I always read verses, and in the vinous enthusiasm of the moment they always propose to have them printed

Charles Hallé and Wilma Neruda Norman held their recital on 16 January 1875: the programme included Beethoven’s C Major Sonata op. 53 and Violin Sonata in F op. 24; Mme Norman performed Tartini’s violin sonata, too.

The pantomime was Jack and the Beanstalk, at the Theatre Royal.

Herbert Spencer published his Principles of Biology in 1864.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 354-355].

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1912, pp. 104-105]

[Edinburgh, 16 January 1875.]

[…] I wish I could write better letters to you. Mine must be very dull. I must try to give you news. Well, I was at the annual dinner of my old Academy schoolfellows last night. We sat down ten, out of seventy-two! The others are scattered all over the places of the earth, some in San Francisco, some in New Zealand, some in India, one in the backwoods – it gave one a wide look over the world to hear them talk so. I read them some verses. It is great fun; I always read verses, and in the vinous enthusiasm of the moment they always propose to have them printed; ce qui n’arrive jamais du reste: in the morning, they are more calm. Sunday. – It occurs to me that one reason why there is no news in my letters is because there is so little in my life. I always tell you of my concerts; I was at another yesterday afternoon: a recital of Hallé and Norman Neruda […].

Charles Hallé, anglo-german pianist and conductor (1819-1895) [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Charles Hallé [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Wilma Neruda Norman (1838-1911), (Lady Hallé since 1888), Moravian violinist [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Wilma Norman-Neruda as a first violin of the string quartet at The Monday Popular Concerts in St James’s Hall, London, 1872 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Wilma Neruda Norman in concert, c. 1870 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

I went in the evening to the pantomime with the Mackintoshes – cousins of mine. Their little boy, aged four, was there for the first time. To see him with his eyes fixed and open like saucers, and never varying his expression save in so far as he might sometimes open his mouth a little wider, was worth the money. He laughed only once – when the giant’s dwarf fed his master as though he were a child. Coming home, he was much interested as to who made the fairies, and wanted to know if they were like berries. I should like to know how much this question was due to the idea of their coming up from under the stage, and how much to a vague idea of rhyme. When he was told that they were not like berries, he then asked if they had not been flowers before they were fairies. It was a good deal in the vein of Herbert Spencer’s primitive man all this.

Frontispiece for ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, published by JL Marks, London, 1850s [http://www.vam.ac.uk/]

Pantomime text for ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, 1899 [http://www.vam.ac.uk/]

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) published his Principles of Biology in 1864 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

I am pretty well but have not got back to work much since Tuesday. I work far too hard at the story; but I wish I had finished it before I stopped, as I feel somewhat out of the swing now. […][…] – Ever your faithful […]

Robert Louis Stevenson


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