RLS was staying at Dieppe (Haute-Normandie) with Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, whom he was in love with.
RLS’s Inland Voyage was at this time just put into the publisher’s hands (C. Kegan Paul & Co., London): a travelogue about his canoeing trip through France and Belgium in 1876, with his friend Sir Walter Simpson. You may read its first edition at the National Library of Scotland site: http://digital.nls.uk/rlstevenson/browse/pageturner.cfm?id=79805311
[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 498.]
To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 1; 257-258]
Hotel des Étrangers, Dieppe, 1 January 1878.
My dear Colvin,
I am at the Inland Voyage again: have finished another section, and have only two more to execute. But one at least of these will be very long – the longest in the book – being a great digression on French artistic tramps.
I only hope Paul may take the thing; I want coin so badly, and besides it would be something done – something put outside of me and off my conscience; and I should not feel such a muff as I do, if once I saw the thing in boards with a ticket on its back. I think I shall frequent circulating libraries a good deal. The Preface shall stand over, as you suggest, until the last, and then, sir, we shall see. This to be read with a big voice.
This is New Year’s Day: let me, my dear Colvin, wish you a very good year, free of all misunderstanding and bereavement, and full of good weather and good work. You know best what you have done for me, and so you will know best how heartily I mean this. – Ever yours,
Robert Louis Stevenson