You will receive along with this a document in which you are trustee. It seems elaborate, and dodgy; I trust it is also, as it looks to the layman, perfectly efficacious.
I will inclose here Moors’s last letter in which you will see how things go upon Vailima – Stevensonia, as he calls it – and what you may look for in the way of drafts. I think you will agree it is a very kindly letter.
The man himself is a curious being, not of the best character; has been in the labour trade as supercargo; has been partner with Grossmühl, the most infamous trader in these waters,
the man who is accused of paying natives with whist counters;
has settled down at last in Apia, where everyone owes his money on mortgage, where his business is both large and growing, and where he took a great though secret part in the late war. I was forced to be his guest, rather against my will, for his looks, his round blue eyes etc. went against me, and the repulsion was mutual. However we both got over it, and grew to like each other; and it’s my belief he won’t cheat me. He is highly intelligent; tells a story well and from a veracious understanding: of all the scores of witnesses I examined about the war, H.J.M. was the only one whom documents invariably corroborated, and also (although the most open enemy of the Germans at the time) appeared to suffer from no bias in the retrospect. He is married to a Samoan, whom he treats kindly, and his oldest girl is in the States at school. I draw you this portrait because the man is necessarily a feature in my business life and has the marring of many of my affairs. You may wonder I should become at all intimate with a man of a past so doubtful, but in the South Seas, any exclusiveness becomes impossible; they are worth mention. The character of my solicitor for instance is extraordinary;
and it was perhaps chiefly as a choice of evils that I left my power of attorney with H.J.M. At the same time, he is a man of so strong an understanding, and is so well-to-do, that personally I am not the least alarmed.
you perceive I am quite frank with my legal adviser; and I will also add it is conceivable an action might be brought, and in that event probable I should be ruined. If you had been through my experience, you would understand how little I care; for upon this topic my zeal is complete and, probably enough, without discretion.
I put myself in your hands, for Henley’s sake, not mine. My case is beyond help. This leaves tomorrow the 13th; two weeks later, day for day, it will be followed by presentation copies, which, for all purposes of action, is publication quite enough, is it not? Thus you will have no power to save me, and can, with a light conscience, follow my desires. That is to say:
1st. If you think Henley should try the gamble, you will let him have it.
2nd. If you think Henley shouldn’t, you will kindly see whether the Times, Scotsman, or other leading paper will touch it.
3rd. If none of them will, see if Chatto will issue it as a pamphlet.
N.B. Of course in no case will I receive any emolument. Or, if, in your good judgement, you see any other reputable means of publication, I set you free to adopt it.
On the probabilities of action, a barrister here whom I consulted, one of the leaders,
said, “Have you used any epithets – any epithets, you know? Coarse expressions? No? Not called him ‘Hell-Hound’? nor ‘Atheist’? No? O then, there’s nothing in it?” Which is funny, but unhappily not true. What’s more to the purpose, his collegues in Honolulu, whom I know, would probably – I think certainly – dissuade him with eagerness. But then there is the Boston Board of Missions – they may be a low lot, I don’t know them from Adam – and the trouble may come from there.
I own I cannot see what they would gain, unless revenge. But then sectarian animosity does not reckon, and there is no question, I may find myself nipped between conflicting churches. You must weigh this in considering for Henley. I don’t want to give him a serpent for a fish – no offence to eels. On the other hand, you, better than I, can judge if the thing would be apt to help him. It seems to me rather a spirited piece; but of course I am the last to know, and all of us here, knowing Dr. Hyde personally as we do, are perhaps apt to consider it more pungent than it can appear to the outsider. He is a large, dark, smooth, grave, personable man; carries his blue ribbon like a decoration; and looks as though you might have encountered him in Queen Street, arm in arm with Dr. Phin.
RLS had not been long at Sydney – just long enough to write and print the famous Letter to Dr. Hyde in defence of Father Damien – when he fell ill again with one of his old bad attacks of fever and hemorrhage from the lungs.
[As usual, for critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2215.]
I did not send off the enclosed before from laziness; having gone quite sick, and being a blooming prisoner here in the club and indeed in my bedroom.
I was in receipt of your letters and your ornamental photo, and was delighted to see how well you looked, and how reasonably well I stood.
Again consider the problem in the encloses. I believe – but have yet to consider Samoan prices – that a thousand pounds or at the outside 1250 should erect my house in its first and imperfect state.
I am sure I shall never come back home except to die; I may do it, but shall always think of the move as suicidal, unless a great change comes over me, of which as yet I see no symptom.
This visit to Sydney has smashed me handsomely; and yet I made myself a prisoner here in the club upon my first arrival. This is not encouraging for further ventures; Sydney winter – or I might almost say Sydney spring, for I came when the worst was over – is so small an affair,
comparable to our June depression at home in Scotland.
I deed not say, my dear Charles, that all you have done for Bob and Henley exactly pleases me.
You have nothing to do with either: you acted according to my instructions in making both the loans, whereof no more, an you love me. I must tell you that the Strongs have been behaving excellently. Joe still lives, but in a great and unceasing danger; Belle has been a kind nurse to him; both have lived all this while on their allowance, and not made one penny of debt.
I cannot tell you how encouraging this is, and how it reconciles me with life.
The pipe is right again; it was the springs that had rusted, and ought to have been oiled. Its voice is now that of an angel; but Lord! here in the club I dare not wake it! Conceive my impatience to be in my own backwoods and raise the sound of minstrelsy. What pleasures are to be compared with those of the Unvirtuous Virtuoso.
[For critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2214.]
To his Mother [Colvin 1912, pp. 264-5]
Union Club, Sydney, March 5, 1890.
My dear Mother,
I understand the family keeps you somewhat informed. For myself I am in such a whirl of work and society, I can ill spare a moment. My health is excellent and has been here tried by abominable wet weather, and (what’s waur) dinners and lunches. As this is like to be our metropolis, I have tried to lay myself out to be sociable with an eye to yoursel’.
Several niceish people have turned up: Fanny has an evening, but she is about at the end of the virtuous effort, and shrinks from the approach of any fellow creature.
Have you seen Hyde’s (Dr. not Mr.) letter about Damien?
That has been one of my concerns; I have an answer in the press; and have just written a difficult letter to Damon trying to prepare him for what (I fear) must be to him extremely painful.
The answer is to come out as a pamphlet; of which I make of course a present to the publisher.
I am not a cannibal, I would not eat the flesh of Dr. Hyde, – and it is conceivable it will make a noise in Honolulu. I have struck as hard as I knew how; nor do I think my answer can fail to do away (in the minds of all who see it) with the effect of Hyde’s incredible and really villainous production. What a mercy I wasn’t this man’s guest in the Morning Star!I think it would have broke my heart.
The S.S. Lübeck arrived in Sydney on 16 February, 1890. RLS gave interviews to journalists that evening at the Hotel Metropole. He caught a cold almost immediately and moved into the Union Club.
[As usual, for critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2010.]
To Henry James [Colvin 1912, pp. 263-4]
Union Club, Sydney, February 19, 1890.
Here – in this excellent civilised, antipodal club smoking-room,
I have just read the first part of your Solution.
Dear Henry James, it is an exquisite art; do not be troubled by the shadows of your French competitors: not one, not de Maupassant, could have done a thing more clean and fine; dry in touch, but the atmosphere (as in a fine summer sunset) rich with colour and with perfume.I shall say no more; this note is De Solutione; except that I – that we – are all your sincere friends and hope to shake you by the hand in June.
[For critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2207.]
To Anne Thackeray Ritchie
[Sturgies, in Cornhill, Nov. 1919, pp. 465-6]
S.S. Lübeck, between Apia and Samoa [February 1890]
Dear Mrs Ritchie,
Do you remember a lean youth who used to hang daily around Leslie Stephen?
I am that – I mean am all that remains of that youth, and have just been startled into boyish joy, and diverted from the path of duty (answering eight months’ accumulated correspondence) by your Book of Sybils.
I want MORE. I am fond of making studies myself; and rather plume myself on my talent in that way; my method is the exact opposite of yours; I never see why you lay on the touch rather than another, I cannot see why you make your breaks, all your craft is magic and mystery in my matter-of-fact eyes; but the result is indeed exquisite, and in your small volume I have made a host of friends. I beg of you to give me more: a second volume: Joanna Baillie,
and (please) Mrs. Radcliffe.
My wife (in a state of delight almost equal to mine) joins me in my pleading. Show us these faces, let us hear these voices, also, and make some happy hours for
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2206.]
To E.L. Burlingame [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 181-5]
S.S. Lübeck [between Apia and Sydney]
My dear Burlingame,
I desire nothing better than to continue my relation with the Magazine, to which it pleases me to hear I have been useful.
The only thing I have ready is the enclosed barbaric piece. As soon as I have arrived in Sydney I shall send you some photographs, a portrait of Tembinoka, perhaps a view of the palace or of the ‘matted men’ at their singing;
also T.’s flag, which my wife designed for him:
in a word, what I can do best for you. It will be thus a foretaste of my book of travels. I shall ask you to let me have, if I wish it, the use of the plates made, and to make up a little tract of the verses and illustrations, of which you might send six copies to H.M. Tembinoka, King of Apemama, via Butaritari, Gilbert Islands.
It might be best to send it by Crawford & Co., S.F.
There is no postal service; and schooners must take it, how they may and when.
Perhaps some such note as this might be prefixed:
At my departure from the island of Apemama, for which you will look in vain in most atlases,
the king and I agreed, since we both set up to be in the poetical way, that we should celebrate our separation in verse. Whether or not his majesty has been true to his bargain, the laggard posts of the Pacific may perhaps inform me in six months, perhaps not before a year. The following lines represent my part of the contract, and it is hoped, by their pictures of strange manners, they may entertain a civilized audience. Nothing throughout has been invented or exaggerated; the lady herein referred to as the authors Muse, has confined herself to stringing into rhyme facts and legends that I saw or heard during two months’ residence upon the island.
You will have received from me a letter about The Wrecker. No doubt it is a new experiment for me, being disguised so much as a study of manners, and the interest turning on a mystery of the detective sort. I think there need be no hesitation about beginning it in the fall of the year. Lloyd has nearly finished his part, and I shall hope to send you very soon the MS of about the first four-sevenths.
At the same time, I have been employing myself in Samoa, collecting facts about the recent war; and I propose to write almost at once and to publish shortly a small volume, called I know not what – the War in Samoa, the Samoa Trouble, an Island War, the War of the Three Consuls, I know not – perhaps you can suggest.
It was meant to be a part of my travel book; but material has accumulated on my hands until I see myself forced into volume form, and I hope it may be of use, if it come soon. I have a few photographs of the war, which will do for illustrations. It is conceivable you might wish to handle this in the Magazine, although I am inclined to think you won’t, and to agree with you. But if you think otherwise, there it is.
The travel letters (fifty of them) are already contracted for in papers; these I was quite bound to let M’Clure handle, as the idea was of his suggestion, and I always felt a little sore as to one trick I played him in the matter of the end-papers. The war-volume will contain some very interesting and picturesque details: more I can’t promise for it. Of course the fifty newspaper letters will be simply patches chosen from the travel volume (or volumes) as it gets written.
But you see I have in hand: –
Say half done. 1. The Wrecker.
Lloyd’s copy half done, mine not touched. 2. The Pearl Fisher (a novel promised to the Ledger, and which will form, when it comes in book form, No. 2 of our South Sea Yarns).
Not begun, but all material ready. 3. The War volume.
Ditto. 4. The Big Travel Book, which includes the letters.
You know how they stand. 5. The Ballads.
Excusez du peu! And you see what madness it would be to make any fresh engagement. At the same time, you have The Wrecker and the War Volume, if you like either – or both – to keep my name in the Magazine.
It begins to look as if I should not be able to get any more ballads done this somewhile. I know the book would sell better if it were all ballads; and yet I am growing half tempted to fill up with some other verses. A good few are connected with my voyage, such as the ‘Home of Tembinoka’ sent herewith, and would have a sort of slight affinity to the South Sea Ballads. You might tell me how that strikes a stranger.
In all this, my real interest is with the travel volume, which ought to be of a really extraordinary interest. I am sending you ‘Tembinoka’ as he stands; but there are parts of him that I hope to better, particularly in stanzas III and II. I scarce feel intelligent enough to try just now; and I thought at any rate you had better see it, set it up if you think well, and let me have a proof; so, at least, we shall get the bulk of it straight. I have spared you Teñkoruti, Tembaitake, Tembinatake, and other barbarous names, because I thought the dentists in the States had work enough without my assistance;
but my chief’s name is TEMBINOKA, pronounced, according to the present quite modern habit in the Gilberts, Tembinok’. Compare in the margin Tengkorootch; a singular new trick, setting at defiance all South Sea analogy, for nowhere else do they show even the ability, far less the will, to end a word upon a consonant. Loia is Lloyd’s name, ship becomes shipé, teapot tipoté, etc. Our admirable friend Herman Melville, of whom, since I could judge, I have thought more than ever, had no ear for languages whatever: his Hapar tribe should be Hapaa, etc.
But this is of no interest to you: suffice it, you see how I am as usual up to the neck in projects, and really all likely bairns this time. When will this activity cease? Too soon for me, I dare to say.