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.
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.
Navigator’s Island is the place; absolute balm for the weary.
Ever your faithful friend,