I think I have travelled with donkeys all my life

This correspondent, the long-lived spinster among Margaret Balfour Stevenson’s sisters (died 1907, aged 91) and well-beloved ‘Auntie’ of a numerousclan of nephews and nieces, is the subject of the set of verses, Auntie’s Skirts, in the Child’s Garden of Verses. She had been reading Travels with a Donkey on its publication.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 622.]

To Jane Whyte Balfour [Colvin 1912, pp. 120-121]

Inscription in a copy of Travels With A Donkey

[London, late May (?) 1879.]

My dear Auntie,

If you could only think a littleless of me and others, and a great deal more of your delightful self, you would be as nearly perfect as there is any need to be.

RLS in 1879, pencil portrait by P. S. Kroyer [http://www.ibiblio.org/]

Jane Whyte Balfour, aka ‘Auntie’ (1816-1907) [http://stevensonmuseum.org/]

I think I have travelled with donkeys all my life; and the experience of this book could be nothing new to me. But if ever I knew a real donkey, I believe it is yourself.

 

RLS, ‘Travels With A Donkey’, frontispiece [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

You are so eager to think well of everybody else (except when you are angry on account of some third person) that I do not believe you have ever left yourself time to think properly of yourself. You never understand when other people are unworthy, nor when you yourself are worthy in the highest degree. Oblige us all by having a guid conceit o’ yoursel’ and despising in the future the whole crowd, including your affectionate nephew,

R.L.S.

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