Another guest at Cockfield Rectory, Suffolk, is Mrs Frances Sitwell (1839-1924), an intimate friend to RLS’s cousin, Maud Babington. RLS fells in love with her, but she is in a relationship with Sidney Colvin (1845-1927), Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge. On his visit to Cockfield Rectory, RLS also meets Colvin and the three develop a lifelong friendship. Sidney Colvin will be the first editor of the letters, cutting passages he evidently thinks too much intimate: he will marry Fanny Sitwell only in 1903.
After leaving Cockfield RLS spends a few days in London and a few with Colvin in a cottage he has at Norwood. He writes this after his return home.
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 135. Fanny Sitwell’s biography: http://www.robert-louis-stevenson.org/friends-correspondents/98-fanny-sitwell. Sidney Colvin’s biography: http://www.robert-louis-stevenson.org/friends-correspondents/86-sidney-colvin].
To Frances (Fanny) Sitwell [Colvin 1912, p. 23-24]
17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh, Monday, September 1st, 1873.
I have arrived, as you see, without accident; but I never had a more wretched journey in my life. […] I could not settle to read anything; I bought Darwin’s last book in despair, for I knew I could generally read Darwin, […] but it was a failure. However, the book served me in good stead; for when a couple of children got in at Newcastle, I struck up a great friendship with them on the strength of the illustrations.
These two children (a girl of nine and a boy of six) had never before travelled in a railway, so that everything was a glory to them, and they were never tired of watching the telegraph posts and trees and hedges go racing past us to the tail of the train; and the girl I found quite entered into the most daring personifications that I could make.
A little way on, about Alnmouth, they had their first sight of the sea; and it was wonderful how loath they were to believe that what they saw was water; indeed it was very still and grey and solid-looking under a sky to match. It was worth the fare, yet a little farther on, to see the delight of the girl when she passed into ‘another country,’ with the black Tweed under our feet, crossed by the lamps of the passenger bridge. I remember the first time I had gone into ‘another country,’ over the same river from the other side.
Bob was not at the station when I arrived; but a friend of his brought me a letter; and he is to be in the first thing to-morrow. […] Do you know, I think yesterday and the day before were the two happiest days of my life? […] I would not have missed last month for eternity.
[…] – Ever yours,