I dare say he was alone, and had no one to love him


The projected visit to his Russian friend in Poland, Mme Garshine, doesn’t come off, and RLS goes for a few days’ walking tour in the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire, as recorded in his essay An Autumn Effect. He then comes on for a visit to London.

[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, 320, dated October 1874].

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1912, pp. 95-96]

[London, November. 1874.]

When I left you I found an organ-grinder in Russell Square playing to a child; and the simple fact that there was a child listening to him, that he was giving this pleasure, entitled him, according to my theory, as you know, to some money; so I put some coppers on the ledge of his organ, without so much as looking at him, and I was going on when a woman said to me: ‘Yes sir, he do look bad, don’t he? scarcely fit like to be working.’ And then I looked at the man, and O! he was so ill, so yellow and heavy-eyed and drooping. I did not like to go back somehow, and so I gave the woman a shilling and asked her to give it to him for me. I saw her do so and walked on; but the face followed me, and so when I had got to the end of the division, I turned and came back as hard as I could and filled his hand with money – ten to thirteen shillings, I should think. I was sure he was going to be ill, you know, and he was a young man; and I dare say he was alone, and had no one to love him.

Phot. E. Atget, Paris 1898-9 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

I had my reward; for a few yards farther on, here was another organ-grinder playing a dance tune, and perhaps a dozen children all dancing merrily to his music, singly, and by twos and threes, and in pretty little figures together. Just what my organ-grinder in my story wanted to have happen to him! It was so gay and pleasant in the twilight under the street lamp.

Phot. Samuel Coulthurst, c. 1894 [http://erickimphotography.com/]

I am very well, have eaten well and am so sleepy I can write no more. This I write to let you know I am no worse; all the better. Ever your faithful friend,



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