My spirits have risen contra fartunam; I will fight this out, and conquer

The Pavilion is RLS’s story, ThePavilion on the Links, not yet published (Cornhill Magazine 42-43, Sept-Oct 1880).

The Vendetta is RLS’s novel, A Vendetta in the West: the MS was eventually abandoned and apparently destroyed.

The Emigrant is of course The Amateur Emigrant, the account of RLS’s journey to California, then in draft.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 677.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1912, pp. 129-130]

608 Bush Street, San Francisco [c. 12 January, 1880].

My dear Henley,

[…] You have got a letter ahead of me, owing to the Alpine accumulation of ill news I had to stagger under. […]

I will stand no complaints of my corresponence from England, I having written near half as many letters again as I have received.

Do not damp me about my work; qu’elle soit bonne ou mauvaise, it has to be done. You know the wolf is at the door, and I have been seriously ill. I am now at Thoreau.


H. D. Thoreau (1817-1862), American author, poet, philosopher, naturalist and transcendentalist []

H.D. Thoreau, ‘Walden, or Life in the Woods’, 1854: a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings []

I almost blame myself for persevering in anything so difficult under the circumstances: but it may set me up again in style, which is the great point. I have now £80 in the world and two houses to keep up for an indefinite period. It is odd to be on so strict a regimen; it is a week for instance since I have bought myself a drink, and unless times change, I do not suppose I shall ever buy myself another.

608 Bush Street, San Francisco []

Fanny Vandegrif Osbourne (1840-1914), RLS’s future wife []

The health improves. The Pied Piper is an idea; it shall have my thoughts, and so shall you. The character of the P. P. would be highly comic, I seem to see.

The Pied Piper leads the children out of Hamelin. Illustration by Kate Greenaway for Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, 1888 []

Had you looked at the Pavilion, I do not think you would have sent it to Stephen; ‘t is a mere story, and has no higher pretension: Dibbs is its name, I wish it was its nature also. The Vendetta, at which you ignorantly puff out your lips, is a real novel, though not a good one. As soon as I have found strength to finish the Emigrant, I shall also finish the Vendetta, and draw a breath – I wish I could say, “and draw a cheque.” My spirits have risen contra fartunam; I will fight this out, and conquer. You are all anxious to have me home in a hurry. There are two or three objections to that; […] but I shall instruct you more at large when I have time, for to-day I am hunted, having a pile of letters […] before me. Yet it is already drawing into dusk. Yours affectionately,


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