Nothing to do but to study oratory and etiquette, sit in the sun, and pick up the fruits as they fall

RLS visited London 17-21 June 1875.

Burns means the article on Bums which RLS had been commissioned to write for the Encyclopædia Britannica.

The ‘awfully nice man’ was the Hon. William Seed (1827-1890), formerly Secretary to the Customs and Marine Department of New Zealand; he visited Samoa (then called Navigator’s Island) in 1870 and made a tour of British lighthouses in 1875. It was from his conversation that the notion of the Samoan Islands as a place of refuge for the sick and world-worn first entered Stevenson’s mind, to lie dormant and be revived thirteen years later.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 397.]

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 1, p. 218]

[Swanston, 21 June 1875.]

Simply a scratch. All right, jolly, well, and through with the difficulty. My father pleased about the Burns. Never travel in the same carriage with three able-bodied seamen and a fruiterer from Kent; the A.-B.’s speak all night as though they were hailing vessels at sea; and the fruiterer as if he were crying fruit in a noisy market-place – such, at least, is my funeste experience. I wonder if a fruiterer from some place else – say Worcestershire – would offer the same phenomena? insoluble doubt.


Mid-19th century English sailors []

Fruiterer. Stoke-upon-Trent, late 19th century []

Later. – Forgive me, couldn’t get it off. Awfully nice man here to-night. Public servant – New Zealand. Telling us all about the South Sea Islands till I was sick with desire to go there: beautiful places, green for ever; perfect climate; perfect shapes of men and women, with red flowers in their hair; and nothing to do but to study oratory and etiquette, sit in the sun, and pick up the fruits as they fall.

Sopo’aga waterfall, Samoa []



Ofu island in American Samoa National Park []



High Chief Tupua Tamasese Titiamaea (1830-1891) and his “Tulafale” (Talking Chief) []

High Chief Mauga Manuma of Pago Pago, Samoa, 1885 []

Samoan woman, late 19th century? []

Samoan family, c. 1909 []


Navigator’s Island is the place; absolute balm for the weary.

Ever your faithful friend,


Samoa Cram Map, 1896 []

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