William Murray, Sollicitor in the Supreme Court, is the father of RLS’s friend William Hugh Murray.
With reference to the political allusions: this is the date of Mr. Gladstone’s dissolution, followed by his defeat at the polls notwithstanding his declared intention of abolishing the income-tax.
JH.A. Macdonald, Lord Kingsburgh (1836-1919) is the unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Edinburgh in the General Election.
D. McLaren (1800-1886) is the Scotch politician and social reformer, for 16 years Member of Parliament for Edinburgh.
Mrs Sellar, bridesmaid of RLS’s mother, is the wife of William Young Sellar (1825-1890), Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh 1863-1890.
Their nephew, Andrew Lang (1844-1912), scholar, folklorist, poet and man of letters, is at this time a Fellow of Merton College, and wintering at Mentone. He will describe his meeting with RLS in 1905: ‘He looked… more like a lass than a lad, with a rather long, smooth oval face, brown hair worn at greater length than is common, large lucid eyes… I shall not deny that my first impression was not wholly favourable. “Here,” I thought, “is one of your aesthetic young men, though a very clever one”’. Lang will remember, too, RLS’s ‘big blue cloak’ and Tyrolese hat. Lang and RLS become friends.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 231, dated Feb. 1, and 240, dated Feb. 13].
To his father [Colvin 1912, pp. 58-60]
[Menton], February 1st, 1874.
I am so sorry to hear of poor Mr. Murray’s death. He was really so amiable and kind that no one could help liking him, and carrying away a pleasant recollection of his simple, happy ways. I hope you will communicate to all the family how much I feel with them.
Madame Zassetsky is Nelitchka’s mamma. They have both husbands, and they are in Russia, and the ladies are both here for their health. They make it very pleasant for me here.
To-day we all went a drive to the Cap Martin, and the Cap was adorable in the splendid sunshine.
[…] I read J.H.A. Macdonald’s speech with interest; his sentiments are quite good, I think. I would support him against M’Laren at once. What has disgusted me most as yet about this election is the detestable proposal to do away with the income tax. Is there no shame about the easy classes? Will those who have nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of the advantage of our society, never consent to pay a single tax unless it is to be paid also by those who have to bear the burthen and heat of the day, with almost none of the reward? And the selfishness here is detestable, because it is so deliberate. A man may not feel poverty very keenly and may live a quiet self-pleasing life in pure thoughtlessness; but it is quite another matter when he knows thoroughly what the issues are, and yet wails pitiably because he is asked to pay a little more, even if it does fall hardly sometimes, than those who get almost none of the benefit. It is like the healthy child crying because they do not give him a goody, as they have given to his sick brother to take away the taste of the dose. I have not expressed myself clearly; but for all that, you ought to understand, I think.
Friday […]. – The wine has arrived, and a dozen of it has been transferred to me; it is much better than Folleté’s stuff. We had a masquerade last night at the Villa Marina; Nellie in a little red satin cap, in a red satin suit of boy’s clothes, with a funny little black tail that stuck out behind her, and wagged as she danced about the room, and gave her a look of Puss in Boots; Pella as a contadina; Monsieur Robinet as an old woman, and Mademoiselle as an old lady with blue spectacles […].
Yesterday we had a visit from one of whom I had often heard from Mrs. Sellar – Andrew Lang. He is good-looking, delicate, Oxfordish, etc. […]
My cloak is the most admirable of all garments. For warmth, unequalled; for a sort of pensive, Roman stateliness, sometimes warming into Romantic guitarism, it is simply without concurrent; it starts alone. If you could see me in my cloak, it would impress you. I am hugely better, I think: I stood the cold these last few days without trouble, instead of taking to bed, as I did at Monte Carlo.
I hope you are going to send the Scotch music.
I am stupid at letter-writing again; I don’t know why. I hope it may not be permanent; in the meantime, you must take what you can get and be hopeful. The Russian ladies are as kind and nice as ever. – Ever your affectionate son,
Robert Louis Stevenson