I think it must be the cold outside

It has been a very cold Christmas at Monaco and Monte Carlo, and Stevenson has no adequate overcoat, so it is agreed that when Colvin goes to Paris he shall try and find him a warm cloak or wrap. Colvin amuses himself looking for one suited to his taste for the picturesque and piratical in apparel, and finds one in the style of 1830-40, dark blue and flowing, and fastening with a snake buckle.

The pun about Pompey’s friend doesn’t refer to Julius Caesar, but to Antony and Cleopatra, II, 7.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 213].

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, pp. 51-52]

[Menton, January 16, 1874,] Friday.

My dear Colvin,

Thank you very much for your note. This morning I am stupid again; can do nothing at all; am no good ‘comme plumitif.’ I think it must be the cold outside. At least that would explain my addled head and intense laziness.

O why did you tell me about that cloak? Why didn’t you buy it? Isn’t it in Julius Caesar that Pompey blames – no not Pompey but a friend of Pompey’s – well, Pompey’s friend, I mean the friend of Pompey – blames somebody else who was his friend – that is who was the friend of Pompey’s friend – because he (the friend of Pompey’s friend) had not done something right off, but had come and asked him (Pompey’s friend) whether he (the friend of Pompey’s friend) ought to do it or no? There I fold my hands with some complacency: that’s a piece of very good narration. I am getting into good form. These classical instances are always distracting.

I was talking of the cloak. It’s awfully dear. Are there no cheap and nasty imitations? Think of that – if, however, it were the opinion (ahem) of competent persons that the great cost of the mantle in question was no more than proportionate to its durability; if it were to be a joy for ever; if it would cover my declining years and survive me in anything like integrity for the comfort of my executors; if – I have the word – if the price indicates (as it seems) the quality of perdurability in the fabric; if, in fact, it would not be extravagant, but only the leariest economy to lay out £5,15 in a single mantle without seam and without price, and if – and if – it really fastens with an agrafe – I would BUY it. But not unless. If not a cheap imitation would be the move.

[…] Ever yours,

Robert Louis Stevenson

Evening cloak or manteau, from ‘Costume Parisien’, 1823 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Men in cloaks, France 1830 [http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/]

Fashion plate from ‘Le Follet’, Paris 1839-1840 [http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/]

Men’s fashion silhouette of 1837 shows broad shoulders and a narrow, tightly cinched waist. Fashion plate from ‘Modes de Paris, Journal des Tailleurs’ [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]



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