The siege of Saragossa, was it? or the Battle of Saratoga?

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1517.]

To Charles J. Guthrie [Colvin 1912, p. 211]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Jan. 18th, 1886

My dear Guthrie,

I hear the lad has got into the Spec. and I write to thank you very warmly for the part you have played. 

RLS in 1883, with his dog Bogue, final transformation of Wogg’s name: in French it means chesnut-burr.

‘The lad’ is Lloyd Osbourne, RLS’s stepson (here with his family in 1883); as a student at Edinburgh University, he was admitted into the Speculative Society on 12 Jan 1886 (he resigned on 8 Nov 1887).

Lloyd became the 1145th member of the Speculative Society.

 

I only wish we were both going there together to-morrow night, and you would be in the secretary’s place (that so well became you, sir) and I were to open a debate or harry you on ‘Private Business,’

RLS at the Spec 1868-1869 list of members

RLS, 992nd member of the Spec, 1868-1869.

RLS's Edinburgh University notebook, 1869.

RLS’s Edinburgh University notebook, 1869.

Guthrie 1849-1920

Charles John Guthrie, member no. 1000 of the Spec, 1869-1870.

Charles John Guthrie (1849-1920) was legal adviser to the Church of Scotland from 1881 to 1900.

Charles John Guthrie (1849-1920) was legal adviser to the Church of Scotland from 1881 to 1900.

 

and Omond perhaps to read us a few glowing pages on – the siege of Saragossa, was it? or the Battle of Saratoga? – my memory fails me,

George William Thomson Omond (1846-1929), Scottish advocate and prolific writer of history books, read an essay at the Spec on the Siege of Saratoga on 11 Jan 1870.

George William Thomson Omond (1846-1929), Scottish advocate and prolific writer of history books, read an essay at the Spec on the Siege of Saratoga on 11 Jan 1870.

 

but I have not forgotten a certain white charger that careered over the fields of incoherent fight with a prodigious consequence of laughter: have you? I wonder, has Omond? Well, well, perierunt, but, I hope, non imputantur.

A variated quotation from Martial, Epigrams V. 20: 'Bonosque / Soles effugere atque abire sentit, / Qui nobis pereunt [RLS: 'perierunt'] et imputantur' (And he feels the good days are flitting and passing away, our days that vanish [RLS: ended] and are scored to our account.).

A variated quotation from Martial, Epigrams V. 20: ‘Bonosque / Soles effugere atque abire sentit, / Qui nobis pereunt [RLS: ‘perierunt’] et imputantur’ (And he feels the good days are flitting and passing away, our days that vanish [RLS: ended] and are scored to our account.).

 

We have had good fun.

Again thanking you sincerely, I remain, my dear Guthrie, your old comrade,

Robert Louis Stevenson

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apropos of the odd controversy about Shelley’s nose

Sir Percy and Lady Shelley, RLS’s neighbours at Bournemouth, had attached themselves warmly to RLS, and saw in his ways and character a living image of those of the poet, Sir Percy’s father, as they imagined him.

Low had asked on behalf of Scribner’s for a photograph of RLS for publication in The Bookbuyer (see Letter 1503, Posted on this blog January 11, 2017).

[As ususal, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1515.]

To Will H. Low [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 317-318]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Jan. Somethingorotherth, 1886

My dear Low,

[…]

I send you two photographs: they are both done by Sir Percy Shelley, the poet’s son, which may interest.

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, 3rd Baronet of Castle Goring (1819-1889), the son and only surviving child of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley[http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk]

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, 3rd Baronet of Castle Goring (1819-1889), the son and only surviving child of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley[http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk]

The sitting down one is, I think, the best;

The Bookman Extra Number, 1913, p. 57.

 

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.

Low’s edition of Keats’s ‘Lamia’.

Low’s edition of Keats’s ‘Lamia’.

Low’s dedication to RLS: ‘In testimony of loyal friendship and of a common faith in doubtful tales from Faery-Land, I dedicate to Robert Louis Stevenson my work in this book.’ The Latin legend inscribed above the design runs: ‘Neque est ullum certius amicitiae vinculum quam consensus et societas consiliorum et voluntatum’ (‘There is no more certain bond of friendship than agreement and unity in intentions and wishes’).

Low’s dedication to RLS: ‘In testimony of loyal friendship and of a common faith in doubtful tales from Faery-Land, I dedicate to Robert Louis Stevenson my work in this book.’ The Latin legend inscribed above the design runs: ‘Neque est ullum certius amicitiae vinculum quam consensus et societas consiliorum et voluntatum’ (‘There is no more certain bond of friendship than agreement and unity in intentions and wishes’).

 

Yours ever,

R.L. Stevenson

P.S. – Apropos of the odd controversy about Shelley’s nose: I have before me four photographs of myself, done by Shelley’s son:

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

immagine

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

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,

immagine

one makes it straight,

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

and one suggests a turn-up.

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

This throws a flood of light on calumnious man – and the scandalmongering 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:

Posthumous portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley by George Clint [https://i0.wp.com/biografieonline.it/img/bio/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_1.jpg]

Posthumous portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) by George Clint [http://biografieonline.it/img/bio/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_1.jpg]

Miniature portrait of the poet [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

Miniature portrait of the poet [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

Hellen Shelley, one of the poet’s four sisters [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

Miniature portrait of Hellen Shelley (1799-1885), one of the poet’s four sisters [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

Hellen Shelley with her sister Margaret (1801/1887) [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

Hellen Shelley with her sister Margaret (1801/1887) [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

 

Sir Percy has a marked hook;’

“The Poet’s Son”, a caricature by Ape published in Vanity Fair in 1879 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

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 [= rubbish]) is the result of some accident similar to what has happened in my photographs by his son? 

R.L.S.

 

In the opening chapter of The Real Shelley 1885, John Cordy Jeaffreson contrasting the ‘real Shelley’ with the Shelley of romantic biography alleged that the posthumous portrait by George Clint gave him a face of ‘gentle delicacy and symmetrical loveliness’ with ‘a large straight delcately-modeled, finly pointed nose’ whereas ‘the original had a notably unsymmetrical face, and a little turn-up nose.’ Syvia Norman pointed out in The Flight of the Skylark, 1954, 21, that RLS overlooked Shelley’s own comment in a letter to Hogg: ‘I, you know, have a litle turn-up nose’.

In ‘The Real Shelley‘, Jeaffreson contrasted the ‘real Shelley’ with the Shelley of romantic biography, and alleged that the posthumous portrait by Clint gave him a face of ‘gentle delicacy and symmetrical loveliness’ with ‘a large straight delcately-modeled, finly pointed nose’ whereas ‘the original had a notably unsymmetrical face, and a little turn-up nose.

 

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I only know that side of Queen Square from the pavement and the back windows of Brunswick Row

Alicia Isobel Buckle, a daughter of the novelist and editor James Payn married to the editor of the Times, had laughingly remonstrated, through her father, on recognising some features of her own house in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, in the description of that tenanted by the fair Cuban in RLS’s Dynamiter.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1511.]

To James Payn [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 315-316]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Jan. 2nd, 1886

Dear James Payn,

Your very kind letter came very welcome;

James Payn (1830-1898), English editor and novelist, married Miss Louisa Adelaide Edlin (b. 1830 or 1831). They had nine children, the third of whom, Alicia Isabel (died 1898), married The Times editor George Earle Buckle. Payn edited Chamber’s Journal 1860-1875. In the pages of the Journal he published in 1864 his most popular story, 'Lost Sir Massingberd'. In 1883 he succeeded Leslie Stephen as editor of the Cornhill Magazine [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

James Payn (1830-1898), English editor and novelist, married Miss Louisa Adelaide Edlin (b. 1830 or 1831). They had nine children, the third of whom, Alicia Isabel (died 1898), married The Times editor George Earle Buckle. Payn edited Chamber’s Journal 1860-1875. In the pages of the Journal he published in 1864 his most popular story, ‘Lost Sir Massingberd’. In 1883 he succeeded Leslie Stephen as editor of the Cornhill Magazine [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

and still more welcome the news that you see [Powell]’s tale.

Walter A. Powell (?-1892), chemist at the Pharmacie Anglais, Hyères, Var, France, published ‘A Run of Luck in the Var’, in Cornhill for October 1886.

Walter A. Powell (?-1892), chemist at the Pharmacie Anglais, Hyères, Var, France, published ‘A Run of Luck in the Var’, in Cornhill for October 1886.

 

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 Hyères, when the cholera (certainly not his fault) swept away his customers in a body.

Cholera Epidemic in France, 1884. Public health workers disinfect baggage at a quarantine station.

Cholera Epidemic in France, 1884. Public health workers disinfect baggage at a quarantine station.

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. […]

En 1892, Hyères had two english chemists; Powell's pharmacy was on the Avenue des Iles d'Or (www.departement06.fr) [http://japy-collection.fr]

En 1892, Hyères had two english chemists; Powell’s pharmacy was on the Avenue des Iles d’Or (www.departement06.fr) [http://japy-collection.fr]

To pass to other matters: your hand, you are perhaps aware, is not one of those that can be read running;

James Payn's handwriting [http://i.ebayimg.com]

Example of letter by James Payn [http://i.ebayimg.com]

and the name of your daughter remains for me undecipherable.

Payn’s third daughter, Alicia Isobel (1858-1898), married (1885) George Earle Buckle (1854-1935), editor of The Times. She was for long an invalid and died in 1898. They had one son, George Walter, and one daughter, Mabel Alicia [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

Payn’s third daughter, Alicia Isobel (1858-1898), married (1885) George Earle Buckle (1854-1935), editor of The Times. She was for long an invalid and died in 1898. They had one son, George Walter, and one daughter, Mabel Alicia [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

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?

In The Dynamiter, Harry Desborough has lodgings ‘next door to the Children’s Hospital’ in Queen Square (‘the fine and grave old square of Bloomsbury […] rejoicing in romantic silences and city peace’), but on the other side, i.e. to the left of the redbrick building in the photo. From a first-floor terrace at the back he looks down ‘upon a fine forest of back gardens’ and is overlooked by the windows of an empty house, where ‘the fair Cuban’, aka Clara Luxmore appears.

immagine

 

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.

Brunswick Row, in the north-west corner of Queen Square, 1827 [Thanks, Richard Dury!]

Brunswick Place, in the north-west corner of Queen Square, 1827. In 1874 Fanny Sitwell separated from her husband and went to work at the Working Women’s College (now the Mary Ward Centre) occupying the south side of Queen Square. She found lodgings at 2 Brunswick Row. At the entrance to the narrow street was a children’s hospital (the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Diseases, 19 Queen Square, now Alexandra House) [Thanks, Richard Dury!]

immagine

The Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Diseases, 19 Queen Square, now Alexandra House [Thanks, Richard Dury!]

 

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,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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.

In Payn’s Lost Sir Massingberd (1864) the wicked baronet Sir Massingberd Heath mysteriously disappears. Several years later his skeleton is found in the hollow trunk of an oak-tree; he had apparently climbed into the treee to watch for poachers, fallen through and been unable to escape or to attract attention. The Times of 29 Dec 1885 reported that a ten-tear-old boy, Edward Light, of Bedminster near Bristol had been found in a starvin and emaciated condition in the hollow of an old elm-tree after being missing for nearly a week. He had run away from home, got through an opening in the treee, taken his shoes and sockings off, and fallen asleep; in the morning, his feet were badl frost-bitten and he was so benumbed with the cold that he could not get out.. After 6 days his moaning was heard by children playing nearby. Zero accidently blows himself up at Euston Station with his own dynamite in the closing pages of the Dynamiter.

In Payn’s Lost Sir Massingberd (1864) the wicked baronet mysteriously disappears. Several years later his skeleton is found in the hollow trunk of an oak-tree; he had apparently climbed into the treee to watch for poachers, fallen through and been unable to escape. The Times of 29 Dec 1885 reported that a 10-year-old boy of Bedminster (Bristol) had been found in an emaciated condition in the hollow of an old elm-tree after being missing for nearly a week. He had got through an opening in the tree, and fallen asleep; in the morning, his feet were frost-bitten and he could not get out. After 6 days his moaning was heard by children playing nearby. In the closing page of RLS’s Dynamiter, Zero accidently blows himself up at Euston Station with his own dynamite.

 

 

 

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I do not like mankind; but men, and not all of these

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1510.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 311-315]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Jan. 2nd, 1886

My dear Gosse,

Thank you for your letter, so interesting to my vanity.

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928) wrote RLS on 25 December praising his story, ‘Markheim’, and reporting that Prime Minister Gladstone had read ‘Treasure Island’ ‘over and over’. [www.silksoundbooks.com]

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928) wrote RLS on 25 December praising his story, ‘Markheim’, and reporting that Prime Minister Gladstone had read ‘Treasure Island’ ‘over and over’. [www.silksoundbooks.com]

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.

A review of 'Prince Otto' had appeared in the St James’s Gazette of 1 Jan. 1886. Gosse replied on that he had not written it.

A review of ‘Prince Otto’ had appeared in the St James’s Gazette of 1 Jan. 1886. Gosse replied that he had not written it.

 

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;

[https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]

[https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com]

another (picture my agony) described it as a ‘Gilbert comedy.’

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911), English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for the fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan [http://saraleeetter.com]

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911), English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for the fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan [http://saraleeetter.com]

'Engaged' was Gilbert's most successful non-musical play, 1877 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

‘Engaged’ was Gilbert’s most successful non-musical play, 1877 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

It was amusing to see the race between me and Justin McCarthy: the Milesian has won by a length.

Justin McCarthy (1830-1912), Irish nationalist and Liberal historian, novelist and politician. His 'Camiola' had just been published [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Justin McCarthy (1830-1912), Irish nationalist and Liberal historian, novelist and politician. His ‘Camiola’ had just been published [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

MsCarthy’s novel ‘Camiola had just been published.

Milesius Galamh King of Ireland, King of Braganza, Spain, by Ludger tom Ring the Elder, 1538. In Irish origin legends, Míl Espáine (later Latinized as Milesius) is the mythical ancestor of the final inhabitants of Ireland, the

Milesius Galamh King of Ireland, King of Braganza, Spain, by Ludger tom Ring the Elder, 1538. In Irish origin legends, Míl Espáine (later Latinized as Milesius) is the mythical ancestor of the final inhabitants of Ireland, the “sons of Míl” or Milesians [http://ic.pics.livejournal.com]

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.

Passengers wait for a Bank Holiday excursion train, Victorian age [http://downloads.bbc.co.uk]

Passengers wait for a Bank Holiday excursion train, Victorian age [http://downloads.bbc.co.uk]

I do not write for the public; I do write for money, a nobler deity;

Robert Louis Stevenson centenary £1 note, 1994 [http://heritagearchives.rbs.com]

Robert Louis Stevenson centenary £1 note, 1994 [http://heritagearchives.rbs.com]

and most of all for myself, not perhaps any more noble, but both more intelligent and nearer home.

RLS at Bournemouth, by John Singer Sargent, 1887 [http://images.metmuseum.org]

RLS at Bournemouth, by John Singer Sargent, 1887 [http://images.metmuseum.org]

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.

[https://pics.onsizzle.com]

[https://pics.onsizzle.com]

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.

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

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? […]

The Haymarket at midnight. From H. Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, A Cyclopædia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Those That Cannot Work, and Those That Will Not Work, 1862 [www.victorianlondon.org]

The Haymarket at midnight. From H. Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, A Cyclopædia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Those That Cannot Work, and Those That Will Not Work, 1862 [www.victorianlondon.org]

Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris [https://bookscombined.files.wordpress.com]

Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris [https://bookscombined.files.wordpress.com]

Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris[https://bookscombined.files.wordpress.com]

Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris[https://bookscombined.files.wordpress.com]

 

[…]

I hope some day you and Mrs. Gosse will come for a Sunday; but we must wait till I am able to see people.

Edmund Gosse with his wife and children [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/]

Edmund Gosse with his wife and children [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com]

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.

Henry Charles Fleeming (pronounced ‘Flemming’) Jenkin (1833-1885)[http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]

Professor Henry Charles Fleeming, RLS’s friend died on 12 June 1885 [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]

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;

R. Owen (1769–1825), The rest by the wayside [https://iamachild.files.wordpress.com]

R. Owen (1769–1825), The rest by the wayside [https://iamachild.files.wordpress.com]

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.

and enjoy the notion that he is both himself and something else;

[https://i2.wp.com]

The English actor Richard Mansfield (1857–1907) in his rendering of the title-characters in T. Russell Sullivan’s adaptation of ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ for Palmer’s company at Madison Square Theatre, 1887 [https://i2.wp.com]

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.

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Posted in Letters, Robert Louis Stevenson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My letters should contain appropriate sentiments and humorous nonsense, or nonsense without the humour

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1509.]

To his parents [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 306-307]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth] January 1st, 1886

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.

Professor Fleeming Jenkin (1833-85) worked (among other things) as a railroad engineer and later a cable engineer, helping to lay cables for the telegraph system in the Mediterranean. RLS was not only one of Jenkin’s students, he also participated in the amateur theatricals that frequently took place in the Jenkin household [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Professor Fleeming Jenkin (1833-85) worked (among other things) as a railroad engineer and later a cable engineer, helping to lay cables for the telegraph system in the Mediterranean. RLS was not only one of Jenkin’s students, he also participated in the amateur theatricals that frequently took place in the Jenkin household [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

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.

RLS's 'Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin' (1st edition, Scribner’s 1887), a tribute to his professor of engineering at Edinburgh University.

RLS’s ‘Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin’ (1st edition, Scribner’s 1887), a tribute to his professor of engineering at Edinburgh University.

 

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) depended.

Example of letter by Thomas Stevenson, prob. 1886 [http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu]

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.

RLS, Bournemouth, 1885, photographed by his stepson Lloyd.

RLS, Bournemouth, 1885, photographed by his stepson Lloyd.

 

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.

RLS’s writing desk , Vailima, Samoa [https://it.pinterest.com]

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. […]

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Whether on the first of January or the thirty-first of December, faith is a good word to end on

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1508.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 305-306]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth] Jan. 1st, 1886

My dear Kinnicum,

Robert Louis Stevenson's nurse, Alison Cunningham – 'Cummy' – in later life. Kinnicum is the Lothian vernacular pronunciation of Cunningham [http://digital.nls.uk]

Robert Louis Stevenson’s nurse, Alison Cunningham (‘Cummy’), in later life. Kinnicum is the Lothian vernacular pronunciation of Cunningham [http://digital.nls.uk]

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.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

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;

Cummy [https://yooniqimages.blob.core.windows.net]

Cummy (1822-1913) [https://yooniqimages.blob.core.windows.net]

 

but it is as much use to tell you that as it is to tell my father.

Thomas Stevenson (1818/1887) [http://pharology.eu]

Thomas Stevenson (1818/1887) [http://pharology.eu]

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.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

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

Robert Louis Stevenson

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You can draw and yet you do not love the ugly: what are you doing in this age?

RLS accepted the dedication of Low’s illustrated edition of Keats’s Lamia, and sent him in return the newly published Jekyll and Hyde.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1503.]

To Will H. Low [Colvin 1911, 2, 308-311]

[Skerryvore] Jan. 2nd, 1886

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.

Low’s dedication to RLS: ‘In testimony of loyal friendship and of a common faith in doubtful tales from Faery-Land, I dedicate to Robert Louis Stevenson my work in this book.’ The Latin legend inscribed above the design runs: ‘Neque est ullum certius amicitiae vinculum quam consensus et societas consiliorum et voluntatum’ (‘There is no more certain bond of friendship than agreement and unity in intentions and wishes’).

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;

Keats’s Poetical Works, 1884 edition.

Keats’s Poetical Works, 1884 edition.

Beginning of Keats’s poem, Isabella or the Pot of Basil.

William Holman Hunt, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1866-1868 [http://i157.photobucket.com]

William Holman Hunt, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1866-1868 [http://i157.photobucket.com]

Beginning of Keats’s Poem, The Eve of St. Agnes.

J. E. Millais, The Eve of St. Agnes, 1863 [https://uploads1.wikiart.org]

J. E. Millais, The Eve of St. Agnes, 1863 [https://uploads1.wikiart.org]

and then there’s Hyperion

Beginning of Keats’s poem, Hyperion.

George Frederic Watts, Artemis and Hyperion, c. 1881 [www.georgefredericwatts.org]

George Frederic Watts, Artemis and Hyperion, c. 1881.

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;

Victor Florence Pollet, Selene and Endymion, 1850-60 [https://sjwoccult.files.wordpress.com]

Victor Florence Pollet, Selene and Endymion, 1850-60 [https://sjwoccult.files.wordpress.com]

actions, not in themselves of any mighty purport, but made for the pencil: the feast of Pan,

G.B. Castiglione, The feast of Pan, c. 1647 [www.artic.edu]

G.B. Castiglione, The feast of Pan, c. 1647 [www.artic.edu]

Peona’s isle,

J. Keats, Endymion, I, vv. 427 ff.

 

James Webb, Mount St. Michael, c. 1890 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

James Webb, Mount St. Michael, c. 1890 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

the ‘slabbed margin of a well,’

J. Keats, Endymion, I, v. 871.

J. Keats, Endymion, I, v. 871.

[http://nikkersstar.files.wordpress.com]

[http://nikkersstar.files.wordpress.com]

the chase of the butterfly,

J. Keats, Endymion, II; vv. 61 ff.

J. Keats, Endymion, II; vv. 61 ff.

Antoine-Denis Chaudet, Cupid playing with a butterfly, 1819 [www.louvre.fr]

Antoine-Denis Chaudet, Cupid playing with a butterfly, 1819 [www.louvre.fr]

   

the nymph,

J, Keats, Endymion, II, vv. 99 ff.

J, Keats, Endymion, II, vv. 99 ff.

Herny Ryland (1856-1924), The water nymph [http://artpaintingartist.org]

Herny Ryland (1856-1924), The water nymph [http://artpaintingartist.org]

Glaucus,

J. Keats, Endymion, III, vv. 776 ff.

J. Keats, Endymion, III, vv. 776 ff.

Jacques Dumont, Glaucus and Scylla, 1726 [www.culture.gouv.fr]

Jacques Dumont, Glaucus and Scylla, 1726 [www.culture.gouv.fr]

Cybele,

J. Keats, Ebdymion, II, vv. 640 ff.

J. Keats, Ebdymion, II, vv. 640 ff.

Bronze statuette of Cybele on cart drawn by lions, 2nd half of 2nd century A.D. [www.metmuseum.org]

Bronze statuette of Cybele on cart drawn by lions, 2nd half of 2nd century A.D. [www.metmuseum.org]

Sleep on his couch,

J. Keats, Endymion, IV, vv. 385 ff.

J. Keats, Endymion, IV, vv. 385 ff.

P.R. Guerin, Morpheus and Iris, 1811 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

P.R. Guerin, Morpheus and Iris, 1811 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

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?

'What wreath for Lamia? What for Lucius? What for the sage, old Apollonius?'

‘What wreath for Lamia? What for Lucius? What for the sage, old Apollonius?’

 

 

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.

First edition of Jekyll & Hyde, 1885 [https://3.bp.blogspot.com]

First edition of Jekyll & Hyde, 1885 [https://3.bp.blogspot.com]

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. […] 

RLS's verses were published in the Century for May 1886, and inscribed by St. Gaudens on his medallion portrait of the author [www.tate.org.uk]

RLS’s verses were published in the Century for May 1886, and inscribed by St. Gaudens on his medallion portrait of the author [www.tate.org.uk]


To Will H. Low

Damned bad lines in return for a beautiful book

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.

Frederic Leighton, Idyll, 1880 [https://uploads3.wikiart.org]

Frederic Leighton, Idyll, 1880 [https://uploads3.wikiart.org]

This is unborn beauty: she

Now in air floats high and free,

Takes the sun, and breaks the blue; –

Cl. Monet, Study of a Figure Outdoors: Woman with a Parasol, facing left, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Cl. Monet, Study of a Figure Outdoors: Woman with a Parasol, facing left, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Late, with stooping pinion flew

Raking hedgerow trees, and wet

Her wing in silver streams, and set

Shining foot on temple roof.

Frederick Paul Thumann (1834-1908). Psyche at Nature's Mirror [http://www.antiqforum.com]

Frederick Paul Thumann (1834-1908). Psyche at Nature’s Mirror [http://www.antiqforum.com]

Now again she flies aloof,

Coasting mountain clouds, and kissed

By the evening’s amethyst.

Thomas Clove, Evening in Arcadia, 1830s [https://blueridgeimpressions.files.wordpress.com]

Thomas Clove, Evening in Arcadia, 1830s [https://blueridgeimpressions.files.wordpress.com]

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!

Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead, 5th version, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead, 5th version, 1886 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Life is gone, but life was gay:

We have come the primrose way! […]

R.L.S.

[…]

[http://tomcarpenter.files.wordpress.com]

[http://tomcarpenter.files.wordpress.com]

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