Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 1 out of 7

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, Volume II
Scanned and proofed by David Price

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, Volume II




DEAREST KATHARINE, - Here, on a very little book and accompanied
with lame verses, I have put your name. Our kindness is now
getting well on in years; it must be nearly of age; and it gets
more valuable to me with every time I see you. It is not possible
to express any sentiment, and it is not necessary to try, at least
between us. You know very well that I love you dearly, and that I
always will. I only wish the verses were better, but at least you
like the story; and it is sent to you by the one that loves you -
Jekyll, and not Hyde.

R. L. S.


Bells upon the city are ringing in the night;
High above the gardens are the houses full of light;
On the heathy Pentlands is the curlew flying free;
And the broom is blowing bonnie in the north countrie.

We cannae break the bonds that God decreed to bind,
Still we'll be the children of the heather and the wind;
Far away from home, O, it's still for you and me
That the broom is blowing bonnie in the north countrie!

R. L. S.



MY DEAR KINNICUM, - I am a very bad dog, but not for the first
time. Your book, which is very interesting, came duly; and I
immediately got a very bad cold indeed, and have been fit for
nothing whatever. I am a bit better now, and aye on the mend; so I
write to tell you, I thought of you on New Year's Day; though, I
own, it would have been more decent if I had thought in time for
you to get my letter then. Well, what can't be cured must be
endured, Mr. Lawrie; and you must be content with what I give. If
I wrote all the letters I ought to write, and at the proper time, I
should be very good and very happy; but I doubt if I should do
anything else.

I suppose you will be in town for the New Year; and I hope your
health is pretty good. What you want is diet; but it is as much
use to tell you that as it is to tell my father. And I quite admit
a diet is a beastly thing. I doubt, however, if it be as bad as
not being allowed to speak, which I have tried fully, and do not
like. When, at the same time, I was not allowed to read, it passed
a joke. But these are troubles of the past, and on this day, at
least, it is proper to suppose they won't return. But we are not
put here to enjoy ourselves: it was not God's purpose; and I am
prepared to argue, it is not our sincere wish. As for our deserts,
the less said of them the better, for somebody might hear, and
nobody cares to be laughed at. A good man is a very noble thing to
see, but not to himself; what he seems to God is, fortunately, not
our business; that is the domain of faith; and whether on the first
of January or the thirty-first of December, faith is a good word to
end on.

My dear Cummy, many happy returns to you and my best love. - The
worst correspondent in the world,




MY DEAR PEOPLE, - Many happy returns of the day to you all; I am
fairly well and in good spirits; and much and hopefully occupied
with dear Jenkin's life. The inquiry in every detail, every letter
that I read, makes me think of him more nobly. I cannot imagine
how I got his friendship; I did not deserve it. I believe the
notice will be interesting and useful.

My father's last letter, owing to the use of a quill pen and the
neglect of blotting-paper, was hopelessly illegible. Every one
tried, and every one failed to decipher an important word on which
the interest of one whole clause (and the letter consisted of two)

I find I can make little more of this; but I'll spare the blots. -
Dear people, ever your loving son,

R. L. S.

I will try again, being a giant refreshed by the house being empty.
The presence of people is the great obstacle to letter-writing. I
deny that letters should contain news (I mean mine; those of other
people should). But mine should contain appropriate sentiments and
humorous nonsense, or nonsense without the humour. When the house
is empty, the mind is seized with a desire - no, that is too strong
- a willingness to pour forth unmitigated rot, which constitutes
(in me) the true spirit of correspondence. When I have no remarks
to offer (and nobody to offer them to), my pen flies, and you see
the remarkable consequence of a page literally covered with words
and genuinely devoid of sense. I can always do that, if quite
alone, and I like doing it; but I have yet to learn that it is
beloved by correspondents. The deuce of it is, that there is no
end possible but the end of the paper; and as there is very little
left of that - if I cannot stop writing - suppose you give up
reading. It would all come to the same thing; and I think we
should all be happier...

Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - LAMIA has come, and I do not know how to thank you,
not only for the beautiful art of the designs, but for the handsome
and apt words of the dedication. My favourite is 'Bathes unseen,'
which is a masterpiece; and the next, 'Into the green recessed
woods,' is perhaps more remarkable, though it does not take my
fancy so imperiously. The night scene at Corinth pleases me also.
The second part offers fewer opportunities. I own I should like to
see both ISABELLA and the EVE thus illustrated; and then there's
HYPERION - O, yes, and ENDYMION! I should like to see the lot:
beautiful pictures dance before me by hundreds: I believe ENDYMION
would suit you best. It also is in faery-land; and I see a hundred
opportunities, cloudy and flowery glories, things as delicate as
the cobweb in the bush; actions, not in themselves of any mighty
purport, but made for the pencil: the feast of Pan, Peona's isle,
the 'slabbed margin of a well,' the chase of the butterfly, the
nymph, Glaucus, Cybele, Sleep on his couch, a farrago of
unconnected beauties. But I divagate; and all this sits in the
bosom of the publisher.

What is more important, I accept the terms of the dedication with a
frank heart, and the terms of your Latin legend fairly. The sight
of your pictures has once more awakened me to my right mind;
something may come of it; yet one more bold push to get free of
this prisonyard of the abominably ugly, where I take my daily
exercise with my contemporaries. I do not know, I have a feeling
in my bones, a sentiment which may take on the forms of
imagination, or may not. If it does, I shall owe it to you; and
the thing will thus descend from Keats even if on the wrong side of
the blanket. If it can be done in prose - that is the puzzle - I
divagate again. Thank you again: you can draw and yet you do not
love the ugly: what are you doing in this age? Flee, while it is
yet time; they will have your four limbs pinned upon a stable door
to scare witches. The ugly, my unhappy friend, is DE RIGUEUR: it
is the only wear! What a chance you threw away with the serpent!
Why had Apollonius no pimples? Heavens, my dear Low, you do not
know your business....

I send you herewith a Gothic gnome for your Greek nymph; but the
gnome is interesting, I think, and he came out of a deep mine,
where he guards the fountain of tears. It is not always the time
to rejoice. - Yours ever,

R. L. S.

The gnome's name is JEKYLL & HYDE; I believe you will find he is
likewise quite willing to answer to the name of Low or Stevenson.

SAME DAY. - I have copied out on the other sheet some bad verses,
which somehow your picture suggested; as a kind of image of things
that I pursue and cannot reach, and that you seem - no, not to have
reached - but to have come a thought nearer to than I. This is the
life we have chosen: well, the choice was mad, but I should make
it again.

What occurs to me is this: perhaps they might be printed in (say)
the CENTURY for the sake of my name; and if that were possible,
they might advertise your book. It might be headed as sent in
acknowledgment of your LAMIA. Or perhaps it might be introduced by
the phrases I have marked above. I dare say they would stick it
in: I want no payment, being well paid by LAMIA. If they are not,
keep them to yourself.



Youth now flees on feathered foot.
Faint and fainter sounds the flute;
Rarer songs of Gods.
And still,
Somewhere on the sunny hill,
Or along the winding stream,
Through the willows, flits a dream;
Flits, but shows a smiling face,
Flees, but with so quaint a grace,
None can choose to stay at home,
All must follow - all must roam.
This is unborn beauty: she
Now in air floats high and free,
Takes the sun, and breaks the blue; -
Late, with stooping pinion flew
Raking hedgerow trees, and wet
Her wing in silver streams, and set
Shining foot on temple roof.
Now again she flies aloof,
Coasting mountain clouds, and kissed
By the evening's amethyst.
In wet wood and miry lane
Still we pound and pant in vain;
Still with earthy foot we chase
Waning pinion, fainting face;
Still, with grey hair, we stumble on
Till - behold! - the vision gone!
Where has fleeting beauty led?
To the doorway of the dead!
qy. omit? [Life is gone, but life was gay:
We have come the primrose way!]

R. L. S.



MY DEAR GOSSE, - Thank you for your letter, so interesting to my
vanity. There is a review in the St. James's, which, as it seems
to hold somewhat of your opinions, and is besides written with a
pen and not a poker, we think may possibly be yours. The PRINCE
has done fairly well in spite of the reviews, which have been bad:
he was, as you doubtless saw, well slated in the SATURDAY; one
paper received it as a child's story; another (picture my agony)
described it as a 'Gilbert comedy.' It was amusing to see the race
between me and Justin M'Carthy: the Milesian has won by a length.

That is the hard part of literature. You aim high, and you take
longer over your work, and it will not be so successful as if you
had aimed low and rushed it. What the public likes is work (of any
kind) a little loosely executed; so long as it is a little wordy, a
little slack, a little dim and knotless, the dear public likes it;
it should (if possible) be a little dull into the bargain. I know
that good work sometimes hits; but, with my hand on my heart, I
think it is by an accident. And I know also that good work must
succeed at last; but that is not the doing of the public; they are
only shamed into silence or affectation. I do not write for the
public; I do write for money, a nobler deity; and most of all for
myself, not perhaps any more noble, but both more intelligent and
nearer home.

Let us tell each other sad stories of the bestiality of the beast
whom we feed. What he likes is the newspaper; and to me the press
is the mouth of a sewer, where lying is professed as from an
university chair, and everything prurient, and ignoble, and
essentially dull, finds its abode and pulpit. I do not like
mankind; but men, and not all of these - and fewer women. As for
respecting the race, and, above all, that fatuous rabble of
burgesses called 'the public,' God save me from such irreligion! -
that way lies disgrace and dishonour. There must be something
wrong in me, or I would not be popular.

This is perhaps a trifle stronger than my sedate and permanent
opinion. Not much, I think. As for the art that we practise, I
have never been able to see why its professors should be respected.
They chose the primrose path; when they found it was not all
primroses, but some of it brambly, and much of it uphill, they
began to think and to speak of themselves as holy martyrs. But a
man is never martyred in any honest sense in the pursuit of his
pleasure; and DELIRIUM TREMENS has more of the honour of the cross.
We were full of the pride of life, and chose, like prostitutes, to
live by a pleasure. We should be paid if we give the pleasure we
pretend to give; but why should we be honoured?

I hope some day you and Mrs. Gosse will come for a Sunday; but we
must wait till I am able to see people. I am very full of Jenkin's
life; it is painful, yet very pleasant, to dig into the past of a
dead friend, and find him, at every spadeful, shine brighter. I
own, as I read, I wonder more and more why he should have taken me
to be a friend. He had many and obvious faults upon the face of
him; the heart was pure gold. I feel it little pain to have lost
him, for it is a loss in which I cannot believe; I take it, against
reason, for an absence; if not to-day, then to-morrow, I still
fancy I shall see him in the door; and then, now when I know him
better, how glad a meeting! Yes, if I could believe in the
immortality business, the world would indeed be too good to be
true; but we were put here to do what service we can, for honour
and not for hire: the sods cover us, and the worm that never dies,
the conscience, sleeps well at last; these are the wages, besides
what we receive so lavishly day by day; and they are enough for a
man who knows his own frailty and sees all things in the proportion
of reality. The soul of piety was killed long ago by that idea of
reward. Nor is happiness, whether eternal or temporal, the reward
that mankind seeks. Happinesses are but his wayside campings; his
soul is in the journey; he was born for the struggle, and only
tastes his life in effort and on the condition that he is opposed.
How, then, is such a creature, so fiery, so pugnacious, so made up
of discontent and aspiration, and such noble and uneasy passions -
how can he be rewarded but by rest? I would not say it aloud; for
man's cherished belief is that he loves that happiness which he
continually spurns and passes by; and this belief in some ulterior
happiness exactly fits him. He does not require to stop and taste
it; he can be about the rugged and bitter business where his heart
lies; and yet he can tell himself this fairy tale of an eternal
tea-party, and enjoy the notion that he is both himself and
something else; and that his friends will yet meet him, all ironed
out and emasculate, and still be lovable, - as if love did not live
in the faults of the beloved only, and draw its breath in an
unbroken round of forgiveness! But the truth is, we must fight
until we die; and when we die there can be no quiet for mankind but
complete resumption into - what? - God, let us say - when all these
desperate tricks will lie spellbound at last.

Here came my dinner and cut this sermon short - EXCUSEZ.

R. L. S.



DEAR JAMES PAYN, - Your very kind letter came very welcome; and
still more welcome the news that you see -'s tale. I will now tell
you (and it was very good and very wise of me not to tell it
before) that he is one of the most unlucky men I know, having put
all his money into a pharmacy at Hyeres, when the cholera
(certainly not his fault) swept away his customers in a body. Thus
you can imagine the pleasure I have to announce to him a spark of
hope, for he sits to-day in his pharmacy, doing nothing and taking
nothing, and watching his debts inexorably mount up.

To pass to other matters: your hand, you are perhaps aware, is not
one of those that can be read running; and the name of your
daughter remains for me undecipherable. I call her, then, your
daughter - and a very good name too - and I beg to explain how it
came about that I took her house. The hospital was a point in my
tale; but there is a house on each side. Now the true house is the
one before the hospital: is that No. 11? If not, what do you
complain of? If it is, how can I help what is true? Everything in
the DYNAMITER is not true; but the story of the Brown Box is, in
almost every particular; I lay my hand on my heart and swear to it.
It took place in that house in 1884; and if your daughter was in
that house at the time, all I can say is she must have kept very
bad society.

But I see you coming. Perhaps your daughter's house has not a
balcony at the back? I cannot answer for that; I only know that
side of Queen Square from the pavement and the back windows of
Brunswick Row. Thence I saw plenty of balconies (terraces rather);
and if there is none to the particular house in question, it must
have been so arranged to spite me.

I now come to the conclusion of this matter. I address three
questions to your daughter:-

1st Has her house the proper terrace?

2nd. Is it on the proper side of the hospital?

3rd. Was she there in the summer of 1884?

You see, I begin to fear that Mrs. Desborough may have deceived me
on some trifling points, for she is not a lady of peddling
exactitude. If this should prove to be so, I will give your
daughter a proper certificate, and her house property will return
to its original value.

Can man say more? - Yours very truly,


I saw the other day that the Eternal had plagiarised from LOST SIR
MASSINGBERD: good again, sir! I wish he would plagiarise the
death of Zero.

Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - I send you two photographs: they are both done by
Sir Percy Shelley, the poet's son, which may interest. The sitting
down one is, I think, the best; but if they choose that, see that
the little reflected light on the nose does not give me a turn-up;
that would be tragic. Don't forget 'Baronet' to Sir Percy's name.

We all think a heap of your book; and I am well pleased with my
dedication. - Yours ever,


P.S. - APROPOS of the odd controversy about Shelley's nose: I have
before me four photographs of myself, done by Shelley's son: my
nose is hooked, not like the eagle, indeed, but like the
accipitrine family in man: well, out of these four, only one marks
the bend, one makes it straight, and one suggests a turn-up. This
throws a flood of light on calumnious man - and the scandal-
mongering sun. For personally I cling to my curve. To continue
the Shelley controversy: I have a look of him, all his sisters had
noses like mine; Sir Percy has a marked hook; all the family had
high cheek-bones like mine; what doubt, then, but that this turn-up
(of which Jeaffreson accuses the poet, along with much other
FATRAS) is the result of some accident similar to what has happened
in my photographs by his son?

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FATHER, - Many thanks for a letter quite like yourself. I
quite agree with you, and had already planned a scene of religion
in BALFOUR; the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge
furnishes me with a catechist whom I shall try to make the man. I
have another catechist, the blind, pistol-carrying highway robber,
whom I have transferred from the Long Island to Mull. I find it a
most picturesque period, and wonder Scott let it escape. The
COVENANT is lost on one of the Tarrans, and David is cast on
Earraid, where (being from inland) he is nearly starved before he
finds out the island is tidal; then he crosses Mull to Toronsay,
meeting the blind catechist by the way; then crosses Morven from
Kinlochaline to Kingairloch, where he stays the night with the good
catechist; that is where I am; next day he is to be put ashore in
Appin, and be present at Colin Campbell's death. To-day I rest,
being a little run down. Strange how liable we are to brain fag in
this scooty family! But as far as I have got, all but the last
chapter, I think David is on his feet, and (to my mind) a far
better story and far sounder at heart than TREASURE ISLAND.

I have no earthly news, living entirely in my story, and only
coming out of it to play patience. The Shelleys are gone; the
Taylors kinder than can be imagined. The other day, Lady Taylor
drove over and called on me; she is a delightful old lady, and
great fun. I mentioned a story about the Duchess of Wellington
which I had heard Sir Henry tell; and though he was very tired, he
looked it up and copied it out for me in his own hand. - Your most
affectionate son,




MY DEAR STODDARD, - I am a dreadful character; but, you see, I have
at last taken pen in hand; how long I may hold it, God knows. This
is already my sixth letter to-day, and I have many more waiting;
and my wrist gives me a jog on the subject of scrivener's cramp,
which is not encouraging.

I gather you were a little down in the jaw when you wrote your
last. I am as usual pretty cheerful, but not very strong. I stay
in the house all winter, which is base; but, as you continue to
see, the pen goes from time to time, though neither fast enough nor
constantly enough to please me.

My wife is at Bath with my father and mother, and the interval of
widowery explains my writing. Another person writing for you when
you have done work is a great enemy to correspondence. To-day I
feel out of health, and shan't work; and hence this so much overdue

I was re-reading some of your South Sea Idyls the other day: some
of the chapters are very good indeed; some pages as good as they
can be.

How does your class get along? If you like to touch on OTTO, any
day in a by-hour, you may tell them - as the author's last dying
confession - that it is a strange example of the difficulty of
being ideal in an age of realism; that the unpleasant giddy-
mindedness, which spoils the book and often gives it a wanton air
of unreality and juggling with air-bells, comes from unsteadiness
of key; from the too great realism of some chapters and passages -
some of which I have now spotted, others I dare say I shall never
spot - which disprepares the imagination for the cast of the

Any story can be made TRUE in its own key; any story can be made
FALSE by the choice of a wrong key of detail or style: Otto is
made to reel like a drunken - I was going to say man, but let us
substitute cipher - by the variations of the key. Have you
observed that the famous problem of realism and idealism is one
purely of detail? Have you seen my 'Note on Realism' in Cassell's
MAGAZINE OF ART; and 'Elements of Style' in the CONTEMPORARY; and
'Romance' and 'Humble Apology' in LONGMAN'S? They are all in your
line of business; let me know what you have not seen and I'll send

I am glad I brought the old house up to you. It was a pleasant old
spot, and I remember you there, though still more dearly in your
own strange den upon a hill in San Francisco; and one of the most
San Francisco-y parts of San Francisco.

Good-bye, my dear fellow, and believe me your friend,


Letter: TO J. A. SYMONDS


MY DEAR SYMONDS, - If we have lost touch, it is (I think) only in a
material sense; a question of letters, not hearts. You will find a
warm welcome at Skerryvore from both the lightkeepers; and, indeed,
we never tell ourselves one of our financial fairy tales, but a run
to Davos is a prime feature. I am not changeable in friendship;
and I think I can promise you you have a pair of trusty well-
wishers and friends in Bournemouth: whether they write or not is
but a small thing; the flag may not be waved, but it is there.

Jekyll is a dreadful thing, I own; but the only thing I feel
dreadful about is that damned old business of the war in the
members. This time it came out; I hope it will stay in, in future.

Raskolnikoff is easily the greatest book I have read in ten years;
I am glad you took to it. Many find it dull: Henry James could
not finish it: all I can say is, it nearly finished me. It was
like having an illness. James did not care for it because the
character of Raskolnikoff was not objective; and at that I divined
a great gulf between us, and, on further reflection, the existence
of a certain impotence in many minds of to-day, which prevents them
from living IN a book or a character, and keeps them standing afar
off, spectators of a puppet show. To such I suppose the book may
seem empty in the centre; to the others it is a room, a house of
life, into which they themselves enter, and are tortured and
purified. The Juge d'Instruction I thought a wonderful, weird,
touching, ingenious creation: the drunken father, and Sonia, and
the student friend, and the uncircumscribed, protaplasmic humanity
of Raskolnikoff, all upon a level that filled me with wonder: the
execution also, superb in places. Another has been translated -
HUMILIES ET OFFENSES. It is even more incoherent than LE CRIME ET
LE CHATIMENT, but breathes much of the same lovely goodness, and
has passages of power. Dostoieffsky is a devil of a swell, to be
sure. Have you heard that he became a stout, imperialist
conservative? It is interesting to know. To something of that
side, the balance leans with me also in view of the incoherency and
incapacity of all. The old boyish idea of the march on Paradise
being now out of season, and all plans and ideas that I hear
debated being built on a superb indifference to the first
principles of human character, a helpless desire to acquiesce in
anything of which I know the worst assails me. Fundamental errors
in human nature of two sorts stand on the skyline of all this modem
world of aspirations. First, that it is happiness that men want;
and second, that happiness consists of anything but an internal
harmony. Men do not want, and I do not think they would accept,
happiness; what they live for is rivalry, effort, success - the
elements our friends wish to eliminate. And, on the other hand,
happiness is a question of morality - or of immorality, there is no
difference - and conviction. Gordon was happy in Khartoum, in his
worst hours of danger and fatigue; Marat was happy, I suppose, in
his ugliest frenzy; Marcus Aurelius was happy in the detested camp;
Pepys was pretty happy, and I am pretty happy on the whole, because
we both somewhat crowingly accepted a VIA MEDIA, both liked to
attend to our affairs, and both had some success in managing the
same. It is quite an open question whether Pepys and I ought to be
happy; on the other hand, there is no doubt that Marat had better
be unhappy. He was right (if he said it) that he was LA MISERE
HUMAINE, cureless misery - unless perhaps by the gallows. Death is
a great and gentle solvent; it has never had justice done it, no,
not by Whitman. As for those crockery chimney-piece ornaments, the
bourgeois (QUORUM PARS), and their cowardly dislike of dying and
killing, it is merely one symptom of a thousand how utterly they
have got out of touch of life. Their dislike of capital punishment
and their treatment of their domestic servants are for me the two
flaunting emblems of their hollowness.

God knows where I am driving to. But here comes my lunch.

Which interruption, happily for you, seems to have stayed the
issue. I have now nothing to say, that had formerly such a
pressure of twaddle. Pray don't fail to come this summer. It will
be a great disappointment, now it has been spoken of, if you do. -
Yours ever,


Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - This is the most enchanting picture. Now understand
my state: I am really an invalid, but of a mysterious order. I
might be a MALADE IMAGINAIRE, but for one too tangible symptom, my
tendency to bleed from the lungs. If we could go, (1ST) We must
have money enough to travel with LEISURE AND COMFORT - especially
the first. (2ND) You must be prepared for a comrade who would go
to bed some part of every day and often stay silent (3RD) You
would have to play the part of a thoughtful courier, sparing me
fatigue, looking out that my bed was warmed, etc. (4TH) If you are
very nervous, you must recollect a bad haemorrhage is always on the
cards, with its concomitants of anxiety and horror for those who
are beside me.

Do you blench? If so, let us say no more about it.

If you are still unafraid, and the money were forthcoming, I
believe the trip might do me good, and I feel sure that, working
together, we might produce a fine book. The Rhone is the river of
Angels. I adore it: have adored it since I was twelve, and first
saw it from the train.

Lastly, it would depend on how I keep from now on. I have stood
the winter hitherto with some credit, but the dreadful weather
still continues, and I cannot holloa till I am through the wood.

Subject to these numerous and gloomy provisos, I embrace the
prospect with glorious feelings.

I write this from bed, snow pouring without, and no circumstance of
pleasure except your letter. That, however, counts for much. I am
glad you liked the doggerel: I have already had a liberal cheque,
over which I licked my fingers with a sound conscience. I had not
meant to make money by these stumbling feet, but if it comes, it is
only too welcome in my handsome but impecunious house.

Let me know soon what is to be expected - as far as it does not
hang by that inconstant quantity, my want of health. Remember me
to Madam with the best thanks and wishes; and believe me your




MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, - I try to tell myself it is good nature, but
I know it is vanity that makes me write.

I have drafted the first part of Chapter VI., Fleeming and his
friends, his influence on me, his views on religion and literature,
his part at the Savile; it should boil down to about ten pages, and
I really do think it admirably good. It has so much evoked
Fleeming for myself that I found my conscience stirred just as it
used to be after a serious talk with him: surely that means it is
good? I had to write and tell you, being alone.

I have excellent news of Fanny, who is much better for the change.
My father is still very yellow, and very old, and very weak, but
yesterday he seemed happier, and smiled, and followed what was
said; even laughed, I think. When he came away, he said to me,
'Take care of yourself, my dearie,' which had a strange sound of
childish days, and will not leave my mind.

You must get Litolf's GAVOTTES CELEBRES: I have made another
trover there: a musette of Lully's. The second part of it I have
not yet got the hang of; but the first - only a few bars! The
gavotte is beautiful and pretty hard, I think, and very much of the
period; and at the end of it, this musette enters with the most
really thrilling effect of simple beauty. O - it's first-rate. I
am quite mad over it. If you find other books containing Lully,
Rameau, Martini, please let me know; also you might tell me, you
who know Bach, where the easiest is to be found. I write all
morning, come down, and never leave the piano till about five;
write letters, dine, get down again about eight, and never leave
the piano till I go to bed. This is a fine life. - Yours most

R. L. S.

If you get the musette (Lully's), please tell me if I am right, and
it was probably written for strings. Anyway, it is as neat as - as
neat as Bach - on the piano; or seems so to my ignorance.

I play much of the Rigadoon but it is strange, it don't come off
QUITE so well with me!

[Musical score which cannot be reproduced]

There is the first part of the musette copied (from memory, so I
hope there's nothing wrong). Is it not angelic? But it ought, of
course, to have the gavotte before. The gavotte is in G, and ends
on the keynote thus (if I remember):-

[Musical score which cannot be reproduced]

staccato, I think. Then you sail into the musette.

N.B. - Where I have put an 'A,' is that a dominant eleventh, or
what? or just a seventh on the D? and if the latter, is that
allowed? It sounds very funny. Never mind all my questions; if I
begin about music (which is my leading ignorance and curiosity), I
have always to babble questions: all my friends know me now, and
take no notice whatever. The whole piece is marked allegro; but
surely could easily be played too fast? The dignity must not be
lost; the periwig feeling.



MY DEAR FATHER, - The David problem has to-day been decided. I am
to leave the door open for a sequel if the public take to it, and
this will save me from butchering a lot of good material to no
purpose. Your letter from Carlisle was pretty like yourself, sir,
as I was pleased to see; the hand of Jekyll, not the hand of Hyde.
I am for action quite unfit, and even a letter is beyond me; so
pray take these scraps at a vast deal more than their intrinsic
worth. I am in great spirits about David, Colvin agreeing with
Henley, Fanny, and myself in thinking it far the most human of my
labours hitherto. As to whether the long-eared British public may
take to it, all think it more than doubtful; I wish they would, for
I could do a second volume with ease and pleasure, and Colvin
thinks it sin and folly to throw away David and Alan Breck upon so
small a field as this one. - Ever your affectionate son,

R. L. S.


KNOWN), 1886.

MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, - It is I know not what hour of the night; but
I cannot sleep, have lit the gas, and here goes.

First, all your packet arrived: I have dipped into the Schumann
already with great pleasure. Surely, in what concerns us there is
a sweet little chirrup; the GOOD WORDS arrived in the morning just
when I needed it, and the famous notes that I had lost were
recovered also in the nick of time.

And now I am going to bother you with my affairs: premising,
first, that this is PRIVATE; second, that whatever I do the LIFE
shall be done first, and I am getting on with it well; and third,
that I do not quite know why I consult you, but something tells me
you will hear with fairness.

Here is my problem. The Curtin women are still miserable
prisoners; no one dare buy their farm of them, all the manhood of
England and the world stands aghast before a threat of murder. (1)
Now, my work can be done anywhere; hence I can take up without loss
a back-going Irish farm, and live on, though not (as I had
originally written) in it: First Reason. (2) If I should be
killed, there are a good many who would feel it: writers are so
much in the public eye, that a writer being murdered would attract
attention, throw a bull's-eye light upon this cowardly business:
Second Reason. (3) I am not unknown in the States, from which the
funds come that pay for these brutalities: to some faint extent,
my death (if I should be killed) would tell there: Third Reason.
Reason. (5) I have a crazy health and may die at any moment, my
life is of no purchase in an insurance office, it is the less
account to husband it, and the business of husbanding a life is
dreary and demoralising: Fifth Reason.

I state these in no order, but as they occur to me. And I shall do
the like with the objections.

First Objection: It will do no good; you have seen Gordon die and
nobody minded; nobody will mind if you die. This is plainly of the
devil. Second Objection: You will not even be murdered, the
climate will miserably kill you, you will strangle out in a rotten
damp heat, in congestion, etc. Well, what then? It changes
nothing: the purpose is to brave crime; let me brave it, for such
time and to such an extent as God allows. Third Objection: The
Curtin women are probably highly uninteresting females. I haven't
a doubt of it. But the Government cannot, men will not, protect
them. If I am the only one to see this public duty, it is to the
public and the Right I should perform it - not to Mesdames Curtin.
Fourth Objection: I am married. 'I have married a wife!' I seem
to have heard it before. It smells ancient! what was the context?
Fifth Objection: My wife has had a mean life (1), loves me (2),
could not bear to lose me (3). (1) I admit: I am sorry. (2) But
what does she love me for? and (3) she must lose me soon or late.
And after all, because we run this risk, it does not follow we
should fail. Sixth Objection: My wife wouldn't like it. No, she
wouldn't. Who would? But the Curtins don't like it. And all
those who are to suffer if this goes on, won't like it. And if
there is a great wrong, somebody must suffer. Seventh Objection:
I won't like it. No, I will not; I have thought it through, and I
will not. But what of that? And both she and I may like it more
than we suppose. We shall lose friends, all comforts, all society:
so has everybody who has ever done anything; but we shall have some
excitement, and that's a fine thing; and we shall be trying to do
the right, and that's not to be despised. Eighth Objection: I am
an author with my work before me. See Second Reason. Ninth
Objection: But am I not taken with the hope of excitement? I was
at first. I am not much now. I see what a dreary, friendless,
miserable, God-forgotten business it will be. And anyway, is not
excitement the proper reward of doing anything both right and a
little dangerous? Tenth Objection: But am I not taken with a
notion of glory? I dare say I am. Yet I see quite clearly how all
points to nothing coming, to a quite inglorious death by disease
and from the lack of attendance; or even if I should be knocked on
the head, as these poor Irish promise, how little any one will
care. It will be a smile at a thousand breakfast-tables. I am
nearly forty now; I have not many illusions. And if I had? I do
not love this health-tending, housekeeping life of mine. I have a
taste for danger, which is human, like the fear of it. Here is a
fair cause; a just cause; no knight ever set lance in rest for a
juster. Yet it needs not the strength I have not, only the passive
courage that I hope I could muster, and the watchfulness that I am
sure I could learn.

Here is a long midnight dissertation; with myself; with you.
Please let me hear. But I charge you this: if you see in this
idea of mine the finger of duty, do not dissuade me. I am nearing
forty, I begin to love my ease and my home and my habits, I never
knew how much till this arose; do not falsely counsel me to put my
head under the bed-clothes. And I will say this to you: my wife,
who hates the idea, does not refuse. 'It is nonsense,' says she,
'but if you go, I will go.' Poor girl, and her home and her garden
that she was so proud of! I feel her garden most of all, because
it is a pleasure (I suppose) that I do not feel myself to share.

1. Here is a great wrong.
2. " growing wrong.
3. " wrong founded on crime.
4. " crime that the Government cannot prevent.
5. " crime that it occurs to no man to defy.
6. But it has occurred to me.
7. Being a known person, some will notice my defiance.
8. Being a writer, I can MAKE people notice it.
9. And, I think, MAKE people imitate me.
10. Which would destroy in time this whole scaffolding of
11. And if I fail, however ignominiously, that is not my concern.
It is, with an odd mixture of reverence and humorous remembrances
of Dickens, be it said - it is A-nother's.

And here, at I cannot think what hour of the morning, I shall dry
up, and remain, - Yours, really in want of a little help,

R. L S.

Sleepless at midnight's dewy hour.
" " witching "
" " maudlin "
" " etc.

NEXT MORNING. - Eleventh Objection: I have a father and mother.
And who has not? Macduff's was a rare case; if we must wait for a
Macduff. Besides, my father will not perhaps be long here.
Twelfth Objection: The cause of England in Ireland is not worth
supporting. A QUI LE DITES-VOUS? And I am not supporting that.
Home Rule, if you like. Cause of decency, the idea that
populations should not be taught to gain public ends by private
crime, the idea that for all men to bow before a threat of crime is
to loosen and degrade beyond redemption the whole fabric of man's



MY DEAR MRS. JENKIN, - The Book - It is all drafted: I hope soon
to send you for comments Chapters III., IV., and V. Chapter VII.
is roughly but satisfactorily drafted: a very little work should
put that to rights. But Chapter VI. is no joke; it is a MARE
MAGNUM: I swim and drown and come up again; and it is all broken
ends and mystification: moreover, I perceive I am in want of more
matter. I must have, first of all, a little letter from Mr. Ewing
about the phonograph work: IF you think he would understand it is
quite a matter of chance whether I use a word or a fact out of it.
If you think he would not: I will go without. Also, could I have
a look at Ewing's PRECIS? And lastly, I perceive I must interview
you again about a few points; they are very few, and might come to
little; and I propose to go on getting things as well together as I
can in the meanwhile, and rather have a final time when all is
ready and only to be criticised. I do still think it will be good.
I wonder if Trelat would let me cut? But no, I think I wouldn't
after all; 'tis so quaint and pretty and clever and simple and
French, and gives such a good sight of Fleeming: the plum of the
book, I think.

You misunderstood me in one point: I always hoped to found such a
society; that was the outside of my dream, and would mean entire
success. BUT - I cannot play Peter the Hermit. In these days of
the Fleet Street journalist, I cannot send out better men than
myself, with wives or mothers just as good as mine, and sisters (I
may at least say) better, to a danger and a long-drawn dreariness
that I do not share. My wife says it's cowardice; what brave men
are the leader-writers! Call it cowardice; it is mine. Mind you,
I may end by trying to do it by the pen only: I shall not love
myself if I do; and is it ever a good thing to do a thing for which
you despise yourself? - even in the doing? And if the thing you do
is to call upon others to do the thing you neglect? I have never
dared to say what I feel about men's lives, because my own was in
the wrong: shall I dare to send them to death? The physician must
heal himself; he must honestly TRY the path he recommends: if he
does not even try, should he not be silent?

I thank you very heartily for your letter, and for the seriousness
you brought to it. You know, I think when a serious thing is your
own, you keep a saner man by laughing at it and yourself as you go.
So I do not write possibly with all the really somewhat sickened
gravity I feel. And indeed, what with the book, and this business
to which I referred, and Ireland, I am scarcely in an enviable
state. Well, I ought to be glad, after ten years of the worst
training on earth - valetudinarianism - that I can still be
troubled by a duty. You shall hear more in time; so far, I am at
least decided: I will go and see Balfour when I get to London.

We have all had a great pleasure: a Mrs. Rawlinson came and
brought with her a nineteen-year-old daughter, simple, human, as
beautiful as - herself; I never admired a girl before, you know it
was my weakness: we are all three dead in love with her. How nice
to be able to do so much good to harassed people by - yourself!
Ever yours,

R. L. S.



OF the many flowers you brought me,
Only some were meant to stay,
And the flower I thought the sweetest
Was the flower that went away.

Of the many flowers you brought me,
All were fair and fresh and gay,
But the flower I thought the sweetest
Was the blossom of the May.




DEAR MISS MONROE, - (I hope I have this rightly) I must lose no
time in thanking you for a letter singularly pleasant to receive.
It may interest you to know that I read to the signature without
suspecting my correspondent was a woman; though in one point (a
reference to the Countess) I might have found a hint of the truth.
You are not pleased with Otto; since I judge you do not like
weakness; and no more do I. And yet I have more than tolerance for
Otto, whose faults are the faults of weakness, but never of ignoble
weakness, and who seeks before all to be both kind and just.
Seeks, not succeeds. But what is man? So much of cynicism to
recognise that nobody does right is the best equipment for those
who do not wish to be cynics in good earnest. Think better of
Otto, if my plea can influence you; and this I mean for your own
sake - not his, poor fellow, as he will never learn your opinion;
but for yours, because, as men go in this world (and women too),
you will not go far wrong if you light upon so fine a fellow; and
to light upon one and not perceive his merits is a calamity. In
the flesh, of course, I mean; in the book the fault, of course, is
with my stumbling pen. Seraphina made a mistake about her Otto; it
begins to swim before me dimly that you may have some traits of

With true ingratitude you see me pitch upon your exception; but it
is easier to defend oneself gracefully than to acknowledge praise.
I am truly glad that you should like my books; for I think I see
from what you write that you are a reader worth convincing. Your
name, if I have properly deciphered it, suggests that you may be
also something of my countrywoman; for it is hard to see where
Monroe came from, if not from Scotland. I seem to have here a
double claim on your good nature: being myself pure Scotch and
having appreciated your letter, make up two undeniable merits
which, perhaps, if it should be quite without trouble, you might
reward with your photograph. - Yours truly,




MY DEAR MISS MONROE, - I am ill in bed and stupid, incoherently
stupid; yet I have to answer your letter, and if the answer is
incomprehensible you must forgive me. You say my letter caused you
pleasure; I am sure, as it fell out, not near so much as yours has
brought to me. The interest taken in an author is fragile: his
next book, or your next year of culture, might see the interest
frosted or outgrown; and himself, in spite of all, you might
probably find the most distasteful person upon earth. My case is
different. I have bad health, am often condemned to silence for
days together - was so once for six weeks, so that my voice was
awful to hear when I first used it, like the whisper of a shadow -
have outlived all my chief pleasures, which were active and
adventurous, and ran in the open air: and being a person who
prefers life to art, and who knows it is a far finer thing to be in
love, or to risk a danger, than to paint the finest picture or
write the noblest book, I begin to regard what remains to me of my
life as very shadowy. From a variety of reasons, I am ashamed to
confess I was much in this humour when your letter came. I had a
good many troubles; was regretting a high average of sins; had been
recently reminded that I had outlived some friends, and wondering
if I had not outlived some friendships; and had just, while
boasting of better health, been struck down again by my haunting
enemy, an enemy who was exciting at first, but has now, by the
iteration of his strokes, become merely annoying and inexpressibly
irksome. Can you fancy that to a person drawing towards the
elderly this sort of conjunction of circumstances brings a rather
aching sense of the past and the future? Well, it was just then
that your letter and your photograph were brought to me in bed; and
there came to me at once the most agreeable sense of triumph. My
books were still young; my words had their good health and could go
about the world and make themselves welcome; and even (in a shadowy
and distant sense) make something in the nature of friends for the
sheer hulk that stays at home and bites his pen over the
manuscripts. It amused me very much to remember that I had been in
Chicago, not so many years ago, in my proper person; where I had
failed to awaken much remark, except from the ticket collector; and
to think how much more gallant and persuasive were the fellows that
I now send instead of me, and how these are welcome in that quarter
to the sitter of Herr Platz, while their author was not very
welcome even in the villainous restaurant where he tried to eat a
meal and rather failed.

And this leads me directly to a confession. The photograph which
shall accompany this is not chosen as the most like, but the best-
looking. Put yourself in my place, and you will call this
pardonable. Even as it is, even putting forth a flattered
presentment, I am a little pained; and very glad it is a photograph
and not myself that has to go; for in this case, if it please you,
you can tell yourself it is my image - and if it displeased you,
you can lay the blame on the photographer; but in that, there were
no help, and the poor author might belie his labours.

KIDNAPPED should soon appear; I am afraid you may not like it, as
it is very unlike PRINCE OTTO in every way; but I am myself a great
admirer of the two chief characters, Alan and David. VIRGINIBUS
PUERISQUE has never been issued in the States. I do not think it
is a book that has much charm for publishers in any land; but I am
to bring out a new edition in England shortly, a copy of which I
must try to remember to send you. I say try to remember, because I
have some superficial acquaintance with myself: and I have
determined, after a galling discipline, to promise nothing more
until the day of my death: at least, in this way, I shall no more
break my word, and I must now try being churlish instead of being

I do not believe you to be the least like Seraphina. Your
photograph has no trace of her, which somewhat relieves me, as I am
a good deal afraid of Seraphinas - they do not always go into the
woods and see the sunrise, and some are so well-mailed that even
that experience would leave them unaffected and unsoftened. The
'hair and eyes of several complexions' was a trait taken from
myself; and I do not bind myself to the opinions of Sir John. In
this case, perhaps - but no, if the peculiarity is shared by two
such pleasant persons as you and I (as you and me - the grammatical
nut is hard), it must be a very good thing indeed, and Sir John
must be an ass.

The BOOK READER notice was a strange jumble of fact and fancy. I
wish you could have seen my father's old assistant and present
partner when he heard my father described as an 'inspector of
lighthouses,' for we are all very proud of the family achievements,
and the name of my house here in Bournemouth is stolen from one of
the sea-towers of the Hebrides which are our pyramids and
monuments. I was never at Cambridge, again; but neglected a
considerable succession of classes at Edinburgh. But to correct
that friendly blunderer were to write an autobiography. - And so
now, with many thanks, believe me yours sincerely,




SIR, - Your foolish letter was unduly received. There may be
hidden fifths, and if there are, it shows how dam spontaneous the
thing was. I could tinker and tic-tac-toe on a piece of paper, but
scorned the act with a Threnody, which was poured forth like blood
and water on the groaning organ. If your heart (which was what I
addressed) remained unmoved, let us refer to the affair no more:
crystallised emotion, the statement and the reconciliation of the
sorrows of the race and the individual, is obviously no more to you
than supping sawdust. Well, well. If ever I write another
Threnody! My next op. will probably be a Passepied and fugue in G
(or D).

The mind is in my case shrunk to the size and sp. gr. of an aged
Spanish filbert. O, I am so jolly silly. I now pickle with some
freedom (1) the refrain of MARTINI'S MOUTONS; (2) SUL MARGINE D'UN
RIO, arranged for the infant school by the Aged Statesman; (3) the
first phrase of Bach's musette (Sweet Englishwoman, No. 3), the
rest of the musette being one prolonged cropper, which I take daily
for the benefit of my health. All my other works (of which there
are many) are either arranged (by R. L. Stevenson) for the manly
and melodious forefinger, or else prolonged and melancholy
croppers. . . . I find one can get a notion of music very nicely.
I have been pickling deeply in the Magic Flute; and have arranged
LA DOVE PRENDE, almost to the end, for two melodious forefingers.
I am next going to score the really nobler COLOMBA O TORTORELLA for
the same instruments.

This day is published
The works of Ludwig van Beethoven
and wiederdurchgearbeiteted
for two melodious forefingers
Sir, - Your obedient servant,


That's a good idea? There's a person called Lenz who actually does
it - beware his den; I lost eighteenpennies on him, and found the
bleeding corpses of pieces of music divorced from their keys,
despoiled of their graces, and even changed in time; I do not wish
to regard music (nor to be regarded) through that bony Lenz. You
say you are 'a spumfed idiot'; but how about Lenz? And how about
me, sir, me?

I yesterday sent Lloyd by parcel post, at great expense, an empty
matchbox and empty cigarette-paper book, a bell from a cat's
collar, an iron kitchen spoon, and a piece of coal more than half
the superficies of this sheet of paper. They are now
(appropriately enough) speeding towards the Silly Isles; I hope he
will find them useful. By that, and my telegram with prepaid
answer to yourself, you may judge of my spiritual state. The
finances have much brightened; and if KIDNAPPED keeps on as it has
begun, I may be solvent. - Yours,


(The authour of ane Threnodie).

Op. 2: Scherzo (in G Major) expressive of the Sense of favours to



DEAR BOB, - Herewith another shy; more melancholy than before, but
I think not so abjectly idiotic. The musical terms seem to be as
good as in Beethoven, and that, after all, is the great affair.
Bar the dam bareness of the base, it looks like a piece of real
music from a distance. I am proud to say it was not made one hand
at a time; the base was of synchronous birth with the treble; they
are of the same age, sir, and may God have mercy on their souls! -




MY DEAR PEOPLE, - It is probably my fault, and not yours, that I
did not understand. I think it would be well worth trying the
winter in Bournemouth; but I would only take the house by the month
- this after mature discussion. My leakage still pursues its
course; if I were only well, I have a notion to go north and get in
(if I could) at the inn at Kirkmichael, which has always smiled
upon me much. If I did well there, we might then meet and do what
should most smile at the time.

Meanwhile, of course, I must not move, and am in a rancid box here,
feeling the heat a great deal, and pretty tired of things.
Alexander did a good thing of me at last; it looks like a mixture
of an aztec idol, a lion, an Indian Rajah, and a woman; and
certainly represents a mighty comic figure. F. and Lloyd both
think it is the best thing that has been done of me up to now.

You should hear Lloyd on the penny whistle, and me on the piano!
Dear powers, what a concerto! I now live entirely for the piano,
he for the whistle; the neighbours, in a radius of a furlong and a
half, are packing up in quest of brighter climes. - Ever yours,

R. L. S.

P.S. - Please say if you can afford to let us have money for this
trip, and if so, how much. I can see the year through without
help, I believe, and supposing my health to keep up; but can scarce
make this change on my own metal.

R. L. S.



DEAR CHARLES, - Doubtless, if all goes well, towards the 1st of
August we shall be begging at your door. Thanks for a sight of the
papers, which I return (you see) at once, fearing further

Glad you like Dauvit; but eh, man, yon's terrible strange conduc'
o' thon man Rankeillor. Ca' him a legal adviser! It would make a
bonny law-shuit, the Shaws case; and yon paper they signed, I'm
thinking, wouldnae be muckle thought o' by Puggy Deas. - Yours

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FATHER, - We have decided not to come to Scotland, but just
to do as Dobell wished, and take an outing. I believe this is
wiser in all ways; but I own it is a disappointment. I am weary of
England; like Alan, 'I weary for the heather,' if not for the deer.
Lloyd has gone to Scilly with Katharine and C., where and with whom
he should have a good time. David seems really to be going to
succeed, which is a pleasant prospect on all sides. I am, I
believe, floated financially; a book that sells will be a pleasant
novelty. I enclose another review; mighty complimentary, and
calculated to sell the book too.

Coolin's tombstone has been got out, honest man! and it is to be
polished, for it has got scratched, and have a touch of gilding in
the letters, and be sunk in the front of the house. Worthy man,
he, too, will maybe weary for the heather, and the bents of
Gullane, where (as I dare say you remember) he gaed clean gyte, and
jumped on to his crown from a gig, in hot and hopeless chase of
many thousand rabbits. I can still hear the little cries of the
honest fellow as he disappeared; and my mother will correct me, but
I believe it was two days before he turned up again at North
Berwick: to judge by his belly, he had caught not one out of these
thousands, but he had had some exercise.

I keep well. - Ever your affectionate son,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MOTHER, - We are having a capital holiday, and I am much
better, and enjoying myself to the nines. Richmond is painting my
portrait. To-day I lunch with him, and meet Burne-Jones; to-night
Browning dines with us. That sounds rather lofty work, does it
not? His path was paved with celebrities. To-morrow we leave for
Paris, and next week, I suppose, or the week after, come home.
Address here, as we may not reach Paris. I am really very well. -
Ever your affectionate son,

R. L. S.



DEAR MR. WATTS, The sight of the last ATHENAEUM reminds me of you,
and of my debt, now too long due. I wish to thank you for your
notice of KIDNAPPED; and that not because it was kind, though for
that also I valued it, but in the same sense as I have thanked you
before now for a hundred articles on a hundred different writers.
A critic like you is one who fights the good fight, contending with
stupidity, and I would fain hope not all in vain; in my own case,
for instance, surely not in vain.

What you say of the two parts in KIDNAPPED was felt by no one more
painfully than by myself. I began it partly as a lark, partly as a
pot-boiler; and suddenly it moved, David and Alan stepped out from
the canvas, and I found I was in another world. But there was the
cursed beginning, and a cursed end must be appended; and our old
friend Byles the butcher was plainly audible tapping at the back
door. So it had to go into the world, one part (as it does seem to
me) alive, one part merely galvanised: no work, only an essay.
For a man of tentative method, and weak health, and a scarcity of
private means, and not too much of that frugality which is the
artist's proper virtue, the days of sinecures and patrons look very
golden: the days of professional literature very hard. Yet I do
not so far deceive myself as to think I should change my character
by changing my epoch; the sum of virtue in our books is in a
relation of equality to the sum of virtues in ourselves; and my
KIDNAPPED was doomed, while still in the womb and while I was yet
in the cradle, to be the thing it is.

And now to the more genial business of defence. You attack my
fight on board the COVENANT: I think it literal. David and Alan
had every advantage on their side - position, arms, training, a
good conscience; a handful of merchant sailors, not well led in the
first attack, not led at all in the second, could only by an
accident have taken the round-house by attack; and since the
defenders had firearms and food, it is even doubtful if they could
have been starved out. The only doubtful point with me is whether
the seamen would have ever ventured on the second onslaught; I half
believe they would not; still the illusion of numbers and the
authority of Hoseason would perhaps stretch far enough to justify
the extremity. - I am, dear Mr. Watts, your very sincere admirer,




NOT roses to the rose, I trow,
The thistle sends, nor to the bee
Do wasps bring honey. Wherefore now
Should Locker ask a verse from me?

Martial, perchance, - but he is dead,
And Herrick now must rhyme no more;
Still burning with the muse, they tread
(And arm in arm) the shadowy shore.

They, if they lived, with dainty hand,
To music as of mountain brooks,
Might bring you worthy words to stand
Unshamed, dear Locker, in your books.

But tho' these fathers of your race
Be gone before, yourself a sire,
To-day you see before your face
Your stalwart youngsters touch the lyre -

On these - on Lang, or Dobson - call,
Long leaders of the songful feast.
They lend a verse your laughing fall -
A verse they owe you at the least.



DEAR LOCKER, - You take my verses too kindly, but you will admit,
for such a bluebottle of a versifier to enter the house of
Gertrude, where her necklace hangs, was not a little brave. Your
kind invitation, I fear, must remain unaccented; and yet - if I am
very well - perhaps next spring - (for I mean to be very well) - my
wife might.... But all that is in the clouds with my better
health. And now look here: you are a rich man and know many
people, therefore perhaps some of the Governors of Christ's
Hospital. If you do, I know a most deserving case, in which I
would (if I could) do anything. To approach you, in this way, is
not decent; and you may therefore judge by my doing it, how near
this matter lies to my heart. I enclose you a list of the
Governors, which I beg you to return, whether or not you shall be
able to do anything to help me.

The boy's name is -; he and his mother are very poor. It may
interest you in her cause if I tell you this: that when I was
dangerously ill at Hyeres, this brave lady, who had then a sick
husband of her own (since dead) and a house to keep and a family of
four to cook for, all with her own hands, for they could afford no
servant, yet took watch-about with my wife, and contributed not
only to my comfort, but to my recovery in a degree that I am not
able to limit. You can conceive how much I suffer from my
impotence to help her, and indeed I have already shown myself a
thankless friend. Let not my cry go up before you in vain! - Yours
in hope,




MY DEAR LOCKER, - That I should call myself a man of letters, and
land myself in such unfathomable ambiguities! No, my dear Locker,
I did not want a cheque; and in my ignorance of business, which is
greater even than my ignorance of literature, I have taken the
liberty of drawing a pen through the document and returning it;
should this be against the laws of God or man, forgive me. All
that I meant by my excessively disgusting reference to your
material well-being was the vague notion that a man who is well off
was sure to know a Governor of Christ's Hospital; though how I
quite arrived at this conclusion I do not see. A man with a cold
in the head does not necessarily know a ratcatcher; and the
connection is equally close - as it now appears to my awakened and
somewhat humbled spirit. For all that, let me thank you in the
warmest manner for your friendly readiness to contribute. You say
you have hopes of becoming a miser: I wish I had; but indeed I
believe you deceive yourself, and are as far from it as ever. I
wish I had any excuse to keep your cheque, for it is much more
elegant to receive than to return; but I have my way of making it
up to you, and I do sincerely beg you to write to the two
Governors. This extraordinary outpouring of correspondence would
(if you knew my habits) convince you of my great eagerness in this
matter. I would promise gratitude; but I have made a promise to
myself to make no more promises to anybody else, having broken such
a host already, and come near breaking my heart in consequence; and
as for gratitude, I am by nature a thankless dog, and was spoiled
from a child up. But if you can help this lady in the matter of
the Hospital, you will have helped the worthy. Let me continue to
hope that I shall make out my visit in the spring, and believe me,
yours very truly,


It may amuse you to know that a very long while ago, I broke my
heart to try to imitate your verses, and failed hopelessly. I saw
some of the evidences the other day among my papers, and blushed to
the heels.

R. L. S.

I give up finding out your name in the meantime, and keep to that
by which you will be known - Frederick Locker.



MY DEAR LOCKER, - You are simply an angel of light, and your two
letters have gone to the post; I trust they will reach the hearts
of the recipients - at least, that could not be more handsomely
expressed. About the cheque: well now, I am going to keep it; but
I assure you Mrs. - has never asked me for money, and I would not
dare to offer any till she did. For all that I shall stick to the
cheque now, and act to that amount as your almoner. In this way I
reward myself for the ambiguity of my epistolary style.

I suppose, if you please, you may say your verses are thin (would
you so describe an arrow, by the way, and one that struck the gold?
It scarce strikes me as exhaustively descriptive), and, thin or
not, they are (and I have found them) inimitably elegant. I thank
you again very sincerely for the generous trouble you have taken in
this matter which was so near my heart, and you may be very certain
it will be the fault of my health and not my inclination, if I do
not see you before very long; for all that has past has made me in
more than the official sense sincerely yours,



SKERRYVORE, DEC. 14, 1886.

MY DEAR COLVIN, - This is first-rate of you, the Lord love you for
it! I am truly much obliged. He - my father - is very changeable;
at times, he seems only a slow quiet edition of himself; again, he
will be very heavy and blank; but never so violent as last spring;
and therefore, to my mind, better on the whole.

Fanny is pretty peepy; I am splendid. I have been writing much
verse - quite the bard, in fact; and also a dam tale to order,
which will be what it will be: I don't love it, but some of it is
passable in its mouldy way, THE MISADVENTURES OF JOHN NICHOLSON.
All my bardly exercises are in Scotch; I have struck my somewhat
ponderous guitar in that tongue to no small extent: with what
success, I know not, but I think it's better than my English verse;
more marrow and fatness, and more ruggedness.

How goes KEATS? Pray remark, if he (Keats) hung back from Shelley,
it was not to be wondered at, WHEN SO MANY OF HIS FRIENDS WERE
SHELLEY'S PENSIONERS. I forget if you have made this point; it has
been borne in upon me reading Dowden and the SHELLEY PAPERS; and it
will do no harm if you have made it. I finished a poem to-day, and
writ 3000 words of a story, TANT BIEN QUE MAL; and have a right to
be sleepy, and (what is far nobler and rarer) am so. - My dear
Colvin, ever yours,




MY DEAR LOCKER, - Here I am in my bed as usual, and it is indeed a
long while since I went out to dinner. You do not know what a
crazy fellow this is. My winter has not so far been luckily
passed, and all hope of paying visits at Easter has vanished for
twelve calendar months. But because I am a beastly and indurated
invalid, I am not dead to human feelings; and I neither have
forgotten you nor will forget you. Some day the wind may round to
the right quarter and we may meet; till then I am still truly




MY DEAR JAMES, - My health has played me it in once more in the
absurdest fashion, and the creature who now addresses you is but a
stringy and white-faced BOUILLI out of the pot of fever, with the
devil to pay in every corner of his economy. I suppose (to judge
by your letter) I need not send you these sheets, which came during
my collapse by the rush. I am on the start with three volumes,
that one of tales, a second one of essays, and one of - ahem -
verse. This is a great order, is it not? After that I shall have
empty lockers. All new work stands still; I was getting on well
with Jenkin when this blessed malady unhorsed me, and sent me back
to the dung-collecting trade of the republisher. I shall re-issue
VIRG. PUER. as Vol. I. of ESSAYS, and the new vol. as Vol. II. of
ditto; to be sold, however, separately. This is but a dry
maundering; however, I am quite unfit - 'I am for action quite
unfit Either of exercise or wit.' My father is in a variable
state; many sorrows and perplexities environ the house of
Stevenson; my mother shoots north at this hour on business of a
distinctly rancid character; my father (under my wife's tutorage)
proceeds to-morrow to Salisbury; I remain here in my bed and
whistle; in no quarter of heaven is anything encouraging apparent,
except that the good Colvin comes to the hotel here on a visit.
This dreary view of life is somewhat blackened by the fact that my
head aches, which I always regard as a liberty on the part of the
powers that be. This is also my first letter since my recovery.
God speed your laudatory pen!

My wife joins in all warm messages. - Yours,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. H. LOW

(APRIL 1887.)

MY DEAR LOW, - The fares to London may be found in any continental
Bradshaw or sich; from London to Bournemouth impoverished parties
who can stoop to the third class get their ticket for the matter of
10s., or, as my wife loves to phrase it, 'a half a pound.' You
will also be involved in a 3s. fare to get to Skerryvore; but this,
I dare say, friends could help you in on your arrival; so that you
may reserve your energies for the two tickets - costing the matter
of a pound - and the usual gratuities to porters. This does not
seem to me much: considering the intellectual pleasures that await
you here, I call it dirt cheap. I BELIEVE the third class from
Paris to London (VIA Dover) is ABOUT forty francs, but I cannot
swear. Suppose it to be fifty.


The expense of spirit or spontaneous lapse of coin on the journey,
at 5 frcs. a head, 5x2=10

Victuals on ditto, at 5 frcs. a head, 5x2 = 10

Gratuity to stewardess, in case of severe prostration, at 3 francs

One night in London, on a modest footing, say 20

Two tickets to Bournemouth at 12.50, 12.50x2=25

Porters and general devilment, say 5

Cabs in London, say 2 shillings, and in Bournemouth, 3 shillings=5
shillings, 6 frcs. 25

Total frcs. 179.25

Or, the same in pounds, 7 pounds, 3s. 6 and a half d.

Or, the same in dollars, $35.45,

if there be any arithmetical virtue in me. I have left out dinner
in London in case you want to blow out, which would come extry, and
with the aid of VANGS FANGS might easily double the whole amount -
above all if you have a few friends to meet you.

In making this valuable project, or budget, I discovered for the
first time a reason (frequently overlooked) for the singular
costliness of travelling with your wife. Anybody would count the
tickets double; but how few would have remembered - or indeed has
any one ever remembered? - to count the spontaneous lapse of coin
double also? Yet there are two of you, each must do his daily
leakage, and it must be done out of your travelling fund. You will
tell me, perhaps, that you carry the coin yourself: my dear sir,
do you think you can fool your Maker? Your wife has to lose her
quota; and by God she will - if you kept the coin in a belt. One
thing I have omitted: you will lose a certain amount on the
exchange, but this even I cannot foresee, as it is one of the few
things that vary with the way a man has. - I am, dear sir, yours




MY DEAREST CUMMY, - As usual, I have been a dreary bad fellow and
not written for ages; but you must just try to forgive me, to
believe (what is the truth) that the number of my letters is no
measure of the number of times I think of you, and to remember how
much writing I have to do. The weather is bright, but still cold;
and my father, I'm afraid, feels it sharply. He has had - still
has, rather - a most obstinate jaundice, which has reduced him
cruelly in strength, and really upset him altogether. I hope, or
think, he is perhaps a little better; but he suffers much, cannot
sleep at night, and gives John and my mother a severe life of it to
wait upon him. My wife is, I think, a little better, but no great
shakes. I keep mightily respectable myself.

Coolin's Tombstone is now built into the front wall of Skerryvore,
and poor Bogie's (with a Latin inscription also) is set just above
it. Poor, unhappy wee man, he died, as you must have heard, in
fight, which was what he would have chosen; for military glory was
more in his line than the domestic virtues. I believe this is
about all my news, except that, as I write, there is a blackbird
singing in our garden trees, as it were at Swanston. I would like
fine to go up the burnside a bit, and sit by the pool and be young
again - or no, be what I am still, only there instead of here, for
just a little. Did you see that I had written about John Todd? In
this month's LONGMAN it was; if you have not seen it, I will try
and send it you. Some day climb as high as Halkerside for me (I am
never likely to do it for myself), and sprinkle some of the well
water on the turf. I am afraid it is a pagan rite, but quite
harmless, and YE CAN SAIN IT WI' A BIT PRAYER. Tell the Peewies
that I mind their forbears well. My heart is sometimes heavy, and
sometimes glad to mind it all. But for what we have received, the
Lord make us truly thankful. Don't forget to sprinkle the water,
and do it in my name; I feel a childish eagerness in this.

Remember me most kindly to James, and with all sorts of love to
yourself, believe me, your laddie,


P.S. - I suppose Mrs. Todd ought to see the paper about her man;
judge of that, and if you think she would not dislike it, buy her
one from me, and let me know. The article is called 'Pastoral,' in
LONGMAN'S MAGAZINE for April. I will send you the money; I would
to-day, but it's the Sabbie day, and I cannae.

R. L. S.

Remembrances from all here.



MY DEAR S. C., - At last I can write a word to you. Your little
note in the P. M. G. was charming. I have written four pages in
the CONTEMPORARY, which Bunting found room for: they are not very
good, but I shall do more for his memory in time.

About the death, I have long hesitated, I was long before I could
tell my mind; and now I know it, and can but say that I am glad.
If we could have had my father, that would have been a different
thing. But to keep that changeling - suffering changeling - any
longer, could better none and nothing. Now he rests; it is more
significant, it is more like himself. He will begin to return to
us in the course of time, as he was and as we loved him.

My favourite words in literature, my favourite scene - 'O let him
pass,' Kent and Lear - was played for me here in the first moment
of my return. I believe Shakespeare saw it with his own father. I
had no words; but it was shocking to see. He died on his feet, you
know; was on his feet the last day, knowing nobody - still he would
be up. This was his constant wish; also that he might smoke a pipe
on his last day. The funeral would have pleased him; it was the
largest private funeral in man's memory here.

We have no plans, and it is possible we may go home without going
through town. I do not know; I have no views yet whatever; nor can
have any at this stage of my cold and my business. - Ever yours,

R. L. S.


Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR LAD, - I write to inform you that Mr. Stevenson's well-known
work, VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE, is about to be reprinted. At the same
time a second volume called MEMORIES AND PORTRAITS will issue from
the roaring loom. Its interest will be largely autobiographical,
Mr. S. having sketched there the lineaments of many departed
friends, and dwelt fondly, and with a m'istened eye, upon byegone
pleasures. The two will be issued under the common title of
FAMILIAR ESSAYS; but the volumes will be vended separately to those
who are mean enough not to hawk at both.

The blood is at last stopped: only yesterday. I began to think I
should not get away. However, I hope - I hope - remark the word -
no boasting - I hope I may luff up a bit now. Dobell, whom I saw,
gave as usual a good account of my lungs, and expressed himself,
like his neighbours, hopefully about the trip. He says, my uncle
says, Scott says, Brown says - they all say - You ought not to be
in such a state of health; you should recover. Well, then, I mean
to. My spirits are rising again after three months of black
depression: I almost begin to feel as if I should care to live: I
would, by God! And so I believe I shall. - Yours, BULLETIN

How has the Deacon gone?

Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - We - my mother, my wife, my stepson, my maidservant,
and myself, five souls - leave, if all is well, Aug. 20th, per
Wilson line SS. LUDGATE HILL. Shall probably evade N. Y. at first,
cutting straight to a watering-place: Newport, I believe, its
name. Afterwards we shall steal incognito into LA BONNE VILLA, and
see no one but you and the Scribners, if it may be so managed. You
must understand I have been very seedy indeed, quite a dead body;
and unless the voyage does miracles, I shall have to draw it dam
fine. Alas, 'The Canoe Speaks' is now out of date; it will figure
in my volume of verses now imminent. However, I may find some
inspiration some day. - Till very soon, yours ever,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MISS BOODLE, - I promise you the paper-knife shall go to
sea with me; and if it were in my disposal, I should promise it
should return with me too. All that you say, I thank you for very
much; I thank you for all the pleasantness that you have brought
about our house; and I hope the day may come when I shall see you
again in poor old Skerryvore, now left to the natives of Canada, or
to worse barbarians, if such exist. I am afraid my attempt to jest
is rather A CONTRE-COEUR. Good-bye - AU REVOIR - and do not forget
your friend,




DEAR SIRS, - I here enclose the two titles. Had you not better
send me the bargains to sign? I shall be here till Saturday; and
shall have an address in London (which I shall send you) till
Monday, when I shall sail. Even if the proofs do not reach you
till Monday morning, you could send a clerk from Fenchurch Street
Station at 10.23 A.M. for Galleons Station, and he would find me
embarking on board the LUDGATE HILL, Island Berth, Royal Albert
Dock. Pray keep this in case it should be necessary to catch this
last chance. I am most anxious to have the proofs with me on the
voyage. - Yours very truly,




SIR, - The weather has been hitherto inimitable. Inimitable is the
only word that I can apply to our fellow-voyagers, whom a
categorist, possibly premature, has been already led to divide into
two classes - the better sort consisting of the baser kind of
Bagman, and the worser of undisguised Beasts of the Field. The
berths are excellent, the pasture swallowable, the champagne of H.
James (to recur to my favourite adjective) inimitable. As for the
Commodore, he slept awhile in the evening, tossed off a cup of
Henry James with his plain meal, walked the deck till eight, among
sands and floating lights and buoys and wrecked brigantines, came
down (to his regret) a minute too soon to see Margate lit up,
turned in about nine, slept, with some interruptions, but on the
whole sweetly, until six, and has already walked a mile or so of
deck, among a fleet of other steamers waiting for the tide, within
view of Havre, and pleasantly entertained by passing fishing-boats,
hovering sea-gulls, and Vulgarians pairing on deck with endearments
of primitive simplicity. There, sir, can be viewed the sham
quarrel, the sham desire for information, and every device of these
two poor ancient sexes (who might, you might think, have learned in
the course of the ages something new) down to the exchange of head-
gear. - I am, sir, yours,


B. B. B. (ALIAS the Commodore) will now turn to his proofs. Havre
de Grace is a city of some show. It is for-ti-fied; and, so far as
I can see, is a place of some trade. It is situ-ated in France, a
country of Europe. You always complain there are no facts in my

R. L. S.



MY DEAR COLVIN, - So long it went excellent well, and I had a time
I am glad to have had; really enjoying my life. There is nothing
like being at sea, after all. And O, why have I allowed myself to
rot so long on land? But on the Banks I caught a cold, and I have
not yet got over it. My reception here was idiotic to the last
degree.... It is very silly, and not pleasant, except where humour
enters; and I confess the poor interviewer lads pleased me. They
are too good for their trade; avoided anything I asked them to
avoid, and were no more vulgar in their reports than they could
help. I liked the lads.

O, it was lovely on our stable-ship, chock full of stallions. She
rolled heartily, rolled some of the fittings out of our state-room,
and I think a more dangerous cruise (except that it was summer) it
would be hard to imagine. But we enjoyed it to the masthead, all
but Fanny; and even she perhaps a little. When we got in, we had
run out of beer, stout, cocoa, soda-water, water, fresh meat, and
(almost) of biscuit. But it was a thousandfold pleasanter than a
great big Birmingham liner like a new hotel; and we liked the
officers, and made friends with the quartermasters, and I (at
least) made a friend of a baboon (for we carried a cargo of apes),
whose embraces have pretty near cost me a coat. The passengers
improved, and were a very good specimen lot, with no drunkard, no
gambling that I saw, and less grumbling and backbiting than one
would have asked of poor human nature. Apes, stallions, cows,
matches, hay, and poor men-folk, all, or almost all, came
successfully to land. - Yours ever,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR JAMES, - Here we are at Newport in the house of the good
Fairchilds; and a sad burthen we have laid upon their shoulders. I
have been in bed practically ever since I came. I caught a cold on
the Banks after having had the finest time conceivable, and enjoyed
myself more than I could have hoped on board our strange floating
menagerie: stallions and monkeys and matches made our cargo; and
the vast continent of these incongruities rolled the while like a
haystack; and the stallions stood hypnotised by the motion, looking
through the ports at our dinner-table, and winked when the crockery
was broken; and the little monkeys stared at each other in their
cages, and were thrown overboard like little bluish babies; and the
big monkey, Jacko, scoured about the ship and rested willingly in
my arms, to the ruin of my clothing; and the man of the stallions
made a bower of the black tarpaulin, and sat therein at the feet of
a raddled divinity, like a picture on a box of chocolates; and the
other passengers, when they were not sick, looked on and laughed.
Take all this picture, and make it roll till the bell shall sound
unexpected notes and the fittings shall break lose in our state-
room, and you have the voyage of the LUDGATE HILL. She arrived in
the port of New York, without beer, porter, soda-water, curacoa,
fresh meat, or fresh water; and yet we lived, and we regret her.


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