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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

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difficult artistic purpose; and then, from time to time, drawing
oneself up and trying, in a superior effort, to combine the
facilities thus acquired or improved. Thus one progresses. But,
mind, it is very likely that the big effort, instead of being the
masterpiece, may be the blotted copy, the gymnastic exercise. This
no man can tell; only the brutal and licentious public, snouting in
Mudie's wash-trough, can return a dubious answer.

I am to-day, thanks to a pure heaven and a beneficent, loud-
talking, antiseptic mistral, on the high places as to health and
spirits. Money holds out wonderfully. Fanny has gone for a drive
to certain meadows which are now one sheet of jonquils: sea-bound
meadows, the thought of which may freshen you in Bloomsbury. 'Ye
have been fresh and fair, Ye have been filled with flowers' - I
fear I misquote. Why do people babble? Surely Herrick, in his
true vein, is superior to Martial himself, though Martial is a very
pretty poet.

Did you ever read St. Augustine? The first chapters of the
CONFESSIONS are marked by a commanding genius. Shakespearian in
depth. I was struck dumb, but, alas! when you begin to wander into
controversy, the poet drops out. His description of infancy is
most seizing. And how is this: 'Sed majorum nugae negotia
vocantur; puerorum autem talia cum sint puniuntur a majoribus.'
Which is quite after the heart of R. L. S. See also his splendid
passage about the 'luminosus limes amicitiae' and the 'nebulae de
limosa concupiscentia carnis'; going on 'UTRUMQUE in confuso
aestuabat et rapiebat imbecillam aetatem per abrupta cupiditatum.'
That 'Utrumque' is a real contribution to life's science. Lust
ALONE is but a pigmy; but it never, or rarely, attacks us single-

Do you ever read (to go miles off, indeed) the incredible Barbey
d'Aurevilly? A psychological Poe - to be for a moment Henley. I
own with pleasure I prefer him with all his folly, rot, sentiment,
and mixed metaphors, to the whole modern school in France. It
makes me laugh when it's nonsense; and when he gets an effect
(though it's still nonsense and mere Poery, not poesy) it wakens
me. CE QUI NE MEURT PAS nearly killed me with laughing, and left
me - well, it left me very nearly admiring the old ass. At least,
it's the kind of thing one feels one couldn't do. The dreadful
moonlight, when they all three sit silent in the room - by George,
sir, it's imagined - and the brief scene between the husband and
wife is all there. QUANT AU FOND, the whole thing, of course, is a
fever dream, and worthy of eternal laughter. Had the young man
broken stones, and the two women been hard-working honest
prostitutes, there had been an end of the whole immoral and
baseless business: you could at least have respected them in that

I also read PETRONIUS ARBITER, which is a rum work, not so immoral
as most modern works, but singularly silly. I tackled some Tacitus
too. I got them with a dreadful French crib on the same page with
the text, which helps me along and drives me mad. The French do
not even try to translate. They try to be much more classical than
the classics, with astounding results of barrenness and tedium.
Tacitus, I fear, was too solid for me. I liked the war part; but
the dreary intriguing at Rome was too much.

R. L. S.

Letter: TO MR. DICK


MY DEAR MR. DICK, - I have been a great while owing you a letter;
but I am not without excuses, as you have heard. I overworked to
get a piece of work finished before I had my holiday, thinking to
enjoy it more; and instead of that, the machinery near hand came
sundry in my hands! like Murdie's uniform. However, I am now, I
think, in a fair way of recovery; I think I was made, what there is
of me, of whipcord and thorn-switches; surely I am tough! But I
fancy I shall not overdrive again, or not so long. It is my theory
that work is highly beneficial, but that it should, if possible,
and certainly for such partially broken-down instruments as the
thing I call my body, be taken in batches, with a clear break and
breathing space between. I always do vary my work, laying one
thing aside to take up another, not merely because I believe it
rests the brain, but because I have found it most beneficial to the
result. Reading, Bacon says, makes a full man, but what makes me
full on any subject is to banish it for a time from all my
thoughts. However, what I now propose is, out of every quarter, to
work two months' and rest the third. I believe I shall get more
done, as I generally manage, on my present scheme, to have four
months' impotent illness and two of imperfect health - one before,
one after, I break down. This, at least, is not an economical
division of the year.

I re-read the other day that heartbreaking book, the LIFE OF SCOTT.
One should read such works now and then, but O, not often. As I
live, I feel more and more that literature should be cheerful and
brave-spirited, even if it cannot be made beautiful and pious and
heroic. We wish it to be a green place; the WAVERLEY NOVELS are
better to re-read than the over-true life, fine as dear Sir Walter
was. The Bible, in most parts, is a cheerful book; it is our
little piping theologies, tracts, and sermons that are dull and
dowie; and even the Shorter Catechism, which is scarcely a work of
consolation, opens with the best and shortest and completest sermon
ever written - upon Man's chief end. - Believe me, my dear Mr.
Dick, very sincerely yours,


P.S. - You see I have changed my hand. I was threatened apparently
with scrivener's cramp, and at any rate had got to write so small,
that the revisal of my MS. tried my eyes, hence my signature alone
remains upon the old model; for it appears that if I changed that,
I should be cut off from my 'vivers.'

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MONKHOUSE, - You see with what promptitude I plunge into
correspondence; but the truth is, I am condemned to a complete
inaction, stagnate dismally, and love a letter. Yours, which would
have been welcome at any time, was thus doubly precious.

Dover sounds somewhat shiveringly in my ears. You should see the
weather I have - cloudless, clear as crystal, with just a punkah-
draft of the most aromatic air, all pine and gum tree. You would
be ashamed of Dover; you would scruple to refer, sir, to a spot so
paltry. To be idle at Dover is a strange pretension; pray, how do
you warm yourself? If I were there I should grind knives or write
blank verse, or - But at least you do not bathe? It is idle to
deny it: I have - I may say I nourish - a growing jealousy of the
robust, large-legged, healthy Britain-dwellers, patient of grog,
scorners of the timid umbrella, innocuously breathing fog: all
which I once was, and I am ashamed to say liked it. How ignorant
is youth! grossly rolling among unselected pleasures; and how
nobler, purer, sweeter, and lighter, to sip the choice tonic, to
recline in the luxurious invalid chair, and to tread, well-shawled,
the little round of the constitutional. Seriously, do you like to
repose? Ye gods, I hate it. I never rest with any acceptation; I
do not know what people mean who say they like sleep and that
damned bedtime which, since long ere I was breeched, has rung a
knell to all my day's doings and beings. And when a man, seemingly
sane, tells me he has 'fallen in love with stagnation,' I can only
say to him, 'You will never be a Pirate!' This may not cause any
regret to Mrs. Monkhouse; but in your own soul it will clang hollow
- think of it! Never! After all boyhood's aspirations and youth's
immoral day-dreams, you are condemned to sit down, grossly draw in
your chair to the fat board, and be a beastly Burgess till you die.
Can it be? Is there not some escape, some furlough from the Moral
Law, some holiday jaunt contrivable into a Better Land? Shall we
never shed blood? This prospect is too grey.

'Here lies a man who never did
Anything but what he was bid;
Who lived his life in paltry ease,
And died of commonplace disease.'

To confess plainly, I had intended to spend my life (or any leisure
I might have from Piracy upon the high seas) as the leader of a
great horde of irregular cavalry, devastating whole valleys. I can
still, looking back, see myself in many favourite attitudes;
signalling for a boat from my pirate ship with a pocket-
handkerchief, I at the jetty end, and one or two of my bold blades
keeping the crowd at bay; or else turning in the saddle to look
back at my whole command (some five thousand strong) following me
at the hand-gallop up the road out of the burning valley: this
last by moonlight.

ET POINT DU TOUT. I am a poor scribe, and have scarce broken a
commandment to mention, and have recently dined upon cold veal! As
for you (who probably had some ambitions), I hear of you living at
Dover, in lodgings, like the beasts of the field. But in heaven,
when we get there, we shall have a good time, and see some real
carnage. For heaven is - must be - that great Kingdom of
Antinomia, which Lamb saw dimly adumbrated in the COUNTRY WIFE,
where the worm which never dies (the conscience) peacefully
expires, and the sinner lies down beside the Ten Commandments.
Till then, here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowling, with neither
health nor vice for anything more spirited than procrastination,
which I may well call the Consolation Stakes of Wickedness; and by
whose diligent practice, without the least amusement to ourselves,
we can rob the orphan and bring down grey hairs with sorrow to the

This astonishing gush of nonsense I now hasten to close, envelope,
and expedite to Shakespeare's Cliff. Remember me to Shakespeare,
and believe me, yours very sincerely,




MY DEAR GOSSE, - Your office - office is profanely said - your
bower upon the leads is divine. Have you, like Pepys, 'the right
to fiddle' there? I see you mount the companion, barbiton in hand,
and, fluttered about by city sparrows, pour forth your spirit in a
voluntary. Now when the spring begins, you must lay in your
flowers: how do you say about a potted hawthorn? Would it bloom?
Wallflower is a choice pot-herb; lily-of-the-valley, too, and
carnation, and Indian cress trailed about the window, is not only
beautiful by colour, but the leaves are good to eat. I recommend
thyme and rosemary for the aroma, which should not be left upon one
side; they are good quiet growths.

On one of your tables keep a great map spread out; a chart is still
better - it takes one further - the havens with their little
anchors, the rocks, banks, and soundings, are adorably marine; and
such furniture will suit your ship-shape habitation. I wish I
could see those cabins; they smile upon me with the most intimate
charm. From your leads, do you behold St. Paul's? I always like
to see the Foolscap; it is London PER SE and no spot from which it
is visible is without romance. Then it is good company for the man
of letters, whose veritable nursing Pater-Noster is so near at

I am all at a standstill; as idle as a painted ship, but not so
pretty. My romance, which has so nearly butchered me in the
writing, not even finished; though so near, thank God, that a few
days of tolerable strength will see the roof upon that structure.
I have worked very hard at it, and so do not expect any great
THINGS THAT PEOPLE LIKE. There is the golden maxim; thus one
should strain and then play, strain again and play again. The
strain is for us, it educates; the play is for the reader, and
pleases. Do you not feel so? We are ever threatened by two
contrary faults: both deadly. To sink into what my forefathers
would have called 'rank conformity,' and to pour forth cheap
replicas, upon the one hand; upon the other, and still more
insidiously present, to forget that art is a diversion and a
decoration, that no triumph or effort is of value, nor anything
worth reaching except charm. - Yours affectionately,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MISS FERRIER, - Are you really going to fall us? This
seems a dreadful thing. My poor wife, who is not well off for
friends on this bare coast, has been promising herself, and I have
been promising her, a rare acquisition. And now Miss Burn has
failed, and you utter a very doubtful note. You do not know how
delightful this place is, nor how anxious we are for a visit. Look
at the names: 'The Solitude' - is that romantic? The palm-trees?
- how is that for the gorgeous East? 'Var'? the name of a river -
'the quiet waters by'! 'Tis true, they are in another department,
and consist of stones and a biennial spate; but what a music, what
a plash of brooks, for the imagination! We have hills; we have
skies; the roses are putting forth, as yet sparsely; the meadows by
the sea are one sheet of jonquils; the birds sing as in an English
May - for, considering we are in France and serve up our song-
birds, I am ashamed to say, on a little field of toast and with a
sprig of thyme (my own receipt) in their most innocent and now
unvocal bellies - considering all this, we have a wonderfully fair
wood-music round this Solitude of ours. What can I say more? - All
this awaits you. KENNST DU DAS LAND, in short. - Your sincere


Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - The blind man in these sprawled lines sends
greeting. I have been ill, as perhaps the papers told you. The
news - 'great news - glorious news - sec-ond ed-ition!' - went the
round in England.

Anyway, I now thank you for your pictures, which, particularly the
Arcadian one, we all (Bob included, he was here sick-nursing me)
much liked.

Herewith are a set of verses which I thought pretty enough to send
to press. Then I thought of the MANHATTAN, towards whom I have
guilty and compunctious feelings. Last, I had the best thought of
all - to send them to you in case you might think them suitable for
illustration. It seemed to me quite in your vein. If so, good; if
not, hand them on to MANHATTAN, CENTURY, or LIPPINCOTT, at your
pleasure, as all three desire my work or pretend to. But I trust
the lines will not go unattended. Some riverside will haunt you;
and O! be tender to my bathing girls. The lines are copied in my
wife's hand, as I cannot see to write otherwise than with the pen
of Cormoran, Gargantua, or Nimrod. Love to your wife. - Yours

R. L. S.

Copied it myself.



MY DEAR FATHER, - Yesterday I very powerfully stated the HERESIS
STEVENSONIANA, or the complete body of divinity of the family
theologian, to Miss Ferrier. She was much impressed; so was I.
You are a great heresiarch; and I know no better. Whaur the devil
did ye get thon about the soap? Is it altogether your own? I
never heard it elsewhere; and yet I suspect it must have been held
at some time or other, and if you were to look up you would
probably find yourself condemned by some Council.

I am glad to hear you are so well. The hear is excellent. The
CORNHILLS came; I made Miss Ferrier read us 'Thrawn Janet,' and was
quite bowled over by my own works. The 'Merry Men' I mean to make
much longer, with a whole new denouement, not yet quite clear to
me. 'The Story of a Lie,' I must rewrite entirely also, as it is
too weak and ragged, yet is worth saving for the Admiral. Did I
ever tell you that the Admiral was recognised in America?

When they are all on their legs this will make an excellent

Has Davie never read GUY MANNERING, ROB ROY, or THE ANTIQUARY? All
of which are worth three WAVERLEYS. I think KENILWORTH better than
WAVERLEY; NIGEL, too; and QUENTIN DURWARD about as good. But it
shows a true piece of insight to prefer WAVERLEY, for it IS
different; and though not quite coherent, better worked in parts
than almost any other: surely more carefully. It is undeniable
that the love of the slap-dash and the shoddy grew upon Scott with
success. Perhaps it does on many of us, which may be the granite
on which D.'s opinion stands. However, I hold it, in Patrick
Walker's phrase, for an 'old, condemned, damnable error.' Dr.
Simson was condemned by P. W. as being 'a bagful of' such. One of
Patrick's amenities!

Another ground there may be to D.'s opinion; those who avoid (or
seek to avoid) Scott's facility are apt to be continually straining
and torturing their style to get in more of life. And to many the
extra significance does not redeem the strain.




DEAR MONKHOUSE, - If you are in love with repose, here is your
occasion: change with me. I am too blind to read, hence no
reading; I am too weak to walk, hence no walking; I am not allowed
to speak, hence no talking; but the great simplification has yet to
be named; for, if this goes on, I shall soon have nothing to eat -
and hence, O Hallelujah! hence no eating. The offer is a fair one:
I have not sold myself to the devil, for I could never find him. I
am married, but so are you. I sometimes write verses, but so do
you. Come! HIC QUIES! As for the commandments, I have broken
them so small that they are the dust of my chambers; you walk upon
them, triturate and toothless; and with the Golosh of Philosophy,
they shall not bite your heel. True, the tenement is falling. Ay,
friend, but yours also. Take a larger view; what is a year or two?
dust in the balance! 'Tis done, behold you Cosmo Stevenson, and me
R. L. Monkhouse; you at Hyeres, I in London; you rejoicing in the
clammiest repose, me proceeding to tear your tabernacle into rags,
as I have already so admirably torn my own.

My place to which I now introduce you - it is yours - is like a
London house, high and very narrow; upon the lungs I will not
linger; the heart is large enough for a ballroom; the belly greedy
and inefficient; the brain stocked with the most damnable
explosives, like a dynamiter's den. The whole place is well
furnished, though not in a very pure taste; Corinthian much of it;
showy and not strong.

About your place I shall try to find my way alone, an interesting
exploration. Imagine me, as I go to bed, falling over a blood-
stained remorse; opening that cupboard in the cerebellum and being
welcomed by the spirit of your murdered uncle. I should probably
not like your remorses; I wonder if you will like mine; I have a
spirited assortment; they whistle in my ear o' nights like a north-
easter. I trust yours don't dine with the family; mine are better
mannered; you will hear nought of them till, 2 A.M., except one, to
be sure, that I have made a pet of, but he is small; I keep him in
buttons, so as to avoid commentaries; you will like him much - if
you like what is genuine.

Must we likewise change religions? Mine is a good article, with a
trick of stopping; cathedral bell note; ornamental dial; supported
by Venus and the Graces; quite a summer-parlour piety. Of yours,
since your last, I fear there is little to be said.

There is one article I wish to take away with me: my spirits.
They suit me. I don't want yours; I like my own; I have had them a
long while in bottle. It is my only reservation. - Yours (as you


Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR BOY, - OLD MORTALITY is out, and I am glad to say Coggie likes
it. We like her immensely.

I keep better, but no great shakes yet; cannot work - cannot: that
is flat, not even verses: as for prose, that more active place is
shut on me long since.

My view of life is essentially the comic; and the romantically
comic. AS YOU LIKE IT is to me the most bird-haunted spot in
letters; TEMPEST and TWELFTH NIGHT follow. These are what I mean
by poetry and nature. I make an effort of my mind to be quite one
with Moliere, except upon the stage, where his inimitable JEUX DE
SCENE beggar belief; but you will observe they are stage-plays -
things AD HOC; not great Olympian debauches of the heart and fancy;
hence more perfect, and not so great. Then I come, after great
wanderings, to Carmosine and to Fantasio; to one part of La
Derniere Aldini (which, by the by, we might dramatise in a week),
to the notes that Meredith has found, Evan and the postillion, Evan
and Rose, Harry in Germany. And to me these things are the good;
beauty, touched with sex and laughter; beauty with God's earth for
the background. Tragedy does not seem to me to come off; and when
it does, it does so by the heroic illusion; the anti-masque has
been omitted; laughter, which attends on all our steps in life, and
sits by the deathbed, and certainly redacts the epitaph, laughter
has been lost from these great-hearted lies. But the comedy which
keeps the beauty and touches the terrors of our life (laughter and
tragedy-in-a-good-humour having kissed), that is the last word of
moved representation; embracing the greatest number of elements of
fate and character; and telling its story, not with the one eye of
pity, but with the two of pity and mirth.

R. L. S.


FROM MY BED, MAY 29, 1884.

DEAR GOSSE, - The news of the Professorate found me in the article
of - well, of heads or tails; I am still in bed, and a very poor
person. You must thus excuse my damned delay; but, I assure you, I
was delighted. You will believe me the more, if I confess to you
that my first sentiment was envy; yes, sir, on my blood-boltered
couch I envied the professor. However, it was not of long
duration; the double thought that you deserved and that you would
thoroughly enjoy your success fell like balsam on my wounds. How
came it that you never communicated my rejection of Gilder's offer
for the Rhone? But it matters not. Such earthly vanities are over
for the present. This has been a fine well-conducted illness. A
month in bed; a month of silence; a fortnight of not stirring my
right hand; a month of not moving without being lifted. Come! CA
Y EST: devilish like being dead. - Yours, dear Professor,

R. L. S.

I am soon to be moved to Royat; an invalid valet goes with me! I
got him cheap - second-hand.

In turning over my late friend Ferrier's commonplace book, I find
three poems from VIOL AND FLUTE copied out in his hand: 'When
Flower-time,' 'Love in Winter,' and 'Mistrust.' They are capital
too. But I thought the fact would interest you. He was no poetist
either; so it means the more. 'Love in W.!' I like the best.



MY DEAR PEOPLE, - The weather has been demoniac; I have had a skiff
of cold, and was finally obliged to take to bed entirely; to-day,
however, it has cleared, the sun shines, and I begin to


I have been out once, but now am back in bed. I am better, and
keep better, but the weather is a mere injustice. The imitation of
Edinburgh is, at times, deceptive; there is a note among the
chimney pots that suggests Howe Street; though I think the
shrillest spot in Christendom was not upon the Howe Street side,
but in front, just under the Miss Graemes' big chimney stack. It
had a fine alto character - a sort of bleat that used to divide the
marrow in my joints - say in the wee, slack hours. That music is
now lost to us by rebuilding; another air that I remember, not
regret, was the solo of the gas-burner in the little front room; a
knickering, flighty, fleering, and yet spectral cackle. I mind it
above all on winter afternoons, late, when the window was blue and
spotted with rare rain-drops, and, looking out, the cold evening
was seen blue all over, with the lamps of Queen's and Frederick's
Street dotting it with yellow, and flaring east-ward in the
squalls. Heavens, how unhappy I have been in such circumstances -
I, who have now positively forgotten the colour of unhappiness; who
am full like a fed ox, and dull like a fresh turf, and have no more
spiritual life, for good or evil, than a French bagman.

We are at Chabassiere's, for of course it was nonsense to go up the
hill when we could not walk.

The child's poems in a far extended form are likely soon to be
heard of - which Cummy I dare say will be glad to know. They will
make a book of about one hundred pages. - Ever your affectionate,

R. L. S.


[ROYAT, JULY 1884.]

. . . HERE is a quaint thing, I have read ROBINSON, COLONEL JACK,
knowledge of Defoe ends - except a book, the name of which I
forget, about Peterborough in Spain, which Defoe obviously did not
write, and could not have written if he wanted. To which of these
does B. J. refer? I guess it must be the history of the Scottish
Church. I jest; for, of course, I KNOW it must be a book I have
never read, and which this makes me keen to read - I mean CAPTAIN
SINGLETON. Can it be got and sent to me? If TREASURE ISLAND is at
all like it, it will be delightful. I was just the other day
wondering at my folly in not remembering it, when I was writing T.
I., as a mine for pirate tips. T. I. came out of Kingsley's AT
LAST, where I got the Dead Man's Chest - and that was the seed -
and out of the great Captain Johnson's HISTORY OF NOTORIOUS
PIRATES. The scenery is Californian in part, and in part CHIC.

I was downstairs to-day! So now I am a made man - till the next


If it was CAPTAIN SINGLETON, send it to me, won't you?

LATER. - My life dwindles into a kind of valley of the shadow
picnic. I cannot read; so much of the time (as to-day) I must not
speak above my breath, that to play patience, or to see my wife
play it, is become the be-all and the end-all of my dim career. To
add to my gaiety, I may write letters, but there are few to answer.
Patience and Poesy are thus my rod and staff; with these I not
unpleasantly support my days.

I am very dim, dumb, dowie, and damnable. I hate to be silenced;
and if to talk by signs is my forte (as I contend), to understand
them cannot be my wife's. Do not think me unhappy; I have not been
so for years; but I am blurred, inhabit the debatable frontier of
sleep, and have but dim designs upon activity. All is at a
standstill; books closed, paper put aside, the voice, the eternal
voice of R. L. S., well silenced. Hence this plaint reaches you
with no very great meaning, no very great purpose, and written part
in slumber by a heavy, dull, somnolent, superannuated son of a




MY DEAR PEOPLE, - I keep better, and am to-day downstairs for the
first time. I find the lockers entirely empty; not a cent to the
front. Will you pray send us some? It blows an equinoctial gale,
and has blown for nearly a week. Nimbus Britannicus; piping wind,
lashing rain; the sea is a fine colour, and wind-bound ships lie at
anchor under the Old Harry rocks, to make one glad to be ashore.

The Henleys are gone, and two plays practically done. I hope they
may produce some of the ready. - I am, ever affectionate son,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR BOY, - I trust this finds you well; it leaves me so-so. The
weather is so cold that I must stick to bed, which is rotten and
tedious, but can't be helped.

I find in the blotting book the enclosed, which I wrote to you the
eve of my blood. Is it not strange? That night, when I naturally
thought I was coopered, the thought of it was much in my mind; I
thought it had gone; and I thought what a strange prophecy I had
made in jest, and how it was indeed like to be the end of many
letters. But I have written a good few since, and the spell is
broken. I am just as pleased, for I earnestly desire to live.
This pleasant middle age into whose port we are steering is quite
to my fancy. I would cast anchor here, and go ashore for twenty
years, and see the manners of the place. Youth was a great time,
but somewhat fussy. Now in middle age (bar lucre) all seems mighty
placid. It likes me; I spy a little bright cafe in one corner of
the port, in front of which I now propose we should sit down.
There is just enough of the bustle of the harbour and no more; and
the ships are close in, regarding us with stern-windows - the ships
that bring deals from Norway and parrots from the Indies. Let us
sit down here for twenty years, with a packet of tobacco and a
drink, and talk of art and women. By-and-by, the whole city will
sink, and the ships too, and the table, and we also; but we shall
have sat for twenty years and had a fine talk; and by that time,
who knows? exhausted the subject.

I send you a book which (or I am mistook) will please you; it
pleased me. But I do desire a book of adventure - a romance - and
no man will get or write me one. Dumas I have read and re-read too
often; Scott, too, and I am short. I want to hear swords clash. I
want a book to begin in a good way; a book, I guess, like TREASURE
ISLAND, alas! which I have never read, and cannot though I live to
ninety. I would God that some one else had written it! By all
that I can learn, it is the very book for my complaint. I like the
way I hear it opens; and they tell me John Silver is good fun. And
to me it is, and must ever be, a dream unrealised, a book
unwritten. O my sighings after romance, or even Skeltery, and O!
the weary age which will produce me neither!


The night was damp and cloudy, the ways foul. The single horseman,
cloaked and booted, who pursued his way across Willesden Common,
had not met a traveller, when the sound of wheels -


'Yes, sir,' said the old pilot, 'she must have dropped into the bay
a little afore dawn. A queer craft she looks.'

'She shows no colours,' returned the young gentleman musingly.

'They're a-lowering of a quarter-boat, Mr. Mark,' resumed the old
salt. 'We shall soon know more of her.'

'Ay,' replied the young gentleman called Mark, 'and here, Mr.
Seadrift, comes your sweet daughter Nancy tripping down the cliff.'

'God bless her kind heart, sir,' ejaculated old Seadrift.


The notary, Jean Rossignol, had been summoned to the top of a great
house in the Isle St. Louis to make a will; and now, his duties
finished, wrapped in a warm roquelaure and with a lantern swinging
from one hand, he issued from the mansion on his homeward way.
Little did he think what strange adventures were to befall him! -

That is how stories should begin. And I am offered HUSKS instead.

What should be: What is:
The Filibuster's Cache. Aunt Anne's Tea Cosy.
Jerry Abershaw. Mrs. Brierly's Niece.
Blood Money: A Tale. Society: A Novel

R. L. S.



MY DEAR CAMPBELL, - The books came duly to hand. My wife has
occupied the translation ever since, nor have I yet been able to
dislodge her. As for the primer, I have read it with a very
strange result: that I find no fault. If you knew how, dogmatic
and pugnacious, I stand warden on the literary art, you would the
more appreciate your success and my - well, I will own it -
disappointment. For I love to put people right (or wrong) about
the arts. But what you say of Tragedy and of Sophocles very amply
satisfies me; it is well felt and well said; a little less
technically than it is my weakness to desire to see it put, but
clear and adequate. You are very right to express your admiration
for the resource displayed in OEdipus King; it is a miracle. Would
it not have been well to mention Voltaire's interesting onslaught,
a thing which gives the best lesson of the difference of neighbour
arts? - since all his criticisms, which had been fatal to a
narrative, do not amount among them to exhibit one flaw in this
masterpiece of drama. For the drama, it is perfect; though such a
fable in a romance might make the reader crack his sides, so
imperfect, so ethereally slight is the verisimilitude required of
these conventional, rigid, and egg-dancing arts.

I was sorry to see no more of you; but shall conclude by hoping for
better luck next time. My wife begs to be remembered to both of
you. - Yours sincerely,




DEAR MR. CHATTO, - I have an offer of 25 pounds for OTTO from
America. I do not know if you mean to have the American rights;
from the nature of the contract, I think not; but if you understood
that you were to sell the sheets, I will either hand over the
bargain to you, or finish it myself and hand you over the money if
you are pleased with the amount. You see, I leave this quite in
your hands. To parody an old Scotch story of servant and master:
if you don't know that you have a good author, I know that I have a
good publisher. Your fair, open, and handsome dealings are a good
point in my life, and do more for my crazy health than has yet been
done by any doctor. - Very truly yours,


Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - NOW, look here, the above is my address for three
months, I hope; continue, on your part, if you please, to write to
Edinburgh, which is safe; but if Mrs. Low thinks of coming to
England, she might take a run down from London (four hours from
Waterloo, main line) and stay a day or two with us among the pines.
If not, I hope it will be only a pleasure deferred till you can
join her.

My Children's Verses will be published here in a volume called A
CHILD'S GARDEN. The sheets are in hand; I will see if I cannot
send you the lot, so that you might have a bit of a start. In that
case I would do nothing to publish in the States, and you might try
an illustrated edition there; which, if the book went fairly over
here, might, when ready, be imported. But of this more fully ere
long. You will see some verses of mine in the last MAGAZINE OF
ART, with pictures by a young lady; rather pretty, I think. If we
find a market for PHASELLULUS LOQUITUR, we can try another. I hope
it isn't necessary to put the verse into that rustic printing. I
am Philistine enough to prefer clean printer's type; indeed, I can
form no idea of the verses thus transcribed by the incult and
tottering hand of the draughtsman, nor gather any impression beyond
one of weariness to the eyes. Yet the other day, in the CENTURY, I
saw it imputed as a crime to Vedder that he had not thus travestied
Omar Khayyam. We live in a rum age of music without airs, stories
without incident, pictures without beauty, American wood engravings
that should have been etchings, and dry-point etchings that ought
to have been mezzo-tints. I think of giving 'em literature without
words; and I believe if you were to try invisible illustration, it
would enjoy a considerable vogue. So long as an artist is on his
head, is painting with a flute, or writes with an etcher's needle,
or conducts the orchestra with a meat-axe, all is well; and
plaudits shower along with roses. But any plain man who tries to
follow the obtrusive canons of his art, is but a commonplace
figure. To hell with him is the motto, or at least not that; for
he will have his reward, but he will never be thought a person of

JANUARY 3, 1885.

And here has this been lying near two months. I have failed to get
together a preliminary copy of the Child's Verses for you, in spite
of doughty efforts; but yesterday I sent you the first sheet of the
definitive edition, and shall continue to send the others as they
come. If you can, and care to, work them - why so, well. If not,
I send you fodder. But the time presses; for though I will delay a
little over the proofs, and though - it is even possible they may
delay the English issue until Easter, it will certainly not be
later. Therefore perpend, and do not get caught out. Of course,
if you can do pictures, it will be a great pleasure to me to see
our names joined; and more than that, a great advantage, as I
daresay you may be able to make a bargain for some share a little
less spectral than the common for the poor author. But this is all
as you shall choose; I give you CARTE BLANCHE to do or not to do. -
Yours most sincerely,


O, Sargent has been and painted my portrait; a very nice fellow he
is, and is supposed to have done well; it is a poetical but very
chicken-boned figure-head, as thus represented. R. L. S. Go on.

P.P.S. - Your picture came; and let me thank you for it very much.
I am so hunted I had near forgotten. I find it very graceful; and
I mean to have it framed.



MY DEAR FATHER, - I have no hesitation in recommending you to let
your name go up; please yourself about an address; though I think,
if we could meet, we could arrange something suitable. What you
propose would be well enough in a way, but so modest as to suggest
a whine. From that point of view it would be better to change a
little; but this, whether we meet or not, we must discuss. Tait,
Chrystal, the Royal Society, and I, all think you amply deserve
this honour and far more; it is not the True Blue to call this
serious compliment a 'trial'; you should be glad of this
recognition. As for resigning, that is easy enough if found
necessary; but to refuse would be husky and unsatisfactory. SIC

R. L. S.

My cold is still very heavy; but I carry it well. Fanny is very
very much out of sorts, principally through perpetual misery with
me. I fear I have been a little in the dumps, which, AS YOU KNOW,
SIR, is a very great sin. I must try to be more cheerful; but my
cough is so severe that I have sometimes most exhausting nights and
very peevish wakenings. However, this shall be remedied, and last
night I was distinctly better than the night before. There is, my
dear Mr. Stevenson (so I moralise blandly as we sit together on the
devil's garden-wall), no more abominable sin than this gloom, this
plaguey peevishness; why (say I) what matters it if we be a little
uncomfortable - that is no reason for mangling our unhappy wives.
And then I turn and GIRN on the unfortunate Cassandra. - Your
fellow culprit,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR HENLEY, - We are all to pieces in health, and heavily
handicapped with Arabs. I have a dreadful cough, whose attacks
leave me AETAT. 90. I never let up on the Arabs, all the same, and
rarely get less than eight pages out of hand, though hardly able to
come downstairs for twittering knees.

I shall put in -'s letter. He says so little of his circumstances
that I am in an impossibility to give him advice more specific than
a copybook. Give him my love, however, and tell him it is the mark
of the parochial gentleman who has never travelled to find all
wrong in a foreign land. Let him hold on, and he will find one
country as good as another; and in the meanwhile let him resist the
fatal British tendency to communicate his dissatisfaction with a
country to its inhabitants. 'Tis a good idea, but it somehow fails
to please. In a fortnight, if I can keep my spirit in the box at
all, I should be nearly through this Arabian desert; so can tackle
something fresh. - Yours ever,

R. L. S.


[NOVEMBER 5, 1884].

MY DEAR FATHER, - Allow me to say, in a strictly Pickwickian sense,
that you are a silly fellow. I am pained indeed, but how should I
be offended? I think you exaggerate; I cannot forget that you had
the same impression of the DEACON; and yet, when you saw it played,
were less revolted than you looked for; and I will still hope that
the ADMIRAL also is not so bad as you suppose. There is one point,
however, where I differ from you very frankly. Religion is in the
world; I do not think you are the man to deny the importance of its
role; and I have long decided not to leave it on one side in art.
The opposition of the Admiral and Mr. Pew is not, to my eyes,
either horrible or irreverent; but it may be, and it probably is,
very ill done: what then? This is a failure; better luck next
time; more power to the elbow, more discretion, more wisdom in the
design, and the old defeat becomes the scene of the new victory.
Concern yourself about no failure; they do not cost lives, as in
engineering; they are the PIERRES PERDUES of successes. Fame is
(truly) a vapour; do not think of it; if the writer means well and
tries hard, no failure will injure him, whether with God or man.

I wish I could hear a brighter account of yourself; but I am
inclined to acquit the ADMIRAL of having a share in the
responsibility. My very heavy cold is, I hope, drawing off; and
the change to this charming house in the forest will, I hope,
complete my re-establishment. - With love to all, believe me, your
ever affectionate,




MY DEAR CHARLES, - I am in my new house, thus proudly styled, as
you perceive; but the deevil a tower ava' can be perceived (except
out of window); this is not as it should be; one might have hoped,
at least, a turret. We are all vilely unwell. I put in the dark
watches imitating a donkey with some success, but little pleasure;
and in the afternoon I indulge in a smart fever, accompanied by
aches and shivers. There is thus little monotony to be deplored.
I at least am a REGULAR invalid; I would scorn to bray in the
afternoon; I would indignantly refuse the proposal to fever in the
night. What is bred in the bone will come out, sir, in the flesh;
and the same spirit that prompted me to date my letter regulates
the hour and character of my attacks. - I am, sir, yours,




MY DEAR THOMSON, - It's a maist remarkable fac', but nae shuner had
I written yon braggin', blawin' letter aboot ma business habits,
when bang! that very day, ma hoast begude in the aifternune. It is
really remaurkable; it's providenshle, I believe. The ink wasnae
fair dry, the words werenae weel ooten ma mouth, when bang, I got
the lee. The mair ye think o't, Thomson, the less ye'll like the
looks o't. Proavidence (I'm no' sayin') is all verra weel IN ITS
PLACE; but if Proavidence has nae mainners, wha's to learn't?
Proavidence is a fine thing, but hoo would you like Proavidence to
keep your till for ye? The richt place for Proavidence is in the
kirk; it has naething to do wi' private correspondence between twa
gentlemen, nor freendly cracks, nor a wee bit word of sculduddery
ahint the door, nor, in shoart, wi' ony HOLE-AND-CORNER WARK, what
I would call. I'm pairfec'ly willin' to meet in wi' Proavidence,
I'll be prood to meet in wi' him, when my time's come and I cannae
dae nae better; but if he's to come skinking aboot my stair-fit,
damned, I micht as weel be deid for a' the comfort I'll can get in
life. Cannae he no be made to understand that it's beneath him?
Gosh, if I was in his business, I wouldnae steir my heid for a
plain, auld ex-elder that, tak him the way he taks himsel,' 's just
aboot as honest as he can weel afford, an' but for a wheen auld
scandals, near forgotten noo, is a pairfec'ly respectable and
thoroughly decent man. Or if I fashed wi' him ava', it wad be kind
o' handsome like; a pun'-note under his stair door, or a bottle o'
auld, blended malt to his bit marnin', as a teshtymonial like yon
ye ken sae weel aboot, but mair successfu'.

Dear Thomson, have I ony money? If I have, SEND IT, for the
loard's sake.




MY DEAR COGGIE, - Many thanks for the two photos which now decorate
my room. I was particularly glad to have the Bell Rock. I wonder
if you saw me plunge, lance in rest, into a controversy thereanent?
It was a very one-sided affair. I slept upon the field of battle,
paraded, sang Te Deum, and came home after a review rather than a

Please tell Campbell I got his letter. The Wild Woman of the West
has been much amiss and complaining sorely. I hope nothing more
serious is wrong with her than just my ill-health, and consequent
anxiety and labour; but the deuce of it is, that the cause
continues. I am about knocked out of time now: a miserable,
snuffling, shivering, fever-stricken, nightmare-ridden, knee-
jottering, hoast-hoast-hoasting shadow and remains of man. But
we'll no gie ower jist yet a bittie. We've seen waur; and dod,
mem, it's my belief that we'll see better. I dinna ken 'at I've
muckle mair to say to ye, or, indeed, onything; but jist here's
guid-fallowship, guid health, and the wale o' guid fortune to your
bonny sel'; and my respecs to the Perfessor and his wife, and the
Prinshiple, an' the Bell Rock, an' ony ither public chara'ters that
I'm acquaunt wi'.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR GOSSE, - This Mr. Morley of yours is a most desperate
fellow. He has sent me (for my opinion) the most truculent
advertisement I ever saw, in which the white hairs of Gladstone are
dragged round Troy behind my chariot wheels. What can I say? I
say nothing to him; and to you, I content myself with remarking
that he seems a desperate fellow.

All luck to you on your American adventure; may you find health,
wealth, and entertainment! If you see, as you likely will, Frank
R. Stockton, pray greet him from me in words to this effect:-

My Stockton if I failed to like,
It were a sheer depravity,
For I went down with the THOMAS HYKE
And up with the NEGATIVE GRAVITY!

I adore these tales.

I hear flourishing accounts of your success at Cambridge, so you
leave with a good omen. Remember me to GREEN CORN if it is in
season; if not, you had better hang yourself on a sour apple tree,
for your voyage has been lost. - Yours affectionately,




DEAR DOBSON, - Set down my delay to your own fault; I wished to
acknowledge such a gift from you in some of my inapt and slovenly
rhymes; but you should have sent me your pen and not your desk.
The verses stand up to the axles in a miry cross-road, whence the
coursers of the sun shall never draw them; hence I am constrained
to this uncourtliness, that I must appear before one of the kings
of that country of rhyme without my singing robes. For less than
this, if we may trust the book of Esther, favourites have tasted
death; but I conceive the kingdom of the Muses mildlier mannered;
and in particular that county which you administer and which I seem
to see as a half-suburban land; a land of holly-hocks and country
houses; a land where at night, in thorny and sequestered bypaths,
you will meet masqueraders going to a ball in their sedans, and the
rector steering homeward by the light of his lantern; a land of the
windmill, and the west wind, and the flowering hawthorn with a
little scented letter in the hollow of its trunk, and the kites
flying over all in the season of kites, and the far away blue
spires of a cathedral city.

Will you forgive me, then, for my delay and accept my thanks not
only for your present, but for the letter which followed it, and
which perhaps I more particularly value, and believe me to be, with
much admiration, yours very truly,




MY DEAR HENRY JAMES, - This is a very brave hearing from more
points than one. The first point is that there is a hope of a
sequel. For this I laboured. Seriously, from the dearth of
information and thoughtful interest in the art of literature, those
who try to practise it with any deliberate purpose run the risk of
finding no fit audience. People suppose it is 'the stuff' that
interests them; they think, for instance, that the prodigious fine
thoughts and sentiments in Shakespeare impress by their own weight,
not understanding that the unpolished diamond is but a stone. They
think that striking situations, or good dialogue, are got by
studying life; they will not rise to understand that they are
prepared by deliberate artifice and set off by painful
suppressions. Now, I want the whole thing well ventilated, for my
own education and the public's; and I beg you to look as quick as
you can, to follow me up with every circumstance of defeat where we
differ, and (to prevent the flouting of the laity) to emphasise the
points where we agree. I trust your paper will show me the way to
a rejoinder; and that rejoinder I shall hope to make with so much
art as to woo or drive you from your threatened silence. I would
not ask better than to pass my life in beating out this quarter of
corn with such a seconder as yourself.

Point the second - I am rejoiced indeed to hear you speak so kindly
of my work; rejoiced and surprised. I seem to myself a very rude,
left-handed countryman; not fit to be read, far less complimented,
by a man so accomplished, so adroit, so craftsmanlike as you. You
will happily never have cause to understand the despair with which
a writer like myself considers (say) the park scene in Lady
Barberina. Every touch surprises me by its intangible precision;
and the effect when done, as light as syllabub, as distinct as a
picture, fills me with envy. Each man among us prefers his own
aim, and I prefer mine; but when we come to speak of performance, I
recognise myself, compared with you, to be a lout and slouch of the
first water.

Where we differ, both as to the design of stories and the
delineation of character, I begin to lament. Of course, I am not
so dull as to ask you to desert your walk; but could you not, in
one novel, to oblige a sincere admirer, and to enrich his shelves
with a beloved volume, could you not, and might you not, cast your
characters in a mould a little more abstract and academic (dear
Mrs. Pennyman had already, among your other work, a taste of what I
mean), and pitch the incidents, I do not say in any stronger, but
in a slightly more emphatic key - as it were an episode from one of
the old (so-called) novels of adventure? I fear you will not; and
I suppose I must sighingly admit you to be right. And yet, when I
see, as it were, a book of Tom Jones handled with your exquisite
precision and shot through with those side-lights of reflection in
which you excel, I relinquish the dear vision with regret. Think
upon it.

As you know, I belong to that besotted class of man, the invalid:
this puts me to a stand in the way of visits. But it is possible
that some day you may feel that a day near the sea and among
pinewoods would be a pleasant change from town. If so, please let
us know; and my wife and I will be delighted to put you up, and
give you what we can to eat and drink (I have a fair bottle of
claret). - On the back of which, believe me, yours sincerely,


P.S. - I reopen this to say that I have re-read my paper, and
cannot think I have at all succeeded in being either veracious or
polite. I knew, of course, that I took your paper merely as a pin
to hang my own remarks upon; but, alas! what a thing is any paper!
What fine remarks can you not hang on mine! How I have sinned
against proportion, and with every effort to the contrary, against
the merest rudiments of courtesy to you! You are indeed a very
acute reader to have divined the real attitude of my mind; and I
can only conclude, not without closed eyes and shrinking shoulders,
in the well-worn words

Lay on, Macduff!



MY DEAR PEOPLE, - The dreadful tragedy of the PALL MALL has come to
a happy but ludicrous ending: I am to keep the money, the tale
writ for them is to be buried certain fathoms deep, and they are to
flash out before the world with our old friend of Kinnaird, 'The
Body Snatcher.' When you come, please to bring -

(1) My MONTAIGNE, or, at least, the two last volumes.
(2) My MILTON in the three vols. in green.
(3) The SHAKESPEARE that Babington sent me for a wedding-gift.

If you care to get a box of books from Douglas and Foulis, let them
HENRY IV., Lang's FOLK LORE, would be my desires.

I had a charming letter from Henry James about my LONGMAN paper. I
did not understand queries about the verses; the pictures to the
Seagull I thought charming; those to the second have left me with a
pain in my poor belly and a swimming in the head.

About money, I am afloat and no more, and I warn you, unless I have
great luck, I shall have to fall upon you at the New Year like a
hundredweight of bricks. Doctor, rent, chemist, are all
threatening; sickness has bitterly delayed my work; and unless, as
I say, I have the mischief's luck, I shall completely break down.
VERBUM SAPIENTIBUS. I do not live cheaply, and I question if I
ever shall; but if only I had a halfpenny worth of health, I could
now easily suffice. The last breakdown of my head is what makes
this bankruptcy probable.

Fanny is still out of sorts; Bogue better; self fair, but a
stranger to the blessings of sleep. - Ever affectionate son,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR LAD, - I have made up my mind about the P. M. G., and send you
a copy, which please keep or return. As for not giving a
reduction, what are we? Are we artists or city men? Why do we
sneer at stock-brokers? O nary; I will not take the 40 pounds. I
took that as a fair price for my best work; I was not able to
produce my best; and I will be damned if I steal with my eyes open.
SUFFICIT. This is my lookout. As for the paper being rich,
certainly it is; but I am honourable. It is no more above me in
money than the poor slaveys and cads from whom I look for honesty
are below me. Am I Pepys, that because I can find the countenance
of 'some of our ablest merchants,' that because - and - pour forth
languid twaddle and get paid for it, I, too, should 'cheerfully
continue to steal'? I am not Pepys. I do not live much to God and
honour; but I will not wilfully turn my back on both. I am, like
all the rest of us, falling ever lower from the bright ideas I
began with, falling into greed, into idleness, into middle-aged and
slippered fireside cowardice; but is it you, my bold blade, that I
hear crying this sordid and rank twaddle in my ear? Preaching the
dankest Grundyism and upholding the rank customs of our trade -
you, who are so cruel hard upon the customs of the publishers? O
man, look at the Beam in our own Eyes; and whatever else you do, do
not plead Satan's cause, or plead it for all; either embrace the
bad, or respect the good when you see a poor devil trying for it.
If this is the honesty of authors - to take what you can get and
console yourself because publishers are rich - take my name from
the rolls of that association. 'Tis a caucus of weaker thieves,
jealous of the stronger. - Ever yours,


You will see from the enclosed that I have stuck to what I think my
dues pretty tightly in spite of this flourish: these are my words
for a poor ten-pound note!

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


MY DEAR LAD, - Here was I in bed; not writing, not hearing, and
finding myself gently and agreeably ill used; and behold I learn
you are bad yourself. Get your wife to send us a word how you are.
I am better decidedly. Bogue got his Christmas card, and behaved
well for three days after. It may interest the cynical to learn
that I started my last haemorrhage by too sedulous attentions to my
dear Bogue. The stick was broken; and that night Bogue, who was
attracted by the extraordinary aching of his bones, and is always
inclined to a serious view of his own ailments, announced with his
customary pomp that he was dying. In this case, however, it was
not the dog that died. (He had tried to bite his mother's ankles.)
I have written a long and peculiarly solemn paper on the technical
elements of style. It is path-breaking and epoch-making; but I do
not think the public will be readily convoked to its perusal. Did
I tell you that S. C. had risen to the paper on James? At last! O
but I was pleased; he's (like Johnnie) been lang, lang o' comin',
but here he is. He will not object to my future manoeuvres in the
same field, as he has to my former. All the family are here; my
father better than I have seen him these two years; my mother the
same as ever. I do trust you are better, and I am yours ever,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO H. A. JONES


DEAR SIR, - I am so accustomed to hear nonsense spoken about all
the arts, and the drama in particular, that I cannot refrain from
saying 'Thank you,' for your paper. In my answer to Mr. James, in
the December LONGMAN, you may see that I have merely touched, I
think in a parenthesis, on the drama; but I believe enough was said
to indicate our agreement in essentials.

Wishing you power and health to further enunciate and to act upon
these principles, believe me, dear sir, yours truly,




DEAR S. C., - I am on my feet again, and getting on my boots to do
the IRON DUKE. Conceive my glee: I have refused the 100 pounds,
and am to get some sort of royalty, not yet decided, instead. 'Tis
for Longman's ENGLISH WORTHIES, edited by A. Lang. Aw haw, haw!

Now, look here, could you get me a loan of the Despatches, or is
that a dream? I should have to mark passages I fear, and certainly
note pages on the fly. If you think it a dream, will Bain get me a
second-hand copy, or who would? The sooner, and cheaper, I can get
it the better. If there is anything in your weird library that
bears on either the man or the period, put it in a mortar and fire
it here instanter; I shall catch. I shall want, of course, an
infinity of books: among which, any lives there may be; a life of
the Marquis Marmont (the Marechal), MARMONT'S MEMOIRS, GREVILLE'S
MEMOIRS, PEEL'S MEMOIRS, NAPIER, that blind man's history of
England you once lent me, Hamley's WATERLOO; can you get me any of
these? Thiers, idle Thiers also. Can you help a man getting into
his boots for such a huge campaign? How are you? A Good New Year
to you. I mean to have a good one, but on whose funds I cannot
fancy: not mine leastways, as I am a mere derelict and drift beam-
on to bankruptcy.

For God's sake, remember the man who set out for to conquer Arthur
Wellesley, with a broken bellows and an empty pocket. - Yours ever,




MY DEAR FATHER, - I am glad you like the changes. I own I was
pleased with my hand's darg; you may observe, I have corrected
several errors which (you may tell Mr. Dick) he had allowed to pass
his eagle eye; I wish there may be none in mine; at least, the
order is better. The second title, 'Some new Engineering Questions
involved in the M. S. C. Scheme of last Session of P.', likes me
the best. I think it a very good paper; and I am vain enough to
think I have materially helped to polish the diamond. I ended by
feeling quite proud of the paper, as if it had been mine; the next
time you have as good a one, I will overhaul it for the wages of
feeling as clever as I did when I had managed to understand and
helped to set it clear. I wonder if I anywhere misapprehended you?
I rather think not at the last; at the first shot I know I missed a
point or two. Some of what may appear to you to be wanton changes,
a little study will show to be necessary.

Yes, Carlyle was ashamed of himself as few men have been; and let
all carpers look at what he did. He prepared all these papers for
publication with his own hand; all his wife's complaints, all the
evidence of his own misconduct: who else would have done so much?
Is repentance, which God accepts, to have no avail with men? nor
even with the dead? I have heard too much against the thrawn,
discomfortable dog: dead he is, and we may be glad of it; but he
was a better man than most of us, no less patently than he was a
worse. To fill the world with whining is against all my views: I
do not like impiety. But - but - there are two sides to all
things, and the old scalded baby had his noble side. - Ever
affectionate son,

R. L. S.



DEAR S. C., - I have addressed a letter to the G. O. M., A PROPOS
of Wellington; and I became aware, you will be interested to hear,
of an overwhelming respect for the old gentleman. I can BLAGUER
his failures; but when you actually address him, and bring the two
statures and records to confrontation, dismay is the result. By
mere continuance of years, he must impose; the man who helped to
rule England before I was conceived, strikes me with a new sense of
greatness and antiquity, when I must actually beard him with the
cold forms of correspondence. I shied at the necessity of calling
him plain 'Sir'! Had he been 'My lord,' I had been happier; no, I
am no equalitarian. Honour to whom honour is due; and if to none,
why, then, honour to the old!

These, O Slade Professor, are my unvarnished sentiments: I was a
little surprised to find them so extreme, and therefore I
communicate the fact.

Belabour thy brains, as to whom it would be well to question. I
have a small space; I wish to make a popular book, nowhere obscure,
nowhere, if it can be helped, unhuman. It seems to me the most
hopeful plan to tell the tale, so far as may be, by anecdote. He
did not die till so recently, there must be hundreds who remember
him, and thousands who have still ungarnered stories. Dear man, to
the breach! Up, soldier of the iron dook, up, Slades, and at 'em!
(which, conclusively, he did not say: the at 'em-ic theory is to
be dismissed). You know piles of fellows who must reek with
matter; help! help! - Yours ever,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR COLVIN, - You are indeed a backward correspondent, and much
may be said against you. But in this weather, and O dear! in this
political scene of degradation, much must be forgiven. I fear
England is dead of Burgessry, and only walks about galvanised. I
do not love to think of my countrymen these days; nor to remember
myself. Why was I silent? I feel I have no right to blame any
one; but I won't write to the G. O. M. I do really not see my way
to any form of signature, unless 'your fellow criminal in the eyes
of God,' which might disquiet the proprieties.

About your book, I have always said: go on. The drawing of
character is a different thing from publishing the details of a
private career. No one objects to the first, or should object, if
his name be not put upon it; at the other, I draw the line. In a
preface, if you chose, you might distinguish; it is, besides, a
thing for which you are eminently well equipped, and which you
would do with taste and incision. I long to see the book. People
like themselves (to explain a little more); no one likes his life,
which is a misbegotten issue, and a tale of failure. To see these
failures either touched upon, or COASTED, to get the idea of a
spying eye and blabbing tongue about the house, is to lose all
privacy in life. To see that thing, which we do love, our
character, set forth, is ever gratifying. See how my TALK AND
TALKERS went; every one liked his own portrait, and shrieked about
other people's; so it will be with yours. If you are the least
true to the essential, the sitter will be pleased; very likely not
his friends, and that from VARIOUS MOTIVES.

R. L. S.

When will your holiday be? I sent your letter to my wife, and
forget. Keep us in mind, and I hope we shall he able to receive

Letter: TO J. A. SYMONDS


MY DEAR SYMONDS, - Yes, we have both been very neglectful. I had
horrid luck, catching two thundering influenzas in August and
November. I recovered from the last with difficulty, but have come
through this blustering winter with some general success; in the
house, up and down. My wife, however, has been painfully upset by
my health. Last year, of course, was cruelly trying to her nerves;
Nice and Hyeres are bad experiences; and though she is not ill, the
doctor tells me that prolonged anxiety may do her a real mischief.

I feel a little old and fagged, and chary of speech, and not very
sure of spirit in my work; but considering what a year I have
passed, and how I have twice sat on Charon's pierhead, I am

My father has presented us with a very pretty home in this place,
into which we hope to move by May. My CHILD'S VERSES come out next
week. OTTO begins to appear in April; MORE NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS as
soon as possible. Moreover, I am neck deep in Wellington; also a
story on the stocks, GREAT NORTH ROAD. O, I am busy! Lloyd is at
college in Edinburgh. That is, I think, all that can be said by
way of news.

Have you read HUCKLEBERRY FINN? It contains many excellent things;
above all, the whole story of a healthy boy's dealings with his
conscience, incredibly well done.

My own conscience is badly seared; a want of piety; yet I pray for
it, tacitly, every day; believing it, after courage, the only gift
worth having; and its want, in a man of any claims to honour, quite
unpardonable. The tone of your letter seemed to me very sound. In
these dark days of public dishonour, I do not know that one can do
better than carry our private trials piously. What a picture is
this of a nation! No man that I can see, on any side or party,
seems to have the least sense of our ineffable shame: the
desertion of the garrisons. I tell my little parable that Germany
took England, and then there was an Indian Mutiny, and Bismarck
said: 'Quite right: let Delhi and Calcutta and Bombay fall; and
let the women and children be treated Sepoy fashion,' and people
say, 'O, but that is very different!' And then I wish I were dead.
Millais (I hear) was painting Gladstone when the news came of
Gordon's death; Millais was much affected, and Gladstone said,
'Why? IT IS THE MAN'S OWN TEMERITY!' Voila le Bourgeois! le voila
nu! But why should I blame Gladstone, when I too am a Bourgeois?
when I have held my peace? Why did I hold my peace? Because I am
a sceptic: I.E. a Bourgeois. We believe in nothing, Symonds; you
don't, and I don't; and these are two reasons, out of a handful of
millions, why England stands before the world dripping with blood
and daubed with dishonour. I will first try to take the beam out
of my own eye, trusting that even private effort somehow betters
and braces the general atmosphere. See, for example, if England
has shown (I put it hypothetically) one spark of manly sensibility,
they have been shamed into it by the spectacle of Gordon. Police-
Officer Cole is the only man that I see to admire. I dedicate my
NEW ARABS to him and Cox, in default of other great public
characters. - Yours ever most affectionately,




MY DEAR GOSSE, - I was indeed much exercised how I could be worked
into Gray; and lo! when I saw it, the passage seemed to have been
written with a single eye to elucidate the - worst? - well, not a
very good poem of Gray's. Your little life is excellent, clean,
neat, efficient. I have read many of your notes, too, with
pleasure. Your connection with Gray was a happy circumstance; it
was a suitable conjunction.

I did not answer your letter from the States, for what was I to
say? I liked getting it and reading it; I was rather flattered
that you wrote it to me; and then I'll tell you what I did - I put
it in the fire. Why? Well, just because it was very natural and
expansive; and thinks I to myself, if I die one of these fine
nights, this is just the letter that Gosse would not wish to go
into the hands of third parties. Was I well inspired? And I did
not answer it because you were in your high places, sailing with
supreme dominion, and seeing life in a particular glory; and I was
peddling in a corner, confined to the house, overwhelmed with
necessary work, which I was not always doing well, and, in the very
mild form in which the disease approaches me, touched with a sort
of bustling cynicism. Why throw cold water? How ape your
agreeable frame of mind? In short, I held my tongue.

I have now published on 101 small pages THE COMPLETE PROOF OF MR.
graduated examples with table of contents. I think I shall issue a
companion volume of exercises: 'Analyse this poem. Collect and
comminate the ugly words. Distinguish and condemn the CHEVILLES.
State Mr. Stevenson's faults of taste in regard to the measure.
What reasons can you gather from this example for your belief that
Mr. S. is unable to write any other measure?'

They look ghastly in the cold light of print; but there is
something nice in the little ragged regiment for all; the
blackguards seem to me to smile, to have a kind of childish treble
note that sounds in my ears freshly; not song, if you will, but a
child's voice.

I was glad you enjoyed your visit to the States. Most Englishmen
go there with a confirmed design of patronage, as they go to France
for that matter; and patronage will not pay. Besides, in this year
of - grace, said I? - of disgrace, who should creep so low as an
Englishman? 'It is not to be thought of that the flood' - ah,
Wordsworth, you would change your note were you alive to-day!

I am now a beastly householder, but have not yet entered on my
domain. When I do, the social revolution will probably cast me
back upon my dung heap. There is a person called Hyndman whose eye
is on me; his step is beHynd me as I go. I shall call my house
Skerryvore when I get it: SKERRYVORE: C'EST BON POUR LA POESHIE.
I will conclude with my favourite sentiment: 'The world is too
much with me.'


Author of 'John Vane Tempest: a Romance,' 'Herbert and Henrietta:
or the Nemesis of Sentiment,' 'The Life and Adventures of Colonel
Bludyer Fortescue,' 'Happy Homes and Hairy Faces,' 'A Pound of
Feathers and a Pound of Lead,' part author of 'Minn's Complete
Capricious Correspondent: a Manual of Natty, Natural, and Knowing
Letters,' and editor of the 'Poetical Remains of Samuel Burt
Crabbe, known as the melodious Bottle-Holder.'

Uniform with the above:

'The Life and Remains of the Reverend Jacob Degray Squah,' author
of 'Heave-yo for the New Jerusalem.' 'A Box of Candles; or the
Patent Spiritual Safety Match,' and 'A Day with the Heavenly

Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - Your success has been immense. I wish your letter
had come two days ago: OTTO, alas! has been disposed of a good
while ago; but it was only day before yesterday that I settled the
new volume of Arabs. However, for the future, you and the sons of
the deified Scribner are the men for me. Really they have behaved
most handsomely. I cannot lay my hand on the papers, or I would
tell you exactly how it compares with my English bargain; but it
compares well. Ah, if we had that copyright, I do believe it would
go far to make me solvent, ill-health and all.

I wrote you a letter to the Rembrandt, in which I stated my views
about the dedication in a very brief form. It will give me sincere
pleasure, and will make the second dedication I have received, the
other being from John Addington Symonds. It is a compliment I
value much; I don't know any that I should prefer.

I am glad to hear you have windows to do; that is a fine business,
I think; but, alas! the glass is so bad nowadays; realism invading
even that, as well as the huge inferiority of our technical
resource corrupting every tint. Still, anything that keeps a man
to decoration is, in this age, good for the artist's spirit.

By the way, have you seen James and me on the novel? James, I
think in the August or September - R. L. S. in the December
LONGMAN. I own I think the ECOLE BETE, of which I am the champion,
has the whip hand of the argument; but as James is to make a
rejoinder, I must not boast. Anyway the controversy is amusing to
see. I was terribly tied down to space, which has made the end
congested and dull. I shall see if I can afford to send you the
April CONTEMPORARY - but I dare say you see it anyway - as it will
contain a paper of mine on style, a sort of continuation of old
arguments on art in which you have wagged a most effective tongue.
It is a sort of start upon my Treatise on the Art of Literature: a
small, arid book that shall some day appear.

With every good wish from me and mine (should I not say 'she and
hers'?) to you and yours, believe me yours ever,




MY DEAR HAMERTON, - Various things have been reminding me of my
misconduct: First, Swan's application for your address; second, a
sight of the sheets of your LANDSCAPE book; and last, your note to
Swan, which he was so kind as to forward. I trust you will never
suppose me to be guilty of anything more serious than an idleness,
partially excusable. My ill-health makes my rate of life heavier
than I can well meet, and yet stops me from earning more. My
conscience, sometimes perhaps too easily stifled, but still (for my
time of life and the public manners of the age) fairly well alive,
forces me to perpetual and almost endless transcriptions. On the
back of all this, my correspondence hangs like a thundercloud; and
just when I think I am getting through my troubles, crack, down
goes my health, I have a long, costly sickness, and begin the world
again. It is fortunate for me I have a father, or I should long
ago have died; but the opportunity of the aid makes the necessity
none the more welcome. My father has presented me with a beautiful
house here - or so I believe, for I have not yet seen it, being a
cage bird but for nocturnal sorties in the garden. I hope we shall
soon move into it, and I tell myself that some day perhaps we may
have the pleasure of seeing you as our guest. I trust at least
that you will take me as I am, a thoroughly bad correspondent, and
a man, a hater, indeed, of rudeness in others, but too often rude
in all unconsciousness himself; and that you will never cease to
believe the sincere sympathy and admiration that I feel for you and
for your work.

About the LANDSCAPE, which I had a glimpse of while a friend of
mine was preparing a review, I was greatly interested, and could
write and wrangle for a year on every page; one passage
particularly delighted me, the part about Ulysses - jolly. Then,
you know, that is just what I fear I have come to think landscape
ought to be in literature; so there we should be at odds. Or
perhaps not so much as I suppose, as Montaigne says it is a pot
with two handles, and I own I am wedded to the technical handle,
which (I likewise own and freely) you do well to keep for a
mistress. I should much like to talk with you about some other
points; it is only in talk that one gets to understand. Your
delightful Wordsworth trap I have tried on two hardened
Wordsworthians, not that I am not one myself. By covering up the
context, and asking them to guess what the passage was, both (and
both are very clever people, one a writer, one a painter)
pronounced it a guide-book. 'Do you think it an unusually good
guide-book?' I asked, and both said, 'No, not at all!' Their
grimace was a picture when I showed the original.

I trust your health and that of Mrs. Hamerton keep better; your
last account was a poor one. I was unable to make out the visit I
had hoped, as (I do not know if you heard of it) I had a very
violent and dangerous haemorrhage last spring. I am almost glad to
have seen death so close with all my wits about me, and not in the
customary lassitude and disenchantment of disease. Even thus
clearly beheld I find him not so terrible as we suppose. But,
indeed, with the passing of years, the decay of strength, the loss
of all my old active and pleasant habits, there grows more and more
upon me that belief in the kindness of this scheme of things, and
the goodness of our veiled God, which is an excellent and pacifying
compensation. I trust, if your health continues to trouble you,
you may find some of the same belief. But perhaps my fine
discovery is a piece of art, and belongs to a character cowardly,
intolerant of certain feelings, and apt to self-deception. I don't
think so, however; and when I feel what a weak and fallible vessel
I was thrust into this hurly-burly, and with what marvellous
kindness the wind has been tempered to my frailties, I think I
should be a strange kind of ass to feel anything but gratitude.

I do not know why I should inflict this talk upon you; but when I
summon the rebellous pen, he must go his own way; I am no Michael
Scott, to rule the fiend of correspondence. Most days he will none
of me; and when he comes, it is to rape me where he will. - Yours
very sincerely,




DEAR MR. ARCHER, - Yes, I have heard of you and read some of your
work; but I am bound in particular to thank you for the notice of
my verses. 'There,' I said, throwing it over to the friend who was
staying with me, 'it's worth writing a book to draw an article like
that.' Had you been as hard upon me as you were amiable, I try to
tell myself I should have been no blinder to the merits of your
notice. For I saw there, to admire and to be very grateful for, a
most sober, agile pen; an enviable touch; the marks of a reader,
such as one imagines for one's self in dreams, thoughtful,
critical, and kind; and to put the top on this memorial column, a
greater readiness to describe the author criticised than to display
the talents of his censor.

I am a man BLASE to injudicious praise (though I hope some of it
may be judicious too), but I have to thank you for THE BEST
CRITICISM I EVER HAD; and am therefore, dear Mr. Archer, the most
grateful critickee now extant.


P.S. - I congratulate you on living in the corner of all London
that I like best. A PROPOS, you are very right about my voluntary
aversion from the painful sides of life. My childhood was in
reality a very mixed experience, full of fever, nightmare,
insomnia, painful days and interminable nights; and I can speak
with less authority of gardens than of that other 'land of
counterpane.' But to what end should we renew these sorrows? The
sufferings of life may be handled by the very greatest in their
hours of insight; it is of its pleasures that our common poems
should be formed; these are the experiences that we should seek to
recall or to provoke; and I say with Thoreau, 'What right have I to
complain, who have not ceased to wonder?' and, to add a rider of my
own, who have no remedy to offer.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, - You know how much and for how long I have
loved, respected, and admired him; I am only able to feel a little
with you. But I know how he would have wished us to feel. I never
knew a better man, nor one to me more lovable; we shall all feel
the loss more greatly as time goes on. It scarce seems life to me;
what must it be to you? Yet one of the last things that he said to
me was, that from all these sad bereavements of yours he had
learned only more than ever to feel the goodness and what we, in
our feebleness, call the support of God; he had been ripening so
much - to other eyes than ours, we must suppose he was ripe, and
try to feel it. I feel it is better not to say much more. It will
be to me a great pride to write a notice of him: the last I can
now do. What more in any way I can do for you, please to think and
let me know. For his sake and for your own, I would not be a
useless friend: I know, you know me a most warm one; please
command me or my wife, in any way. Do not trouble to write to me;
Austin, I have no doubt, will do so, if you are, as I fear you will
be, unfit.

My heart is sore for you. At least you know what you have been to
him; how he cherished and admired you; how he was never so pleased
as when he spoke of you; with what a boy's love, up to the last, he
loved you. This surely is a consolation. Yours is the cruel part
- to survive; you must try and not grudge to him his better
fortune, to go first. It is the sad part of such relations that
one must remain and suffer; I cannot see my poor Jenkin without
you. Nor you indeed without him; but you may try to rejoice that
he is spared that extremity. Perhaps I (as I was so much his
confidant) know even better than you can do what your loss would
have been to him; he never spoke of you but his face changed; it
was - you were - his religion.

I write by this post to Austin and to the ACADEMY. - Yours most




MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, - I should have written sooner, but we are in
a bustle, and I have been very tired, though still well. Your very
kind note was most welcome to me. I shall be very much pleased to
have you call me Louis, as he has now done for so many years.
Sixteen, you say? is it so long? It seems too short now; but of
that we cannot judge, and must not complain.

I wish that either I or my wife could do anything for you; when we
can, you will, I am sure, command us.

I trust that my notice gave you as little pain as was possible. I
found I had so much to say, that I preferred to keep it for another
place and make but a note in the ACADEMY. To try to draw my friend
at greater length, and say what he was to me and his intimates,
what a good influence in life and what an example, is a desire that
grows upon me. It was strange, as I wrote the note, how his old
tests and criticisms haunted me; and it reminded me afresh with
every few words how much I owe to him.

I had a note from Henley, very brief and very sad. We none of us
yet feel the loss; but we know what he would have said and wished.

Do you know that Dew Smith has two photographs of him, neither very
bad? and one giving a lively, though not flattering air of him in
conversation? If you have not got them, would you like me to write
to Dew and ask him to give you proofs?

I was so pleased that he and my wife made friends; that is a great
pleasure. We found and have preserved one fragment (the head) of
the drawing he made and tore up when he was last here. He had
promised to come and stay with us this summer. May we not hope, at
least, some time soon to have one from you? - Believe me, my dear
Mrs. Jenkin, with the most real sympathy, your sincere friend,


Dear me, what happiness I owe to both of you!

Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - I trust you are not annoyed with me beyond
forgiveness; for indeed my silence has been devilish prolonged. I
can only tell you that I have been nearly six months (more than
six) in a strange condition of collapse, when it was impossible to
do any work, and difficult (more difficult than you would suppose)
to write the merest note. I am now better, but not yet my own man
in the way of brains, and in health only so-so. I suppose I shall
learn (I begin to think I am learning) to fight this vast, vague
feather-bed of an obsession that now overlies and smothers me; but
in the beginnings of these conflicts, the inexperienced wrestler is
always worsted, and I own I have been quite extinct. I wish you to
know, though it can be no excuse, that you are not the only one of
my friends by many whom I have thus neglected; and even now, having
come so very late into the possession of myself, with a substantial
capital of debts, and my work still moving with a desperate
slowness - as a child might fill a sandbag with its little handfuls
- and my future deeply pledged, there is almost a touch of virtue
in my borrowing these hours to write to you. Why I said 'hours' I
know not; it would look blue for both of us if I made good the

I was writing your address the other day, ordering a copy of my
next, PRINCE OTTO, to go your way. I hope you have not seen it in
parts; it was not meant to be so read; and only my poverty
(dishonourably) consented to the serial evolution.

I will send you with this a copy of the English edition of the
CHILD'S GARDEN. I have heard there is some vile rule of the post-
office in the States against inscriptions; so I send herewith a
piece of doggerel which Mr. Bunner may, if he thinks fit, copy off
the fly leaf.

Sargent was down again and painted a portrait of me walking about
in my own dining-room, in my own velveteen jacket, and twisting as
I go my own moustache; at one corner a glimpse of my wife, in an
Indian dress, and seated in a chair that was once my grandfather's;
but since some months goes by the name of Henry James's, for it was
there the novelist loved to sit - adds a touch of poesy and
comicality. It is, I think, excellent, but is too eccentric to be
exhibited. I am at one extreme corner; my wife, in this wild
dress, and looking like a ghost, is at the extreme other end;
between us an open door exhibits my palatial entrance hall and a
part of my respected staircase. All this is touched in lovely,
with that witty touch of Sargent's; but, of course, it looks dam
queer as a whole.

Pray let me hear from you, and give me good news of yourself and
your wife, to whom please remember me. -

Yours most sincerely, my dear Low,


Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR LAD, - If there was any more praise in what you wrote, I think
[the editor] has done us both a service; some of it stops my
throat. What, it would not have been the same if Dumas or Musset
had done it, would it not? Well, no, I do not think it would, do
you know, now; I am really of opinion it would not; and a dam good
job too. Why, think what Musset would have made of Otto! Think
how gallantly Dumas would have carried his crowd through! And
whatever you do, don't quarrel with -. It gives me much pleasure
to see your work there; I think you do yourself great justice in
that field; and I would let no annoyance, petty or justifiable,
debar me from such a market. I think you do good there. Whether
(considering our intimate relations) you would not do better to
refrain from reviewing me, I will leave to yourself: were it all
on my side, you could foresee my answer; but there is your side
also, where you must be the judge.

As for the SATURDAY. Otto is no 'fool,' the reader is left in no
doubt as to whether or not Seraphina was a Messalina (though much
it would matter, if you come to that); and therefore on both these
points the reviewer has been unjust. Secondly, the romance lies
precisely in the freeing of two spirits from these court intrigues;
and here I think the reviewer showed himself dull. Lastly, if
Otto's speech is offensive to him, he is one of the large class of
unmanly and ungenerous dogs who arrogate and defile the name of
manly. As for the passages quoted, I do confess that some of them
reek Gongorically; they are excessive, but they are not inelegant
after all. However, had he attacked me only there, he would have

Your criticism on Gondremark is, I fancy, right. I thought all
your criticisms were indeed; only your praise - chokes me. - Yours

R. L. S.



DEAR MR. ARCHER, - I have read your paper with my customary

Book of the day: