Katharine Elizabeth Alan Stevenson de Mattos (1851-1939) was RLS’s cousin and Bob Stevenson’s sister. RLS and Katharine played together when they were children. He will dedicate Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to her.
The verses are quoted from Théophile Gautier’s Affinités Secrètes, II, 23-24.
The Huguenots is the French opera by Meyerbeer’s opera, 1836.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 332].
To Katharine De Mattos [Colvin 1911, pp. 242-243]
[Edinburgh, 7 November 1876.]
My dear Katharine,
The prisoner reserved his defence. He has been seedy, however; principally sick of the family evil, despondency; the sun is gone out utterly; and the breath of the people of this city lies about as a sort of damp, unwholesome fog, in which we go walking with bowed hearts.
If I understand what is a contrite spirit, I have one; it is to feel that you are a small jar, or rather, as I feel myself, a very large jar, of pottery work rather mal réussi, and to make every allowance for the potter (I beg pardon; Potter with a capital P.) on his ill-success, and rather wish he would reduce you as soon as possible to potsherds. However, there are many things to do yet before we go
Grossir la pâte universelle
Faite des formes que Dieu fond.
For instance, I have never been in a revolution yet. I pray God I may be in one at the end, if I am to make a mucker. The best way to make a mucker is to have your back set against a wall and a few lead pellets whiffed into you in a moment, while yet you are all in a heat and a fury of combat, with drums sounding on all sides, and people crying, and a general smash like the infernal orchestration at the end of the Huguenots.
Please pardon me for having been so long of writing, and show your pardon by writing soon to me; it will be a kindness, for I am sometimes very dull. Edinburgh is much changed for the worse […] by the absence of Bob; and this damned weather weighs on me like a curse. Yesterday, or the day before, there came so black a rain squall that I was frightened – what a child would call frightened, you know, for want of a better word – although in reality it has nothing to do with fright. I lit the gas and sat cowering in my chair until it went away again.– Ever yours,
O I am trying my hand at a novel just now; it may interest you to know, I am bound to say I do not think it will be a success. However, it’s an amusement for the moment, and work, work is your only ally against the ‘bearded people’ that squat upon their hams in the dark places of life and embrace people horribly as they go by. God save us from the bearded people! to think that the sun is still shining in some happy places!