RLS’s mother is spending the winter 1863 in Mentone, France, then an Italian town. RLS writes her the day before his 13th birthday, from Burlington Lodge Academy at Spring Grove, Isleworth, London, where he is sent just for a few months as a boarder. He touches on Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire or Firework Night), the annual commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot (Nov 5, 1605), and on some boys stealing fireworks and handkerchiefs. In addition, he enjoys writing in a funny, rudimentary French language.
To his parents (Colvin 1911, p. 5; Mehew 1, 19)
12 November 1863 [Spring Grove School, London].
Ma chère Maman,
Jai recu votre lettre Aujourdhui et comme le jour prochaine est mon jour de naisance je vous écrit ce lettre. Ma grande gatteaux est arrivé il leve 12 livres et demi le prix etait 17 shillings. Sur la soirée de Monseigneur Faux il y etait quelques belles feux d’artifice. Mais les polissons entrent dans notre champ et nos feux d’artifice et handkerchiefs disappeared quickly, but we charged them out of the field. Je suis presque driven mad par une bruit terrible tous les garcons kik up comme grand un bruit qu’ll est possible.
I hope you will find your house at Mentone nice. I have been obliged to stop from writing by the want of a pen, but now I have one, so I will continue.
My dear papa, you told me to tell you whenever I was miserable. I do not feel well, and I wish to get home. Do take me with you.
In March and April 1866, RLS is staying in Torquay with his mother, who has been directed there by the family doctor, owing to her ‘weak chest’. RLS’s father is at work in Edinburgh. Their lodging is now a part of the Torbay Hotel.
To his parents (Colvin 1911, p. 6; Mehew 1, 34)
2 Sulyarde Terrace, Torquay, Thursday [April 1866].
Respected paternal relative,
I write to make a request of the most moderate nature. Every year I have cost you an enormous – nay, elephantine – sum of money for drugs and physician’s fees, and the most expensive time of the twelve months was March.
But this year the biting Oriental blasts, the howling tempests, and the general ailments of the human race have been successfully braved by yours truly.
Does not this deserve remuneration?
I appeal to your charity, I appeal to your generosity, I appeal to your justice, I appeal to your accounts, I appeal, in fine, to your purse.
My sense of generosity forbids the receipt of more – my sense of justice forbids the receipt of less – than half-a-crown. Greeting from, Sir, your most affectionate and needy son,