“I had literally forgotten what happiness was, and the full mind”

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1891.]

To Bob Stevenson [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 10-12]

Saranac Lake, Adirondacks,

New York, U.S.A.

[Early October 1887]

My dear Bob,

The cold [of Colorado] was too rigorous for me; I could not risk the long railway voyage, and the season was too late to risk the Eastern, Cape Hatteras side of the steamer one; so here we stuck and stick.


Storm on the Outer Banks [www.outerbanksvacations.com]

Cape Hatteras is a thin, broken strand of islands that arch out into the Atlantic Ocean away from the US mainland, creating a series of sheltered islands between the Outer Banks and the mainland. RLS’s uncle, Dr John Balfour had previously recommended either Colorado or the Hymalayan foothills as a good place for RLS’s lungs.


We have a wooden house on a hill-top, overlooking a river,


Baker’s Cottage, Saranac Lake [https://i.pinimg.com]

and a village about a quarter of a mile away, and very wooded hills;

Saranac Lake, late 19th century [https://localwiki.org]

Saranac Lake [https://en.wikipedia.org]

the whole scene is very Highland, bar want of heather and the wooden houses.



Furnace, Argyll and Bute,on the north shore of Loch Fyne, Scotland [https://2.bp.blogspot.com]

Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, Scotland [https://farm4.staticflickr.com]

I have got one good thing of my sea voyage: it is proved the sea agrees heartily with me, and my mother likes it; so if I get any better, or no worse, my mother will likely hire a yacht for a month or so in summer.

Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson

Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson (1829-1897) [www.capitalcollections.org.uk]

Good Lord! What fun! Wealth is only useful for two things: a yacht


The yacht Casco, a fore–and–aft teak–hulled schooner (90’ x 25’ x 12’) built c. 1878 in California for Dr. Samuel Merritt of Oakland. It was to be chartered by RLS next year [https://minermark.files.wordpress.com]

and a string quartette.


Vilemina Norman Neruda leading a string quartet, c. 1880 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

For these two I will sell my soul. Except for these I hold that £700 a year is as much as anybody can possibly want; and I have had more, so I know, for the extry coins were for no use, excepting for illness, which damns everything.

I was so happy on board that ship, I could not have believed it possible.


SS Ludgate Hill, on which RLS had sailed from Liverpool to Newport R.I. [www.clydeships.co.uk]

We had the beastliest weather, and many discomforts; but the mere fact of its being a tramp-ship gave us many comforts; we could cut about with the men and officers,



stay in the wheel-house,


Wheelhouse of RMS Olympic, 1908 [www.titanicdiclaudiobossi.com]

discuss all manner of things, and really be a little at sea. And truly there is nothing else. I had literally forgotten what happiness was, and the full mind − full of external and physical things, not full of cares and labours and rot about a fellow’s behaviour. My heart literally sang; I truly care for nothing so much as for that. We took so north a course, that we saw Newfoundland;


Newfoundland [http://www.nfld.com]


Approaching Newfoundland [https://shearmadness72.files.wordpress.com]

no one in the ship had ever seen it before.

It was beyond belief to me how she rolled; in seemingly smooth water, the bell striking, the fittings bounding out of our state-room. It is worth having lived these last years, partly because I have written some better books, which is always pleasant, but chiefly to have had the joy of this voyage. I have been made a lot of here, and it is sometimes pleasant, sometimes the reverse; but I could give it all up, and agree that Gladstone was the author of my works, for a good seventy ton schooner and the coins to keep her on.


William Ewart Gladstone, 1887, and Liberal Prime Minister 1868-74, 1880-85, 1886, 1892-94 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

And to think there are parties with yachts who would make the change! I know a little about fame now; it is no good compared to a yacht; and anyway there is more fame in a yacht, more genuine fame; to cross the Atlantic and come to anchor in Newport (say) with the Union Jack, and go ashore for your letters and hang about the pier, among the holiday yachtsmen − that’s fame, that’s glory, and nobody can take it away; they can’t say your book is bad; you have crossed the Atlantic.


Newport, Rhode Island, Yacht Dockage [www.destinationnewport.com]

I should do it south by the West Indies, to avoid the damned Banks; and probably come home by steamer, and leave the skipper to bring the yacht home.


The West Indies, 1898 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

Well, if all goes well, we shall maybe sail out of Southampton water some of these days


Southampton, Royal Pier railway station (closed in 1921) [www.davidstjohn.co.uk]

and take a run to Havre,


E. Boudin, The Port of Le Havre, 1888 [www.deartibus.it]

and try the Baltic,

The Baltic [https://media.treehugger.com]

or somewhere.


Marquesas Islands [https://beachtraveldestinations.com]

Love to you all − Ever your affectionate

Robert Louis Stevenson














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“The month it is the drear October by the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1890.]

To Henry James [Colvin 1911, 3, pp- 22-24]

[Saranac Lake, 6 October 1887]

I know not the day; but the month it is the drear

October by the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

RLS is quoting Poe’s poem ‘Ulalume’, from ‘The works of the late Edgar Allan Poe’, 2, 1857.


Poe’s poem “Ulalume” as illustrated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1847–1848 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

File:Edgar Allan Poe 2 - edit1.jpg

Edgar Amman Poe (1809-1849) [https://it.wikipedia.org]

Weir, The Entrance to a Wood, drawing

The Entrance to a Wood, drawing by Robert Walter Weir, American landscape painter [www.artexpertswebsite.com]


The American landscape painter Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


My dear Henry James,

This is to say First, the voyage was a huge success. We all enjoyed it (bar my wife) to the ground: sixteen days at sea with a cargo of hay, matches, stallions, and monkeys, and in a ship with […] no style on, and plenty of sailors to talk to, and the endless pleasures of the sea − the romance of it, the sport of the scratch dinner and the smashing of crockery, the pleasure − an endless pleasure − of balancing to the swell: well, it’s over.


Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921, manner), The Steamship Ludgate Hill in Choppy Water [https://media.mutualart.com]

Second, I had a fine time, rather a troubled one, at Newport and New York; saw much of and liked hugely the Fairchilds, St. Gaudens the sculptor, Gilder of the Century


Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909), American poet and editor of the Century 1881-1909 [http://helenadekaygilder.org]

− just saw the dear Alexander


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


RLS’s portrait by Alexander was reproduced in the Century for April 1888 with Henry James’s essay [http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu]


− saw a lot of my old and admirable friend Will Low, whom I wish you knew and appreciated

Will H. Low (1853-1933) [www.gettyimages.it]

− was medallioned by St. Gaudens,


RLS writingiting in bed, medallion by Saint-Gaudens, 1887-1888 [www.newyorksocialdiary.com]

and at last escaped to Third, Saranac Lake, where we now are, and which I believe we mean to like and pass the winter at.


Homer Dodge Martin (1836-1897), Saranac Lake, morning, 1857 [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]


Saranac Lake, NY [https://upload.wikimedia.org]



Saranac Lake in winter [http://adirondackgooselodge.com]

Our house − emphatically ‘Baker’s’ −


The Stevensons had rented part of the house of the guide Andrew Baker, built of wooden boards, painted white, with green shutters, and a verandah round it. The house is now preserved as the Stevenson Museum [www.hippostcard.com]


Baker’s house at Saranac is now preserved ad a Stevenson Museum [https://noveldestinations.files.wordpress.com]



The Stevenson Museum, Saranac [https://noveldestinations.files.wordpress.com]


The Stevenson Museum, Saranac [https://noveldestinations.files.wordpress.com]


Stevenson Museum at Saranac [https://farm5.static.flickr.com]


the Stevenson’s Museum, Saranac [https://noveldestinations.files.wordpress.com]


− is on a hill, and has a sight of a stream turning a corner in the valley − bless the face of running water! − and sees some hills too, and the paganly prosaic roofs of Saranac itself; the Lake it does not see, nor do I regret that; I like water (fresh water I mean) either running swiftly among stones, or else largely qualified with whisky. As I write, the sun (which has been long a stranger) shines in at my shoulder; from the next room, the bell of Lloyd’s typewriter makes an agreeable music as it patters off (at a rate which astonishes this experienced novelist) the early chapters of a humorous romance;


Lloyd’s typewriter, Vailima, Samoa [https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com]

The story was first called ‘The Finsbury Tontine’, then ‘A Game of Bluff’, and finally became ‘The Wrong Box’, 1889.


from still further off − the walls of Baker’s are neither ancient nor massive − rumours of Valentine about the kitchen stove come to my ears; of my mother and Fanny I hear nothing, for the excellent reason that they have gone sparking off, one to Niagara, one to Indianapolis.


Valentine Roch with another maid, Lloyd Osbourne, Fanny and RLS at Baker’s. Fanny had left to visit her mother and sister Josephine Thomas at Danville, Indiana. RLS’s mother accompanied her as far as Niagara [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]

People complain that I never give news in my letters. I have wiped out that reproach.

But now, Fourth, I have seen the article;


Henry James’s article on RLS finally appeared in the Century for April 1888 and was reprinted the same year in James’s ‘Partial Portraits’ [http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu]

and it may be from natural partiality, I think it the best you have written. O − I remember the Gautier, which was an excellant performance; and the Balzac, which was good;

James’s articles on Gautier and Balzac were published in ‘French Poets and Novelists’, 1878.


and the Daudet,

James’s article on Daudet was published in the Century for August 1883 [http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu]

over which I licked my chops; but the R.L.S. is better yet. It is so humorous, and it hits my little frailties with so neat (and so friendly) a touch; and Alan is the occasion for so much happy talk, and the quarrel is so generously praised.

James’s article on RLS in the Century: “‘Alan Breck, in Kidnapped, is a wonderful picture…” [http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu]

James’s article on RLS in the Century: “‘Such a scene as the episode of the quarrel of the two men…” [http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu]


I read it twice, though it was only some hours in my possession; and Low, who got it for me from the Century, sat up to finish it ere he returned it; and, sir, we were all delighted. Here is the paper out, nor will anything, not even friendship, not even gratitude for the article, induce me to begin a second sheet; so here, with the kindest remembrances and the warmest good wishes, I remain, yours affectionately,














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“I am now a salaried person… but the slavery may overweigh me”

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1886.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 9-10]

New York [c. 24 September 1887]

My dear lad,

Herewith verses for Dr. Hake, which please communicate.

The verses here sent by RLS to Dr Hake will be published only in 1896, as no. XIX of ‘Songs of Travel’.

Thomas Gordon Hake (1809-95=, English physician and poet, friend of D.G. Rossetti’s, c. 1870s. He had sent RLS some verses [https://collectionimages.npg.org.uk]


Dr. Thomas Gordon Hake, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1872[https://upload.wikimedia.org]


I did my best with the interviewers; I don’t know if Lloyd sent you the result;

Lloyd Osbourne, RLS’s stepson (1868-1947), c. 1892 [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]

my heart was too sick: you can do nothing with them; and yet ____ literally sweated with anxiety to please, and took me down in long hand!

I have been quite ill, but go better.

Hotel St. Stephen, c. 1880. RLS was staying here, 46-52 East 11th Street. The hotel was built in 1875-76 by Albert S. Rosenbaum. [http://thehotelalbert.com]

In 1879, Rosenbaum acquired the two-story house just west of the St. Stephen, and in 1880 built an expansion on the site, designed by architect Henry Fernbach, matching the design of the original [http://thehotelalbert.com]

Room of the Hotel St. Stephen-Hotel Albert, early 1900s. RLS’s rooms might still be seen “as when he last occupied them” [http://thehotelalbert.com]


I am being not busted, but medallioned, by St. Gaudens, who is a first-rate, plain, high-minded artist and honest fellow; you would like him down to the ground.

Saint-Gaudens’s medallion of RLS, modeled in 1887 and cast in 1893.: the sculptor told he found the writer “astonishingly young, not a bit like an invalid . . . and a bully fellow” [www.sothebys.com]

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), American sculptor [https://images.findagrave.com]

I believe sculptors are fine fellows when they are not demons. O, I am now a salaried person, £600 a year, to write twelve articles in Scribner’s Magazine;

Scribner’s Magazine, first issue, January 1887 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

it remains to be seen if it really pays, huge as the sum is, but the slavery may overweigh me. I hope you will like my answer to Hake, and specially that he will.

Love to all. − Yours affectionately,


(le salarié)




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“Like an Italian cinque-cento medallion”

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1885.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 8-9]

[Hotel St. Stephen, New York, 24 September 1887]

My dear S.C.,

Your delightful letter has just come, and finds me in a New York hotel,

Place of the Hotel St. Stephen, 46 to 52 East 11th Street, NY.


waiting the arrival of a sculptor (St. Gaudens) who is making a medallion of yours truly and who is (to boot) one of the handsomest and nicest fellows I have seen.


Augustus Saint-Gaudens at work, by Kenyon Cox, 1887. Saint-Gaudens, American sculptor of Franco-Irish parentage and friend of W. Low, was to become a devoted admirer of RLS [https://babylonbaroque.files.wordpress.com]

I caught a cold on the Banks; fog is not for me;


Fog on the Grand Banks [http://chamorrobible.org]

nearly died of interviewers and visitors, during twenty-four hours in New York;


Composing room of the New York Herald [https://cdn.cjr.org]

cut for Newport with Lloyd and Valentine,


Newport, Rhode Island, 1878 [www.usgwarchives.net]

Lloyd Osbourne (right) and Valentine Roch (left), 1887 [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org]


a journey like fairy-land for the most engaging beauties, one little rocky and pine-shaded cove after another, each with a house and a boat at anchor, so that I left my heart in each and marvelled why American authors had been so unjust to their country;

Newport, Rhode Island [https://scottsdalefiat.files.wordpress.com]

caught another cold on the train;


First elevated train, New York 1878 [www.tenement.org]

arrived at Newport to go to bed and to grow worse, and to stay in bed until I left again; the Fairchilds proving during this time kindness itself; […] Mr. Fairchild simply one of the most engaging men in the world,

Charles Fairchild, Madison, Wisconsin, 1858. Varnished salted paper print.

Charls Fairchild (1838-1910) was a wealthy stock broker [https://it.pinterest.com]

Mrs. Charles Fairchild, née Elizabeth Nelson (1845-1924), was a poet and was often a hostess of parties for artist friends [www.jssgallery.org]


and one of the children, Blair, aet. ten, a great joy and amusement in his solemn adoring attitude to the author of Treasure Island.

Charles Fairchild’s son, J. Blair Fairchild (1877–1933), was to become a composer and diplomat [https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com]

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925) Gordon Fairchild 21 1/4 x 17 1/4in (Painted in 1887.)

Gordon Fairchild (b. 1982), the youngest Faichild, by J. Singer Sargent, 1887 [www.bonhams.com]


Sally Fairchild (1869-1960), 1882 [www.brooklinehistoricalsociety.org]

Sally Fairchild (1869-1860), by J. Singer Sargent, 1885-1887 [www.jssgallery.org]


Lucia Fairchild (1872-1924) in 1882. She was to become a painter [www.brooklinehistoricalsociety.org]

Here I was interrupted by the arrival of my sculptor.―I withdraw calling him handsome; he is not quite that, his eyes are too near together; he is only remarkable looking, and like an Italian cinque-cento medallion; I have begged him to make a medallion of himself and give me a copy.


Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) [www.azquotes.com]

I will not take up the sentence in which I was wandering so long, but begin fresh. I was ten or twelve days at Newport; then came back convalescent to New York. Fanny and Lloyd are off to the Adirondacks to see if that will suit;

Fanny Stevenson with his son Lloyd Osbourne, 1887 [https://localwiki.org]


William Trost Richards, Autumn in the Adirondacks, 1865 [https://blueridgeimpressions.files.wordpress.com]


Herman Fuechsel, Keene Valley, Adirondacks, 1876 [https://blueridgeimpressions.files.wordpress.com]


Autumn in the Adirondacks [www.outdoorproject.com]


Autumn in the Adirondacks [www.outdoorproject.com]


and the rest of us leave Monday (this is Saturday) to follow them up. I hope we may manage to stay there all winter. I have a splendid appetite and have on the whole recovered well after a mighty sharp attack. I am now on a salary of £500 a year for twelve articles in Scribner’s Magazine on what I like; it is more than £500, but I cannot calculate more precisely.


Scribner’s building at 743 Broadway (1880-1894) [http://library.princeton.edu]


Scribner’s interior, 743 Broadway [http://library.princeton.edu]


You have no idea how much is made of me here; I was offered £2000 for a weekly article―eh heh! how is that? but I refused that lucrative job. […] The success of Underwoods is gratifying. You see, the verses are sane; that is their strong point, and it seems it is strong enough to carry them.


A thousand thanks for your grand letter. Ever yours,

















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“Lord, what a silly thing is popularity!”

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1881.]

To Henry James [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 6-7]

[Newport, 18 September 1887]

My dear James,

Here we are at Newport in the house of the good Fairchilds; and a sad burthen we have laid upon their shoulders.


Elizabeth Nelson Fairchild (1845–1924) c. 1887, by J. Singer Sargent. RLS and Fanny found the most hospitable of refuges in the Fairchilds’ house [www.jssgallery.org]


Charles Fairchild (1838-1910) was a lawyer and Boston banker, friend and patron of Sargent [www.harvardartmuseums.org]


The area where the Fairchilds’ holyday house was standing, at 94 Washington Street, Newport, R.I. [https://lh5.googleusercontent.com]

I have been in bed practically ever since I came. I caught a cold on the Banks after having had the finest time conceivable, and enjoyed myself more than I could have hoped on board our strange floating menagerie: stallions

Black-and-white illustration from Harper's Weekly magazine showing horses being loaded onto a ship.

Shipping horses, Harper’s Weekly, November 2, 1861 [www.nysl.nysed.gov]

and monkeys



and matches



made our cargo; and the vast continent of these incongruities rolled the while like a haystack;


and the stallions stood hypnotised by the motion, looking through the ports at our dinner-table, and winked when the crockery was broken;

Steerage dining room of an ocean liner in the late 19th century.

Steerage dining room of an ocean liner in the late 19th century [www.printsoldandrare.com]




and the little monkeys stared at each other in their cages, and were thrown overboard like little bluish babies;



and the big monkey, Jacko, scoured about the ship and rested willingly in my arms, to the ruin of my clothing;



and the man of the stallions made a bower of the black tarpaulin,


Harper’s Weekly, November 2, 1861 [www.nysl.nysed.gov]

and sat therein at the feet of a raddled divinity, like a picture on a box of chocolates;


French Chocolate Box, 19th century [https://cdn0.rubylane.com]

and the other passengers, when they were not sick, looked on and laughed.



Take all this picture, and make it roll till the bell shall sound unexpected notes


and the fittings shall break loose in our state-room, and you have the voyage of the Ludgate Hill.


Antonio Jacobsen (manner), The Steamship Ludgate Hill in Choppy Water [https://media.mutualart.com]

She arrived in the port of New York,

New York, drawing by Berteault, based on a lithograph by Currier and Yves. early 1890s [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

without beer, porter, soda-water, curaçoa, fresh meat, or fresh water; and yet we lived, and we regret her.

My wife is a good deal run down, and I am no great shakes.         

America is, as I remarked, a fine place to eat in, and a great place for kindness; but, Lord, what a silly thing is popularity! I envy the cool obscurity of Skerryvore.

Skerryvore Cottage, Bournemouth [www.awesomestories.com]

If it even paid, said Meanness! and was abashed at himself. – Yours most sincerely,

Robert Louis Stevenson










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“Why have I allowed myself to rot so long on land?”

The moment of RLS’s arrival at New York was that when his reputation had first reached its height in the United States, owing to the popularity both of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but more especially to the immense impression made by the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He experienced consequently for the first time the pleasures and inconveniences of celebrity.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1880.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 5-6]

Newport, R.I., U.S.A. [c. 18 September 1887]

My dear Colvin,

So long it went excellent well, and I had a time I am glad to have had; really enjoying my life.

RLS and Fanny found the most hospitable of refuges in the house their friends, the Fairchilds, at 94 Washington Street, Newport, while RLS’s mother and stepson in a neighbouring Quaker boarding house [cf. Mehew 6, 1880].


Elizabeth Nelson Fairchild (1845–1924), by J. Singer Sargent, c. 1887 [www.jssgallery.org]


Charles Fairchild (1838-1910) was a Boston banke, friend and patron of Sargent [www.harvardartmuseums.org]


Sally Fairchild, daughter of Charles and Elizabeth, by J. Singer Sargent, c. 1887 [www.jssgallery.org]


There is nothing like being at sea, after all. And O, why have I allowed myself to rot so long on land? But on the Banks I caught a cold, and I have not yet got over it.






My reception here was idiotic to the last degree […]. It is very silly, and not pleasant, except where humour enters; and I confess the poor interviewer lads pleased me. They are too good for their trade; avoided anything I asked them to avoid, and were no more vulgar in their reports than they could help. I liked the lads.


Detail from The Fin de Siècle Newspaper Proprietor, an illustration featured in an 1894 issue of Puck magazine [https://d1u4oo4rb13yy8.cloudfront.net]


The “New Journalism” Beats Him, 1897 [https://c1.staticflickr.com]

This portrait of RLS by Sargent was commissioned by the Boston banker Charles Fairchild as a gift for his wife Elizabeth [www.jssgallery.org]



O, it was lovely on our stable-ship, chock full of stallions.


‘The new mode of shipping horses to India’, 1880 [https://2.bp.blogspot.com]

She rolled heartily, rolled some of the fittings out of our state-room, and I think a more dangerous cruise (except that it was summer) it would be hard to imagine.


4 berth stateroom for steerage passengers (3rd class) [www.norwayheritage.com]

But we enjoyed it to the masthead, all but Fanny; and even she perhaps a little. When we got in, we had run out of beer,











Glass soda bottles, Dobell & Co, Cheltenham, 19th century [www.blightyantiques.com]




fresh meat,



and (almost) of biscuit.


Ship’s biscuit, 1869 [http://blog.tepapa.govt.nz]

But it was a thousandfold pleasanter than a great big Birmingham liner like a new hotel;


Breeder’s Gazette, 1893[www.encyclopedia-titanica.org]

and we liked the officers,



and made friends with the quartermasters,


A captain, quartermaster and navigating officer on the bridge of a Class ship, c. 1900 [https://4.bp.blogspot.com]

and I (at least) made a friend of a baboon (for we carried a cargo of apes),



whose embraces have pretty near cost me a coat. The passengers improved, and were a very good specimen lot, with no drunkard, no gambling that I saw, and less grumbling and backbiting than one would have asked of poor human nature.











Cattle boat, Scribner’s Magazine 1891, probably Atlantic Transport Line steamer [https://1.bp.blogspot.com]



Wooden match boxes from Steamboat Arabia cargo, 19th century [https://i.pinimg.com]


Contented Cattle



and poor men-folk,

Risultati immagini per immigrants on ship 19th century


all, or almost all, came successfully to land. Yours ever,










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“You always complain there are no facts in my letters”

A succession of RLS’s friends had visited and spent part of the day or the evening with him at his hotel in London, on Sunday, August 20th 1887, each bringing some farewell gift or another. On the morning of the 21st Colvin accompanied RLS to the docks, saw him and his party embarked on board the steamer Ludgate Hill, sailing from the port of London and carrying animals and freight as well as passengers. They had chosen to go by this route for the sake alike of economy and amusement, rather than by one of the sumptuous lines sailing from Liverpool or Southampton. Leaving the ship’s side as she weighed anchor, and waving farewell to the party from the boat which landed him, Colvin little knew what was the truth, that he was looking on the face of his friend for the last time.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 6, 1876.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 4-5; Mehew 6, 1876]

H.M.S. Vulgarium,

off Havre de Grace,

this 22nd day of August

[actually 23 August 1887]


The weather has been hitherto inimitable.


Screw Steamer ‘Ludgate Hill’, built in 1882, tonnage 4063 gr t/ 2703 nrt /, /length 420.3 ft, in use until 1914 [www.clydeships.co.uk]

Inimitable is the only word that I can apply to our fellow-voyagers, whom a categorist, possibly premature, has been already led to divide into two classes ― the better sort consisting of the baser kind of Bagman,


Bagmen, late 19th century [http://static.messynessychic.com]


Maurice B. Curtis (1849-1920), American actor, as a baser kind of bagman [https://upload.wikimedia.org]


and the worser of undisguised Beasts of the Field.


Shipping Wild Animals in the London Docks, The Illustrated London News, May 21, 1864 [http://animalhistorymuseum.org]

The berths are excellent,


Inside a Packet Ship, 1854: travelers, immigrants, and cargo sailed together. Travelers with enough money purchased “cabin passage” and slept in private or semiprivate rooms. The vast majority of passengers, usually immigrants, bought bunks in steerage, also called the ’tween deck for its position between the cabins and the hold [http://americanhistory.si.edu]


2-berth bedroom in the Third Class on the Steamship “New England” of the Dominion Line circa 1900 [https://i.pinimg.com]


the pasture swallowable,


Dining saloon for steerage (3rd class) passengers on the Cunard Line steamships Saxonia and Ivernia (Norway) [www.norwayheritage.com]

the champagne of H. James (to recur to my favourite adjective) inimitable.


Henry James’s gift had been a case of champagne for consumption during the journey [http://members.cruzio.com]

As for the Commodore,

R. L. Stevenson (seated on chair with left leg over knee, left hand on left…


he slept awhile in the evening, tossed off a cup of Henry James with his plain meal, walked the deck till eight, among sands and floating lights and bouys


The estuary from London to Margate [http://thames.me.uk]

and wrecked brigantines,






came down (to his regret) a minute too soon to see Margate lit up,


W. Turner, Margate, 1826-1828 [www.tate.org.uk]


W. Turner, Margate c. 1832 [www.tate.org.uk]


W. Turner, Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’), c. 1840 [www.tate.org.uk]




turned in about nine, slept, with some interruptions, but on the whole sweetly, until six, and has already walked a mile or so of deck, among a fleet of other steamers waiting for the tide, within view of Havre,


C. Monet, Impression, Soleil levant, 1872 [http://hoocher.com]

Risultati immagini per E. Boudin 1824-98, Le Havre, l’avant-port, maréè du soir

E. Boudin (1824-98), Le Havre, l’avant-port, maréè du soir [www.christies.com]


Boudin, Le Havre, 1890 [https://uploads6.wikiart.org]


and pleasantly entertained by passing fishing-boats,


E. Boudin, Le Havre, avant-port, c. 1887 [https://usw2-uploads4.wikiart.org]

hovering sea-gulls,


and […] Vulgarians pairing on deck with endearments of primitive simplicity.



There, sir, can be viewed the sham quarrel, the sham desire for information, and every device of these two poor ancient sexes (who might, you might think, have learned in the course of the ages something new) down to the exchange of head-gear. […] ― I am, sir, yours,

Bold Bob Boldsprit


B.B.B. (alias the Commodore) will now turn to his proofs.

The proofs mentioned were those of ‘Memories and Portraitsì and the 2nd edition of ‘Virginibus Puerisqua’, 1887.

Havre de Grace is a city of some show. It is for-ti-fied; and, so far as I can see, is a place of some trade. It is situ-ated in France, a country of Europe.


Le Havre in 1778. The fortifications were destroyed in 1944 [http://p4.storage.canalblog.com]


Le Havre, view from the balloon, c. 1890 [http://p5.storage.canalblog.com]


Saint-Roch square in the Saint-Joseph quarter of Le Havre in the winter of 1944–1945 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

You always complain there are no facts in my letters.












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