‘Finish, finish, make an entire end, make us strong, shapely, viable creatures!’

RLS’s examination for the Bar at Edinburgh was approaching.

His formal thesis in Latin, on a title of the Padects (‘Pro Dote’) is in the National Library of Scotland.

Fontainebleau is the paper called Forest Notes, afterwards printed in the Cornhill Magazine.

The church is Glencorse Church, in the Pentlands, to the thoughts of which Stevenson reverted in his last days with so much emotion (see Weir of Hermiston, chap. V). Alexander Torrence (1789-1877) was minister at Glencorse from 1837. The gravestones are still there.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 399].

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 219-220]

[Swanston, 1 July, 1875] Thursday.

This day fortnight I shall fall or conquer. Outside the rain still soaks; but now and again the hilltop looks through the mist vaguely.

Swanston in the mist [http://3.bp.blogspot.com/]

Edinburgh, seen from Swanston [http://3.bp.blogspot.com/]

I am very comfortable, very sleepy, and very much satisfied with the arrangements of Providence.

Saturday – no, Sunday [4 July], 12.45. – Just been – not grinding, alas! – I couldn’t – but doing a bit of Fontainebleau. I don’t think I’ll be plucked. I am not sure though – I am so busy, what with this d-d law, and this Fontainebleau always at my elbow, and three plays (three, think of that!) and a story, all crying out to me, ‘Finish, finish, make an entire end, make us strong, shapely, viable creatures!’ It’s enough to put a man crazy. Moreover, I have my thesis given out now, which is a fifth (is it fifth? I can’t count) incumbrance. […]

Sunday. – […] I’ve been to church, and am not depressed – a great step. I was at that beautiful church my petit poëme en prose was about. It is a little cruciform place, with heavy cornices and string course to match, and a steep slate roof.

Glencorse church, a ruin in the 1930s [http://skills.rcahms.gov.uk/]

Glencorse Church [http://skills.rcahms.gov.uk/]

Glencorse church and churchyard [http://skills.rcahms.gov.uk/]



The small kirkyard is full of old grave-stones. One of a Frenchman from Dunkerque – I suppose he died prisoner in the military prison hard by – and one, the most pathetic memorial I ever saw, a poor school-slate, in a wooden frame, with the inscription cut into it evidently by the father’s own hand.

Charles Cottier, French prisoner captured during the Napoleonic wars and killed in 1807 when a sentry was ordered to fire at random into the prison, Glencorse churchyard

Charles Cottier, French prisoner captured during the Napoleonic wars and killed in 1807 when a sentry was ordered to fire at random into the prison. Glencorse churchyard.

'The most pathetic memorial', Glencorse churchyard

‘The pathetic memorial’: “Sacred to the memory of Catherine Ogg, the beloved child of James Henderson, 42nd Highlanders, who died at Greenlaw on the 25th October 1869, aged seven months”.

In church, old Mr. Torrence preached – over eighty, and a relic of times forgotten, with his black thread gloves and mild old foolish face.One of the nicest parts of it was to see John Inglis, the greatest man in Scotland, our Justice-General, and the only born lawyer I ever heard, listening to the piping old body, as though it had all been a revelation, grave and respectful […]. – Ever your faithful



John Inglis, lord Glencorse, Lord Justice-General of Scotland 1867-1891 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]


Comment by Richard Dury:

August 3, 2014 at 6:06 AM(Edit)

The ‘petit poëme en prose’ Stevenson refers to must be his ‘Sunday Thoughts’, which begins:

A PLAGUE O’ these sundays! How the church bells ring up the sleeping past! I cannot go in to sermon; memories ache too hard; and so I bide out under the blue heaven, beside the small kirk whelmed in leaves. Tittering country girls see me as I go past from where they sit in the pews; and through the open door, comes the loud psalm and the fervent, solitary voice of the preacher. To and fro I wander among the graves; and now look over one side of the platform, and see the sunlit meadow where the grown lambs go bleating, and the ewes lie in the shadow under their heaped fleeces; and now over the other, where the rhododendrons flower far down among the chestnut boles, and far overhead the chestnut lifts its thick leaves and spiry blossom into the dark blue air. O the height and depth and thickness of the chestnut foliage! O to have wings like a dove, and dwell in the tree’s green heart!


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