Tautira (The Garden of the World), otherwise called
Hans-Christian-Andersen-ville [8 or 9 November 1888]
My dear Charles,
Whether I have a penny left in the wide world, I know not, nor shall know – till I get to Honolulu, where I anticipate a devil of an awakening. It will be from a mighty pleasant dream at least, Tautira being mere Heaven.
But suppose, for the sake of argument, any money to be left in the hands of my painful doer, what is to be done with it? Save us from exile would be the wise man’s choice, I suppose; for the exile threatens to be eternal. But yet, I am of opinion – in case there should be some dibs in the hand of the P.D., i.e.painful doer; because if there be none, I shall take to my flageolet on the high-road, and work home the best way I can, having previously made away with my family – I am of opinion that my aunt, Mrs. Alan Stevenson, should have her money from my mother: £20 – twenty pounds.
I am of opinion Miss Adelaide Boodle should have her box, like last year, at the same figure,
and I am of opinion that if W[illiam] E[rnest] H[enley] and his are in the customary state, and you are thinking of an offering, and there should be still some funds over, you would be a real good P[ainful] D[oer] to put some in with yours and tak’ the credit o’t, like a wee man!
I know it’s a beastly thing to ask; but it, after all, does no earthly harm, only that much good. And besides, like enough there’s nothing in the till, and there is an end. Yet I live here in the full lustre of millions; it is thought I am the richest son of man that has yet been to Tautira: I! – and I am secretly eaten with the fear of lying in pawn, perhaps for the remainder of my days, in San Francisco. As usual, my colds have much hashed my finances.
Do tell Henley I write this just after having dismissed Oli the sub-chief, in whose house I live,
Mrs. Oli, and Pairai, their adopted child, from the evening hour of music, during which I Publickly (with a k) Blow on the Flageolet.
These are words of truth. Yesterday I told Oli about W.E.H., counterfeited his walk, counterfeited him playing on the piano and the pipe, and succeeded in sending the six feet four there is of that sub-chief somewhat sadly to his bed, feeling that his was not the genuine article after all. Oli is exactly like a Colonel in the Guards.
RLS addressed a part of this letter to William Archer’s son, ‘Tomarcher’, then aged three.
[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2119]
To William and Thomas Archer [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 85-6]
Taiti, October 17th, 1888
Though quite unable to write letters, I nobly send you a line signifying nothing.
The voyage has agreed well with all; it has had its pains, and its extraordinary pleasures; nothing in the world can equal the excitement of the first time you cast anchor in some bay of a tropical island,
and the boats begin to surround you, and the tattooed people swarm aboard.
Tell Tomarcher, with my respex, that hide-and-seek is not equal to it;
no, nor hidee-in-the-dark; which, for the matter of that, is a game for the unskilful:
the artist prefers daylight, a good-sized garden, some shrubbery, an open paddock, and come on, Macduff.
Tomarcher, I am now a distinguished litterytour, but that was not the real bent of my genius. I was the best player of hide-and-seek going; not a good runner, I was up to every shift and dodge, I could jink very well, I could crawl without any noise through leaves, I could hide under a carrot plant, it used to be my favourite boast that I always walked into the den.
You may care to hear, Tomarcher, about the children in these parts; their parents obey them, they do not obey their parents; and I am sorry to tell you (for I dare say you are already thinking the idea a good one) that it does not pay one halfpenny.
There are three sorts of civilisation, Tomarcher: the real old-fashioned one, in which children either had to find out how to please their dear papas or their dear papas cut their heads off. This style did very well, but is now out of fashion.
Then the modern European style: in which children have to behave reasonably well, and go to school and say their prayers, or their dear papas will know the reason why.
This does fairly well. Then there is the South Sea Island plan, which does not do one bit. The children beat their parents here; it does not make their parents any better; so do not try it.
Dear Tomarcher, I have forgotten the address of your new house, but will send this to one of your papa’s publishers. Remember us all to all of you, and believe me, yours respectably,
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2118.]
To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 82-4]
Taiti, October 16th, 1888
My dear Colvin,
The cruiser for San Francisco departs to-morrow morning bearing you some kind of a scratch.
This much more important packet will travel by way of Auckland.
It contains a ballant;
and I think a better ballant than I expected ever to do. I can imagine how you will wag your pow over it; and how ragged you will find it, etc.,
but has it not spirit all the same? and though the verse is not all your fancy painted it, has it not some life? And surely, as narrative, the thing has considerable merit! Read it, get a typewritten copy taken, and send me that and your opinion to the Sandwiches.
I know I am only courting the most excruciating mortification; but the real cause of my sending the thing is that I could bear to go down myself, but not to have much MS go down with me. To say truth, we are through the most dangerous; but it has left in all minds a strong sense of insecurity, and we are all for putting eggs in various baskets.
We leave here soon, bound for Uahiva, Raiatea, Bora-Bora,
and the Sandwiches.
O, how my spirit languishes
To step ashore on the Sanguishes;
For there my letters wait,
There shall I know my fate.
O, how my spirit languidges
To step ashore on the Sanguidges.
18th. – I think we shall leave here if all is well on Monday. I am quite recovered, astonishingly recovered. It must be owned these climates and this voyage have given me more strength than I could have thought possible. And yet the sea is a terrible place, stupefying to the mind and poisonous to the temper,
the sea, the motion, the lack of space, the cruel publicity, the villainous tinned foods, the sailors, the captain, the passengers –
but you are amply repaid when you sight an island, and drop anchor in a new world.
Much trouble has attended this trip,
but I must confess more pleasure.
Nor should I ever complain, as in the last few weeks, with the curing of my illness indeed, as if that were the bursting of an abscess, the cloud has risen from my spirits and to some degree from my temper.
Do you know what they called the Casco at Fakarava? The Silver Ship.
Is that not pretty? Pray tell Mrs. Jenkin, die silberne Frau, as I only learned it since I wrote her.
I think of calling the book by that name: The Cruise of the Silver Ship – so there will be one poetic page at least – the title.
At the Sandwiches we shall say farewell to the S.S. with mingled feelings. She is a lovely creature: the most beautiful thing at this moment in Taiti.
Well, I will take another sheet, though I know I have nothing to say. You would think I was bursting; but the voyage is all stored up for the book, which is to pay for it, we fondly hope;
and the troubles of the time are not worth telling; and our news is little. […]
Here I conclude (Oct. 24th, I think), for we are now stored, and the Blue Peter metaphorically flies.
When the Stevensons left Bournemouth, Miss Boodle gave RLS a paper-cutter. He promised her gift should go to sea with him. That piece is probably the one now kept at Vailima Museum, Samoa. RLS wrote this letter in the character of the paper-cutter.
[For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2111.]
To Adelaide Boodle [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 81-2]
Taiti, October 10th, 1888
I am at a loss to conceive your object in giving me to a person so locomotory as my proprietor. The number of thousand miles that I have travelled,
the strange bed-fellows with which I have been made acquainted, I lack the requisite literary talent to make clear to your imagination. I speak of bed-fellows; pocket-fellows would be a more exact expression, for the place of my abode is in my master’s right-hand trouser-pocket; and there, as he waded on the resounding beaches of Nukahiva,
or in the shallow tepid water on the reef of Fakarava,
I have been overwhelmed by and buried among all manner of abominable South Sea shells,
beautiful enough in their way, I make no doubt, but singular company for any self-respecting paper-cutter. He, my master – or as I more justly call him, my bearer; for although I occasionally serve him, does not he serve me daily and all day long, carrying me like an African potentate on my subject’s legs? – he is delighted with these isles, and this climate,
and these savages,
and a variety of other things. He now blows a flageolet with singular effects:
sometimes the poor thing appears stifled with shame, sometimes it screams with agony; he pursues his career with truculent insensibility. Health appears to reign in the party.
It was very nearly sunk in a squall.
I am sorry I ever left England, for here there are no books to be had, and without books there is no stable situation for, dear Giver, your affectionate
A neighbouring pair of scissors snips a kiss in your
But then, my dear Charles, I have seen nothing of it, having been in bed ever since Fakarava, in the Low Archipelago.
This illiness, which has been pretty sharp and is now leaving me very slowly, has done one good thing. Since those miseries, I have never felt myself, and now I begin to recover. I thank God I shall soon have some news of all I love: in the first rank of whom I need not tell you my poor Henley is.
You will receive a lot of mostly very bad proofs of photographs: the paper was so bad.
Please keep them very private, as they are for the book. We send them, having learned so dread a fear of the sea, that we wish to put our eggs in different baskets. We have been thrice within an ace of being ashore: we were lost (!) for about twelve hours in the Low Archipelago,
but by God’s blessing had quiet weather all the time; and once, in a squall, we cam’ so near gaun heels ower hurdies [= buttocks] that I really dinnae ken why we didnae athegether. Hence, as I say, a great desire to put our eggs in different baskets, particularly on the Pacific (aw-haw-haw) Pacific Ocean.
You can have no idea what a mean time we have had, owing to incidental beastlinesses, nor what a glorious, owing to the intrinsic interest of these isles. I hope the book will be a good one;
nor do I really very much doubt that – the stuff is so curious; what I wonder is, if the public will rise to it. A copy of my journal, or as much of it as is made, shall go to you also;
it is, of course, quite imperfect, much being to be added and corrected; but O, for the eggs in the different baskets.
All the rest are well enough, and all have enjoyed the cruise so far, in spite of its drawbacks. We have had an awfae time in some ways, Mr. Baxter; and if I wasnae sic a verra patient man (when I ken that I have to be) there wad hae been a braw row; and aince if I hadnae happened to be on deck aboot three in the mornin’, I think there would have been murder done. The American Mairchant Marine is a kent service;
ye’ll have heard its praise, I’m thinkin’; an’ if ye never did, ye can get Twa Years Before the Mast, by Dana,
whaur forbye a great deal o’ pleisure, ye’ll get a’ the needcessary information. Love to your father and all the family. – Ever your affectionate friend,
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2109.]
To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 78-80]
Fakarava, Low Archipelago, September 21st, 1888
My dear Colvin,
Only a word. Get out your big atlas,
and imagine a straight line from San Francisco
to Anaho, the N.E. corner of Nukahiva, one of the Marquesas Islands;
imagine three weeks there: imagine a day’s sail on August 12th round the eastern end of the island to Tai-o-hae, the capital;
imagine us there till August 22nd: imagine us skirt the east side of Ua-pu – perhaps Rona-Poa on your altas –
and through the Bordelais straits to Taahauku in Hiva-Oa, where we arrive on the 23rd;
imagine us there until September 4th, when we sailed for Fakarava, which we reached on the 9th, after a very difficult and dangerous passage among these isles.
Tuesday, we shall leave for Taiti, where I shall knock off and do some necessary work ashore. It looks pretty bald in the atlas; not in fact; nor I trust in the 130 odd pages of diary which I have just been looking up for these dates: the interest, indeed, has been incredible: I did not dream there were such places or such races. My health has stood me splendidly; I am in for hours wading over the knees for shells;
I have been five hours on horseback:
I have been up pretty near all night waiting to see where the Casco would go ashore, and with my diary all ready – simply the most entertaining night of my life.
Withal I still have colds; I have one now, and feel pretty sick too; but not as at home: instead of being in bed, for instance, I am at this moment sitting snuffling and writing in an undershirt and trousers; and as for colour, hands, arms, feet, legs, and face, I am browner than the berry: only my trunk and the aristocratic spot on which I sit retain the vile whiteness of the north.
Please give my news and kind love to Henley,
and any whom you see of well-wishers. Accept from me the very best of my affection: and believe me ever yours,
The Old Man Virulent
Papeete, Taiti, October 7th, 1888
Never having found a chance to send this off, I may
add more of my news. My cold took a very bad turn, and I am pretty much out of
sorts at this particular, living in a little bare one-twentieth-furnished
house, surrounded by mangoes, etc. All the rest are well, and I mean to be
soon. But these
Taiti colds are very severe and, to children, often
so they were not the thing for me. Yesterday the brigantine came in from San Francisco, so we can get our letters off soon. […] There are in Papeete at this moment, in a little wooden house with grated verandahs,
two people who love you very much, and one of them is