The public must be educated to buy my stories or I shall never make a cent

Nothing came of the other stories at the end of this lettere, but The Pavilion on the Links.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 669.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, pp. 125-126]

Monterey [c. 11 December, 1879].

My dear Colvin,

I have been down with pleurisy but now convalesce; it was a slight attack, but I had a hot fever; pulse 150; and the thing reminds me of my weakness. These miseries tell on me cruelly. […] But things are not so hopeless as they might be, so I am far from despair. Besides I think I may say I have some courage for life.

But now look here:

Fables and Tales

Story of a Lie   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   100 pp. like the Donkey.

Providence and the Guitar   .   .   .   .   .   .  52

Will o’ the Mill 45   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .  45

A Lodging for the Night   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   40 (about).

Sieur de Malétroit’s Door   .   .   .   .   .   .    42


say 280 pp. in all

Here is my scheme. Henley already proposed that Caldecott should illustrate Will o’ the Mill, The Guitar is still more suited to him; he should make delicious things for that. And though the Lie is not much in the way for pictures, I should like to see my dear Admiral in the flesh. I love the Admiral; I give my head, that man’s alive. As for the other two, they need not be illustrated at all unless he likes.

RLS’s friend, the poet W.E. Henley (1849-1903) []

Randolph Caldecott (1846-86), artist and children’s book illustrator []

Caldecott’s illustration of ‘The Diverting History of John Gilpin’, poem by William Cowper, 1878 []

Caldecott’s illustration of ‘Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog’, poem by O. Goldsmith, 1879 []

One of Caldecott’s illustrations from ‘Old Christmas’ by Washington Irving, 1875 []

Caldecott’s illustration of ‘The House that Jack Built’, 1878 []

Caldecott’s illustration of ‘The Babes in the Wood’, 1879 []

Is this a dream altogether? I would if necessary ask nothing down for the stories, and only a small royalty but to begin from the first copy sold. […]

I hate myself for being always on business. But I cannot help my fears and anxieties about money; even if all came well, it would be many a long day before we could afford to leave this coast […].

Is it true that the Donkey is in a second edition? That should bring some money, too, ere long, though not much I dare say.

Front cover of RLS’s ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes’, 1879 []

Frontispiece of RLS’s ‘Travels with a donkey’, 1879 []

Title page of RLS’s ‘Travels with a donkey’, 1879 []

You will see the Guitar is made for Caldecott; moreover it’s a little thing I like. I am no lover of either of the things in Temple Bar; but they will make up the volume, and perhaps others may like them better than I do.

‘Temple Bar, A London Magazine for Town & Country Readers’ []

They say republished stories do not sell. Well, that is why I am in a hurry to get this out. The public must be educated to buy mine or I shall never make a cent. I have heaps of short stories in view. The next volume will probably be called Stories, or A Story-Book, and contain quite a different lot: The Pavilion on the Links: Professor Rensselaer: The Dead Man’s Letter: The Wild Man of the Woods: The Devil on Cramond Sands. They would all be carpentry stories; pretty grim for the most part; but of course that’s all in the air as yet.

[…] Yours ever,




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