The trunk is the fun of it

The three “Rs” are, of course, reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

RLS’s essay An Apology for Idlers was published in Cornhill Magazine for July 1877 and reprinted in Virginibus Puerisque, 1881. François Villon, Student, Poet and Housebreaker was in the same magazine (editor Leslie Stephen) for August 1877 and reprinted in Familiar Studies, 1882.

The MS of The Hair Trunk, RLS’s first novel, was found only in 1990 (part in the Beinecke Library at Yale and part in the Huntington Library at San Marino, CA.), and translated and published in French in 2011, see You can consult the 8 pages of MS in the Beinecke at

The first English edition, with intro and notes by Roger Swearingen, is to be published (humming earth Ed.) – believe it or not – tomorrow, September 1, 2014 .

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2,470.]

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 249-250]

[17 Heriot Row, Edinburgh. May 1877.]

A perfect chorus of repudiation is sounding in my ears; and although you say nothing, I know you must be repudiating me, all the same. Write I cannot – there’s no good mincing matters, a letter frightens me worse than the devil; and I am just as unfit for correspondence as if I had never learned the three R.’s.

Let me give my news quickly before I relapse into my usual idleness. I have a terror lest I should relapse before I get this finished. Courage, R.L.S.! On Leslie Stephen’s advice, I gave up the idea of a book of essays. He said he didn’t imagine I was rich enough for such an amusement; and moreover, whatever was worth publication was worth republication.

Sir Leslie Stephen, editor of the Cornhill Magazine, c. 1860 []

So the best of those I had ready: An Apology for Idlers, is in proof for the Cornhill. I have Villon to do for the same magazine, but God knows when I’ll get it done, for drums, trumpets – I’m engaged upon – trumpets, drums – a novel! ‘THE HAIR TRUNK; OR, THE IDEAL COMMONWEALTH.’ It is a most absurd story of a lot of young Cambridge fellows who are going to found a new society, with no ideas on the subject, and nothing but Bohemian tastes in the place of ideas; and who are – well, I can’t explain about the trunk – it would take too long – but the trunk is the fun of it – everybody steals it; burglary, marine fight, life on desert island on west coast of Scotland, sloops, etc. The first scene where they make their grand schemes and get drunk is supposed to be very funny, by Henley. I really saw him laugh over it until he cried. […]

'The Hair Trunk', MS in the Beinecke Library,  Yale []

‘The Hair Trunk’, MS in the Beinecke Library, Yale []

W.E. Henley (1849-1903) []

Please write to me, although I deserve it so little, and show a Christian spirit. […]

[…] – Ever your faithful friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson


RLS in theatrical costume, May 1877

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