Today, the south wind blows; and I am seedy in consequence

John Addington Symonds, translator, biographer and historian of the Italian Renaissance, better remembered today for his tormented homosexuality, had established his home at Davos in search of cure for tubercolosis, with his wife. He wrote to a friend of his on 17 November 1880: “There is a very interesting man come – Louis Stevenson – … really clever, and curious in matters of style … I find him a great acquisition” [Mehew 3, pp. 112, 120].

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 749.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1912, p. 149]

[Hôtel Bélvedère, Davos, Mid-November 1880.]

My dear Colvin,


I feel better, but variable. I see from the doctor’s report that I have more actual disease than I supposed; but there seems little doubt of my recovery.

Dr. Carl Rüedi (1848-1901), Swiss pulmonologist and RLS’s doctor in Davos []

I like the place and shall like it much better when you come at Christmas. That is written on my heart: S.C. comes at Christmas: so if you play me false, I shall have a lie upon my conscience. I like Symonds very well, though he is much, I think, of an invalid in mind and character. But his mind is interesting, with many beautiful corners, and his consumptive smile very winning to see.

John Addington Symonds (1840-93) []

John Addington Symonds (1840-93) []

We have had some good talk; one went over Zola, Balzac, Flaubert, Whitman, Christ, Handel, Milton, Sir Thomas Browne;

Emile Zola (1840-1902), French writer, 1880 []

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), French novelist and playwriter, painting after a daguerréotype, 1842 []

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French writer, 1877 []

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), American poet, essayist and journalist, c. 1880 []

‘Christ’, by Odilon Redon, 1880 []

John Milton (1608-1674) []

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), English philosopher and writer []

do you see the liaison? — in another, I, the Bohnist, the un-Grecian, was the means of his conversion in the matter of the Ajax. It is truly not for nothing that I have read my Buckley.

Henry George Bohn (1796–1884), British publisher, is principally remembered for the Bohn’s Libraries which he inaugurated in 1846, targeted the mass market, and comprised editions of standard works and translations, dealing with history, science, classics, theology and archaeology []

Buckley’s translation of the Tragedies of Sophocles, 1869 []

Today, the south wind blows; and I am seedy in consequence. […]

[Early December 1880]


I want to know when you are coming, so as to get you a room. You will toboggan and skate our head off, and I will talk it off, and briefly if you don’t come pretty soon, I will cut you off with a shilling.


Anton Doll (1826-1887), Winter Landscape []

Fr. H. Kaemmerer (1839-1902), Skating []

It would be handsome of you to write. The doctor says I may be as well as ever; but in the meantime I go slow and am fit for little. – Ever yours,



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