Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 7 out of 7

This letter, about nothing, has already endured too long. I shall
just present the family to Mrs. Barrie - Tamaitai, Tamaitai Matua,
Teuila, Palema, Loia, and with an extra low bow, Yours,




DEAR DR. BAKEWELL, - I am not more than human. I am more human
than is wholly convenient, and your anecdote was welcome. What you
say about UNWILLING WORK, my dear sir, is a consideration always
present with me, and yet not easy to give its due weight to. You
grow gradually into a certain income; without spending a penny
more, with the same sense of restriction as before when you
painfully scraped two hundred a year together, you find you have
spent, and you cannot well stop spending, a far larger sum; and
this expense can only be supported by a certain production.
However, I am off work this month, and occupy myself instead in
weeding my cacao, paper chases, and the like. I may tell you, my
average of work in favourable circumstances is far greater than you
suppose: from six o'clock till eleven at latest, and often till
twelve, and again in the afternoon from two to four. My hand is
quite destroyed, as you may perceive, to-day to a really unusual
extent. I can sometimes write a decent fist still; but I have just
returned with my arms all stung from three hours' work in the
cacao. - Yours, etc.,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR JAMES PAYN, - I hear from Lang that you are unwell, and it
reminds me of two circumstances: First, that it is a very long
time since you had the exquisite pleasure of hearing from me; and
second, that I have been very often unwell myself, and sometimes
had to thank you for a grateful anodyne.

They are not good, the circumstances, to write an anodyne letter.
The hills and my house at less than (boom) a minute's interval
quake with thunder; and though I cannot hear that part of it,
shells are falling thick into the fort of Luatuanu'u (boom). It is
my friends of the CURACOA, the FALKE, and the BUSSARD bombarding
(after all these - boom - months) the rebels of Atua. (Boom-boom.)
It is most distracting in itself; and the thought of the poor
devils in their fort (boom) with their bits of rifles far from
pleasant. (Boom-boom.) You can see how quick it goes, and I'll
say no more about Mr. Bow-wow, only you must understand the
perpetual accompaniment of this discomfortable sound, and make
allowances for the value of my copy. It is odd, though, I can well
remember, when the Franco-Prussian war began, and I was in Eilean
Earraid, far enough from the sound of the loudest cannonade, I
could HEAR the shots fired, and I felt the pang in my breast of a
man struck. It was sometimes so distressing, so instant, that I
lay in the heather on the top of the island, with my face hid,
kicking my heels for agony. And now, when I can hear the actual
concussion of the air and hills, when I KNOW personally the people
who stand exposed to it, I am able to go on TANT BIEN QUE MAL with
a letter to James Payn! The blessings of age, though mighty small,
are tangible. I have heard a great deal of them since I came into
the world, and now that I begin to taste of them - Well! But this
is one, that people do get cured of the excess of sensibility; and
I had as lief these people were shot at as myself - or almost, for
then I should have some of the fun, such as it is.

You are to conceive me, then, sitting in my little gallery room,
shaken by these continual spasms of cannon, and with my eye more or
less singly fixed on the imaginary figure of my dear James Payn. I
try to see him in bed; no go. I see him instead jumping up in his
room in Waterloo Place (where EX HYPOTHESI he is not), sitting on
the table, drawing out a very black briar-root pipe, and beginning
to talk to a slim and ill-dressed visitor in a voice that is good
to hear and with a smile that is pleasant to see. (After a little
more than half an hour, the voice that was ill to hear has ceased,
the cannonade is over.) And I am thinking how I can get an
answering smile wafted over so many leagues of land and water, and
can find no way.

I have always been a great visitor of the sick; and one of the sick
I visited was W. E. Henley, which did not make very tedious visits,
so I'll not get off much purgatory for them. That was in the
Edinburgh Infirmary, the old one, the true one, with Georgius
Secundus standing and pointing his toe in a niche of the facade;
and a mighty fine building it was! And I remember one winter's
afternoon, in that place of misery, that Henley and I chanced to
fall in talk about James Payn himself. I am wishing you could have
heard that talk! I think that would make you smile. We had mixed
you up with John Payne, for one thing, and stood amazed at your
extraordinary, even painful, versatility; and for another, we found
ourselves each students so well prepared for examinations on the
novels of the real Mackay. Perhaps, after all, this is worth
something in life - to have given so much pleasure to a pair so
different in every way as were Henley and I, and to be talked of
with so much interest by two such (beg pardon) clever lads!

The cheerful Lang has neglected to tell me what is the matter with
you; so, I'm sorry to say, I am cut off from all the customary
consolations. I can't say, 'Think how much worse it would be if
you had a broken leg!' when you may have the crushing repartee up
your sleeve, 'But it is my leg that is broken.' This is a pity.
But there are consolations. You are an Englishman (I believe); you
are a man of letters; you have never been made C.B.; your hair was
not red; you have played cribbage and whist; you did not play
either the fiddle or the banjo; you were never an aesthete; you
never contributed to -'S JOURNAL; your name is not Jabez Balfour;
you are totally unconnected with the Army and Navy departments; I
understand you to have lived within your income - why, cheer up!
here are many legitimate causes of congratulation. I seem to be
writing an obituary notice. ABSIT OMEN! But I feel very sure that
these considerations will have done you more good than medicine.

By the by, did you ever play piquet? I have fallen a victim to
this debilitating game. It is supposed to be scientific; God save
the mark, what self-deceivers men are! It is distinctly less so
than cribbage. But how fascinating! There is such material
opulence about it, such vast ambitions may be realised - and are
not; it may be called the Monte Cristo of games. And the thrill
with which you take five cards partakes of the nature of lust - and
you draw four sevens and a nine, and the seven and nine of a suit
that you discarded, and O! but the world is a desert! You may see
traces of discouragement in my letter: all due to piquet! There
has been a disastrous turn of the luck against me; a month or two
ago I was two thousand ahead; now, and for a week back, I have been
anything from four thousand eight hundred to five thousand two
hundred astern. If I have a sixieme, my beast of a partner has a
septieme; and if I have three aces, three kings, three queens, and
three knaves (excuse the slight exaggeration), the devil holds
quatorze of tens! - I remain, my dear James Payn, your sincere and
obliged friend - old friend let me say,




DEAR MISS MIDDLETON, - Your letter has been like the drawing up of
a curtain. Of course I remember you very well, and the Skye
terrier to which you refer - a heavy, dull, fatted, graceless
creature he grew up to be - was my own particular pet. It may
amuse you, perhaps, as much as 'The Inn' amused me, if I tell you
what made this dog particularly mine. My father was the natural
god of all the dogs in our house, and poor Jura took to him of
course. Jura was stolen, and kept in prison somewhere for more
than a week, as I remember. When he came back Smeoroch had come
and taken my father's heart from him. He took his stand like a
man, and positively never spoke to my father again from that day
until the day of his death. It was the only sign of character he
ever showed. I took him up to my room and to be my dog in
consequence, partly because I was sorry for him, and partly because
I admired his dignity in misfortune.

With best regards and thanks for having reminded me of so many
pleasant days, old acquaintances, dead friends, and - what is
perhaps as pathetic as any of them - dead dogs, I remain, yours




MY DEAR CONAN DOYLE, - If you found anything to entertain you in my
TREASURE ISLAND article, it may amuse you to know that you owe it
entirely to yourself. YOUR 'First Book' was by some accident read
aloud one night in my Baronial 'All. I was consumedly amused by
it, so was the whole family, and we proceeded to hunt up back
IDLERS and read the whole series. It is a rattling good series,
even people whom you would not expect came in quite the proper tone
- Miss Braddon, for instance, who was really one of the best where
all are good - or all but one! ... In short, I fell in love with
'The First Book' series, and determined that it should be all our
first books, and that I could not hold back where the white plume
of Conan Doyle waved gallantly in the front. I hope they will
republish them, though it's a grievous thought to me that that
effigy in the German cap - likewise the other effigy of the noisome
old man with the long hair, telling indelicate stories to a couple
of deformed negresses in a rancid shanty full of wreckage - should
be perpetuated. I may seem to speak in pleasantry - it is only a
seeming - that German cap, sir, would be found, when I come to die,
imprinted on my heart. Enough - my heart is too full. Adieu. -
Yours very truly,


(in a German cap, damn 'em!)



MY DEAR CHARLES, - . . . Well, there is no more Edmund Baxter now;
and I think I may say I know how you feel. He was one of the best,
the kindest, and the most genial men I ever knew. I shall always
remember his brisk, cordial ways and the essential goodness which
he showed me whenever we met with gratitude. And the always is
such a little while now! He is another of the landmarks gone; when
it comes to my own turn to lay my weapons down, I shall do so with
thankfulness and fatigue; and whatever be my destiny afterward, I
shall be glad to lie down with my fathers in honour. It is human
at least, if not divine. And these deaths make me think of it with
an ever greater readiness. Strange that you should be beginning a
new life, when I, who am a little your junior, am thinking of the
end of mine. But I have had hard lines; I have been so long
waiting for death, I have unwrapped my thoughts from about life so
long, that I have not a filament left to hold by; I have done my
fiddling so long under Vesuvius, that I have almost forgotten to
play, and can only wait for the eruption, and think it long of
coming. Literally, no man has more wholly outlived life than I.
And still it's good fun.

R. L. S.



DEAR BOB, - You are in error about the Picts. They were a Gaelic
race, spoke a Celtic tongue, and we have no evidence that I know of
that they were blacker than other Celts. The Balfours, I take it,
were plainly Celts; their name shows it - the 'cold croft,' it
means; so does their country. Where the BLACK Scotch come from
nobody knows; but I recognise with you the fact that the whole of
Britain is rapidly and progressively becoming more pigmented;
already in one man's life I can decidedly trace a difference in the
children about a school door. But colour is not an essential part
of a man or a race. Take my Polynesians, an Asiatic people
probably from the neighbourhood of the Persian gulf. They range
through any amount of shades, from the burnt hue of the Low
Archipelago islander, which seems half negro, to the 'bleached'
pretty women of the Marquesas (close by on the map), who come out
for a festival no darker than an Italian; their colour seems to
vary directly with the degree of exposure to the sun. And, as with
negroes, the babes are born white; only it should seem a LITTLE
SACK of pigment at the lower part of the spine, which presently
spreads over the whole field. Very puzzling. But to return. The
Picts furnish to-day perhaps a third of the population of Scotland,
say another third for Scots and Britons, and the third for Norse
and Angles is a bad third. Edinburgh was a Pictish place. But the
fact is, we don't know their frontiers. Tell some of your
journalist friends with a good style to popularise old Skene; or
say your prayers, and read him for yourself; he was a Great
Historian, and I was his blessed clerk, and did not know it; and
you will not be in a state of grace about the Picts till you have
studied him. J. Horne Stevenson (do you know him?) is working this
up with me, and the fact is - it's not interesting to the public -
but it's interesting, and very interesting, in itself, and just now
very embarrassing - this rural parish supplied Glasgow with such a
quantity of Stevensons in the beginning of last century! There is
just a link wanting; and we might be able to go back to the
eleventh century, always undistinguished, but clearly traceable.
When I say just a link, I guess I may be taken to mean a dozen.
What a singular thing is this undistinguished perpetuation of a
family throughout the centuries, and the sudden bursting forth of
character and capacity that began with our grandfather! But as I
go on in life, day by day, I become more of a bewildered child; I
cannot get used to this world, to procreation, to heredity, to
sight, to hearing; the commonest things are a burthen. The prim
obliterated polite face of life, and the broad, bawdy, and
orgiastic - or maenadic - foundations, form a spectacle to which no
habit reconciles me; and 'I could wish my days to be bound each to
each' by the same open-mouthed wonder. They ARE anyway, and
whether I wish it or not.

I remember very well your attitude to life, this conventional
surface of it. You had none of that curiosity for the social stage
directions, the trivial FICELLES of the business; it is simian, but
that is how the wild youth of man is captured; you wouldn't
imitate, hence you kept free - a wild dog, outside the kennel - and
came dam' near starving for your pains. The key to the business is
of course the belly; difficult as it is to keep that in view in the
zone of three miraculous meals a day in which we were brought up.
Civilisation has become reflex with us; you might think that hunger
was the name of the best sauce; but hunger to the cold solitary
under a bush of a rainy night is the name of something quite
different. I defend civilisation for the thing it is, for the
thing it has COME to be, the standpoint of a real old Tory. My
ideal would be the Female Clan. But how can you turn these
crowding dumb multitudes BACK? They don't do anything BECAUSE;
they do things, write able articles, stitch shoes, dig, from the
purely simian impulse. Go and reason with monkeys!

No, I am right about Jean Lillie. Jean Lillie, our double great-
grandmother, the daughter of David Lillie, sometime Deacon of the
Wrights, married, first, Alan Stevenson, who died May 26, 1774, 'at
Santt Kittes of a fiver,' by whom she had Robert Stevenson, born
8th June 1772; and, second, in May or June 1787, Thomas Smith, a
widower, and already the father of our grandmother. This
improbable double connection always tends to confuse a student of
the family, Thomas Smith being doubly our great-grandfather.

I looked on the perpetuation of our honoured name with veneration.
My mother collared one of the photos, of course; the other is stuck
up on my wall as the chief of our sept. Do you know any of the
Gaelic-Celtic sharps? you might ask what the name means. It
puzzles me. I find a M'STEIN and a MACSTEPHANE; and our own great-
grandfather always called himself Steenson, though he wrote it
Stevenson. There are at least three PLACES called Stevenson -
STEVENSON in Cunningham, STEVENSON in Peebles, and STEVENSON in
Haddington. And it was not the Celtic trick, I understand, to call
places after people. I am going to write to Sir Herbert Maxwell
about the name, but you might find some one.

Get the Anglo-Saxon heresy out of your head; they superimposed
their language, they scarce modified the race; only in Berwickshire
and Roxburgh have they very largely affected the place names. The
Scandinavians did much more to Scotland than the Angles. The
Saxons didn't come.

Enough of this sham antiquarianism. Yes, it is in the matter of
the book, of course, that collaboration shows; as for the manner,
it is superficially all mine, in the sense that the last copy is
all in my hand. Lloyd did not even put pen to paper in the Paris
scenes or the Barbizon scene; it was no good; he wrote and often
rewrote all the rest; I had the best service from him on the
character of Nares. You see, we had been just meeting the man, and
his memory was full of the man's words and ways. And Lloyd is an
impressionist, pure and simple. The great difficulty of
collaboration is that you can't explain what you mean. I know what
kind of effect I mean a character to give - what kind of TACHE he
is to make; but how am I to tell my collaborator in words? Hence
it was necessary to say, 'Make him So-and-so'; and this was all
right for Nares and Pinkerton and Loudon Dodd, whom we both knew,
but for Bellairs, for instance - a man with whom I passed ten
minutes fifteen years ago - what was I to say? and what could Lloyd
do? I, as a personal artist, can begin a character with only a
haze in my head, but how if I have to translate the haze into words
before I begin? In our manner of collaboration (which I think the
only possible - I mean that of one person being responsible, and
giving the COUP DE POUCE to every part of the work) I was spared
the obviously hopeless business of trying to explain to my
collaborator what STYLE I wished a passage to be treated in. These
are the times that illustrate to a man the inadequacy of spoken
language. Now - to be just to written language - I can (or could)
find a language for my every mood, but how could I TELL any one
beforehand what this effect was to be, which it would take every
art that I possessed, and hours and hours of deliberate labour and
selection and rejection, to produce? These are the impossibilities
of collaboration. Its immediate advantage is to focus two minds
together on the stuff, and to produce in consequence an
extraordinarily greater richness of purview, consideration, and
invention. The hardest chapter of all was 'Cross Questions and
Crooked Answers.' You would not believe what that cost us before
it assumed the least unity and colour. Lloyd wrote it at least
thrice, and I at least five times - this is from memory. And was
that last chapter worth the trouble it cost? Alas, that I should
ask the question! Two classes of men - the artist and the
educationalist - are sworn, on soul and conscience, not to ask it.
You get an ordinary, grinning, red-headed boy, and you have to
educate him. Faith supports you; you give your valuable hours, the
boy does not seem to profit, but that way your duty lies, for which
you are paid, and you must persevere. Education has always seemed
to me one of the few possible and dignified ways of life. A
sailor, a shepherd, a schoolmaster - to a less degree, a soldier -
and (I don't know why, upon my soul, except as a sort of
schoolmaster's unofficial assistant, and a kind of acrobat in
tights) an artist, almost exhaust the category.

If I had to begin again - I know not - SI JEUNESSE SAVAIT, SI
VIEILLESSE POUVAIT . . . I know not at all - I believe I should try
to honour Sex more religiously. The worst of our education is that
Christianity does not recognise and hallow Sex. It looks askance
at it, over its shoulder, oppressed as it is by reminiscences of
hermits and Asiatic self-tortures. It is a terrible hiatus in our
modern religions that they cannot see and make venerable that which
they ought to see first and hallow most. Well, it is so; I cannot
be wiser than my generation.

But no doubt there is something great in the half-success that has
attended the effort of turning into an emotional religion, Bald
Conduct, without any appeal, or almost none, to the figurative,
mysterious, and constitutive facts of life. Not that conduct is
not constitutive, but dear! it's dreary! On the whole, conduct is
better dealt with on the cast-iron 'gentleman' and duty formula,
with as little fervour and poetry as possible; stoical and short.

. . . There is a new something or other in the wind, which
exercises me hugely: anarchy, - I mean, anarchism. People who
(for pity's sake) commit dastardly murders very basely, die like
saints, and leave beautiful letters behind 'em (did you see
Vaillant to his daughter? it was the New Testament over again);
people whose conduct is inexplicable to me, and yet their spiritual
life higher than that of most. This is just what the early
Christians must have seemed to the Romans. Is this, then, a new
DRIVE among the monkeys? Mind you, Bob, if they go on being
martyred a few years more, the gross, dull, not unkindly bourgeois
may get tired or ashamed or afraid of going on martyring; and the
anarchists come out at the top just like the early Christians.
That is, of course, they will step into power as a PERSONNEL, but
God knows what they may believe when they come to do so; it can't
be stranger or more improbable than what Christianity had come to
be by the same time.

Your letter was easily read, the pagination presented no
difficulty, and I read it with much edification and gusto. To look
back, and to stereotype one bygone humour - what a hopeless thing!
The mind runs ever in a thousand eddies like a river between
cliffs. You (the ego) are always spinning round in it, east, west,
north, and south. You are twenty years old, and forty, and five,
and the next moment you are freezing at an imaginary eighty; you
are never the plain forty-four that you should be by dates. (The
most philosophical language is the Gaelic, which has NO PRESENT
TENSE - and the most useless.) How, then, to choose some former
age, and stick there?

R. L. S.



DEAR SIR HERBERT MAXWELL, - I am emboldened by reading your very
interesting Rhind Lectures to put to you a question: What is my
name, Stevenson?

I find it in the forms Stevinetoun, Stevensoune, Stevensonne,
Stenesone, Stewinsoune, M'Stein, and MacStephane. My family, and
(as far as I can gather) the majority of the inglorious clan,
hailed from the borders of Cunningham and Renfrew, and the upper
waters of the Clyde. In the Barony of Bothwell was the seat of the
laird Stevenson of Stevenson; but, as of course you know, there is
a parish in Cunningham and places in Peebles and Haddington bearing
the same name.

If you can at all help me, you will render me a real service which
I wish I could think of some manner to repay. - Believe me, yours


P.S. - I should have added that I have perfect evidence before me
that (for some obscure reason) Stevenson was a favourite alias with
the M'Gregors.



MY DEAR CUMMY, - So I hear you are ailing? Think shame to
yourself! So you think there is nothing better to be done with
time than that? and be sure we can all do much ourselves to decide
whether we are to be ill or well! like a man on the gymnastic bars.
We are all pretty well. As for me, there is nothing the matter
with me in the world, beyond the disgusting circumstance that I am
not so young as once I was. Lloyd has a gymnastic machine, and
practises upon it every morning for an hour: he is beginning to be
a kind of young Samson. Austin grows fat and brown, and gets on
not so ill with his lessons, and my mother is in great price. We
are having knock-me-down weather for heat; I never remember it so
hot before, and I fancy it means we are to have a hurricane again
this year, I think; since we came here, we have not had a single
gale of wind! The Pacific is but a child to the North Sea; but
when she does get excited, and gets up and girds herself, she can
do something good. We have had a very interesting business here.
I helped the chiefs who were in prison; and when they were set
free, what should they do but offer to make a part of my road for
me out of gratitude? Well, I was ashamed to refuse, and the trumps
dug my road for me, and put up this inscription on a board:-

THIS ROAD THAT WE HAVE DUG!' We had a great feast when it was
done, and I read them a kind of lecture, which I dare say Auntie
will have, and can let you see. Weel, guid bye to ye, and joy be
wi' ye! I hae nae time to say mair. They say I'm gettin' FAT - a
fact! - Your laddie, with all love,




MY DEAR JAMES PAYN, - I am asked to relate to you a little incident
of domestic life at Vailima. I had read your GLEAMS OF MEMORY, No.
1; it then went to my wife, to Osbourne, to the cousin that is
within my gates, and to my respected amanuensis, Mrs. Strong.
Sunday approached. In the course of the afternoon I was attracted
to the great 'all - the winders is by Vanderputty, which upon
entering I beheld a memorable scene. The floor was bestrewn with
the forms of midshipmen from the CURACOA - 'boldly say a wilderness
of gunroom' - and in the midst of this sat Mrs. Strong throned on
the sofa and reading aloud GLEAMS OF MEMORY. They had just come
the length of your immortal definition of boyhood in the concrete,
and I had the pleasure to see the whole party dissolve under its
influence with inextinguishable laughter. I thought this was not
half bad for arthritic gout! Depend upon it, sir, when I go into
the arthritic gout business, I shall be done with literature, or at
least with the funny business. It is quite true I have my
battlefields behind me. I have done perhaps as much work as
anybody else under the most deplorable conditions. But two things
fall to be noticed: In the first place, I never was in actual
pain; and in the second, I was never funny. I'll tell you the
worst day that I remember. I had a haemorrhage, and was not
allowed to speak; then, induced by the devil, or an errant doctor,
I was led to partake of that bowl which neither cheers nor
inebriates - the castor-oil bowl. Now, when castor-oil goes right,
it is one thing; but when it goes wrong, it is another. And it
went WRONG with me that day. The waves of faintness and nausea
succeeded each other for twelve hours, and I do feel a legitimate
pride in thinking that I stuck to my work all through and wrote a
good deal of Admiral Guinea (which I might just as well not have
written for all the reward it ever brought me) in spite of the
barbarous bad conditions. I think that is my great boast; and it
seems a little thing alongside of your GLEAMS OF MEMORY illustrated
by spasms of arthritic gout. We really should have an order of
merit in the trade of letters. For valour, Scott would have had
it; Pope too; myself on the strength of that castor-oil; and James
Payn would be a Knight Commander. The worst of it is, though Lang
tells me you exhibit the courage of Huish, that not even an order
can alleviate the wretched annoyance of the business. I have
always said that there is nothing like pain; toothache, dumb-ague,
arthritic gout, it does not matter what you call it, if the screw
is put upon the nerves sufficiently strong, there is nothing left
in heaven or in earth that can interest the sufferer. Still, even
to this there is the consolation that it cannot last for ever.
Either you will be relieved and have a good hour again before the
sun goes down, or else you will be liberated. It is something
after all (although not much) to think that you are leaving a brave
example; that other literary men love to remember, as I am sure
they will love to remember, everything about you - your sweetness,
your brightness, your helpfulness to all of us, and in particular
those one or two really adequate and noble papers which you have
been privileged to write during these last years. - With the
heartiest and kindest good-will, I remain, yours ever,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR EELES, - The hand, as you will perceive (and also the
spelling!), is Teuila's, but the scrannel voice is what remains of
Tusitala's. First of all, for business. When you go to London you
are to charter a hansom cab and proceed to the Museum. It is
particular fun to do this on Sundays when the Monument is shut up.
Your cabman expostulates with you, you persist. The cabman drives
up in front of the closed gates and says, 'I told you so, sir.'
You breathe in the porter's ears the mystic name of COLVIN, and he
immediately unfolds the iron barrier. You drive in, and doesn't
your cabman think you're a swell. A lord mayor is nothing to it.
Colvin's door is the only one in the eastern gable of the building.
Send in your card to him with 'From R. L. S.' in the corner, and
the machinery will do the rest. Henry James's address is 34 De
Vere Mansions West. I cannot remember where the place is; I cannot
even remember on which side of the park. But it's one of those big
Cromwell Road-looking deserted thoroughfares out west in Kensington
or Bayswater, or between the two; and anyway, Colvin will be able
to put you on the direct track for Henry James. I do not send
formal introductions, as I have taken the liberty to prepare both
of them for seeing you already.

Hoskyn is staying with us.

It is raining dismally. The Curacoa track is hardly passable, but
it must be trod to-morrow by the degenerate feet of their successor
the Wallaroos. I think it a very good account of these last that
we don't think them either deformed or habitual criminals - they
seem to be a kindly lot.

The doctor will give you all the gossip. I have preferred in this
letter to stick to the strictly solid and necessary. With kind
messages from all in the house to all in the wardroom, all in the
gunroom, and (may we dare to breathe it) to him who walks abaft,
believe me, my dear Eeles, yours ever,




DEAR SIR HERBERT, - Thank you very much for your long and kind
letter. I shall certainly take your advice and call my cousin, the
Lyon King, into council. It is certainly a very interesting
subject, though I don't suppose it can possibly lead to anything,
this connection between the Stevensons and M'Gregors. Alas! your
invitation is to me a mere derision. My chances of visiting Heaven
are about as valid as my chances of visiting Monreith. Though I
should like well to see you, shrunken into a cottage, a literary
Lord of Ravenscraig. I suppose it is the inevitable doom of all
those who dabble in Scotch soil; but really your fate is the more
blessed. I cannot conceive anything more grateful to me, or more
amusing or more picturesque, than to live in a cottage outside your
own park-walls. - With renewed thanks, believe me, dear Sir
Herbert, yours very truly,




MY DEAR LANG, - For the portrait of Braxfield, much thanks! It is
engraved from the same Raeburn portrait that I saw in '76 or '77
with so extreme a gusto that I have ever since been Braxfield's
humble servant, and am now trying, as you know, to stick him into a
novel. Alas! one might as well try to stick in Napoleon. The
picture shall be framed and hung up in my study. Not only as a
memento of you, but as a perpetual encouragement to do better with
his Lordship. I have not yet received the transcripts. They must
be very interesting. Do you know, I picked up the other day an old
LONGMAN'S, where I found an article of yours that I had missed,
about Christie's? I read it with great delight. The year ends
with us pretty much as it began, among wars and rumours of wars,
and a vast and splendid exhibition of official incompetence. -
Yours ever,




I AM afraid, MY DEAR WEG, that this must be the result of bribery
and corruption! The volume to which the dedication stands as
preface seems to me to stand alone in your work; it is so natural,
so personal, so sincere, so articulate in substance, and what you
always were sure of - so rich in adornment.

Let me speak first of the dedication. I thank you for it from the
heart. It is beautifully said, beautifully and kindly felt; and I
should be a churl indeed if I were not grateful, and an ass if I
were not proud. I remember when Symonds dedicated a book to me; I
wrote and told him of 'the pang of gratified vanity' with which I
had read it. The pang was present again, but how much more sober
and autumnal - like your volume. Let me tell you a story, or
remind you of a story. In the year of grace something or other,
anything between '76 and '78 I mentioned to you in my usual
autobiographical and inconsiderate manner that I was hard up. You
said promptly that you had a balance at your banker's, and could
make it convenient to let me have a cheque, and I accepted and got
the money - how much was it? - twenty or perhaps thirty pounds? I
know not - but it was a great convenience. The same evening, or
the next day, I fell in conversation (in my usual autobiographical
and . . . see above) with a denizen of the Savile Club, name now
gone from me, only his figure and a dim three-quarter view of his
face remaining. To him I mentioned that you had given me a loan,
remarking easily that of course it didn't matter to you. Whereupon
he read me a lecture, and told me how it really stood with you
financially. He was pretty serious; fearing, as I could not help
perceiving, that I should take too light a view of the
responsibility and the service (I was always thought too light -
the irresponsible jester - you remember. O, QUANTUM MUTATUS AB
ILLO!) If I remember rightly, the money was repaid before the end
of the week - or, to be more exact and a trifle pedantic, the
sennight - but the service has never been forgotten; and I send you
back this piece of ancient history, CONSULE PLANCO, as a salute for
your dedication, and propose that we should drink the health of the
nameless one, who opened my eyes as to the true nature of what you
did for me on that occasion.

But here comes my Amanuensis, so we'll get on more swimmingly now.
You will understand perhaps that what so particularly pleased me in
the new volume, what seems to me to have so personal and original a
note, are the middle-aged pieces in the beginning. The whole of
them, I may say, though I must own an especial liking to -

'I yearn not for the fighting fate,
That holds and hath achieved;
I live to watch and meditate
And dream - and be deceived.'

You take the change gallantly. Not I, I must confess. It is all
very well to talk of renunciation, and of course it has to be done.
But, for my part, give me a roaring toothache! I do like to be
deceived and to dream, but I have very little use for either
watching or meditation. I was not born for age. And, curiously
enough, I seem to see a contrary drift in my work from that which
is so remarkable in yours. You are going on sedately travelling
through your ages, decently changing with the years to the proper
tune. And here am I, quite out of my true course, and with nothing
in my foolish elderly head but love-stories. This must repose upon
some curious distinction of temperaments. I gather from a phrase,
boldly autobiographical, that you are - well, not precisely growing
thin. Can that be the difference?

It is rather funny that this matter should come up just now, as I
am at present engaged in treating a severe case of middle age in
one of my stories - 'The Justice-Clerk.' The case is that of a
woman, and I think that I am doing her justice. You will be
interested, I believe, to see the difference in our treatments.
SECRETA VITAE, comes nearer to the case of my poor Kirstie. Come
to think of it, Gosse, I believe the main distinction is that you
have a family growing up around you, and I am a childless, rather
bitter, very clear-eyed, blighted youth. I have, in fact, lost the
path that makes it easy and natural for you to descend the hill. I
am going at it straight. And where I have to go down it is a

I must not forget to give you a word of thanks for AN ENGLISH
VILLAGE. It reminds me strongly of Keats, which is enough to say;
and I was particularly pleased with the petulant sincerity of the
concluding sentiment.

Well, my dear Gosse, here's wishing you all health and prosperity,
as well as to the mistress and the bairns. May you live long,
since it seems as if you would continue to enjoy life. May you
write many more books as good as this one - only there's one thing
impossible, you can never write another dedication that can give
the same pleasure to the vanished



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