To the folks that mind o’ me when I’m awa’

The Dook de Karneel (= Duke of Cornhill) and Marky de Stephen is Leslie Stephen, the editor of Cornill Magazine. The “blood and thunder” is RLS’s story, The Pavilion on the Links, just then accepted for the Cornhill.

The Deacon is RLS and Henley’s play, Deacon Brodie or The Double Life,  privately printed in 1880.

The ‘bright papers’ are his next two essays for that magazine, Yoshida Torajiro and Henry David Thoreau: his Character and Opinions.

In the poem, the Scotch word ‘tapsalteerie’ means ‘topsy-turvy’.

Hester Noble and Don Juan were the titles of two plays begun with Henley the previous winter: nothing more came of both of them. The Dialogue on Character and Destiny Between Two Puppets still exists in a fragmentary condition.

The Pied Piper is the play that Henley wanted RLS to write.

The Emigrant is of course The Amateur Emigrant, the account of RLS’s journey to California, then in draft. The Vendetta is RLS’s novel, A Vendetta in the West: the MS was eventually abandoned and apparently destroyed.

Pieman is one of the names used by George Smith, the leading robber in Deacon Brodie’s gang.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 680.]

To W.E. Henley [Colvin 1912, pp. 131-132]

608 Bush Street, San Francisco, January 23rd, 1880.

My dear Henley,

That was good news. The Dook de Karneel, K.C.B., taken a blood and thunder! Well, I thought it had points; now, I know it. And I’m to see a proof once more! O Glory Hallelujah, how beautiful is proof. And how distressed that author man who dwells too far aloof. His favourite words he always finds his friends misunderstand. With oaths, he reads his articles, moist brow and clenchèd hand. Impromtoo. The last line first-rate. When may I hope to see the Deacon? I pine for the Deacon, for proofs of the Pavilion – O and for a categorical confession from you that the second edition of the Donkey was a false alarm, which I conclude from hearing no more.

I have twice written to the Marky de Stephen; each time with one of my bright papers, so I should hear from him soon.

L. Stephen, editor of the Cornhill Magazine []

How are Baron Payn, […] Sir Robert de Bob, and other members of the Aristocracy?

James Payn (1830-1898), English novelist: in 1883 he will succeed Stephen as editor of the Cornhill []

Here’s breid an’ wine an’ kebbuck an’ canty cracks at e’en

To the folks that mind o’ me when I’m awa’,

But them that hae forgot me, O ne’er to be forgi’en –

They may a’ gae tapsalteerie in a raw!

I have mighty little to say, dear boy, to seem worth 2½d. I have thought of the Piper, but he does not seem to come as yet; I get him too metaphysical.

P. Konewka (1841-1871), The Pied Piper of Hamelin []

I shall make a shot for Hester, as soon as I have finished the Emigrant and the Vendetta and perhaps my Dialogue on Character and Destiny. Hester and Don Juan are the two that smile on me; but I will touch nothing in the shape of a play until I have made my yearns income sure. You understand, and you see that I am right?

I have read M[onsieur] Auguste and the Crime inconnu, being now abonné to a library, and found them very readable, highly ingenious, and so French that I could not keep my gravity. The Damned Ones of the Indies now occupy my attention; I have myself already damned them repeatedly.

J. Méry, Monsieur August, ed. 1871 []

J. Méry, Les Damnés de Java, 1855, later reprinted as Les Damnés de l’Indie []

Josef Méry (1798-1866), French writer, co-librettist of the original version in French of Verdi’s Don Carlos []

The Mercantile Library, Bush Street, San Francisco, 1868: RLS obtained books from this library. []

The Mercantile Library after the 1906 earthquake []

The Mercantile Library reconstructed after the 1906 fire []


The Mercantile Library, San Francisco []

I am, as you know, the original person the wheels of whose chariot tarried; but though I am so slow, I am rootedly tenacious. Do not despair. Hester and the Don are sworn in my soul; and they shall be.

Is there no news? Real news, newsy news. Heavenly blue, this is strange.

Remember me to the lady of the Cawstle, my toolip, and ever was,

George the Pieman



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2 Responses to To the folks that mind o’ me when I’m awa’

  1. rdury says:

    Great photos of the Mercantile Library—thanks.


  2. mafalda says:

    Nothing more than… (a hard) searching, searching, and searching. Thank you.


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