“Don’t you remember the poisoning with mushrooms?”

Anticipating the gift of a cupboard from his old nurse Cummy and answering the questions set on his last letter to her.

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1670.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1911, 2, p. 346]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, July or August 1886]

My dear Cummy,

The cupboard has not yet turned up, and I was hanging on to be able to say it had.

Alison Cunningham (1822–1913)

Alison Cunningham (1822–1913), by George Fiddes Watt [https://static.artuk.org]]

However, that is only a trick to escape another letter, and I should despise myself if I kept it up. It was truly kind of you, dear Cummy, to send it to us: and I will let you know where we set it and how it looks.

Carus Rearn and Andrew Silex and the others were from a story you read me in Cassell’s Family Paper, and which I have been reading again and found by no means a bad story.

The date of the readings with Cummy had been his seventh year.

Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper [https://pictures.abebooks.com]

Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper [https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com]

 

Mr. Galpin lent me all the old volumes, and I mean to re-read Custaloga also, but have not yet.

Thomas Dixon Galpin (1829-1910) was a partner in ‘Cassell, Petter, Galpin, & Co.’ [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

‘Amy Moss; or the Banks of the Ohio’ by Percy Bolingbroke St John, had been serialised in Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper 13 May-14 October 1854. RLS wrote that ‘It narrated the doings of one Calistoga, an Indian brave, who in the last chapter… washed the paint off his face and became Sir Reginald Somebody-or-other; a trick I never forgave him’. [https://books.google.it]

It was strangely like old times to read the other; don’t you remember the poisoning with mushrooms?

[http://debunkingdietitian.com]

That was Andrew Silex. – Yours most affectionately,

R.L.S.

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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“I am weary of England; like Alan, ‘I weary for the heather,’ if not for the deer”

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1667.]

To his Father [Colvin 1911, 2, p. 345]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth] July 28, 1886

My dear Father,

We have decided not to come to Scotland, but just to do as Dobell wished, and take an outing.

Horace Benge Dobell (1828-1917), English doctor and medical writer, consulting doctor to the Royal Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, London, and then at the Mont Dore sanitorium for patients with chest diseases, Bournemouth [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

I believe this is wiser in all ways; but I own it is a disappointment. I am weary of England; like Alan, ‘I weary for the heather,’ 

[www.transformedbylight.com]

if not for the deer.

[www.wildlifeonline.me.uk]

In ch. 12 of ‘Kidnapped’, Alan Breck tells David Balfour: ‘France is a braw place, nae doubt; but I weary for the heather and the deer’.

 

Lloyd has gone to Scilly with Katharine and C., where and with whom he should have a good time.

RLS’s stepson LLoyd (1868-1947), 1880.

The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the south western tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. It is the southernmost location in the United Kingdom [www.scillywalks.co.uk]

Packing flowers in the Scillies, 19th century [www.cornwalls.co.uk]

Katharine Elizabeth Alan Stevenson De Mattos (1851-1939) was RLS’s cousin and Bob's sister. They played together when they were children. RLS dedicated 'Jekyll & Hyde' to her. In June 1874 she married, against the wishes of her family, William Sydney de Mattos, known as a "Cambridge atheist". His constant infidelities led to their separation in 1881. At the age of 30, Katharine moved to London with her two children and, with help from RLS and Henley, supported herself by journalism [www.cityofliterature.com]

Katharine Elizabeth Alan Stevenson (1851-1939), RLS’s cousin and Bob’s sister. They played together when they were children. RLS dedicated ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ to her. In June 1874 she married, against the wishes of her family, William Sydney de Mattos, known as a “Cambridge atheist”. His constant infidelities led to their separation in 1881. At the age of 30, Katharine moved to London with her two children and, with help from RLS and Henley, supported herself by journalism [www.cityofliterature.com]

 

David seems really to be going to succeed, which is a pleasant prospect on all sides. I am, I believe, floated financially; a book that sells will be a pleasant novelty. I enclose another review; mighty complimentary, and calculated to sell the book too.

Coolin’s tombstone has been got out, honest man! and it is to be polished, for it has got scratched, and have a touch of gilding in the letters, and be sunk in the front of the house.

Skye Terrier Dog

‘Coolin’ had been a favourite Skye terrier of Heriot Row days. He was killed in 1869. His tombstone, complete with Latin epitaph by RLS, was being moved from Swanston cotage to Skerryvore [www.free-online-veterinarian-advice.com]

Worthy man, he, too, will maybe weary for the heather, and the bents of Gullane, where (as I dare say you remember) he gaed clean gyte [= went completely mad], and jumped on to his crown from a gig, in hot and hopeless chase of many thousand rabbits.

 

I can still hear the little cries of the honest fellow as he disappeared; and my mother will correct me, but I believe it was two days before he turned up again at North Berwick: to judge by his belly, he had caught not one out of these thousands, but he had had some exercise.

[…] I keep well. – Ever your affectionate son,

R.L.S.

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“I warn you, you will have to cast back your eyes a good long way, close upon thirty years”

RLS was always interested by his own retentiveness of memory for childish things, and here asks her old nurse, Cummy, some questions to test the quality of hers.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1661.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1912, pp. 216-217]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, ? July 1886.]

My dear Cummy,

I was sorry to get so poor account of you and Hecky. Fanny thinks perhaps it might be Hecky’s teeth.

Alison Cunningham (1822–1913)

Alison Cunningham (1822–1913), by George Fiddes Watt. Hecky was a dog belonging to her brother, James [https://static.artuk.org]

Sir Walter Simpson has a very clever vet.

undefined

Sir Walter Grindlay Simpson (1843-1898) was one of RLS’s closest friends and travel companion from his student days at Edinburgh University [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]

I have forgotten his name; but if you like, I send a card and you or James might ask the address.

Now to what is more important. Do you remember any of the following names: Lady Boothroyd, Barny Gee, Andrew Silex, the Steward, Carus Ream, Peter Mangles, Richard Markham, Fiddler Dick?

John Frederick Smith serialisations for Cassell’s ‘Illustrated Family Papers’, were read by Cummy to the child RLS [http://2.bp.blogspot.com]

Please let me know and I will tell you how I come to ask. I warn you, you will have to cast back your eyes a good long way, close upon thirty years, before you strike the trail onwhich I wish to lead you.

RLS, aged 9.

 

When I have had an answer I will write you a decent letter. To-day, though nothing much is wrong with me, I am out of sorts and most disinclined for writing. – Yours most affectionately,

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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“Herewith goes my new book, … I hope you will like it: I do”

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1654.]

To Alison Cunningham [Colvin 1912, p. 216]

[Bournemouth, 16 July, 1886]

My dear Cummy,

Herewith goes my new book, in which you will find some places that you know: I hope you will like it: I do.

RLS’s nurse Alison Canningham (1822-1913) aka ‘Cummy’ [http://imgc.allpostersimages.com]

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/imgsrv/image?id=hvd.hwrqz5;seq=145;width=850

Cummy’s copy of ‘Kidnapped’, inscribed ‘Alison Cunningham / from her boy / The Author / Skerryvore / July 16th 1886’ is at Harward. The dedication is reproduced here, in ‘A catalogue of the books and manuscripts of Robert Louis Stevenson in the library of Harry Elkins Widener’, Philadelphia 1913 [https://babel.hathitrust.org]

 

The name of the girl at Limekilns (as will appear if the sequel is ever written) was Hastie, and I conceive she was an ancestor of yours:

Hastie was the maiden name of Cummy’s mother. In the sequel of ‘Kidnapped’ (‘Catriona’, 1892), Alison Hastie rows David and Alan Breck across the Forth.

https://ia802704.us.archive.org/BookReader/BookReaderImages.php?zip=/21/items/catriona00stevuoft/catriona00stevuoft_jp2.zip&file=catriona00stevuoft_jp2/catriona00stevuoft_0031.jp2&scale=4.125899280575539&rotate=0

https://ia802704.us.archive.org/BookReader/BookReaderImages.php?zip=/21/items/catriona00stevuoft/catriona00stevuoft_jp2.zip&file=catriona00stevuoft_jp2/catriona00stevuoft_0384.jp2&scale=4.125899280575539&rotate=0

  

as David was no doubt some kind of relative of mine.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Picture_of_Margaret_Isabella_Balfour.jpg

David Balfour, the protagonist of ‘Kidnapped’ could have benn a forefather of RLS’s mother, Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829-1897) [https://commons.wikimedia.org]

 

I have no time for more, but send my love, and remembrances to your brother. – Ever your affectionate

R.L.S.

Salva

Salva

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“It looks like a mixture of an aztec idol, a lion, an Indian Rajah, and a woman”

RLS’s parents had been thinking of trying a winter at Bournemouth for the sake of being near their son, a plan which was eventually carried out. His health was now fast and painfully breaking.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1647.]

To his Parents [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 342-343]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, July 7th, 1886

My dear people,

It is probably my fault, and not yours, that I did not understand. I think it would be well worth trying the winter in Bournemouth; but I would only take the house by the month – this after mature discussion. My leakage still pursues its course; if I were only well, I have a notion to go north and get in (if I could) at the inn at Kirkmichael, which has always smiled upon me much.

Kirkmichael village, Perth and Kinross [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

 

 

If I did well there, we might then meet and do what should most smile at the time.

Meanwhile, of course, I must not move, and am in a rancid box here, feeling the heat a great deal, and pretty tired of things.

Skerryvore Cottage, Bournemouth [www.awesomestories.com]

Alexander did a good thing of me at last;

John White Alexander (1856-1915), American painter, had been commissioned by the Century Magazine to make a portrait of RLS [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

it looks like a mixture of an aztec idol, a lion, an Indian Rajah, and a woman; and certainly represents a mighty comic figure.

https://ia601409.us.archive.org/BookReader/BookReaderImages.php?zip=/7/items/centuryillustrat35newyuoft/centuryillustrat35newyuoft_jp2.zip&file=centuryillustrat35newyuoft_jp2/centuryillustrat35newyuoft_0882.jp2&scale=6.539568345323741&rotate=0

Alexander’s drawing was reproduced in the issue for April 1888 of the Century Magazine, with Henry James’s essay on RLS.

 

F[anny] and Lloyd both think it is the best thing that has been done of me up to now.

[…] You should hear Lloyd on the penny whistle, and me on the piano!

Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958), The Tinwhistle Boy. The tin whistle, also called the penny whistle or English flageolet is a simple, six-holed woodwind instrument [www.newyorkirisharts.com]

 

RLS’s piano, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney [https://maas.museum]

Dear powers, what a concerto! I now live entirely for the piano, he for the whistle; the neighbours, in a radius of a furlong and a half, are packing up in quest of brighter climes. – Ever yours,

R.L.S.

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

R.L.S.

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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“It is a far finer thing to be in love, or to risk a danger, than to paint the finest picture or write the noblest book”

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1642.]

To Harriet Monroe [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 335-338]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, 30 June 1886]

My dear Miss Monroe,

I am ill in bed and stupid, incoherently stupid; yet I have to answer your letter, and if the answer is incomprehensible you must forgive me. You say my letter caused you pleasure; I am sure, as it fell out, not near so much as yours has brought to me.

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/find-a-grave-prod/photos/2016/272/106838546_1475150919.jpg

Harriet Monroe (1860-1936), American poet and editor, founder in 1912 and editor of ‘Poetry: A Magazine of Poetry’. She lived in Chicago [https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com]

https://lettersofrobertlouisstevenson.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/68524-n004359.jpg?w=460&h=640

Harriet Monroe, dressed in costume for the Streets of Paris performance at the Coliseum, c. 1906 [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

harriet Monroe, 1920 [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

 

The interest taken in an author is fragile: his next book, or your next year of culture, might see the interest frosted or outgrown; and himself, in spite of all, you might probably find the most distasteful person upon earth. My case is different. I have bad health, am often condemned to silence for days together – was so once for six weeks, so that my voice was awful to hear when I first used it, like the whisper of a shadow – have outlived all my chief pleasures, which were active and adventurous, and ran in the open air:

Frontispiece of RLS’s travel book ‘An Inland Voyage’, 1878.

Travels.with.donkey.jpg

Frontispiece of RLS’s travel book ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes’, 1879 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Stevenson_by_Fanny_Osbourne.jpg

Portrait of RLS by Fanny, Fontainebleau, 1876 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

 

and being a person who prefers life to art, and who knows it is a far finer thing to be in love, or to risk a danger, than to paint the finest picture or write the noblest book, I begin to regard what remains to me of my life as very shadowy. From a variety of reasons, I am ashamed to confess I was much in this humour when your letter came. I had a good many troubles; was regretting a high average of sins; had been recently reminded that I had outlived some friends, and wondering if I had not outlived some friendships; and had just, while boasting of better health, been struck down again by my haunting enemy, an enemy who was exciting at first, but has now, by the iteration of his strokes, become merely annoying and inexpressibly irksome. Can you fancy that to a person drawing towards the elderly this sort of conjunction of circumstances brings a rather aching sense of the past and the future? Well, it was just then that your letter […] and your photograph […] were brought to me in bed;

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, ‘Robert Louis Stevenson’ c.1887–93

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, ‘RLS’ c. 1887–93 [www.tate.org.uk]

and there came to me at once the most agreeable sense of triumph. My books were still young; my words had their good health and could go about the world and make themselves welcome; and even (in a shadowy and distant sense) make something in the nature of friends for the sheer hulk that stays at home and bites his pen over the manuscripts.

Robert Louis Stevenson at his desk

RLS, Bournemouth, 1885 [www.open.edu]

It amused me very much to remember that I had been in Chicago, not so many years ago, in my proper person; where I had failed to awaken much remark, except from the ticket collector;

RLS arrived in Chicago by train on 19 August 1879. R. F. Zogbaum. “The Modern Ship of the Plains”, Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 13, 1886 [www.philaprintshop.com]

and to think how much more gallant and persuasive were the fellows that I now send instead of me, and how these are welcome in that quarter to the sitter of Herr Platz,

Alexander Salvini, Max Platz photographer, Chicago [http://kdl.kyvl.org]

while their author was not very welcome even in the villainous restaurant where he tried to eat a meal and rather failed.

And this leads me directly to a confession. The photograph which shall accompany this is not chosen as the most like, but the best-looking.

RLS, Bournemouth, Dec 1885.

 

Put yourself in my place, and you will call this pardonable. Even as it is, even putting forth a flattered presentment, I am a little pained; and very glad it is a photograph and not myself that has to go; for in this case, if it please you, you can tell yourself it is my image – and if it displease you, you can lay the blame on the photographer; but in that, there were no hope, and the poor author might belie his labours.

Kidnapped should soon appear;

First edition of ‘Kidnapped’, Cassell & Company Ltd., 1886 [www.the-saleroom.com]

I am afraid you may not like it, as it is very unlike Prince Otto in every way;

https://pictures.abebooks.com/KSANDERS/16331702451.jpg

First American edition of ‘Prince Otto’, Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1886 [https://pictures.abebooks.com]

but I am myself a great admirer of the two chief characters, Alan and David.

The statue of Alan Breck & David Balfour, the heroes of RLS’s novel “Kidnapped”, by the sculptor Sandy Stoddart, stands on the N side of Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, nearthe place ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ where they parted at the end of the novel [https://en.wikipedia.org]

Virginibus Puerisque has never been issued in the States. I do not think it is a book that has much charm for publishers in any land;

‘Virginibus Puerisque’, first edition, 1881 [http://deriv.nls.uk/]

but I am to bring out a new edition in England shortly, a copy of which I must try to remember to send you. I say try to remember, because I have some superficial acquaintance with myself: and I have determined, after a galling discipline, to promise nothing more until the day of my death: at least, in this way, I shall no more break my word, and I must now try being churlish instead of being false.

I do not believe you to be the least like Seraphina.

https://media.poetryfoundation.org/m/image/960/harriet-monroe.jpg?w=448&h=&fit=max

Harriet Monroe [https://media.poetryfoundation.org]

Your photograph has no trace of her, which somewhat relieves me, as I am a good deal afraid of Seraphinas – they do not always go into the woods and see the sunrise, and some are so well-mailed that even that experience would leave them unaffected and unsoftened. The ‘hair and eyes of several complexions’ was a trait taken from myself; and I do not bind myself to the opinions of Sir John.

In his description of Otto, Sir John Crabtree writes the Prince has ‘the hair and eyes of several complexions’.

In his description of prince Otto, Sir John Crabtree writes: ‘he has hair of a ruddy gold… and his eyes are dark, a combination which I always regard as the mark of some congenital deficiency, physical or moral.’


In this case, perhaps – but no, if the peculiarity is shared by two such pleasant persons as you and I (as you and me – the grammatical nut is hard), it must be a very good thing indeed, and Sir John must be an ass.

The Book Reader notice was a strange jumble of fact and fancy. I wish you could have seen my father’s old assistant and present partner when he heard my father described as an ‘inspector of lighthouses,’

Sir George Reid, Thomas Stevenson, 1818 - 1887. Lighthouse and harbour engineer

Thomas Stevenson, lighthouse and harbour engineee. His assistant was probably was James Dick, for many years head clerk and confidential assistant in the Stevenson firm [www.nationalgalleries.org]

for we are all very proud of the family achievements, and the name of my house here in Bournemouth is stolen from one of the sea-towers of the Hebrides which are our pyramids and monuments.

The Skerryvore lighthouse lies off the west coast of Scotland, 12 miles south-west of the island of Tiree. It was built with some difficulty between 1838 and 1844 by RLS’s uncle Alan [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

The Skerryvore lighthouse,

 

I was never at Cambridge, again; but neglected a considerable succession of classes at Edinburgh. But to correct that friendly blunderer were to write an autobiography.

[…] And so now, with many thanks, believe me yours sincerely,

Robert Louis Stevenson

[Fanny continues]

[…]

 

 

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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

“How am I to vote?”

Written after his return from a visit to London, and after the decision of PM Gladstone to dissolve Parliament on the defeat of the Home Rule Bill (June 8, 1886).

As to the tale entitled The Travelling Companion, it was thought two years before at Hyères (the scene laid in North Italy but, according to a publisher to whom it was shown, indecent), but was abandoned.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1641.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, p. 205-206]

[Skerryvore, Bournemouth, ? 28 June, 1886]

My dear Colvin,

I am in bed again – bloodie jackery and be damned to it. Lloyd is better, I think; and money matters better; only my rascal carcase, and the muddy and oily lees of what was once my immortal soul, are in a poor and pitiful condition.

RLS in bed, 1887 [http://freeread.com.au]

[…]

LITANY

[…]

Damn the political situation

Damn you

Damn me

[…]

and

Damn Gladstone.

Gladstone debating on Irish Home Rule, April 8, 1886. The Liberal Government was defeated on the Irish Home Rule Bill, Parliament was dissolved, a General Election followed, and the Conservatives, under Lord Salisbury, took office [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Pro-Home Rule postcard [https://stairnaheireann.files.wordpress.com]

 

I am a kind of a dam home ruler, worse luck to it. I would support almost anything but that bill. How am I to vote? Great Caesar’s Ghost!

“Great Caesar’s Ghost!” was the oath used by Tom Sawyer entering the haunted room in ch. 29 of M. Twain’s novel, 1876 [http://catalog.lambertvillelibrary.org]

– Ever yours,

R.L.S.

O! The Travelling Companion won’t do; I am back on it entirely: it is a foul, gross, bitter, ugly daub, with lots of stuff in it, and no urbanity and no glee and no true tragedy – to the crows with it, a carrion tale! I will do no more carrion, I have done too much in this carrion epoch; I will now be clean; and by clean, I don’t mean any folly about purity, but such things as a healthy man shall find fit to see and speak about without a pang of nausea. – I am, yours,

A Repentant Dankist.

The lakeists, the drainists, the brookists, and the riverites; let me be a brookist, faute de mieux,

I did enjoy myself in town, and was a thousandfold the better of it.

[…]

 

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