Here I am in my native land

RLS and Fanny travelled from Paris to London soon after 18 May, 1881, visiting Fanny’s son, Lloyd, who was studying at York. Then they returned to Scotland, moving (on 6 June) to Pitlochry, Perthshire, and staying at first at Fisher’s Hotel. Pitlochry, on the north bank of the river Tummel and in the centre of the Highland scenery, was becoming popular and was recommended as a healthy resort.

The inquiries about the later life of Jean Cavalier (1681-1740), the Protestant leader in the Cévennes, refer to a literary scheme, whether of romance or history, which had been in RLS’s mind ever since the Travels with a Donkey. Catherine Olympe du Noyer, younger daughter of Mme du Noyer, a French protestant refugee at the Hague, was betrothed to Cavalier in 1706 and later had a love affair with the 19 year old Voltaire. Elie Marion, Durand Fage and Jean Cavalier de Sauve were ‘prophets’ who gained notoriety in London in 1706-7, claiming that military operations in the Cévennes had been conducted through divine intervention. They were disowned by Jean Cavalier, through a vigorous war of pamphlets. John Lacy translated their writings. Jean Lions, a minister of the Leicester Fields church, was suspended by his church for supporting them.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 805.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 34-36]

Pitlochry, Perthshire, June 6, 1881.

My dear Weg,

Here I am in my native land, being gently blown and hailed upon, and sitting nearer and nearer to the fire.

Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland []


Pitlochry []

Fisher’s Hotel, Pitlochry []

Fisher’s Hotel, Pitlochry []


Fishers Hotel, Pitlochry []

Fishers Hotel, Pitlochry []

A cottage near a […] moor is soon to receive our human forms; it is also near a burn to which Professor Blackie (no less!) has written some verses in his hot old age, and near a farm from whence we shall draw cream and fatness.

The river Tunnel near Pitlochry []

The river Tummel near Pitlochry []

J ohn Stuart Blackie (1809-95), Scottish professor and man of letters; his picturesque eccentricity made him one of the characters of the Edinburgh of the day. 1890 []

Should I be moved to join Blackie, I shall go upon my knees and pray hard against temptation; although, since the new Version, I do not know the proper form of words. The swollen, childish, and pedantic vanity that moved the said revisers to put ‘bring’ for ‘lead,’ is a sort of literary fault that calls for an eternal hell; it may be quite a small place, a star of the least magnitude, and shabbily furnished; there shall -, -, […] the revisers of the Bible and other absolutely loathsome literary lepers […], dwell among broken pens, bad, groundy ink and ruled blotting-paper made in France – all eagerly burning to write, and all inflicted with incurable aphasia. I should not have thought upon that torture had I not suffered it in moderation myself, but it is too horrid even for a hell; let’s let ‘em off with an eternal toothache.

The Revised Version of the New Testament, 1881, substitutes ‘bring us not into temptation’ for ‘lead’ in the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:13 []

One of the Bible revisers: George Gilfillan (1813-78) clergyman, critic and essaystwho edited the British poets and wrote lives of Scott and Burns []

All this talk is partly to persuade you that I write to you out of good feeling only, which is not the case. I am a beggar: ask Dobson, Saintsbury, yourself, and any other of these cheeses who know something of the eighteenth century, what became of Jean Cavalier between his coming to England and his death in 1740.

Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921), poet and man of letters, a great friend of Gosse and his colleague at the Board of Trade []

George Edward Bateman Saintsbury (1845–1933), English writer, literary historian, and critic []

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), English author and RLS’s friend, 1886 []

Jean Cavalier (1681-1740), according to RLS ‘a baler’s apprentice with a genius for war, elected brigadier of Camisards at 17, to die at 55 the English governor of Jersey’. []

Is anything interesting known about him? Whom did he marry? The happy French, smilingly following one another in a long procession headed by the loud and empty Napoleon Peyrat, say, Olympe Dunoyer, Voltaire’s old flame.

Napoléon Peyrat (1809-81), French Protestant pastor: RLS carried the 2nd vol. of his ‘Histoire des Pasteurs du Désert’, largely concerned with the war in the Cevennes, on his travel with a donkey []

François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), aka Voltaire []

Vacquerie even thinks that they were rivals, and is very French and very literary and very silly in his comments.

Auguste Vaquerie (1819-95), French critic and man of letters, included an essay on Cavalier in his ‘Les Miettes de l’Histoire’, 1863 []

Now I may almost say it consists with my knowledge that all this has not a shadow to rest upon. It is very odd and very annoying; I have splendid materials for Cavalier till he comes to my own country; and there, though he continues to advance in the service, he becomes entirely invisible to me.

P.-A. Labouchère, ‘Jean Cavalier, chef camisard’, 1864 []

Any information about him will be greatly welcome: I may mention that I know as much as I desire about the other prophets, Marion, Fage, Cavalier (de Sonne [=Sauve]), my Cavalier’s cousin, the unhappy Lions, and the idiotic Mr. Lacy;

Monument commémoratif de la victoire des Camisards de Cavalier à la bataille du Déves de Martignargues in 1704. The Camisards were Huguenots of the isolated Cévennes region of south-central France, who raised an insurrection against the persecutions which followed the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685 []

so if any erudite starts upon that track, you may choke him off. If you can find aught for me, or if you will but try, count on my undying gratitude. Lang’s ‘Library’ is very pleasant reading. […]

Andrew Lang’s essay about book collecting appeared in a series called ‘Art at Home’, 1881 []

My book will reach you soon, for I write about it to-day. – Yours ever,

Robert Louis Stevenson

RLS’s book of essays, ‘Virginibus Puerisque’, just then published []

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