An excursion in the company of his parents to the Land’s End, Cornwall, in August 1877.
The Sire de Maletroit’s Mousetrap was published in Temple Bar (Jan 1878) as The Sire de Maletroit’s Door and reprinted in New Arabian Nights (1882).
Neither the Stepfather’s Story nor the St. Michael’s Mounts essay here mentioned ever, to our knowledge, came into being.
The Bass Rock, an island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth studied by scientists in the 19th century for its large colony of gannets, is also known to have served as a place of imprisonment, during the early 15th century.
Antoine de La Sale (1383-1469?) is the author of the prose romance Histoire du Petit Jehan de Saintré. RLS’s had a copy of Guichard’s edition, 1843.
Sandford and Merton 1783-9 is a didactic children’s tale by Thomas Day.
Will o’ the Mill was published in Cornhill Jan. 1878 and reprinted in The Merry Men (1887).
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 478.]
To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 251-252]
[Penzance, 10 August 1877.]
You will do well to stick to your burn; that is a delightful life you sketch, and a very fountain of health. I wish I could live like that but, alas! it is just as well I got my ‘Idlers’ written and done with, for I have quite lost all power of resting.
I have a goad in my flesh continually, pushing me to work, work, work. I have an essay pretty well through for Stephen; a story, ‘The Sire de Maletroit’s Mousetrap’, with which I shall try Temple Bar;
another story, in the clouds, ‘The Stepfather’s Story’, most pathetic work of a high morality or immorality, according to point of view; and lastly, also in the clouds, or perhaps a little farther away, an essay on the ‘Two St. Michael’s Mounts’, historical and picturesque;
perhaps if it didn’t come too long, I might throw in the Bass Rock, and call it ‘Three Sea Fortalices’, or something of that kind.
You see how work keeps bubbling in my mind. Then I shall do another fifteenth century paper this autumn – ‘La Sale and Petit Jehan de Saintré’, which is a kind of fifteenth century Sandford and Merton, ending in horrid immoral cynicism, as if the author had got tired of being didactic, and just had a good wallow in the mire to wind up with and indemnify himself for so much restraint.
Cornwall is not much to my taste, being as bleak as the bleakest parts of Scotland, and nothing like so pointed and characteristic. It has a flavour of its own, though, which I may try and catch, if I find the space, in the proposed article.
Will o’ the Mill […] I sent, red hot, to Stephen in a fit of haste, and have not yet had an answer. I am quite prepared for a refusal.
But I begin to have more hope in the story line, and that should improve my income anyway. I am glad you liked Villon; some of it was not as good as it ought to be, but on the whole it seems pretty vivid, and the features strongly marked. Vividness and not style is now my line; style is all very well, but vividness is the real line of country; if a thing is meant to be read, it seems just as well to try and make it readable.
I am such a dull person I cannot keep off my own […] immortal works. Indeed, they are scarcely ever out of my head. And yet I value them less and less every day. But occupation is the great thing; so that a man should have his life in his own pocket, and never be thrown out of work by anything.I am glad to hear you are better. […] I must stop – going to Land’s End. Always your faithful friend,
Robert Louis Stevenson