The Essays must fall from me, Essay by Essay, as they ripen

Richmond Seeley is the proprietor and publisher of the Portfolio.

The expression ‘my little girls’ refers to RLS’s essay, Notes on the Movements of Young Children, thought at Mentone.

Dr. Appleton is the amiable and indefatigable editor of the Academy. RLS’s first known contribution to the Academy is a signed review of ‘The Ballads and Songs of Scotland’, published on 8 August.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 295, dated July 15].

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, pp. 85-86]

[Swanston, Summer, 1874.]

My dear Colvin,

Am I mad? Have I lived thus long and have you known me thus long, to no purpose? Do you imagine I could ever write an essay a month, or promise an essay even every three months? I declare I would rather die than enter into any such arrangement. The Essays must fall from me, Essay by Essay, as they ripen; and all that my communication with Seeley would effect would be to make him see more in them than mere occasional essays; or at least look far more faithfully, in which spirit men rarely look in vain. You know both Roads and my little girls are a part of the scheme which dates from early at Mentone. My word to Seeley, therefore, would be to inform him of what […] I hope will lie ultimately behind them, of how I regard them as contributions towards a friendlier and more thoughtful way of looking about one, etc. One other purpose of telling him would be that I should feel myself more at liberty to write as I please, and not bound to drag in a tag about Art every time to make it more suitable. Tying myself down to time is an impossibility. You know my own description of myself as a person with a poetic character and no poetic talent; just as my prose muse has all the ways of a poetic one, and I must take my Essays as they come to me. If I got 12 of ’em done in two years, I should be pleased. Never, please, let yourself imagine that I am fertile; I am constipated in the brains.

The Portfolio, 5, 1874 []

First page of RLS’s essay ‘Notes on the Movements of Young Children’, The Portfolio, 5, 1874 []

Look here, Appleton dined here last night and was delightful after the manner of our Appleton: I was none the less pleased, because I was somewhat amused, to hear of your kind letter to him in defence of my productions. I was amused at the tranquil dishonesty with which he told me that I must put my name to all I write and then all will be well.

[…] – Yours ever,


The Academy, 6, 1874 []

Beginning of RLS’s review of ‘The Ballads and Songs of Scotland’, The Academy, 1874 []

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