It is the history of our kindnesses that alone makes this world tolerable

The copy of the Monterey paper here mentioned is probably the Monterey Californian of 11 November 1879, containing RLS’s article ‘San Carlos Day’ signed ‘The Monterey Barbarian’, and repulished in Scribner’s Magazine, August 1920.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 663.]

To Edmund William Gosse [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 296-298]

Monterey, California, 15th November 1879.

My dear Gosse,

Your letter was to me such a bright spot that I answer it right away to the prejudice of other correspondents or -dants (don’t know how to spell it) who have prior claims. […] It is the history of our kindnesses that alone makes this world tolerable. If it were not for that, for the effect of kind words, kind looks, kind letters, multiplying, spreading, making one happy through another and bringing forth benefits, some thirty, some fifty, some a thousandfold, I should be tempted to think our life a practical jest in the worst possible spirit. So your four pages have confirmed my philosophy as well as consoled my heart in these ill hours.

E.W. Gosse, ca. 1870 []

Yes, you are right; Monterey is a pleasant place; but I see I can write no more tonight. I am tired and sad, and being already in bed, have no more to do but turn out the light. – Your affectionate friend,


I try it again by daylight. Once more in bed however; for today it is mucho frio, as we Spaniards say; and I had no other means of keeping warm for my work. I have done a good spell, 9 and a half foolscap pages; at least 8 of Cornhill; ah, if I thought that I could get eight guineas for it. My trouble is that I am all too ambitious just now. A book whereof 70 out of 120 are scrolled. A novel whereof 85 out of, say, 140 are pretty well nigh done. A short story of 50 pp., which shall be finished tomorrow, or I’ll know the reason why. This may bring in a lot of money: but I dread to think that it is all on three chances. If the three were to fail, I am in a bog. The novel is called A Vendetta in the West. […] I see I am in a grasping, dismal humour, and should, as we Americans put it, quit writing. In truth, I am so haunted by anxieties that one or other is sure to come up in all that I write.

I will send you herewith a Monterey paper where the works of R.L.S. appear, nor only that, but all my life on studying the advertisements will become clear. I lodge with Dr. Heintz;

The French House, RLS’s residence at Monterey []

take my meals with Simoneau;

Jules Simoneau, French restaurateur at Monterey, 1899 []

have been only two days ago shaved by the tonsorial artist Michaels;

E. Michaels described himself as ‘Tonsorial Artist’ in his advertisements for his New Barber Shop in Pearl Streeet, Monterey []

E. Michaels described himself as ‘Tonsorial Artist’ in his advertisements for his New Barber Shop in Pearl Streeet, Monterey []

drink daily at the Bohemia saloon;

The Bohemia Saloon, Monterey []

The Bohemia Saloon, Monterey []

get my daily paper from Hadsel’s;


Hadsel's Drug Store, Monterey []

Hadsel’s Drug Store, Monterey []

was stood a drink today by Albano Rodriguez;

Alvarado Street, Monterey, 1875: here Albano Rodriguez owned a store of ‘Dry goods, clothing, groceries and provisions’ []

 in short, there is scarce a person advertised in that paper but I know him, and I may add scarce a person in Monterey but is there advertised. The paper is the marrow of the place. Its bones – pooh, I am tired of writing so sillily. […]




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