boyish, hysterical. Never mind - ten
years hence, if I live, I shall have learned, so help me God. I
know one must work, in the meantime (so says Balzac) COMME LE

J'Y PARVIENDRAI, NOM DE NOM DE NOM! But it's a long look forward.
- Ever yours,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FRIEND, - This is just a line to say I am well and happy.
I am here in my dear forest all day in the open air. It is very be
- no, not beautiful exactly, just now, but very bright and living.
There are one or two song birds and a cuckoo; all the fruit-trees
are in flower, and the beeches make sunshine in a shady place, I
begin to go all right; you need not be vexed about my health; I
really was ill at first, as bad as I have been for nearly a year;
but the forest begins to work, and the air, and the sun, and the
smell of the pines. If I could stay a month here, I should be as
right as possible. Thanks for your letter. - Your faithful

R. L. S.



HERE is my long story: yesterday night, after having supped, I
grew so restless that I was obliged to go out in search of some
excitement. There was a half-moon lying over on its back, and
incredibly bright in the midst of a faint grey sky set with faint
stars: a very inartistic moon, that would have damned a picture.

At the most populous place of the city I found a little boy, three
years old perhaps, half frantic with terror, and crying to every
one for his 'Mammy.' This was about eleven, mark you. People
stopped and spoke to him, and then went on, leaving him more
frightened than before. But I and a good-humoured mechanic came up
together; and I instantly developed a latent faculty for setting
the hearts of children at rest. Master Tommy Murphy (such was his
name) soon stopped crying, and allowed me to take him up and carry
him; and the mechanic and I trudged away along Princes Street to
find his parents. I was soon so tired that I had to ask the
mechanic to carry the bairn; and you should have seen the puzzled
contempt with which he looked at me, for knocking in so soon. He
was a good fellow, however, although very impracticable and
sentimental; and he soon bethought him that Master Murphy might
catch cold after his excitement, so we wrapped him up in my
greatcoat. 'Tobauga (Tobago) Street' was the address he gave us;
and we deposited him in a little grocer's shop and went through all
the houses in the street without being able to find any one of the
name of Murphy. Then I set off to the head police office, leaving
my greatcoat in pawn about Master Murphy's person. As I went down
one of the lowest streets in the town, I saw a little bit of life
that struck me. It was now half-past twelve, a little shop stood
still half-open, and a boy of four or five years old was walking up
and down before it imitating cockcrow. He was the only living
creature within sight.

At the police offices no word of Master Murphy's parents; so I went
back empty-handed. The good groceress, who had kept her shop open
all this time, could keep the child no longer; her father, bad with
bronchitis, said he must forth. So I got a large scone with
currants in it, wrapped my coat about Tommy, got him up on my arm,
and away to the police office with him: not very easy in my mind,
for the poor child, young as he was - he could scarce speak - was
full of terror for the 'office,' as he called it. He was now very
grave and quiet and communicative with me; told me how his father
thrashed him, and divers household matters. Whenever he saw a
woman on our way he looked after her over my shoulder and then gave
his judgment: 'That's no HER,' adding sometimes, 'She has a wean
wi' her.' Meantime I was telling him how I was going to take him
to a gentleman who would find out his mother for him quicker than
ever I could, and how he must not be afraid of him, but be brave,
as he had been with me. We had just arrived at our destination -
we were just under the lamp - when he looked me in the face and
said appealingly, 'He'll no put - me in the office?' And I had to
assure him that he would not, even as I pushed open the door and
took him in.

The serjeant was very nice, and I got Tommy comfortably seated on a
bench, and spirited him up with good words and the scone with the
currants in it; and then, telling him I was just going out to look
for Mammy, I got my greatcoat and slipped away.

Poor little boy! he was not called for, I learn, until ten this
morning. This is very ill written, and I've missed half that was
picturesque in it; but to say truth, I am very tired and sleepy:
it was two before I got to bed. However, you see, I had my

MONDAY. - I have written nothing all morning; I cannot settle to
it. Yes - I WILL though.

10.45. - And I did. I want to say something more to you about the
three women. I wonder so much why they should have been WOMEN, and
halt between two opinions in the matter. Sometimes I think it is
because they were made by a man for men; sometimes, again, I think
there is an abstract reason for it, and there is something more
substantive about a woman than ever there can be about a man. I
can conceive a great mythical woman, living alone among
inaccessible mountain-tops or in some lost island in the pagan
seas, and ask no more. Whereas if I hear of a Hercules, I ask
after Iole or Dejanira. I cannot think him a man without women.
But I can think of these three deep-breasted women, living out all
their days on remote hilltops, seeing the white dawn and the purple
even, and the world outspread before them for ever, and no more to
them for ever than a sight of the eyes, a hearing of the ears, a
far-away interest of the inflexible heart, not pausing, not
pitying, but austere with a holy austerity, rigid with a calm and
passionless rigidity; and I find them none the less women to the

And think, if one could love a woman like that once, see her once
grow pale with passion, and once wring your lips out upon hers,
would it not be a small thing to die? Not that there is not a
passion of a quite other sort, much less epic, far more dramatic
and intimate, that comes out of the very frailty of perishable
women; out of the lines of suffering that we see written about
their eyes, and that we may wipe out if it were but for a moment;
out of the thin hands, wrought and tempered in agony to a fineness
of perception, that the indifferent or the merely happy cannot
know; out of the tragedy that lies about such a love, and the
pathetic incompleteness. This is another thing, and perhaps it is
a higher. I look over my shoulder at the three great headless
Madonnas, and they look back at me and do not move; see me, and
through and over me, the foul life of the city dying to its embers
already as the night draws on; and over miles and miles of silent
country, set here and there with lit towns, thundered through here
and there with night expresses scattering fire and smoke; and away
to the ends of the earth, and the furthest star, and the blank
regions of nothing; and they are not moved. My quiet, great-kneed,
deep-breasted, well-draped ladies of Necessity, I give my heart to

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FRIEND, - I have been so busy, away to Bridge Of Allan with
my father first, and then with Simpson and Baxter out here from
Saturday till Monday. I had no time to write, and, as it is, am
strangely incapable. Thanks for your letter. I have been reading
such lots of law, and it seems to take away the power of writing
from me. From morning to night, so often as I have a spare moment,
I am in the embrace of a law book - barren embraces. I am in good
spirits; and my heart smites me as usual, when I am in good
spirits, about my parents. If I get a bit dull, I am away to
London without a scruple; but so long as my heart keeps up, I am
all for my parents.

What do you think of Henley's hospital verses? They were to have
been dedicated to me, but Stephen wouldn't allow it - said it would
be pretentious.

WEDNESDAY. - I meant to have made this quite a decent letter this
morning, but listen. I had pain all last night, and did not sleep
well, and now am cold and sickish, and strung up ever and again
with another flash of pain. Will you remember me to everybody? My
principal characteristics are cold, poverty, and Scots Law - three
very bad things. Oo, how the rain falls! The mist is quite low on
the hill. The birds are twittering to each other about the
indifferent season. O, here's a gem for you. An old godly woman
predicted the end of the world, because the seasons were becoming
indistinguishable; my cousin Dora objected that last winter had
been pretty well marked. 'Yes, my dear,' replied the
soothsayeress; 'but I think you'll find the summer will be rather
coamplicated.' - Ever your faithful

R. L. S.



I AM getting on with my rehearsals, but I find the part very hard.
I rehearsed yesterday from a quarter to seven, and to-day from four
(with interval for dinner) to eleven. You see the sad strait I am
in for ink. - A DEMAIN.

SUNDAY. - This is the third ink-bottle I have tried, and still it's
nothing to boast of. My journey went off all right, and I have
kept ever in good spirits. Last night, indeed, I did think my
little bit of gaiety was going away down the wind like a whiff of
tobacco smoke, but to-day it has come back to me a little. The
influence of this place is assuredly all that can be worst against
one; MAIL IL FAUT LUTTER. I was haunted last night when I was in
bed by the most cold, desolate recollections of my past life here;
I was glad to try and think of the forest, and warm my hands at the
thought of it. O the quiet, grey thickets, and the yellow
butterflies, and the woodpeckers, and the outlook over the plain as
it were over a sea! O for the good, fleshly stupidity of the
woods, the body conscious of itself all over and the mind
forgotten, the clean air nestling next your skin as though your
clothes were gossamer, the eye filled and content, the whole MAN
HAPPY! Whereas here it takes a pull to hold yourself together; it
needs both hands, and a book of stoical maxims, and a sort of
bitterness at the heart by way of armour. - Ever your faithful

R. L. S.

WEDNESDAY. - I am so played out with a cold in my eye that I cannot
see to write or read without difficulty. It is swollen HORRIBLE;
so how I shall look as Orsino, God knows! I have my fine clothes
tho'. Henley's sonnets have been taken for the CORNHILL. He is
out of hospital now, and dressed, but still not too much to brag of
in health, poor fellow, I am afraid.

SUNDAY. - So. I have still rather bad eyes, and a nasty sore
throat. I play Orsino every day, in all the pomp of Solomon,
splendid Francis the First clothes, heavy with gold and stage
jewellery. I play it ill enough, I believe; but me and the
clothes, and the wedding wherewith the clothes and me are
reconciled, produce every night a thrill of admiration. Our cook
told my mother (there is a servants' night, you know) that she and
the housemaid were 'just prood to be able to say it was oor young
gentleman.' To sup afterwards with these clothes on, and a
wonderful lot of gaiety and Shakespearean jokes about the table, is
something to live for. It is so nice to feel you have been dead
three hundred years, and the sound of your laughter is faint and
far off in the centuries. - Ever your faithful


WEDNESDAY. - A moment at last. These last few days have been as
jolly as days could be, and by good fortune I leave to-morrow for
Swanston, so that I shall not feel the whole fall back to habitual
self. The pride of life could scarce go further. To live in
splendid clothes, velvet and gold and fur, upon principally
champagne and lobster salad, with a company of people nearly all of
whom are exceptionally good talkers; when your days began about
eleven and ended about four - I have lost that sentence; I give it
up; it is very admirable sport, any way. Then both my afternoons
have been so pleasantly occupied - taking Henley drives. I had a
business to carry him down the long stair, and more of a business
to get him up again, but while he was in the carriage it was
splendid. It is now just the top of spring with us. The whole
country is mad with green. To see the cherry-blossom bitten out
upon the black firs, and the black firs bitten out of the blue sky,
was a sight to set before a king. You may imagine what it was to a
man who has been eighteen months in an hospital ward. The look of
his face was a wine to me.

I shall send this off to-day to let you know of my new address -
Swanston Cottage, Lothianburn, Edinburgh. Salute the faithful in
my name. Salute Priscilla, salute Barnabas, salute Ebenezer - O
no, he's too much, I withdraw Ebenezer; enough of early Christians.
- Ever your faithful




SIMPLY a scratch. All right, jolly, well, and through with the
difficulty. My father pleased about the Burns. Never travel in
the same carriage with three able-bodied seamen and a fruiterer
from Kent; the A.-B.'s speak all night as though they were hailing
vessels at sea; and the fruiterer as if he were crying fruit in a
noisy market-place - such, at least, is my FUNESTE experience. I
wonder if a fruiterer from some place else - say Worcestershire -
would offer the same phenomena? insoluble doubt.

R. L. S.

Later. - Forgive me, couldn't get it off. Awfully nice man here
to-night. Public servant - New Zealand. Telling us all about the
South Sea Islands till I was sick with desire to go there:
beautiful places, green for ever; perfect climate; perfect shapes
of men and women, with red flowers in their hair; and nothing to do
but to study oratory and etiquette, sit in the sun, and pick up the
fruits as they fall. Navigator's Island is the place; absolute
balm for the weary. - Ever your faithful friend,

R. L. S.



THURSDAY. - This day fortnight I shall fall or conquer. Outside
the rain still soaks; but now and again the hilltop looks through
the mist vaguely. I am very comfortable, very sleepy, and very
much satisfied with the arrangements of Providence.

SATURDAY - NO, SUNDAY, 12.45. - Just been - not grinding, alas! - I
couldn't - but doing a bit of Fontainebleau. I don't think I'll be
plucked. I am not sure though - I am so busy, what with this d-d
law, and this Fontainebleau always at my elbow, and three plays
(three, think of that!) and a story, all crying out to me, 'Finish,
finish, make an entire end, make us strong, shapely, viable
creatures!' It's enough to put a man crazy. Moreover, I have my
thesis given out now, which is a fifth (is it fifth? I can't count)

SUNDAY. - I've been to church, and am not depressed - a great step.
I was at that beautiful church my PETIT POEME EN PROSE was about.
It is a little cruciform place, with heavy cornices and string
course to match, and a steep slate roof. The small kirkyard is
full of old grave-stones. One of a Frenchman from Dunkerque - I
suppose he died prisoner in the military prison hard by - and one,
the most pathetic memorial I ever saw, a poor school-slate, in a
wooden frame, with the inscription cut into it evidently by the
father's own hand. In church, old Mr. Torrence preached - over
eighty, and a relic of times forgotten, with his black thread
gloves and mild old foolish face. One of the nicest parts of it
was to see John Inglis, the greatest man in Scotland, our Justice-
General, and the only born lawyer I ever heard, listening to the
piping old body, as though it had all been a revelation, grave and
respectful. - Ever your faithful

R. L. S.




MY DEAR MOTHER, - I have been three days at a place called Grez, a
pretty and very melancholy village on the plain. A low bridge of
many arches choked with sedge; great fields of white and yellow
water-lilies; poplars and willows innumerable; and about it all
such an atmosphere of sadness and slackness, one could do nothing
but get into the boat and out of it again, and yawn for bedtime.

Yesterday Bob and I walked home; it came on a very creditable
thunderstorm; we were soon wet through; sometimes the rain was so
heavy that one could only see by holding the hand over the eyes;
and to crown all, we lost our way and wandered all over the place,
and into the artillery range, among broken trees, with big shot
lying about among the rocks. It was near dinner-time when we got
to Barbizon; and it is supposed that we walked from twenty-three to
twenty-five miles, which is not bad for the Advocate, who is not
tired this morning. I was very glad to be back again in this dear
place, and smell the wet forest in the morning.

Simpson and the rest drove back in a carriage, and got about as wet
as we did.

Why don't you write? I have no more to say. - Ever your
affectionate son,




. . . I HAVE been walking these last days from place to place; and
it does make it hot for walking with a sack in this weather. I am
burned in horrid patches of red; my nose, I fear, is going to take
the lead in colour; Simpson is all flushed, as if he were seen by a
sunset. I send you here two rondeaux; I don't suppose they will
amuse anybody but me; but this measure, short and yet intricate, is
just what I desire; and I have had some good times walking along
the glaring roads, or down the poplar alley of the great canal,
pitting my own humour to this old verse.

Far have you come, my lady, from the town,
And far from all your sorrows, if you please,
To smell the good sea-winds and hear the seas,
And in green meadows lay your body down.

To find your pale face grow from pale to brown,
Your sad eyes growing brighter by degrees;
Far have you come, my lady, from the town,
And far from all your sorrows, if you please.

Here in this seaboard land of old renown,
In meadow grass go wading to the knees;
Bathe your whole soul a while in simple ease;
There is no sorrow but the sea can drown;
Far have you come, my lady, from the town.


We'll walk the woods no more,
But stay beside the fire,
To weep for old desire
And things that are no more.

The woods are spoiled and hoar,
The ways are full of mire;
We'll walk the woods no more,
But stay beside the fire.
We loved, in days of yore,
Love, laughter, and the lyre.
Ah God, but death is dire,
And death is at the door -
We'll walk the woods no more.




MY DEAR COLVIN, - Thanks for your letter and news. No - my BURNS
is not done yet, it has led me so far afield that I cannot finish
it; every time I think I see my way to an end, some new game (or
perhaps wild goose) starts up, and away I go. And then, again, to
be plain, I shirk the work of the critical part, shirk it as a man
shirks a long jump. It is awful to have to express and
differentiate BURNS in a column or two. O golly, I say, you know,
it CAN'T be done at the money. All the more as I'm going write a
CRITICAL ESSAY? but then I'm going to give lives of the three
gentlemen, only the gist of the book is the criticism) BY ROBERT
LOUIS STEVENSON, ADVOCATE. How's that for cut and dry? And I
COULD write this book. Unless I deceive myself, I could even write
it pretty adequately. I feel as if I was really in it, and knew
the game thoroughly. You see what comes of trying to write an
essay on BURNS in ten columns.

Meantime, when I have done Burns, I shall finish Charles of Orleans
(who is in a good way, about the fifth month, I should think, and
promises to be a fine healthy child, better than any of his elder
brothers for a while); and then perhaps a Villon, for Villon is a
very essential part of my RAMSAY-FERGUSSON-BURNS; I mean, is a note
in it, and will recur again and again for comparison and
illustration; then, perhaps, I may try Fontainebleau, by the way.
But so soon as Charles of Orleans is polished off, and immortalised
for ever, he and his pipings, in a solid imperishable shrine of R.
L. S., my true aim and end will be this little book. Suppose I
could jerk you out 100 Cornhill pages; that would easy make 200
pages of decent form; and then thickish paper - eh? would that do?
I dare say it could be made bigger; but I know what 100 pages of
copy, bright consummate copy, imply behind the scenes of weary
manuscribing; I think if I put another nothing to it, I should not
be outside the mark; and 100 Cornhill pages of 500 words means, I
fancy (but I never was good at figures), means 500,00 words.
There's a prospect for an idle young gentleman who lives at home at
ease! The future is thick with inky fingers. And then perhaps
nobody would publish. AH NOM DE DIEU! What do you think of all
this? will it paddle, think you?

I hope this pen will write; it is the third I have tried.

About coming up, no, that's impossible; for I am worse than a
bankrupt. I have at the present six shillings and a penny; I have
a sounding lot of bills for Christmas; new dress suit, for
instance, the old one having gone for Parliament House; and new
white shirts to live up to my new profession; I'm as gay and swell
and gummy as can be; only all my boots leak; one pair water, and
the other two simple black mud; so that my rig is more for the eye,
than a very solid comfort to myself. That is my budget. Dismal
enough, and no prospect of any coin coming in; at least for months.
So that here I am, I almost fear, for the winter; certainly till
after Christmas, and then it depends on how my bills 'turn out'
whether it shall not be till spring. So, meantime, I must whistle
in my cage. My cage is better by one thing; I am an Advocate now.
If you ask me why that makes it better, I would remind you that in
the most distressing circumstances a little consequence goes a long
way, and even bereaved relatives stand on precedence round the
coffin. I idle finely. I read Boswell's LIFE OF JOHNSON, Martin's
walk about the Parliament House five forenoons a week, in wig and
gown; I have either a five or six mile walk, or an hour or two hard
skating on the rink, every afternoon, without fail.

I have not written much; but, like the seaman's parrot in the tale,
I have thought a deal. You have never, by the way, returned me
either SPRING or BERANGER, which is certainly a d-d shame. I
always comforted myself with that when my conscience pricked me
about a letter to you. 'Thus conscience' - O no, that's not
appropriate in this connection. - Ever yours,


I say, is there any chance of your coming north this year? Mind
you that promise is now more respectable for age than is becoming.

R. L. S.



NOO lyart leaves blaw ower the green,
Red are the bonny woods o' Dean,
An' here we're back in Embro, freen',
To pass the winter.
Whilk noo, wi' frosts afore, draws in,
An' snaws ahint her.

I've seen's hae days to fricht us a',
The Pentlands poothered weel wi' snaw,
The ways half-smoored wi' liquid thaw,
An' half-congealin',
The snell an' scowtherin' norther blaw
Frae blae Brunteelan'.

I've seen's been unco sweir to sally,
And at the door-cheeks daff an' dally,
Seen's daidle thus an' shilly-shally
For near a minute -
Sae cauld the wind blew up the valley,
The deil was in it! -

Syne spread the silk an' tak the gate,
In blast an' blaudin' rain, deil hae't!
The hale toon glintin', stane an' slate,
Wi' cauld an' weet,
An' to the Court, gin we'se be late,
Bicker oor feet.

And at the Court, tae, aft I saw
Whaur Advocates by twa an' twa
Gang gesterin' end to end the ha'
In weeg an' goon,
To crack o' what ye wull but Law
The hale forenoon.

That muckle ha,' maist like a kirk,
I've kent at braid mid-day sae mirk
Ye'd seen white weegs an' faces lurk
Like ghaists frae Hell,
But whether Christian ghaist or Turk
Deil ane could tell.

The three fires lunted in the gloom,
The wind blew like the blast o' doom,
The rain upo' the roof abune
Played Peter Dick -
Ye wad nae'd licht enough i' the room
Your teeth to pick!

But, freend, ye ken how me an' you,
The ling-lang lanely winter through,
Keep'd a guid speerit up, an' true
To lore Horatian,
We aye the ither bottle drew
To inclination.

Sae let us in the comin' days
Stand sicker on our auncient ways -
The strauchtest road in a' the maze
Since Eve ate apples;
An' let the winter weet our cla'es -
We'll weet oor thrapples.



Is the thing lost? Well, so be it. There is one masterpiece fewer
in the world. The world can ill spare it, but I, sir, I (and here
I strike my hollow boson, so that it resounds) I am full of this
sort of bauble; I am made of it; it comes to me, sir, as the desire
to sneeze comes upon poor ordinary devils on cold days, when they
should be getting out of bed and into their horrid cold tubs by the
light of a seven o'clock candle, with the dismal seven o'clock
frost-flowers all over the window.

Show Stephen what you please; if you could show him how to give me
money, you would oblige, sincerely yours,

R. L. S.

I have a scroll of SPRINGTIME somewhere, but I know that it is not
in very good order, and do not feel myself up to very much grind
over it. I am damped about SPRINGTIME, that's the truth of it. It
might have been four or five quid!

Sir, I shall shave my head, if this goes on. All men take a
pleasure to gird at me. The laws of nature are in open war with
me. The wheel of a dog-cart took the toes off my new boots. Gout
has set in with extreme rigour, and cut me out of the cheap
refreshment of beer. I leant my back against an oak, I thought it
was a trusty tree, but first it bent, and syne - it lost the Spirit
of Springtime, and so did Professor Sidney Colvin, Trinity College,
to me. - Ever yours,


Along with this, I send you some P.P.P's; if you lose them, you
need not seek to look upon my face again. Do, for God's sake,
answer me about them also; it is a horrid thing for a fond
architect to find his monuments received in silence. - Yours,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FRIEND, - Since I got your letter I have been able to do a
little more work, and I have been much better contented with
myself; but I can't get away, that is absolutely prevented by the
state of my purse and my debts, which, I may say, are red like
crimson. I don't know how I am to clear my hands of them, nor
when, not before Christmas anyway. Yesterday I was twenty-five; so
please wish me many happy returns - directly. This one was not
UNhappy anyway. I have got back a good deal into my old random,
little-thought way of life, and do not care whether I read, write,
speak, or walk, so long as I do something. I have a great delight
in this wheel-skating; I have made great advance in it of late, can
do a good many amusing things (I mean amusing in MY sense - amusing
to do). You know, I lose all my forenoons at Court! So it is, but
the time passes; it is a great pleasure to sit and hear cases
argued or advised. This is quite autobiographical, but I feel as
if it was some time since we met, and I can tell you, I am glad to
meet you again. In every way, you see, but that of work the world
goes well with me. My health is better than ever it was before; I
get on without any jar, nay, as if there never had been a jar, with
my parents. If it weren't about that work, I'd be happy. But the
fact is, I don't think - the fact is, I'm going to trust in
Providence about work. If I could get one or two pieces I hate out
of my way all would be well, I think; but these obstacles disgust
me, and as I know I ought to do them first, I don't do anything. I
must finish this off, or I'll just lose another day. I'll try to
write again soon. - Ever your faithful friend,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR KATHARINE, - The prisoner reserved his defence. He has
been seedy, however; principally sick of the family evil,
despondency; the sun is gone out utterly; and the breath of the
people of this city lies about as a sort of damp, unwholesome fog,
in which we go walking with bowed hearts. If I understand what is
a contrite spirit, I have one; it is to feel that you are a small
jar, or rather, as I feel myself, a very large jar, of pottery work
rather MAL REUSSI, and to make every allowance for the potter (I
beg pardon; Potter with a capital P.) on his ill-success, and
rather wish he would reduce you as soon as possible to potsherds.
However, there are many things to do yet before we go


For instance, I have never been in a revolution yet. I pray God I
may be in one at the end, if I am to make a mucker. The best way
to make a mucker is to have your back set against a wall and a few
lead pellets whiffed into you in a moment, while yet you are all in
a heat and a fury of combat, with drums sounding on all sides, and
people crying, and a general smash like the infernal orchestration
at the end of the HUGUENOTS. . . .

Please pardon me for having been so long of writing, and show your
pardon by writing soon to me; it will be a kindness, for I am
sometimes very dull. Edinburgh is much changed for the worse by
the absence of Bob; and this damned weather weighs on me like a
curse. Yesterday, or the day before, there came so black a rain
squall that I was frightened - what a child would call frightened,
you know, for want of a better word - although in reality it has
nothing to do with fright. I lit the gas and sat cowering in my
chair until it went away again. - Ever yours,

R. L. S.

O I am trying my hand at a novel just now; it may interest you to
know, I am bound to say I do not think it will be a success.
However, it's an amusement for the moment, and work, work is your
only ally against the 'bearded people' that squat upon their hams
in the dark places of life and embrace people horribly as they go
by. God save us from the bearded people! to think that the sun is
still shining in some happy places!

R. L S.



. . . OUR weather continues as it was, bitterly cold, and raining
often. There is not much pleasure in life certainly as it stands

I meant to write some more last night, but my father was ill and it
put it out of my way. He is better this morning.

If I had written last night, I should have written a lot. But this
morning I am so dreadfully tired and stupid that I can say nothing.
I was down at Leith in the afternoon. God bless me, what horrid
women I saw; I never knew what a plain-looking race it was before.
I was sick at heart with the looks of them. And the children,
filthy and ragged! And the smells! And the fat black mud!

My soul was full of disgust ere I got back. And yet the ships were
beautiful to see, as they are always; and on the pier there was a
clean cold wind that smelt a little of the sea, though it came down
the Firth, and the sunset had a certain ECLAT and warmth. Perhaps
if I could get more work done, I should be in a better trim to
enjoy filthy streets and people and cold grim weather; but I don't
much feel as if it was what I would have chosen. I am tempted
every day of my life to go off on another walking tour. I like
that better than anything else that I know. - Ever your faithful




MY DEAR COLVIN, - 1ST. I have sent 'Fontainebleau' long ago, long
ago. And Leslie Stephen is worse than tepid about it - liked 'some
parts' of it 'very well,' the son of Belial. Moreover, he proposes
to shorten it; and I, who want MONEY, and money soon, and not glory
and the illustration of the English language, I feel as if my
poverty were going to consent.

2ND. I'm as fit as a fiddle after my walk. I am four inches
bigger about the waist than last July! There, that's your prophecy
did that. I am on 'Charles of Orleans' now, but I don't know where
to send him. Stephen obviously spews me out of his mouth, and I
spew him out of mine, so help me! A man who doesn't like my
'Fontainebleau'! His head must be turned.

3RD. If ever you do come across my 'Spring' (I beg your pardon for
referring to it again, but I don't want you to forget) send it off
at once.

4TH. I went to Ayr, Maybole, Girvan, Ballantrae, Stranraer,
Glenluce, and Wigton. I shall make an article of it some day soon,
'A Winter's Walk in Carrick and Galloway.' I had a good time. -

R. L S.



HERE I am, here, and very well too. I am glad you liked 'Walking
Tours'; I like it, too; I think it's prose; and I own with
contrition that I have not always written prose. However, I am
'endeavouring after new obedience' (Scot. Shorter Catechism). You
don't say aught of 'Forest Notes,' which is kind. There is one, if
you will, that was too sweet to be wholesome.

I am at 'Charles d'Orleans.' About fifteen CORNHILL pages have
already coule'd from under my facile plume - no, I mean eleven,
fifteen of MS. - and we are not much more than half-way through,
'Charles' and I; but he's a pleasant companion. My health is very
well; I am in a fine exercisy state. Baynes is gone to London; if
you see him, inquire about my 'Burns.' They have sent me 5 pounds,
5s, for it, which has mollified me horrid. 5 pounds, 5s. is a good
deal to pay for a read of it in MS.; I can't complain. - Yours,

R. L. S.



. . . I HAVE the strangest repugnance for writing; indeed, I have
nearly got myself persuaded into the notion that letters don't
arrive, in order to salve my conscience for never sending them off.
I'm reading a great deal of fifteenth century: TRIAL OF JOAN OF
ARC, PASTON LETTERS, BASIN, etc., also BOSWELL daily by way of a
Bible; I mean to read BOSWELL now until the day I die. And now and
again a bit of PILGRIM'S PROGRESS. Is that all? Yes, I think
that's all. I have a thing in proof for the CORNHILL called
VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE. 'Charles of Orleans' is again laid aside,
but in a good state of furtherance this time. A paper called 'A
Defence of Idlers' (which is really a defence of R. L. S.) is in a
good way. So, you see, I am busy in a tumultuous, knotless sort of
fashion; and as I say, I take lots of exercise, and I'm as brown a

This is the first letter I've written for - O I don't know how

JULY 30TH. - This is, I suppose, three weeks after I began. Do,
please, forgive me.

To the Highlands, first, to the Jenkins', then to Antwerp; thence,
by canoe with Simpson, to Paris and Grez (on the Loing, and an old
acquaintance of mine on the skirts of Fontainebleau) to complete
our cruise next spring (if we're all alive and jolly) by Loing and
Loire, Saone and Rhone to the Mediterranean. It should make a
jolly book of gossip, I imagine.

God bless you.


P.S. - VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE is in August CORNHILL. 'Charles of
Orleans' is finished, and sent to Stephen; 'Idlers' ditto, and sent
to Grove; but I've no word of either. So I've not been idle.

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


MY DEAR HENLEY, - Here I am, you see; and if you will take to a
map, you will observe I am already more than two doors from
Antwerp, whence I started. I have fought it through under the
worst weather I ever saw in France; I have been wet through nearly
every day of travel since the second (inclusive); besides this, I
have had to fight against pretty mouldy health; so that, on the
whole, the essayist and reviewer has shown, I think, some pluck.
Four days ago I was not a hundred miles from being miserably
drowned, to the immense regret of a large circle of friends and the
permanent impoverishment of British Essayism and Reviewery. My
boat culbutted me under a fallen tree in a very rapid current; and
I was a good while before I got on to the outside of that fallen
tree; rather a better while than I cared about. When I got up, I
lay some time on my belly, panting, and exuded fluid. All my
symptoms JUSQU' ICI are trifling. But I've a damned sore throat. -
Yours ever,

R. L. S.



. . . A PERFECT chorus of repudiation is sounding in my ears; and
although you say nothing, I know you must be repudiating me, all
the same. Write I cannot - there's no good mincing matters, a
letter frightens me worse than the devil; and I am just as unfit
for correspondence as if I had never learned the three R.'s.

Let me give my news quickly before I relapse into my usual
idleness. I have a terror lest I should relapse before I get this
finished. Courage, R. L. S.! On Leslie Stephen's advice, I gave
up the idea of a book of essays. He said he didn't imagine I was
rich enough for such an amusement; and moreover, whatever was worth
publication was worth republication. So the best of those I had
ready: 'An Apology for Idlers' is in proof for the CORNHILL. I
have 'Villon' to do for the same magazine, but God knows when I'll
get it done, for drums, trumpets - I'm engaged upon - trumpets,
is a most absurd story of a lot of young Cambridge fellows who are
going to found a new society, with no ideas on the subject, and
nothing but Bohemian tastes in the place of ideas; and who are -
well, I can't explain about the trunk - it would take too long -
but the trunk is the fun of it - everybody steals it; burglary,
marine fight, life on desert island on west coast of Scotland,
sloops, etc. The first scene where they make their grand schemes
and get drunk is supposed to be very funny, by Henley. I really
saw him laugh over it until he cried.

Please write to me, although I deserve it so little, and show a
Christian spirit. - Ever your faithful friend,




MY DEAR COLVIN, - I'm to be whipped away to-morrow to Penzance,
where at the post-office a letter will find me glad and grateful.
I am well, but somewhat tired out with overwork. I have only been
home a fortnight this morning, and I have already written to the
tune of forty-five CORNHILL pages and upwards. The most of it was
only very laborious re-casting and re-modelling, it is true; but it
took it out of me famously, all the same.

TEMPLE BAR appears to like my 'Villon,' so I may count on another
market there in the future, I hope. At least, I am going to put it
to the proof at once, and send another story, 'The Sire de
Maletroit's Mousetrap': a true novel, in the old sense; all
unities preserved moreover, if that's anything, and I believe with
some little merits; not so CLEVER perhaps as the last, but sounder
and more natural.

My 'Villon' is out this month; I should so much like to know what
you think of it. Stephen has written to me apropos of 'Idlers,'
that something more in that vein would be agreeable to his views.
From Stephen I count that a devil of a lot.

I am honestly so tired this morning that I hope you will take this
for what it's worth and give me an answer in peace. - Ever yours,




. . . YOU will do well to stick to your burn, that is a delightful
life you sketch, and a very fountain of health. I wish I could
live like that but, alas! it is just as well I got my 'Idlers'
written and done with, for I have quite lost all power of resting.
I have a goad in my flesh continually, pushing me to work, work,
work. I have an essay pretty well through for Stephen; a story,
'The Sire de Maletroit's Mousetrap,' with which I shall try TEMPLE
BAR; another story, in the clouds, 'The Stepfather's Story,' most
pathetic work of a high morality or immorality, according to point
of view; and lastly, also in the clouds, or perhaps a little
farther away, an essay on the 'Two St. Michael's Mounts,'
historical and picturesque; perhaps if it didn't come too long, I
might throw in the 'Bass Rock,' and call it 'Three Sea Fortalices,'
or something of that kind. You see how work keeps bubbling in my
mind. Then I shall do another fifteenth century paper this autumn
- La Sale and PETIT JEHAN DE SAINTRE, which is a kind of fifteenth
century SANDFORD AND MERTON, ending in horrid immoral cynicism, as
if the author had got tired of being didactic, and just had a good
wallow in the mire to wind up with and indemnify himself for so
much restraint.

Cornwall is not much to my taste, being as bleak as the bleakest
parts of Scotland, and nothing like so pointed and characteristic.
It has a flavour of its own, though, which I may try and catch, if
I find the space, in the proposed article. 'Will o' the Mill' I
sent, red hot, to Stephen in a fit of haste, and have not yet had
an answer. I am quite prepared for a refusal. But I begin to have
more hope in the story line, and that should improve my income
anyway. I am glad you liked 'Villon'; some of it was not as good
as it ought to be, but on the whole it seems pretty vivid, and the
features strongly marked. Vividness and not style is now my line;
style is all very well, but vividness is the real line of country;
if a thing is meant to be read, it seems just as well to try and
make it readable. I am such a dull person I cannot keep off my own
immortal works. Indeed, they are scarcely ever out of my head.
And yet I value them less and less every day. But occupation is
the great thing; so that a man should have his life in his own
pocket, and never be thrown out of work by anything. I am glad to
hear you are better. I must stop - going to Land's End. - Always
your faithful friend,




DEAR SIR, - It would not be very easy for me to give you any idea
of the pleasure I found in your present. People who write for the
magazines (probably from a guilty conscience) are apt to suppose
their works practically unpublished. It seems unlikely that any
one would take the trouble to read a little paper buried among so
many others; and reading it, read it with any attention or
pleasure. And so, I can assure you, your little book, coming from
so far, gave me all the pleasure and encouragement in the world.

I suppose you know and remember Charles Lamb's essay on distant
correspondents? Well, I was somewhat of his way of thinking about
my mild productions. I did not indeed imagine they were read, and
(I suppose I may say) enjoyed right round upon the other side of
the big Football we have the honour to inhabit. And as your
present was the first sign to the contrary, I feel I have been very
ungrateful in not writing earlier to acknowledge the receipt. I
dare say, however, you hate writing letters as much as I can do
myself (for if you like my article, I may presume other points of
sympathy between us); and on this hypothesis you will be ready to
forgive me the delay.

I may mention with regard to the piece of verses called 'Such is
Life,' that I am not the only one on this side of the Football
aforesaid to think it a good and bright piece of work, and
recognised a link of sympathy with the poets who 'play in
hostelries at euchre.' - Believe me, dear sir, yours truly,

R. L S.



MY DEAR SIR, - I am afraid you must already have condemned me for a
very idle fellow truly. Here it is more than two months since I
received your letter; I had no fewer than three journals to
acknowledge; and never a sign upon my part. If you have seen a
CORNHILL paper of mine upon idling, you will be inclined to set it
all down to that. But you will not be doing me justice. Indeed, I
have had a summer so troubled that I have had little leisure and
still less inclination to write letters. I was keeping the devil
at bay with all my disposable activities; and more than once I
thought he had me by the throat. The odd conditions of our
acquaintance enable me to say more to you than I would to a person
who lived at my elbow. And besides, I am too much pleased and
flattered at our correspondence not to go as far as I can to set
myself right in your eyes.

In this damnable confusion (I beg pardon) I have lost all my
possessions, or near about, and quite lost all my wits. I wish I
could lay my hands on the numbers of the REVIEW, for I know I
wished to say something on that head more particularly than I can
from memory; but where they have escaped to, only time or chance
can show. However, I can tell you so far, that I was very much
pleased with the article on Bret Harte; it seemed to me just,
clear, and to the point. I agreed pretty well with all you said
about George Eliot: a high, but, may we not add? - a rather dry
lady. Did you - I forget - did you have a kick at the stern works
of that melancholy puppy and humbug Daniel Deronda himself? - the
Prince of prigs; the literary abomination of desolation in the way
of manhood; a type which is enough to make a man forswear the love
of women, if that is how it must be gained. . . . Hats off all the
same, you understand: a woman of genius.

Of your poems I have myself a kindness for 'Noll and Nell,'
although I don't think you have made it as good as you ought:
verse five is surely not QUITE MELODIOUS. I confess I like the
Sonnet in the last number of the REVIEW - the Sonnet to England.

Please, if you have not, and I don't suppose you have, already read
it, institute a search in all Melbourne for one of the rarest and
certainly one of the best of books - CLARISSA HARLOWE. For any man
who takes an interest in the problems of the two sexes, that book
is a perfect mine of documents. And it is written, sir, with the
pen of an angel. Miss Howe and Lovelace, words cannot tell how
good they are! And the scene where Clarissa beards her family,
with her fan going all the while; and some of the quarrel scenes
between her and Lovelace; and the scene where Colonel Marden goes
to Mr. Hall, with Lord M. trying to compose matters, and the
Colonel with his eternal 'finest woman in the world,' and the
inimitable affirmation of Mowbray - nothing, nothing could be
better! You will bless me when you read it for this
recommendation; but, indeed, I can do nothing but recommend
Clarissa. I am like that Frenchman of the eighteenth century who
discovered Habakkuk, and would give no one peace about that
respectable Hebrew. For my part, I never was able to get over his
eminently respectable name; Isaiah is the boy, if you must have a
prophet, no less. About Clarissa, I meditate a choice work: A
clever that no array of terms can give you any idea; and very
likely that particular array in which I shall finally embody it,
less than any other.

Do you know, my dear sir, what I like best in your letter? The
egotism for which you thought necessary to apologise. I am a rogue
at egotism myself; and to be plain, I have rarely or never liked
any man who was not. The first step to discovering the beauties of
God's universe is usually a (perhaps partial) apprehension of such
of them as adorn our own characters. When I see a man who does not
think pretty well of himself, I always suspect him of being in the
right. And besides, if he does not like himself, whom he has seen,
how is he ever to like one whom he never can see but in dim and
artificial presentments?

I cordially reciprocate your offer of a welcome; it shall be at
least a warm one. Are you not my first, my only, admirer - a dear
tie? Besides, you are a man of sense, and you treat me as one by
writing to me as you do, and that gives me pleasure also. Please
continue to let me see your work. I have one or two things coming
out in the CORNHILL: a story called 'The Sire de Maletroit's Door'
in TEMPLE BAR; and a series of articles on Edinburgh in the
PORTFOLIO; but I don't know if these last fly all the way to
Melbourne. - Yours very truly,




MY DEAR COLVIN, - I am at the INLAND VOYAGE again: have finished
another section, and have only two more to execute. But one at
least of these will be very long - the longest in the book - being
a great digression on French artistic tramps. I only hope Paul may
take the thing; I want coin so badly, and besides it would be
something done - something put outside of me and off my conscience;
and I should not feel such a muff as I do, if once I saw the thing
in boards with a ticket on its back. I think I shall frequent
circulating libraries a good deal. The Preface shall stand over,
as you suggest, until the last, and then, sir, we shall see. This
to be read with a big voice.

This is New Year's Day: let me, my dear Colvin, wish you a very
good year, free of all misunderstanding and bereavement, and full
of good weather and good work. You know best what you have done
for me, and so you will know best how heartily I mean this. - Ever




MY DEAR COLVIN, - Many thanks for your letter. I was much
interested by all the Edinburgh gossip. Most likely I shall arrive
in London next week. I think you know all about the Crane sketch;
but it should be a river, not a canal, you know, and the look
should be 'cruel, lewd, and kindly,' all at once. There is more
sense in that Greek myth of Pan than in any other that I recollect
except the luminous Hebrew one of the Fall: one of the biggest
things done. If people would remember that all religions are no
more than representations of life, they would find them, as they
are, the best representations, licking Shakespeare.

What an inconceivable cheese is Alfred de Musset! His comedies
are, to my view, the best work of France this century: a large
order. Did you ever read them? They are real, clear, living work.
- Ever yours,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR PEOPLE, - Do you know who is my favourite author just now?
How are the mighty fallen! Anthony Trollope. I batten on him; he
is so nearly wearying you, and yet he never does; or rather, he
never does, until he gets near the end, when he begins to wean you
from him, so that you're as pleased to be done with him as you
thought you would be sorry. I wonder if it's old age? It is a
little, I am sure. A young person would get sickened by the dead
level of meanness and cowardliness; you require to be a little
spoiled and cynical before you can enjoy it. I have just finished
the WAY OF THE WORLD; there is only one person in it - no, there
are three - who are nice: the wild American woman, and two of the
dissipated young men, Dolly and Lord Nidderdale. All the heroes
and heroines are just ghastly. But what a triumph is Lady Carbury!
That is real, sound, strong, genuine work: the man who could do
that, if he had had courage, might have written a fine book; he has
preferred to write many readable ones. I meant to write such a
long, nice letter, but I cannot hold the pen.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MOTHER, - About criticisms, I was more surprised at the
tone of the critics than I suppose any one else. And the effect it
has produced in me is one of shame. If they liked that so much, I
ought to have given them something better, that's all. And I shall
try to do so. Still, it strikes me as odd; and I don't understand
the vogue. It should sell the thing. - Ever your affectionate son,




MY DEAR MOTHER, - You must not expect to hear much from me for the
next two weeks; for I am near starting. Donkey purchased - a love
- price, 65 francs and a glass of brandy. My route is all pretty
well laid out; I shall go near no town till I get to Alais.
Remember, Poste Restante, Alais, Gard. Greyfriars will be in
October. You did not say whether you liked September; you might
tell me that at Alais. The other No.'s of Edinburgh are:
Parliament Close, Villa Quarters (which perhaps may not appear),
Calton Hill, Winter and New Year, and to the Pentland Hills. 'Tis
a kind of book nobody would ever care to read; but none of the
young men could have done it better than I have, which is always a
consolation. I read INLAND VOYAGE the other day: what rubbish
these reviewers did talk! It is not badly written, thin, mildly
cheery, and strained. SELON MOI. I mean to visit Hamerton on my
return journey; otherwise, I should come by sea from Marseilles. I
am very well known here now; indeed, quite a feature of the place.
- Your affectionate son,

R. L. S.

The Engineer is the Conductor of Roads and Bridges; then I have the
Receiver of Registrations, the First Clerk of Excise, and the
Perceiver of the Impost. That is our dinner party. I am a sort of
hovering government official, as you see. But away - away from
these great companions!

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR HENLEY, - I hope to leave Monastier this day (Saturday) week;
thenceforward Poste Restante, Alais, Gard, is my address. 'Travels
with a Donkey in the French Highlands.' I am no good to-day. I
cannot work, nor even write letters. A colossal breakfast
yesterday at Puy has, I think, done for me for ever; I certainly
ate more than ever I ate before in my life - a big slice of melon,
some ham and jelly, A FILET, a helping of gudgeons, the breast and
leg of a partridge, some green peas, eight crayfish, some Mont d'Or
cheese, a peach, and a handful of biscuits, macaroons, and things.
It sounds Gargantuan; it cost three francs a head. So that it was
inexpensive to the pocket, although I fear it may prove extravagant
to the fleshly tabernacle. I can't think how I did it or why. It
is a new form of excess for me; but I think it pays less than any
of them.

R. L. S.



Lud knows about date, VIDE postmark.

MY DEAR CHARLES, - Yours (with enclosures) of the 16th to hand.
All work done. I go to Le Puy to-morrow to dispatch baggage, get
cash, stand lunch to engineer, who has been very jolly and useful
to me, and hope by five o'clock on Saturday morning to be driving
Modestine towards the Gevaudan. Modestine is my anesse; a darling,
mouse-colour, about the size of a Newfoundland dog (bigger, between
you and me), the colour of a mouse, costing 65 francs and a glass
of brandy. Glad you sent on all the coin; was half afraid I might
come to a stick in the mountains, donkey and all, which would have
been the devil. Have finished ARABIAN NIGHTS and Edinburgh book,
and am a free man. Next address, Poste Restante, Alais, Gard.
Give my servilities to the family. Health bad; spirits, I think,
looking up. - Ever yours,

R. L S.



MY DEAR MOTHER, - I have seen Hamerton; he was very kind, all his
family seemed pleased to see an INLAND VOYAGE, and the book seemed
to be quite a household word with them. P. G. himself promised to
help me in my bargains with publishers, which, said he, and I doubt
not very truthfully, he could manage to much greater advantage than
I. He is also to read an INLAND VOYAGE over again, and send me his
cuts and cuffs in private, after having liberally administered his
kisses CORAM PUBLICO. I liked him very much. Of all the pleasant
parts of my profession, I think the spirit of other men of letters
makes the pleasantest.

Do you know, your sunset was very good? The 'attack' (to speak
learnedly) was so plucky and odd. I have thought of it repeatedly
since. I have just made a delightful dinner by myself in the Cafe
Felix, where I am an old established beggar, and am just smoking a
cigar over my coffee. I came last night from Autun, and I am
muddled about my plans. The world is such a dance! - Ever your
affectionate son,


Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


MY DEAR HENLEY, - Here I am living like a fighting-cock, and have
not spoken to a real person for about sixty hours. Those who wait
on me are not real. The man I know to be a myth, because I have
seen him acting so often in the Palais Royal. He plays the Duke in
TRICOCHE ET CACOLET; I knew his nose at once. The part he plays
here is very dull for him, but conscientious. As for the bedmaker,
she's a dream, a kind of cheerful, innocent nightmare; I never saw
so poor an imitation of humanity. I cannot work - CANNOT. Even
the GUITAR is still undone; I can only write ditch-water. 'Tis
ghastly; but I am quite cheerful, and that is more important. Do
you think you could prepare the printers for a possible breakdown
this week? I shall try all I know on Monday; but if I can get
nothing better than I got this morning, I prefer to drop a week.
Telegraph to me if you think it necessary. I shall not leave till
Wednesday at soonest. Shall write again.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR GOSSE, - Herewith of the dibbs - a homely fiver. How, and
why, do you continue to exist? I do so ill, but for a variety of
reasons. First, I wait an angel to come down and trouble the
waters; second, more angels; third - well, more angels. The waters
are sluggish; the angels - well, the angels won't come, that's
about all. But I sit waiting and waiting, and people bring me
meals, which help to pass time (I'm sure it's very kind of them),
and sometimes I whistle to myself; and as there's a very pretty
echo at my pool of Siloam, the thing's agreeable to hear. The sun
continues to rise every day, to my growing wonder. 'The moon by
night thee shall not smite.' And the stars are all doing as well
as can be expected. The air of Arcady is very brisk and pure, and
we command many enchanting prospects in space and time. I do not
yet know much about my situation; for, to tell the truth, I only
came here by the run since I began to write this letter; I had to
go back to date it; and I am grateful to you for having been the
occasion of this little outing. What good travellers we are, if we
had only faith; no man need stay in Edinburgh but by unbelief; my
religious organ has been ailing for a while past, and I have lain a
great deal in Edinburgh, a sheer hulk in consequence. But I got
out my wings, and have taken a change of air.

I read your book with great interest, and ought long ago to have
told you so. An ordinary man would say that he had been waiting
till he could pay his debts. . . . The book is good reading. Your
personal notes of those you saw struck me as perhaps most sharp and
'best held.' See as many people as you can, and make a book of
them before you die. That will be a living book, upon my word.
You have the touch required. I ask you to put hands to it in
private already. Think of what Carlyle's caricature of old
Coleridge is to us who never saw S. T. C. With that and Kubla
Khan, we have the man in the fact. Carlyle's picture, of course,
is not of the author of KUBLA, but of the author of that surprising
FRIEND which has knocked the breath out of two generations of
hopeful youth. Your portraits would be milder, sweeter, more true
perhaps, and perhaps not so truth-TELLING - if you will take my

I have to thank you for an introduction to that beautiful - no,
that's not the word - that jolly, with an Arcadian jollity - thing
of Vogelweide's. Also for your preface. Some day I want to read a
whole book in the same picked dialect as that preface. I think it
must be one E. W. Gosse who must write it. He has got himself into
a fix with me by writing the preface; I look for a great deal, and
will not be easily pleased.

I never thought of it, but my new book, which should soon be out,
contains a visit to a murder scene, but not done as we should like
to see them, for, of course, I was running another hare.

If you do not answer this in four pages, I shall stop the enclosed
fiver at the bank, a step which will lead to your incarceration for
life. As my visits to Arcady are somewhat uncertain, you had
better address 17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, as usual. I shall walk
over for the note if I am not yet home. - Believe me, very really


I charge extra for a flourish when it is successful; this isn't, so
you have it gratis. Is there any news in Babylon the Great? My
fellow-creatures are electing school boards here in the midst of
the ages. It is very composed of them. I can't think why they do
it. Nor why I have written a real letter. If you write a real
letter back, damme, I'll try to CORRESPOND with you. A thing
unknown in this age. It is a consequence of the decay of faith; we
cannot believe that the fellow will be at the pains to read us.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


MY DEAR HENLEY, - Heavens! have I done the like? 'Clarify and
strain,' indeed? 'Make it like Marvell,' no less. I'll tell you
what - you may go to the devil; that's what I think. 'Be eloquent'
is another of your pregnant suggestions. I cannot sufficiently
thank you for that one. Portrait of a person about to be eloquent
at the request of a literary friend. You seem to forget sir, that
rhyme is rhyme, sir, and - go to the devil.

I'll try to improve it, but I shan't be able to - O go to the

Seriously, you're a cool hand. And then you have the brass to ask
me WHY 'my steps went one by one'? Why? Powers of man! to rhyme
with sun, to be sure. Why else could it be? And you yourself have
been a poet! G-r-r-r-r-r! I'll never be a poet any more. Men are
so d-d ungrateful and captious, I declare I could weep.

O Henley, in my hours of ease
You may say anything you please,
But when I join the Muse's revel,
Begad, I wish you at the devil!
In vain my verse I plane and bevel,
Like Banville's rhyming devotees;
In vain by many an artful swivel
Lug in my meaning by degrees;
I'm sure to hear my Henley cavil;
And grovelling prostrate on my knees,
Devote his body to the seas,
His correspondence to the devil!

Impromptu poem.

I'm going to Shandon Hydropathic CUM PARENTIBUS. Write here. I
heard from Lang. Ferrier prayeth to be remembered; he means to
write, likes his Tourgenieff greatly. Also likes my 'What was on
the Slate,' which, under a new title, yet unfound, and with a new
and, on the whole, kindly DENOUEMENT, is going to shoot up and
become a star. . . .

I see I must write some more to you about my Monastery. I am a
weak brother in verse. You ask me to re-write things that I have
already managed just to write with the skin of my teeth. If I
don't re-write them, it's because I don't see how to write them
better, not because I don't think they should be. But, curiously
enough, you condemn two of my favourite passages, one of which is
J. W. Ferrier's favourite of the whole. Here I shall think it's
you who are wrong. You see, I did not try to make good verse, but
to say what I wanted as well as verse would let me. I don't like
the rhyme 'ear' and 'hear.' But the couplet, 'My undissuaded heart
I hear Whisper courage in my ear,' is exactly what I want for the
thought, and to me seems very energetic as speech, if not as verse.

Book of the day: