The darkness made me a little fanciful

On a railway journey thorough Wales with his parents.

Richmond Seeley is the proprietor and publisher of the Portfolio.

RLS’s essay on John Knox will be published in Macmillan’s Magazine, Sept. 1875.

‘The horrid story’ is the ‘horrible story of a nurse which I think almost too cruel to go on with’ (see previous letter), about which we know nothing.

[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, 314, dated Sept. 15 ff.]

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1912, pp. 88-90]

[Barmouth, September, 1874], Tuesday.

I wonder if you ever read Dickens’ Christmas Books? I don’t know that I would recommend you to read them, because they are too much perhaps. I have only read two of them yet, […] and feel so good after them and would do anything, yes and shall do anything, to make it a little better for people. I wish I could lose no time; I want to go out and comfort some one; I shall never listen to the nonsense they tell one about not giving money – I shall give money; not that I haven’t done so always, but I shall do it with a high hand now. […]

Ch. Dickens’ Five Christmas Books, 1st edition, 1843 []

Ch. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, 1st edition, 1843 []

It is raining here; and I have been working at John Knox, and at the horrid story I have in hand, and walking in the rain. Do you know this story of mine is horrible; I only work at it by fits and starts, because I feel as if it were a sort of crime against humanity – it is so cruel.

Wednesday. – I saw such nice children again today; one little fellow alone by the roadside, putting a stick into a spout of water and singing to himself – so wrapt up that we had to poke him with our umbrellas to attract his attention; and again, two solid, fleshly, grave, double-chinned burgomasters in black, with black hats on ’em, riding together in what they call, I think, a double perambulator.


The Promenade from the beach, Barmouth []

Victorian double perambulator (twin pram) []

My father is such fun here. He is always skipping about into the drawing-room, and speaking to all the girls, and telling them God knows what about us all. My mother and I are the old people who sit aloof, receive him as a sort of prodigal when he comes back to us, and listen indulgently to what he has to tell.




Llandudno, Thursday. – A cold bleak place of stucco villas with wide streets to let the wind in at you. A beautiful journey, however, coming hither.

John Hicklin’s Handbook to Llandudno and its vicinity, including Conway and Penmaenmawr, 1861 []

Llandudno’s North shore []

R. Fowler (1853-1926), Midsummer Dawn, Llandudno Bay []

W.H. Buck, Llandudno from the Great Ormes Head, c. 1870 []

Friday. – […] Seeley has taken my paper, which is, as I now think, not to beat about the bush, bad. However, there are pretty things in it, I fancy; we shall see what you shall say. […]

Sunday. – I took my usual walk before turning in last night, and dallied over it a little. It was a cool, dark, solemn night, starry, but the sky charged with big black clouds. The lights in house windows you could see, but the houses themselves were lost in the general blackness.


A church clock struck eleven as I went past, and rather startled me.

 The whiteness of the road was all I had to go by. I heard an express train roaring away down the coast into the night, and dying away sharply in the distance; it was like the noise of an enormous rocket, or a shot world, one would fancy. I suppose the darkness made me a little fanciful; but when at first I was puzzled by this great sound in the night, between sea and hills, I thought half seriously that it might be a world broken loose – this world to wit. I stood for I suppose five seconds with this looking-for of destruction in my head, not exactly frightened but put out; and I wanted badly not to be overwhelmed where I was, unless I could cry out a farewell with a great voice over the ruin and make myself heard. […] – Ever your faithful friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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