I felt as if something yearningly cried to me out of the darkness overhead

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 151].

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, p. 88-90]

[Edinburgh], Tuesday, October 14, 1873.

My father has returned in better health, and I am more delighted than I can well tell you. The one trouble that I can see no way through is that his health, or my mother’s, should give way. […]

To-night, as I was walking along Princes Street, I heard the bugles sound the recall. I do not think I had ever remarked it before; there is something of unspeakable appeal in the cadence. I felt as if something yearningly cried to me out of the darkness overhead to come thither and find rest; one felt as if there must be warm hearts and bright fires waiting for one up there, where the buglers stood on the damp pavement and sounded their friendly invitation forth into the night. […]



Bugles recall (min. 2:21 forward)

Wednesday. – […] I may as well tell you exactly about my health. I am not at all ill; have quite recovered; only I am what MM. les médecins call below par; which, in plain English, is that I am weak. With tonics, decent weather, and a little cheerfulness, that will go away in its turn, and I shall be all right again.

[…] I am glad to hear what you say about the Exam; until quite lately I have treated that pretty cavalierly, for I say honestly that I do not mind being plucked; I shall just have to go up again. We travelled with the Lord Advocate the other day, and he strongly advised me in my father’s hearing to go to the English Bar; and the Lord Advocate’s advice goes a long way in Scotland. It is a sort of special legal revelation. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t, of course, want to be plucked; but so far as my style of knowledge suits them, I cannot make much betterment on it in a month. If they wish scholarship more exact, I must take a new lease altogether.

George Young, Scottish judge, Lord Advocate 1869-1874 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

George Young, Scottish judge, Lord Advocate 1869-1874


Thursday. – My head and eyes both gave in this morning, and I had to take a day of complete idleness. I was in the open air all day, and did no thought that I could avoid, and I think I have got my head between my shoulders again; however, I am not going to do much. […]

I don’t want you to run away with any fancy about my being ill. Given a person weak and in some trouble, and working longer hours than he is used to, and you have the matter in a nutshell. You should have seen the sunshine on the hill to-day; it has lost now that crystalline clearness, as if the medium were spring-water (you see, I am stupid!); but it retains that wonderful thinness of outline that makes the delicate shape and hue savour better in one’s mouth, like fine wine out of a finely-blown glass. The birds are all silent now but the crows.

D. Roberts, ‘Edinburgh from the Calton Hill’, 1863

Th.M. Dow, ‘Ragweed and crows’, 1882

I sat a long time on the stairs that lead down to Duddingston Loch – a place as busy as a great town during frost, but now solitary and silent; and when I shut my eyes I heard nothing but the wind in the trees; and you know all that went through me, I dare say, without my saying it.

Skaters on Duddingston Loch, c. 1900

Duddingston Loch, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh




11. – […] I am now all right […]. I do not expect any tic to-night, and shall be at work again to-morrow. I have had a day of open air, only a little modified by Le Capitaine Fracasse before the dining-room fire. […] I must write no more, for I am sleepy after two nights, and to quote my book, ‘sinon blanches, du moins grises’; and so I must go to bed and faithfully, hoggishly slumber.

[…] – Your faithful

Louis Stevenson

Th. Gautier, ‘Le Capitaine Fracasse’, ill. by G. Doré, ed. 1868

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1 Response to I felt as if something yearningly cried to me out of the darkness overhead

  1. rdury says:

    I particularly enjoyed the night-time photo of the Castle from Princes Street while listening to ‘Recall’—excellent finds.


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