“I think you’ll find the summer will be rather cōmplicated”

RLS and Sir Walter Grindlay Simpson were regular travel companions. They took canoe trips along the Firth of Forth, travelled to Germany in 1872, cruised the Inner Hebrides on the Heron in 1874, visited Barbizon in 1875, took a walking tour of the valley of the Loing shortly after and visited Grez in 1876.

Charles Baxter, like RLS, had gone to Edinburgh University and both were members of the Speculative Society and close friends, too.

Henley’s poems were published in the Cornhill, July 1875, as ‘Hospital Outlines: Sketches and Portraits’. Sir Leslie Stephen was the editor of that magazine.

Cousin Dora was Bob’s sister, Dorothea Frances Stevenson (1850-1931).

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 398.]

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 211-212]

[Swanston, 29 June 1875.]

[…] I have been so busy, away to Bridge of Allan with my father first, and then with Simpson and Baxter out here from Saturday till Monday.

Bridge of Allan from Abbey Crag, c. 1900s [http://www.oldukphotos.com/]

The Allan water, Bridge of Allan, 1940s [http://postcard-heaven.co.uk/]

Bridge of Allan, Allan Water, one of the two sluice gates on the weir [http://s0.geograph.org.uk/]

Thomas Stevenson [http://pharology.eu/]

Sir Walter Grindlay Simpson (1843-1898) [http://w.robert-louis-stevenson.org/]

I had no time to write, and, as it is, am strangely incapable. Thanks for your letter. I have been reading such lots of law, and it seems to take away the power of writing from me. From morning to night, so often as I have a spare moment, I am in the embrace of a law book – barren embraces. I am in good spirits; and my heart smites me as usual, when I am in good spirits, about my parents. If I get a bit dull, I am away to London without a scruple; but so long as my heart keeps up, I am all for my parents. […]

What do you think of Henley’s hospital verses? They were to have been dedicated to me, but Stephen wouldn’t allow it – said it would be pretentious. […]

Wednesday. – I meant to have made this quite a decent letter this morning, […] but listen. I had pain all last night, and did not sleep well, and now am cold and sickish, and strung up ever and again with another flash of pain. Will you remember me to everybody? My principal characteristics are cold, poverty, and Scots Law – three very bad things. Oo, how the rain falls! The mist is quite low on the hill. The birds are twittering to each other about the indifferent season.




O, here’s a gem for you. An old godly woman predicted the end of the world, because the seasons were becoming indistinguishable; my cousin Dora objected that last winter had been pretty well marked. ‘Yes, my dear,’ replied the soothsayeress; ‘but I think you’ll find the summer will be rather cōmplicated.’ – Ever your faithful


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