The tales are all ghastly

At Kinniard Cottage, Pitlochry, Perthshire, RLS was for some weeks in good health and working order. His mother described the house in a letter as ‘a nice little Highland cottage with a pleasant talkative mother to cook for us and a cheery daughter to do the waiting’ (Mrs. Sim and her daughter Helen).

RLS was working on a series of tales of terror, or, as he called them, ‘crawlers’, planned in collaboration with his wife.

The Black Man may refer to a character of The Merry Men, a short story that will be published in Cornhill Magazine (June–July 1882).

Thrawn Janet and the Body-Snatchers were the only two of the set completed under their original titles (Cornhill, Oct 1881 and Pall Mall Christmas Extra, Dec 1884).

The Wreck of the Susanna probably contained the germ of the Merry Men.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 807.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 36-37]

Kinnaird Cottage, Pitlochry [Mid-June 1881].

My dear Colvin, The Black Man and Other Tales.

The Black Man: I. Thrawn Janet. II. The Devil on Cramond Sands.

The Shadow on the Bed.

The Body Snatchers.

The Case Bottle.

The King’s Horn.

The Actor’s Wife.

The Wreck of the Susanna.

This is the new work on which I am engaged with Fanny; they are all supernatural. Thrawn Janet is off to Stephen, but as it is all in Scotch he cannot take it, I know. It was so good, I could not help sending it.

Rev. Murdoch exorcises Thrawn Janet. Illustration by W. Strang, 1899 []

Firth of Forth off Cramond Island [][]


‘The Body Snatcher”, 1st edition, 1884 []

Boris Karloff as John Gray in the horror film ‘The Body Snatcher’, 1945 (dir. R. Wise) []

The Calcutta Monthly Journal, Nov. 1836: Salvage of 30 chests of opium out of the wreck of the ship Susanna, near Macao []

The Calcutta Monthly Journal, Nov. 1836: Salvage of 30 chests of opium out of the wreck of the ship Susanna, near Macao []

My health improves. We have a lovely spot here: a little green glen with a burn, a wonderful burn, gold and green and snow-white, singing loud and low in different steps of its career, now pouring over miniature crags, now fretting itself to death in a maze of rocky stairs and pots; never was so sweet a little river. Behind, great purple moorlands reaching to Ben Vrackie. Hunger lives here, alone with larks and sheep. Sweet spot, sweet spot.

Kinniard Cittage, Pitlochry, now for sale.

Kinniard Cittage, Pitlochry, now for sale.

Kinnaird Cottage, Pitlochry []

Kinnaird Estate, Pitlochry []

Kinnaird Estate: showing a picture of Sidney Colvin? []

Black Spout Waterfall, Pitlochry []

Black Spout Waterfall, Pitlochry []

River Tummel, near Pitlochry []

Moorland near Kinniard, on the foothills of Ben Vrackie []

Ben Vrackie path []

Pitlochry and river Tummel from Ben Vrackie []

[…] Write me a word about Bob’s professoriate and Landor, and what you think of The Black Man.

biography of the English writer and poet W.S. Landor, by S. Colvin, 1881 []

The tales are all ghastly. Thrawn Janet frightened me to death. There will maybe be another – The Dead Man’s Letter.’ I believe I shall recover; and I am, in this blessed hope, yours exuberantly,



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