I have been all yesterday evening and this forenoon in Italy, four hundred years ago

Clarice Campobello Sinico (b. 1840), Italian soprano, sang Beethoven’s aria op. 65 ‘Ah perfido spergiuro!’ (text by Metastasio) at the Edinburgh Choral Union’s concert on 4 January 1875.

The Portfolio article here mentioned is An Autumn Effect (publ. April 1875).

John H. Ingram (1842-1916) devoted his life to the study of Poe, as biographer, editor and collector.

RLS’s Italian story ‘When the Devil was well’ was privately printed only in 1921. The medieval Latin proverb runs: ‘Daemon languebat, monachus tunc esse volebat; daemon convaluit, daemon ut ante fuit’: ‘When the Devil was sick the devil a monk would be; when the Devil was well, and the devil a monk was he!’ (i.e.: when the Devil was well, he became a devil again!).

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 347].

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1912, pp. 102-103]

[Edinburgh, 4 January, 1875], Monday.

Have come from a concert. Sinico sang, tant bien que mal, ‘Ah perfido spergiuro!’;

Clarice Campobello Sinico, Italian opera singer, c. 1870s [http://i.ebayimg.com/]

Clarice Campobello Sinico [http://www.paulfrecker.com/]

and then we had the Eroica symphony (No. 3). I can, and need, say no more; I am rapt out of earth by it; Beethoven is certainly the greatest man the world has yet produced. […] I wonder, is there anything so superb – I can find no word for it more specific than superb – all I know is that all my knowledge is transcended.

I finished today and sent off (and a mighty mean detail it is, to set down after Beethoven’s grand passion) my Portfolio article about Buckinghamshire. In its own way, I believe it to be a good thing; and I hope you will find something in it to like; it touches, in a dry enough manner, upon most things under heaven, and if you like me, I think you ought to like this intellectual – no, I withdraw the word – this artistic dog of mine. Thaw – thaw – thaw, up here; and farewell skating, and farewell the clear dry air and the wide, bright, white snow-surface, and all that was so pleasant in the past. […]

Thaw at Duddingston Loch [http://2.bp.blogspot.com/]

Wednesday. – Yesterday I wasn’t well and tonight I have been ever so busy. There came a note from the Academy, sent by John H. Ingram, the editor of the edition of Poe’s works I have been reviewing, challenging me to find any more faults. I have found nearly sixty; so I may be happy; but that makes me none the less sleepy; so I must go to bed. […]


Ingram’s edition of The Works of E.A. Poe, 1874 [https://archive.org/]

Friday. – I am awfully out of the humour to write; I am very inert although quite happy; I am informed by those who are more expert that I am bilious. Bien; let it be so; I am still content; and though I can do no original work, I get forward making notes for my Knox at a good trot. […]

Saturday. – I am so happy. I am no longer here in Edinburgh. I have been all yesterday evening and this forenoon in Italy, four hundred years ago, with one Sannazzaro, sculptor, painter, poet, etc., and one Ippolita, a beautiful Duchess. O I like it badly! I wish you could hear it at once; or rather I wish you could see it immediately in beautiful type on such a page as it ought to be, in my first little volume of stories. What a change this is from collecting dull notes for John Knox, as I have been all the early part of the week – the difference between life and death […]. – I am quite well again and in such happy spirits, as who would not be, having spent so much of his time at that convent on the hills with these sweet people. Vous verrez, […], and if you don’t like this story – well, I give it up if you don’t like it. Not but what there’s a long way to travel yet; I am no farther than the threshold; I have only set the men, and the game has still to be played, and a lot of dim notions must become definite and shapely, and a deal be clear to me that is anything but clear as yet. The story shall be called, I think, When the Devil was well, in allusion to the old proverb […].


Good-bye, […].

Robert Louis Stevenson

[and here you can read ‘When the Devil was well’:]



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